The Temple stores of the documents preserving the lineage of the Jewish priestly and other families burned with such intensity that the gold plating which covered much of the Temple’s roofs and walls was melted. Not a stone was left upon a stone by those who later dug them up in search for the Temple gold which had dripped down between these stones. In September the Upper City and the Palace of Herod fell. The surviving population was sold into slavery or condemned to the mines. The vast treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem refilled the Roman government’s coffers and enabled Vespasian to establish the rule of his family, the Flavian dynasty, and to establish in the Empire a peace, order and prosperity which was to last for over a century. The greatest monument of the Flavian era was the Roman Colosseum, opened by the Emperor Titus (79 - 81) in 80 A.D. In this mighty amphitheatre thenceforth a new kind of blood sacrifice replaced that of the Jerusalem Temple, the blood of the Christian martyrs.* In the midst and in the immediate wake of these ‘apocalyptic’ events St. John came to complete, in 70, his Book of the Apocalypse (or ‘Revelation’), the last book of the New Testament. As narrated above, Rome in 69 was the scene of repeated appalling massacres, looting and destruction, ample punishment for the Neronian slaughter of the Christians, and ample fuel for St. John’s visions of Babylon’s destruction. A little later, during the time of Domitian’s rule as Praetor in Rome (December 69 to June 70) St. John himself was arrested, miraculously survived his martyrdom in a cauldron of boiling oil, and was banished to the island of Patmos in the Aegean sea near Ephesus. The conditions of St. John’s exile on Patmos seem to have been comfortable enough. He is able to write and send messages. It is possible he was hiding there because of the Neronian proscription and the Jewish war rather than confined there as a prisoner. On Patmos in mid 70, our Lord came personally to St. John and revealed to him His messages to the bishops of seven of the Asian churches under St. John’s general care. These messages comprise the first three chapters of Apocalypse. In these messages, only two churches, those of Philadelphia and Smyrna, escape being reproached either for tolerating false teachers or for lack of fervour. St. John then collected and added his previous visions. These make up the main body of the book. This main body contains two Apocalypses. The first Apocalypse (chapters 4 to 11) is a series of visions about the struggle of the Church against the old Israel, the Jews. The second Apocalypse (chapters 12 to 18) deals with the struggle against the worldwide Empire of the pagan Romans.* 13
The Apocalypse is also about the whole of human history and the end of the world. Since late Roman times endless ingenious attempts have been made to sort out from the Apocalypse a detailed timetable of future historical events leading up to the end of the world. St. John however was not writing only a cryptogram but above all a message of consolation and hope to the Church. This message can only be read by those who were already deeply
Published on Nov 29, 2011
This survey of how the New Testament came to be written is also a chronicle of the first 40 years of the history of the Christian Church. It...