Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/666

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596

APOCALYPSE


596


APOCALYPSE


group of small islands close to the coast of Asia Minor, alxiiit twelve geographical miles from Ephe- sus. Tradition, as Eusebius tells us, has handed down that John was banished to Patmos in the reign of Domitian for the sake of his testimony of God's word (Hist. Eccl., Ill, 18). He obviously refers to the passage "for the word of God and for the testi- mony of Jesus" (i. 9). It is true that the more probable meaning of this phrase is, "in order to hear the word of God", etc., and not "banished because of the word of God", etc., (cf. i, 2). But it was quite natural that the Seer sliould have regarded his ban- ishment to Patmos as prearranged by Divine Provi- dence that in tlie solitude of the island he might hear God's word. The tradition recorded by Eusebius finds confirmation in the words of the Seer describing himself as "a brother and partaker in tribulation" (i. 9), Irena'us places the Seer's exile in Patmos at tlie end of Domitian 's reign. "Paene sub nostro sa;culo ad finem Domitiani imperii" (Adv. Haer., V. 4). The Emperor Domitian reigned A. D. 81-96. In all matters of Joannine tradition Irenseus deserves exceptional credit. His lifetime bordered upon the Apostolic age and his master, St. Polycarp, had been among the disciples of St. John. Eusebius, chroni- cling the statement of Irenceus without any mis- givings, adds as the year of the Seer's exile the four- teenth of Domitian's reign. St. Jerome also, without reserve or hesitation, follows the same tradition. "Quarto decimo anno, secundam post Neronem per- secutionem movente Doraitiano, in Patmos insulam relegatus, scripsit Apocalypsim" (Ex libro de Script. Eccl). Against the united testimony of these three witnesses of tradition the statement of Epiphanius, placing the Seer's banishment in the reign of Claudius, A D. 41 -.54, appears exceedingly improbable (Hcer., h. 12, 33).

Contents. — (1) The Seven Churches. Chap, i, 1- 3. Title and description of the book. The reve- lation made by Jesus the Messias to John. — (i, 4-9). Salutation prefatory to the seven Epistles, wishing the churches the grace and the peace of God and Jesus. — (i. 9-20). The vision of Jesus as the Son of man. The portrait is taken from Dan., x, and He- noch, xlvi. (if. the phrases, "one like the son of man" (Ap.,i, 13; Dan.,x, 16, and vii, 13); "girded with gold" (Ap., i, 13; Dan., x, 5); "Eyes like flames of fire" (Ap., i, 14; Dan., x, 6); "a voice like that of a mul- titude" (.\p., i, 15; Dan., x, 6); "I fell down like one sensele-ss" (Ap., i, 17; Dan., x, 9); "and he touched me" (Ap., i, 17; Dan., x, 18); "hair white like wool" (.\p., i, 14; Dan., vii, 9; Hen., xlvi, 1). — Chap, ii, 1-iii, 22. The Epistles, to the seven Churches. The Churches are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thya- tira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The Epis- tles are short exhortations to the Christians to remain steadfast in their faith, to beware of false apostles, and to abstain from fornication and from meat offered to idols.

(2) The Book with the Seven Seals. Chaps, iv and v. The %'ision of God enthroned upon the Cher- ubim. The throne is surrounded by twenty-four elders. In the right hand of God is a scroll sealed with seven seals. In the midst of the Cherubim and the elders the Seer beholds a lamb, "agnus tamquam occisus", having on its throat the scar of the gash by which it was .slain. The Seer weeps because no one either in heaven or on earth can break the seals. He is comforted on hearing that the lamb was worthy to do so, because of the redemption it had WTOught by its blood. The portrait of the throne is taken from Ezechiel, i. Compare in both accounts the de- scription of the four beasts. They resemble a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. Their bodies are full of eyes (cf. Ap., iv, 8; and Ex., x, 12). The twenty- four elders were probably suggested by the twenty- (our courses of priests ininistering in" the Temple.


The lamb slain for the sins of mankind is from Isaias, liii.

Chaps, vi and vii. The seven seals and the num- bering of the Saints. At the opening of four seals, four horses appear. Their colour is white, black, red, and sallow, or green (x^<>'P'5s=TI3, piebald). Thej' signify conquest, slaughter, dearth and death. The vision is taken from Zach., vi, 1-8. At the opening of the fifth seal the Seer beholds the martyrs that were slain and hears their prayers for the final triumph. At the opening of the si.xth seal the pre- destined to glory are numbered and marked. The Seer beholds them divided into two classes. First, 144,000 Jews, 12,000 of every tribe. Then a num- berless multitude chosen from all nations and tongues. Chaps, viii and ix. After the interval of about half an hour, the seventh seal is broken; seven angels issue forth, each one holding a trumpet. The sound- ing of the first four trumpets causes a partial de- struction of the elements of nature. One-third of the earth is burned, as also one-third of the trees and all the grass. One-third of the sea becomes blood (cf. Ex., vii, 17). One-third of the rivers is turned into water of wormwood. One-third of the sun, moon, and stars is obscured, causing one-third of the day to be dark (cf. Ex., x, 21). At the sound- ing of the fifth trumpet locusts ascend from the abyss. Their work is to torment men for five months. They are specially charged not to touch the grass. Their shape is that of horses (Joel, ii, 4); their teeth like those of lions (Joel, i, 6); their hair like the hair of women. They have the tails of scorpions where- with to chastise man. The command over them is held by the Angel of the Abyss, named Abaddon, the destroyer. At the sound of the sixth trumpet the four angels chained at the Euphrates are let loose. They lead forth an army of horsemen. By the fire which the horses spit out and by their tails which are like serpents, one-third of mankind is killed. After the sixth trumpet there are two digressions. (1) The angel standing on the land and the sea. He swears that at the sound of the seventh trumpet the mystery will be completed. He hands to the Seer a little book. When eaten by him it is found sweet to taste, but bitter when once devoured. Taken from Ezech., ii. 8; iii, 3. (2) The contamination of the court of the Temple by the heathens. It lasts three and a half years. Taken from Dan., vii, 25; ix, 27; xii, 7-11. During that time two witnesses are sent to preach in Jerusalem. They are the two olive-trees foretold by Zach., iv, 3, 11. At the end of their mis- sion they are slain by the beast. They are raised to life after three and a half days (= years). The sev- enth trumpet is now sounded, the nations are judged and the Kingdom of Christ is established.

(3) The Divine Drama. First Act. Chaps, xii, xiii, xiv. The lamb, the woman, and her seed; and opposed to them, the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the land. The main idea is taken from Gen., iii, 15. "I will put enmities between thee (the serpent) and the woman, and thy seed and her seed". The woman is arrayed in heavenly splendour; a crown of twelve stars on her head, and the sun and the moon under her feet (cf. Gen., XXX vii, 9, 10). She is in travail. Her first-born is destined to rule all the nation (Ps., ii, 8, 9). She herself, and her other seed, are persecuted for three and a half years by the great dragon who tries to kill them, 'riie great dragon is Satan (Gen., iii, 1). He is cast out of heaven. With his tail he draws after him one-third of the stars. Taken from Dan., viii, 10. The fallen stars are the fallen angels. The beast from the sea is in great part taken from Dan- iel's description of the four beasts. It ari.ses from the sea (Dan., vii, 3); h.as seven heads marked all over with blasphemies. It had also ten horns, like the fourth beast of Daniel (vii, 7); it resembled a