Towards Understanding Revelation


Good day! I hope your week is going well!

Today we will start with Clement of Alexandria (~150-~215) and take a quote from his book WHO IS THE RICH MAN THAT SHALL BE SAVED?, written ~195.  In this book, he makes the point that it is not the money that keeps a person out of heaven, but rather how the person uses and thinks of the money. 

Here’s the quote:

…listen to a…narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit…

This quote, probably written about 100 years after Revelation (and we’ll see the disputation of the timing later), shows that there were already traditions that it was John the Apostle who was on Patmos, and that he returned to “active duty” from Patmos.

The next two quotes are from Quintus Septimius Florens Tertulllanus, known now as Tertullian (155-220). It’s worth noting that he is the first person to use the word “Trinity” to describe the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to describe Jesus as ‘one person with two natures’.

The first quote is from a book called THE PRESCRIPTION AGAINST HERETICS, written about 197. Like Irenaeus’ AGAINST HERESY, this book is a review of and an apologetic against the heresies of the day.

Here’s the first quote:

“…I add a review of the doctrines themselves, which, existing as they did in the days of the apostles, were both exposed and denounced by the said apostles. For by this method they will be more easily reprobated, when they are detected to have been even then in existence, or at any rate to have been seedlings of the [tares] which then were. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, sets his mark on certain [ones] who denied and doubted the resurrection. This opinion was the especial property of the Sadducees. A part of it,  however, is maintained by Marcion and Apelles and Valentinus, and all other impugners of the resurrection. Writing also to the Galatians, he inveighs against such men as observe and defend circumcision and the [Mosaic] law. Thus runs Hebion’s heresy. Such also as ‘forbid to marry’ he reproaches in his instructions to Timothy. Now this is the [heretical] teaching of Marcion and his follower Apelles…The same apostle, when disapproving of those who are ‘in bondage to elements,’ points us to some dogma of Hermogenes, who introduces matter as having no beginning, and then compares it with God, who has no beginning.  By thus making the mother of the elements a goddess, he has it in his power ‘to be in bondage’ to a being which he puts on a par with God. John, however, in the Apocalypse is charged to chastise those ‘who eat things sacrificed to idols,’ and ‘who commit fornication’. There are even now another sort of Nicolaitans. Theirs is called  the Gaian heresy. But in his epistle he especially designates those as ‘Anitchrists’ who ‘denied that Christ was come in the flesh, and who refused to think that Jesus was the Son of God. The one dogma Marcion maintained; the other, Hebion…”

This quote gives a very small slice of some of the heretical beliefs that were going around. We will hear about Marcion again in the next quote from Tertullian. But the other one I want to point out is the ‘Gaian heresy’. This was a group lead by a man named Gaius or Caius, and we actually have a quote from him after we finish with Tertullian.

Of course, the line we are most interested in is: “John, however, in the Apocalypse is charged to chastise those ‘who eat things sacrificed to idols,’ and ‘who commit fornication’. There are even now another sort of Nicolaitans.” This line, again, indicates acceptance of the Apocalypse, and of John the Apostle as it’s author.

The second quote is from the book AGAINST MARCION, which is a book opposing the gnostic teachings of Marcion, as mentioned above. It was written by Tertullian around 207:

“On the whole, then, if that is evidently more true which is earlier, if that is earlier which is from the very beginning, if that is from the beginning which has the apostles for its authors, then it will certainly be quite as evident, that that comes down from the apostles, which has been kept as a sacred deposit in the churches of the apostles. Let us see what milk the Corinthians drank from Paul; to what rule (of faith) the Galatians were brought for correction; what the Philippians, the Thessalonians, the Ephesians read (out of it); what utterance also the Romans give, so very near (to the apostles), to whom Peter and Paul conjointly bequeathed the gospel even sealed with their own blood. We have also (St) John’s foster churches. For although Marcion rejects his Apocalypse, the order of the bishops (thereof), when traced up to their origins, will yet rest on John as their author. In the same manner is recognized the excellent source of the other churches. I say, therefore, that in them (and not simply such of them as were founded by apostles, but in all those which are united with them in the fellowship of the mystery…) that Gospel of Luke which we are defending with all our might has stood its ground from its very first publication; whereas Marcion’s Gospel is not known to most people, and to none whatever is it known without being at the same time condemned…”

I don’t like half quotes, that don’t expose the whole thought. So we have another rather long quote here, but what we are most interested in is: “For although Marcion rejects his Apocalypse, the order of the bishops (thereof), when traced up to their origins, will yet rest on John as their author.” So, we have Tertullian again agreeing that John the Apostle is the author.

Now we hear from a possible heretic. There’s not a lot known about Caius (also spelled Gaius). It was stated by Eusebius that Caius “lived in the time of Zephyrinus”, and was a presbyter of Rome.  Zephyrinus was a pope from 198 or 199 to 217, so that gives an idea of when Caius lived. There are some works, such as THE LITTLE LABYRINTH, that have been attributed to Caius, but all of them are only possibly his: it depends on who you read. Eusebius preserved parts of some of Caius’ writings within his own, so there are exemplars to compare to.

Why was he considered by some to be a heretic? He was under the influence of the Eastern Church, which was considered more learned than the Western Church, so that he, like the Eastern Church, rejected both the Apocalypse and the Epistle to the Hebrews. The Western Church considered that to be heresy.

Our quote from Caius is from one of the quotes in Eusebius. It’s reference is a book called FROM A DIALOGUE OR DISPUTATION AGAINST PROCLUS, which is quoted several times by Eusebius, but these quotes are all that we have left of it. The book by Eusebius that it comes from is CHURCH HISTORY.

Here’s the quote:

“We have received the tradition that at the time under discussion Cerinthus founded another heresy. Gaius, whose words I have quoted before, in the inquiry attributed to him writes as follows about Cerinthus: ‘Moreover, Cerinthus, who through revelations attributed to the writing of a great apostle lyingly introduces portents to us as though shown him by angels, and says that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ will be on earth and that humanity living in Jerusalem will again be the slave of desire and pleasure.’ He is the enemy of the scriptures of God, and in his desire to deceive he says that the marriage feast will last a thousand years.…For they say that it is not of John, nor yet a revelation, since it is veiled by its heavy, thick curtain of unknowability, and that the author of this book was, not only not one of the apostles, nor even one of the saints or those belonging to the church, but Cerinthus, the same who created the sect called Cerinthian after him, since he desired to affix to his own forgery a name worthy of credit.”

Some take the quote by Caius to mean that Caius rejected the Apocalypse, but some take umbrage with the way he describes the visions: they don’t match those in John’s Apocalypse. The answer, of course, is that he was exaggerating the Apocalypse visions into something totally unbelievable.

Eusebius seems to agree with Caius. But, you notice that he uses no other reference than Caius, and, perhaps, is also influenced by the thinking of the Eastern Church.

A writer named Dionysius (or Jacob) bar Salibi (or Barsalibi) wrote a piece, in the 4th century I think, about a book written by Hippolytus called HEADS AGAINST CAIUS. In this piece, bar Salibi quotes five passages of Caius’ exposition against the Apocalypse, followed by Hippolytus’ refutation. They are very interesting, but we will look at them when we look at the passages that they cover.

That’s enough for today. More than enough to chew on! Take care, and I’ll be praying for your comfort. k


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