Towards Understanding Revelation

3/4/23 REVELATION 1:1a, PART 12

The first quote starts a rabbit hole almost immediately:

“John calls his book an apocalypse or revelation, and this title not only describes its content, but classifies it as a recognized type of literature. During the three hundred years between the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes (167 B.C.) and the destruction of the Jewish nation by Hadrian (A.D. 135) Jewish writers produced a series of apocalypses — of which the first and greatest was the Book of Daniel — to encourage Jewish resistance to the encroachments of paganism, by showing that the national suffering was foreseen and provided for in the cosmic purpose of God and would issue in ultimate vindication.”

I have to break in here. I really hate when someone who thinks he’s a scholar writes about something that is clearly not a fact, as if it were a fact. There has been a scholarly argument about when Daniel was written since the 3rd century AD; the first question brought by someone trying to discredit both Christians and Jews. As we’ve learned more through developments in philology and archaeology, the arguments for a 6th century BC writing of Daniel have become much stronger, while the evidence for the later date has been chipped away. Yet, it is still perceived that a 2nd century BC date is the only scholarly way to view Daniel: in other words, if you disagree with the 2nd century BC date you are not a scholar.

I started looking at the evidence on both sides and I found quite a bit. We’ll take time out in the next post to make the argument for the date of Daniel. Meanwhile, let’s continue on with this quote:

It is characteristic of these writings that they portray the present crisis, whether it be the persecution of Antiochus or the fall of Jerusalem, against a background of world history, the present struggle as part of the age long struggle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, and victory over the immediate enemy as the embodiment of the final victory of God. It is also characteristic of them that they are written in symbolic language. The writers believed that every earthly person, institution, and event had a heavenly equivalent, so that a seer, transported to heaven in an ecstatic rapture, could see enacted in the symbols of heavenly drama the counterpart of earthly events, past, present, and future. He would thus be able, for the benefit of his fellows in distress, to interpret the past and predict the future. For example, in Daniel we hear of a battle between the Prince of Greece and the Prince of Persia (dan. x. 20). The earthly event is the invasion of Persia by Alexander the Great. Yet the two princes are not Alexander and Darius III, but the angelic rulers and representatives of the two empires, whose meeting in heavenly battle is the counterpart of the earthly battles of Granicus, Issus, and Gaugamela. It follows, therefore, that, in order to explain an apocalypse, we must first identify the earthly realities to which the heavenly symbols correspond, and then see how by the use of this symbolism the author has tried to interpret earthly history.”

I have to cut in again. We will see in the next post why Daniel isn’t one of “these writings,” i.e., apocalyptic writings from the 2nd century BC to first century AD. Then we have this statement: “The writers believed that every earthly person, institution, and event had a heavenly equivalent.” I’m having trouble with this statement. The only thing that has “a heavenly equivalent” in the bible is the Temple, and even that is tenuous because there is a Temple in heaven even when there isn’t one on earth…so how tied together can they be? This idea strikes me very strongly as a Medieval construct, related to the idea of recreating heaven on earth. It also takes the attention away from the Almighty communicating with humans and places it on the “ecstatic rapture, [where he ] could see enacted in the symbols of heavenly drama the counterpart of earthly events, past, present, and future [and he would] thus be able…to interpret the past and predict the future.” Or in other words: it’s placed under man’s control rather than God’s.

So, the last statement: “It follows, therefore, that, in order to explain an apocalypse, we must first identify the earthly realities to which the heavenly symbols correspond, and then see how by the use of this symbolism the author has tried to interpret earthly history,” only “follows” if we are studying a 200BC-100AD apocalyptic text. I have written previously about why Revelation is not in the usual mold of the usual 200BC-100AD apocalyptic text. The texts referred to between 200BC and 100AD are not Scriptural, and indeed are apocryphal. But we’ll move on in the quote, where the author talks about some of the differences himself:

“When we begin to ask what John’s symbolism means, we shall rightly expect guidance from the Jewish apocalyptists and from the Old Testament, which was his Bible as well as theirs. But we shall do well to be cautious. John’s apocalypse is unlike the others. For one thing, all Jewish apocalypses are pseudonymous; that is, they purport to have been written by some ancient worthy — Noah…Enoch…Daniel — who sealed up the message until the time when it should become relevant, the time of the actual author. But John writes openly in his own name for his own contemporaries, and is explicitly told not to seal his book. These works also cover a very wide range of literary and religious worth. The Jewish rabbis who were responsible for putting Daniel into the canon of Old Testament scripture and excluding the others were men of sound judgment. For Daniel is the product of an original mind, but the others are for the most part imitative and pedestrian…John, though he adopts the apocalyptic form, claims over and over again to be a prophet. If Old Testament scholars are right in drawing a sharp distinction between apocalypse and prophecy, John would insist that his book was prophecy. But the most important difference is that his book is the apocalypse of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus was new wine which could not be contained within the old leather bottles of Judaism, yeast which kept working until nothing was left unleavened. Whatever he touched he transfigured, and not least the language and imagery of religious thought. We shall expect, then, to find that John’s symbols do not mean exactly what they would have meant to a Jewish writer.” [From A COMMENTARY ON THE REVELATION OF ST JOHN THE DIVINE; by George B. Caird; 1966]

Every Christian apocalypse (not Revelation) that I’ve read has been decidedly “imitative and pedestrian.” Mr. Caird talks all around it, but basically the Jewish apocalyptic writers copied the original style of Daniel, and the Christian apocalyptic writers followed the original prophecy of John. Mr. Caird could have written that conclusion and it would have fit in with pretty much everything else he wrote; and yet, he didn’t. It is so important to appear to be scholarly, and unfortunately, believing in God and Jesus Christ doesn’t ‘look’ scholarly, even when it is.

On to a more standard quote:

“The very first word of this book, apokalupsis (translated The Revelation), sets the stage. The word means an uncovering of something hidden, the making known of what man could not find out for himself. It makes plain that the book it introduces is not a book of human wisdom, nor for that matter a discussion of philosophical or theological problems. It is revelation. It is a setting forth of what God has made known. This revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ which could mean either that the revelation was made by Jesus Christ or that it was made about Him or that it belongs to Him. In one way or another all three are true. But in view of the following which God gave unto him we should probably understand it to mean possession…” [From THE REVELATION OF ST. JOHN: AN INTRODUCTION AND COMMENTARY; by Leon Morris; 1969]

No new ground broken here. I don’t agree with his conclusion, but what else is new…

The next quote is from a fairly well-known expositor, preacher and pioneering broadcaster of the 1950’s:

John wrote it, it is true, but its purpose and its subject are the revelation of our Lord and the accomplishment of His purposes. This is what we are to see in this book. It is not merely the revelation of a prophetic plan, but the revealing of a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. We shall see Him as the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the Church and the Judge of the world. If we fail to note His relationship to any one of these three groups, we shall be blinded to the true meaning of this book…

“It is a well-known fact that the first use of any Greek word in the New Testament is always sure to have in its context that which explains the sense of the word and gives it its meaning in all further usages. This word apokalupsis is first used in Luke 2:32 where Simeon, the godly old man who waited for the consolation of Israel, took the baby, Jesus, in his arms and blessed Him…Thus the meaning is given. It is a shining forth of a person; it is an unveiling of God.

then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Now, Lord, You are letting Your bond-servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For mine eyes have seen Your salvation, Which You have prepared in the presence of all the peoples; light for revelation for the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. (Luke 2:28-32; NASB)

Elsewhere it is translated ‘appearing,’ as in 1 Peter 1:7; ‘coming’, as in 1 Corinthians 1:7; and ‘manifestation,’ as in Romans 8:19.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7; KJV)

So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7; KJV)

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:19; KJV)

It is laying bare, a disclosure. There is a sense in which the whole Bible is a revelation. God, who could have hidden Himself had He so desired, has been pleased to disclose, to reveal. This is true of Genesis and Matthew as well as of Daniel and the other prophets; but this last book in the Bible is a special unveiling with a special blessing, showing forth the risen Lord Jesus as God’s answer to every problem of the world.” [From REVELATION: AN EXPOSITIONAL COMMENTARY; by Donald Grey Barnhouse; 1971]

As will be mentioned in the post on Daniel’s date, the books Genesis, Daniel, and Revelation are the most attacked books in the whole Bible. It’s because they are the backbone of the Bible; these books, along with Matthew’s and John’s Gospels, are the ones that reveal the most about God and Jesus. Mr. Barnhouse points to that in this quote.

The next quote:

Title. The Revelation of John. This is the oldest form of the title of the book. It was not an original part of the book itself but was prefixed to the book early in the history of its circulation. It is an obvious title derived from 1:1. The title found in the King James Version, ‘The Revelation of St. John the Divine,’ although appearing in the mass of late Greek manuscripts, is not found before Eusebius in the fourth century.

Verse 1. The revelation. The Greek word apokalypsis has several meanings. The simple meaning of the word is to uncover something that is concealed (Luke 12:2);

For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. (Luke 12:2; KJV)

“…but in the New Testament it usually has a distinctly religious connotation, designating the supernatural revelation of divine truths unknown to men and incapable of being discovered by them (Rom. 16:25; Gal. 1:12).

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began (Romans 16:25; NKJV)

For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12; NKJV)

In Theodotion’s Greek version of Daniel the word is used several times of the divine disclosure through the prophet to the king of events which, in the providence of God, were destined to take place in the future. In the New Testament, what is revealed is the entire good news about God’s redemptive plan which is embodied in Jesus Christ; and this redemptive plan is to be consummated in great eschatological events which are also revealed to God’s people (Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 1:7; 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Pet. 1:13, 5:1). In the present instance, the revelation was given to John in visions, the content of which he wrote down in the book before us.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18; NASB)

so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Corinthians 1:7; NASB)

Then that lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will eliminate with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8; NASB)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13; NASB)

Therefore, I urge elders among you, as your fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ and one who is also a fellow partaker of the glory that is to be revealed (1 Peter 5:1; NASB)

This word ‘apocalypse’ has been taken from John’s revelation by modern scholarship and applied to the genre of Jewish-Christian literature called ‘apocalyptic.’ However, the word is not used here as a technical designation of the book but of its contents: a revealing of the things which must soon take place. Many scholars insist that the Revelation stands on the same level as such Jewish apocalypses as Enoch, The Assumption of Moses, IV Ezra, The Apocalypse of Baruch, and others. The Revelation does indeed belong to the same genre of literature, and distinct guidelines can be found from the study of this literature to help us in interpreting the Revelation. These books are similar in their claims to be revelations of events unknown to men, in their use of visions and dreams, in their common use of symbolism which is often bizarre and fantastic, in their common concern about the end of the world and the coming of God’s Kingdom, and in their common adherence to an ‘apocalyptic,’ i.e., cosmic catastrophic type of eschatology.

“However, the Revelation stands apart from Jewish apocalyptic in several notable features. Jewish apocalyptic is pseudonymous; i.e., these writings are attributed to ancient saints in Israel, long since dead, to validate them. John is unique in bearing the name of a contemporary author well known by the addressees. Jewish apocalypses are pseudo-predictive; i.e., the writer takes his stand at a point in past history and then rewrites history under the guise of prophecy by the use of symbols. John takes his stand in his own day and looks forward to the consummation of God’s redemptive purpose. The apocalypses tend to be pessimistic; i.e., they despair of God’s acting in history, considering it to be under the baleful influence of evil satanic spirits. All hope is focused on the future. While John shares the interest in the future, the future depends upon what God has done in contemporary history in the redemption wrought in the death of Jesus of Nazareth. This is portrayed by the Lion, who is the slain Lamb. History is the scene of redemption; only the crucified one can solve the riddle of history. In all these traits, John reflects his prophetic character and stands apart from Jewish apocalypses. Further more, it is a fact of great significance that, while the Revelation is replete with verbal allusions to the Old Testament, it is completely lacking in similar allusions to the known Jewish apocalyptic writings.” [From A COMMENTARY ON THE REVELATION OF JOHN; by George Eldon Ladd; 1972]

Not a bad quote. If someone really wants to see Revelation as apocalyptic literature, then Mr. Ladd lays out some of the major ways in which it is set apart.

The last quote is from the person who made prophecy and Revelation popular in the 1970’s, namely Hal Lindsey, author of THE LATE, GREAT PLANET EARTH.

While many Bibles label the Book of Revelation as ‘The Revelation of John,’ it is more correctly called ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ.’ This is the title which is given right in the first sentence of the book itself. It’s more appropriate because Jesus Christ is the central figure of the book — not John the Apostle.

John didn’t originate the ideas in this book even though he had had a long and intimate relationship with Jesus. Christ had called him to be an apostle when he was only a teenager, and now the fiery old man was writing somewhere between 85 and 90. Later John wrote a book which does bear his name — the Gospel of John. This book displays an especially intimate knowledge of the nature and work of Christ.” [From THERE’S A NEW WORLD COMING; by Hal Lindsey; 1973]

Mr. Lindsey brings up an interesting point regarding the current thinking of when Revelation was written in relation to John’s Gospel. It’s thought that Revelation was written around 94-97 AD, while the Gospel of John was written between 85-95 AD. From :

In Christian tradition, John’s gospel has always been referred to as the fourth gospel, meaning it was composed after the other three. Polycarp, a second-century Christian martyr who knew John personally, told Irenaeus that John had written the book during the apostle’s time serving the church in Ephesus. These factors suggest that John wrote the book between AD 85 and AD 95.

Polycarp did know John personally: he was actually a disciple of John’s. This source isn’t saying if John wrote his gospel before or after his time on Patmos, but a lot of people seem to think that it was after, including Mr. Lindsey. I’m not sure that we can know that, but certainly the mystical nature of both books imply that they were written close together in time.

I like Mr. Lindsey’s focus on John’s “long and intimate relationship with Jesus.” This is something that often seems to be forgotten when people are arguing about who really wrote Revelation. I think that one of the really big things that sets Revelation apart from other so-called apocalyptic literature, is that Revelation gives the solid impression of having been written by someone who had that “long and intimate relationship with Jesus.” Now maybe that’s just my opinion, but it’s one I can’t let go of.

As I was putting this blog together and getting momentarily lost in the Daniel rabbit hole, for some reason I was reminded of a video I had seen before I gave my life to Christ. It was called THE JESUS FAMILY TOMB. I went a little way down the hole and looked at the Christian response to this video. If you haven’t seen the video, don’t bother, but briefly it’s about a group of ossuaries (bone boxes) that were found in Jerusalem that had names on them that were provocative: Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Judas son of Jesus, Miriamne, and Matthew. So, to make this ‘real’, the video basically pared Jesus down to human form and had Him married with children (and why would Jesus name a son after Judas?). I think that I thought about this because of the push back on prophecy by the secular world…that prophecy, from God in particular, can’t be real…the prophets must have been fake. That the only way the secular world can have their way, is if God and Jesus are not real. Leading to the thought that finding the bones of Jesus is imperative to them.

As the Christian websites pointed out in response to the video, all these names were very, very popular in the first century. Moreover, if Jesus were just human and had bones to be buried, it would have been unlikely that they would have been buried in Jerusalem. Burial customs at that time were that the body was placed in a cave-like tomb and allowed to decay until nothing but bones were left…usually about a year. Then, the bones were placed in a limestone box (ossuary)…plain or fancy, depending on your wealth…and then that box was placed in your family’s tomb, if you had one, but usually, at least, in your home town. Jesus did not come from, nor did He have ties to, Jerusalem. Tradition has Mary buried in Ephesus where she lived at the end with John, her adopted son. If Mary is really buried in Jerusalem, then why wasn’t John’s bones there with her and Jesus?

It was noted that no genetic testing was done, so despite the provocative names, there is no proof of any genetic relationship between any of the names, except for the ‘son of’ statement.

Another argument is: it’s hard to imagine the really frightened Apostles becoming such dynamos, unafraid of anything, if they knew that Jesus was in a tomb somewhere. And, it would have been them who hid the body while it decayed to bones, anyone else would have had no motive. Can you imagine allowing yourself to be martyred, knowing that the faith was a lie? And to have so many agree with it, and not expose it, is just unthinkable.

Jesus, as we know Him, changed a lot of things. But the Jesus in that tomb in Jerusalem certainly didn’t, and couldn’t have.

That’s it for today. I will be posting the Daniel rabbit hole material next.

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