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An Ecclesiastical History To The 20th Year Of The Reign Of Constantine by Eusebius

AFTER this he proceeds further to speak of the Revelation of John, as follows: “Some, indeed, before us, have set aside, and have attempted to refute the whole book, criticising every chapter, and pronouncing it without sense and without reason. They say it has a false title, for it is not of John. Nay, that it is not even a revelation, as it is covered with such a dense and thick veil of ignorance, that not one of the apostles, and not one of the holy men, or those of the church, could be its author, but that Cerinthus, the founder of the sect of Cerinthians, so called from him, wishing to have reputable authority for his own fiction, prefixed the title. For this is the doctrine of Cerinthus, that there will be an earthly reign of Christ; and as he was a lover of the body, and altogether sensual in those things which he so eagerly craved, he dreamed that he would revel in the gratification of the sensual appetite, i. e. in eating and drinking, and marrying; and, to give the things a milder aspect and expression, in festivals and sacrifices, and the slaying of victims. For my part I would not venture to set this book aside, as there are many brethren that value it much; but having formed a conception of its subject as exceeding my capacity, I consider it also containing a certain concealed and wonderful intimation in each particular. For, though I do not understand, yet I suspect that some deeper sense is enveloped in the words, and these I do not measure and judge by my private reason; but allowing more to faith, I have regarded them as too lofty to be comprehended by me, and those things which I do not understand, I do not reject, but I wonder the more that I cannot comprehend.”

After this, he examines the whole book of the Revelation, and after proving that it is impossible that it should be understood according to the obvious and literal sense, he proceeds: “The prophet, as I said, having completed the whole prophecy, he pronounces those blessed that should observe it, as also himself. ‘For blessed,’ says he, ‘is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book, and I, John, who have seen and heard these things.’ I do not, therefore, deny that he was called John, and that this was the writing of one John. And I agree that it was the work, also, of some holy and inspired man. But I would not easily agree that this was the apostle, the son of Zebedee, the brother of James, who is the author of the gospel, and the general (catholic) epistle that bears his name. But I conjecture, both from the general tenor of both, and the form and complexion of the composition, and the execution of the whole book, that it is not from him; for the evangelist never prefixes his name, never proclaims himself, either in the gospel or in his epistle.”

A little farther, he adds: “But John never speaks as of himself (in the first person), nor yet (in the third) as if speaking of another, but he that wrote the Apocalypse declares himself immediately in the beginning: ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which he gave to him to shew to his servants quickly. And he sent and signified it by his angel, to his servant John, who bare record of the word of God, and of his testimony (of Jesus Christ), and of all things that he saw.’

“Besides this, he wrote an epistle: ‘John to the seven churches of Asia, grace and peace to you.’ But the evangelist does not prefix his name even to his general epistle; but, without any introduction or circumlocution, begins from the very mystery of the divine revelation: ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes;’ for upon such a revelation as this Peter was blessed by our Lord: ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father in heaven.’ But neither in the second nor third epistle ascribed to John (the apostle), though they are very brief, is the name of John presented. But anonymously it is written, the presbyter. But the other did not consider it sufficient to name himself but once, and then to proceed in his narration, but afterwards again resumes, ‘I, John, your brother and partner in tribulation, and the kingdom and patience of Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, on account of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus.’ And, likewise, at the end (of the book) he says: ‘Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book, and I am John that saw and heard these things.’

“That it is a John who wrote these things we must believe, as he says it; but what John it is, is uncertain. For he has not said that he was, as he often does in the gospel, the beloved disciple of the Lord, neither the one leaning on his bosom, nor the brother of James, nor he that himself saw and heard what the Lord did and said; for he certainly would have mentioned one of these particulars, if he wished to make himself clearly known. But of all this there is nothing; he only calls himself our brother and companion, and the witness of Jesus, and blessed on account of seeing and hearing these revelations. I am of opinion there were many of the same name with John the apostle, who, for their love and admiration and emulation of him, and their desire at the same time, like him, to be beloved of the Lord, adopted the same epithet, just as we find the name of Paul and of Peter to be adopted by many among the faithful.

“There is also another John, surnamed Mark, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, whom Paul and Barnabas took in company with them. Of whom it is again said: ‘But they had John as their minister’ (Acts 13:5). But whether this is the one that wrote the Apocalypse, I could not say. For it is not written that he came with them to Asia. But he says: ‘When Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia, but John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.’ I think, therefore, that it was another one of those in Asia. For they say that there are two monuments at Ephesus, and that each bears the name of John; and from the sentiments and the expressions, as also their composition, it might be very reasonably conjectured that this one is different from that. The gospel and epistle mutually agree. They commence in the same way; for the one says, ‘In the beginning was the Word;’ the other, ‘That which was from the beginning.’ The one says, ‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.’ The other says the same things, a little altered: ‘That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have seen and our hands have handled of the Word of life, and the life was manifested.’ These things, therefore, are premised, alluding, as he has shown in the subsequent parts, to those who say that the Lord did not come into the flesh. Wherefore, also, he has designedly subjoined: ‘What we have seen we testify, and we declare to you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was made manifest to us; what we have seen and heard we declare to you.’ He keeps to the point, and does not depart from his subjects, but goes through all in the same chapters and names, some of which we shall briefly notice.

“The attentive reader will find the expressions, the life, the light, frequently occurring in both; also the expressions, fleeing from darkness, the truth, grace, joy, the flesh and blood of the Lord, the judgment, forgiveness of sins, the love of God to us, the commandment given us of love to one another, that we ought to keep all the commandments, the conviction of the world, the devil, of antichrist, the promise of the Holy Spirit, the adoption of God, (i. e. the adoption made by God,) the faith to be exhibited by us in all matters, the Father and the Son. And altogether throughout, to attentive observers, it will be obvious that there is one and the same complexion and character in the gospel and epistle. Very different and remote from all this, is the Apocalypse; not even touching, or even bordering upon them in the least, I might say; not even containing a syllable in common with them. The epistle, to say nothing of the gospel, has not made any mention, or given any intimation of the Apocalypse, nor does the Apocalypse mention the Epistle. Whereas, Paul indicates something of his revelations in his epistles; which, however, he never recorded in writing.

“We may, also, notice how the phraseology of the gospel and the epistle differs from the Apocalypse; for the former are written not only irrreprehensibly, as it regards the Greek language, but are most elegant in diction in the arguments and the whole structure of the style. It would require much to discover any barbarism or solecism, or any odd peculiarity of expression at all in them. As is to be presumed, he was endued with all the requisites for his discourse; the Lord having granted him both that of knowledge and that of expression and style. That the latter, however, saw a revelation, and received knowledge and prophecy, I do not deny. But I perceive that his dialect and language is not very accurate Greek; but that he uses barbarous idioms, and in some places solecisms, which it is now unnecessary to select; for neither would I have any one suppose that I am saying these things by way of derision, but only with the view to point out the great difference between the writings of these men.”








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