The Date Of The Apocalypse -- By: J. Ritchie Smith

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 045:178 (Apr 1888)
Article: The Date Of The Apocalypse
Author: J. Ritchie Smith


The Date Of The Apocalypse

Rev. J. Ritchie Smith

In the case of many books of Scripture the question of date is not one of mere historic interest, but is intimately related to the larger questions of authenticity and interpretation. It is obvious, for example, what a changed aspect the Pentateuch and the prophecy of Daniel would wear, if critical research should compel us to refer them to a period long subsequent to the days of the Exodus and the Captivity.

The authorship of the Apocalypse is not determined by the time of its composition, for the dates that divide the suffrages of the learned world fall alike within the life of John the apostle, by whom it was certainly written, as the voice of antiquity attests. But it is maintained that the date furnishes the key to the meaning of the book. It must be interpreted from the standpoint of the seer, and cannot be understood unless we rightly apprehend the circumstances under which it was given to the church. To see as John saw we must take our stand where John stood. The vision is intelligible from no other point of view. The question of time, therefore, is one of first importance, as it determines the exposition of the book.

Two dates only need concern us, for between them our choice must be made.

A. Tradition assigns the Apocalypse to the close of the reign of Domitian (95 or 96 a. d.). This date was generally accepted down to the present century, and is still maintained by many critics, as Trench, Alford, Milligan, Lee, Elliott, Hengstenberg, Lange, Godet, Ebrard, Warfield,1 and generally in Smith’s Bible Dictionary.

B. The majority of scholars now assign it to a period shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, in the reign of Nero, Galba, or Vespasian (68–70). This is declared to be one of the most certain results of modern criticism, and is maintained by Weiss, Gebhardt, Luthardt, Olshausen, Stier, Gieseler, Westcott, Lightfoot, Salmon, Farrar, Plumptre, Schaff, Stuart, Reuss, Meyer, Ewald, Bleek, DeWette, Davidson, Düsterdieck, of whom the seven last named hold that the Apocalypse was not written by John the apostle, or at least that the fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse are not from the same hand.

It is the purpose of this article to advocate a return to the earlier view, which refers the book to the close of the first century, and in the course of the argument to present the objections to current schemes of interpretation.

The evidence is of two kinds: 1st. External—the witness of the early church; 2d. Internal—the witness of the book itself. Of thes...

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