Apocalypse of John:
Multiple Dates / Composite Authorship
ADVOCATES FOR MULTIPLE DATES OR COMPOSITE AUTHORSHIP OF REVELATION
“While some elements of the book must be earlier than A.D.70, the Apocalypse as it stands must be later.” Peake, p. 165
- Gunkel, Creation and Chaos (1895)
- A.S. Peake, The Revelation of John, (London: 1919).
- Spitta (1889)
- Von Sodon
- Vischer (1886)
- J. Weiss (1904)
- Wellhausen (Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, vi. 215f.)
- H.B. Workman
H.B. Workman: “while the apocalypse was mainly written in or about 69 (certainly before 70), the opportunities for a convict in Patmos to transmit such a work to the mainland were few, — the letters to the seven churches would be short notes sent separately, easily concealed, — and consequently the publication of the work as a whole in Asia was not until 95 or so.” (Persecution in the Early Church, p. 46, cp. pp. 355-358)
A Critical Introduction to the New Testament
By Arthur Samuel Peake
THE REVELATION OF JOHN
It may initiate us more easily into the tangled problems of this book, if we remind ourselves of the various ways in. which they have been handled by modern scholars. A quarter of a .century ago the opinion was confidently expressed that from being the most obscure it had come to be the most easily understood portion of the New Testament. It was not unnatural that such an opinion should be expressed. The brilliant work which had been performed by such scholars as Liicke, Ewald, and Bleek seemed to have made plain the true character of the book. The points to which one would specially direct attention in their work were the following :—First of all, they rescued the Biblical apocalypses from their isolation. So long as the Book of Revelation could be illustrated only by the Book of Daniel and sporadic sections in the Old and New Testament. the material at the disposal of their interpreters was seriously limited. When, however, it was recognised that the Biblical apocalypses were only a section of a much larger literature, a new era in their interpretation began. They were studied in the light of this larger literature, and much that had been dark now became plain. And as these non-canonical writings have themselves been more closely studied, the results have been very fruitful for the understanding of the canonical apocalypses. In the next place they emphasised the fact that the Book of Revelation, like the
Book of Daniel, was to be understood through the contemporary history. The identification of the beast with the Roman Empire in general, and with Nero in particular, ruled the interpretation of the book, and it was confidently believed that the true key, after centuries of futile groping, had been discovered.
The dominant school of critics accordingly took the apocalypse to be a unity and to reflect the political conditions shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem. In 1886, however, Vischer published an investigation which placed the problem in a new light. He put forward the theory that the Apocalypse was a fundamentally Jewish writing worked over by a Christian hand. Harnack, his teacher, at first gave the new theory no cordial reception, but on studying the book afresh in the light of it was converted to it. As we look back it is perhaps less surprising than Harnack felt at the time that such a solution should have been put forward. The method of literary analysis had been applied to the Pentateuch and the Synoptic Gospels, not to mention other parts of Biblical literature, and it was therefore not to be wondered at that it should be applied to the Revelation. And once the idea had been started that more hands than one had been at work on the book, it was not a difficult step to the theory that one of the hands was Jewish and not Christian. In fact, it was rather an accident that it fell to Vischer to cause the sensation which was created by the publication of his study. For, apart from other suggestions, Spitta, a very acute and learned scholar, had already worked out an elaborate analysis of the book, which he published not so long after (in 1889) with valuable exegetical discussions which still reward patient study even on the part of those who cannot accept his main thesis. The method of analytic criticism, once started, ran riot, and much ephemeral literature was published designed to solve the riddle as to the structure of the book.
The movement received its quietus with Gunkel, who published in 1895 his epoch-making Schopfung und Chaos (‘ Creation and Chaos ‘). The book was an investigation of the first chapter of Genesis and the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, but it was a fundamental investigation and embraced much more than would be suggested by the title. The literary analysis had been intended to do justice to the inconsistencies and incongruities within the book which seemed to point to the authorship of two or more writers. Gunkel introduced another method to explain the phenomena. The sharp criticism to which he subjected the theories of his predecessors misled some into thinking that he was on principle opposed to analytic criticism. This was a mistake, and those who were looking to him to lead a reaction against Old Testament criticism were sharply disillusioned by his very important commentary on Genesis, in which he not only accepted the customary analysis into four main documents and the Grafian theory as to their order, but analysed narratives which had previously been treated as unities. To the Apocalypse, however, he applied a different method. The phenomena, he said, which the analysts pointed out were there, but their explanation was incorrect. They could be rightly accounted for only on the view that the Apocalypse incorporated a very ancient eschatological tradition which originated in Babylonia and had a continuous history ‘reaching back for some thousands of years. During that period it was natural that inconsistencies should arise, and these were not to be explained as due to the literary blending of works by different authors ; they had arisen in the development of the tradition itself. Much in the Apocalypse and in Daniel was unintelligible to the authors themselves. They regarded the tradition, however, as sacred, and therefore preserved what was mysterious as well as what they understood. Moreover, Gunkel attacked not only the analysts, but those who explained the Apocalypse through contemporary history. He did not, it is true, deny references to current conditions entirely, but much that had been so interpreted he explained as far more ancient.
Gunkel’s work naturally made an immense impression. It left its mark deep upon Bousset’s commentary, which appeared the following year, and also on his special investigation into the doctrine of Antichrist. Bousset, however, was much less averse than Gunkel from admitting allusions to contemporary history, and he recognised the employment of sources by the author, though he believed that he was no mere compiler but had impressed his own stamp everywhere on the book. Wellhausen had some important pages on the subject in the sixth part of bis Skizzen und Vararbeiten. He was especially severe on Gunkel’s attempt to refer, as he said, everything possible and impossible to a Babylonian origin. As regards the twelfth chapter, which constitutes the greatest difficulty for those who consider the book to be purely Christian, he agreed with Vischer as against Weizsacker that it was in the main of Jewish origin.
In the important second edition of his Urchristentum, published in 1902, Pfleiderer revealed himself as an adherent of the Edigionsgeschichtliche Methode which Gunkel had brought into such prominence. But he recognised to a very much fuller extent than Gunkel that the author had drawn on earlier literary sources. A much more pronounced return to the analytic method came with the publication of a special investigation from the pen of J. Weiss which appeared in 1904. The author had been much influenced by Spitta’s keen-sighted investigation, and his analysis reminds us at certain points of that given by his predecessor, but it was more plausible and perhaps less mechanical. At the close of his investigation he brought the problem of the Apocalypse into connexion with the larger problem of the Johannine literature in general, but simply sketched his results, leaving the detailed establishment of them to a later period. His theory was as follows : John of Asia, whom, in common with a large number of modern scholars, he identified with the presbyter and not with the apostle, shortly before the year A.d. 70 composed an apocalypse. Subsequently, having outgrown his apocalyptic stage, he composed the letters which go by his name and wrote reminiscences of Jesus. In the reign of Domitian a disciple of John who had not kept pace with his master in his development took up his earlier apocalypse. He combined with it a Jewish apocalypse composed in the year A.d. 70, to some extent probably out of pre-existing materials, and added a good deal of his own and thus created our present Apocalypse. What had happened to John’s Apocalypse happened later to his reminiscences. These also were taken and expanded into our Fourth Gospel. A judgment on the whole scheme can hardly be pronounced before the author’s case for it is fully published, and it will then be seen whether he has been more successful than his predecessors in reversing the judgment of Strauss that the Fourth Gospel is like the seamless robe—we can cast lots for it, but we cannot divide it. So far as the Apocalypse is concerned, the theory has not been favourably received, Swete and Sanday in this country have pronounced against it, and this is true also of Jiilicher in the latest edition of his Introduction, and Bousset in the valuable second edition of his Commentary, which appeared in 1908, to say nothing of other scholars. A very interesting and suggestive analysis of the Apocalypse has recently been published by Wellhausen. It is a very independent piece of work, reminding one not a little of J. Weiss. He considers that Nero Caesar is the correct solution of the number 666, but regards it as merely a gloss which has had the effect of throwing students off the right scent. It not the key, aa has been thought, to the understanding of
the whole book, but simply to the misunderstanding of the figure of the beast.
The story of these attempts to solve the riddle of the book will naturally make on many readers the impression that criticism will be forced to confess itself bankrupt. We ought rather to conclude that we shall understand it only by an eclectic method, which combines the lines along which the solution has been sought. We must recognise in it a reflection of contemporary history, the stratification of documents, and the incorporation of very ancient apocalyptic tradition. The earlier critics were right, not only in the emphasis they laid on its relationship to the cognate literature, but in their conviction of relevance to the conditions of the time. The writer diverges from many apocalyptists in that he does not write history in the guise of prediction. Still less is he concerned with a distant future; the end is at hand. It is with the urgent problems of the troubled present and the still darker immediate future that he is concerned. There are not easily missed contemporary references. The whole aim of the Apocalypse in its present form is to encourage the Christians in the persecution they are suffering from the Roman Empire. The scarlet woman is drunk with the blood of the saints, the souls under the altar cry to God to avenge their blood, the martyrs of Jesus are seen after they have passed through the great tribulation. It is the worship of the Emperor which constitutes the peril to the Church and its terrible temptation to apostasy. Other illustrations of this reference to contemporary events or anticipations are to be found in the mention of the death of Nero and his erpected return, the prediction of the overthrow of Rome, the city on seven hills, by the beast in alliance with the ten kings, and of the fall of Jerusalem except the Temple. Yet while we are to see in the Roman Empire the power to which the Church stands in implacable antagonism, while Nero is to return from hell as the beast’s
last incarnation, it would be a mistake to interpret all the details in the book as created by the contemporary situation. It is obviously likely that the acceptance of the other methods would carry with it a different attitude towards the interpretation of the details. If earlier sources lie behind the present form of the book, we should naturally assume that they depict a somewhat different situation. And since it is with a long-continued tradition that we have to deal, the key to some of the details may quite easily be altogether lost.
That Gunkel rightly refers much in the Apocalypse to very ancient tradition can hardly be doubted. The twelfth chapter, while, apart from Christian interpolations, in its present form a piece of Jewish Messianic theology, cannot be explained without reference to a Gentile origin. That we should follow Dieterich in connecting it with the story of the birth of Apollo can hardly be believed, and it would be premature to find in it with Gunkel a version of the birth of Marduk, for which we have as yet no Babylonian evidence. The parallel of the birth of Horus, adduced by Bousset, lies open to less serious objection. Probably, however, both the Apollo and the Horus myth are forms of the very widespread myth of the conflict between the chaos-demon and the sun-god. This has been transformed in Judaism into a Messianic forecast. And elsewhere we may discover clear traces of dependence on traditional apocalyptic lore. Where we find the writer introducing elements which seem to have no significance for himself and receive no development, we may infer with some probability that these have been derived from older tradition and have no reference to contemporary history. In other cases where we can be sure of direct borrowing from an older source, we cannot be sure whether the borrowed elements were intended by the author to refer to events in the history of his own time, or whether he simply took them over into his own scheme because he did not feel free to cast them aside although their meaning was not clear to himself. For example, the figure of the beast in the thirteenth chapter is directly derived from the seventh chapter of Daniel. The beast is represented as having ten horns, these horns are in Daniel identified as kings, therefore in Revelation they are represented as wearing diadems. Usually interpreters think the ten horns represent ten Roman Emperors, but this is difficult to harmonise with the interpretation given in the seventeenth chapter where the beast reappears, so that it is quite possible that the author took over the horns simply as a part of the tradition without attaching any special significance to them. At the same tune two qualifications must be borne in mind. In the first place the very fact that the apocalyptist incorporated a piece of earlier tradition probably implies that he saw sufficient general resemblance to the contemporary conditions to induce him thus to incorporate it, so that even if the details in many cases are devoid of special importance the general outlines may bear significance for his own time. And secondly, we must not assume too readily that the details which are borrowed are necessarily without meaning. Gunkel’swork, however, whilemost valuable and stimulating, was itself open to some criticisms. In the first place he probably much overrated the Babylonian origin of the material. In the next place he denied allusions to contemporary history where they probably really exist. Lastly, he believed too exclusively in the value of his own method. Some at least of the incongruities in the book cannot have thus originated, we must seek for their origin in the combination of literary sources. In spite of the recoil from analytic criticism, the present writer believes that it is not possible to regard the Apocalypse as a unity. It is no doubt true that there is a very marked unity in the style and character which forbids us to suppose that the book is a mere compilation. It is with a real author that we have to do, not simply with an editor; with an author who has left his impress on the book. But while he has stamped it with his own individuality, he has borrowed from earlier sources. He hints thii himself, not obscurely, in his description of the little book which he took and ate (x. 8-11), and in the veiled reference to the seven-thunders apocalypse (x. 4) which he was apparently inclined to incorporate. We have probably to recognise the presence in the book of non-Christian elements. In xi. 1,2 the anticipation seems to be expressed that while Jerusalem would be captured, the Temple including the forecourt would be preserved. Is it likely that a Christian writer should thus contradict Christ’s prediction that not one stone of the Temple should be left upon another ? Reverting to the twelfth chapter, while its ultimate origin must be sought in Pagan mythology, it is very difficult to believe that the author of the Revelation simply drew on unwritten tradition. For a Christian the birth of the Messiah and His earthly career belonged to the realm of history, not of prediction. How could such a writer represent the Messiah as caught up to the throne of God immediately after His birth, that He might be saved from the dragon who was waiting to devour Him ? We can see what prompted the writer to include the section; it was to warn the readers that, now the devil has been cast down to earth, an unprecedented persecution will begul, but to comfort them with the assurance that when the three and a half years allotted to him by destiny are past, he will be overthrown. For the Messiah is already in heaven, and will intervene when the time is ripe. And yet, while the section had this significance for the writer, the bizarre non-Christian elements in it would naturally have repelled him. This suggests the possibility not merely that it lay before the author in written form, but that it originally belonged to a larger document, and has been incorporated not so much for its own sake but as part of a fuller insertion.
The numerous incongruities in the book also suggest composite authorship. In some parts of the book, e.g. the letters to the seven churches, we gain the impression that the persecution was mild, and though severe measures were anticipated, these were not of an extreme character. But other parts are written under the influence of a very severe persecution, which has already claimed a large number of victims, and which is expected to become more terrible still. The seventeenth chapter, which is perhaps the most important in the book for the determination of the literary and historical problems of the Apocalypse, exhibits several marks of composite origin. There are two interpretations of the seven heads (vo. 9 and 10). In v. 14 the beast with the ten kings wars against and is overcome by the Lamb and his followers, while in v. 16 the beast and the kings utterly destroy the harlot, and do so as God’s instruments. Again, the description with which the vision opens is that of the great harlot. The beast on which she rides is a very subordinate part of the picture, in which the scarlet woman forms the central figure. When, however, the explanation follows, the woman ia much less prominent than the beast. Moreover, the judgment on the harlot seems to rest on different grounds. In w. 1-5 her sin is that of luxury and uncleanness, with which she has contaminated the rest of the world. The goblet she holds is filled with the wine of her fornication. This is also true with reference to the closely connected eighteenth chapter. The judgment comes on her for the corrupting influence she has exerted over the world (xviii. 3,7, 9-19, 22, 23), with her sorcery all the nations have been deceived, and the exhortation to God’s people to leave her is that they may avoid contamination and judgment. But according to xvii. 6 the woman is drunk with the blood of the saints, in xviii. 20 God has judged on her the Judgment of the saints, in xviii. 24 in her ia found the blood of prophets, saints and all that have been slain on the
earth. Much the greater part of oh. xviii. betrays no consciousness of Rome as a persecutor. It is also possible that there are two different accounts of the destruction of Babylon. In xvii. 16 she is destroyed by the beast and the ten kings, in ch. xviii. there is no reference to these, but God judges her with plagues in a single day. In both descriptions she is utterly burned with fire, and there is no necessary discrepancy between the two accounts. If composite authorship, however, be recognised, it is likely that the two belong to different strata.
Further, there seems to be a difference in the reckoning of the kings. There are only seven emperors of Rome, since the beast has seven heads. The author of xvii. 10 writes while the sixth emperor is on the throne, i.e. probably during the reign of Vespasian, and he expects the series to be closed by another emperor, the seventh, who is to continue a little while. According to v. 11 there are to be eight emperors, the eighth being Antichrist; he is identified with one of the seven heads, but he is also identified with the beast that was and is not. Several suppose that this must have been written under Domitian, and was intended to harmonise the fixed number of the emperors as seven with the fact that the seventh (Titus) after a brief reign (v. lOb) had been succeeded by an eighth. In that case the author saw in Domitian an earlier member of the series reincarnate, presumably Nero. It is an objection to this that we have no evidence of a belief that Domitian was Nero reincarnate, nor that he had risen out of the abyss. Moreover, the author of v. 11 says that he ‘ is not.” It may therefore be better to conclude that this author wrote under the seventh emperor and was driven to postulate an eighth ruler because he did not identify the reigning monarch with Antichrist, but had to make the eighth identical with one of the seven, because the number could not exceed seven.
On the exact analysis of this section opulions differ, but the following general sketch is not unlikely. The earliest stratum predicts God’s destruction of Rome for luxury, pride and immorality, and describes the grief at her downfall felt by those who had been associated with her sin. There is no reference to persecution, the author, while regarding the overthrow as deserved, yet betrays no exultation over it or hatred of Rome. Pfleiderer thinks this belonged to the little book and assigns it to the time of Caligula, but J. Weiss thinks it was written under the sixth emperor, i.e. Vespasian. A later writer represented the destruction of Rome as due to the alliance of the beast, i.e. Nero, with the Parthians. Probably he was a Jewish not a Christian writer who saw in Rome’s overthrow God’s judgment on the destroyers of Jerusalem. He describes the scarlet woman as drunk not with luxury and immorality but with the blood of the saints. This would suit the martyrdom of Christians in the Neronian persecution, only Nero was himself more responsible for this than Rome, and therefore could not so well appear as its avenger upon Rome. It is therefore more likely that the reference is to the Jews who had perished in the Jewish war, especially in the siege and sack of Jerusalem and the dark days that followed. This writer was accordingly not a Christian but a Jew and may have written under Titus. But since we have apparently a reference to the return of Nero from hell as Antichrist, a view which cannot be traced till towards the close of the first century, we have probably to postulate a third author who was a Christian and wrote under Domitian, out of experience of his persecution. It is he who represents the beast as making war on the Lamb and inserts the references to ‘ the blood of the martyrs of Jesus’ (xvii. 6), to the apostles and perhaps prophets in xviii. 20-24. In the examination of this chapter we have already anticipated to some extent the discussion not simply of structure but of date. So far as the former Ib concerned, the most important point is that we apparently have to recognise the incorporation of documentary material Jewish in origin. Since the eleventh chapter, which opens with a probably Jewish prophecy, immediately follows the episode of the eating of the book, it is a natural inference that a Jewish apocalypse begins at this point or perhaps with the tenth chapter. The date of this seems to be fixed as A.d. 70, when the Romans were besieging Jerusalem. It is very uncertain how much this apocalypse contained, and how far the elements of which it was composed were themselves ready to its author’s hand. It must of course be remembered that the final author did not leave the Jewish sections untouched; he has worked them over and frequently inserted Christian additions. Pfleiderer thinks the little book contained chs. xi.-xiv., xvii.-xix. J. Weiss finds it in chs. x., xi. 1-13, xii. 1-6, 14-17 (xiii. 1-7), xv.-xix., xxi. 4-27. He considers that this was a literary unity, in which earlier groups of apocalyptic matter had been combined. Nothing definite can be affirmed as to the time and circumstances of some of the visions employed, but the author put them together in the year 70 A.d. in the belief that Jerusalem itself would not be saved, but only the Temple and the worshippers in its court. Von Soden thinks that the Jewish Apocalypse of A.d. 70 extends from vi. 12 to the end of the book, with of course a good deal of Christian redaction. And other attempts have been made to reconstruct it. Within our limits no discussion is possible. It may be questioned whether the Jewish element is so considerable as these scholars suppose. It is most clearly discernible in chs. xi., xii., xvii., xviii., though the two latter as already shown are almost certainly composite, and contain a Jewish section of later date than the main Jewish Apocalypse. It is also not improbable that ch. xii. is itself composite, though the analysts are by no means agreed as to its dismemberment.
But the Christian sections are themselves not homogeneous. It has already been pointed out that the references to persecution hi the letters to the Seven Churches are quite different in character from those in later portions of the book. In the former the Jews are the enemy, in the latter the Roman Empire with its insistence on the worship of the Emperor, to which multitudes have been sacrificed. In the letters the condition of the Churches suggests no serious peril from the government, rather they are in peril from their own shortcomings, which are of a type we do not expect in communities harried by a great tribulation. The tone of severity in which they are addressed is also unsuitable to a time of bitter persecution. How much of the book belongs to the Apocalypse which the seven letters were intended to introduce is most uncertain. J. Weiss supposes that it consisted of i. 4-6 (7-8), 9-19, ii.-vii., xi., xii. 7-12, xiii. 11-18 (xiv. 1-5), 14-20, xx. 1-15, xxi. 1-4, xxii. 3-5, xxii. 8ff. (in part). Here again space permits of no adequate discussion of details, which alone could warrant a conclusion. It must, however, be recognised that, although earlier sources have been employed, the author has contrived to impart a real unity to the completed work and has not merely strung earlier compositions together. He has made it an artistic whole characterised by considerable uniformity of style and language.
While some elements in the book must be earlier than A.d. 70, the Apocalypse as it stands must be later. It employs the legend of the returning Nero, not simply in its older form of a return from the Parthians but in its later form of a return from hell. So far as can be made out, this legend does not appear much before the close of the first century. The enumeration of emperors carries us down at least to Titus and possibly to Domitian. The references to persecution, and indeed the whole tenor of the book in its final form, point strongly to Domitian’s
reign. The external evidence is also very cogent for a date in the time of Domitian. Irenaeus referring to the Apocalypse says ‘ it was seen no such long time ago, but almost in our own generation at the end of the reign of Domitian * (v. 3). The tradition as to Domitian is not uncontradicted, but as Hort says, if external evidence alone could decide, there would be a clear preponderance for Domitian. It is true that external evidence does not settle the question, but in this case it coincides with the indications of internal evidence. The phenomena which point to a Neronian date or a date at the beginning of Vespasian’s reign are real, but they may be satisfied by the recognition that the book includes a large element dating from the period before the destruction of Jerusalem. A suggestion has been made by Reinach, that vi. 6 fixes the year 93 A.d. as the date of the Apocalypse. In 92 Domitian forbade the cultivation of the vine in the provinces, really as a protective measure for Italy, but under the pretext of encouraging grain and reducing drunkenness. In 93 he reversed this, so that the author apprehended that grain would be scarce and wine abundant. The state of things presupposed in the passage is so peculiar that some definite incident may well have suggested this vision. On the other hand, the edict does not account for the reference to oil.
As early as Justin Martyr the Apocalypse was attributed to the apostle John. Irenaeus assigns both the Apocalypse and the Fourth Gospel to John a disciple of the Lord, apparently meaning the apostle John, and Hippolytus, Tertullian and Origen affirm apostolic authorship. On the other hand, the Alogi rejected not only the Gospel but the Apocalypse, ascribing it to Cerinthus, probably in each case on doctrinal grounds. Their attitude was shared by Caius of Rome at the beginning of the third century. Probably no importance should be attached to these opinions, they were based on theological
prejudices, not on critical considerations. Much more interest attaches to the suggestion made by Dionysius of Alexandria. No doubt his discussion of the question was prompted by his dislike of millenarianism and his desire to deprive it of apostolic endorsement. But his internal criticism of the book was very able, and he called attention to phenomena which make it difficult to believe that the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse could come from the same author. Since the apostolic origin of the Gospel was assumed without question by Dionysius, he had to suggest that the Revelation was the work of another John. This he argues cannot have been John Mark but some other John, and he corroborates his conjecture by the story that in Ephesus there were two tombs of John. Eusebius completes his criticism by a reference to the two Johns mentioned by Papias, and argues that if the apostolic authorship of the Apocalypse is to be denied the work should be attributed to the presbyter.
Leaving aside for the present the problem raised by Dionysius and looking at the Apocalypse by itself, there is probably no valid reason to doubt that the author really bore the name of John. It is true that apocalypses are usually pseudonymous writings, and the fact that the author does not give himself out as an ancient worthy is not decisive against the conclusion that our book conforms to the rule of its class, for a Jewish apocalypse can hardly be the measure of a Christian apocalypse in this respect. An apostle would be quite as naturally chosen as Enoch or Baruch. But if the book were pseudonymous, the author would probably have claimed explicitly to be an apostle, whereas he contents himself with the bare name of John. We need not doubt that the author who gives himself out as John really bore that name, lived in Asia, and received his vision at Patmos. It is important to remember that it is not with apocalypse pure and simple that we have to deal. The letters to the Seven Churches
are certainly not apocalyptic fictions dealing with fictitious circumstances, and the same conclusion must be adopted with reference to the claim to authorship which is inseparably united with them. It must, however, be pointed out that if the book is composite the claim to Johannine authorship can be established only for a portion of the book, unless we can identify the author of the seven letters and the related sections with the final editor. This, however, is very improbable. But while we may confidently accept partial Johannine authorship, this gives us no warrant for identifying the prophet John with the apostle. The author speaks as a prophet telling the message of the glorified Christ, and the tone of authority must not be held to prove his apostolic position.
It is held by many that the identification with the apostle is excluded by the absence of reminiscences of the author’s earlier intercourse with Jesus during His earthly career and by the objective reference to the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The Tubingen critics, we do well to remember, found no difficulty in holding the apostolic authorship of the whole book in spite of these objections and in spite of its very advanced Christology. And probably in this respect their judgment was sounder than that of then* successors. The same objection apart from the references to the twelve apostles would lie, though in a mitigated form, against the identification with the presbyter if he was acquainted with Jesus, especially if he was the beloved disciple.
It was formerly thought by many scholars to be possible to identify the author of the Apocalypse with the author of the Gospel, the wide divergences between them being explained by the interval that was supposed to separate them. It is extremely questionable, however, whether any lapse of time would account for the development from one to the other, especially as the apostle cannot well have been less than fifty at the earliest date to which the Apocalypse could be assigned. And the same objection would hold if we ascribed all the works to the presbyter. If, however, we adopt the Domitian date for the Apocalypse, the difficulty of supposing that it was written by the author of the Gospel is probably insuperable, though it must be remembered that Harnack assigns all the Johannine literature to the presbyter. It is no doubt the case that there is a very close connexion both in vocabulary and in thought between the Apocalypse and the other Johannine writings. But these are more than balanced by the differences. On this it may be enough to quote the words of Hort, who asserted the unity of authorship and the early date for the Apocalypse. His conclusion is made all the more weighty by his protest against exaggerating the difficulties which immediately precedes. ‘ It is, however, true that without the long lapse of time and the change made by the Fall of Jerusalem the transition cannot be accounted for. Thus date and authorship do hang together. It would be easier to believe that the Apocalypse was written by an unknown John than that both books belong alike to St. John’s extreme old age.’ We cannot carry the discussion further without reference to the other Johannine literature. Without deferring it till the critical problems of the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles have been considered, it may be said that, accepting the apostolic authorship of the Gospel, we should! probably assign the Apocalypse to the presbyter unless we are willing to assume the existence of a third John otherwise unknown to us.
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