Author Topic: Apocalypse  (Read 1283 times)

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Catholic Encyclopedia

Apocalypse, from the verb apokalypto, to reveal, is the name given to the last book in the Bible. It is also called the Book of Revelation.

Although a Christian work, the Apocalypse belongs to a class of literature dealing with eschatological subjects and much in vogue among the Jews of the first century before, and after, Christ.

The author of the Apocalypse calls himself John. "John to the seven churches which are in Asia" (Apocalypse 1:4). And again, "I, John, your brother and your partner in tribulation . . . was in the island which called Patmos, for the word of God" (1:9).

The Seer does not further specify his personality. But from tradition we know that the Seer of the Apocalypse was John the Apostle the son of Zebedee, the Beloved Disciple of Jesus. At the end of the second century the Apocalypse was acknowledged by the historical representatives of the principal churches as the genuine work of John the Apostle.

In Asia, Melito, Bishop of Sardis, one of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse, acknowledged the Revelation of John and wrote a commentary on it (Eusebius, Church History IV.26). In Gaul, Irenaeus firmly believes in its Divine and Apostolic authority (Against Heresies 5.30). In Africa, Tertullian frequently quotes Revelation without apparent misgivings as to its authenticity (Against Marcion III). In Italy, Bishop Hippolytus assigns it to the Apostle St. John, and the Muratorian Fragment (a document about the beginning of the third century) enumerates it along with the other canonical writings, adding, it is true, apocryphal Apocalypse of St. Peter, but with the clause, quam quidam ex nostris in ecclesia legi nolunt. The Vetus Itala, moreover, the standard Latin version in Italy and Africa during the third century, contained the Apocalypse. In Egypt, Clement and Origen believed without hesitation in its Joannine authorship. They were both scholars and men of critical judgment. Their opinion is all the more valuable as they had no sympathy with the millennial teaching of the book. They contented themselves with an allegorical interpretation of certain passages but never ventured to impugn its authority.

Approaching more closely the apostolic age we have the testimony of St. Justin Martyr, about the middle of the second century. From Eusebius (Church History IV.18.8), as well as from his dialogue with the Jew, Tryphon (c. 81), held in Ephesus, the residence of the apostle, we know that he admitted the authenticity of the Apocalypse. Another witness of about the same time is Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, a place not far from Ephesus. If he himself had not been a hearer of St. John, he certainly was personally acquainted with several of his disciples (Eusebius, Church History III.39). His evidence however is but indirect. Andreas, Bishop of Caesarea, in the prologue to his commentary on the Apocalypse, informs us that Papias admitted its inspired character. From the Apocalypse undoubtedly Papias derived his ideas of the millennium, on which account Eusebius decries his authority, declaring him to have been a man of limited understanding. The apostolic writings which are extant furnish no evidence for the authenticity of the book.