A revelation for me: the revelation of Revelation

by Eyes Open 44 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Eyes Open
    Eyes Open

    I was reading the thread about Revelation, and some research I did on the beginning of chapter 10 of the apocalyptic book came to mind, so I thought I'd share it here in case anyone's interested.

    As an ignorant Jehovah's Witness, I had no idea of the real literary structure of the book. The Watchtower society makes out the mighty angel in 10:1 who stands on the sea and earth is Jesus Christ, and that the contents of the little scroll he hands John is a prophecy to be fulfilled after 1914. To grasp the simple truth that the strong angel in 10:1 is the angel alluded to in 1:1, and that the little scroll is actually the scroll which has been progressively unsealed in 6:1 to 8:1, was very satisfying. It describes the revelation being given to John, which contains the main content of the prophetic work!

    To see such fundamental points completely missed by those who would have people believe they are being used by the sovereign Lord of the universe to communicate divine truths was quite something.

    I used The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Richard Bauckham among others.

  • Rapunzel

    The last book of the Christian scriptures - the Book of Revelation [also called the Apocalypse of John] is just one of many written "apocalypses." In addition to the Apocalypse of John, there are manuscripts containing "apocalypses" supposedly written in the name of Moses; Elijah; Adam; Isaiah; Peter; Paul; Enoch; and Baruch. There are many manuscripts featuring apocalypses outside of the Bible. It is just that the Apocalypse of John was the only apocalypse to be accepted into the Christian canon.

    The Apocalypse of John was part of a literary genre; it was a certain kind of literature. Although, with its bizarre visions and symbolism difficult to interpret, the Apocalypse of John seems odd to many modern readers. it would not have seemed at all odd to ancient readers in that it shares many well-recognized literary conventions with other apocalypses and apocalyptic literature. As with any other literary gennre - any other type of literature - it is possible to study apocalyptic literature [including "John's" apocalypse] as a literary genre. The term, apocalypse, comes from the Greek word meaning an "unveiling" or a "revealing." The authors of the various aocalypses felt that God had revealed or had unveiled to them heavenly secrets that could explain earthly realities.

    Apocalyptic literature is dualistic in its cosmological view in that it sees the Earth and the cosmos as battlegrounds for the forces of Good and Evil. Apocalyptic literature is also pessimistic because apocalypticists do not think that humans are capable of bringing the Kingdom of God into the world on their own. Apocalyptic literature features some sort of vindication due God's intervention in the affairs of the world. And lastly, apocalyptic literature features immanence in that, for apocalytic authors vindication was imminent - that is to say right around the corner, in the immediate future.

    This last point is crucial. The apocalyptic authors were speaking solely and uniquely to people of their own day. These authors were not crystal-ball-gazing into eras thousands of years removed from them. These authors were addressing the immediate fears and concerns of the people living in their day and age. The apocalyptic authors decidedly did NOT have us - people living in the twenty-first century - in mind when they wrote their stories and recorded their visions.

    It is indeed naive and erroneous on the part of people living in our era to believe that the Apoclypse of John, or the book of Daniel, or any other apocalypse, was written with a concern for our future. It is ridiculous and inane to believe that the Apocalypse of John concerns what will happen when, history as we know it, comes screeching to a halt and heavenly trumpets start to blare. Many people living in our twenty-first century harbor the pernicious, dangerous delusion that apocalyptic literature such as the book of Daniel and the Apocalyse of John were written with us explicitly in mind, as if all of history were somehow been progressing toward our era, as if we were somehow the climax - the grand finale - of all that has happened so far. What utter and vile nonsense; it's pure tripe. Apocalyptic literature contains no prophecy that will come true in the future. In fact, the only thing that it contains is failed prophecy that was not achieved in the past, as the so-called "prophets" had hoped and promised.

    In the preceding paragraph, I was perhaps a little too hard on the many people of our twent-first century who believe that the Apocalypse of John as written with our era in mind. After all,it's true that people have always assumed that this book, and other apocalyptic literature, were referring to their own time. Every generation - from day one - which has read such literature has considered it as concerned with its respective era. For every generation, apocalyptic literature has served as foreshadowing of events to come.

    As a final note, the writer supposedly named "John." who wrote the book of Revelations, is not the same writer who wrote the gospel of John. Leaving the obvious theological differences aside, there are also obvious philological or linguistic differences. In the original Greek, the two writers display clearly different styles of writing. Moreover, for the author of the gospel, Greek was evidently his native language in which he was fluent; whereas the Apocalypse is not particularly well written and is the work of someone whose native language is not Greek.

  • White Dove
    White Dove

    The writers were on acid. How can anyone explain those far out things differently? Really, Revelation sounds psychedelic to me.

  • marmot

    "Fear and Loathing on the Isle of Patmos", by Apostle S. John

  • Eyes Open
    Eyes Open

    Rapunzel: Learning about the genres of the various literature that is lumped together in the "good book" has made a lot of sense to me. And seeing a bit about how Revelation is so relevant to the situation in Rome was amazing. And millions of people today are waiting for something in Revelation to kick off - so sad.

    White Dove: I can understand your comment, but its historical context is key. A good commentary makes it seem a lot simpler.

  • Rapunzel

    White Dove - I really fail to comprehend how you could contend that the "authors" [I notice that you pluralize the noun. Do you have any evidence that there was more than one person involved in the writing of the Book of Revelations?] were on "acid." The drug to which you refer to as "acid" [a.k.a., LSD] was synthesized in a laboratory in the 1950's or 1960's. In fact, wasn't it Timothy Leary who synthesized it? Well, at least it was he who popularized it. In any case, it is surely the case that there was no L.S.D. before the middle of the twentieth century. It simply did not exist before then; and it does not appear in nature.

    In fact, there is nothing "psychedelic" about apocalptic literature. As I mentioned in my previous post, apocalyptic literature as a literary genre goes back far in history. Both Christian and Jewish authors wrote in the apocalyptic manner. Apocalyptic writing especially came into vogue, became popular around the time of the Maccabean revolt. The book of Daniel is an example of apocalypticism in Jewish writing. Although modern readers find the imagery and symbolism quite strange, this was assuredly not the case for ancient readers. Ancient readers, both Jewish and Christian, were very familiar with apocalyptic writings. There exist many examples of the apocalyptic genre outside of the Bible.

  • Gerard

    Very intersting. And all these years I thought that the Book of Revelation was a foreign cooking book with strange spices listed.

  • JCanon

    Hello Rapunzel. Your approach is interesting and sent me to reading Revelation in the context of a work written for the current readers. I immediately came across verse 10 of chapter 1 which states: "By inspiration I came to be inthe Lord's day..."

    So written for those for his time or not, the visions have the setting of "The Lord's Day" which are the end-times. As far as Daniel not being prophetic, your argument is incompetent because of the time prophecies in Daniel, specifically the "7 times" prophecy, which is applied to the "day for a year" formula (Ezk 4:6) you are dealing with a period of 2520 years. Further, as witnesses and others have also extrapolated from scripture, there is the 70 jubilees prophecy. This is the basis of the original 1925 hope/focus the Bible Students came up with. That is a period of 3500 years.

    So anyone suggesting that Daniel or Revelation were books written for the people of their time, when the Daniel clearly speaks of these mysteries being "sealed up" until the last days and Revelation set in the setting of the "Lord's Day" is simply naieve or uninformed. Your theory that Revelation is typical "apocalytic" literature written to occur in the immediate future sounds interesting at first but it falls apart after just 10 verses into Revelation.

    But ironically, this shows us how critical CHRONOLOGY is. It not only points to specific dates and times but also limits the loose intellectual speculation and generalizations. What we are observing is what I believe would generally a reasonable approach to this literature but without the crticial expertise to adequately understand the weakness or inappropriateness of this position. Daniel is full of CHRONOLOGY and it links to many specific things in Revelation that also dates Revelation's events, even beyond the direct statement that clearly sets this into the future during "The Lord's Day" meaning at the time of the second coming.

    Case in point, even in Revelation 1 there is a reference to the Lord arriving and those beating themselves in lamentation over him and every eye setting him. That is a direct link to Matthew 24 where the "sign of the son of man" appears and likewise those that see it beat themselves in lamentation. This links chronologically Revelation to this very timed event in Matthew. The "great tribulation" per Daniel occurs between 62 weeks and 64 weeks. That is, during the 63 week. That is, between 434 and 441 years into the final 490 years of the seventh jubilee day, which is from 1506 to 1996.

    In other words, the "cut off" of the messiah, which in this case would be the Jews, occurs after 62 weeks, which is 434 years, and thus begins in 1940 (1506 +434=1940). It lasts for one week, which is 7 years and thus ends in 1947. That is when two-thirds of the Jews were to pass through the fire and one third saved and restored to their homeland per Zechariah 13:8. The "sign of the son of man" occurs "Immediately after the tribulation of those days..." and thus at the very least after 1945, more specifically after 1947, the official end of the tribulation and trampling of Jerusalem by the gentiles.

    So to say that the Christians or the writer of Revelation did not have us in mind is beyond inane, to use your own terms. It's a joke, in fact. My only excuse for your position being that you simply don't understand the depth of the material nor the significance of the chronology. But I still found it an interesting intellectual take on trying to water down the significance of this inspired work.

    It strikes historical interest, however, when you read through the Dead Sea Scrolls and some of that other "apocalytic" literature. It is amazingly supplemental to the scriptures, even if it varies a bit from the Bible. So there were other works, but I think even those extra--Biblical works were clearly understood and anticipated to happen at some time in the distant future. Christians in general understood the "Lord's Day" was well into the future.

    Your position reads well, I must say and got me curious, but it immediately falls apart with the slightest investigation, I'm afraid. Thanks for sharing what some people out there are thinking.


  • Eyes Open
    Eyes Open

    Revelation 22

    10Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."

    12"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

    14"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

    16"I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you[a] this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

    17The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

    18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

    20He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

    21The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen.

  • Rapunzel

    J.C. - Although I thank you for your response, I really do find myself obliged to take issue with it. You state that my argument is incompetent. Sorry, but the adjective, 'incompetent," can only refer to a person. The adjective, "incompetent," refers to a person who is wanting [or lacking] in ability, skills, qualifications etc; it refers to a person who is not competent. Ud. comprende, vato?

    Now, if you had said that I [Rapunzel] was incompetent - in say, biblical exegesis, or textual criticism, or whatever endeavor; field of study; discipline - then that would have been o.k. Many people would have agreed with you. But, to say my argument is incompetent, well...that's just plain unacceptable!!!! One could posit that my argument was weak, or flawed, or specious, but not "incompetent." You could claim that I am incompetent in my reasoning.

    I noticed that you made a similar egregious error in a prior post in which you referred to the parable of the "widow's might [sic]." Once again, I'm sorry to say it, but the word you were looking for was mite.

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