Revelation (3)

Resources:

Beale, G.K.   The Book of Revelation.  Part of the New International Greek Testament Commentary series, I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner editors.  (Eerdmans Publishing Co..  Grand Rapids.  1999)

Blount, Brian K.  Revelation.  Part of the New Testament Library commentary series, C.Clifton Black, M. Eugene Boring, and John T. Carroll editorial board.  (Westminster John Knox Press.  Louisville.  2009)

Boring, M. Eugene.  Revelation.  Part of the Interpretation commentary series, James L. Mays series editor..  (John Knox Press.  Louisville.  1989)

Doyle O.F.M., Stephen.  Apocalypse: A Catholic Perspective on the Book of Revelation.  (St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, 2005)

Gorman, Michael J.   Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness / Following the Lamb into the New Creation.  (Cascade Books.  Eugene Oregon.  2011)

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid J..  Revelation.  Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J.  (Liturgical Press.  Collegeville.  1993)

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CHAPTERS 12 THROUGH 14: Visionary Flashback – the background for the visions

Why is there is a fatal tension between the empire and the Christian faith?  These 3 chapters provide the background for John’s hearers.

Boring p. 150: “The series of visions in 12:1 – 14:20 is the central axis of the book and the core of its pictorial ‘argument.’”  Jumps from the time of Jesus to pre-creation to final judgment at the end of time.

Blount p. 224 finds in these chapters 3 signs:

  1.        12:1 heavenly woman
  2.        12:3 red dragon
  3.        15:1 seven angels with the last seven plagues (which ends the conflict between the woman and the red dragon

Beale p. 624  many ancient anthologies contain stories of an evil one attempting to kill at birth a good prince / ruler / savior who will ultimately vanquish him.  Epiphany reading – Herod and the baby Jesus.  many others in other cultures.

Who is the woman?  Eve?  Mary?  Heavenly Jerusalem as bride?  Israel escaped from Egypt?  Zion?  Blount p. 225: “It is much more likely that he has combined a great many themes from historical and mythical woman/mother images in Israel’s and the church’s past, present, and future and fashioned them thematically into a representation of the church’s corporate existence.”

Blount argues that this woman (the church) is set up in contrast to chapter 18’s woman/harlot whose children are tied to Rome.  Her clothing is dazzling as the sun (even more so than the robes washed in the blood of the Lamb earlier).

Blount p. 228: “The woman represents the power of God to birth and build up the believing community; the dragon represents the power to destroy that community at any point from its inception onward.”  The dragon is the satanic / evil force behind the Roman empire (which will appear in chapter 13 as the beast from the sea.  The image is tied to the snake in Genesis 3.

Boring p. 152: “The mythical story reflects and evokes images and events of his hearer-readers’ experience, allowing them to see their struggles in a transcendent context.”

Horns represent power.  In the tradition good forces can also have power.

1,260 days = half of 7 years – i.e. a bounded time period, this does not go on and on.

Blount – the snatching of Jesus to the throne is the resurrection.  Jesus rules.  Therefore this is a flashback to explain the persecution and hostility with Rome.  Blount p. 239: “John tells his hearers and readers that their past brothers and sisters defeated the dragon by testifying to the conquering blood of Christ, because he wants them to go out and courageously offer the same testimony.  They have the power and the means, if fear of dying does not get in the way, to defeat the dragon and thereby participate in the inauguration of god’s reign.”

(Chapter 13)

Blount p. 245: “Looking with the dragon out to sea, he sees what it sees: a roiling sea.  The site of primordial chaos, which God first quelled in the creation accounts (Gen. 1:2-10), the sea is a symbolic representation of resistance to God.  The level of that resistance rises exponentially when the sea spits up a beast.”

The abyss and the sea are the same, there is one beast – the Roman empire perhaps with two manifestations – political and religious. Seven heads / seven hills of Rome.   Some very conservative Protestants make this book and chapter contemporary by identifying the Roman Catholic church and the Pope as the Beast / head. 

False prophet with two heads?   Boring p. 157: “All who support and promote the cultural religion, in or out of the church, however Lamb-like they may appear, are agents of the beast.  All propaganda that entices humanity to idolize human empire is an expression of this beastly power that wants to appear Lamb-like.”

Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself in the throat – he is likely the head with a mortal wound on the beast.  He was hated and feared by Romans.  A myth developed that he had not died but was in hiding – come back to life to return and continue his cruel rule.  John does not expect this – his point is that evil can be powerful and overwhelming in its strength.

666?    Blount points out on p. 261 that John’s hearers already knew the name and could work from the name to the number.  Going in the opposite direction is much harder because the numbers / letters can form many different names.  (A number was attached to a particular letter).  P. 262: “… when the Greek letters for Neron Caesar are transliterated into Hebrew, the Hebrew letters add up to 666.)

Gorman p. 126 – 666 is a parody of the number 777 which would be perfection (it falls short, represents failure)

Boring p. 161 ff makes a number of points: we are signed with seal of the Lamb or the seal of the beast – we belong to one or to the other; the seal was real but not literal in John’s times – participation in pagan festivals were a sign of being patriotic and one of us, those who did not had business dry up …; In Greek, Hebrew and Latin every letter was also a number and every word therefore had a numerical sum; the key for John is not WHO was the beast (all knew) but WHAT the beast represented – forces of evil fighting with God.

Beale p. 721 quotes another scholar Salmon on three rules: “First, if the proper name by itself will not yield it, add a title; secondly, if the sum cannot be found in Greek, try Hebrew, or even Latin; thirdly, do not be too particular about the spelling … We cannot infer much from the fact that a key fits the lock if it is a lock in which almost any key will turn.”  Beale goes on to argue with Gorman that the contrast is with the seal and the name of the Lord.

(Chapter 14)

the flashback continues with the Lamb, 144,000, etc.

“virgins” does not refer to sexuality here but to idolatry.   These are the ones who have not defiled themselves by worshipping the Roman gods. 

Boring p. 169: “…persons engaged in special occupations or missions such as the priesthood or God’s army were, during the time of their service, expected to refrain from sex, not from moralistic reasons but to insulate the sacred service from other powers.”  (mysterious power of life)  He argues then that these are the army of the Lord.

Blount translates ‘son of man’ as ‘child of humanity’ and does not think that this ‘child of humanity’ at the end of chapter 14 represents Christ.

Harrington p. 154/155: harvest = salvation, vintage = judgment though the text is based on Joel 3:12-13 where it is judgment alone.  Beale p. 777, 778 disagrees and says that both are images of judgment

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CHAPTERS 15 AND 16: Seven Bowls (this is one unit)

(Chapter 15)

Blount p. 282: “Chapters 15 and 16 will describe the wrath of God as a series of exodus-like plagues through the metaphor of the seven bowls; chapters 17 and 18 will then detail the consequences of that wrath for imperial Babylon.”   These chapters look forward to God’s coming judgment on the empire / beast.  These are not ‘new’ plagues or the last in a series of cataclysmic events – this is a restatement of what will happen as first declared in the seals and trumpets.  Here it is not a third of the earth that will be destroyed but all of it.

Boring p. 172: “The ‘It is over’ of 16:17 is final.  This series concludes with the fall of Babylon/Rome, which is the end of history; the next scene will introduce the eschaton itself.”

As Israel once passed through the Red Sea and celebrated God’s victory over Egypt with Moses, the church will stand by the sea and celebrate God’s victory over Rome.  Exodus images will predominate in this unit.

Boring p. 174: context of the coming plagues is a worship service, but not gloating.  “The message is not that ‘now is the time of trouble, but someday we will be able to celebrate.’ Rather, Christian worship anticipates the eschatological victory and celebrates it in the present.”  Eucharist points back to the past, forward to future victory, and participates in the eternal celebration of heaven now.  Hence our Catholic teaching that we do not offer Jesus’ body again in sacrifice but join to the one sacrifice on the cross.

Harrington p. 162:  God did not spare His own son. “What does one make of the folly of the Cross?  John is faced with the enigma of an infinitely gracious God face to face with human perversity.  His problem – which is our problem – is to face that riddle within our grossly limited human perspective.”

God is merciful, God is just.  How will this work out for humanity?

(Chapter 16)

as with the flood in the time of Noah – this is a justified response by God to the sinfulness of the world.

the bowls have a cultic / priestly element to them.  Used both in Judaism in the temple and in certain Roman pagan rites.

having shed the blood of the saints, the earth is judged and punished with blood.

a dry Euphrates River permits the Parthian army to invade easily, it is no longer a barrier

 

 

 

Armegeddon?

1.       Blount p. 306ff.  Har Meggido / armegeddon   Mountain of Megiddo.  Megiddo was an important military site near Jezreel Valley.  (Megiddo is NOT on a mountain, was a city on a broad expanse of land).  Regardless – John is not talking about a literal battle but a symbolic one in which God and the Lamb will emerge victorious.

2.       Boring suggests that the nearest mountain to Megiddo is Mount Carmel – where in tradition and scripture Elijah defeated the idolatrous prophets of Baal.

3.       Harrington p. 167: “Megiddo, situated on a plain near Mount Carmel, dominated the strategic pass from the cost to the plain of Jezreel.  Its situation made it the scene of many battles.  Since the defeat and death of Josiah at Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29-30) it had become a symbol of disaster.”

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