Eusebius and the Apocalypse

I recommend to all the dissertation of Presvytera Jeannie Constantinou: Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation (Université Laval, Québec, 2008). There are several points of interest in her dissertation: 1.) the first complete English translation of Andrew of Caesarea’s Commentary to the Apocalypse; 2.) the very clear summary discussion of the text types of the Apocalypse; and 3.) the extended discussion on the canonical status of the Apocalypse, with particular focus on its reception in the East. It’s a subset of this third topic that I’d like to discuss here, particularly in light of my last post, titled Eusebius and “canonical”.

In short, Constantinou describes a determined effort on the part of several Greek writers, culminating in Eusebius, who undermined the previously more positive reception of the Apocalypse in the East. The popularity of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History led to his position being valued more highly than it really deserved, a point that Constnantinou clarifies through tracking the scheme of Eusebius’ quotations, particularly his practice of mining various authors, even heretics, for aspersions and doubts to cast upon the Apostolic authorship of the Apocalypse. Eusebius was so much an anti-chiliast that no dirty tricks were considered too low to accomplish his self-assigned task.

I will recommend to all readers that they read the discussion in full in Constantinou’s dissertation, but I’ll summarize here some of the points involved:
1.) Eusebius treats the Apocalypse in a very peculiar fashion in his list of canonical works in Ecclesiatical History III.25, where he divided the books of the New Testament into three categories, based in the recognition of Apostolic origin: “agreed-upon”, “disputed”, and “spurious.” In the first category, describing those works which are generally agreed to be of Apostolic origin, are included the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistles, First John, First Peter, and (note this!) the Apocalypse. In the second category, that of works whose authenticity as Apostolic writings is in dispute, are the epistles of James, Jude, Second Peter, and Second and Third John. (Note the similarity to the classical Syrian NT canon, exemplified by the Peshitta version, which also excluded these epistles.) Then comes the third category, of those works generally recognized as not being of Apostolic origin, and thus inauthentic or spurious: the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd (of Hermas), the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Teachings of the Apostles (i.e., the Didache), and, shockingly, the Apocalypse of John.

In this case, Eusebius has trounced his own categorizations in order to cast aspersions onto the Apocalypse. As Constantinou shows in her historical survey, the Apocalypse was almost universally accepted as Apostolic at the time Eusebius wrote. This is reflected by his placing the Apocalypse in the first category, that listing of books which all or very nearly all Christians agreed were of Apostolic origin. Yet, this is not to Eusebius’ liking. And, rather than placing the Apocalypse in the group of books of disputed authenticity, he instead includes the Apocalypse in the list of inauthentic books. There are two possible reasons for this: a.) Eusebius simply made a mistake and was sloppy in his categorization; or b.) this was a deliberate choice on his part. In the face of the broader sweep of evidence that Constantinou relates, it is clear that the latter is the case. Eusebius was, in the Ecclesiastical History, among other things, embarking on a program designed to damage the Apostolic reputation of the Apocalypse.

Eusebius quotes with favor both Dionysius of Alexandria, who shows a clear animadversion to the Apocalypse already in his letters, and invents out of whole cloth the tale of two tombs of Johns in Ephesus. Eusebius also approvingly quotes with favor Gaius the presbyter, from Rome, in relation to the Apocalypse. Yet Gaius was one of the Alogoi heretics, who denied Apostolic origin to the entire Johannine corpus: the Gospel, three letters, and the Apocalypse! Eusebius brazenly trots out Gaius in support for his anti-Apocalypse machinations. Perhaps betting on his good standing with Emperor Constantine, Eusebius was able to spread his idea of a non-Apostolic and therefore non-canonical Apocalypse throughout the Empire and beyond, as his original Ecclesiastical History was often copied and was even translated into multiple different languages for various Christian communities over the centuries. Unfortunately, Eusebius’ ideas about the Apocalypse also spread far and wide, particularly in the East, where the Apocalypse finally settled into a solid and unquestioned recognition as Apostolic and canonical only in the modern period, in the seventeenth century.

Really, though, it’s a cracking good story, and one ought to read of it in full, in Presvytera Constantinou’s dissertation. It’s really that good.

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33 Responses to Eusebius and the Apocalypse

  1. bekman says:

    Does Constantinou mention anything about the reasons for why the Apocalypse was not accepted among syriac writers in the 4th century? Do you know if it was a intentional rejection or had the book not spread to them yet?

    b.

  2. Justin Anthony Knapp says:

    Kevin,

    When I noticed this title in your post—Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation—I initially thought that the text would be about the Ancient Church of the East, which is a terribly arcane topic, but would be fascinating. Then, I figured that it was more likely about the (Assyrian) Church of the East and a discussion of the Syriac canon/Peshitta. Of course, since I’m reading your blog, I should have realized that it was about the Eastern Orthodox Church (but it happily coincided with the Peshitta nonetheless!)

    How interesting to read about the biases of Eusebius. I simply took him for granted for years until I read a critical Anabaptist account of Eusebius that claimed he paved the way for the Constantian Shift.

    This also brings up a discussion that I had a couple of days ago with a Protestant about his misgivings about the canon. He expressed his uncertainties about canonization to a Reformed Protestant who simply appealed to (his)/the canon being correct because of “preservation of Scripture.” Whatever that means. It seemed to be lost on him that the canon he recognizes is only recognized by a minority of Christians and has only been recognized as such for a minority of history.

    —JAK

  3. Bekman, yes, she does describe the situation among the Syriac-speaking churches. The book was certainly known, but reservations were held, as among the Greek churches, due to chiliasm.

    Justin, the commentary by Andrew (or Andreas, as he’s more often referred to) of Caesarea is the standard commentary for the Orthodox East, having been translated into most of the communion’s languages. There is also some use of it in later Latin commentaries.

    Eusebius was a mixed bag. He had a great library at hand in Caesarea and another in Jerusalem, which enabled him to excerpt from works otherwise lost to us (this is also the case in his Preparation for the Gospel, where he excerpts from numerous otherwise lost works), but his writing shows this about Eusebius: he was not as well-lettered as he thought he was. His sentences go on and on, but very often lose their way, something that never happens in the writings of a truly erudite and well-lettered rhetor like St John Chrysostom. Eusebius was also something of a grovelling sycophant in regards to the Emperor Constantine, which proved to be financially and politically rewarding for him and the church at Caesarea. The spread of his works was no doubt facilitated by having the funds to initiate a number of copies of his works and send them abroad. But Eusebius’ greatest fault was that he was a staunch semi-Arian and Origenist (or at least an unabashed cheerleader for Origen). A last-minute recantation at the First Ecumenical Council saved his bacon, so to speak. Notice that Eusebius is not considered a Church Father, that is, he is a writer of the Church, an ecclesiastical author, but he is NOT considered a Saint. And those are just the big reasons. Others come down to the point that in nearly every case where he relates his personal understanding of some issue, it is contra the mind of the Church. It’s rare to have an ecclesiastical writer of such renown with so many works still preserved in their entirety not commemorated as a Saint. But there are cogent reasons why this is not the case, and they were recognized during his lifetime. Need we say that this is long before the Anabaptists came along?

    I’ll write more on the problem of the Protestant persepective on canon later. The point boils down to this: the terminology and vocabulary has been hijacked from its original meaning (where “canonical” meant “relating a rule for life”) and has become more of a literary construct (“canonical” as “belonging to a list”). There is a vast difference between the two. The perspective is altered from that of life, to the written/printed word.

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  6. Bryant J. Williams III says:

    Dear Kevin,

    I am of the opinion that “chiliasm” was in disfavor due to the influence of “gnosticism” especially of the “ascetic” side of that heresy.

    One of the centers of Gnosticism and Asceticism is Egypt, specifically, Alexandria. It is interesting that most of the Eastern Church from Syria to Egypt was affected even more. It was the center of allegorical hermenuetics, Clement of Alexandria and Origen being the key persons, where the leading gnostics used this philosophical hermeneutic to give credence to their bizarre theology. By the time of Eusebius, more and more of the church and elites had really bought into this heresy. It also happily coincided with the Arian controversy. The problem was a pesty, little priest named Athanasius.

    There is more that I can say, but…

    Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

  7. But there is very little support for that scenario, Bryant. It’s quite an oversimplification. I’ll recommend two books on the subject: The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology by Brian E. Daley, and Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity by Charles E. Hill. Both of those will provide some corrective.

    It is actually precisely the anti-ascetic nature of chiliasm, so similar to the hedonistic and antinomian heresies, that brought it so thoroughly into disrepute, and led to its universal abandonment by orthodox Christians. It didn’t resurface for centuries.

    I’ll perhaps cover that subject in the not-too-distant future. It’s very, very interesting, and there are a number of misprisions about the subject. Do also read Constantinou’s dissertation that I linked to. In it, you’ll find the first full English translation of the single most influential Patristic commentary on the Apocalypse. She’s reworking that for publication in the Fathers of the Church series (or Ancient Christian Writers, I forget which).

  8. Lucian says:

    Uhm… I think our Priestess here is getting caught up in some very original speculation of her own making… A few things:

    1) it’s not in the Peshitta. The Syriacs, as heirs to a Semitic culture, developed a new-testamentary canon possessing the same number of books as the Hebrew old-testamentary canon: namely 22. [4 Gospels, 1 Acts, 14 of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John, and JAMES].

    2) it was still disputed in the East as late as John Damascene (not by him, but by another one of his own era).

    3) it’s still not part of the Orthodox canon proper (not being read publicly in Church). — canonical meaning that what’s publicly and officially preached and read in Church during the divine services.

  9. No, Lucian, you’ve got some things wrong there, too, starting with your quip on “Priestess”! A presvytera is the wife of a Greek Orthodox priest. Perhaps “Priestess” would work in an Anglican parish, but it certainly won’t fly in a Greek Orthodox one!

    1.) She doesn’t say that it was included in the Peshitta. Where do you get that idea? Nothing she writes is in any way extraordinary or innovative. It’s a well-compiled presentation of the status quaestionis. There is indication that the 22-count of the Hebrew OT books is actually tied in with the shorter Peshitta NT canon (which is only an historical oddity anyway, as the Philoxenian versions of the missing books were added later). For the majority of Syrian Christian history, they have shared the full 27 book total that the Greeks and others hold to. The Syrians are not “heirs to a Semitic culture”–theirs is a Semitic culture, if one must label a culture by language family.

    2.) The Apocalypse was not unquestionably and irreversibly accepted in Orthodox circles until the seventeenth century. Constantinou presents the evidence.

    3.) Technically, there is no official Biblical canon for the Eastern Orthodox Church, though the broad canon in the OT is traditional, and will likely be adopted (perhaps with a distinction between proto-canonical and deutero-canonical, as the Roman Catholics hold) at the next Ecumenical Council. The two traditional canons (the Greek and Slavonic) differ by one book in the Old Testament (the Greek OT includes 4 Maccabees, while the Slavonic/Russian includes 4 Ezra; both are considered non-canonical). But it is not proper to say that the Apocalypse is considered non-canonical only because it is not in the lectionary. Were that the case, a number of other books would be joining it. It is considered canonical because it is considered to be an authentic Apostolic writing and therefore of foundational value for establishing the Rule of the Faith. But even aside from this, the acceptance and canonical status of the Apocalypse is not in doubt, as its imagery and expressions have been incorporated into the hymnography and liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the surest guarantor of canonicity that we have.

  10. It should also be noted that in Orthodox Monasteries, especially on Mt. Athos, al the monks, and I do mean ALL the monks, have a small little copy of the Evangelos (Four Gospels) that also has the Apocalypse of St. John (i.e. Book of Revelations). If this Book was not accepted as canonical why do the monks, the guardians of the Orthodox faith, outside of our Bishops, have the Apocalypse appended to their Evangelos?

    Further, the Book of Revelations is not read in the Greek Church because of two reasons: 1) its message is hidden behind symbols and imagery that must be carefully explained by your priest for those that the priest deems able to understand and properly digest its message. As we see today, and have seen throughout history, Revelations has been misused and has caused many a problems. The Church saw this and greatly limited the books promolgation, especially during Church readings (remember people did not necessarily have personal bibles back then as we do today). The Gospels and Epistles that are read during Church services are readily understandible and can be broken down to the avergae parishioner through a Homily. There are no difficult images that can be misinterpreted and end up causing a frenzy.

    2) The Gospel and Epsitle readings during Church bear directly on our worship of Jesus Christ in the hear and now. There is no Christ WAS in Christianity, only Christ IS for Christ lives and is always present when two or more are gathered in His name – i.e. Liturgy.
    The Book of Revelations does not specifically focus on Christ as much as it Focuses on Christ Second Coming, and what will happen during and at THE END OF DAYS. That is NOT appropriate for the liturgy where we as a worshipping community come together to worship Christ in the here and now, and are not supposed to, during the Liturgy, dwell on such dark themes as found in Revelations.

    Remember the liturgy is a celebration of Christ’s victory over death and Satan, and through Him, our victory over death and Satan. Revelations is too dark for this.

    So because of its hidden message behind fantastic images and the dark themes of the Book, its readings had no place in the Liturgy, but this is not to say it is uncanonical.

    Furthermore, let’s look at the Gospel According to St. James. This Gospel is not included among the canonical Gospels, but this book is widely known, belived in and respected in the Orthodox world. In fact, the Gospel According to St. James is accurate! Sooooo, why is this Gospel not included among the four canonical Gospels?

    Again, this goes back to what Kevin said: What is the life of the Church? What is the Rule of our Faith? Jesus Christ! He is our focus, He is our center He is the very foundation of everything in our Christian life. In the Gospel of St. James Jesus Christ is NOT the focus, He is NOT the center. We are give the entire back story of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a very biographical presentment of Christ’s life, but He is NOT the focus, His teachings are almost absent thus, you have an accurate Gospel, and one that many monastics use and rely upon, but its NOT canonical because neither Christ nor His teachings are front and center.

    Therefore, canonicity is not a list, but a rule of faith and way of life for a Christian in the overall worshiping life of the Church. Always remember, we don’t read the sacred scripture alone at home, but hear and live them as part of a worshipping community. A community that worships Jesus Christ and always and at all times has and continues to place His at the very center of our worshipping and personal lives.

    Peter

  11. Lucian says:

    Kevin,

    0) There’s no “quip”: being Orthodox doesn’t make You Greek: You’re English, so speak English.

    1) I didn’t say that. (It was one of three arguments to show that she is or might be wrong).

    2) The difference being?…

    3) I know that. — But there’s a difference between the very rare usage of the OLD Testament in Orthodoxy [except the psalms], and the use of the NEW Testament in Orthodoxy. (The later is read even daily, the former only on about a dozen occasions).

    ————————-
    Peter,

    there’s no point in looking for overtly-mystical explanations for something rather mundane: the reason why Revelations is never read in our churches is because by the time our service-books crytalized (around the turn of the first millennium), Revelations was just beginning to finally be included into the biblical canon.

    If You open the Menaion, which is the book containing also the OT readings, You will see that the manority of hymns there are made by “Monk John”, aka John Damascene (~800-900 AD). The others are made by people living before him: Roman the Melodist, etc. You will also see that the OT readings are not from any of the biblical books not in the Hebrew, except for the two Wisdom books: Solomon and Sirach. (which is exactly the OT canon given by the afore-mentioned Damascene).

  12. Lucian, there is no English equivalent for Presvytera. I’m in a Greek parish (I am, incidentally, most decidely not English!) and that’s the terminology that is used throughout the Archdiocese. Deal with it. If you’re one of those “English only” advocates, then keep it to yourself, because I have absolutely no sympathy for that ideology.

    You brought up those points, Lucian, and then I and Peter responded. Maybe you should think a bit more before commenting, in view that these comments of yours have contributed absolutely nothing, and have only served to annoy.

    Rather than ignorantly commenting on Presvytera Constantinou’s dissertation, I suggest you simply read it. It’s online, freely available, and you can download it.

  13. Lucian says:

    I’m not personally a huge fan of conspiracy theories, Eusebian or otherwise… and I’m sorry if the innability of reading 300+ pages of text makes me unworthy of posting comments. (I’m pretty sure that if her arguments are convincing, expressing them in fewer than 300 pages won’t take away their power).

    Lucian, there is no English equivalent for Presvytera.

    Of course there is. Every Orthodox nation uses its own words to express their common faith: why should you fare any less?

  14. It’s a two-volume PhD dissertation, Lucian, so of course it’s long. Don’t comment on it (as you did) if you haven’t read it. It’s a very simple practice. That goes for commenting on blog posts discussing the books too. You mentioned a number of things that have nothing to do with what I posted or what the dissertation covers, and this is somehow a good thing?

    You’ll notice that in every Orthodox parish in Anglophonic countries, they use the traditional non-English term for the priest’s wife: Khouria, Matushka, or Presvytera. There is no generally agreed English equivalent, despite your protestations to the contrary. If there were, we’d be using it. But there isn’t, and we can use the other terms just as easily, so there’s no problem. It’s only an issue with Anglophonic ethnocentrists, apparently.

  15. Lucian says:

    Kevin, it’s really simple: either history and historians alike are wrong, and the Priestess is right,… or the Priestess is wrong, and the rest of the world is at peace.

    It’s only an issue with Anglophonic ethnocentrists, apparently.

    Just exactly how many “Anglophonic ethnocentrists” called Lucian do You know, Kevin?… (If we call it ‘priestess’ in Romanian, why can’t you call it ‘priestess’ in English also?)

  16. Lucian, I know that in everything you just said you are wrong. Please read what the actual fathers of the Church have said in regards to Revelations than your own theories.

  17. Lucian says:

    Their opinions differ. (It’s not “theory”, and it isn’t “mine”).

  18. your views seem to echo the book Byzantine Theology by John Meyendorff. Although Meyerdrorff’s bok is commendable it is somewhat incomplete. May I suggest the book: “Early Christian Doctrine by J.N.D.Kelly,” Chapter 3, pages 53 through 79 for a full treatment of the canon issue both for the Old and the New Testaments that is much better than Meyerdroff on this issue. The book “Early Christian Doctrine” was recommended to me by the Bishop of Bethlehem as a clear exposition in the Church’s development on such issues of biblical text and canonicity.
    What you will find is that your theory will fall under its own underdeveloped weight once you discover the true mind of the Church.

    For Example the Epsitle to the Hebrews was a contested and dubious book in the West, but not the East. The Epsitel to St. James and 1 Peter were also suspect and excluded by several authors just like Revelations, but to quote “Early Christian Doctrine”: “By gradual stages, however, the Chuch both in East and West arrived at a common mind as to its sacred books.”

    Thus, the Church decided, not any individual. Further, if you look at the use of OT quotes in the overall liturgical cycle of the Church during Lent only Genesis, Provers and Esaias are quoted and used at length. To be sure other portions are used, but to a lesser extent, except for the two Wisdom books: Solomon and Sirach because of their liturgical nature.

    Also, what about the Book of Ruth, Esther, etc? They are not in any liturgical readings. Are they not part of the OT Cannon? The Hebrew Canon? What about St. Basil the Great, the Coucils of Jassy and Jerusalem that all declared the extra books of the LXX canonical? Were they innovators or were they expressing the Rule of Faith that was the mind of the Church?

    Talk to Orthodox Bishops and knowleagble priests about these subjects and please try not to cherry-pick your reading as you must look at the whole picture Lucian otherwise you runn the great risk of repeating the same mistakes as the heretic Marcian in regards to the Biblical canon.

    Also, as a Greek I know what Presvetera means and its not priestess, it means the wife of the Priest. I highly recommend reading an author by the name of Fr. Michael Azkoul that had dealt with this issue of Priestesses and deaconesses. These are the wifes of the priests and deacons that engaged in philanthopic works NOT liturgical nor pastoral work like their husbands.

    I think you need to read less Elain Pages and Dan Brown and more ridgedly historical and scholarly works that quite frankly clear up this issue on the side of Orthodoxy.

    In any event, I know you won’t believe a word I have said, so I bid you peace and I will pray for you in the days and years to come. God bless.

    Peter A. Papoutsis

  19. Lucian says:

    Peter,

    by the time the Menaions (and their included OT readings) were completed, the undisputed Canon was as it we see it reflected in those readings. The same goes for the Apostle-readings. Today of course, things have changed. (Now-a-days no-one excludes the formerly-disputed books of either testament from the biblical canon — the Protestants accept the additions to the later [NT], while still disputing the additions to the former [OT])

    Hebrews was disputed in the West, but recognized in the East, and the reverse was true for Revelations: that’s what “disputed” means: inclusion by many AND exclusion also by many. — That’s why Protestant cherry-picking one-sidedness a-la JND Kelly & Co repells me. (And no, we don’t have Meyendorf in Romania).

  20. Lucian says:

    Priestess means two tings: woman-priest (in pagan cults) and woman of a priest (in Christianity). The reason that English knows only the former sense is because English priests, being Catholic, didn’t have any wives.

  21. No, Lucian, “Priestess” does not mean “woman of a priest”. The case may be different in Romanian, but Romanian is not English! English is very particular in this usage. “Priestess” can only mean “female priest”. That’s just the way that word works in English.

    I’m happy to hear that you’re simply mistaken, and not one of those strange Anglophonic ethnocentrists!

    Merry Christmas!

  22. john says:

    Hello Kevin,

    Thanks for a very interesting post. Any suggestions on where I might find Daley’s: The Hope of the Early Church? All my usual sources seem to be striking out.

    Merry Christmas!

    Pax Vobis,
    John

  23. John, I’d also recommend checking for that and any other books you can’t find in AddAll.com (both used and in print listings, as they overlap to an extent) and Bookfinder.com. Between those two (there is some overlap between them, but each has listings that the other doesn’t) I’ve found just about everything I’ve ever looked for at an affordable price. I’ve also found some things that I’ve been looking a while for at a not affordable price, but at least one knows it’s available….

    I got my Daley a while ago, when it was new, the Hendrickson’s paperback. It’s surprsiging that it’s out of print since only 2004. I hope you can find a copy. It’s very, very good!

    The other book I mentioned, Hill’s Regnum Caelorum, is a second edition (Eerdmans, 2001). I haven’t seen the first edition, so I can’t comment on the differences. It’s a very interesting corrective to assumptions that ancient chiliasm is identical to modern-day millennarianism. They are certainly different. He quotes extensively from the sources, which is extremely welcome. It’s a very intersting and important presentation, showing (among other things) that a non-literal reading of the Apocalypse appears from the very beginning, based precisely on its own nature as a visionary writing imbued with imagery and symbolism. That’s kind of a forehead-slapping “Well, duh!” kind of realization, but it’s very nice to have it spelled out. I think you’ll enjoy that one.

    On the subject of books related to the Apocalypse, I’ll recommend the following, too, all of which have greatly contributed to my own understanding of that complicated and daunting book (with links to the publisher’s page, where available), whether in reaction to the book or in agreement with it:
    Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Eerdmans, 1989)
    Roland H. Worth, Jr, The Seven Cities of the Apocalypse & Roman Culture, and The Seven Cities of the Apocalypse & Greco-Asian Culture (Paulist Press, 1999) — a two volume set.
    Various contributors, Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre. Semeia: An Experimental Journal for Biblical Criticism, volume 14, 1979.
    R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St John, in two volumes. The International Critical Commentary (T&T Clark, 2000 impression) (it looks like only the second volume is listed at the T & T Clark/Continuum site, at an exhorbitant price, but I’m sure you could find older copies. It’s a direct photostatic reprint, nothing added, of the 1920 edition.)
    David Aune, Revelation, Word Biblical Commentary, volumes 52a (1997), 52b (1998), 52c (1998) (Thomas Nelson Publishers). These are also available in the Logos electronic library format (volume 1, volume 2, volume 3).
    Archbishop Averky (Taushev), The Apocalypse of St John: An Orthodox Commentary (Saint Herman Press, 1985). (This one is hard to find, unfortunately!)
    Dennis Eugene Engleman, Ultimate Things: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on the End Times, and A Rumor of War: Christ’s Millennial Reign and the Rapture of His Church (Conciliar Press, 1995, and Regina Orthodox Press, 2001 respectively).

    There are some other titles that have contributed, going somewhat farther afield on the subject matter (like John J. Collins’ The Apocalyptic Imagination [Eerdmans, 1998] and Aune’s Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World, [Eerdmans, 1991] for starters) but these are the biggies for me on the Apocalypse proper. (I’m too lazy to dig out the pile of articles; sorry!) I’m quite a selective reader, in both the sense of titles and of the information contained within them. Out of all the above, I think the Hemer, Aune, and Taushev were the overall best. Aune is just magnificent for the wealth of information. I doubt his commentary will be outdone any time soon. Hemer is excellent in providing the background to the letters to the seven churches. Archbishop Averky (Taushev) is great as he provides a short commentary based entirely in Orthodox Tradition, drawing especially upon the commentary on the Apocalypse by St Andrew of Caesarea. This was the first publication in English of an Orthodox commentary on the Apocalypse.

    On top of all the above, I’ve just started reading the absolutely excellent Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity (Baker/Holy Cross, 2009), edited by Robert J. Daly. This is the first monograph in the series Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History, produced by the Pappas Patristic Institute of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, in Brookline, Massachusetts. I look forward to further such interesting titles!

    I hope that helps!

  24. Oh! I forgot to mention two excellent online resources for all things Apocalypsey:

    Georg Adamsen’s Revelation Resources.

    Felix Just’s site, Catholic Biblical Resources, has a sub-page for The Book of Revelation, Apocalyptic Literature, and Millennial Movements .

    I’m sure there are some other good ones, but these two have been around for while, and have always been extremely useful.

  25. And another book, which was buried on a different shelf:

    Judith Kovacs and Christopher Rowland, Revelation: The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, in the Blackwell Bible Commentaries series (Blackwell Publishing, 2004). This commentary series presents the reception history of books of the Bible, providing lengthy excerpts from various commentaries written throughout the centuries, fitted into a framework of chapter-by-chapter commentary. The Revelation volume is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. I got my hardcover copy back when it was newly published and not at all as expensive as it is now. As I recall, it was even less expensive than the paperback now is. Also the price of the ebook for this title is scandalous. There’s no reason at all for it to cost that much, or for any of them to cost that much!

    In any case, this is a good volume because you’ll get a sampling of commentaries (where present) from various ages, placed within the framework of a general running commentary on each chapter. The preface to the commentary states

    To provide more cohesion, we have chosen a few interpreters and works for special emphasis, referring to them at various points in the commentary. These include Origen, Victorinus, Tyconius, Augustine, Joachim of Fiore, Peter John Olivi, Hildegard of Bingen, the Geneva Bible, John Bale, John Milton, John Bunyan, William Blake, the Scofield Reference Bible, and African-American songs. (xv)

    There are a number of illustrations, though not as many as the authors would have liked.

    Overall, it gives a wide-angle view of the interpretation of the Apocalypse, and so wouldn’t really be useful for, say, tracing the history of the development of eschatology and apocalypticism in Christianity. In the end, it’s a nice read, and useful especially for presenting selections of commentary (loosely considered) from those authors with whom a reader is not familiar. A very interesting volume.

    I think taking that project to a more exhaustive extreme, compiling all surviving early commentaries on the Apocalypse (there really aren’t that many at all from the first millennium), and presenting those commentaries in a chapter-by-chapter format, chronologically ordered within each chapter, would be much more useful than the above for gaining an understanding of the development of commentary on the Apocalypse as well as a firsthand look at the development of eschatology and apocalypticism through the ages. Someone will no doubt take up that project in the future.

  26. john says:

    Thank you Justin for the links and thank you Kevin for the wonderful reading suggestions. If I can’t get a copy of “The Hope of the Early Church,” I think I may go for “Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity,” which sounds quite good. And – because I can get a 94 edition for $14 – I may also add Kovacs & Rowland’s commentary.

    Many thanks !!!

    Pax Vobis,
    John

  27. Good find, John! You’re very welcome!

    Be patient in searching. Usually whatever you want will show up eventually at a decent price. In my case, it took me three or four years, searching every month, to complete a set of the four Faber & Faber Philokalia volumes in hardcover.

    And I still kick myself that I didn’t pick up a complete set of Florovsky’s Collected Works for $300 that I saw once. I waited a day to think about it, and then it was gone. Fool!

  28. Lucian says:

    “Priestess” can only mean “female priest”. That’s just the way that word works in English.

    … so who’s the “Anglophonic ethnocentrists” now? :-) Or did You seriously think that after christening all those pagan peoples and cultures and languages we’re gonna all-of-a-sudden get cold feet when it comes to English? :D

  29. Ha ha. The difference is that all that christening happened early on, and there was no other kind of Christianity in the way. That’s what the problem with the English religious vocabulary is. Since the terminology wasn’t set up in an Orthodox Christian context, but in a Catholic and Protestant one, it doesn’t map exactly to Orthodox usage. That’s why we have to use so many transliterations. You get used to it after a while. Or you just give up and slip into a foreign language entirely. Either way, the point is made effectively. Judging from the way things are going, English is not going to have the meaning of words like “priestess” changed, but words like “presvytera” or “presbytera” are going to become more widely recognized, and eventually established in the wider culture just as they are in the Orthodox subculture. Wait and see!

  30. Lucian says:

    Well, you already have “Presbyter”, thanks to the Presbyterians, God bless their souls! :D

  31. Yep! But “presbytera” tends to throw them off. There were/are some very silly people who have taken the appearance of “presbytera” in the documents as proof that there used to be Greek Orthodox female priests. Of course, that’s just laughable!

    Merry Christmas!

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