But this work had hardly passed through Press before I became convinced that many of the conclusions therein set forth were in a high degree unsatisfactory, and that, if satisfactory results were to be reached, they could only be reached by working first hand from the foundation. From that period onwards I began to break with the traditions of the elders alike ancient and modern and to rewrite and that not once or twice the sections of my Commentary already written. Thus I soon came to learn that the Book of Revelation, which in earlier years I feared could offer no room for fresh light or discovery, presented in reality a field of research infinitely richer than any of those to which my earlier studies had been devoted. The first ground for such a revolution in my attitude to the Book was due to an exhaustive study of Jewish Apocalyptic The knowledge thereby acquired helped to solve many problems, which could only prove to be hopeless enigmas to scholars unacquainted with this literature. But the second ground was of greater moment still. For the more I studied the Greek of the Apocalypse the more conscious I became that no scholar could appreciate the essential unity of the style of the greater part of the book, or even translate it, who had not made a special study of the Greek versions of the Old Testament, and combined there with an adequate knowledge of the Greek used by Palestinian Jewish writers and of the ordinary Greek of our author's time. From the lack of such a study arose the multitude of disintegrating theories with which I have dealt in my Studies in the Apocalypse. The bulk of these were due to their authors ignorance of John's style. They failed to recognize the presence in the text of certain phrases and passages which conflicted with John's style, while with the utmost light-heartedness they excised from his text chapters and groups of chapters which are indisputably Johannine.
John's Grammar.-In fact, John the Seer used a unique style, the true character of which no Grammar of the New Testament has as yet recognized. He thought in Hebrew,(1) and he frequently reproduces Hebrew idioms literally in Greek. But his solecistic style cannot be wholly explained from its Hebraistic colouring. The language which he adopted in his old age formed for him no rigid medium of expression. Hence he remodelled its syntax freely, and created a Greek that is absolutely his own. This Greek I slowly mastered as I wrote and rewrote my Commentary chapter by chapter. The results of this study are embodied in the "Short Grammar" which is included in the Introduction that follows.
The Text.-The necessity of mastering John's style and grammar necessitated, further, a first-hand study of the chief MSS and Versions, and in reality the publication of a new text and a new translation. When once convinced of this necessity, I approached Sir John Clark and laid before him the need of such a text and such a translation. After consultation with Dr. Plummer, the General Editor of the Series, Sir John acceded to my request with a courtesy and an enthusiasm I have never yet met with in any publisher. Sir John's action in this matter recalls the best traditions of the great publishers of the past.
For the order of the text and the readings adopted, and for any critical discussion of the text in the Apparatus Criticus, I am myself wholly responsible. The readings followed in the Commentary do not always agree with those in the Greek Text and in the Translation. Where they disagree, the Text, Translation, and Introduction represent my final conclusions. But these disagreements only affect matters of detail as a rule, and not essential questions of method. The Text represents only a fuller development of the methods applied in the Commentary.
Apparatus Criticus.-In the formation of the Appar. Crit. I had to call in the help of other scholars, since owing to over twenty years spent largely in the collation of MSS and the formation of texts in several languages, I felt my eyes were wholly unequal to this fresh strain. When seeking such help, I had the good fortune to meet the Rev. F. S. Marsh, now Dean of Selwyn College, Cambridge. To his splendid services I am deeply indebted for the preparation of the Appar. Crit. At his disposal I placed the photographs of the Uncials A and a, of twenty-two Cursives, and of all the Versions save the Ethiopic. One-half of the twenty-two Cursives I examined personally in the Vatican Library, in the Laurentian Library in Florence, and in St. Mark's in Venice, and had them photographed. The rest of the photographs I procured through the kind offices of the Librarians of the Bodley, the National Library in Paris, and of the Escurial. Three or even four of these Cursives are equal in many respects to the later Uncials, and in certain readings superior.
Mr. Marsh collated in full the readings of these MSS and practically all the readings of the Versions,(2) and prepared the Appar. Crit. of chapters i.--v. Readings from other Cursives have been adopted from Tischendorf, Swete, and Hoskier. Unfortunately, when the work was far advanced, Mr. Marsh was called off to the War for three years. During his absence, Professor R. M. Gwynn(3) and Miss Gertrude Bevan most kindly came to my help, and verified the Appar. Crit. of i.--v., with the exception of the Syriac and Ethiopic Versions. There are three other scholars to whom my warm thanks are due. The first is the Rev. Cecil Cryer, who verified Mr. Marsh's collations of vi.--xiv. and embodied them in the Appar. Crit., and subsequently carried i.--xiv. through the Press.(4)1 During this process I verified here and there in the proofs thousands of readings from the MSS and Versions, but this revision was of necessity only partial. Mr. Marsh then made a complete revision of the Apparatus Criticus and corrected a large number of errata. The other two scholars are the Rev. D. Bruce-Walker and the Rev. J. H. Roberts. These in conjunction verified Mr. Marsh's collations of xv.--xxii., the former taking the larger share of the work. At this juncture Mr. Marsh returned, and prepared and carried through Press xv.--xxii. Once again I must record my grateful thanks to Mr. Marsh, and express the hope that he may find time and opportunity for research, and so make the contributions to scholarship for which he is so well qualified. Also I would express my gratitude to the Rev. George Homer for the large body of readings which he put at my service from the Sahidic Version, and the frequent help he gave in connection with readings from the Bohairic Version; and to Professor Grenfell for calling my attention to the Papyrus Fragments of the Apocalypse (see vol. ii. 447--451). Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Plummer for his patience and kindness throughout the long years in which I was engaged on this Commentary, as well as for the many corrections he made in the revision of the proofs.
The Indexes.--For the first and fourth Indexes I am indebted to the competent services of the Rev. A. Ll. Davies, Warden of Ruthin, North Wales.
The Translation.--Translation is based on the text. While the text diverges in many passages from that accepted in the Commentary, the Translation diverges from the text practically only in one (ii. 27).
In the Translation I have sought to recover the poetical form in which the Seer wrote so large a part of the Apocalypse. Nearly always, when dealing with his greatest themes, the Seer's words assume--perhaps unconsciously at times--the forms of parallelism familiar in Hebrew poetry. Even the strophe and antistrophe are found (see vol. ii. 122, 434--435). To print such passages as prose is to rob them of half their force. It is not only the form that is thereby lost, but also much of the thought that in a variety of ways is reinforced by this parallelism.
The Apocalypse--a Book of Songs.--Though our author has for his theme the inevitable conflicts and antagonisms of good and evil, of God and the powers of darkness, yet his book is emphatically a Book of Songs. Dirges there are, indeed, and threnodies; but these are not over the martyrs, the faithful that had fallen, but spring from the lips of the kings of the earth, its merchant princes, its seafolk, overwhelmed by the fall of the empire of this world and the destruction of its mighty ones in whom they had trusted, or from the lips of sinners in the face of actual or impending doom. But over the martyred Church, over those that had fallen faithful in the strife, the Seer has no song of lesser note to sing than the beatitude pronounced by Heaven itself: "Blessed--blessed are the dead that die in the Lord." A faith immeasurable, an optimism inexpugnable, a joy inextinguishable press for utterance and take form in anthems of praise and gladness and thanks~ giving, as the Seer follows in vision the varying fortunes of the world struggle, till at last he sees evil fully and finally destroyed, righteousness established for evermore, and all the faithful--even the weakest of God's servants amongst them--enjoying everlasting blessedness in the eternal City of God, bearing His name on their foreheads and growing more and more into His likeness.
The Apocalypse--a book for the present day.--The publication of this Commentary has been delayed in manifold ways by the War. But these delays have only served to adjourn its publication to the fittest year in which it could see the light--that is, the year that has witnessed the overthrow of the greatest conspiracy of might against right that has occurred in the history of the world, and at the same time the greatest fulfilment of the prophecy of the Apocalypse. But even though the powers of darkness have been vanquished in the open field, there remains a still more grievous strife to wage, a warfare from which there can be no discharge either for individuals or States. This, in contradistinction to the rest of the New Testament, is emphatically the teaching of our author. John the Seer insists not only that the individual follower of Christ should fashion his principles and conduct by the teaching of Christ, but that all governments should model their policies by the same Christian norm. He proclaims that there can be no divergence between the moral laws binding on the individual and those incumbent on the State, or any voluntary society or corporation within the State. None can be exempt from these obligations, and such as exempt themselves, however well-seeming their professions, cannot fail to go over with all their gifts, whether great or mean, to the kingdom of outer darkness. In any case, no matter how many individuals, societies, kingdoms, or races may rebel against such obligations, the warfare against sin and darkness must go on, and go on inexorably, till the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of God and of His Christ.
It is at once with feelings of thankfulness and of regret that I part with a work that has engaged my thoughts in a greater or lesser measure for twenty-five years. On the one hand, I am thankful that I have been permitted to bring this study of the Apocalypse to a close, though this thankfulness is tempered by a keen sense of its many shortcomings, of which none can be so conscious as I am myself. On the other hand, I cannot help a feeling of regret that I am breaking with a study which has been at once the toil and the delight of so many years; and in parting with it I would repeat, as Professor Swete does in his work on the Apocalyse, St. Augustine's prayer:
Domine Deus . .. quaecumque
dixi in hoc libro de tuo, agnoscant et tui; si qua de meo, et Tu ignosce
R.H.C.4 LITTLE CLOISTERS, WESTMINSTER ABBEY,
1. I have already in part dealt with this subject in my Studies in the Apocalypse, pp. 79-102. I am glad to learn from the editor of Moulton's Grammar of N. T. Greek that Dr. Moulton abandoned his earlier attitude on this question after reading these lectures.
2. I am myself responsible throughout for the collation of the Ethiopic Version. For my own satisfaction also, I have collated and verified hundreds--in some cases thousands--of readings in each of the other Versions, and in each of the twenty-two MSS.
5. Advice to the reader.--Since the present work on the Apocalypse is a large one, and in many respects difficult, it would be advisable for the serious as well as for the ordinary student to read through the English translation first. This will introduce him to the main problems of the book, and help him to recognize that the thought of our author is orderly and progressive, and easier to follow than that of the Epistle to the Hebrews or of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. After the Translation he should read the Introduction, §§ I, 4, and such others as these may suggest to him. The serious student should master the chief sections of the Short Grammar (pp. cxvii--clix). So prepared, he can then face the problems discussed in the Commentary, and recognize the grounds for the adoption of certain readings and interpretations and the rejection of those opposed to them.
Each chapter (or, in two cases, groups of chapters)
is preceded by an introduction. Such introductions are divided into sections.
The first section (§ I) always gives the general thought of the chapter
that follows, while the remaining sections discuss the diction and idiom
of the chapter, its indebtedness to the Old Testament and other sources,
and many other questions, exegetical, critical, and archaeological.