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An introduction to the literature of the New Testament online

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Augustus* (so Tacitus) and passes over the three usurpers
(Galba, Otho, and Vitellius ; cp. Suet. Vespas. i), as provincials
would naturally do, to whom the struggle of the trio was no more
than a passing nightmare. The sixth and reigning emperor (6 ds
eo-Tiv) is Vespasian, with whom the Flavian dynasty took up the
imperial succession after Nero's death, which ended the Julian
dynasty, had well-nigh broken up the empire (13^'-). Vespasian's
successor, Titus, is to have only a brief reign. As a matter of
fact, it did not last more than a couple of years. After him, the
deluge ! Nero redivivus {to drjpiov), who had already reigned
(o rjv), but who meanwhile was invisible (/cai ovk Iotiv), is to
reappear from the abyss, only to be crushed finally (koL eU
aTTidXetav vTrdyei). Thus the downfall of the persecuting empire
is to be heralded by the advent after Titus of one belonging to
the seven (e/c twv eTrra eo-Tiv) emperors who, on the traditional
reckoning of the heads, were to see the rise and fall of Rome.
The author of v.^^, living under Domitian, is obliged to identify
the latter with Nero (as in another sense some of his own pagan
subjects did) ; f but he still anticipates the imminent crisis
predicted by his source. It is plain, therefore, that a Vespasianic
oracle has been brought up to date in v.^^ : the course of actual
history had broken through the eschatological scheme at one
point, but, while the prophet seeks (in the contemporary and

* Augustus = cre/Saoriy, a word which had (especially in Asia Minor) the
distinctly religious connotation of worshipful, was one of the dvofiara
pXaacprifilas (13^) which horrified the prophet John.

t The cahms Nero gibe of the Romans had a sterner replica in early
Christianity (cp. Eus. H. E. iii. 17:6 Ao/ieTtavAs . . . TeXeurtDf ttJs '^^puvos
deoexOplas re kclI ^eoyuax'as diddoxov iavrbv Kareo-njcraro. de&repos drjra rbv
Kad^ t^/jlQv aveKlvei di.u}y,u.6v, Kaiirep tov irarphs avT(f Oveffiraffiavod jx-qhkv Kad'
rjjj.u}v droirov ewivorjffavTOi).



DATE 507

historical note of v.^^) * to repair the latter, he adheres firmly to
his belief in it.

No literary filiation can be established between the apocalypse and any
other NT writing which throws light upon its date. But one incidental
water-mark of the Domitianic period, first pointed out by S. Reinach, occurs
in 6'' (cp. the present writer's study in ExpP vi. 359-369), where the im-
munity of wine may be a local allusion to Domitian's futile attempt (in
A.D. 92) to check the cultivation of the vine in the Ionian provinces.

The post-Neronic period is indicated by two other minor traits, (i.) The
language, e.g., of I3^*" is sometimes used to prove that the apocalypse breathes
the atmosphere of the wild commotion and anarchy before A.D. 70. This
interpretation is certainly truer to the data than that which finds an allusion
to the murder of Julius Csesar (so, e.g., Gunkel, Porter, and Bruston), or to
Caligula (Spitta). But the point of the oracle is that this weltering chaos
had passed, leaving the empire stronger than ever, under the Flavians. The
apocalyptist looks back upon the bloody interregnum which followed Nero's
death. The collapse of the Julian dynasty, so far from proving fatal to the
State, had simply aggrandised its influence ; the tradition of the wounded
head (Dn 8^) had been fulfilled. This retrospective attitude, together with
the belief in Nero redivivus, points away from the Neronic period, (ii. ) A
further proof that the apocalypse could not have been written earlier than
the eighth decade of the first century is furnished by the evidence of Polykarp
{ad Phil. 11^, cp. Zahn's Forschungen, iv. 252 f. ), which shows that the
church at Smyrna could hardly have had, by A.D. 70, the history presupposed
in 2^"".

Several reasons contributed to the popularity of the seventh
decade date, (i.) The Tiibingen school required it for their
thesis that the Balaamites and Nicolaitans were Pauline
Christians whom the narrower faith of John the apostle attacked
(cp. Hausrath, iv. 256 f., and Baur's Church History of First Three
Centuries, i. pp. 84-87). Soon after Paul left Asia Minor, John
settled there and wrote this vigorous pamphet in which he
congratulated the metropolitan church of Ephesus for having
detected false apostles like Paul, and for having resisted the
subtle encroachment of the latter's Gentile Christian propaganda.
It is no longer necessary to refute this theory, except to point
out that, when the Neronic date and the Johannine authorship
are maintained, there is a much more plausible case for it than
several conservative critics appear to realise, (ii.) Those who

* John's revisal of the seven heads is paralleled by the author of Daniel's
addition of the eleventh horn to the traditional ten, under similar historical
exigencies. Bruston, Z^n, and Clemen (ZNW. ii. 109 f., xi. 204 f) are
among the few critics who still refuse to see any reference to Nero the
infernal revenant.



5o8 THE APOCALYPSE OF JOHN

ascribed both the apocalypse and the Fourth gospel to the
apostle, naturally required a long period during which his
thought and style were supposed to mature.* (iii.) The
allusions in xi^^-and elsewhere were taken to imply the period
prior to the final destruction of Jerusalem, upon the view that
the apocalypse reflected the contemporary situation in Palestine
вАФ a view not dissimilar to that which placed Hebrews in the
same decade. The recognition of Palestinian traditions and
sources removes any difficulty about the later date which may be
felt on this ground.

For recent defences of the Neronic date, see Hort (cp. JC. i6o f. ), Simcox,
Selwyn {op. cit. pp. 215 f.), Erbes {ZKG., 1912, 222f.), Edmundson {Urc.
163 f. ), and Henderson {Principate of Nero^ 439 f. ). The Domitianic date is
argued, in addition to older critics hl



Online LibraryJames MoffattAn introduction to the literature of the New Testament → online text (page 65 of 83)