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Epistle among the books which he calls spurious; by which, however, he only means that it was not Canonical.' In his Ecclesiastical history, he speaks of the Epistles of Peter in the following manner:-“ One Epistle of Peter, called his First, is universally received. This the presbyters of ancient times have quoted in their writings, as undoubtedly genuine; but that called his Second Epistle, we have been informed, has not been received into the Testament. Nevertheless, it appearing to many to be useful, has been carefully studied with the other Scriptures.” And in another passage, he says, " That called the First of John and the First of Peter, are to be esteemed authentic. Of the controverted, yet well known or approved by the most, are, that called the Epistle of James, and that of Jude, and the Second of Peter, and the Second and Third of John, whether they were written by the Evangelist, or by another."
ATHANASIUs quotes the Epistle of James, as written by the Apostle James. The First Epistle of Peter is frequently quoted by him; and he also cites passages from the Second Epistle, and ascribes them to Peter. Both the First and Second Epistles of John are distinctly and expressly quoted: the third is not mentioned. He also, in two instances, cites the words of Jude.
JEROME's testimony concerning the Epistle of James is full and explicit. His words are—“James, called the Lord's brother, surnamed Justus, as some think, son of Joseph by a former wife, but, as I rather think, the son of Mary, the sister of our Lord's mother, mentioned by John in his Gospel (soon after our Lord's passion ordained by the Apostles Bishop of Jerusalem), wrote but one Epistle, which is among the Seven Catholic Epistles, which too has been said to have been published by another in his name; but gradually, in process of time, it has gained authority. This is he of whom Paul writes in the Epistle to the Galatians; and he is often mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles; and also several times in the Gospel, called, according to the Hebrews, lately translated by me into Greek and Latin.”
AUGUSTINE received all the Catholic Epistles. He quotes James as an Apostle; he often cites both the Epistles of Peter; he also refers to John's three Epistles, and quotes Jude, and calls him an Apostle.
In the works of EPHREM, the Syrian, who lived, and wrote voluminously, in the fourth century, there are express quotations from the Epistle of James, from the Second of Peter, the
Second and Third of John, and from Jude, as well as from those Catholic Epistles which were undisputed.
Rufin received all the books as Canonical, which are now so esteemed by Christians generally.
Why these Epistles have received the appellation of Catholic, various reasons have been assigned.
Some have supposed that they were so called, because they contain the one Catholic doctrine which was delivered to the churches by the Apostles of our Saviour, and which might be read by the universal church.
Others are of opinion that they received this appellation, because they were not addressed to one person or church, like the Epistles of Paul, but to the Catholic church. This opinion seems not to be correct, for some of them were written to the Christians of particular countries, and others to individuals.
A third opinion, advanced by Dr Hammond, and adopted by Dr Macknight, and which has some probability, is, that the First of Peter, and First of John, being received by all Christians, obtained the name of Catholic, to distinguish them from those which at first were not universally received; but in process of time, these last coming to be universally received, were put into the same class with the first, and the whole thenceforward had the appellation of Catholic.
This denomination is as old as the time of Eusebius, and probably older, for Origen repeatedly called John's Epistle Catholic;
and the same is done by Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria. The same appellation was given to the whole seven by Athanasius, Epiphanius, and Jerome.
Of these, it is probable, that the Epistle of James was first written, but at what precise time cannot be determined.
As there were two disciples of the name of James, it has been much disputed, to which of them this Epistle should be attributed. Lardner and Macknight have rendered it exceedingly probable, that this Epistle was written by James the Less, who is supposed to have been related to our Lord, and who seems for a long time to have had the chief authority in the church at Jerusalem: but Michaelis is of a different opinion, and
says, “ That he sees no reason for the assertion, that James, the son of Zebedee, was not the author of this Epistle.” But the reasons which he assigns for his opinion have very little weight.
The date of this Epistle, may, with considerable probability, be referred to the year 62; for it is supposed that James was put to death in the following year.
Its Canonical authority and divine inspiration, although
EPISTLES OF JAMES, PETER, JUDE, AND JOHN.
called in question by some in ancient as well as modern times, ought to be considered as undoubted. One strong evidence that it was thus received by early Christians, may be derived from the old Syriac version of the New Testament; which, while it leaves out several other books, contains this
It seems not to have been as well known in the Western churches as most other books of Scripture; but learned men have observed, that Clement of Rome has quoted it no less than four times; and it is also quoted by Ignatius in his genuine Epistle to the Ephesians; and we have already shown, that it was received as the writing of the Apostle James, by Origen, Athanasius, and Jerome.
The first Epistle of Peter has ever been considered authentic, and has been cited by Clement of Rome, Polycarp, the Martyrs of Lyons, Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, Papias, Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. The only matter of doubt respecting this Epistle is, what place we are to understand by Babylon, where Peter was when he wrote. On this subject, there are three opinions; the first, that by this name a place in Egypt is signified; the second, that Babylon in Assyria, properly so called, is meant; and the third, which is generally maintained by the Romanists, and some Protestants, is, that Rome is here called Babylon. Eusebius and Jerome understood that this Epistle was written from Rome.
The time of this Epistle being written was probably about the year
of our Lord, 65 or 66. The date of the Epistle of Jude, may as well be placed about the same period as at any other time, for we have no documents which can guide us to any certain decision. The objection to the Canonical authority of this Epistle, derived from the author's having quoted the Apocryphal book of Enoch, is of no validity; for the fact is, that Jude makes no mention of any book, but only of a prophecy, and there is no evidence that the Apocryphal book of Enoch was then in existence; but if he did quote a truth from such a book, it argues no more against his inspiration, than Paul's quoting Epimenides does, against his being an inspired man. The three Epistles of John were probably written about
year 96 or 97. It has commonly been supposed that the Apocalypse was the last written book of the New Testament; but Townsend insists, that the three Epistles of John were last written. See Townsend's New Testament, vol. ii.
CANONICAL AUTHORITY OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION.
Hermas gives many indications of having read the Revelation; for he often imitates John's description of the New Jerusalem, and sometimes borrows his very words. He speaks of the Book of Life, and of those whose names are written in it. He speaks also of the Saints, whom he saw, being clothed in garments white as snow.
Papias also, doubtless, had seen the book of Revelation; for some of his opinions were founded on a too literal interpretation of certain prophecies of this book. But neither Papias nor Hermas expressly cite the Revelation.
Justin Martyr is the first who gives explicit testimony to the Apocalypse.
His words are,
"i And a man from among us, by name John, one of the Apostles of Christ, in the Revelation made to him, has prophesied, that the believers in our Christ shall live a thousand years in Jerusalem; and after that shall be the general, and indeed eternal resurrection, and judgment of all men together.”
In the Epistle of the Church at Lyons and Vienne, in France, which was written about the year of our Lord one hundred and eighty, there is one passage cited from the book of Revelation: “ For he was indeed a genuine Disciple of Christ, following the Lamb whithersoever he goes.'"
IRENÆUS expressly quotes the Revelation, and ascribes it to John the Apostle. And in one place, he says, “It (the Revelation) was seen no long time ago, in our age, at the end of the reign of Domitian.” And, in the passage preserved by Eusebius, he speaks of the exact and ancient copies of this book; which, he says, was confirmed likewise by the concurring testimony of those who had seen John."
THEOPHILUS of Antioch also, as we are assured by Eusebius, cited testimonies from the Apocalypse of John, in his book against Hermogenés. And in his works which are extant, there is one passage which shows that he was acquainted with the Revelation--" This Eve," says he, “because she was deceived by the serpent-the evil demon, who is also
called Satan, who then spoke to her by the serpent does not cease to accuse: this demon is also called the Dragon."
The Revelation of John is often quoted by CLEMENT of Alexandria. In one passage, he says, " Such an one, though here on earth he be not honoured with the first seat, shall sit upon the four-and-twenty thrones, judging the people, as John says in the Revelation.” That Clement believed it to be the work of the Apostle John, is manifest, because in another place, he expressly cites a passage, “ As the words of an Apostle;” and we have just seen that he ascribes the work to John.
Tertullian cites many things from the Revelation of John; and he seems to have entertained no doubt of its being the writing of the Apostle John, as will appear by a few quotation.s John, in his Apocalypse, is commanded to correct those who ate “ things sacrificed to idols, and commit fornication." Again, “ The Apostle John, in the Apocalypse, describes a sharp two-edged sword coming out of the mouth of God.”_ “ We have churches, disciples of John, for though Marcion rejects his Revelation, the succession of bishops, traced to the original, will assure us, that John is the author." And in another place he has a long quotation from the book of Revelation.
HIPPOLYTUS, who lived in the third century, and had great celebrity, both in the Eastern and Western churcbes, received the Revelation as, without doubt, the production of the Apostle John. Indeed, he seems to have written a comment on this book; for Jerome, in the list of his works, mentions one 66 On the Revelation.”
Hippolytus was held in so high esteem, that a noble monument was erected to him in the city of Rome, which after lying for a long time buried, was dug up near that city, A.D. 1551. His name, indeed, is not now on the monument, but it contains a catalogue of his works, several of which have the same titles as those ascribed to Hippolytus by Jerome and Eusebius, together with others not mentioned by them; among which, is one of the Gospel of John, and the Revelation.
Origen calls the writer of the Apocalypse, “ Evangelist and Apostle ;” and on account of the predictions which it contains, “ Prophet” also. In his book against Celsus, he mentions, “ John's Revelation and divers other books of Scripture.”
It was Origen’s intention to write a commentary on this book, but whether he ever carried his purpose into execution, is unknown. Nothing of the kind has reached our times.