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THE APOCALYPSE OF ST.

JOHN
INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
BY

HENRY BARCLAY SWETE, D.D.


HON, LITT. D. DUBLIN HON. D.D. GLASGOW
REGIUS PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY
AND FELLOW OF GONVILLE AND CAIUS COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
FELLOW OF THE BRITISH ACADEMY

ECCLESIAM TUAM, QUAESUMUS, DOMINE, BENIGNUS ILLUSTRA, UT BEATI


IOHANNIS ILLUMINATA DOCTRINIS AD DONA PERUENIAT SEMPITERNA.
PER DOMINUM.
CONCEDE, QUAESUMUS, OMNIPOTENS DEUS, UT QUI UNIGENITUM TUUM
REDEMPTOREM NOSTRUM AD CAELOS ASCENDISSE CREDIMUS, IPSI
QUOQUE MENTE IN CAELESTIBUS HABITEMUS. PER EUNDEM.
EXCITA, QUAESUMUS, DOMINE, POTENTIAM TUAM ET UENI, ET MAGNA
NOBIS UIRTUTE SUCCURRE, UT AUXILIUM GRATIAE TUAE QUOD NOSTRA
PECCATA PRAEPEDIUNT INDULGENTIA TUAE PROPITIATIONIS ACCELERET.
QUI UIUIS.
VIRO ADMODVM REVERENDO
FREDERICO HENRICO CHASE S.T.P.
EPISCOPO ELIENSI

APVD CANTABRIGIENSES NVPER PROFESSORI NORRISIANO


OBSERVANTIAE ERGO AMICITIAEQVE

STVDIA HAEC APOCALYPTICA QVALIACVMQVE


DEDICO

PREFACE
EIGHT years ago I was permitted to finish a commentary on the earliest of the four
Gospels. As a sequel to it, I now offer a commentary on the Revelation of St John.
The Apocalypse discloses the heavenly life of our Lord, as the Gospels paint His life
in Galilee and Jerusalem. In the Gospels, He is seen teaching and working in His mortal
flesh; in the Apocalypse, He belongs to another and a higher order. But the ascended
life is a continuation of the life in the flesh; the Person is the same yesterday and to-day,
in Palestine and in Heaven.
Thus the Apocalypse carries forward the revelation of the Gospels. It carries it,
however, into a region where the methods of the biographer and historian avail nothing.
We are in the hands of a prophet, who sees and hears things that elude the eyes and ears
of other men; the simple narrative of the Evangelist has given place to a symbolism
which represents the struggle of the Apocalyptist to express ideas that lie in great part
beyond the range of human thought. Yet the life which St John reveals is not less real
than that which is depicted by St Mark, nor are its activities less amazing. No miracles
meet us here, but we are in the presence of spiritual processes which are more

wonderful than the hearing of the sick or the raising of the dead: a supervision of all the
Churches, which surpasses the powers of any earthly pastor; an ordering of nature and
life, which bears witness to the investment of the risen Lord with all authority in heaven
and on earth; a perfect knowledge of men, and a prescience which reads the issues of
history. The revelation of the Lords heavenly life becomes, as we proceed, a revelation
of the things which are and the things which shall come to pass hereafter; we see the
glorified life in its bearing upon the course of events, until the end has been attained and
the whole creation has felt its renovating power.
To comment on this great prophecy is a harder task than to comment on a Gospel,
and he who undertakes it exposes himself to the charge of presumption. I have been led
to venture upon what I know to be dangerous ground by the conviction that the English
student needs an edition of this book which shall endeavour to take account of the large
accessions to knowledge made in recent years, and shall be drawn upon a scale
commensurate with that of the larger commentaries on other books of the New
Testament. More especially I have had in view the wants of the English clergy, who,
scholars at heart by early education or by the instincts of a great tradition, are too often
precluded from reaping the fruits of research through inability to procure or want of
leisure to read a multitude of books. It is my belief, and the belief has grown in strength
as my task has proceeded, that the Apocalypse offers to the pastors of the Church an
unrivalled store of materials for Christian teaching, if only the book is approached with
an assurance of its prophetic character, chastened by a frank acceptance of the light
which the growth of knowledge has cast and will continue to cast upon it.
The Apocalypse is well-worked ground. It would not be difficult to construct a
commentary which should be simply a catena of patristic and mediaeval expositions, or
an attempt to compare and group the views of later writers. Such an undertaking would
not be without interest or value, but it lies outside the scope of the present work. In this
commentary, as in the commentary on St Mark, it has been my endeavour, in the first
instance, to make an independent study of the text, turning to the commentaries
afterwards for the purpose of correcting or supplementing my own conclusions. As a
rule, the interpretations which are offered here are those which seemed to arise out of
the writers own words, viewed in connexion with the circumstances under which he
wrote, and the general purpose of his work, without reference to the various schools of
Apocalyptic exegesis. There are those to whom the results will appear bizarre, and a
medley of heterogeneous elements; but the syncretism, if it be such, has been reached,
not by the blending of divergent views, but through the guidance of definite principles,
which are stated in the introduction. Here it may be briefly explained that I have sought
to place each passage in the light of the conditions under which the book was composed,
and to interpret accordingly; not forgetting, however, the power inherent in all true
prophecy of fullfilling itself in circumstances remote from those which called it forth.
But, with this reservation, I have gladly used the labours of predecessors in the field,
especially the pregnant remarks of the patristic writers. Of modern commentators,
Bousset has helped me most, and though I differ profoundly from his general attitude
towards the book, and from not a few of his interpretations, I gladly acknowledge that I

have greatly benefited by the stores of knowledge with which his book abounds. The
Jewish Apocalypses edited by Professor Charles, and other apocalyptic writings, Jewish
and Christian, have been always at my side. For geographical and archaeological details
I am deeply indebted to the works of Professor W. M. Ramsay, the article on Asia
Minor by Dr Johannes Weiss in Haucks recast of Herzogs Realencyklopdie, and the
admirable monograph on Proconsular Asia contributed by Monsieur Victor Chapot to
the Bibliothque de lcole des Hautes tudes.
During my preparations for the press, I have been unable to make a personal use of
the University Library; and though my difficulty has been partly overcome in the past
year through the kindness of the Syndics of the Library, the loss has been serious, and I
fear that it will be felt by readers who look for fulness of detail and the use of the latest
editions. From gross inaccuracies my work has been saved, as I trust, by the ready help
of many friends. My warm thanks are due to the Rev. J. H. Srawley, of Gonville and
Caius and Selwyn Colleges, and to the Rev. H. C. O. Lanchester, Fellow of Pembroke
College, who have read the proofs of the introduction, text, and notes. Mr Srawley has
verified nearly all the references in the notes; the indices and the Biblical references in
the introduction have been corrected by the care of a relative. My colleagues, Professor
Reid and Professor Ridgeway, have allowed me to submit to them the proofs of portions
of my book in which I had occasion to enter upon ground which they have severally
made their own. To the Rev. A. S. Walpole, editor of a volume of Latin Hymns which is
shortly to appear in Cambridge Patristic Texts, I owe my knowledge of the splendid
stanzas which precede the introduction.
Other debts of various kinds call for acknowledgement here. Messrs T. and T. Clark,
of Edinburgh, with the ready consent of Professor Ramsay, have permitted me to adapt
to my own use the map of Asia Minor which accompanies the article on Roads and
Travel (in the New Testament) in the supplementary volume of Hastings Dictionary of
the Bible. The Rev. T. C. Fitzpatrick, President of Queens College, supplied the
negative from which the engraving of Patmos has been produced; and the specimen of
MS. 186 came from a photograph of the entire MS. kindly taken for me by Professor
Lake, of Oxford and Leyden. For the page of coins illustrating the life and worship of
pagan Asia in the age of the Apocalypse I have to thank Dr M. R. James, Director of the
Fitzwilliam Museum, who helped me to select them from Colonel Leakes famous
collection, and his assistant, Mr H. A. Chapman, to whose skill the casts were due.
Lastly, it is a pleasure once again to say how much I owe to the unfailing attention of
the workmen and readers and the ready assistance of the officials of the University
Press.
I part with the work which has occupied the leisure of some years under a keen
sense of the shortcomings that are apparent even when it is judged by the standard of
my own expectations, yet not without an assured hope that it may help some of my
fellow-students to value and understand a book which is in some respects the crown of
the New Testament canon. In letting it go from me, I can only repeat Augustines
prayer, which stood at the end of the preface to St Mark, and is even more necessary

here. Domine Deus quaecumque dixi in hoc libro de tuo, agnoscant et tui; si qua de
meo, et Tu ignosce et tui.
H. B. S.
CAMBRIDGE,
F. of the Transfiguration, 1906.

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION:
1. Prophecy in the Apostolic Church
2. Apocalypses, Jewish and Christian
3. Contents and plan of the Apocalypse of John
4. Unity of the Apocalypse
5. Destination
6. Christianity in the Province of Asia
7. Antichrist in the Province of Asia
8. Purpose of the Apocalypse
9. Date
10. Circulation and reception
11. Vocabulary, Grammar, and Style
12. Symbolism
13. Use of the Old Testament and of other literature
14. Doctrine
15. Authorship
16. Text
17. Commentaries
18. History and methods of Interpretation
NOTES
Map of Asia Minor in the time of Domitian
Coins of the Apocalyptic cities
Bust of Nero
Statue of Domitian
Patmos
Cod. Apoc. 186 (Athos, Pantocrator 44)
INDEX TO THE INTRODUCTION AND NOTES