Revelation’s Authority and Authorship

There are not a few things that are to be set down beforehand for the explication of this book in the place of πρωθεόριας, a preface.  [1.  Concerning the authority of this book.]  Formerly some were rejecting the Divine authority of this book:  first various heretics, like Cerdon[1] and Marcion,[2] as Tertullian[3] testifies;[4] then the Alogi[5] and Theodotiani,[6] as Epiphanius[7] and Augustine testify;[8] then Orthodox men, as Eusebius[9] testifies,[10] especially Caius.[11]  Others doubted concerning the author, and therefore they did not at all admit the Apocalypse among the authentic writings of the New Testament, as formerly the Churches of the Greeks, as Jerome testifies[12] (Gomar).  Why [however] it was doubted concerning the authority and authorship of this book, I believe the reasons to be, that for a long time it was in the hands of a few, not being included the Codices given to the common people, lest the hatred of those ruling should be stirred against Christians as a result of these things which are here predicted concerning Rome.  In the next place, because what things are here said concerning the Resurrection, concerning the Thousand years, concerning Gog and Magog, these things sound like they agree with the Jewish books; and, although here they are set down with another sense, nevertheless they were seized upon by Cerinthus[13] and Christians, Judaizing more than is right unto a sense distinctly Jewish; as also that concerning Jerusalem descended out of heaven (Grotius).  Add that nothing here appears to be of Apostolic dignity and majesty (Erasmus[14] on Revelation 22:20).  Which is remarkable, since nearly all things here have been transcribed verbatim out of the Prophets (Beza).  Indeed, many things contribute to the Canonical authority of this book:  1.  the sanctity of its doctrine, which also agrees with the Canonical books precisely, as far as the person, offices, benefits, worship, etc., of Christ (Gomar):  2.  sayings and formulas of speaking proper to the sacred writers, but never used by others, for example, revelation, as the Prophecy was called a vision; seven spirits; firstborn from the dead, etc.:  Who among men has thus revealed these things?  3.  familiar types of Scripture, not extant in the work of any human author; which are here frequent, as the throne, the four living creatures, the horses, the river, the tree, etc.:  4.  the style, or the structure of speech, which sort was never used by mortals, like Revelation 1:3, Blessed is he that reads…hears…keeps; and Revelation 1:6-8, to Him who love us: Behold He comes in the clouds:  I am the α/Alpha and ω/Omega; you see γοργότητα/ vehemence not human:  5.  κυριολογία, the proper use of words; he discusses the individual matters in a manner suitable to the nature of them, for example, he says that Christ received, not learned, the Revelation, etc. (Cotterius in his “Prolegomena”):  6.  the prophecies concerning the state of the Church, specific and proven by the event, and therefore divine, Isaiah 41:23 (Gomar, similarly Cotterius):  7.  the mysteries here, proper to Sacred Scripture:  8.  a form altogether wise and divine.  And indeed these things are more than sufficient.  Nevertheless, we add the consent of men (Cotterius).  This book was received by the majority, indeed to such an extent that Epiphanius counts those that reject it among the heretics (Beza).  Those that lived in the age closest to John’s were expressly approving it (Gomar), like Justin Martyr[15] in Against Trypho, and Irenæus[16] in Against Heresies 5 (Gomar, thus Cotterius), which two explained this book in commentaries, as Jerome testifies in Concerning Illustrious Men.[17]  These men are followed by Theophilus of Antioch,[18] Melito of Sardis,[19] Origen,[20] and Dionysius of Alexandria,[21] as Eusebius testifies in his Ecclesiastical History 4:23, 25; 6:24; 7:24.  Likewise, Clement of Alexandria[22] in his Pedagogue; Epiphanius in his Against Heresies 51, 54; Chrysostom in his second homily on Psalm 118 (Gomar).  Damascenus,[23] Andreas of Cæsarea,[24] etc., so that the testimony of Jerome, asserting that it was not received in his time by the Greeks, might be understood of the common people and common Bishops.  Of the Latins agree Tertullian, Cyprian,[25] Hillary,[26] Augustine, Jerome, etc.  The Councils of Ancyra and Rome,[27] convened in the fifth century, and the Fourth Council of Toledo, convened in the year 636 (Cotterius).  Now, that some Orthodox men rejected the Apocalypse, it happened in no way by the fault of the writing and rightfully, but on account of the abuse of that, and the errors which were confirmed by arguments sought from it; which arguments some, since they were not able to unloose them, cut the knot, denying its authority, as others rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews because it appeared to favor the Novatians[28] (Gomar).  [2.  It is to be inquired concerning the author, or Writer of the book:]  The Writer was, either, 1.  Cerinthus (certain interpreters in Cluverus), as Caius in Eusebius maintained (Gomar):  which is foolish, because the errors of Cerinthus are here expressly refuted (Gomar, similarly Cluverus).  Or, 2.  John, called the elder (certain interpreters in Ribera).  For there were two Johns, both buried in Ephesus, the Apostle, and the elder, a disciple of the Apostle, as Jerome relates (Ribera).  Or, 3.  the Apostle John (Beza, Grotius, Cluverus, Gothofredus, Ribera, Gomar, Durham), as many things suggest; 1.  The very text of the book (Cluverus):  for his name, John, is set down simply (Cotterius, Durham), and he says that he testified concerning the word of God, and the testimony of Christ, and all that he saw, Revelation 1:2, which agrees especially with the Apostle, from a comparison with John 19:35 (Gomar); 21:24 (Durham); 1 John 1:1-3 (Gomar); and he adds that he was on the island of Patmos, etc., Revelation 1:9, where Irenæus, Eusebius, and all, agree that he was banished by Domitian[29] (Gomar, Cluverus, Cotterius, Durham).  2.  The style, and the many formulæ of speaking familiar to John:  as that he calls Christ the lamb, Revelation 5 (Cluverus, similarly Cotterius, Beza), and the word,[30] as in John 1:1, 29 (Cluverus, Gothofredus); that concerning Him he says, He who loved us, and cleansed us from sins in his own blood,[31] as in 1 John 1:7, and those who pierced Him, etc., Revelation 1:7, as in John 19:37.  3.  It is fitting that the book, which is the proper work of Christ, be exhibited to us by the labor of one from the order of Apostles (Cotterius), and that this most excellent revelation be exhibited by the most beloved disciple (Cluverus).  Add that it belonged to Apostolic authority to write, not to one Church, but to all the Asiatic Churches (Beza).  4.  They believed this book to be the Apostle John’s, to which witnesses credit is deservedly given (Grotius):  Justin in his Against Trypho; Irenæus in his Against Heresies 4:37, 50; 5:30; Tertullian in his Against Marcion 4, and in many other places.  With whom agree Clement of Alexandria (Grotius, thus Cluverus) in his Pedagogue 2:10, 12 (Cluverus), Origen (Grotius, Cluverus) in tractate 12 on Matthew 20 (Cluverus), and after them many others (Grotius).  Epiphanius, Against Heresies 54:  Εἰ γὰρ, etc., If thou wert regenerated, and rightly educated, it was required that thou study the twenty-seven books of the Old Testament, which are numbered twenty-two by the Hebrews, and the four Gospels…and the Apocalypse of John.  Augustine, City of God: Concerning these things the same Evangelist John spoke in that book which is called the Apocalypse, etc.  And, that this was the opinion of all the Latins, Jerome testifies to Dardanus by Epistle[32] (Cluverus).  Dionysius of Alexandria in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History 7:24 says (Gomar), Ἐγὼ δὲ ἀθετῆσαι, etc., I would not dare to reject this book…. I suppose that a wonderful expectation of future things is contained in the several chapters of it.  When I do not understand it, I consider there to be a certain, higher sense in the words, etc. (Grotius, Gomar).  Now, I believe that this book was preserved by the Elder John, the disciple of the Apostle:  thence it was accomplished that it was believed to be his work by some (Grotius).  [Nevertheless, others deny that John was the Writer of this book, or they doubt it, supported by these arguments:]  1.  Because John in the Gospel never set down his own name, neither in the Epistles; but in the Apocalypse he often impresses it (certain interpreters in Ribera, similarly Erasmus out of Dionysius of Alexandria).  Response:  This reason is empty (Beza).  It is one thing to write a history, another thing to write a prophecy (Beza, Ribera).  The truth of a history depends on sources other than the Author (Beza).  But in a prophecy, the entire authority of which hangs upon the author; the name was necessarily to be set down, otherwise it would be disregarded with him unknown.  Therefore, the prophets always wrote their name at the beginning of their prophecy, and they often impress it (Ribera, similarly Beza).  Hence Jeremiah impresses his name one hundred and twenty times.  Thus after Daniel 7, is repeated in nearly every versicle, I, Daniel.  Thus also Isaiah, etc.  Moreover, the name of John, unless I am mistaken, is only repeated five times, and I, John only three times (Beza).  2.  Because there is a great difference of style between the Gospel and Epistles of John and the Apocalypse (certain interpreters in Ribera); and the former are more refined, the latter quite unrefined (Gomar, similarly Ribera), rough, uncouth, not without solecisms[33] (certain interpreters in Ribera).  Response:  This hinders nothing, for there ought to be a difference of style in history and in prophecy (Ribera, similarly Gomar).  In his Gospel he wished to be similar to the Evangelists, in prophecy to the Prophets (Ribera).  In the Gospel he narrated the things he heard and saw by the inspiration and direction of God, after his own habit of speech, which he had received from the Holy Spirit by the gift of tongues:  However, in the Apocalypse he wrote what things the Angel had dictated, and in such a style as God wished to be used (Gomar).  Add that many things agree with the style of the Evangelist, even indeed the previously listed sentences and words (Gomar, similarly Ribera).  3.  Because in the Greek Codices the title is of John (not the Evangelist, but) the Theologian (Erasmus).  Responses:  1.  That was done for no other reason than that after Origen, Christians gave the title Theologian, which title the Platonists gave to Orpheus,[34] to John with better justification.  This appears to be true out of Origen, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and both Cyrils[35] (Grotius).  2.  No one is ignorant that John the Evangelist κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, by preeminence, was called by the ancients the Theologian, for he wrote best concerning the divinity of Christ (Beza, similarly Gomar, Cluverus):  whence Athanasius says, It is called the Apocalypse of John because that very John, the Evangelist and Theologian, saw this revelation on Patmos:  Both in the Complutensian codex[36] and in the Royal Codex[37] the title is, The Apocalypse of the Apostle and Evangelist, Saint John the Theologian (Gomar).  4.  Because Dorotheus omits the Apocalypse in the catalogue of Sacred Scripture:[38]  Anastasius,[39] Dionysius of Alexandria, and Eusebius speak doubtfully concerning it (certain interpreters in Gomar).  Responses:  1.  The unfavorable opinion of a few, more obscure Fathers is not at all to be opposed to the majority of more ancient Fathers, whom we brought forward previously (Gomar).  2.  That without just cause they rejected this book, the reasons for which they, having been agitated, did this, show (Beza); namely, that they are not able by any other method to loosen the arguments of the Chiliasts, etc.  And since they believed that they had received a suitable interpretation of that Millennium in Revelation 20, with authority of the Apocalypse left unimpaired, they rested from the beginning of impiety not easily to be removed with respect to guilt, and to be trembled at with respect to posterity (Mede on Revelation 20).  Concerning questions of who the author of this book was, or when it was written, I am no more solicitus than concerning the cask or time of wine, as long as the wine is good.  I am persuaded that he was a true prophet and disciple of God; and I have no more doubt concerning this than concerning the Gospel of John.  And yet I understand hardly a thousandth part of this book (Castalio[40]).  [These things concerning the second question.

[1] Cerdon was an early second century Docetic Gnostic of Syria.  He taught that there were two Gods:  the vengeful and demanding creator God of the Old Testament, and the loving and merciful God of the New Testament revealed in Jesus Christ.

[2] Marcion (c. 85-160) was a Gnostic heretic from Sinope, Turkey.  He was very influential in the early Church, in spite of being excommunicated.  Marcion asserted that the God of the Old Testament was a lesser demiurge, a God of law, strict justice, and wrath.  The God of the New Testament is a God of love and grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, and purely preached by Paul.  It is not surprising that Marcion rejected all of the Old Testament, and the New Testament books that speak favorably of the God of the Old Testament.  Marcion’s canon consisted of an expurgated edition of Luke and ten of Paul’s epistles.

[3] Tertullian was a Latin Father of the second century.  He labored as an apologist during times of persecution.

[4] Against Marcion 1.

[5] The Alogi, or Alogians, were a group of Christian heretics, flourishing in Asia Minor around 170 AD.  Epiphanius gave them the name “Alogi” both because he considered them to be illogical (anti-logikous), and because they denied the Christian Logos doctrine.  In connection with this doctrine, they denied the Johannine authorship of the Gospel of John and Revelation, attributing them instead to the gnostic Cerinthus.

[6] The Theodotians were followers of Theodotus of Byzantium, a second century heretic.  They believed that the man Jesus became the Christ only after His baptism.

[7] The profound erudition of Epiphanius (c. 310-403) led to his installation as Bishop of Salamis.  He was something of a heresy hunter, combating Apollinaris, the disciples of Origen, and even at one point Chrysostom.

[8] Panarion 54; Concerning Heresies 30.

[9] Eusebius (c. 267-338) was Bishop of Cæsarea, author of that famous Ecclesiastical History, and supporter of Constantine the Great.

[10] Ecclesiastical History 7:25.

[11] Caius, Presbyer of Rome (early third century), was a Christian author; his works survive only in fragments.  It appears that he attributed John’s Gospel and Apocalypse to the heresiarch Cerinthus.

[12] Letter to Dardanus.

[13] Cerinthus (c. 100) was a heretic:  Like the Ebionites, he taught his followers to keep the Jewish law for salvation, and denied the divinity of Jesus (believing that the Christ came to Him at His baptism); like some Gnostics, he denied that the Supreme God made the world, and believed that the bodyless, spiritual Christ inhabited the man Jesus.  He also anticipated a millennium of earthly pleasures after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection.

[14] Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536) was a Dutch humanist, a classical scholar, and a Roman Catholic theologian.  Although he never left the Roman Church, he sought the reformation of its corruptions, and he contributed greatly to the Reformation through the production of his various editions of the Greek New Testament and his Annotationes in Novum Testamentum.  He was certainly one of the greatest and most influential scholars of his time.

[15] Justin, also known as the Martyr, was one of the great Greek apologists of the second century.

[16] Irenæus was a second century Church Father, born near Smyrna, but serving as Bishop in Lyon.  He was a disciple of Polycarp, who was in turn a disciple of the Apostle John.

[17] Liber de Viris Illustribus.

[18] Theophilus (second century) was converted to Christianity from paganism, and he was ordained as Bishop of Antioch (c. 168).

[19] Melito (died c. 180) was Bishop of Sardis, near Smyrna in Asia Minor.  Melito provides what may be the earliest surving list of the Christian canon of the Old Testament which closely parallels that received by Protestants, excepting its omission of Esther.

[20] Origen (c. 185-c. 254) succeeded Clement of Alexandria as the head of the catechetical school in Alexandria.  He was perhaps the greatest scholar of his age.

[21] Dionysius of Alexandria (died 267) was a pagan convert to Christianity.  This student of Origen was eventually raised to the bishopric of Alexandria in 247.  Dionysius is remembered for his opposition to the Novatians and Sabellians.  He wrote commentaries on Luke, John, and Revelation.

[22] Titus Flavius Clemens Alexandrinus (died c. 215) was the head of the Christian catechetical school in Alexandria, Egypt.  He was trained in pagan philosophy before his conversion to Christianity.

[23] John Damascenus (c. 676-c. 760) was a monk of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem.  He is remembered for his piety of life, writings, and compilation of chants in the eastern style.

[24] Andreas (563-637) was Bishop of Cæsarea in Cappadocia.  His work on Revelation is the oldest surviving Greek patristric commentary on the book, which preserves older traditional material.

[25] Cyprian (died 258) served as Bishop of Carthage.  He is noted for his refusal to readmit into the Church those who had “lapsed” under persecution.

[26] Hillary, Bishop of Poitiers (died 368), was, among the Latin Fathers, one of the chief defenders of the Nicean theology against Arianism.

[27] The Councils and Ancyra and Rome were held in 314 and 382 respectively.

[28] Novatian (c. 200-258) was a priest and scholar.  He argued against readmission to the church for those who had lapsed during persecution, and this brought him into conflict with the Roman Bishop Cornelius.  Novatian was excommunicated.  The Novatians broke away from the Catholic Church, even rebaptizing converts.

[29] Titus Flavius Domitianus (51-96 AD) was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96 AD.  He was the younger brother and successor of Titus.  He was a ruthless and efficient ruler, zealous for the observance of traditional Roman religion, and a persecutor of Jews and Christians.

[30] Revelation 19:13.

[31] Revelation 1:5.

[32] Jerome’s Epistle 129 (dated 414) is to Dardanus, a prefect of Gaul.

[33] A solecism is a grammatical impropriety.

[34] In Greek mythology, Orpheus was the son of the Thracian river god Oiagros and the Muse Calliope.  He is reckoned as the chief of the poets and musicians, and a pioneer in a great many aspects of civilization, including theology.

[35] Cyril of Alexandria (c. 378-444) was a participant in the third ecumenical council, held at Ephesus.  He repudiated the heretical Nestorian Christology, but tended himself to the monophysitism.  Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) was elected Bishop of Jerusalem in 350.  He was a significant early theologian, and he is remembered for his Catechetical Lectures.

[36] The Complutensian Polyglot (taking its name from the university in Alcalá [Complutum, in Latin]; 1514) contained the first printed edition of the Septuagint, Jerome’s Vulgate, the Hebrew Text, Targum Onkelos with a Latin translation, and the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament.  The labor of the scholars was superintended by Cardinal Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros.

[37] The Royal Codex is the 1550 edition of the Greek New Testament published by Robert Estienne.  It is called the Editio Regia because of the handsome Greek font used in the printing.

[38] Dorotheus (c. 255-362) was Presbyter/Bishop of Tyre.  In his De Vita Prophetarum et Apostolorum, he did not attribute the Apocalypse to John.

[39] Anastasius Bibliothecarius (c. 810-879) was a papal librarian, who compiled the Chronographia Tripartita from the Greek chronicles of Syncellus, Theophanes, and Nicephorus.

[40] Sebastian Castalio (1515-1563) distinguished himself as a scholar by means of his linguistic talents, evident in his Annotationes in Vetus et Novum Testamentum.  However, the greatness of Castalio’s talents did not extend to the logico-synthetic work of theology, and he ran into controversy with Calvin.  He was inclined towards Pelagianism, and his views were influential in the development of Socinianism.  As a translator of the Bible, he takes overmuch liberty, attempting to mold the speech of the prophets to conform to the standards of classical Latin.

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