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Α Ρ Ρ Ε Ν DIX.
A SKETCH OF THE HISTORY OF APOCALYPTIC
It will, I think, conduce to clearness, if we classify the Apocalyptic expositors whom we shall have to notice under the chronological divisions following :-1. those between St. John's publication of the Apocalypse, and Constantine's establishment of Christianity in the Roman Empire ;—2. those between Constantine, and the completion of the fall of the Empire, and rise of the new Romano-Gothic kingdoms, at the close of the 5th century ;-3. those between the epoch last-mentioned and the middle or end of the 10th century ;-4. those from the 10th century to the Reformation ;-5. those of the æra and century of the Reformation ;—6. those of a yet later date, down to the present time.
§ 1. FROM ST. JOHN TO CONSTANTINE.
The earliest profest Apocalyptic Commentary extant is that by Victorinus, Bishop of Pettau in Pannonia; who was martyred in the Diocletian persecution, just at the very ending of the period now under review. Before that time, however, various brief hermeneutic notices of certain parts of the Apocalypse had been given to the Christian world by the earlier fathers Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus, ranging in date from the middle of the second to near the middle of the third century, too interesting to be past over by any careful inquirer into the history of Apocalyptic interpretation. And, though I have already partially noted them in my
sketches either of the æra or the topics concerned, in the foregoing Commentary, yet I think it will be well here to present them again somewhat more in full, connectedly and in one point of view, as the fittest introduction to our whole subject.
In Justin Martyr the chief direct reference to the Apocalypse is on the Millennium announced by it; which, as we have seen," he interpreted literally :-how St. John prophesied that believers in Christ would reign 1000 years with Him in Jerusalem, Jerusalem having been restored, enlarged, and beautified, agreeably with the Old Testament prophecies of the latter day; after which would follow the general resurrection and judgment. Further, in regard to Antichrist, though referring for authority more directly to Daniel,2 yet it is evident that he considered the Apocalyptic ten-horned Beast, or rather its ruling head, as identical with Daniel's little horn of the fourth wild Beast,3 and each and either identical with St. Paul's Man of sin and St. John's Antichrist: also that he regarded this Antichrist as still future, though at the very doors; as destined to reign literally three and a half years; and as to be destroyed by Christ's glorious advent.4
In Irenæus too these are the two chief Apocalyptic subjects commented on; and with just the same opinions respecting them as Justin Martyr's. But his comments are fuller. With reference to the Apocalyptic Beast, Antichrist, he directed his readers, as we saw long since, to look out for the division of the Roman empire into ten kingdoms, as that which was immediately to precede and be followed by Antichrist's manifestation : also how that he, being some way of Roman polity or connexion, (though by birth, Irenæus thought, a Jew,) his characteristic title, in fulfilment of the Apocalyptic enigma, might very probably be Aateivos, the Latin Man, a name numerally equivalent to 666.—Besides which I may observe that there occurs in his Book iv a passing notice of the White Horse and its Rider, of
See the Note, pp. 177, suprà.
? See the Note, Vol. i. p. 204. 3 Because the millennium of the risen saints' reign with Christ, which in the Apocalypse is made to follow immediately on the destruction of the Apocalyptic Beast, by some interposition of Christ from heaven, is by Justin stated to follow immediately on the destruction of Daniel's Little Horn, or Antichrist.
* See Vol. i. p. 205, Note ?. 5 See the quotations in my Note Vol. i. p. 204.
the first Apocalyptic Seal; and explanation of it as signifying Christ born to victory, and going forth conquering and to conquer.'
Next, turning to Tertullian, his general view both as to the Apocalyptic Beast and the Apocalyptic Millennium appears to have been precisely similar to that of the two preceding fathers. The symbol of the first Seal too he seems to have explained like Irenæus. But by far the most interesting to my mind of his passing Apocalyptic comments, are those on the fifth Seal's vision of the Souls under the altar, and that of the palm-bearing company, figured before the opening of the seventh Seal. The martyrs of the former vision, he explains as martyrs then in course of being slain under Pagan Rome for the testimony of Christ : thereby distinctly assigning to the then passing æra that particular place in the Apocalyptic prefigurative drama. The palm-bearers of the latter vision, that had to come out of the great tribulation, he identifies as that same second set of martyrs that had been predicted to the souls under the altar ;—those that were to make up the martyr-complement by suffering under Antichrist, and so suffering to become triumphant, and attain Paradise. And hence chiefly he formed to himself an Apocalyptic plan, and " ordo temporum" in the prophecy :-how that before the judgment and vindication promised to the souls under the altar, the harlotcity Rome was to be destroyed by the ten kings, after the vial-plagues had first been poured out on its empire: then the Beast Antichrist to rise, make war conjunctively with his False Prophet on the Church, and add an innumerable multitude of sufferers, during the tribulation of his tyranny, to the martyrs previously slain under Pagan Rome, Christ's two Witnesses, Enoch and Elijah, specially inclusive: then, Antichrist having been thereupon destroyed from heaven, and the Devil shut up in the abyss, the privilege of the first resurrection, and millennial reign with Christ, to be allotted to its chosen participants ; and afterwards the conflagration to follow, and the general resurrection and judgment.-Altogether the view is an eminently commonsense view of the prophecy; as a prefigurative drama, in orderly succession, of the chief æras and events in the history of the church and of the world, from Christ's first coming, or near it, to his second: indeed, excepting his apparent restriction of Rome's fated burning (if such it be ') to that by the ten kings, and dating of that event previously (if I rightly understand Tertullian) to Antichrist's rise and manifestation, there is little in it on which we might not even now join hands in concord with the venerable and sagacious expositor.
i “Ad hoc enim nascebatur Dominus ;" (viz. to overthrow his adversary, like his antitype Jacob ;) “ de quo et Joannes in Apocalypsi ait, Exivil vincens ut vinceret."
? See the Notes, Vol. i. pp. 204, 205, for Tertullian's view of Antichrist, and the imminence of his manifestation on the breaking up of the Roman empire: also, on his Millennary view, the abbreviated extract given in the Note p. 177 suprà. But it will be quite worth the reader's while to read the whole passage from which this extract is taken ; which passage, I see, is given by Bishop Kaye in his Tertullian, p. 362.Respecting the New Jerusalem, it will be there seen, his idea was that it was to be of heavenly fubric, and would descend from heaven to be the abode of the resurrection saints during the Millennium ; while the converted Jews, still in a mortal state, were restored to, and occupied their own land of Judah adjoining. So he distinguished between the earthly promise to the Jewish people, and the heavenly (typified by the other) to the saints of the Christian Church : and so too expected, very much as I have myself exprest it at pp. 202--208 suprà, that the fulfilment of the two promises would coincide in time. He tells too of a glorious city which had been seen shortly before in Judæa for forty successive days, suspended in the air at break of morning; the image, it was supposed, and he believed it, of the New Jerusalem.
3 “ Accepit et Angelus victoriæ coronam, procedens in candido equo ut vinceret.” De Cor. Mil. ch. 15. The context shows that Christ the Covenant-Angel is meant.
4 The passages are given in my Vol. i. p. 207; but they are so illustrative that I must beg to bring them here again distinctly under the reader's eye.
1. De Res. Carn. ch. 25. “ Etiam in Apocalypsi Johannis ordo temporum sternitur, quem martyrum quoque animæ sub altari, ultionem et judicium flagitantes, sustinere didicerunt: ut prius et orbis de pateris angelorum plagas suas edibat, et prostituta illa civitas a decem regibus dignos exitus referat, et bestia Antichristus, cùm suo pseudo-prophetâ certamen ecclesiæ Dei inferat ; atque ita, Diabolo in abyssum interim relegato, primæ resurrectionis prærogativa de soliis ordinetur dehinc, et igni dato universalis resurrectionis censura de libris judicetur."
2. Scorp. adv. Gnost. ch. 12. “ Quinam isti tam beati victores (Apoc. ii. 7) nisi propriè martyres ? Jllorum etenim victoriæ quorum et pugnæ; corum vero pugnæ quorum et sanguis. Sed et interim sub altari martyrum animæ placidè quiescunt; et fiduciâ ultionis candidam claritatis usurpant, donec et alii consortium illorum gloriæ impleant. Nam et rursus innumera multitudo albati, et palmis victoriæ insignes, revelantur; (Apoc. vii. 9, &c;) scilicet de Antichristo triumphales.”
Fourthly comes into review on this head Hippolytus, Bishop of Porto, a Roman port of doubtful locality :? one that was an immediate successor of Irenæus and Tertullian ; indeed it is said Irenæus' disciple:3
· Elsewhere indeed he dwells on the eternal fires in which the persecuting Roman Emperors and Magistrates would suffer. See my Vol. i. p. 200, Note'.
? Some say that it was the Portus Romanus, or Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber; some Aden, the ancient Portus Romanus near the entrance of the Red Sea. See Lardner, ii. 421.
3 So Photius, apparently on the authority of Hippolytus himself. Maontos Expnναι ο Ιππολυτος... Ταυτας δε φησιν ελεγχοις υποβληθηναι ομιλούντος Ειρηναιον. Quoted by Lardner, p. 424.
and who suffered martyrdom, probably about A.D. 240 or 250, under the Emperor Maximin or Decius. Jerome reports that he wrote a Treatise specifically on the Apocalypse, as well as one on Antichrist.? If so, the former has perished. But there is still extant a short Treatise purporting to be that by him on Antichrist, and with every mark of genuineness. This includes in it sundry Apocalyptic notices of much interest ; and I therefore give the following brief abstract.
After observing on God's will that the mysteries of the future, foreshown by the ancient Prophets or seers, should be concealed from none of his servants, he opens his subject by laying down strongly respecting the coming Antichrist, even as if his grand characteristic, (a view derived evidently in part at least from the Apocalypse, 4) that he would in every thing affect resemblance to Christ. “The seducer will seek to appear in all things like the Son of God. As Christ a Lion, so he a lion ; as Christ a King, so he a king; as Christ a Saviour, so he a saviour; as Christ a Lamb, so he as a lamb, though inwardly a wolf: as Christ sent out apostles to all nations, so will he similarly send out false apostles :” 5 it being added that there would be also a similar connexion with the Jewish people. Then, after extracts from other Scriptures, and especially from Daniel's two great symbolic prophecies of the quadripartite Image and the four wild Beasts, which he explains, just like the other fathers, of the Babylonish, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires, and the little horn of the fourth Beast as Antichrist, he thus turns to the Apocalypse for information as to the fated end of both Antichrist himself,
Lardner, p. 428.
2 Ib. 422. 3 I may specify particularly the clause following; which shows the Treatise to have been written in the times of Pagan persecution, and so before Constantine's establishment of Christianity. “Nos qui in Filium Dei speramus, ab infidelibus à quibus conculcamur persecutionem patimur.” I quote from Combefis Latin translation given in the B. P. M. xxvii. 7. Moreover every such notice of monasticism, and of the Virgo Deipara, as are found in the spurious Treatise De Consummatione Mundi ac de Antichristo, bearing Hippolytus' name, and with much of his real Treatise incorporated, are here wanting : notices which tell of the latter half of the 4th century, or a period yet later.
* Antichrist's affected likeness to a lamb, which is one of the points here specified, is in a later part of the Treatise expressly inferred by Hippolytus from the Apocalyptic figuration of Antichrist and False Prophet as a two-horned lamb-like Beast : “Quòd autem ejus cornua Agni similia dicit, hoc significat fore ut ille se similem Dei Filio præferat."-p. 6.
5 P. 2. I have already referred to this, Vol. ii. p. 85, Note 5.