For decades scholars of early Christianity have awaited a reconstruction of Tyconius’ Expositio Apocalypseos (Exposition of the Apocalypse). Tyconius wrote it about 380 AD, but it did not survive in its entirety. Two fragments of it were found in Budapest and Turin, but they were incomplete and one shows evidence of interpolation. However, so many early medieval commentators on John’s Apocalypse made use of it, that patristic scholars believed that a fairly complete reconstruction was possible. Roger Gryson did just that in Vol. 107A of Corpus Christianorum Series Latina (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011)
Tyconius’ commentary is useful in many ways. He interpreted John’s visions in such a way as to make them relevant for the church of all times, similar to modern “idealist” interpretations. Negatively, he rarely placed the visions in the context of the political and religious situation facing the first century churches of Asia Minor. Positively, he saw that some passages in the Revelation were symbolic of the future persecution of Antichrist, the Second Coming, and the Last Judgment.
He believed that the Book of Revelation is recapitulatory, as opposed to seeing the visions laid out in chronological order. The commentary also shows how Tyconius applied the visions to the imperial persecution that his Donatist sect was experiencing in fourth-century North Africa. At certain points, such as on Rev 3:10 and 11:12, the Exposition shows not only what Tyconius believed but also what other early Christians believed about these passages, interpretations with which he disagreed.
On some familiar passages and themes, Tyconius sees the 144,000 as a symbol of the whole church. Likewise, the two witnesses are symbolic of the church prophesying in both testaments. Those sitting on thrones and reigning for a thousand years represent the present reign of the saints; and the first resurrection “is in this life through forgiveness of sins.”
On Rev 17:10, the king “who is” reigning, he says, is Nero. Thus, Tyconius is a witness for an early date of Revelation in the 60s AD, distinct from the tradition that John was exiled by the emperor Domitian and wrote Revelation in the 90s.
For my full review of Gryson’s edition that appeared in Westminster Theological Journal 74:2 (Fall 2012):467-471, Click here: Review of Tyconius, Exposition of the Apocalypse. (PDF)
My English translation of Tyconius’ Exposition of the Apocalypse will be published as Vol. 134 in Fathers of the Church by The Catholic University of America Press. The introduction and notes were written by David Charles Robinson of Toronto. To read the ad for the book in the Spring and Summer 2017 catalog of The Catholic University of America Press, click here.
To pre-order Tyconius of Carthage, Exposition of the Apocalypse from Amazon, click here.
I leave you with an encouragement from a Syriac commentator: “Let us spiritually refresh ourselves in the Apocalypse of the Son of God which is very dear and wonderful.”