It is to be observed how the result thus reached―a date shortly before the year 70―confirms the explicit statement of the author of Revelation that he wrote in the time of the sixth emperor, before the seventh had come to the throne; that is, the year 68.
The Apocalypse of John
Introduction, Excerpts, and a New Translation
By Charles C. Torrey
“The original language of Revelation was Aramaic, not Hebrew.”
Posthumously published Introduction to The Apocalypse of John (Yale University Press, 1958), by Charles Cutler Torrey (1863-1956). Torrey was a linguist who specialized in OT Aramaic, Apocrypha, and Pseudepigrapha of the OT, the Aramaic background of the NT and (later) Islam. He taught at Andover Seminary (1892-1900) and Yale University as professor of Semitic languages (1900-1932; emeritus 1932-56). Torrey was the first director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem (1900-1901). His writings include The Translations Made from the Original Aramaic Gospels (1912); The Composition and Date of Acts (1916); The Four Gospels (1933; rev. ed., 1947); The Apocryphal Literature (1945); and Documents of the Primitive Church (1946). His critical reconstructions of various OT books and theories regarding alleged Aramaic originals of large portions of the NT have found little acceptance among scholars. Transcription and Transliteration by John Reece
- 1933: C.C. Torrey, The Four Gospels – A New Translation
- 1935: George A. Barton, Professor Torrey’s Theory of the Aramaic Origins of the Gospels and the First Half of the Acts of the Apostles (pdf)
- 1950: C.C. Torrey: The Aramaic Period of the Nascent Christian Church
In the interest of clearness it will be well to preface the discussion of language and date with some observations regarding the origin and character of the book. These remarks, though brief and miscellaneous, are important as furnishing the background of the argument which is to follow. They are for the most part not new, inasmuch as they repeat conclusions which have already been stated here and there by others; but in their aggregate they present a picture which differs considerably from that given in the standard commentaries and other textbooks. They are here given as briefly as possible, since further evidence of their validity will appear in the course of the main investigation.
As is well known, the Apocalypse of John was not accepted at once as a member of the Christian canon; that is, it was not pronounced divinely inspired scripture. Initial easygoing acceptance of the new “Johannine” material was soon followed by a storm of dissent. There was a period of hesitation and controversy about the author of the book and the nature of its attestation.
In the second century a good beginning was made. Justin Martyr gave the new apocalypse recognition. Thereafter, in successive periods of rejection and acceptance, the controversy continued. Jerome, whose opinion always carried weight, proposed to put the apocalypse between the canonical scriptures and the Apocrypha. In the sixth century the objection to admitting Revelation to the canon seems to have quieted down. So the condition continued until the Reformation, with no significant change.
In general, the Eastern Church rejected the apocalypse, while the Western churches accepted it. In the Eastern provinces apocalypses were all too familiar; in the West this peculiar form of book was not so well known. The case of the Syriac-speaking East is typical. Neither Nestorians nor Jacobites took any satisfaction in the Revelation of John, nor did it ever have a place in the Peshitta. On the other hand, the Western versions are excellent, both the Old Latin and the Vulgate.
In the manuscript tradition, worthy of notice is the faithfulness with which the Greek solecisms are retained. Aside from the cursive manuscripts, the book has half a dozen uncials (a most forlorn group).
As a mighty source of inspiration the Apocalypse was prized by the early Church from the beginning. Aside, however, from the heavenly mysteries unveiled and the ordinary properties of an apocalypse, this book is of extraordinary interest in its historical setting. The little Christian Church has gone forth to play a new and strange part in the world. Rome has conquered all kings and countries, but is about to perish. A frightful “beast,” the Roman emperor Nero (Rev. 13:18), has subjected the Christians to a bloody persecution, but he soon “goes into perdition”.
Beyond the general features of the portrayal there is a local touch of especial interest to the people of the coast of Asia. This is the mention of Patmos, an island in the Aegean Sea, as the place where the seer (“I, John”) was given his revelation.
The book is a unity, in no sense composite. Detailed proof, quite unanswerable, will be found in H. B. Swete’s Apocalypse of St. John (1906), in the admirable chapter entitled “Unity of the Apocalypse,” pp. xlii-l. Whoever will examine this evidence, and in the light of it read the Apocalypse itself, must see that the book was written continuously by a single author. Both plan and progress are sufficiently evident, while some repetitions and slight inconsistencies are due partly to the writer’s habitual freedom in the use of symbolism (discussed below) and partly to shifting aspects of the subject matter; “an apocalypse is neither history nor homily.” We see everywhere the same mind at work, the same remarkable way of using the Old Testament without direct quotation, the same unique disregard for Greek grammar (this to be explained later). Discoveries of ill-fitting joints, suggesting composition, are purely imaginary. The “abysmally stupid” and “dishonest” editor who according to R. H. Charles, Revelation of St. John I, l-liv, wrought such havoc in Revelation owes his existence, I think, to an extensive misunderstanding of the book.
The Apocalyptist’s manner of using the Old Testament scriptures is unique and very significant. The great amount of such use is also remarkable. In each of the three longest books of the New Testament, Matthew, Luke, Acts, much space is given to material taken from the Hebrew Bible; in Revelation, a comparatively brief writing, the amount is considerably greater than in all three taken together. “Of the 404 verses of the Apocalypse there are 278 which contain references to the Jewish scriptures” (Swete, p. cxxxv). The Hebrew apocalyptic writers, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, are laid under especially constant consideration: Isaiah (notably), and other prophets and the Psalter are much used, and there are frequent references to the Pentateuch. But with all of this, there is nowhere any formal citation of scripture! Not even Daniel is ever mentioned. The words of the sacred text, all through Revelation, are not given in their original form, but with such variation or addition that they become the writer’s own. The same is true of the numerous episodes, scenes, and symbols which are reproduced. The explanation is to be found in the consciousness of the writer that he himself (i.e., the Apostle whom he impersonates) is one of the Israelite prophets (Rev. 19:10 and 22:6-9), moving among them, sharing their experiences and their verbal messages to the chosen people. This claim is made so frequently, and with such marked emphasis, that it needs to be given much attention. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, John the prophet has his book ― and, like Daniel and Ezekiel, his symbolic creatures and significant numbers, “times,” etc. Outstanding among the tokens of the prophet is his testimony to Jesus the Messiah (Rev. 19:10). Here the evangelists and the Christian writers are expressly included. Even more significant is his conspicuous avoidance of quotation, whether from the earlier prophets (since he is one in his own right) or from the Old Testament writers, who of course were all prophets. His own “prophecy” is as truly and directly inspired scripture as are those of Ezekiel and Daniel (see below on the date of the book).*
The contrast here with the O.T. quotations in the Four Gospels is fundamental. No one of the four evangelists made any claim of inspiration, though this claim was at once made for them by the Nazarene Church. In Mark, Matthew, and John, and to a less extent in Luke, the direct quotations of scripture were given in the original Hebrew, not in the Aramaic of their context. In Revelation, on the contrary, the Hebrew language was not used at all, except in the terms Abaddon and Har Magedon (Har Mōʿed), expressly designated as Hebrew. For the Apocalyptist the language of the New Dispensation of the Christian Church was Aramaic only. It is most significant that the numerous hymns and doxologies sung or recited by the saints and angels in heaven, in chapter after chapter of the book, are composed in Aramaic (wherever it is possible to decide), not in Hebrew; though the writer could have used either language.
The chief sources ― perhaps the only sources ― of the Apocalypse are three in number: the O.T. scriptures, current eschatology, Jewish and Christian, all of it based on the Old Testament; and the writer’s own creative mind. The view of the now popular “fragment hypothesis” that the book is essentially composite, largely made up of extracts from unknown apocalypses, has already been pronounced untenable, and evidence will be furnished; while the fact that no literary use of any of the known (extra-canonical) apocalypses can be shown of itself would discredit the strange theory. Swete (p. cliii) after quoting Charles to the effect that the “writer or writers” of Revelation were “steeped in Jewish apocalyptic literature,” goes on to say that while parallels with some of the pseudepigrapha can be shown (and he lists a number of the passages), they merely indicate the New Testament writer’s familiarity with the apocalyptic ideas of his time, but give little or no clear evidence of his dependence on Jewish sources other than the books of the Old Testament. Gunkel’s famous attempt, in his Schöpfung und Chaos, to find in Revelation Babylonian and other pagan mythology, aside from the familiar traces in the Old Testament, was a conspicuous failure.
The Apocalyptist’s originality certainly ought not to be questioned in such of his portrayals as those in 5:1-8, or 11:3-13, or 12:13-17, merely because of their strangeness. We know of no writer endowed with a livelier and more fertile imagination than the author of this book, and in the astonishing array of scenes and symbols his own mental habit can everywhere be seen. His fancy is sometimes too exuberant, as in his description of the locusts(!) in 9:7-11, but his deep earnestness and triumphant faith relieve the impression made by pictures that are characteristically bizarre. Bousset, Die Offenbarung des Johannes (1906), pp. 143-8, has some fine words of appreciation of the author’s originality, in spite of the constant search for “Quellen.”
It is well understood that the churches of the first three chapters are only seven, though the province contained other important churches, simply because of the place this sacred number held in the writer’s theology. (Swete notes, p. cxxx, that mention of the number seven occurs fifty-four times in the book.) An important result of his faith in the number is his postulate of seven Roman emperors in 17:10; see below.
The church of Ephesus, the first of the seven, had―and aimed to have―a leading part in the apostolic tradition; see [Torrey], Documents, chapter I. The spread of the John legend from this center is given brief mention below in the section on the date of the book. A guess may be permitted here as to the way in which the legend arose.
There is some good reason to believe that the Fourth Gospel was brought to Ephesus by a Christian fugitive from Palestine, soon after the middle of the first century. It was written in Aramaic; it is fair to say that this has been conclusively demonstrated, in view of the summing up by Professor J. De Zwaan in JBL, 57 (1938), 155-71. Eventually brought to light, it was rendered into Greek, and the translator added chapter 21. No trace of the Gospel aside from the Ephesian copy is known. It purported to embody the tradition of John the son of Zebedee, the “beloved disciple.”
It is natural to suppose that in due time a belief therefore arose in the following form: “John came to Ephesus to be the head of its church, but soon disappeared from the city.” No one had sure recollection of him. “He must have been banished at once, under Nero.” The island of Patmos was the most likely place of banishment, and it was taken for granted that he died there. He was the John who had had a part in every important scene of the Messiah’s life. The tradition consistently represented him as holding a foremost place in the affection of the Master. He and James, the two sons of Zebedee, together with Peter constituted the leading group of the disciples of Jesus. Here, obviously, was a man to whom the Most High might have been expected to entrust a revelation of the future. In this belief a member of the church of Ephesus―a man of splendid faith and religious fervor, and with extraordinary gifts of imagination, understanding of Hebrew scripture, and insight into the circumstances of his time―wrote the Revelation of John the Apostle. This was the year 68, as will be shown. It was later than this that the Ephesian church professed to have the Apostle’s oral tradition.
The churches founded by Paul had all the same beginning, in the synagogues of the cities which he visited. It was a doctrine many centuries old and (to a Jew) admitting of no exception, that the gospel was to be brought to the Gentiles through the chosen people. In every case Paul went first to the Jews in every city, bringing them the news of their Messiah, a gospel based at every point on the Hebrew scriptures. They would have listened to no other. He of course addressed them in their own language, the Aramaic: otherwise he would have had no hearing. Even so, he could be sure of plenty of opposition.
It is strange that modern scholars should have taken it for granted, without adequate proof and in disregard of history, that the Israelites of the Dispersion abandoned their native tongue and their Hebrew scriptures when they left Semitic territory. The record of the Jewish people down to the present day shows plainly the contrary.* They could have preserved neither their Judaism not their solidarity as a community if they had failed to retain their own language and their writing in Hebrew characters; cf. the writing of Yiddish even in modern times. The Jews of Asia Minor formed no exception to the rule. Aramaic was the language they used among themselves in all affairs of life, religious or secular. As to religion, the members of the Jewish branch of each of the Christian churches in this early time felt themselves, as the nearest heirs to the Messianic promises, to be the inner circle, the preferred stock of the new community. They also constituted the great majority. The testimony given by the seven imaginary letters written in Aramaic and addressed to leading Asiatic churches is of very great interest.
It is needless to dwell here on the fact that every chapter in the Apocalypse is both Jewish and Christian.
One fact which has had a great influence in preventing a true understanding of the Book of Revelation, and of the Gospels as well, is the present false conception of the Jewish doctrine of salvation, the place of the gōyim in the Messianic hope. See the documented discussion in the writer’s Our Translated Gospels, pp. xxv-xxix. Charles, I, 189, in introducing his comment on chapter 7, remarks that “owing to the apparently Jewish or Jewish-Christian character of verses 1-8, and the universalistic character of verses 9-17, critics have for the most part decided against the unity of the chapter.” But the Jews’ eschatology had always been universalistic since the prophecy of Second Isaiah, who originated the great conception, declaring it with emphasis (in 48:6f.) to be a new doctrine. On the other hand, the Jews were of course (Matt. 19:28) to play a leading role in the New Age. The division in Revelation at 7:9 corresponds exactly, though in reverse order, to the division in Isa. 49 at verse 14. The parallel is striking and deserves study. The first half ot the chapter in Isaiah had dealt solely with the rescue of the Gentiles; in the latter half the prophet sets forth the glory of the chosen people in the coming day.
The Hebrew prophecies were not to be set aside, least of all by our Apocalyptist. Bousset, on 21:24 (p. 451), objects that this verse is not consistent with the preceding picture of the heavenly Jerusalem. Swete, on 22:2, feels the same difficulty. It is true that the idea of the heavenly city “ist niche rein durchgeführt” [is not cleanly/neatly executed/implemented] (Bousset, p. 454, who accordingly supposes “eine schriftlich fixierte Quelle” [a source that is set forth in writing]). But the Second Isaiah had predicted new heavens and a new earth, and had told very definitely, in several places, what was destined to occur on the latter. No Hebrew prophecy was more precious, and there is no reason why it should have hampered the Apocalyptist in the making of his symbolic pictures. Considerations of strict logical―or chronological―consistency could have little weight with a man of his mental habit in a work of this nature.
The relation to the Gospels, and especially to the Gospel of Matthew, is a matter of great importance. It is treated in sufficient detail in the commentaries, and the conclusions are well known; it is unnecessary here to do more than summarize. The Apocalypse makes distinct allusion to the Gospel; there can be no question of dependence in the other direction.
Swete, who treats the matter on pp. clvi ff., thinks the formula “He who has an ear, let him hear” the most remarkable instance (cf. Matt. 11:15) and names the following parallels as “fairly certain”: 3:3, derived from Matt. 24:43; 3:5, from Matt. 10:32; 13:10, from Matt. 26:52.
Bousset notes these and other parallels to the Gospels (e.g., p. 241) and on p. 225 terms the borrowing from Matthew in Rev. 3:5 “unverkennbar” [“unmistakable” -JR].
Charles, I, lxxxiv, note 6: “The dependence of 3:3, 16:15, on Matt. 24:42, 43, 46, is obvious.” On p. lxvi he says this more emphatically, collects other parallels, and concludes that “our author used Matthew.” Concerning 3:5 he agrees with Swete and Bousset that there is a clear reminiscence of Matt. 10:32.
The bearing of this upon the date of the Gospel is plain. Since Revelation was composed in the year 68 (the evidence being overwhelming) the date of Matthew falls in the middle of the century, the time conjectured in The Four Gospels and Our Translated Gospels and supported in Documents [all books authored by Torrey -JR].
The same commentators discuss also the question of Revelation’s dependence on Luke and John, and all three express the same confidence as in the case of Matthew. Mark, almost completely superseded by Matthew, would hardly be heard from in Revelation. A strong case for dependence on John could probably be made out, now that it is established that both works were written in Aramaic. Evidence from Greek diction of course disappears, for the most part.
The conventional date assigned to the Apocalypse, the reign of Domitian (81-96) has no valid evidence in its favor, as will appear. The late date seemed absolutely necessary because of the accepted date of the Gospels, especially Matthew) which unquestionably belong to an earlier stage of Christian development. In the search for a historical setting of Revelation near the end of the century, an apparent footing was found in a late outcropping of the Nero redivivus excitement, which in its original form plays a prominent part in the book. A pseudo Nero made his appearance in Parthia in or about the year 79 and raised a considerable commotion. Book IV of the Sibylline Oracles, completed at just this time, predicts his invasion of the Romain domain at the head of a great Parthian army; and the prediction inevitably recalls the passage in Rev., chapter 17, where the beast “whose death-stroke was healed” (13:3, 12, 14) leads an army to capture and destroy Rome. The Parthian pretender appeared, however, long after the rise of the redivivus doctrine, which was in the year 68, and there is very good ground for the belief that Sibylline Book IV made direct use of our Apocalypse in the time of Domitian. Revelation has nothing to do with Parthia, but the Sibylline poet easily made the combination. It is important to note that whenever material connected with Rev. was borrowed, the borrowing was done by the pagan writer. See further, below, in the section dealing with the date of the Apocalypse.
One other subject may be touched upon before coming to the language of the book. A very striking feature of the Apocalypse is the amount of lyric verse it contains. In chapter after chapter, and often more than once in a single chapter, the vision pauses for a brief chorus sung by angels or other heavenly beings, by the army of martyrs (15:3), or again by all created things (5:13). These doxologies and little songs of triumph are all in strict metrical form. They are generally not printed as poetry in our texts and translations, and thus the reader loses some of the impression originally created. A large part of the Apocalypse is in rhythmical form after the manner of the O.T. prophecies; to what extent the rhythm is in a definite literary mode, or occasionally becomes truly metrical, it may some day be possible to determine. The lyrical outbursts, however, are not patterned on Hebrew prophecy, but are a new feature. We seem to have here a bit of the early Christian hymnology, that of the Jewish-Christian congregations.
The meters employed in the songs are the same as are used in the Hebrew scriptures, but the language here is Aramaic, not Hebrew. Easily recognized are both the line of 3│3 metric accents and that of 3│2, and the manner of their use has in it nothing new. The lyrical interludes were presumably all composed by the Apocalyptist himself for the places which they occupy. Interesting evidence of his close attention to strophic form will be given in the note on 15:3f., the Song of Moses and the Lamb.”
The language of the “Revelation of John” has offered one of the most perplexing problems of biblical study. Its author is, on the one hand, a master of Greek and a man of learning: on the other hand, one who writes in an idiom which is not Greek but Semitic, and whose work swarms with major offenses against Greek grammar.
As for the mastery of Greek, it seems at the outset to be shown by the vocabulary of the book. See the details given in Swete’s Apocalypse of St John, pp. cxv ff. It is a large vocabulary containing many unusual words, all handled with certainty: employing a great variety of verbs and verbal compounds, all so used as to give the precise shade of meaning desired in each case. As modern commentators agree, the author of the book was a master of Hebrew and made his own translations for that language in his multitudinous allusions to the Old Testament. These translations, without exception, are the work of a scholar who evidently was at least as thoroughly at home in Greek as in Hebrew. They are as accurate, concise, and skillfully fashioned, word on word, as those of any translator. They are very instructive material inviting special study, even after the admirable work of Charles in his great commentary.*
*This work, The Revelation of St. John by R. H. Charles, two thick volumes published by the International Critical Commentary series in the year 1920, is an inexhaustible mine of information on nearly all matters concerning this apocalypse. Frequent reference will be made to it in the following pages.
To all appearance, thus far, the Greek of Revelation is the work of a linguist of skill and erudition; why, then, the astonishing “offenses against grammar”? This peculiarity has been a source of great interest and perplexity since the earliest times. The fact is so familiar that it is hardly necessary to quote from the scholars, ancient and modern, who have been nonplused by this “Greek.” The present state of critical opinion, however, may be illustrated by a few examples.
The explanation of undue haste on the part of the Greek writer has not infrequently been offered. Under pressure of time, or in agitation, it is said, the man not perfectly at home in the language he was writing put down barbarisms which he would afterward have corrected if he had the opportunity to revise his manuscript. Bousset (p. 160) sees gross carelessness―”grobe Nachlässigheit”―in the syntax of 1:13 and 14:14, for example.
Examination shows this theory to be untenable in the face of such “slips” (!) as those in 1:4, 1:15, 14:19, 17:4, 19:20, and 21:9. There is no sort of carelessness that could possibly produce all those unnatural combinations.
Norden, Agnostos Theos, p. 382, has a different explanation. The flouting of Greek grammar was deliberately undertaken in contempt of Hellenism: “sichtlich mehr aus Demonstration gegen alles Hellenische als aus Unfähigkeit, da er dieselben Strukturen, die er gelegentlich barbarisiert, an anderen Stellen regulär braucht.” [visibly more out of demonstration against all things Hellenistic than from inability since the same structures he occasionally butchers he also uses normally in other places -JR]
It is plain, however, that the author was not an enemy of Hellenism, nor of the Greek language. It was his interest in Hellenism and his wish to see the divine message spread abroad in the Greek tongue that led him to undertake the work. What he actually strove against, as will appear, was the foreign idiom which could hide from view the true text, the inspired words, if in any way these could be kept in sight.
A third explanation, in which the great majority of scholars of the present day have felt compelled to take refuge, sees in the barbarisms of the book neither carelessness nor chauvinism, but rather ignorance. This is the view held by Charles in his commentary. He says of the Apocalyptist, after mentioning “the unbridled license of his Greek constructions,” pp. cxliii f.:
… while he writes in Greek, he thinks in Hebrew, and the thought has naturally affected the vehicle of expression. … But this is not all. He never mastered Greek idiomatically―even the Greek of his own period. To him very many of its particles were apparently unknown, and the multitudinous shades of meaning which they expressed in the various combinations into which they entered were never grasped at all, or only in a very inadequate degree.
In view of the facts already stated, this theory seems quite untenable. In regard to the strange Greek constructions Norden, quoted above, truly says that in every case of a barbarism the correct usage appears elsewhere in the book. There is no lack of knowledge of Greek idiom. As for the Greek particles, the manner of their use or absence is like what we see throughout the Greek Bible. Here also there is no proof of ignorance. Charles’ explanation it decidedly less plausible than the others.
There is excellent reason, however, for one conclusion he reaches―expressed in similar words by many before him―namely, that “the linguistic character of the Apocalypse is absolutely unique.” The grammatical monstrosities of the book, in their number and variety and especially in their startling character, stand alone in the history of literature. It is only in the Greek that they are apparent, for it is the form, not the sense, that is affected.
A few of the more striking solecisms are exhibited here in English translation, so that any reader may see their nature.
1:4. “Grace to you, and peace, from he who is and who was and who is to come” (all nom. case).
1:15. “His legs were like burnished brass (neut. gend., dative case) as in a furnace purified (fem. gend., sing. no., gen. case)”
11:3. “My witnesses (nom.) shall prophesy for many days clothed (accus.) in sackcloth.”
14:14. “I saw on the cloud one seated like unto a son-of-man (accus.), having (nom.) upon his head a golden crown.”
14:19. “He harvested the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the winepress (fem.), the great [winepress] (masc.) of the wrath of God.”
17:4. “A golden cup filled with abominations (gen.) and with unclean things (accus.).”
19:20. “The lake of blazing fire (“fire,” neut.; “blazing,” fem.).
20:2. “And he seized the dragon (accus.), the old serpent (nom.), who is the Devil and Satan and bound him.”
21:9. “Seven angels, holding the seven bowls (accus.) filled (gen.) with the seven last plagues.”
22:5. “They have no need of lamplight (gen.) nor of sunlight (accus.).”
This apparent linguistic anarchy has no explanation on the Greek side. It is hardly surprising that to some readers it should have seemed open defiance of grammar, to others a symptom of mental aberration. Nevertheless there is method to it all. The more grotesque these barbarisms, the more certain it is that they are not due to lack of acquaintance with Greek. Each of the rules broken in the passages here cited is faithfully observed in many other places and shown to be perfectly familiar. Thus in the first of the examples, 1:4, immediately after apò ho ōn kai ho ēn kai ho erchómenos [ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος] follows kaì apò tōn heptà pneumátōn [καì ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων]. There is a reason, which can be shown, why the former of the two phrases was not put in the genitive case.
It would be ridiculous to conclude from 20:2 (above), and from 1:5 apὸ Iēsoû khristoû, ho mártus ho pistós [ἀπὸ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ μάρτυς, ὁ πιστός] (“from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness”), that the author of this Greek was imperfectly acquainted with the construction called apposition. The method he followed justified him in choosing the construction illustrated in the two passages; while in such instances (in his view not similar) as 3:12, 13:16, 17:7, 20:8, 21:2, and 21:9 (end), he treated the cases of apposition like any Greek author.
It must not be supposed that any theory of a badly preserved Greek text can help to explain these disturbances. There is too great a degree of uniformity in the solecisms to permit the supposition of mere scribal carelessness. The sins against Greek syntax fall into certain definite classes which are easily recognized. It is certain, and there is general agreement as to the fact, that the Greek text has been well preserved, on the whole. It is quite true that the extant manuscripts and versions show very considerable variation throughout the book, for the impulse to improve the barbarous style must have been strongly felt by both professional scribes and occasional editors. On the other hand, it is plain that the impression of a truly unique composition was very generally recognized from the first.
Where the reading is particularly bizarre, seemingly quite impossible, as in 1:15 (above), there are sure to be variants, raising the question whether we have before us one of the characteristic barbarisms or the result of a copyist’s error. The answer can rarely be doubtful; though the impression of a corrupt text, inevitably produced by these monstrosities, did lead to some careless copying of the Greek and to free conjecture. See, for example, the textual confusion in 11:18, or in 14:14. In general, the Westcott and Hort text appears to be the most reliable.
The foregoing examples will suffice, at the outset, to show why the Greek of the Apocalypse is looked upon as unique. They are only a small part, however, of a great array of linguistic evidence pointing to a definite conclusion. It is to be remarked, moreover, that these barbarisms are “unique” only in degree, not in essential character. They are extreme examples of the same mixture of languages which is constantly present in the Four Gospels and the first half of Acts (to say nothing of the Old Testament). For the truth is that the Book of Revelation was written in a Semitic language, and the Greek translation which alone has been preserved is a remarkably close rendering of the original.
Reason for extraordinary faithfulness on the part of a translator is given in 22:18f.:
I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city.
Here is the warning to any interpreter. The last degree of exactness in reproducing both words and idioms is plainly prescribed, and this is what we see attempted in our curious Greek. In fact, underlying all of the amazing solecisms is seen the wording of the Semitic original. The grammatical monstrosities, recognized in their true nature, testify to the execution of a definite purpose carried through with remarkable consistency. When they are examined, they are found to show grammatical appreciation rather than the lack of it. But it is Aramaic grammar!
(Nevertheless, the ideal of a thoroughly accurate translation was incapable of realization, as we know to our sorrow. No Greek translator of an unpointed Semitic text of the extent of this apocalypse could possibly come through without his considerable sheath of mistranslations. We have no knowledge of any such faultless―or even nearly faultless―achievement.*)
What the Greek translator of Revelation does, in the effort to be exactly faithful, is merely an exaggeration of what is regularly and constantly done in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The translators rendered as they did because of the conception of their task. They were handing down works of high importance, and would assume no unnecessary responsibility. What they―each and all―aimed at was to produce a text which could be understood by the Greek reader and at the same should mirror faithfully every word and phrase of the sacred original. This, the original, was the all-important thing, and the fact was always kept in view. The style of the translation was of no consequence; it was not Greek, nor ever intended to be.
The “Greek” of the Four Gospels was written by four different men, each with his own background, literary habit, and immediate purpose; they are also commonly supposed to have done their work in places rather widely distant from one another. Yet each of the four writes the very same curious mixture, Greek words and omnipresent Semitic style: the phenomenon so familiar in every part of the Septuagint. Characteristically Greek idioms are not to be found, excepting such as have their Semitic equivalents; but the use of Greek words is uniformly perfect in each Gospel, as it is in the Apocalypse. Greek was the native tongue of each of the translators, as would be expected, and in both Old Testament and New Testament their method is essentially the same. Any solecism which in verbal form could represent the original text might be allowed, in spite of Greek usage. Thus Aquila renders Eccles. 12:9, éti* edidaxen gnôsin sùn (!) ánthrōpon, “He still taught the people knowledge.” No barbarism in Revelation is worse than the kairôi in Luke 20:10. It is not Greek, but it reproduces exactly the Aramaic adverbial compound, lizəman, and for that reason it was coined by Luke, who is the most slavishly literal of the Gospel translators. See Our Translated Gospels, p. 77, note.
Here is the comment on John 8:25 on page 323 of The Four Gospels referenced in the footnote above:
Here is the footnote on page 77 of Our Translated Gospels, referenced at the end of the comment above:
From The Four Gospels, pages 272-274:
The following plainly unacceptable readings, due to mistranslation (which often is merely too literal translation), are from the Greek in the Gospels.
Unless they wash their hands with the fist, they eat not. Mk. 7:3.
Very early in the morning, after the sun had risen. Mk. 16:2
Be perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect. Mt 5:48.
There met him a man from the city; for a long time he had worn no clothes, and abode not in any house, but in the tombs. Lk. 8:27.
Every man enters violently into the kingdom of heaven. Lk. 16:16.
Henceforth you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Jn. 1:51.
Hosanna to the son of David. Mt. 21:9.
Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Jn 7:38.
They wished to receive Jesus into the boat (but did not thus receive him?). Jn. 6:21.
It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath began to dawn. Lk. 23:54.
Late on the sabbath, at the dawning of the first day of the week. Mt. 28:1.
If it were not so, would I have told you? etc. Jn. 14:2
What has happened, that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world? Jn. 14:22
I neither know, nor understand, what you are saying. Mk. 14:68.
You have no need that anyone should ask you. Jn. 16:30.
Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Jn. 20:17.
No man, when he has lighted a lamp, puts it in a cellar. Lk. 11:33.
He who came down from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. (Said by the Son of Man himself, to Nicodemus.)
This was he of whom I said, etc., although Jesus was still living. Jn. 1:15.
Salute no man on the way. Lk. 10:4.
His master commended the unfaithful steward, because he acted shrewdly (in continuing to defraud his master to his own advantage). Lk. 16:8.
And I say to you, gain friends by means of money, so that when it is gone they may receive you into heaven. Lk. 16:9.
Of these specimens of mere nonsense, or of incredible utterance, Lk. has the largest number, with Jn. a close second. In point of quality, Mt. comes off best. Other examples, equally striking, could be given. In all these cases the reason for the mistake in translation―usually a very good reason―can be plainly seen.
Each of the four translators has his own habits of rendering, which form an interesting study, but cannot be described here. The native tongue of each of them, as has been said, was Greek. They all were masters of Aramaic; and yet Mk. could be led astray, in 7:3, by the unusual position of an adverb. His translation is evidently somewhat hasty, occasionally rough and disjointed, as though a first draft which was not revised. Greek Mt. is a prince among Biblical translators, and his work is universally admirable. Probably no scholar of his time, holding to the principles then recognized as essential, could have produced a finer result, worthy of its original. Luke, who easily surpassed the others in his collection, arrangement, and scholarly treatment of the available material, is the one whose work is most readily recognized as a translation. His manner of rendering is meticulously faithful, and the result is very often a painfully literal phraseology. He shows remarkable skill and ingenuity in fitting the Greek to the Semitic original. His lack of acquaintance with usage peculiar to Palestinian Hebrew and Aramaic is very striking and instructive. The translator of the Fourth Gospel had the most difficult task. He probably was remote in place from the date of its composition; yet it is not in these circumstances that the main difficulty lay. The close, sometimes obscure, reasoning of its author, who deals not only in theological subtleties but also in verbal conceits, would make trouble for any translator. The Aramaic text, moreover, contained a few slight but troublesome faults. Nevertheless Jn. wrote his Greek with more freedom than Mk. or Lk., and his work is a masterpiece.
In the Journal of Biblical Literature, 48 (1929), 119, Professor Millar Burrows, in a brief article entitled “Mark’s Transitions and the Translation Hypothesis,” makes the acute observation that no one of the principle sections of the Gospel begins with any Greek idiom that could be called elegant, and he adds: “This is not surprising; we knew to begin with that the Gospel was not written by an academic rhetorician.” Have we, in fact, this knowledge? The testimony of “Mark’s” literary style has been misunderstood ever since the subapostolic age, and it has been felt necessary to apologize for the bad Greek. We have good evidence, nevertheless, that its author was a learned man and really a master of the language; and it has now been shown (The Four Gospels, 1933) that his uncouth idiom is the result of literal translation from Aramaic, the language in which the Gospel was composed. Beyond this, we are ignorant. He may or may not have been a zealous rhetorician. His being so would not in the least affect the style of the Gospel; this would be determined only by the conception of his task as a translator.
It is possible to illustrate this fact with an example from our own century. Professor F. C. Burkitt added to his edition of the Old Syriac Gospels (Evangelion da-Mepharesche; Cambridge University Press, 1904) an English version. Text and translation are printed on opposite pages so that facing each Syriac verse is its English rendering, the latter being as literal as possible. The purpose of this was to enable the student who is ignorant of Syriac to know just what it says in each verse. I will give here examples of this translation-English in sufficient number to form a true picture of the method and to include a sufficient variety of the foreign idioms.
Matt. 5:13. If salt lose its savor and become foolish, wherewith shall it be salted?
6:27. Which of you can add unto his stature one cubit, that about clothing you are anxious? (This, to be sure, is mistranslation of the Syriac, though verbally exact.)
8:14. He saw his mother-in-law lying down and a fever holding her.
8:23. He went up into a boat and his disciples were coming after him.
11:26. Yea, my Father, that so was the will before thee.
15:22. A certain woman … was crying out and saith, Have compassion on me.
16:23. Jesus rebuked him, even Simon.
17:19. They drew near and say to him between themselves and him.
19:9. He that leaveth his wife without a word of adultery.
19:12. He that is capable in power to endure, let him endure.
19:19. Be loving to thy neighbor as thyself.
22:19. And they themselves brought near to him a denar.
23:14. Ye eat up the houses of widows in the pretext that ye are lengthening your prayers.
Mark 14:68. I am not acquainted with what thou sayest.
16:8. To no one aught said they, because they had been afraid.
Luke 9:51. He prepared his countenance to go to Jerusalem. Verse 53, “His countenance for Jerusalem was set to go.
13:13. And straightway her stature was stretched out.
15:3. He saith to them himself this similitude.
15:13. He scattered his property on foods which are not fitting.
20:23. And he himself perceived their ill-will.
John 5:35. Ye wished to make your boast for the hour in his light.
7:24. Do not be judging by faces and faces.
8:38. I, that which I have seen by my Father, I do.
9:11. Go, wash they face with a baptism of Shiloah.
10:24. Till when art thou taking up our breath?
14:13. If ye are loving to me, keep my commandments.
Now Professor Burkitt was not a half-trained writer of English, nor was he indifferent to the requirements of grammar and style. He “thought in Syriac,” indeed, in the sense that he reproduced faithfully and skillfully the idioms of the original. The expert scholar can see the Syriac, word by word and phrase by phrase, underlying his version. The verbal form was the important thing: exactly as illustrated in the LXX, the Gospels, and the Apocalypse, translations of scripture believed to have been divinely inspired. The more barbarous the idiom and the more improbable the reading, the easier (of course) to discern exactly the original text that was rendered.
J. H. Moulton, Grammar of New Testament Greek, I, 13, charges Aquila with ignorance; and in characterizing the author of Greek Revelation he says on page 9, using 1:5, ho mártus for illustration, “His grammatical sense is satisfied when the governing work has affected the case of one object.” As far as grammatical sense is concerned, the fact―not mentioned by Moulton―is that the writer’s chief attention throughout this curious “Greek” document was given to Semitic grammar. It is precisely in the degree of such attention that the peculiarity of Revelation’s language consists. But what the translator especially aimed to “satisfy” was his sense of responsibility as the translator of a momentous revelation.
When Hellenist Jews and Gentile Christians came to such books as this, they were not seeking aesthetic satisfaction: what they desired was to learn what they must do to be saved. The translated writings―law, prophets, psalms, gospels―were cherished and revered as pillars of religious faith, not at all as monuments of literature. The devout readers of that day could enjoy good Greek at will, at any time; the rare opportunity, which they could not in any way afford to miss, was that of finding out just what God’s inspired servants had written, or the voice of the Messiah had uttered, and this is what the translator set himself to show them.
If “translation Greek” were not such an unfamiliar thing, the riddle presented by the language of Revelation might have been solved long ago. New Testament scholars have exhibited in their writings a pretty complete lack of acquaintance with this variety of Greek, and consequent misunderstanding of its nature. The outstanding example of this failure is Moulton’s Prolegomena (Grammar, Vol. I), but other examples are plentiful. This is hardly surprising, for until recently the idea that N.T. books might originally have been written in some other language than Greek had scarcely been entertained at all. It was felt that the curious idiom seen in each of the Four Gospels, in a part of Acts, and most noticeable in the Apocalypse must somehow be capable of explanation as a variety of Hellenistic usage. The false hope was cherished that a colloquial dialect having some resemblance to this would be found in the papyri. “Oral tradition” has been ridiculously overworked. Finally, the Graeco-Semitic jargon is in itself not attractive―only when its origin is understood does it become highly interesting; it was easiest simply to record its barbarisms while waiting for some adequate explanation of their presence.
Nevertheless, since it was well know that the foreign admixture in this variety of N.T. Greek was Aramaic or Hebrew; since also the entire argument in the Gospels is addressed to men familiar with the Hebrew scriptures, while the atmosphere of every one of these documents is plainly Palestinian; it might have been expected that specialists in New Testament science would begin to pay close attention to the Greek of the Old Testament with its array of Graeco-Semitc barbarisms. If they had done this they would have discovered the very same language mixture as is illustrated in the N.T. writings above named. In the Conybeare and Stock Selections from the Septuagint (1905), page 21, the editors asserted, in a burst of optimism, that there were “signs that scholars are beginning to realize the importance of the study of the Greek Old Testament in its bearing upon the interpretation of the New.” What these signs can have been is an interesting question.
Below is the note referenced above by Torrey:
Wellhausen, it should be said, was debarred from holding any comprehensive and definite theory of translated gospels by his firmly held view of their late origin. For him, an absolutely fixed point was provided by his identification of the Zachariah of Mt. 23:35f. with the Zachariah who was killed by the Zealots in 67 or 68 A.D. (Jos. Jewish War, iv, 5, 4). This he repeated in many places and insisted upon with some vehemence, not without ridicule of those who hold another view. Luke decidedly later, John later still.
The identification, attractive and proposed long ago, was shown by Whiston (note on the Josephus passage) to be unsound, and was completely refuted by the late G. F. Moore (J.A.O.S., vol. 26, pp. 317-323), whose acquaintance with Jewish literature, and with Jewish Aramaic, was superior to Wellhausen’s.
The Language is Aramaic
The original language of Revelation was Aramaic, not Hebrew. The fact that it was Semitic, not Greek, is convincingly shown by the material collected by Charles in his two volumes. On page after page, from the beginning to the end, he explains the constant succession of barbarisms by referring to the O.T. parallels either in the original or in the LXX version; by retroverting a great many of the troublesome phrases, word by word, into idiomatic Hebrew: and by demonstrating, as others had done, that the O.T . passages of the book are regularly rendered directly and independently from the original text. Semitic idiom in unbroken flow through twenty-two chapters―this is the phenomenon that calls for explanation.
Charles’ own theory has already been set forth in the preceding pages. He thought of the idiom as Hebrew; and he accounted for its Greek dress by supposing that the author of Revelation “thought in Semitic while trying to write in Greek”; the theory to which so many scholars have been driven in the vain attempt to interpret the Four Gospels as Greek compositions.
Regarding the designation of the idiom as Hebrew: it may in the first place be set down as certain that the native tongue of the supposed Semite was Aramaic. Why the tour de force of writing Hebrew in Greek words instead of thinking in his own language? (It is a somewhat similar case when Luke is seen to “think in Hebrew” in the first two chapters of his Gospel, and then to “think in Aramaic” during all the rest of the book.) Again, it is not true that the unquestionably Semitic idiom of the Apocalypse is specifically Hebrew. Charles does not take Aramaic into account; in fact, it is only very rarely that he mentions it in any connection.
Now the idiom of the one language is usually identical with that of the other. What is said in Hebrew can ordinarily be said in the same number of words―often with the very same words―in Aramaic; and this is especially the case where Jewish documents are concerned. No one of the Semitisms which Charles has so ably and convincingly demonstrated can be claimed to give support to his contention as to the particular idiom underlying the Greek. In 2, 473, he gives a list of some fifty or more “Hebraisms.” Not only are these all equally good Aramaisms, but in a few cases the usage is more characteristically Aramaic than Hebrew. On page cl there are mentioned four passages “which presuppose mistranslation [from Hebrew] or a corrupt Hebrew original,” namely 13:3, 11 and 15:5, 6. Since these passages are all discussed in the following pages, it will suffice to mention them here. They will be found to testify to Aramaic rather than to Hebrew. The case of 15:6, where a long-standing problem is correctly solved by Charles, is especially interesting.
As for “thinking in Semitic while writing in Greek”: this too-familiar theory ought to be buried and never resurrected. As the history of literature sufficiently shows, it is a mere delusion―a desperate attempt to explain what otherwise seemed inexplicable, the hypothesis of translation being ruled out. The proceeding supposed would be impossible in any case, and the supposition itself is utterly absurd in the view of (1) the amount and character of the N.T. material concerned, and (2) the light thrown on the matter by O.T. Greek.
During the Persian period (sixth to fourth centuries B.C.) Aramaic had taken possession of nearly all western Asia, making this area largely bilingual. With the coming of Alexander and the Greeks this was changed, but not immediately and not everywhere. In some regions Greek took possession, but in others Aramaic persisted. An interesting record from the Persian period is a bilingual inscription from one of the seven churches which later plays a part in our Apocalypse of John. This is the inscription from Sardis―see Enno Littmann’s report in Lydian Inscriptions, “Publications of the American Society for the Excavation of Sardis,” 6 (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1916), Part 1, ix-85; and C. C. Torrey, “The Bilingual Inscription from Sardis,” ASJL, 34, No. 3 April 1918), 185-98. This inscription in Lydian and some in Aramaic, is dated (line 1) from the tenth year of King Artaxerxes, meaning Artaxerxes I, or 455 B.C. For more than one reason this inscription is of interest. It touches the New Testament in its reference (line 7) to “Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28, 35). It also emphasizes the fact that the seven Greek churches of the Apocalypse of John were in the region which had been Aramaic. This region, of course, included Palestine, where Josephus did his work. Josephus wrote the first draft of his History of the Jewish War in what he termed “the language of our country,” meaning Aramaic, the most natural medium for him to use. At least in this case the old widespread language held firm. The second draft was written in Greek for the benefit of Greeks and Romans.
It is in connection with this use of Aramaic as a literary language that the Dead Sea Scrolls offer some of their most important testimony. Many students of the Scrolls must have made the observation which Miller Burrows makes on page 324 of his authoritative book, The Dead Sea Scrolls:
Ever since Gustaf Dalman’s Worte Jesu (Leipzig, 1898), followed by his Jesus-Jeschua (Leipzig, 1922), and by Arnold Meyer’s Jesu Muttersprache (Freiburg i. B. and Leipzig, 1896), as well as a few later books of the same nature, it was well understood, at least among German scholars, that the language of Jesus and his disciples was Aramaic. What gave Julius Wellhausen his new idea of the part played by translation in the earliest Christian writings, however, was not the work of Dalman and the others, but the publication of the Old Syriac Gospels in 1894. (See article, “Wellhausen’s Approach to the Aramaic Gospels” in the DMG, 101 , 123-37.) Wellhausen was the first to see and proclaim that the first Christian writings were Aramaic. This new doctrine was, indeed, eventually repudiated by him. Nevertheless, the honor of perceiving the truth and of giving it brilliant demonstration belongs to him.
Since Wellhausen it has repeatedly been maintained by the present writer that the Greek Gospels and certain other Christian documents were translations from Aramaic. This theory has been stoutly denied, and a matter of controversy. By a strange turn of fortune the question would seem to have been finally settled in favor of the Aramaic by authoritative word from first-century Palestine.
The source of this unexpected testimony is an official document, a circular letter of instruction or bulletin sent out, presumably from Jerusalem, to the Greek churches with instructions as to the right way―the Christian way―of writing (of course in Greek transliteration) the hallowed names of the sacred books. The library in which it is preserved is that of the Greek Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Our little manuscript, which is almost the only surviving specimen of the once important “Letter of Instruction,” forms a part of the famous Greek codex from which in 1883 Bishop Bryennios published the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. This codex is a veritable repository of ancient and important Christian documents. Our manuscript, occupying only a small space, stands between the Second Epistle of Clement and the Didakhē. The document not only declares the language of the Christian Church to have been Aramaic, but also makes plain why the use of it is insisted on.
What the little manuscript contains is a list of the Hebrew names of the Books of the Old Testament in Greek transcription. The eyes of many noted scholars must have seen it, but until now no one has found anything interesting in it This is due to Bryennios’ faulty cataloguing at this point. He describes the manuscript as containing “names of the Books of the Old Testament in Hebrew and Greek.” He should have included “and Aramaic”―which happens to make a very great difference!
The story is as follows. In the Journal of Theological Studies (New Series), I, Part 2 (October 1950), there appeared on pages 135-54 an article by M. Jean-Paul Audet entitled “A Hebrew-Aramaic List of Books of the Old Testament in Greek Transcription.” This list, of course, is the very one which was mistakenly described by Bryennios. It was reserved here for M. Audet to see the true state of the case and to give the strange document a thorough examination. Even he, however, failed to understand what a treasure he had unearthed! He believed himself to be dealing with Jewish material, and the little catalogue seemed likely again to be lost to sight and soon forgotten.
Lists of transliterated titles were a drug on the market. M. Audet kindly sent me an offprint of the article, but its title did not seem promising. It lay on my desk until December 5, 1951, when I looked into it for the first time. One look was enough to tell the whole story, however. Soon thereafter a letter announcing the discovery was sent to a few noted scholars, mainly German Semitists. The response was practically unanimous. There was no Aramphobia.
Catalogues outwardly resembling this one are well known; the resemblance, however, is merely superficial. The list now before us has several characteristic features which render it unique. This was also M. Audet’s conclusion. The peculiarities are all concerned with the use of the Aramaic language: its amount, the manner of its use and the fact that it was unfamiliar to the readers of the list.
As to the amount of Aramaic, the purpose is obvious to make this an Aramaic list. This is done for the most part superficially, by simply prefixing the Aramaic relative pronoun dʼ (originally dī), the consonant with a helping vowel (normally a, but varied for phonetic reasons), to every one of the regular Hebrew titles with which the particle could properly be used. It is plain that it could not be used with any of the titles of the Pentateuch, nor with Psalms, nor Song of Songs, nor Chronicles. However, there are 27 titles titles in all, and to 18 of these the d is prefixed! Through this simple and wholesale mode of conversion a Hebrew catalogue becomes Aramaic.
Cui bono? And why the preference for the popular dialect in a catalogue of divine writings? Why, moreover, should such a peculiar document as this have been preserved in a collection of early Christian relics?
Again, as to the way in which the Aramaic is substituted or superimposed: there is of necessity the constant impression of a mixture of languages. This is decidedly heightened when, as sometimes happens, a Hebrew word is given an Aramaic plural ending. A clear case seems to be the title of the books of Chronicles. Several other cases are interesting and important, but need not be discussed here.
The most significant circumstance by far in this preferring of the Aramaic language is the fact that the d has to be interpreted. The bulletin takes the opportunity to explain this peculiar Aramaic idiom through the titles of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Job (see the tables in Journal of Theological Studies or the article “The Aramaic Period of the Nascent Christian Church,” ZNW, 44 [1952/53], 205-23), thus: Diiēsoû, “of Joshua” (toû Iēsoû); Dásophtin, “of the Judges” (tôn kritôn); Daroúth, “of Ruth” (tês Rhoúth); Diṓb, “of Job” (toû Iṓb), etc. A Semitic idiom is explained in Greek; and the construction interpreted is purely and characteristically Aramaic.
This gives us valuable information. The list cannot possibly have been intended for Jews, nor for Jewish Christians, nor for Aramaic-speaking Christians. The Greeks for whom it was intended were mainly in Gentile surroundings. They are given, at every point throughout the list, a reference to the corresponding title in the Greek Old Testament. A good example is the slightly abbreviated title of Qoheleth: “Dakoeleth, Ekklēsiastḗs (here the scribe forgot to give the d its due).
The list is of Christian origin, and it is intended for Greek churches; these conclusions result plainly from evidence. Why, then, the strange insistence on the Aramaic language? There is only one possible answer, and that is self-evident: it is because at that time Aramaic was still the language of the Christian Church.
M. Audet discusses the document very ably and acutely. He assigns it to the second half of the first century, for reasons which he gives in detail. “As far as we can judge, the list is Greek and Christian as regards it range of diffusion” (p. 144). “There was a period of time and a milieu where the list was certainly known to a wide circle” (pp. 142 f.). “It must have historic significance, otherwise we cannot explain the wide diffusion which it certainly had originally. Only because the list had for a long time clear meaning and was commonly useful in a certain milieu, has it come down to us” (p. 148).
M. Audet, however, is completely nonplussed by the little document. He has no plausible suggestion to offer as to its origin, or its use. Because of the transliterated names he feels compelled to think of a Jewish origin (p. 150); Aramaic titles, he thinks, could only be the titles of Targums (!).
He remarks, more than once, that this curious list of holy books could not hold its place among the “authentic” lists sure to be in circulation from the late second century onward. He conjectures, acutely, that confusion of this sort is suggested in a certain letter of Melito of Sardis (see pp. 143 f.). He remarks in concluding: “Does not all this suggest that at the time of Onesimus and Melito, in several churches of Asia Minor, lists were in circulation like that of our Jerusalem MS.?”
It certainly does. M. Audet did not know what was fully demonstrated, completely proven, in 1941 and must soon become common knowledge: that the letters to the Seven Churches of Asia were written and published in Aramaic. That was in the year 68.
The conditions implied by our “Hebrew-Aramaic List” are concisely set forth in the present writer’s Documents, pp. xi and xii; compare also pp. 149-56 and 239-42. During the greater part (at least) of the second half of the first century the language of the Christian Church continued to be Aramaic.
The unique little document which now has strangely come to light is worthy of its place in the the manuscript which gave us the Didakhē. It is “a document full of significant information about the state of affairs which gave it birth” (Audet, p. 141). Whoever rescued and preserved it was fully aware that he was preserving a significant relic of a chapter in early church history on which the door had been firmly closed.
As Audet shows at once from the varied evidence, this strange list is by no means a unicum, but must originally have been distributed in many copies over a rather wide territory. One other copy has been known, though not understood, for many years. It is in the works of Epiphanius, the learned bishop of Salamis in Cyprus (fourth century). It was given shelter in his treatise on Weights and Measures (De Mensuribus et Ponderibus Liber. Its origin was unknown, and there was nothing with which it could be compared, so it was merely allowed to stand as a curiosum. Audet’s discovery (that Bryennios’ cataloguing of this document was faulty) changed in a moment the whole situation.
Examination showed at once that the two texts were originally identical, that both had suffered from the usual defects of manuscript transmission, and that the text of the Jerusalem codex was decidedly the better preserved of the two.
It is natural to think of this little document as a letter, but it is not a letter. The two copies which have survived are identical in form. We can only conclude that this was a pattern followed in all that were sent out at that time. Hence, the true designation of the document is a bulletin.
Of special importance as an appraisal of this churchly bulletin, and as a clear and concise account of the circumstances of its discovery, is a letter published by Professor Eissfeldt of the University of Halle in the Theologische Literaturzeitung, 77 (1952), Nr. 4, 249-54. The letter is based on one which I had written in English and which Eissfeldt rendered into German. The letter in the Theol. Litz. contains much more than this, however: the complete text of both forms of the document, with comments; recent literature dealing with this same subject; and a summary of the results.
There appeared in 1941 in Documents, at the top of page xi, the following paragraph:
It is indeed remarkable that less than a decade thereafter there should have been made in one of the libraries of Jerusalem this startling discovery which fully confirmed the testimony given by the Letters to the Seven Churches that the “official” language of the Nazarene Community was Aramaic. The fact that Aramaic is employed for the whole of the Apocalypse, including the Letters sent to the seven Greek churches of Asia, leads naturally to the conclusion that Aramaic was insisted on as the official language of the Christian Church.
We need to know how long this Aramaic period lasted. This subject has been treated at length in the article, “The Aramaic Period . . . ,” cited above, where the dates suggested covered the years 30 to 80.
As for Aramaic as the original language of our Apocalypse, it would be decidedly the medium to expect, both because of its preponderance in the earliest Christian writings and also because it is the greatly preferred language of apocalyptic literature, Jewish or Christian. (See Pfeiffer, History of New Testament Times, pp. 61, 74 ff.)
At least one other student of Revelation aside from the present writer saw clearly that Charles’ demonstration of a Semitic idiom showed that the Greek of our Apocalypse is a translation. Professor R. B. Y. Scott of Princeton, at that time a graduate student at the University of Toronto, chose this subject for his Ph.D. thesis, published by the University of Toronto Press in 1928 under the title, The Original Language of the Apocalypse. It is a pamphlet of 25 pages and undertakes to show that the Greek of Revelation is not merely Hebraic in its idiom, but was actually translated from the original Hebrew in which the book was composed. I quote from Scott’s Introduction:
This is a clear and forcible statement of the case for translation, as against Charles’ hypothesis. And the essay which follows presents, even in its undue brevity, a strong argument against the traditional view that Revelation was composed in Greek. Its plea for Hebrew as the original language does indeed “come short of certainty,” as its author admits. Scott is as unable as Charles had been to point to an idiom which is exclusively Hebrew, or to demonstrate mistranslation from that language. He follows Charles at many points, differing from him rarely, but adds much material of his own and classifies the Semite idioms (8 pages) in a useful way. His work well illustrates the true nature of the difficult problem.
A feature of his argument which at first sight seems important concerns the Greek tenses that have been the despair of commentators. Charles had attempted to explain some of these as literal rendering of Hebrew “consecutive” tenses, and Scott carries the attempt considerably further. This hypothesis had formerly appealed as probable to the present writer, who chiefly for this reason had long held the opinion, based on insufficient examination, that the original language of Revelation was Hebrew, while waiting an opportunity to test the evidence more carefully. The hypothesis breaks down at important points when it is thoroughly examined, and the true explanation of the strange tenses is to be found elsewhere. Regular Aramaic usage on the one hand and the changing mental attitude of the Apocalyptist on the other―as the visions are seen now as completed, now as in the future―account for the Greek tenses, as will be shown presently.
If the hypothesis of an Aramaic original of Revelation had been seriously considered and carefully tested by Scott, Charles, Wellhausen, or any other of the Semitists who have concerned themselves with the interpretation of this apocalypse, certain features pointing clearly to that language must at once have been recognized. Aramaic is a language remarkably easy of recognition. There is a notoriously troublesome pronoun, dī (abbreviated d’), which appears constantly in Aramaic writings in a variety of meanings. It is a particle signifying appurtenance, regularly used where Hebrew or another Semitic language would employ the “construct state”; it is the Aramaic relative pronoun. More important is its very frequent idiomatic use as a conjunction. It is so widely used and so often ambiguous that it is a frequent source of mistranslation. Wherever dī appears―and it is the characteristic feature of Aramaic writing―the nature of the language is shown with certainty.* This will be dealt with in detail in the Critical Notes.
No indication of Greek translation from Aramaic is surer or more certain to occur frequently than the false rendering of the particle dī, especially when it is the relative pronoun. The examples of such mistranslation in the Four Gospels are numerous and important. As typical specimens may be mentioned Matt. 8:9, 27; Mark 4:12; 10:6; 14:68; Luke 7:47; John 1:8, 16; 5:37; 12:41. As a rule the Greek translator makes dī a conjunction (unless the context very plainly forbids) when it is followed by a verb. If the verb is perfect tense, he will render the particle by hóti; if imperfect tense, by hina. The translator of the Apocalypse is very sparing of Greek particles and monotonous in his use of Greek equivalents of Semitic words.
Scott, p. 23, points out one of these mistranslations. The passage is Rev. 13:4, and he notes that hóti is a false rendering of the relative pronoun. “They worshipped the dragon, who gave his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying,” etc. (“because he gave his authority” is nonsense). Scott thinks of the Hebrew word, but this is not plausible. The greatly prevailing use of ʾᵃšer is as the relative pronoun, and no translator would have rendered it otherwise in this passage. The case of Aramaic dī, is quite different, for its use as the relative pronoun is comparatively infrequent, while it is constantly used as a conjunction in a variety of significations. The conclusion, awaiting further support, seems plain: there is mistranslation here, and Aramaic is indicated.
There are numerous other examples of the falsely rendered particle, some of them even more striking than the preceding, and the most conspicuous instances are collected in the notes on the Greek text, below. See the notes on 13:4; 18:19; and 18:23. One or two specimens may be presented here briefly.
In 18:23 the utter destruction of “Babylon,” the great city is foretold. “The light of a lamp shall shine no more at all in thee, . . . because thy merchants were the princes of the earth.” Charles sees that this is nonsense, and characteristically rearranges the text. But the true rendering is, “whose merchants were the princes.”
In 19:2 the true rendering is: “Salvation and glory and might belong to our God, whose judgments are true and righteous; who has judged the great harlot,” etc. Scott, p. 24, sees that the second hoti is a mistake for the relative pronoun; but is not this equally evident in the case of the first hoti? Several other passages of this nature make the same mistake; thus in 16:5 the Greek reads: “Righteous art thou . . . because (!) thou hast given this judgment.”
An example of the relative pronoun dī followed by the imperfect tense and therefore falsely rendered by hina is in 19:15: “From his mouth proceeds a sharp sword, with which he is to smite the nations” (referring to Isa. 11:4 and 49:2). John 16:2 is a fine example of the same error.
When the idiom of Revelation is recognized as Semitic, and its Greek as a translation, these cases of the mistranslated relative pronoun are sufficient in themselves to decide the question in favor of Aramaic as the original language. Numerous other slight indications point, at the outset, to the same conclusion. Among these are the following: (1) The very noticeable and frequent use of the indicative third person plural of the verb in place of the passive voice. Thus in 10:11, “It was said to me”; Greek kaì légousin moi. Charles comments: “The plural légousin is difficult,” and he notes that the idiom is usual in Aramaic. A perfect parallel is Dan. 4:22 (English version, verse 25): “They (who?) shall wet you with the dew of heaven.” Note especially 12:6 tréphōsin and 13:16, dôsin. The numerous other examples need not be listed here.
(2) The constant use of ékhō denoting simple possession or appurtenance. Thus 2:3, “you have patience,” hupomonḕn ékheis; so also verses 6, 7 (the phrase borrowed from the Gospels), 10, 14 f., 18, “He who has (ho ékhōn) eyes like a flame of fire”; 25, “That which you have, hold fast till I come”; 3:1, “You have the reputation of living, but are dead,” etc., etc. Similarly throughout the book, in dozens of examples. This (the fact of translation being granted) is obvious rendering of the Aramaic idiom ʾṯay leh, “he has” (“there is to him”), etc., so frequently used in the later stage of the language. The Syriac version employs it to render ékhō in all these passages and in the similar cases in the Gospels, such as Matt. 3:9; Mark 4:17; Luke 12:50; John 5:36; etc., etc. This is not Hebrew. The use of yeš had no such development. In Hebrew the idea is expressed by simple use of prepositions, and ékhō would not be used in translating. In rendering Aramaic, this verb is the standing equivalent of the idiom.
(3) Evidence of very frequent and characteristic use of the Aramaic participle. The cases of literal rendering by the Greek participle are numerous, and of minor importance, such as 1:16 ekporeuoménē; 3:2 gínou grégorôn; 4:5 kaiómenai; 10:8 laloûsan kai légousan (mistranslation, see note), etc. Where the Greek employs the present tense, including the historical present, as, e.g., in 5:9, it can generally be taken for granted that the Aramaic participle is rendered. This certainly is true in many cases where the Greek has (or should have) the future, especially when denoting the near future; usage very common in Aramaic, but rare in Hebrew. Both Charles (I, “Grammar of the Apocalypse,” § 4. ii (b), ix) and Scott (pp. 9 and 13) take note of the Aramaic use of the participle in place of a finite verb. An example of the passive voice is 7:4.
In the Aramaic simple (pəcl) stem of the verb the participle may have―in unpointed text―the same form as that of the perfect tense, and serious errors sometimes result in the Greek translation. The Fourth Gospel happens to contain several cases of the kind, as I have pointed out elsewhere: in 10:8; 14:17, 19; and 17:14 the Greek has a past tense where the present or future should have been used; and in 13:1 the translator saw a participle (because of verse 3!) where the original text had the past tense. In the Apocalypse, when the fact of translation is recognized, there is little trouble from the participles, Greek or Aramaic. It seems probable that in 15:1 the tense of the (translated) verb eteléthē is the result of the error just described, the original text having had the participle denoting the future. The same form of the same verb in 10:7 would also receive this explanation if kaí were pronounced secondary (as it may well be); taking the text as it is, another explanation is more probable. See the notes on both passages.
(4) The frequent employment of méllein rendering caṯīd, “destined, prepared, about to,” etc. This is very common in all branches of Aramaic, rare in Hebrew. The frequency of its use in Rev. is an important indication.
(5) The constant use of ek and apó in ways which illustrate the fact that the idiomatic use of min is considerably wider in Aramaic than in Hebrew. Thus, the use of min as a substantive: very common in Aramaic, comparatively rare in Hebrew. Examples in Rev. are 2:10; 11:9;* cf. Matt. 23:34; Luke 11:49; John 1:24; 7:40; 16:17. Also min denoting the agent: Rev. 2:9; 3:18; 8:11; 9:18; 12:6; cf. Matt. 11:19; 16:21; Luke 6:18, etc. Another characteristic use of this preposition is seen in Rev. 8:13; 16:11, 21. It is also Hebrew, but less usual there than in Aramaic.
(6) Occasional words, as: 4:2, “a throne was set,” ékeito. This is certainly Aramaic rəmeʾ; cf. Dan. 7:9, observing that neither in LXX nor in Theodotion is the Greek verb used.
The words hēmiōron, 8:1, and mían hṓran, 17:2, show the Aramaic noun šↄcↄ [imagine a horizontal bar over the final letter; Torrey’s transliterations of Aramaic words are exhausting my ability to accurately transcribe them!]; cf. the occurrences of the word in Daniel.
2:3. ebástasas, without an object indicates Aramaic ṯəсen, which is regularly used in just this way as well as transitively.
18:21. The infinitive absolute hormḗmati blēthḗsetai is a phrase which has made much trouble. It is not clear what the noun could mean in this context, see Charles, 2, 107 f. and Scott, p. 24. It is an example of verbal rendering in the manner which Aquila had made familiar. An angel threw a great stone into the sea and said, “Thus Babylon shall (surely) be thrown,” mirәmeʾ ṯiṯәrәʾ. The translator felt bound (see 22:18) to render the infinitive in some way and took his cue from the sound of the word. (Aquila does exactly this.) The word hórmēma, in both form and meaning, could serve very well as a verbal noun belonging to rəmɔʾ. It is an important example of the procedure of Revelation’s translator.
2:14. hòs edídasken tôi balák. This is not properly a dative, but the translator’s meticulous rendering of the lə– which in Aramaic is constantly used to introduce the direct object. Cf. the somewhat similar and very troublesome rendering of the same preposition in 8:3 discussed in the notes to the text, below.
9:12 and 11:14, hē ouaí. The gender, hitherto unexplained, is simply the Aramaic neuter, which is regularly expressed by the feminine. There are other examples in Revelation; see especially the note on 1:15 (!).
11:15. egéneto hē basieía toû kósmou toû kuríou hēmôn kaì toû khristoû autoû. The construction with the genitive, toû kuríou, etc., shows plainly that the text rendered was Aramaic [transliteration by Torrey approximated as closely as possible below by JR]:
dī mͻrəʾanɔʾ wʾdī məšīḥeh
wəyimǝlok lǝcɔləmey cləmayyɔʾ
No Hebrew text rendered in the manner of our translation could possibly have produced this Greek, but the Aramaic is exactly translated. The same construction is to be seen in 19:1.
The curious phrase hómoion huiòn anthrṓpon, occurring in 1:13 and 14:14 (see the note on the former passage), contains a Messianic title, as all agree. But this is only Aramaic; there was no Messianic title bεn ʾͻdͻm in Hebrew. The Greek renders kəḇar ʾεnͻš, Dan. 7:13, and this indicates an Aramaic context.
There are in Revelation several other verbal reminiscences of the Aramaic of Daniel; not quotations, but just words and phrases as an apocalyptist writing in Aramaic would be likely to have in mind and to repeat. One of these, ékeito, 4:2, has already been mentioned. Another is metà tôn nephelôn, 1:7, where the preposition renders the cim of Dan 7:13; LXX has epí, and Theodotion’s version was made many years later than Revelation. Other examples are as follows.
4:1. “I will show you the things which shall come to pass hereafter,” Dan. 2:29; using deixō where LXX has edḗlōse. The same phrase, “that which shall come to pass hereafter,” is differently rendered in 1:19 (in 4:1 f. the Westcott and Hort text has a false punctuation), showing that the words held in memory were Aramaic, not Greek.
5:11. The words repeated from Dan. 7:10 have here a form different from that found in the old Greek version.
11:7. The beast came up “out of the great deep,” ek tês abússou, while the LXX, Dan. 7:3, gives only ek tês thalásēs. The author of the Apocalypse, both here and in 17:8, remembered the yammɔʾ rabɔʾ of the preceding verse, 7:2
13:7. poiêsai pólemon metà (cim) tôn hagíōn follows Dan. 7:21 in its wording; the old Greek has pròs toùs hagíous.
20:11. tópos oukh heuréthē autoîs is derived, an exact translation, from Dan. 2:35. The old Greek version reads: hṓste mēdèn kataleiphthênai ex autôn.
The evidence thus far presented, though only a part of the whole, tells a plain story. It is not merely the case that exclusively Hebrew idioms are not found; the Hebrew language is definitely ruled out. Further evidence to the same effect will now be given in a brief section dealing with the most familiar of Revelation’s solecisms. And finally, the mistranslations collected in the sequel, in the notes on the Greek text, will be seen to put beyond any possible doubt the fundamental facts regarding this Apocalypse: first, that the Greek is a translation; and second, that the original language was Aramaic. The mistranslations pointing clearly to Aramaic are (aside from those already mentioned): 1:9, probably; 1:15; 5:5 and 15:2; 8:12; 1:8; 13:11; 14:8, 19; 15:1 ff.; 16:19; 18:19; 19:17; 22:5, 6. Others to be especially noted, in which the mistranslated word might equally be Hebrew, are: 11:1; 16:10; and 19:16 (!).
A “Faithful” Translator
It was remarked above that the special peculiarity of the Greek of Revelation is its close conformation to the Semitic original. The translator not only follows the order of words and reproduces idioms (these things are matters of course also in the Gospels and “I Acts,” as also in the LXX), but he even imitates Semitic grammar in total disregard of Greek grammar. This is a degree of faithfulness not elsewhere reached.
The sacred document, containing the very words of instruction, warning, and promise uttered by the Messiah himself in the language of his earthly life, was the thing of supreme importance. It would always be available (no one could doubt) in its original form, and to it appeal could be made if any question should arise. Whoever should venture to translate it had the duty of keeping it entire and of reproducing, or of indicating its exact verbal form as far as possible. Some examples of a loyalty to the Semitic which involves complete betrayal of the Greek are given in the notes on the text, below. Others, truly typical, will be mentioned presently.
The offenses against Greek grammar in the Book of Revelation are all justifiable from the translator’s point of view, resulting as they do from his undertaking to be verbally faithful to the Aramaic original. The most noticeable concern case and gender of substances, and (incidentally) the structure of the Aramaic sentence. Examples of a perplexing change of gender are: 1:15 pepuroménēs; 11:4 hestôtes; 13:15 autêi; 14:19 tòn mégan; 17:4 gémōn, 19:20 tês kaioménēs; 22:2 poiôn. In every instance, as will be shown, these mirror the Aramaic exactly―so exactly as to spoil the Greek. Examples of the feminine gender used as neuter, in imitation of the regular Aramaic usage, are mentioned below. (Cf. the examples in Luke, 11:33 eis krúptēn, and 14:18 apò miâs.
Strange nominatives, accusatives, and other cases appear frequently. Here also the explanation is given in every instance by Aramaic syntax. The most striking examples, perhaps, are the following: 1:4 apò ho ṓn, etc.; 1:13 (and 14:14) hómoion huiòn anthrṓpou; 8:4 taîs proseukhaîs; 17:4 kaì tà akátharta; 20:2 ho óphis; 22:5 kaì phôs. These and other examples will be treated separately. The list of those which receive mention here is not exhaustive, but every instance is provided for by the fact of translation.
It is to be noted that where Greek grammar is ignored, the eye of the translator being on the gender, cases, or other syntactical features of his Aramaic original, it never results that the sense of the passage is altered or obscured. The irregularity simply means: See the original text! The shadow of the warning in 22:18 f. is over the entire Greek version, and the desire to give a quid pro quo at every point is unmistakable. Where the rendering cannot be completely verbal, compensation is provided by a device serving to indicate that a slight omission has been made.
The identification of the thing omitted is particularly interesting, for it is found to be always the same thing, namely the relative pronoun dī. It is actually a demonstrative; hence so often including―as we should say―both antecedent and relative. This pronoun, very widely and variously employed, frequently occurs in idioms in which its value as a substantive is not lost, while the Greek rendering, to be at all satisfactory as Greek, must leave it untranslated. Even in the Aramaic itself the original force of the pronoun is often obscured. Kautzsch, Gramm. des Biblisch-Aramäischen, p. 168, note, remarks: “Wie weit sich ein nominaler Charakter des dī bei Lebzeiten der Sprache im Sprachbewusstsein festsetzte, muss dahingestellt bleiben.” See however Brockelmann, Vergl. Gramm. der sem. Sprachen, 2, 568 f. Our Apocalypse affords striking evidence that its Greek translator felt compelled to recognize the presence of this word in all the cases in which it is distinctly a pronoun introducing a clause. His version accordingly compensates for the loss of the word by a change in the Greek case, this indicating the construction of the original text, where no other reason appears for any such change of case in the Greek. It is interesting to see how recognition of this one fact explains―perfectly―the majority of the solecisms in Revelation.
Before illustrating these changes of case, along with some further influence of the pronoun dī, an example or two of false (Aramaic) gender in the translation may be given.
A typical instance is 19:20, mentioned above in the brief list of remarkable sins against Greek grammar. The phrase “into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” has this surprising form: eis tēn limnēn toû puròs tês kaiménēs (not toû kaioménou) en theîōi. This renders Aramaic ləyammɔʾ ḏī nūrͻʾ dī yͻqdͻʾ ḇəḡūpəriṯͻʾ, in which “lake” is masculine and “fire” feminine. “Burning” is here not a simple attributive adjective, but a participle introduced by the pronoun dī (here duly rendered by the Greek definite article). This is a new clause and the gender is feminine, and it is so rendered with perfect freedom. This is the atmosphere of the entire translation.
Another example, also typical, is 5:8: “having golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints”, ékhontes . . . phiálas khrusâs gemoúsas thumiamátōn, haí (not há) eisin hai proseukhaì tōn hagiōn. The Aramaic was dī ʾinnīn ṣaləwɔt qaddīšayyɔʾ, and the relative pronoun was accordingly translated as feminine. For the syntax compare, e.g., Targ. Prov. 16:25.
Whatever difficulty is caused by the phrase éteken huiòn ársen is 12:5 is not to be charged to our translator. The neuter is traditional, coming straight from Isa. 66:7 LXX, that most eloquent prediction of the birth of the Messiah (see my comment in The Second Isaiah, pp. 471 f.). The Aramaic text in Revelation presumably had bar dəḵar, as in Targ. Jer. 20:15.
See, further, the cases of irregular gender mentioned in the note on 17:4.
To return to the dī clauses. A very simple case is 1:4: “from the seven spirits which (are) before his throne”; apò tôn heptà pneumátōn hà (not tôn) enṓpion toû thrónou autoû. Here the dī is simply translated.
3:12. “The name of . . . the new Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven,” tò ónoma . . . tês kainês Ierousalḗm, hē katabaínousa (not tés katabainoúsēs) ek toû ouranoû. The entrance of the dī clause is duly indicated by the change of case. Cf. the similar examples 8:9; 14:7; 22:2 (see the note on the Greek text), et al.
5:11 f. Kaì ékousa phōnḕn angélōn pollôn . . . , légontes (dī ʾɔmərīn).* With the change of case here contrast verse 13, ékousa légontas, and the many similar passages in which the participle does not stand at the beginning of a clause, such as 6:6; 8:13; 10:4; etc.
Like the last-named passages are 1:1 and 4:1, and it is thus evident that the surprising genitives legoúsēs (ʾɔmer) and laloúsēs (məmallel) are characteristic specimens of mistranslated Greek, the participle in each case simply referred to sálpingos, the word which it immediately follows. Cf. the very similar mistranslations in 21:9 (see the note on the passage) and 19:6. In 4:1 légōn is either ləmēmar or else referred to qɔl, “voice,” which is masculine.
2.20. apheís tḕn gunaîka, hē légousa (not tḕn légousan) heautḕn prophêtin, Aramaic ʾšɔḇeq ʾanətə ʾitəṯɔʾ ʾĭzεḇεl dī ʾɔmrɔʾ lah nəḇīɔ [imagine a horizontal bar over the final letter -JR] (here the translator could have written hḕ légei, thus rendering the dī, but he naturally clung to the participle. The dī is properly nominative case, the subject of the new clause. The translator is exactly right with his (Semitic) grammar. So regularly in other similar passages, e.g., 3:12; 8:9; 9:14; 14:12; 21:12. An example of this quite unnecessary literalness happens to occur in Mark 12:40, hoi katésthontes (not tôn katesthóntōn); while Luke 20:47, rendering the same words, dī ʾͻkhlīn, translates (also exactly) hoi katesthíousin.
Equally true to the Aramaic construction (but false to the Greek) is the nominative ékhônn ékhousa in 14:14; 17:3; and 21:12, 14. In all these passages the original text had dī ʾiṯay leh, and the translator had the same justification as in the preceding cases.
The word ʾiṯay, equivalent to the simply copula, has no separate rendering in such cases. It is not a verb, but properly a substantive, “[i]existence, existing,” Hebrew yeš. The dī may then be rendered in Greek either by the article or by the relative pronoun. A capital example of close and ingenious rendering is in the Parable of the Sower: hò mèn (ʾiṯay dī) épesem parà tḕn hodón, “some fell by the wayside.)
The most familiar of these Greek imitations of Aramaic grammar is the curious phrase in 1:4: apò ho ṑn kaì ho ên kaì ho erkhómenos (Greek), min dī ʾiṯōhī wəḏī hawɔʾ wəḏī ʾɔṯeʾ (Aramaic), “from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.” This is perfect Aramaic and as “faithful” a translation as could be made. The same phrase in slightly varied form appears again in 4:8, in one of the bits of metric verse which are scattered so plentifully throughout the book:
YHWH ʾɛlɔhɔʾ ʾaḥīd kol
dī hawɔ[+ horizontal bar on top] wəḏī ʾiṯohī wəḏī ʾɔṯeʾ
There are several ways in which the protean dī can make its presence felt in the Greek of such a translation as this. The formula introducing the letter to the churches is an example. 2:1, Tôi angélōi tôi (not tês!) en Ephésōi ekklēsías (Greek), lǝmalǝʾаḵͻʾ dī ᴄedͻṯͻʾ dī ḇǝʾεp[imagine a horizontal bar over the p]esos (Aramaic) “To the angel, the one of the church in Ephesus.” The translator will not fail to give to the pronoun referring to the “angel” its full value! In several occurrences of this formula the best manuscript evidence shows tês in place of the anomalous tôi. The note on Suspected Readings in the Westcott and Hort edition, on 2:12; 3:1, 7, 14 says: “tôi angélōi tês” a primitive error for tôi angélōi tôi (as 2:1, 8, 18),” No one who understands this translator’s method and observes the uniformity with which he repeats his renderings will likely doubt this.
In the five-times repeated phrase, “I know thy works,” why does the Greek read tà érga sou in its first occurrence, 2:2, but sou tà érga in the following occurrences: 2:19; 3:1, 8, 15? Probably because the former rendered the simple сαḇīdɔṯɔk, while in the latter the slightly more emphatic сαḇīdɔṯɔʾ ḏī lɔk was employed (in 2:19, where both forms occur, the difference in emphasis on the sou is easily seen).
The awkward hóti légeis hóti in 3:17 certainly renders Aramaic dī ʾɔmar ʾanətə dī. This is good Aramaic style. The second dī is the conjunction introducing the quotation. It is used in the same way in 6:11, but there is rendered by hina since the verb which follows is in the imperfect (future) tense; see above.
In the same way that dī and dī hūʾ introduce a new construction, as illustrated above, so the Aramaic pronoun hūʾ in its epexegetical use begins a clause of its own and calls for the nominative case. Thus in 1:5, where the original text was ūmin yešūca məšiḥɔʾ hūʾ śɔhαḏɔʾ məhēməmənɔʾ, the Greek translator with his meticulous concern for literal accuracy could only render kaì apò Iēsoû Khristoû, ho mártus ho pistós. So also in 2:13. Another instance exactly similar is to be seen in 20:2: kaì ekrátesen tôn drákonta, ho óphis ho arkhaîos, rendering the Aramaic waʾαḥaḏ ləṯannīnɔʾ hūʾ ḥiwəyɔʾ qaḏəmɔyɔʾ, (It seems probable that the clause hós estin diábolos kaì ho satanâs is an addition in the Greek; and so also the corresponding clause, ho kaloúmenos diábolos kaì ho satanâs in 12:9.)
It was remarked above that in some cases where the tenses employed in the Greek have seemed unsuitable the conjecture has been made that Hebrew tenses (imperfect consecutive, perfect consecutive, or predictive) have been too literally imitated. To Scott this would mean simple mistranslation; to Charles, the result of thinking in classical Hebrew. Scott lists on page 11, no. 17, a number of supposed examples of the Hebrew perfect consecutive too literally rendered. They are the following:
3:20. eán tis akoúsēi . . . kaì eiseleúomai, “If any man hear . . . I will enter.” But the “and” is more characteristic of Aramaic (and especially of the early Christian Aramaic) than of Hebrew. ….
14:10. A precisely similar case. eí tis proskuneî . . . kaì autòs píetai.
16:6. The English version (both A. V. and R. V.) is right; the better rendering of this hóti is “for,” “because.” Both Charles and Scott render (as I think) incorrectly.
6:12. “(And) there was a great earthquake.” See the note on 3:20, above.
10:7. For a discussion of this difficult passage I may refer to my note on the Greek text below.
A passage which has led many Semitist students of Revelation to think of Hebrew influence is 20:9, 10a; presenting as it does five unexpected aorists in a framework of future tenses. Must not the whole passage have been conceived in the form of prediction? Charles (I, cxxiii; 2, 414 note, 442 note) regards these past tenses, and similarly those in 11:11-13, as Hebrew reproduced as Greek: “Hebrew [predicative] perfects (or in some cases probably the imperfects with vav conversive).” Scott, p. 13, includes these passages, along with many others, under the heading: Incorrect rendering of Verbal Tenses. Still others have thought of a series of consecutive perfects (to be rendered as future), since each of the four verbs in 20:9 is preceded by “and.” The Greek translator would then have made a strange blunder.*
The hypothesis of mistranslation in 20:7-10 is untenable, however, The first verb is a future, luthḗsetai, and kaì exeleúsetai (verse 8) does not represent a consecutive tense. The supposition of four literally rendered tenses (future) in verse 9 is enticing, but in verse 10 the verb eblḗthē upsets the scheme, unless the order of words is arbitrarily changed (kaì eblḗthē ho diábolos, etc.). The last clause of the verse resumes the Greek future.
The momentarily entering past tenses are characteristic of the Apocalyptist’s mental attitude in the atmosphere of excitement and of easily shifting conceptions. From prediction he turns back to the fundamental conception, that of the vision. The tenses in 20:9, 10a are the same as those of verses 1-5 and 11-15. The writer sees the overthrow of God and Magog―a favorite picture―and of the devil who led them astray. (Since he could not see them tormented “for ever and ever” it was natural to employ the future verb at the end of verse 10.) It is a very close parallel to the scene just depicted in 19:19-21, and this fact alone would suffice to account for the sudden employment of the past tenses. In 11:11-13, likewise, there is an effective return to the actual vision, and 18:17-20 is still another vivid portrayal of a scene. In short, there is in Revelation no trace of Hebrew usage in the tenses employed. Whatever evidence there is of falsely or too literally rendered verbs points to Aramaic rather than Hebrew.
In all these matters the Greek translator of the Apocalypse renders, in his provokingly individual way, what he sees before him. It is important to repeat that the solecisms of the book, so far from showing ignorance or disregard of grammar, show anxious attention to it. The grammar which had the right of way (where there could be no misunderstanding of the meaning of the text) was, in the view of this interpreter, that of the idiom of the sacred original. The fact is this: The man had a profound knowledge of both Greek and Aramaic; but, because of his reverence for every word of inspired scripture, shows in his version, wherever ingenuity makes it possible, details of the original text which cannot legitimately be shown in Greek. Also, like the Greek translators of the O.T. scriptures, of the Four Gospels, and of the first half of Acts, he translates words as they come, without close attention to either the preceding or the following context.
It was just now said that the man who translated the Apocalypse into Greek regarded it as “inspired scripture.” The claim is made expressly by the book itself. It is prophecy, the continuation of the Hebrew-Jewish oracles; written by a prophet, in the language of the new revelation, of the Messianic scriptures. See the notes, below, on 19:10 and 22:6-9.
The chief grounds for determining the date of composition of this Apocalypse are plain and very definite historical allusions, similar to those which give the basis for dating the prophecy of Daniel. In each case the author depicts in unmistakable terms a period of history which is brought down to his own day. Daniel deals with the Seleucid kings; the Apocalypse with the Roman emperors. Each writer, in a time of tribulation, sees the turning point―the day of deliverance―near at hand; ventures a prediction as to events which have not yet taken place; and foresees an interval of great distress which must elapse before the final triumph. Daniel guesses at the fate of Antiochus Epiphanes; and as he guesses wrong, we know that his book was written before that monarch’s career was ended. The author of Revelation identifies the Roman emperor in whose reign he wrote, and guesses, wrongly, as the the immediate sequel to that reign.
On the information thus provided, the prophecy of Daniel is confidently dated in the year 165 B.C. With the same degree of confidence, the Apocalypse may be assigned to A.D. 68.
The historical situation (not always correctly understood) is this: There had been a frightful persecution of Christians in Rome, under Nero (6:9-11; 17:6; 19:2), and the Christians in the province of Asia saw immediately before them a like testing of their own fortitude. They were to be summoned (they believed) to renounce their faith and adopt pagan worship, on pain of death (13:15). The persecution with which they were threatened would follow as the result of resistance to the imperial cult.
Several of the early Roman emperors, not satisfied with the bare ascription of divinity, required of their subjects formal worship, either as a means of unifying the empire or with some special object in view. Caligula had his clash with the Jews, when he would have his statue erected on the alter in the temple at Jerusalem; Domitian permitted and encouraged persecution of Christians on the charge―among others―of atheism (énklēma atheótētos); the similar proceedings in the time of Trajan are especially familiar. These attacks on the Christians were very slight, however, compared to those of a later day, especially under Decius and Diocletian, when on the one hand the Church had grown strong, and on the other hand the persecution was more fully organized.
In Revelation the Christians are about to be called upon to offer worship to a certain Roman emperor who is consistently named “the Beast.” He holds a very conspicuous place in the later chapters of the book, as the arch enemy of the Christians. We are so fortunate as to know which emperor is meant; we have his number. Revelation 13:18, “He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.” The key to the cipher was at last found, with certainty, when it was understood that the letters of the name are Semitic, not Greek. It is now the accepted conclusion that the beast is the emperor Nero, for the numbers represented by the Aramaic letters NRWN QSR, Nero Caesar, make up exactly the required sum.*
Equally definite information, of another sort, is provided in the all-important verse 17:10. The conducting angel has explained to John the mystery of the Monster with the seven heads and seven horns. The heads have a twofold symbolism: in the one interpretation, they are the seven hills of Rome; in the other, they are “the” seven Roman emperors.* Verse 10 specifies: “The five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a little while.“
This certainty seems to provide, as exactly as could be expected of an apocalypse, information as to the time―the precise reign―in which the book was composed. “The one is” means, if the plain word of the angel is accepted, that this revelation was given to the seer in the time of the sixth emperor. The prediction relating to the seventh, the one who “has not yet come” (!), is a riddle calling for interpretation; but this must wait until more ground has been gained. First of all it is essential to ascertain where, in the series of imperial heads, we are to locate him whose number is 666.
Some ancient authors, oriental as well as occidental, began their list of Roman emperors with Julius Caesar instead of Augustus. In such a list Nero would be the sixth “head,” the one in whose day the book was written. Fortunately, there is conclusive evidence that the series in Revelation began with Augustus and that, accordingly, the Beast was the fifth in the series. The Apocalypse makes express and repeated use of the superstition of Nero redivivus, as is now well recognized.
Upon Nero’s death, which occurred early June of the year 68, Servius Galba, a man of high rank and great wealth who had served with distinction as administrator of important provinces, was hailed as emperor and took the throne. There were many, however, especially outside Italy, who could not believe that they had seen the last of Nero when his death was reported. He had made an immense impression upon the common people. If they had lived in dread of his doings and at last had learned to speak of him with execration, yet he had never ceased to fill them with awe. No other emperor had made so deep a personal impression, not only in Rome but throughout the Roman world. More than this, he was the last of the legitimate line, whose members had been revered and obeyed for nearly three generations. Had the rule of the divinely appointed house really come to an end? The alleged death took place outside the city, in a private villa, when the emperor was fleeing for his life. Was there not trickery in the published reports of the suicide or assassination? May not the body that was cremated have been that of a substitute, while Nero himself was hidden away?
The rumor―very natural under the circumstances―that Nero was alive and would soon return to take his place on the throne, spread rapidly in the provinces and was credited by very many, as Tacitus attests. It is quite clear, if the words of Revelation presently to be quoted are taken on their face value, that its author believed that Nero actually escaped his pursuers and recovered from his wound. In Asia the belief seems to have been especially widespread from the first. Early in the year 69, soon after the death of Galba, a pseudo-Nero raised a band of insurgents in Asia and Greece and set sail for Rome. The account of his brief career is given by Tacitus (Hist., II, 8, 9). There were other pretenders, at least at a later day. The Byzantine chronographer Zonaras tells of one who appeared in Parthia, Rome’s chief rival, in the reign of Titus. Suetonius mentions another―or more probably the same?―who made his appearance, also in Parthia, “twenty years after the death of Nero.” With Parthia, however, and with the belief that Nero was to return at the head of a Parthian army, the Apocalypse has no concern. These matters lie entirely outside its horizon, as will appear.
The passages in Revelation which assert the escape of Nero and predict his ultimate return to the throne of the Caesars are in chapters 13 and 17. There is here no ambiguity; we could dispense with the number 666 given in 13:18. We see mention of the short sword by which the Beast was reputed to have met his death; and we are told in the plainest terms that the fifth “head” is destined to reign a second time, after the sixth and the seventh have had their turn.
13:3. After introducing the Monster with ten horns and seven heads, John proceeds: I saw one of his heads (namely the Beast)* as though it had been smitten unto death; but his death stroke was healed.”
13:12. Here the writer has mentioned the official―or, more probably, the institution―appointed to enforce the state worship. A most imperious being is described: “he had two horns of a wild ox, and howled like a dragon” (verse 11). He is himself a beast, “and he makes the earth and those who dwell therein worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed.”
13:14. The description continues: he issues the command, to all who dwell on the earth, “that they should make an image to the beast, who had the stroke of the sword and lived.”
17:8. “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not, and is destined to come up out of the abyss.* and to go into perdition. And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder . . . when they behold the beast, how that he was, and is not, and shall come.”
The Beast was not yet needed on earth to take part in two great scenes of Jewish (and Christian) eschatology: the further persecution of the saints (Dan. 12:1), one feature of it already announced in 11:7; and the final battle with the hosts of heaven in which he is to be destroyed.
17:9-11. “The seven heads are seven hills, on which the woman sits; and they are seven emperors; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come, and when he comes he must continue a little while. And the beast that was, and is not, is himself an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goes into perdition.”
These passages seem to give the needed information, clear as to the main fact, which is not affected by the added element of mistaken prediction. The sixth emperor is Galba, and the little pamphlet professes to have been written in his reign. A seventh is expected to follow eventually. The number is absolutely limited to seven, for Nero himself, the fifth, is to close the series, returning “as an eighth,” but as one of the seven.
Galba’s ignominious reign was brief, hardly seven months, but it was long enough for the composition of several works of this small compass, whose author had been storing up his material during the last years of Nero’s reign. It has become customary in dealing with this chronology to omit Galba, Otho, and Vitellius all together, in order by some device to be enabled to pass on to the times of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. No device is legitimate, however, in the face of the author’s plain and emphatic statement.
Those who seek to evade this conclusion number as follows: The sixth emperor, Vespasian;* the seventh, Titus (but the seventh “has not yet come,” see below); the eighth (!) Domitian. The author’s own statement is thus completely rejected: it would be better better to leave it out altogether.
No other “eighth” than the restored Beast can be considered. After Nero’s death there was indeed chaos in the empire, soon amounting in the West to civil war, with rival claimants leading out armies. In the province of Asia, however, as in the East generally, the decisions of Rome and the senate in this period were loyally accepted and adhered to (as Tacitus expressly informs us), up to the time when Vespasian was proclaimed emperor in Syria. The virtual denial to Servius Galba of the title of Roman emperor has no justification. We know that his reign was brief; but the Apocalyptist, writing in Asia between midsummer of the year 68 and the first months of the year 69, had no such knowledge. The him, Galba was simply the sixth “head,” to be followed (his faith so assured him) by the seventh and last of the Roman oppressors.
The point of difficulty in 17:10 is in the words relating to the seventh emperor, who “has not yet appeared,” but of whom it nevertheless is said that his reign “must be brief.” There are three possibilities. (1) Prophecy after the event. The seventh emperor, Otho, did in fact reign but a very short time, and one might say the Apocalyptist chose to give out as prediction what he knew to have taken place. This hypothesis is plainly untenable. If the author of 17:10 has seen the actual end of the seventh emperor’s reign, he could not possibly have written 17:11. The eighth, who followed, was not Nero.
(2) It is possible to suppose that Number Seven was already on the throne, but that the author of Revelation preferred to credit the angel with the prediction of his reign. In the East, more generally than in the West, Otho was recognized as emperor. See Tacitus, Hist., I, 76. He certainly was the seventh in the province of Asia. The question is whether he should be brought into the picture. His reign lasted only three months; is it to be supposed that after it had begun and before it had ended the Apocalypse was completed and issued? The hypothesis gives no help and is improbable for more than one reason. The seven heads were as essential a feature of the vision, from the first, as were the ten horns (Daniel). The unshakeable conviction of the author that after the sacred number had been fulfilled Nero would return, is obvious enough. There is no advantage, but only disadvantage, in rejecting his plain statement, that “the one (the sixth] is” There is only one wholly plausible reason for his making it, namely, that it was true.
(3) The author of Revelation had at least as good ground for his mistaken prediction as the prophet Daniel for his. Most important of all was his faith, his conviction, that Jesus the Messiah must soon finish what he had begun. The circumstances of the time showed, quite as plainly as they had shown to Daniel, that the turning point was close at hand. Galba, when he took the throne, was already old and feeble. Whatever his personal qualities might be, no one could doubt that his reign would be brief. The belief in a Nero redivivus made it all the more certain that the seventh emperor could have no long tenure of office. The true solution, then, of the riddle presented by the last clauses of 17:10 is that which was concisely given by Professor F. C. Porter in his Messages of the Apocalyptical Writers (1905), p. 262: “the next reign (the seventh) was made short in order that the number seven might be filled out and yet the end be near.”
The claim thus made in the book itself, that it was written in the time of the Roman emperor who followed Nero, must of course be confronted with, and tested by, the other available evidence, which fortunately is abundant. Definite allusions begin with chapter 13 and end with chapter 20. The central subject in this part of the book, aside from the doom pronounced upon Rome, is the worship of the Beast. The person of the latter is expressly identified in each and all of the chapters in which he is mentioned: he is the one whose number is 666, that is Nero Caesar. In chapter 13, in the verses just preceding the cipher, there are mentioned certain things connected with the worship of this particular emperor. They are: his image, the mark put upon his worshippers, and “the number of his name.” In the subsequent chapters there is mention of his cult as follows, in each case with some plain identification: 14:9-11 (image, mark, name); 15:2 (image, the number of his name); 16:2 (mark, image); 19:20 (mark, image); 20:4 (image, mark).
Now these, together with the rest of chapter 13, are the only allusions to the imperial cult which are to be found in Revelation, and they all refer definitely to the Beast of 13:18. If the background of the reign of Domitian is to be found in the book, it must be sought elsewhere.
The passages dealing with the administration of the Beast-worship, the manner of its requirement, and the extent of its enforcement, are of special importance. The priesthood of the imperial cult (“another beast,” 13:11) issues a program in 13:12-17. All the inhabitants of the earth (verses 12, 14, 16) are to worship the Beast whose death -stroke was healed (verse 12). An image of the Beast is to be made, and all who do not worship it shall be killed (verses 14, 15). The “other beast” will make fire to come down from heaven, and will make the image breathe and speak (verses 13, 15). The worshippers receive the mark of the beast and the number of his name; all others―those that is, who escape immediate death―will be debarred from any buying or selling.
All this must refer to the future, and so it is treated also in 14:9-11. So the principal commentaries agree. There is nothing to indicate that either of these passages or the allusions in them which follow, up to chapter 20, reflect in any way the past or the present time. The conclusion is therefore certain that this portentous program is the of the worship of Nero redivivus, to be inaugurated in the immediate future, upon his resumption of the throne. It is also evident that such a program would most naturally be put forth soon after the reported escape and recovery of Nero, while the excitement of the story was still fresh and while the apprehension of his return to power still mightily stirred the people of Asia Minor. Nothing could show better than this reported plan how general the belief was, and how firmly it was held.
One is tempted to recognize a note of grim sarcasm in the description of the “other beast,” as he begins his loudmouthed proclamation to all the peoples of the inhabited earth. “He had the two horns of a wild ox, and he howled like a dragon. The symbolism of the horns of the wild ox, Deut. 33:17, is appropriate here: “with them he shall push all the peoples, even to the ends of the earth.” For the howling (not “speaking”) of the dragon, see the note on the text. Sarcasm, however, seems foreign to the mood of the writer.
The persecution here threatened concerns not only the Church, but any and all religions that might resist the worship of the revived Nero. But there are also in Revelation conspicuous allusion to former persecution and martyrdom. Foremost among these is the eloquent passage, 6:9-11, presenting the souls of those who had been slain “for the word of God and for the testimony.”* These are the victims of the horrible persecution of Christians in Rome under Nero (so Bousset, Charles). These are referred to more definitely in 17:6, in the seer’s vision of Rome: “I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.” See also 19:2 and 20:4a. In 16:6 the martyrdom is of all times (“saints and prophets”), and it is equally indefinite in 12:11.
Aside from the passages here named, there is in the Apocalypse no allusion to persecution of Christians by officers of the Roman government―excepting that the Jews of Smyrna, in making trouble for the Church (2:10), were doubtless aided and abetted by the local authorities. The Christians were of course harassed at all times and in all places, but nothing in the book suggests that the churches of Asia had been called to endure anything unusual. There is nowhere evidence that there had been persecution of Christians in the East as well as in Rome, under Nero. The Messages is chapters 1-3 picture only normal conditions. The terror of the Beast was indeed upon the Christians of the province; knowledge of his frightful cruelty in Rome, dread of martyrdom under his rule in the near future. It is the latter time of trial that is referred to in 7:14, “the great tribulation” (also 6:11 and 3:11); and the allusion is to the standing feature of Jewish eschatology, the unexampled tribulation predicted in Dan. 12:1, Mark 13:19 (and parallels), and elsewhere.
Thus far, nothing opposes the representation of the Apocalypse itself that it was written in the reign of Galba. As for the reign of Domitian, it has here been shown that no passage in the book concerning either emperor cult or persecution of Christians refers to any other ruler than the Beast whose number is 666. If the nightmare of the escaped and returning tyrant had made its first appearance a decade or two after the death of Nero (a strange supposition, by the way), one could perhaps understand how it might take full possession of a book written in Domitian’s day. We happen to know, however, that the story arose in the year 68. It was soon after the beginning of the year 69 that the first pretender, who had mustered his forces in Asia and Achaia, set out for Italy. He was met halfway and suitably dealt with. This episode could not fail to weaken, to some extent, the popular faith in a restored and returning Nero.
Nevertheless the Apocalypse was committed, without peradventure or proviso, to the doctrine, and this not merely in the passages which have thus far been quoted. The Apocalyptist, in his certainty that the end of the present order was close at hand, saw in Nero redivivus the human instrument in the divine punishment of Rome. The coincidence could not be accidental. There is accordingly in 17:12, 16-18 a very impressive prediction, on divine authority, that Nero, with assistance which is described in some detail, will return to Rome and wreak his vengeance on the city.
A second pseudo-Nero made his appearance in Parthia, as already mentioned, probably in the year 79, for his career was ended in the reign of Titus (79-81). He was eager to lead a Parthian army against Rome, and the Parthians found it convenient to encourage him for a time. The incident made a stir in the empire, and Tacitus (Hist., I, 2) tells us that Rome was near to mobilizing against Parthia because of it. Nothing came of the matter, however.
Inspired in part by this event is the famous passage in the Sibylline Books predicting the return of Nero to Rome with the aid of the Parthians. The lines occur near the end of Book IV, which seems to have been finished about the year 80. The following is an abridged translation of the relevant lines between 119 and 139.
“Then from Italy a great king shall flee unseen, unheard of, across the Euphrates [year 68]. Many for the throne of Rome shall dye the ground with their blood, when he has fled into the Parthian land [year 69]. A Roman captain shall burn Jerusalem’s temple [year 70].” Here follows mention of the great eruption of Vesuvius in the year 79. Then to the west shall come the strife of gathering war, and the fugitive from Rome, brandishing a mighty sword, crossing the Euphrates with many myriads.” This was written, presumably, in 79 or 80.
It is possible that there is no literary connection between this passage and Rev. 17:12-18, but the contrary supposition seems much more probable. The author of Sib. Or. IV was a Jew who wrote in Egypt, and these things are true also of the author of Book V, which was completed in the second century. Book V, near the beginning (lines 33 f.), treats the redivivus legend as actual fact, and in line 147 repeats the tale that Nero fled to Parthia. Now it is known that this Book makes direct use of our Apocalypse. The passage portraying the doom of “Babylon” (Rome!), lines 162-78, is plainly based on chapter 18 of Revelation; and when in line 143 we are told that Nero’s flight “from Babylon,” we can be in no doubt as to the source of this pseudonym. The Apocalypse had evidently made a strong impression. The supposition then has everything in its favor that Book IV also made use of it. The Sibylline combination of Rev. 17:12 ff. with the Parthian Nero of the year 79 accounts perfectly for the passages above quoted from this book.
By the year 79 (the year of Vespasian’s death) the people of the eastern provinces would doubtless have ceased to look for a returning Nero if the pretender in Parthia had not renewed the excitement; and the fiasco of his career made them the more certain that the fable had nothing behind it. Circumstantial reports from Rome had at length convinced the majority that Nero did not escape. By the time of Domitian the legend was really the “joke” (ludibrium) which Tacitus terms it.
The idea that a fleeing Nero would take refuge in Parthia was very natural; how early it arose there is nothing to indicate. The pretender of the year 69 does not appear to have heard of it; at all events, he made no claim to have Parthian support. Nor is there any trace of it in Revelation, which has a very different scheme, more naturally imagined, of Nero’s return and conquest of the doomed city. He obtains his support inside the Roman empire, not outside. Nevertheless, the stubborn conviction that the book must be dated near the end of the first century, combined with the impression made by the Sibylline writer’s confident prediction, outweighed all other considerations, so that during the past fifty or sixty years, at least, it has been the accepted conclusion of most scholars of the critical school that Revelation takes account of Parthian affairs. All the most important commentaries, textbooks of introduction, and other treatises, state the supposed fact without a query.
Charles, 2, 81, offers a good example; he writes: “The Jewish source lying behind Rev. 17:12-17 . . . predicts the destruction of Rome by the Parthians under the leadership of Nero. . . . This expectation of a Parthian invasion of the West is explicitly stated in 16:12.” This is now the standard interpretation, and it is a remarkable example of blind exegesis. Whoever will return to chapter 16 and read the whole passage, verses 12-16, will see that it has nothing whatsoever to do with Rome, nor even with “the West,” unless Palestine is to be included in that geographical term. This is Armageddon, not a campaign of Parthian satraps. The city which “the kings of the whole word” are gathering to attack is Jerusalem, not Rome. Nor is Parthia present in the picture except by inclusion, as one of many eastern kingdoms. Here is the favorite scene, so often depicted, shown again momentary in 19:19, when “the kings of the earth” (Pss. 2:2, 48:4, 110:5, Isa. 24:21, 45:1; Enoch 56:6; etc.) make their final onslaught on the holy city. The way is made clear for a speedy and complete assembling, and the river which would halt the approach of the far-eastern kings is dried up.
The (now prevailing) exegesis of the other passage mentioned, 17:12-17, is equally perverse, for it is excluded by the plain words of the writer’s picture. We are asked to see here “the destruction of Rome by the Parthians under the leadership of Nero.” We see indeed the avenging return of Nero and the devastation of the city, but the Parthians are not present at all. Daniel’s ten horns are here, and we learn from verses 12 f., 17, that in this case they represent 10 vassals of Rome, who in return for their help in reinstating the Beast are to receive as their reward, after the capture of the city, independent kingdoms. They and the Beast, thereafter, are to exercise their evil authority “for one hour.” When Rome has been destroyed, Nero will resume his frightful work of persecution in the name of “the great tribulation” (7:14―see Dan. 12:1, Mark 13:19).
It is all Nero: his slaughter of the Christians in Rome, the memory of it still fresh; the prospect of redoubled cruelty and violence on his part after his return; the requisition soon to be instituted in his name throughout the world.
Charles, in his article on Revelation in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, maintains that in the absence of any edict against the Christians in Nero’s time, the persecution during his reign was not directed against the Christians as such, and that it was not until the time of Domitian that the conditions of such persecution were realized. Nero’s horrible work was caprice, but in the face of the Church’s tradition and all human probability it seems fruitless to maintain that the Christians did not know why they were being slaughtered. There is no thought of any other persecutor than Nero, no allusion to the circumstances of any other time than his. This does not, indeed, fix the date of the book, but it makes extremely plausible its claim to have been written in the time of the emperor whose reign immediately followed that of the Beast. It now becomes a question of positive indications of the early date.
It is first necessary, however, to inquire why it is that by scholars of the present generation the Apocalypse is assigned, with hardly a dissenting voice, to the reign of Domitian. It was not so in former years. Swete, pp. xcviii-c, notes how “the great Cambridge theologians of the last century,” Westcott, Lightfoot, and Hort, held the book to be a unity and assigned it to the time after Nero’s death and before the destruction of Jerusalem. Many of the foremost German scholars of the same period were in essential agreement with this dating, as is well known. The evidence seemed to permit no other conclusion.
At the beginning of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the literary unity of Revelation was unquestioned; indeed, it was looked upon as a work well planned and skillfully constructed (so Bousset, p. 109). Then ensued the calamity of the “literarkritische Methode.” The history of this blundering technique in the case of Revelation is well known. After Völter (1882) and Vischer (1886) followed a troop of analysts, each with his own way of offering a rubbish heap in place of an amazingly interesting and perfectly comprehensible work. The series of tables published by Bousset, pp. 108-117, is a disheartening sight, and so are the fruits of the “fragment hypothesis” as they are presented in the recent standard commentaries.
There are indeed very obvious reasons why the Apocalypse should now seem to call for drastic alteration, for it cannot be made to fit into the present scheme of New Testament dogma. If the church in its beginnings was mainly Gentile and opposed to Judaism, this Book of Revelation can hardly be understood. It is very plainly a mixture of Jewish and Christian elements, and the hope of effecting a separation of the two naturally suggests itself. It is, however, a perfectly futile dream, as the many attempts have abundantly shown. Every chapter of the book is both Jewish and Christian, and only by very arbitrary proceeding can signs of literary composition be found. The trouble is not with the book, but with the prevailing theory of Christian origins.
According to this theory, moreover, the Apocalypse as it stands is chronologically impossible. It makes unquestioned use of the Gospel of Matthew (see above, p. 10), and yet professes to come from a time about a decade earlier than the date ordinarily assigned to that Gospel. This chronological difficulty, then, has also seemed to necessitate the dismemberment of the book. The Apocalypse as a whole and in its final form, it is said, must be dated near the end of the century; the portions which are manifestly early must be regarded as excerpts from older works. Hence further analysis. In seeking a time of composition of the book only the reign of Domitian could be considered; even though, as has been seen, no internal evidence of any sort points clearly to this date.
The first reason, then, for the now accepted dating of the book is its incompatibility (as it stands) with the “assured results” of present-day criticism.
The second reason, found in early Christian tradition, seems to give support to the first, but the support is negligible. Originating with Irenaeus (second half of the second century), the well-known legend spread abroad concerning the later years of the Apostle John: Banished by Domitian to the island of Patmos, he wrote there his Apocalypse. On the death of the tyrant he left the island and returned to Ephesus, the scene of his former activities, and continued to labor there under the emperor Nerva and into the time of Trajan. This is reported by numerous Church fathers, the ultimate source in every case being the statements of Irenaeus. The latter believed St. John to have been the teacher both of Polycarp and Papias; the belief resulting, apparently, from his confusing the apostle with the presbyter. The story is worthless, as is now generally understood.
A third reason offered for dating Revelation later than the reign of Galba is the following. Charles, I, xciv (see also Moffatt), Introduction , p. 507), makes Polycarp say in his Letter to the Philippians, xi, that the church of Smyrna did not exist in A.D. 60-64; and thereupon draws the astonishing conclusion from the contents of the letter in Rev. 2:8 ff. that it can have been written “hardly earlier” than the year 75! In fact, Smyrna must have been evangelized very soon after Ephesus, see Acts 19:10, 26; that is before the year 60. After the church had been in existence for a year, or even less, such a letter as that in Revelation could have been written at any time. Polycarp, moreover, is misquoted. He is merely complimenting the Philippian church on its very early reputation. He refers expressly to the beginning of Paul’s Epistle (Phil. 1:5), and adds: We, the church of Smyrna, did not exist at the time when you of Philippi were already praised by Paul, as he went about among the earliest of his churches (referring to Phil. 4:15 f.).
It appears from the preceding survey that there is no valid evidence, external or internal, connecting the Apocalypse with the reign of Domitian. The one fact, already mentioned, which for many years past has seemed to preclude from consideration any date earlier than Domitian’s time, is the literary relation to the Apocalypse to the Gospel of Matthew. The Apocalypse must be put at least a decade later than the Gospel, which has been conveniently dated some years after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under Titus. Now, however, that it has been demonstrated that the Gospel was composed and published in Aramaic, probably about the year 50, the one valid reason for rejecting the date (the reign of Galba) given by the author himself in 17:10 is removed.
A strong reason for accepting the date of Domitian’s reign for the composition of the Apocalypse of John seemed to be given by Salomon Reinach’s combination (Revue archéologique, sér. III, 39 , 350-74, reprinted in Cultes, mythes, et religions, 2 , 356-80) of Rev 6:6 with Domitian’s edict of the year 92 concerning the regulation of crops. However, this is just the sort of edict that might be given out by successive rulers. It is anonymous as it stands in Revelation, and Domitian was not necessarily the first to have made such an edict. The fact also remains that the author of Revelation himself said that he was writing in the days of “the sixth emperor,” i.e., Galba.
The positive indications of an early date are numerous, definite, and all pointing to the same time. Conspicuous among them is the fact that this Christian writing could make the express claim to be included in Jewish holy scripture. We have seen (see chapter in Documents), “Gospels in the Synagogue”) that the Nazarenes made this claim in their Aramaic Gospels. The Hebrew-Jewish faith was the religion of a written revelation. Its authority was in God-given scripture. Every document in its sacred library was written by an inspired prophet (Moore, Judaism, I, 237-40). Every important epoch in Hebrew history had its authorized record. All this inspired scripture was called “prophecy,” nᵉḇûʾāh, in Greek translation prophēteia. Prophecy ceased with Malachi, but it was renewed “in the last days.” The appearance on earth of the long-predicted Messiah must of course have its own documents, the divine attestation. The Christians pointed to their written testimony, based on scripture and renewing it. The line of the prophets, they said, had been broken off in the past, but it was now restored; inspiration was again possible, and it had produced it new “prophecy” (ibid., p. 244).
According to the representation of our Apocalypse, the Christian Church is made up exclusively of Jews. They are all members of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (7:3-8; 21:12). Of the convert from the Gentiles more was required than the mere profession of Judaism. It is plain that at this time the multitude of the Jewish people who could recognize no divine Messiah in the son of a Galilean carpenter wished to live peaceably with the Nazarenes, since by virtue of greatly superior numbers they had the matter in their own hands. While waiting for further developments, the two parties found that they could work together in more than a semblance of harmony, and the attitude of Jewish authorities was tolerant. Although a note of triumph sounds throughout our Apocalypse for the great gains which had been made, it was not only the Nazarenes who felt that the tide had turned and that a happier day was close at hand. Decades had now gone by, and the Orthodox Jews felt greatly encouraged by the lapse of time without event. It was just the time for Ben Zakkai’s courteous and conciliatory rely to the claim of prophetic inspiration. Of especial historical interest is this ruling of Johanan ben Zakkai, that the (Aramaic) writings of Ben Sira are not inspired scripture; the plain implication being that by some Jews in good standing they had thus been ranked. In the Gospels themselves inspiration is simply taken for granted, inasmuch as they are the written witness to the advent, the words and deeds, the death and resurrection, in fulfillment of scripture, of the Jewish Messiah. In the Revelation of John, on the other hand, there is the definite assertion of “prophetic” activity, as has been seen. Since this reply of Johanan ben Zakkai appeared at about the time of the publication of Revelation, the reasonable supposition is that it was with reference to the Apocalypse of John that the reply was made. (See “The Aramaic Period . . .”)
All this time Jewish Christians, with Aramaic as the literary language of the Church, had continued the major part of the Christian community. They applied to themselves literally the title which Paul uses symbolically in the Epistle to the Galatians (6:16): “the Israel of God.” This title, precisely, is demanded by the author of the Apocalypse. He and his brethren throughout the Christian world at that day were the true Israel, and he is severe against those who profess to be Jews, but are not worthy of the name. They “say that they are Jews, but are not” (2:9, 3:9). They “blaspheme” against the divine Messiah, the Son of God.
Toward the end of Ben Zakkai’s leadership, hostility to the Christian heresy became more and more determined and bitter. This was partly due to the catastrophe of the year 70, out of which the Christians made capital, and still more to the exasperation caused by the heretical mission to the Gentiles. When Gamaliel II became president at Yabneh, in the year 80, he caused the curse on the Christians to be inserted in the daily prayer, the Shemone Esre. This proceeding, in part a reaction against the mildness of Johanan ben Zakkai, marked an important turning point, a decisive change. Theoretically the Christians and their scriptures were henceforth excluded from the Synagogue.
At this later time, when the separation of Church from Synagogue had become complete, the fact was increasingly irksome to the Church and its leaders that for so long a time there was no apparent distinction between Jews and Christians. The fact was misleading, and the decision was made that it should be dropped from sight and memory. See “The Aramaic Period . . . ,” pp. 214-218 [posts #15, #16, #17, #18 #19, #20].
Since our Apocalypse was composed at the time of greatest harmony between Jews and Christians, it was inevitable that it should have been thought of as composite. Much of its material, including entire chapters, contained nothing specifically Christian. After the separation of Church and Synagogue, attempts were very naturally made to mark off definite portions as Christian or Jewish; lines of cleavage could be found when search was made for them.
There is very little likelihood that a Christian document intended for the Church in general would have been composed in Aramaic after the war under Titus. The Gentile converts were already very numerous. They could not read Aramaic, while on the other hand the Jews could understand Greek. Moreover, both during and after the war the Jews must have destroyed systematically every Christian Aramaic writing they could lay their hands on. They had both the power and the authority to do this.
Also, a writing persistently claiming canonicity would naturally be put forth when there was still some prospect that the claim would be admitted. After the year 80, when the Christians were officially made anathema, the pretension would have been a mockery.
The claim to be Jewish holy scripture is made impressively at the very beginning of the book, at its end, and in several other places. 1:3, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that keep the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein.” 22:19, “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part in the tree of life.” See also 19:10; 22:7, 10, 18. This is written prophecy, and the Jewish theological term נְבוּאָה.
From the fact that so much of the book is concerned with the future, near and remote, one might think of interpreting the words as prediction. On the contrary, it is expressly defined, more than once. It is not prediction but testimony, sᴐhᵃḏũṯᴐʾ, marturia; testimony to two things: the word of God (i.e., the Hebrew scriptures), and the Messiahship of Jesus; see 1:2, 9; 20:4. More than this, it is inspired testimony. In every one of the passages which speak of the “witness” it is expressly declared to be by divine inspiration, directly given as in the days of the Hebrew prophets; see 1:1, 2; 10:7; 19:9 f.; 22:6, 16. John renews the line of their succession, with a like commission: 10:11, “Thou must prophecy again over many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (also 7:9); cf. Isa. 6:8; Jer. 1:4, 10; Exek. 2:3! The Hebrew prophets are John’s “brethren” (19:10, 22:9. They all bore witness to the Messiah, and in 19:10 “the spirit of prophecy” is said to be “the testimony to Jesus.”*
The commentators, with no idea that they have before them an Aramaic writing of the Jewish-Christian period, find the terminology peculiar. Charles is puzzled (e.g., I, 6, 266) by the words “prophets” and “prophecy.” Bousset, on 1:3 (p. 183), speaks of “die der Apk. eigentümliche besondre Hochschätzung der prophēteia.” It is the familiar technical term נְבוּאָה, divine revelation, and the fact is of no importance that we have here in plain words an example of the early Christian assertion that the day of verbal inspiration had returned. The claim that John is an inspired prophet and that this book is holy scripture is as clear and emphatic as any words can make it.
This brings the date of the book within narrow limits. The absurdity of supposing that this Aramaic document claiming Jewish canonicity could have been put forth after its doctrine had been officially denounced damnable heresy is obvious. It certainly was published before the year 80. But this is not all; a date before the year 70 is plainly indicated. If the book had been written between 70 and 80, there certainly would have been in it some allusion to the great catastrophe, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Silence in regard to it, in view of the intense interest in the holy city, is simply inconceivable.
In the present writer’s Four Gospels (2nd ed., Harper and Brothers, 1947, p. xxiii) it is said:
G. F. Moore, in his Judaism [I, 91], spoke of the powerful argument which was given into the hands of the Christians by the destruction of the temple in the year 70. The people had “denied the Holy One . . . and killed the prince of Life” (Acts 3:14 f.), so now wrath came upon them to the uttermost, as Paul had said even before this final chastisement (I Thess. 2:10). Those who aimed to show that Jesus was the Messiah could have had no more obvious and cogent argument than this crushing blow from heaven, coming at just the time when the authorities had finally rejected the claims of the Nazarenes.
It is perhaps conceivable that one evangelist writing after the year 70 might fail to allude to the destruction of the temple by the Roman armies (every reader of the Hebrew Bible knew that the Prophets had definitely predicted that foreign armies would surround the city and destroy it), but that three (or four) should thus fail is quite incredible. On the contrary, what is shown is that all four Gospels were written before the year 70. And indeed, there is no evidence of any sort that will bear examination, tending to show that any of the Gospels were written later than about the middle of the century. The challenge to scholars to produce such evidence is hereby presented.
The considerations which make it necessary to date the Gospels before the year 70 are seen to be equally valid for dating the Apocalypse of John.*
Moreover, the date cannot have been much before 70. The theology of the book has advanced some distance beyond that of our earliest Christian writings. As Swete remarks, pp. cliv f., “No one who comes to the Apocalypse fresh from the study of the Gospels and Epistles can fail to recognize that he has passed into another atmosphere. . . . The Christ of the Apocalypse is the Christ of the Gospels, but a change has passed over Him which is beyond words.” The Church doctrine has progressed.
It is to be observed how the result thus reached―a date shortly before the year 70―confirms the explicit statement of the author of Revelation that he wrote in the time of the sixth emperor, before the seventh had come to the throne; that is, the year 68.
The fact has already been emphasized that the terror of the Beast is over all the latter half of the book. The horrible scenes of the year 64 in Rome are fresh in mind. There was no need to conjecture what steadfast Christians would be called upon to face, on the return of the Beast. The farther away from Nero’s reign the book is dated, the more incomprehensible is the amount of space given to this apprehension.
A most important passage, truly decisive in view of all the other evidence, is the beginning (the first two verses) of chapter 11, where John is commanded to take a reed (Ezek. 40:3 ff.) and measure the temple and the alter; but not to measure the court of the Gentiles, symbolic of the tribulation still to be endured. Jerusalem and the temple are standing, the armies of Titus have not yet entered the city. This was written before the year 70, as all students of the book agree.
The history of the attempt to remove this passage [Rev. 11:1-2 -JR] from its context is familiar and need not be recounted here. The immediate and essential connection of verses 3 ff. with verse 2 has not always been understood, and thus there could be temptation to find evidence of composition of sources at this point. But on that hypothesis the “incorporated source” would necessarily be the section verses 3-13; the work of the Apocalyptist himself is unquestionably to be recognized in verses 1 f., for the imitation of Ezekiel is one of the most pervasive and essential characteristics of the book.*
Verse 2 ends with the announcement that Jerusalem is to be prey of the nations for the forty-two months (3½ years) of the “great tribulation.” The following verses thereupon depict a frightful scene, symbolic of the utter abandonment of the holy city to the powers of evil; it becomes the Egypt of captivity, the Sodom of all wickedness (verse 8). Moses and Elijah, appearing again on earth (the former appearance, on the Mount of Transfiguration, was narrated in Matt. 17:1-8), and take their stand in Jerusalem, now a pagan city, as witness to the true religion and to Jesus the Messiah, whom they and their fellow prophets had foreseen and foretold. The two Witnesses are slain by the Beast (11:7), and their dead bodies lie in the street of the great city for three and one-half days,* a spectacle for all the nations and peoples of the Roman world.
How is it conceivable that the prophet of the New Israel could predict thus of the most sacred figures of Hebrew history? He gives the answer in the significant clause at the end of verse 8, the clause “generally admitted by critics to be a later addition” (!), Charles, I, 287: hópou kaì ho kúrios autôn estaurṓthē [ὅπου καὶ ὁ κύριος αὐτῶν ἐσταυρώθη]. If the Messiah, a far greater figure than Moses or Elijah, could be crucified (!) in the holy city, even this new horror could be predicted as symbolic of the coming tribulation “such as never was since there was a nation” (Dan. 12:1).
The sight of the resurrection and ascension of the two Witnesses at the end of the time of distress causes a great multitude of the Gentiles to turn to the God of Israel―one of the numerous ways in which they are to be converted before it is too late. This is merely a Jewish-Christian incident in the development of the old Hebrew doctrine, first definitely formulated by Second Isaiah in 45:1-25.
3:9. The word didô is impossible here. The translator was led to write idoù didô under the influence of idoù dédōka in the preceding verse, but he rendered a word which he only thought he saw. Unless a conjecture (such as offered in the note in the verse) can be accepted, the didô should be omitted and a gap left in its place.
4:2. In place of egenómēn read égagón me, following a suggestion made by Prof. R. B. Y. Scott.
Explanation of the Greek text seems necessary, or desirable as follows:
4:4. Read kaì eîdon epì toùs thrónous. The verb must have been omitted through carelessness; the original text certainly contained it.
4:6. A block of seven words fell out of the Greek text through oversight, as will be shown.
Explanation of the Greek text seems necessary, or desirable as follows:
7:2. Read anatolôn (W. & H. margin). The Aramaic certainly had the plural; see, e.g., Targ. Exek. 1:1, and especially Dalman, Gramm., pp. 215 f.
10:3. Omit the article hai. It is out of place (since this is the first mention of brontaí) and is very easily explained as derived from the phrase in the next line.
11:5. Cancel the opening clause, which is out of true connection here but is perfectly in place in the latter part of the verse where it reappears. A scribe introduced it too soon.
Explanation of the Greek text seems necessary, or desirable as follows:
11:17 f. The traditional punctuation (and verse division) is wrong, as is shown both by the Aramaic meter and by the manifest allusion to Psa. 99:1a. There must be a pause after the word megálēn, and the following clause must read: kaì ebsíleusas kaì tà éthnē ōrgíthēsan. Here the verse should end.
12:18. The last clause should be transferred (reading estáthēn) to the beginning of 13:1. See the note on 12:5, at the end.
13:15. Read poiêsai, according to the note on this verse.
Explanation of the Greek text seems necessary, or desirable as follows:
14:15. Cancel állos, which is impossible here. The eye of the scribe happened to be caught by the beginning of verses 17 and 18, an error of the most common sort.
16:7. The possibility may be suggested that seven words, constituting a single line, fell out of the text by accident; see the note on the verse below.
16:13 f. The nominative bátrakhoi is not one of the translator’s solecisms, but is the result of his false division of the Aramaic clauses; see the note. In the Greek of our improved text the accusative should be substituted.
Explanation of the Greek text seems necessary, or desirable as follows:
18:8. The only natural order in the Greek would be pénthos kaì limòs kaì thánatos, cf. verse 7. Possibly a copyist error?
18:13. Interpolated from the margin, probably, are the words kaì hippōn kaì rhedón, a gloss originally designed for verse 12a; and its insertion just before kaì sōmata caused the change of case in this word.
22:1 f. Verse 1 must end with the word arníou followed by a period, for en mésōi in Revelation invariable renders bēn “between,” as is shown in the note on 4:6.
The order of words in the Greek text, it is perhaps unnecessary to say, follows everywhere the order of the Aramaic original.
No Lacunae have been observed, other than the two (of a few words each) mentioned above, nor is there evidence of any disarrangement of the text. The many transpositions supposed in some commentaries seem in every case to result from misunderstanding of the book.
1:2. The first of several instances of “the testimony to Jesus.” See also 1:9; 12:17; 17:6; 19:10; and note on 22:6.
1:7. An important verse. The quotation from Zechariah is from the Hebrew text, as is generally recognized; See Charles’ comment. “They will look upon him whom they had pierced” (Zech. 12:10) is interpreted of the Messiah, as also is this case, independently, in John 19:37. ópsontai eis hòn exekéntēsan. This was most natural in view of the whole context in Zech., in which traces of speculation aroused by Isa. 53 may be seen.
1:9 (a). The phrase “tribulation and kingdom and patience” is awkward and disturbing, as many have remarked. Swete, p. 12, apologizes for the order of the words, but says that it “has the advantage of leaving on the reader’s mind the thought of the struggle which still remains before the kingdom is attained.” But is there really any such “advantage”? The thought of the struggle was present in the mind of every Christian; according to 2:2, 3, 19, and 3:10 the churches needed no especial exhortation to steadfastness; and if a word of encouragement was to be given, it is here put in the wrong place. The phrase as it stands is both unpleasing and ineffective. Bousset thinks that the seer shows here the mood (Stimmung) in which he is writing: “In trotzigem Mut stellt er die gegenwärtige Not und die künftige Herrlichkeit ale zwei zusammengehörige Pole hart neben einander.” But there is no other sign of this “Stimmung”; and we should expect that the word between “tribulation and patience” would also refer to something actually present.
It may be conjectured that the word which stood in the original text at this point was milǝkǝṯɔʾ, “counsel.” This would naturally have been supposed by the translator to be the same word as had just occurred in verse 6 malǝḵɔʾ, “kingdom”). The conjectured word is well suited to the present passage, in which the Greek rendering would have been: en têi thlipsei kaì sumboulíāi kaì hupomonêi. “I, John, your brother and partner in tribulation and counsel and steadfastness.” The leaders of the early Church had great need to be partners in counsel. The three nouns are now, at least, in logical order.
1:9 (b). The seer is thought of as receiving his revelation while in banishment on the island of Patmos “for the word of God and the testimony to Jesus.” “For” here means “because of.” Pliny the Elder, in his Naturalis Historia, attests to the fact that Patmos was used by the Romans as a penal settlement.
1:13 and 14:14. The phrase hómoion huiòn anthrṓpon occurs in these two passages, while everywhere else in the book hómoios is followed by the dative, as usual. Charles, I, 27, gives what should suggest the reason for the impossible grammar: a supernatural being, one who “is not a man,” is described and a Messianic term, Dan. 7:13, is employed; but he fails to understood the writer’s device. The One whom the seer beheld was not “like a man,” he was the “Man,” the Messiah of the prophet’s vision. Daniel’s phrase כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ (kᵉḇar ʾᵉnāš), is reproduced literally, in a manner utterly characteristic of this meticulous version.
The “kᵉ- of cautious statement,” hardly recognized as yet by the Hebrew lexicographers, is not to be directly translated as though it signified simple comparison. The “kaf veritatis” still appears (and is falsely explained) in our lexicons, with Neh. 7:2 as the outstanding example: Nehemiah appointed his own brother to a very important post, כִּי־הוּא כְּאִישׁ אֱמֶת (kı̂-hûʾ kᵉʾı̂š ʾᵉmeṯ); Greek hóti autòs anḗr alēthḗs. Did the brother resemble a trustworthy man? Jerome’s quasi vir verax is not at all reassuring. Nehemiah says: “He is (if I may boast of my own brother) a trustworthy man”; and this same cautious or deprecating use of the participle is to be seen in all the cases where there is properly no comparison intended. It means “if one may say so,” “so to speak,” and the like. The same usage is found in Syriac. The Lagarde Greek in Neh. 7:2 has hóti autòs anḗr alēthḗs, and probably this was the best that could be done, but the participle has nevertheless it recognizable force.
The Messiah of Israelite faith was a divine being. The Greek translator of Revelation could not possibly fail to reproduce the kᵉ-, but he could make it harmless; and, as elsewhere, he disregards Greek grammar under compulsion. Charles, I, 36 f., thinks of this writer as completely equating (in these passages only) hómoios with hōs in grammatical construction (!) as well as meaning. The truth is, I think, that he would never have entertained the thought of using hōs.
He repeats in 14:14 the peculiar formula which he had devised in 1:13. As Bousset remarks, this is one of the most striking examples of his uniformity. The verb eîdon which governed the phrase in the former passage is made to do duty here. In the original text there was of course neither irregularity nor ambiguity: [Torrey’s transliteration of conjectured Aramaic 14:14 is too recherché for me to copy.] The Greek rendering, word for word, and grammatically impossible, is one of the most instructive examples.
1:15. [οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ ὅμοιοι χαλκολιβάνῳ ὡς ἐν καμίνῳ πεπυρωμένης] Hoi podes autoû hómoioi khalkolibánōi hōs en kamínōi pepurōménēs (!) The meaning of the clause is unquestionably “His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace.” The Greek does not say this, but presents a very strange reading which up to the present time has not been explained. The astonishing form of the participle with its genitive case and feminine gender, both quite impossible, has seemed to be the result of some curious accident, and substitute readings have been freely proposed. The text is right, however, as it stands. Charles, I, 29, concludes that the reading “can only be a slip for pepurōménōi on the part of the Seer, which he would have corrected in a revision of his text.”
The true explanation of the difficulty is readily suggested by the fact that in the Aramaic language the neuter gender is regularly expressed by the feminine. When the clause is written in its original form, everything is clear: [sorry, Torrey’s transliteration of Aramaic is too recherché for me to copy]. “Gold refined by fire,” khrusíon pepurōménon, is mentioned in 3:8, where the original was certainly [… …], cf. Targ. Prov. 3:14. The word […] (whatever compound may have been used here) is masculine. The translator, rendering word by word as usual, very naturally took the noun kūr, “furnace,” to be in the construct state, wherefore it was necessary to render the following passive participle as feminine and in the genitive case: “as in a furnace of that which is refined.” In fact, however, it was the masculine definite form: “like brass refined in a furnace.” This is a characteristic and very instructive example of translation Greek. Any translator of the time would have been likely to render in just this way.
1:20. The semitic construction of this verse is very obvious. Tò mustḗrion [τὸ μυστήριον] is not accusative, as it has generally been regarded; it is the independent nominative, especially common in Aramaic, familiar in Hebrew. See Dan. 2:42; 7:24; etc. “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw on my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks: the seven stars are the angels,” etc. The accusative in tàs heptà lukhnías tàs kurusâs [τὰς ἑπτὰ λυχνίας τὰς χρυσᾶς] is quite impossible in Greek, but regular in the original language, for the noun was designated by the preposition L as the second direct object of the verb “saw”: [transliteration of Aramaic too recherché for me to copy -JR]. This is good Aramaic style, and the Greek rendering is quite correct. The evidence of translation is clear.
2:22. [ἰδοὺ βάλλω αὐτὴν εἰς κλίνην] Idoù bállō autḕn eis klínēn, “I will bring her to her bier.” The Aramaic rᵉmɔʾ [Torrey’s transliteration of an Aramaic word], עַרסָא [a different word in Hebrew alphabet ― I cannot completely and accurately replicate Torrey’s transliteration of this word, but I found it in the Peshitta] means “couch, bed, bier, sarcophagus.” This is true also of the word as it is used in Hebrew and Syriac. That the deathbed is intended here seems evident in view of the first clause of verse 23. The “coffin” in Luke 7:14 is עַרסָא in the Peshitta, where the Greek has sorōs [σορός]. In 2 Sam. 3:31, David followed the bier of Abner [ἐπορεύετο ὀπίσω τῆς κλίνης] eporeúeto opísō tês klínes, Targ. בָתַר עַרסָא.
In the case of bállein there is nothing significant, for it is the verb regularly employed to render Aramaic rᵉmɔʾ, which is commonly used in a wide range of meanings where “throw” or “cast” would not be a suitable rendering (see Our Translated Gospels, p. 3). In the story of the Shunammite woman and her son in Second Kings, the Hebrew of 4:21 says that “she laid him on the bed,” and the Greek has [ἐκοίμισεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὴν κλίνην] ekoímēsen autòn epì tḕn klínēn.. In the Syriac version, […. ….] (ébalen autón) is the rendering.
3:9. A very difficult passage, in which the text has met with an accident. Idoù didô ek tês sunagōgês toû Satanâ, tôn legóntōn heautoùs Ioudaíous eînai, kaì ouk eisìn allà pseúdontai, idoù poiḗsō autoùs hina hḗxousin kaì proskunḗsousin enṓpion tôn podôn sou [ἰδοὺ διδῶ ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς τοῦ σατανᾶ τῶν λεγόντων ἑαυτοὺς Ἰουδαίους εἶναι, καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν ἀλλὰ ψεύδονται. ἰδοὺ ποιήσω αὐτοὺς ἵνα ἥξουσιν καὶ προσκυνήσουσιν ἐνώπιον τῶν ποδῶν σου].
The didô [διδῶ] is impossible here. Charles, in his commentary, attempts to explain it but fails. In the three passages which he cites from the New Testament―Acts 2:27 (quoted from the LXX), 10:40, and 14:3―the verb means “grant, permit, suffer,” and therefore could of course be synonymous with poiein used in this sense. It could not possibly serve to anticipate the poiḗsō [ποιήσω] of the present passage! Furthermore, the suspended construction of the sentence in its present form, awkward enough in any case, is made truly intolerable by the incongruity of the two verbs.
The preposition ek seems out of place in the text as it now stands. “Some of” is too indefinite, for the clauses which follow indicate a class which is quite definite both to the author and to his readers. There is needed a noun, or a demonstrative pronoun, just before the ek. The word didô, already pronounced impossible, must be the result of some accident of reading or copying through which it has been substituted for the word originally written. The corruption is much more likely to have occurred in the Aramaic than in the Greek. It is worthy of notice that idoù dédōka occurs in verse 8, for the influence of this phrase may have been felt in the idoù didô of verse 9.
There is no obvious explanation of the mistake made by the copyist or translator, but a conjecture, however precarious, may be ventured. The phrase in verses 8 was hɔʾ yɔhaḇet, and in verse 9 hɔʾ yɔheḇənɔʾ (see Dalman, Gramm., p. 289, and Dan. 2:23 bɔcenɔʾ [בְעֵינָא], LXX ēxiōsa [ἠξίωσα]. I would suggest as the original reading hɔʾ rɔhaḇayyɔʾ, “Behold, the presumptuous ones.” The Aramaic verb is commonly used in speaking of those who are arrogant and boastful. If the R had been made somewhat small, as is sometimes the case, confusion with Y would not be difficult; see examples in the Hebrew of Psa. 72:9, ṢYYM for ṢRYM; 2 Kings 9:7, HKYTH for HKRTH; and still other instances. And the reading just encountered in verse 8 would help to make the error easy.
The conjectured restoration is recommended not only by the fact that it gives a plausible explanation of the impossible didô, but also by the way in which it fills the gap, providing the very word which was needed. “Lo, the presumptuous ones, of the synagogue of Satan, those who say that they are Jews, though they are not, but speak falsely: I will make them come and prostrate themselves before your feet!”
4:2. The great majority of recent interpreters of Revelation find serious difficulty with the first clause of this verse (the words metà taûta, falsely connected in the W.&H. text, belong to verse 1). “After this,” at the beginning of the chapter, does not indicate an interval of time, but (as elsewhere) a new scene in the vision. The connection with the preceding chapters is as close as any connection could be; the same voice heard in 1:10 is still speaking, and as the words come to John’s ear he is already en pneúmati. Swete tries to avoid the difficulty by rendering: “At once I found myself in the Spirit,” but this is hardly fair to egenómēn. Bousset would defend the text, suggesting that the book may not have been written “en einem Zuge,” that its author may have forgotten what he had said at the beginning of 1:10, and that we may imagine a real interval of some sort between chapters 3 and 4. Numerous theories of literary composition have been thought to find support here.
Scott, Orig. Lang. of the Ap., p. 20, seeks the explanation of the difficulty in the parallel passages 17:1-3 and 21:9 f., and this suggestion seems to me more promising than any other thus far made. Each of the three passages introduces a new scene, in each case with the very same formula. A voice is heard, saying “Come, I will show you”; and thereupon the seer is brought “in spirit” to the place of the new vision.
17:1 ff: kaì elálēsen met’ emoû légōn Deûro, deixō soi tò krima . . . kaì apḗnenkén me eis érēmon en pneúmati. [καὶ ἐλάλησεν μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ λέγων· δεῦρο, δείξω σοι τὸ κρίμα . . . καὶ ἀπήνεγκέν με εἰς ἔρημον ἐν πνεύματι.]
21:9 f.: kaì elálēsen met’ emoû légōn Deûro, deíxō soi tḕn númphēn . . . καὶ ἀπήνεγκέν με en pneúmati epì óros méga. [καὶ ἐλάλησεν μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ λέγων· δεῦρο, δείξω σοι τὴν νύμφην . . . καὶ ἀπήνεγκέν με ἐν πνεύματι ἐπὶ ὄρος μέγα.]
4:1 f.: kaì hē phōnḕ laloûsa met’ emoû légōn Anába hôde, kaì deíxō soi hà deí genésthai metà taûta. euthéōs egenómēn en pneúmati kaì thrónos ékeito en tôi ouranôi.
It is plain that egenómēn is wrong, a false reading. In its place must have stood a verb meaning “I was brought,” or the like. Scott thought of a corrupt Hebrew text, but could propose nothing plausible; nor does Aramaic offer any hope of a solution. The accident of transmission must have occurred in the Greek. I would suggest ḗgagón me, “I was brought,” as the original meaning. This would be the rendering of Aramaic indefinite third person plural, the common substitute for the passive voice (literally, “they bore me away”), frequently used in Revelation and most naturally employed here, since no personal conductor has been named. A scribe who had recently written egenómēn en pneúmati might easily see the phrase repeated here.
4:4. Kaì [eídon] epì toùs thrónous presbutérous kathēménous peribeblēménous en himatíois leukoís. This begins a new sentence, but it was so naturally connected with the preceding words that a scribe accidentally omitted the eídon in the Greek manuscript from which all our texts are derived.
4:6. The text of the second half of the verse is obviously defective. It reads: “In the midst of the throne and around the throne were four living creatures (zôia),” etc., and much ingenuity has been expended on the attempt to make this comprehensible. But the “Zoa” were not in the midst of the throne; the numerous passages which mention them make this certain. The Greek text yields no acceptable sense, and its present meaning cannot be what the author of the book intended.
The plan in the author’s mind is plainly indicated in chapter 5. In the center of the throne, One sitting upon it ([https://www.biblegateway.com/passage…n=SBLGNT]verse 7[/url]). Next to the throne and around it, at the four cardinal points, the four Zoa. Outside these, the circle of the twenty-four elders. This is the representation of verse 10, and the same order appears in verse 6 and again in 14:3. The Zoa are always mentioned before the elders, as also in verses 8 and [url=https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+5%3A14&version=SBLGNT]14[/urll] of chapter 5.
It is especially important to determine the meaning of en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ], that is what Aramaic it renders. The phrase occurs seven times in Revelation, and I think it can hardly be doubted that in each and all of these instances it is the translation of the word bēn [בֵּין], “between, among.”
The first occurrence is in 1:13, where the Son of Man is seen standing “among candlesticks” (en mésōi tôn lukhníôn [ἐν μέσῳ τῶν λυχνιῶν]), the word bēn [בֵּין] being employed as in Ezek. 19:2; 31:3; Job 34:4, 37; Song of Songs 2:2; Dan. 7:8 (Aramaic); etc. (In general, the use of the word in Aramaic is precisely like that in Hebrew.) The phrase is repeated in 2:1, and in the subsequent occurrences it seems evident that the translator employed (en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ]) as the standing equivalent of bēn [בֵּין].
This appears with especial distinctness in 5:6, where the repetition of en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ] shows the presence of the very common idiom bën-ūbën [בֵּין־וּבֵין], as many commentators have seen. When, however, Charles (I, 140) says that “the LXX constantly translate in this way the Hebrew preposition literally,” he should have added that the O.T. rendering of bën [בֵּין] in this sense is uniformly anà méson [ἀνὰ μέσον]. The employment of en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ] here is an example of the mechanical and labor saving method of this translator―holding fast to one rendering. As for the meaning of the passage (5:6a), Charles shows with finality (ibid.) that the Lamb is represented as standing between the circle of the Zoa and the wider circle of the elders.*
In 6:6 a voice is heard from “among” (en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ]) the four Zoa. This is the same use of bēn [בֵּין] as in 1:13 and 2:1.
The last occurrence of the phrase is in 22:2, where the division of the sentence has been a matter of controversy. Swete, p. 295, argues forcibly for the traditional punctuation, making verse 2 begin a new sentence. He also points to the important fact that the basis of the passage is to be found in Ezek. 47:7, 12, and finally renders: “Between the street of the City and the river, on this side and on that,” etc. If en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ] here again renders bēn [בֵּין], as I think must be the case, Swete’s translation is assured as correct.
This is the bên―lᵉ (ūlᵉ) [בֵּין … וּלְ / בֵּין … לְ] construction., familiar alike in O.T. Hebrew and Rabbinical Aramaic, and regularly rendered in this way in Greek. See the note on 22:2.
The discussion now returns to the main passage under consideration, 4:6. Here the bēn [בֵּין] represented by en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ] cannot possibly have meant “in the midst,” as was shown at the beginning. It must have meant “between” (as in 5:6), and this at once necessitates the conclusion that something is missing from our text. Moreover, 5:6 now shows plainly what is missing: it is the twenty-four elders who had just been mentioned in 4:4 as “surrounding the throne” (Greek, kuklóthen toû thrónou [κυκλόθεν τοῦ θρόνου]; Aramaic, misᵉḥōr sᵉḥōr lᵉūrᵉsayyɔʾ).
The place of the lacuna is between the words “and” and “around,” and it is thus evident that the omission took place in the Greek text, not in the Aramaic. It is easy to see how it might have been occasioned. We may suppose that our Greek text, at the occasion of the omission, had the following form:
The number―thirty-four―of Greek letters in the omitted piece of text enclosed in brackets is about average for the line of a codex written in two columns. The eye of the scribe who had just copied en mésōi toû thrónou kaì might very naturally have been caught by the words kúklōi toû thrónou as he turned back to the beginning of the lines, and the false continuation could result. At all events, what the author of the passage must have intended to say was this: Between the throne and the twenty-four elders (just mentioned) were the four strange beings. The comparison of 5:6, 8, 11, supported by the known equation of en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ] = bēn [בֵּין] would seem to render the emendation certain, whatever may be conjectured as to the precise form.
4:8. In the description of the four Zoa (“beasts”) given in verses 6-8 of this chapter, the Greek text is perfectly incomprehensible, evidently faulty in some way, at one important point. The description of the creatures, which follows very closely the picture given in Ezekiel, chapters 1 and 10 (compare especially Rev. 4:7 with Ezek. 1:10!), differs in some particulars, especially in the arrangement of the numberless eyes. The prophet’s cherubim were furnished with wheels, which were “full of eyes round about,” plḗreis ophthalmôn kuklóthen [πλήρεις ὀφθαλμῶν κυκλόθεν] (Exek. 1:18, 10:12). The Apocalyptist had no use for wheels, but would retain the feature of the many eyes. In his first mention of the Zoa, at the end of verse 6, he characterizes them as “full of eyes before and behind.” gémonta ophthalmôn émprosthen kaì ópisthen [γέμοντα ὀφθαλμῶν ἔμπροσθεν καὶ ὄπισθεν], the two adverbs evidently having the same general meaning as kuklóthen [κυκλόθεν] in Ezekiel.
The phrase, as Charles remarks, “has proved a hopeless crux to interpreters.” The only way to deal with it seemed to be to excise it. Wellhausen, in thus treating it (Analyse der Offenbarung Johannis, p. 9), attempted to make it a duplicate of the phrase in verse 6―which it certainly is not. Charles, I, 124, while disagreeing with Wellhausen, nevertheless concludes that the words “are a meaningless interpolation.” The fact is, however, as in most cases, that the words are not interpolated but are the result of a false rendering of the original text. It is strange that scholars like Wellhausen and Charles, who have seriously considered the possibility of translation from a Semitic original, should not think of making a test in this passage, where the source of the difficulty becomes at once clear and where the explanation is as good in Hebrew as it is in Aramaic. The clue is given not only by the sense but also by the noticeable absence, to which Charles calls attention, of the conjunction kaì before kuklóthen.
Verse 8 explains why the four Zoa appeared to be covered with eyes, “both before and behind.” In Ezekiel the eyes were only in the wheels (the verse 10:12 is admittedly corrupt), and the Apocalyptist has transferred them to the wings of his creatures. The original text of the passage was the following: [recherché transliteration] “and the four Zoa, each one of them has six wings, filled round about and within with eyes.” The word “within” refers of course to the under side of the wings. Since the nouns “beast” and “wing” are both feminine in either Hebrew or Aramaic, the word malᵉyɔn, “full,” might refer to either one, and the text restored as above might therefore be rendered exactly as in our Greek. The translator, as would be expected, took his cue from verse 6 and thus spoiled the phrase. If he had only rendered gemoúsas instead of gémousin everything would have been in order.
5:5; 15:2. These two passages illustrate common use (two somewhat different uses) of the Aramaic verb zᵉḵɔʾ.
In chapter 5, when no one in heaven or on earth has been found able to open the book, loosing its seven seals, the announcement is made that the Lion of the tribe of Judah “has overcome to open the book” (eníkēsen . . . anoîxai tò biblíon [ἐνίκησεν . . . ἀνοῖξαι τὸ βιβλίον]). This use of the Greek verb is remarkable, and so is its immediate connection with the infinitive. Blass, Gramm., §69, 3, lists the passage along with several other examples of translation Greek. The phrase exactly reproduces a very familiar Aramaic idiom. The verb zᵉḵɔʾ, commonly meaning “conquer” and in Greek translations ordinarily rendered by nikân, is frequently used to mean “succeed in, attain to, be worthy of,” etc., with a following infinitive, as in the present passage. Thus Targ. Ps. 118:22: the scion of Jesse whom the builders had rejected “was worthy to be appointed king” (zᵉḵɔʾ lᵉiṯᵉmannɔʾɔ [with a horizontal bar over the final letter] limᵉlēk). Targ. Job 20:17: The wicked man “will not succeed in seeing the streams” (lɔʾ yizᵉḵē lᵉmiḥᵃmey naḥᵃmey naḥᵃlayyɔʾ). Bekoroth 60a: the mother of Rabbi Huna “proved able (zᵉḵɔʾī, ‘conquered’) to bear a son.” In all such cases any Greek translator would render by nikân.
The use of the Aramaic verb in 15:2 is different and equally interesting. The seer is shown a company of saints standing by a glassy sea (cf. 4:6), singing “the song of Moses and the Lamb.” These are the faithful servants of God and his Messiah who are “victors from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name” (nikôntas ek toû thēríou kaì ek tês elkónos autoû, etc. [νικῶντας ἐκ τοῦ θηρίου καὶ ἐκ τῆς εἰκόνος αὐτοῦ], etc.).
This idiom is not Greek. Charles, 2, 33, finds the use of ek unexampled and says that “no adequate explanation has yet been offered.” We have here another common use of the same Aramaic verb.
The Hebrew root ZKH means “pure, clean, innocent.” The corresponding Aramaic root is DKͻ, but when moral “cleanness” is meant the initial Z usually appears; see for example Daniel 6:23, and line 46 of the Ahiqar papyrus. In the courts of law the innocent man is “victorious” (hence the usage described above).* Targ. Mic. 6:11: “Shall they be guiltless (yizᵉḵōn, ‘be held victorious’) who use false balances?” The verb is therefore construed with min (Greek ek) in all such usage. Thus, Num. 5:31: “The man is innocent of (zᵉḵɔʾ min) transgression.” Josh. 2:17, 20, the same construction. 2 Sam. 3:28: “I am innocent (zᵉḵɔʾ) . . . of the blood (midᵉmɔʾ) of Abner. Psa. 19:14: “Then shall I be innocent of the great transgression wᵉʾɛhē zɔḵī miḥōḇɔʾ rabɔʾ). The translator of Rev. 15:2 employs the standing equivalent nikân, of the Aramaic verb; and the translation should be: “those who are innocent of the beast, and of his image, and the number of his name.” The idea of “overcoming” is not present at all.
5:6. The lamb stood between the circle of the living creatures and that of the elders. The Aramaic idiom, which cannot be rendered literally, makes this plain.
5:8. In the sequel it is made certain that the relative pronoun here refers to the incense, not to the bowls.
5:9 f. It is interesting to observe that the metrical scheme of this song is exactly reproduced in 15:3 f. and 19:6 ff. See note on 15:3 f., where the Aramaic text is restored.
6:1 f. “It is a fatal mistake to put aside current Jewish conceptions (known to us) in favor of new theories, in interpreting such symbolism as that of this chapter.” Thus one might paraphrase and turn in another direction the warning uttered by Gunkel, Shöpfung und Chaos, pp. 226 ff.
The seals which are opened represent, as all agree, the things which must take place on earth in the last days, before the establishment of the Messianic kingdom. The various features of this prediction were perfectly familiar to all Jews and Jewish Christians, for they had been set forth clearly and consistently in the later Hebrew prophesies as well as in the Psalms. See the chapter, “The Date of Mark,” in Documents, pp. 18 f. The conceptions held by the Jewish Christians at this time were those held by the Jews in general, only modified by the belief that the Messiah had already made appearance on earth. The Synoptic Gospels (Mark 13, Matt. 24, Luke 21) give the main features, as taken from Hebrew prophecy and therefore affording little room for variety, and they are repeated in Revelation, directly or indirectly.
All believed that the time of triumph was near, and yet could be certain that it was as least several years distant. There were events clearly foretold but not yet realized which must consume a considerable amount of time. Chief among these was the evangelization of the Gentiles, gaining their (religious) allegiance; the proudest dream of the Jews ever since the prophecy of Second Isaiah. The new doctrine of “Jesus the Messiah” could not be brought to the ends of the earth at once.
In the symbolism of this sixth chapter of Revelation the colors of the horses (suggested by Zechariah but here treated quite independently) are of course significant, and commentators are in agreement as to the second, third, and fourth: the red represents war; the black, famine (or famine and pestilence); and it is naturally on the “pale” horse that Death rides, with his retainer Hades following him on foot (rɔḏep bɔṯᵉreh).
Concerning the white horse and his rider there has been strange difference of opinion. There is not space here to enumerate the theories; see Charles, I, 163 ff. It should be certain, at the outset, (1) that the content of this first seal is in general character uniform with that of the others―applying to no definite time or circumstance within this long-predicted and most fateful interval, but to a characteristic condition, it is purely symbolic; and (2) that it must be recognizable O.T. prophecy.
Bousset, p. 265, fails to see that the picture of this horse and its rider, no less than that of the others, reflects current belief; he thinks that the author of the Apocalypse presents here “eine eigne Idee, eine originelle Wendung seiner Weissagung.” The original idea Bousset has in mind has appealed as probable to many commentators, who think that the Apocalypse takes occasion here to predict the success of the Parthian armies in warfare against the Romans. This is a strange conjecture. The God of Israel had his own plan for the end of Rome, as depicted in Revelation; he did not need the Parthians. Moreover, even if such little matters as a guess at the Parthian empire could have place at all in such a revelation as this, it is utterly unsuited to the present chapter, and especially to the position in it which the white horse occupies. It is necessary to look further.
The most important factor in the unfolding of these years which must elapse before the End is the vitality of the faithful people, the victorious advance of the Christian Church in spite of terrible opposition. This factor the author of Revelation puts in the first place. It is not only the leading position that is significant; other details point to the same conclusion. The symbolism of the other white horse in 19:11 is an important parallel. as very many interpreters have argued. The rider is given a crown, another most significant symbol. Finally, there is the prediction of repeated and enduring victory (“conquering and to conquer”). The one seated on the white horse, then, represents the Church during the interval before the second coming of the Messiah. No consideration opposes this conclusion.
It is certainly stereotyped Hebrew prophecy that the steadfast will gain the victory with God’s help. There are many and varied pictures of their warfare: Isa. 41:12, 15 f.; Jer. 51:2 (the bow, drawn against Babylon); Zech. 10:5; etc. The Christian Church was compelled from the first (Matt. 10:34; Luke 22:36) to fight in self-defense, and was assured victory. The rider on the white horse is armed with a bow. The reason for the choice of this weapon is obvious. The Church, however militant, had little to do with bloodshed; the sword was of course reserved for the rider on the red horse.
6:16 f. On the metrical form of these verses, see note on 15:3.
In an inflected Semitic language, as regularly in Arabic, such a participle would be shown as accusative; and where there is no inflection, as in Hebrew, this construction, the “adverbial” accusative, is recognized by the grammarians (see Gesenius-Kautzsch, § 118, p). An illustration may be useful. In Hag. 1:4 the prophet asks: “Is it a time for you to be dwelling in your houses, all ceiled (bᵉḇɔteḵem sᵉp̱ūnīm), while this House lies waste?” The Greek translation has en oíkois humôn koilostáthmois, but Targum and Peshitta have the passive participle as circumstantial accusative; and the Syriac version of Revelation has the same construction in the present passage. The reading of the Aramaic original, both here and in 11:3 was miṯᵉʿaṭṭᵉp̱īn; either standing alone as in Hebrew, or preceded by dī or kᵉḏī.
7:12. This verse well illustrates the original use of the Hebrew adjective (not adverb!) ʾɔmen, “true,” as borrowed in both Aramaic and Greek. As a response and in the liturgical use it was first of all the exclamation, “True!” So it was intended in both occurrences in this verse. The meter which is 3│3, shows it to be a part of the original text in both places: the first verse-member ending with dóxa [δόξα], the second with timḗ [τιμή], the third with hēmôn [ἡμῶν], and the fourth then requiring the amḗn [ἀμήν].
The adjective use naturally went over into that of the adverb in all the languages; thus in the Gospels one translator will write amḗn [ἀμήν] (as in Matt. 24:47), while another translating the same passage (Luke 12:44) will render by alēthôs [ἀληθῶς].
7:17. The word “throne” here appears to designate the entire circular space which includes the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders.
8:3 f. This is one of the best possible illustrations of an Aramaic idiom which makes nonsense when it is literally reproduced in Greek. A very common way of indicating nearer definition, “namely, that is,” etc. where the writer wishes to give a more particular designation, is by the use of the preposition lᵉ, ordinarily rendered in Greek by eis where the idea of motion is present, otherwise by the dative case. This idiom becomes common in later Hebrew, and wherever the Targum can be compared both texts have the same construction. A few typical examples may serve to show how the idiom is treated by Greek translators.
1 Chron. 13:1: “David consulted with (ʿim [עִם־]) the captains of thousands and hundreds, that is, (with) every leader (lᵉḵol-nāg̱ı̂ḏ [לְכָל־נָגִיד]). The Greek has ἐβουλεύσατο Δαυιδ μετὰ τῶν χιλιάρχων καὶ τῶν ἑκατοντάρχων παντὶ ἡγουμένῳ, rendering the lᵉ without any regard for the sense.
Ezra 8:24: “I set apart twelve of the chief priests, namely Sherebiah, Hashabiah, . . .” etc. (lᵉšērēḇᵉyāh [לְשֵׁרֵבְיָה], etc.) The Old Greek version (1 Esd. 8:54) had here the appositional accusative, Serebain, etc. On the contrary Theodotion, who translates literally, has tôi Sa[ra]biāi, and so on, rendering the lᵉ- by using the dative case, which here is nonsense.
Ezra 9:1: “The princes said to me, The men of Israel . . . have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, . . . namely the Canaanites, the Hittites,” etc. (lakkᵉnaʿᵃnı̂ haḥittı̂ [לַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִתִּ], etc.). Here again 1 Esdras (8:66) renders according to the sense: apò tôn éthnōn, Khananaíōn, Khettaíōn, etc.; but Theodotion wrote: tôi Khananeí, etc., the dative again a monstrosity.
Ezra 1:11 (Hebrew): “All the vessels, namely the gold and the silver (lazzāhāḇ wᵉlakkesep̱ [לַזָּהָב וְלַכֶּסֶף]), Greek tôi khrusôi kaì tôi argurôi [τῷ χρυσῷ καὶ τῷ ἀργύρῳ]), were brought up by Shesbazzar to Jerusalem.
2 Chron. 5:12 (Hebrew): “The Levites who were the singers, namely the sons of Asaph (toîs huioîs Asáph [τοῖς υἱοῖς Ασαφ]) . . . stood at the east end of the altar.”
2 Chron. 31:2 (Hebrew and Targum): “Hezekiah appointed . . . every man according to his service, namely the priests and the Levites (lakkōhᵃnı̂m wᵉlalwı̂im [לַכֹּהֲנִים וְלַלְוִיִּם], Greek tois hiereusin kai tois Leuitais [τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς Λευίταις]).
2 Chron. 31:16 (Hebrew): “Aside from those who were reckoned by genealogy . . . namely every one (lᵉḵol [לְכָל], Greek pantí [παντί]) who entered the house of the Lord.”
In no one of these cases could the Greek translator have had any doubt as to the meaning of the original text, yet in each case an impossible dative is written. The same thing is done here in Revelation.
In 2 Kings 12:6 the Hebrew preposition [lᵉ (לְ)] is rendered by eis with the accusative; in Neh. 9:32 and Jer. 19:13 by en with the dative; and in 2 Chron. 33:8 by kata with the accusative; but ordinarily in any close translation the dative alone would be employed. The number of examples of this idiom could be greatly increased, with illustration from the other Semitic languages if it were necessary.
In Revelation 8:3 f. the idiom occurred twice in the original Aramaic text. The angel with the golden censer stands beside the alter to offer incense upon it. We have been told by the writer in a preceding chapter (5:8) that this incense represents the prayers of the saints (hai proseukhaì tôn hagîōn [αἱ προσευχαὶ τῶν ἁγίων]). Now that the time has come to offer the incense, it is important to remind the reader of the symbolism; accordingly, at each of the two occurrences of the word the explanation is given. In the original Aramaic this would naturally be done by means of a clause introduced by the preposition lᵉ, as above illustrated, and the Greek shows plainly that the Aramaic was written in just this way. The explanatory clauses―certainly introduced by the author himself , not by any later hand―may be indicated by the use of parentheses:
The two verses should therefore be translated as follows:
The Aramaic text, which can easily be reproduced, is in perfect form, including the quite usual ellipsis of the pronominal object (understood) of the verb yinᵉten, Greek dṓsei, “put,” and the Greek rendering is exactly what would be expected from the translator of this Apocalypse. (The late Professor J. A. Montgomery informed me that he had long ago seen and noted this explanation of the two datives in the passage.) The difficulty these verses make when they are supposed to be Greek may be seen in any commentary. One result of the consequent misunderstanding has been the excision by some scholars, including Spitta, Völter, and Charles, of the clause in 5:8 “which are the prayers of the saints” as a mistaken gloss, because it seems to be contradicted in the present passage by the use of the Greek dative case: “The incense went up for the benefit of the prayers” (Charles, I, p. 231). Swete accepts the clause in 5:8 as genuine and original, but thinks that the figure has now been changed, making the prayers “apparently the live coals on which the grains of incense fall.” But the figure was already present in Psa. 141:2, and it has not been changed.
8:12. “The third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; that the third part of them should be darkened, and that the day should not shine for the third part of the night in like manner.”
This is a passage of notorious difficulty. Charles, I, 237, pronounces the text meaningless in its concluding part, and Swete, p. 111, says that it “shows the writer’s independence of the ordinary laws of thought”―another way of saying the same thing. It is perfectly evident what the author of the Apocalypse must have intended to say, and a few texts and versions have taken the responsibility of making him say it. The heavenly bodies lost one third of their brightness, and consequently this portion of their customary light will not illumine the day, nor the night.
It is easy to see how there might have been ambiguity (for the typical Greek translator) in the Aramaic text. The same consonantal form of the verb NHR could mean either “shine” (yinᵉhar) or “illumine” (yanᵉhar); the words “day” and “night” could as well be direct object as subject, the sentence order of the Aramaic permitting either construction. The words and order best suited to give the intended sense in good literary form would seem to be the following: wīmɔmɔʾ lɔʾ yanᵉhar tilᵉtɔʾ wᵉlēlᵉyɔʾ hɔḵen, “and that the third part should not illumine the day, nor the night likewise.” This Aramaic reading, with the verb understood as yinᵉhar, yields our Greek text, and the problem of the passage is thus solved.
In Revelation 22:5, hoti kyrios ho theos phōtisei ep’ autous [ὅτι κύριος ὁ θεὸς φωτίσει ἐπ᾿ αὐτούς, ‘for the Lord God will illuminate them’], the preposition represents Aramaic ʿal [עַל]. This is not a citation of Psa. 118:27 (Charles, Scott).
8:13. “Alas (for) those who dwell on the earth!” ouai tous katoikountas epi tēs gēs [οὐαὶ τοὺς κατοικοῦντας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς]. This accusative has made great trouble in both ancient and modern times. Bousset, p. 297, remarks: “Die Irregularität des Akk. ist gänzlich unerklärlich.” Charles adopts the corrected reading, toîs katoikoûsin, but the accusative is the original, and so the standard texts are edited. There is another example in 12:12, ouai tēn gēn kai tēn thalassan [οὐαὶ τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν].
After the Aramaic way, Greek ouai, several constructions are regular. (1) The case of direct address (nominative definite): 18:10, ouai hē polis hē megalē [οὐαί ἡ πόλις ἡ μεγάλη], with following pronoun of the second person, ēlthen hē krisis sou [ἦλθεν ἡ κρίσις σου]. One of the many examples is Luke 6:25, hoi gelōntes [οἱ γελῶντες]. The regular usage in Greek. (2) Direct address, with the pronoun or verb in the third person. A similar example in Hebrew is Micah 1:2, šimʿû ʿammı̂m kullām [שִׁמְעוּ עַמִּים כֻּלָּם], “Hear, peoples, all!” Revelation 18:19 is one of many such cases. In Arabic the accusative is used in more than one variety of address, especially if the person addressed is not thought of as actually present. In all these languages the direct address may pass over into the indirect and vice versa. (3) By far the most common construction is ouai followed by the dative case. (4) The interjection “alas!” may be followed by an “exclamatory” accusative, as in the present passage and in 12:12; a case (extremely common in Arabic, with its inflectional endings) which was originally the direct object of a verb understood. “Woe, (I mean) the inhabitants of the earth!” Here again the translator reproduced the Aramaic construction.
10:7. kai etelesthē [καὶ ἐτελέσθη] is plainly wrong; the future tense, telesthēsetai [τελεσθήσεται] is required. Translation of a Hebrew consecutive perfect tense has often been conjectured, e.g., by Holtzmann, Bousset, and Charles; see also Scott, p. 13. There is indeed mistranslation or wrong transcribing here, and the translator certainly saw before him (or thought he saw) a perfect tense preceded by the conjunction. The text was not Hebrew, however, and there are no “consecutive” tenses in Aramaic.
A predictive perfect is not likely. The participle pᵉʿal, which has the same form as the perfect and is very frequently used for the future, would hardly be employed in this context, in which only the future tense is really suitable. The case is not like that of etelésthē in 15:1; see the note. The καὶ is possible, but the sentence would be better without it. It seems probable that we have here the result of a copyist’s error: the original was yiḡᵉar or yᵉšēṣē, and it was read as ūḡᵉmar or wᵉšēṣī. Such confusion of W and Y is very common indeed. “In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is destined (ʿᵃṯīḏ) to sound his trumpet, will be complete (or ‘finished’) the mystery of God.”
10:8. The text of this verse has made great trouble. As the sentence now stands, the words lalousan [λαλοῦσαν] and legousan [λέγουσαν] are impossible; participles are out of place here, and so also is the accusative case. It is customary (and has been from the earliest times) to emend the text freely; thus the Latin has: et audivi vocem de caelo iterum loquentem mecum et dicentem, etc. The English A.V.: “And the voice . . . spake unto me again, and said,” etc. The R.V. inserts a verb: “And the voice . . . I heard it again speaking to me.” Charles recognizes that the Greek text has been faithfully transmitted and ascribes the solecism to the author of the book.
The fact of an Aramaic original explains the Greek at once and with certainty. It is a case of exactly literal translation which in effect is mistranslation. The original of laloûsan kaì légousan was of course mᵉmallel wᵉʾɔmar, two participles with the (customary) meaning of the historical present tense. The translator rendered word by word, as usual, and probably did not notice that the sentence came out wrong. He should have written: kaì hē phōnḕ hḕn ḗkousa ek toû ouranoû pálin laleî metʾ emoû kaì légei Húpage lábe tò biblíon, etc.
It is to be noticed that while this explanation perfectly fits the Aramaic idiom and accounts for the Greek, it would not be plausible in Hebrew, where the participle is by no means so freely used.
11:1 f. “There was given to me a reed like a staff, with the command: Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the alter and the worshippers within it; but omit the outer court and measure it not, for it has been given to the Gentiles.”
Measuring with a reed those who happen to worshipping (toùs proskunoûntas) in the temple is mere nonsense, for which the author of the book cannot be made responsible. The cause of the false reading is easy to see. Since the court of the Gentiles was to be “left out,” it was of the first importance to measure the boundary of the inner sanctuary. This was the sᴐrɛg, the stone barrier which marked the limit beyond which no Gentile might pass. Outside this fence was hē aulḕ hē éxōthen toû naoû, which the seer was ordered not to measure. Aramaic D and R being identical in form, the original reading, SRGʾ, “the sᴐrɛg,”* was misread, either by the translator or by a scribe, who saw in it a far more common word, constantly used in connection with the temple, namely SGDʾ (participle, of course regarded as a collective), “the worshippers,”
*The word itself presents several problems. If it is really Semitic and therefore to be connected with the root (SRG) meaning “to weave, plait,” etc., it originally signified a fence of lattice work. On the other hand, it is difficult to believe it is related to Syriac sᵉrogᴐʾ, “portico, colonnade, gallery,” etc., commonly believed to be a loanword from the Greek (sûrinx) súringa; see Nöldeke, Syriac Grammar, § 88. The description of the sᴐrɛg as a drúphaktos, in the famous inscription warning to the Gentiles, adds nothing to our knowledge.
In modern treatises the word is vocalized in several different ways; the variations need not be given here. Sᴐrɛg seems to be the best reading (thus Aruch Completum, Alexander Kohut, ed., 1926; Chaldäisches Wörterbuch, Leipzig, 1867, and Neuhebräisches und Chaldäisches Wörterbuch, Leipzig, 1885, Jacob Levy, ed.; E. Schürer, Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Jesu Cristi, Leipzig, 1901, I, 225, n. 6; and others). In Talmudic Hebrew the vocalization is usually that of the participle.
The mistranslated word should have been rendered in Greek by tòn drúphakton, yielding the translation: “Measure the temple, and the altar and the barrier within it.”
The phrase ékbale éxōthen in verse 2 has often been misunderstood, with the Greek taken too literally. Thus Bousset, p. 317, renders “hinauswerfen,” and declares the sense to be “hinaustun zur Vernichtung.” This is also Charles’ interpretation. But the idiom (rᵉmī lᵉmiḇᵉrɔʾ) means simply “omit,” as in English “throw out” is often used. A.V. “leave out” is much better than R.V. “leave without.” Weizäcker’s excellent German translation has “lass aus.”
11:3 The accusative peribeblēménous has been thought a “primitive error” for the dative; but it is correct as it stands. See the note on 7:9, where the construction is explained.
11:18. This accusative also, toùs mikroùs kaì toùs megálous, which has no explanation in Greek grammar, is quite possible in Semitic as the case of nearer designation. The reason it was employed here would seem to be that, while the preceding datives toîs doúlois . . . toîs phōbouménois rendered Aramaic words to which the preposition lᵉ was prefixed, the words zᵉcērayyɔʾ wᵉraḇᵉrᵉḇayyɔʾ, “the small and the great,” stood alone (quite correctly) without the preposition. This difference our meticulous translator was bound to indicate.
12:5. The Greek phrase éteken huiòn ársen [ἔτεκεν υἱὸν ἄρσεν] is mentioned in the section dealing with the language of Revelation, and it is there shown that the allusion is to the fine passage in Second Isaiah, 66:6-9, predicting the birth of the Messiah and the ingathering of the Gentiles (the other “children”; cf. 45:10 f.). From that passage it would appear that the mother of the Male Child in Revelation, the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head, is the Zion of God’s eternal purpose. Even without the original passage in Isaiah this would be by far the most natural interpretation of the symbol. There is also a significant contrast between the glory of the woman (17:3 ff.) who is Rome. Tò spérma autes, verse [12:]17, designates the Christians, the true Israel.
The ascension of the Child leads to war in heaven, resulting in the expulsion of Satan and his angels, who are cast down to the earth. Thereupon follow the events, centering in Rome, which prepare the way for “the great tribulation” which is to occupy “3½” years, variously numbered in verses 6 and 14. While the earthly Jerusalem in the deadly period is trodden by pagans and is the abode of wickedness (“Sodom”, 11:8, see above on the date of Revelation, near the end), the symbolic Zion is preserved in the wilderness of upper Egypt (Tob. 8:3), the preliminary statement in verse 6 further expanded in 14 ff. The river which would have made her potamophórēton (Aramaic šᵉqīlat nahᵃrɔʾ) is then the overflowing upper Nile. When the Apocalyptist created this fantastic picture he had in mind the symbol of the Egyptian captivity; possibly also the symbolic Flight from Egypt in Matthew 2:13 ff.
In 12:17, last clause, read estáthēn, “I stood upon the sand of the sea” (cf. Daniel 8:2 f.; 10:4 f.), and make this clause the beginning 13. The connection of chapter 11 with 12, and of 12 with 13, is both natural and close when the writer’s conception is understood.
12:17. The Greek translator renders here without regard to the familiar idiom in which Aramaic ʾᵃzal is joined to another verb to indicate the action as continuing with increasing effect. See similar examples in Proverbs 4:18 and Jonah 1:11.
13:3. Kai ethaumasthē holē hē gē opisō tou thēriou [Καὶ ἐθαυμάσθη ὅλη ἡ γῆ ὀπίσω τοῦ θηρίου]. “And the whole earth wondered after the beast.” The idiom is not Greek, nor English, and nothing equivalent to it has been found in Aramaic. It is hardly to be explained as an elliptical phrase: more probably there is a slight error of translation. Charles compares verses 3 and 8 with their parallel in 17:8 and concludes that the sense of the original must have been: “the whole earth wondered when it saw the beast“; proposing to find the solution in an altered (very much altered) Hebrew word. But the original was Aramaic.
Opísō [οπίσω] represents either bɔṯar or ʾaḥᵃrā. The verb “wonder” is regularly construed with the preposition ʿal [עַל], “about, concerning.” Now it is well known that in the papyri from Elephantine the preposition ʿḤRY has in three different documents the meaning “concerning,” employed as an exact synonym of ʿal [עַל] in this signification (see Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C., 9. 4; 13. 7; 38. 10). It will hardly be doubted that in this use of the preposition is to be found the explanation of the phrase in the present passage; especially in view of the generally archaizing character of this “scriptural” Aramaic. The meaning was: “The whole earth was in amazement concerning the beast”; and the Greek translator rendered the preposition too literally.
13:4. “They worshipped the dragon, because he had given authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is comparable to the beast? and who can make war with him”?
Here is a typical example of mistranslation of the Aramaic particle dī, which may be either relative pronoun or variously used conjunction. Wherever it is followed by a verb, whether perfect tense or imperfect, the translators of the Four Gospels as well as the translator of this Apocalypse regularly render by a Greek conjunction, unless forced by the context to recognize a relative clause. This very natural habit has resulted in a long list of false renderings, some of which in the Gospels have caused much perplexity.
The conjunction hóti [ὅτι], “because,” makes nonsense in the present passage. The writer might conceivably have said that the whole world worshipped the dragon although he had delegated his authority to another; but it could not possibly have been said that he was worshipped because he had delegated it. The false use of hóti [ὅτι] here may show at once that the Greek renders an Aramaic text. The true rendering, obviously, is this: “They worshipped the dragon who had given his authority to the beast.”
Some other examples of false rendering of the Aramaic dī may be given here.
In 15:14 the first hóti [ὅτι] clause should certainly have been rendered “Who only art holy.” In all probability the dī which introduced each of the two following clauses was also intended as the relative pronoun: “(Thou), before whom all the nations will come and bow down; whose righteousness acts have been made manifest.”
Similar is the case in 16:5: “Righteous art thou . . . who has given these judgments.” It was not a matter of uncertainty, whether the God of Israel and of the world would render judgment in a given case.
Another example is 17:8 (last clause) , where the only logical meaning is given by the relative pronoun: All inhabitants of the earth will wonder, “as they behold the beast who was, and is not, and will reappear.” More than one beast had been mentioned, and it was important to specify this particular one; see also verse 11.
Like the passages 15:4 and 16:5, above mentioned, is 19:2: “Salvation and glory and might belong to our God, whose judgments are true and righteous; who has judged the great harlot who had corrupted the earth,” etc. In all these cases the Greek retains the order of the Aramaic words.
Equally certain as a specimen of this mistranslation is 19:15 [καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ ἐκπορεύεται ῥομφαία ὀξεῖα, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῇ πατάξῃ τὰ ἔθνη], in which is illustrated the habit of the Greek translators to render dī by hina, if in any way possible, when it is followed by the imperfect tense. The sword is not proceeding from the mouth of the Messiah “in order that with it” he may smite the nations; the correct translation is: “From his mouth proceeds a sharp sword, with which (dī ḇah) he is to smite the nations.” The writer is referring to the Hebrew scriptures, making up his quotation from Isa. 11:4 and 49:2.
In such cases as 6:11, second clause, the dī might of course have been rendered by hóti [ὅτι] as well as hína [ἵνα]. There are many such cases in the translation Greek of the New Testament.
Still other examples of the false rendering of dī, in 18:19 and in 18:23, will be discussed below.
13:11(a). Of the second beast (see below) it is said that he “had two horns like (those of) a lamb”: eichen kerata dyo homoia arniō̧ [εἶχεν κέρατα δύο ὅμοια ἀρνίῳ].
This is difficult enough; normally a “lamb” has no horns at all, and under no circumstances could this be considered a typical feature of an arnion. The horned animal whose might is proverbial in Hebrew literature is the wild ox, rᵉʾēm [ רְאֵם ] (also Aramaic). Deut. 33:17, “His horns are the horns of the wild ox: with them he shall push all the peoples, even to the ends of the earth.” Here Jerusalem Targum II has qarᵉnē rᵉʾemɔʾ. See also Num. 23:22; 24:8. It therefore seems very probable indeed that the true reading of the Aramaic in the present passage was kirᵉʾemɔʾ (KRʾMʾ), “like (those of) a wild ox,” rather than kᵉʾimmʾrɔʾ (KʾMRʾ), “like (those of) a lamb.” Such transpositions, common in all places and times, are quite frequent in this translation.
13:11(b). There is an interesting bit of folklore in this passage, though the Greek text does not give quite the right idea of it. After the beast which came up out of the sea, whose authority was to continue for forty-two months (verse 5), there came up from the earth another beast, prepared to complete the work of his predecessor. This creature is very briefly described: he had two horns (see above), “and he spoke like a dragon” (kai elalei hōs drakōn [καὶ ἐλάλει ὡς δράκων], Aramaic wīmallel kᵉṯannīn). This comparison leaves us in some uncertainty. What is the speech of a dragon―in what manner or language do dragons talk?
Holtzman, Hand-commentar, p. 342 said: “Die Sprache die es führt, kennzeichnet es als im Dienste des Drachen stehend”; but this explanation, improbable in itself, cannot possibly be obtained from the Greek. Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos, p. 351, conjectures some corruption of the underlying “Hebrew.” Charles confesses that he “can make nothing” of the phrase. Swete, who is likely to take critical problems rather easily, merely says that “his voice was the roar of a dragon.” This, while on the right track, is purely arbitrary; lalein does not mean “roar.”
A hint as to the probable reading of the Aramaic text in its original form is afforded by certain passages which are cited and translated by Levy, Chald. Wörterbuch, under the root YLL. Deut. 32:10 (Jerusalem Targum I): Deut. 32:10 ʾṯar dimᵉyallᵉlīn šeḏīn wᵉyɔrōdīn, “Der Ort, wo die Dämonen und die Drachen wehklagen”; Isa. 15:8: mᵉzɔrᵉzē mōʾab mᵉyallᵉlīn, “Die Gerüsteten Moabs jammern.” From these examples can be seen at once the probability that the original reading in Rev. 13:11 was not WYMLL kᵉṯannīn, “and he talked like a dragon,” but WMYLL kᵉṯannīn “and he roared, screamed, like a dragon,” the participle employed as in the description of the beast in Daniel 7:7.
In regard to the former of the two passages quoted from Levy, namely Targum Deut. 32:10, there are indeed two things to be said: (1) the yɔrōdīn are regularly “jackals,” Hebrew tannīm. (2) The word yɔrōd, though widely used, is merely a miswriting of yɔrōr (“howler”), the root YRR being a variation of YLL. The confusion of tannīm with tannīn is very ancient, however; see especially Ezek. 29:3; 32:2; and it is not always easy to decide whether a Hebrew writer has in mind jackals or dragons. Thus in Lam. 4:3 the Greek (drákontes) and the Targum stand in opposition to the accepted interpretation, and seem to have the better of the argument.
It followed that the roaring of the dragon was as fixed a characteristic as the howling of the jackal; the more so as a popular etymology accounted for both names (see below). Thus in Mic. 1:8 the LXX rendering of ʾεceśε [with a horizontal bar on top of the last “ε“] misᵉped katannīm is poiḗsetai kopetôn hōs drakóntōn.
Bochart’s Hierozoicon in the interesting chapter “De Draconibus” (III, xiv), gives an amount of traditional material which includes this feature, the dragon’s vocal delivery. Referring to two of the passages which speak of creatures howling in the desert, namely Mic. 1:8 and Job 30:29, he remarks (Frankfort ed., 1675, II, 437): “Fortasse etiam horrendos draconum sibilos respiciunt quibus deserta personant.” He then quotes in extenso the testimony of Aelian: A dragon in India sent out such a voice that all were terrified and thrown into consternation; another, “of immense size,” brought terror by its surigmós to the inhabitants of the Island of Chios, etc. Bochart (ibid.) derives the noun tannīm from the verb (infinitive) tannōt, “quod thrēneîn, plangere, explicant vetustissimi interpretes Jud. 11:40,” and it can hardly be doubted that this etymology was current in Bible times.
What showed the beast of Revelation 13:11 to be related to the dragon family was not articulate “speech” of any sort, but a terrifying howl. The exchange of the two almost identical Aramaic words may have been made either by a copyist of the original text or by the Greek translator.
13:15. This verse, as it stands, is a most distressing specimen of Greek. The seemingly impossible autêi at the beginning is the original reading. It is thus edited in the W. & H. text on the authority of codd. A and C and some other witnesses, while other editions adopt the correction autôi. The explanation of the feminine pronoun is simple and certain: the Aramaic ḥayṯɔʾ, “beast,” is feminine and the translator had it in mind when he interpreted the pronoun in the word LH. A somewhat similar case is the kaioménēs in 19:20, as has been shown above.
The verb poiḗsēi is so misleading, so clearly productive of a false interpretation, that it is hard to believe the translator guilty of it. Charles, I, cxlvi and 2, 420, note, would explain this as a case of resolution of an infinitive (doûnai) into a finite verb. Such resolution is common enough, but it is inadmissible here because of the hina lalḗsēi immediately preceding. To effect the resolution the Aramaic would infallibly have introduced the verb by the particle dī, which the translator would certainly have rendered by hina. This would have been a possible reading, though made awkward and ambiguous by the preceding clause. It seems most probable that in the Aramaic the infinitive construction was continued, that the Greek translator wrote poiḗsēi, and that an early copyist made the easy mistake of writing kaì . . . lalḗsēi . . . kaì . . . poiḗsēi.
13:18. We are now told in so many words that “the beast” is not just a symbol but an epithet designating an actual human being, whose person has been given some description in the verses of the chapter.
13:18. The beast has conquered the world, and all nations and peoples worship him. This evidently shows that the beast is a Roman emperor. The description is more definite, however. Three times, and with impressive emphasis (verses 3, 12, 14), this beast (emperor) is characterized as one who had recovered from a sword-stroke which had seemed to deal a mortal wound. This designates with certainty the emperor Nero, as no one doubts who knows the history of the legendary Nero redivivus.
This identification is at once confirmed in another way. The name is not to be given directly, but its “number” is furnished, and he who has wisdom may “reckon” it.
Each letter of the alphabet (Greek, Roman, or Semitic) has its fixed numerical value, and numbers, great or small, are commonly expressed by letters or combination of letters. It was long ago seen to be probable, and is now certain, that the intended interpretation of the number 666 is found in the Semitic writing of the name Nerōn Qesar,[*] Nero Caesar; the numerical values being as follows: nun = 50; resh = 200; waw = 6; nun = 50; qoph = 100; samekh = 60; resh = 200.
14:6. The adjective aiṍnion [αἰώνιον], while almost inevitable as the rendering of Aramaic ᴄᴐlam, really mistranslates here, for the ᴄᴐlam to which it refers is not ho aiṍn but hē oikouménē. The Semitic noun with the latter meaning is common in late Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. A frequently occurring Talmudic phrase is ʾummōt hᴐᴄōlᴐm, “the peoples of the world,” meaning especially the Gentiles, and it is this usage, precisely, that is intended in the present passage. The euangélion aiṍnion proclaimed here is not an “eternal message,” as it is ordinarily understood―the idea of duration of time is not present at all; it is a “universal message,” as the verse goes on to declare, sent to the peoples of the earth, all nations, tribes, and tongues. Aramaic bᵉsōr, regularly rendered by euangélion, means simply “tidings,” whether good or bad.
14:8. A verse of notorious difficulty. The English R.V. reads: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, that hath made all the nations to drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” The same phrase precisely occurs in 18:3, so the Greek is not to be altered; it is what the translator wrote. This “very extraordinary form of speech” (Charles) has long been regarded as a combination of two diverse ideas: “the wine of her fornication,” as in 17:2, and “the wine of the wrath of God,” as in 16:19 and 19:15. In what way the senseless combination can have been made is not explained. Charles would regard toû thumoû as an interpolation.
The key to this passage and to several others is found in the use of the Aramaic noun lᵉwɔṯ, which the author of this apocalypse seems fond of using. The original meaning of the word is “curse,” but it is used in a variety of idioms where it merely imparts a sinister meaning and is paraphrased or left untranslated.
The word thumós really mistranslates here, though there is justification for its use. It renders Aramaic lᵉwɔṯ in the sense of “poisoning, intoxicating, stupefying,” etc. This wine is the ḥamᵉrɔʾ dī lᵉwɔṯ of Targum Psalm 60:5, where Hebrew has yēn tarʾᵃсelͻ [with horizontal bar over final “ͻ”], LXX oînon katanúxeōs, Aquila karṓseōs (lᵉwɔṯɔʾ also renders hatarᵉсlͻ [with horizontal bar over final “ͻ”]) in Isa. 51:22, where LXX has ptṓseōs and Aquila, in verse 17, karṓseōs.) It is the ḥᵃmar lᵉwɔṯɔʾ of Targum Jer. 25:15, “the poisoning wine,” Hebrew yēn haḥemͻ [with horizontal bar over final “ͻ”] (MT hayyayin is a scribal error, and the clause has been generally misunderstood). Compare also the “poison of serpents” of Deut. 32:33, where the Greek renders both roʾš and ḥemͻ [with horizontal bar over final “ͻ”] (not “wrath”!) by thumós. This ḥᵃmar lᵉwɔṯɔʾ is a true compound, and the rendering of our passage in 18:3 should be “the intoxicating wine of her fornication”; compare especially the passage 17:2. Hos. 7:5 ḥᵃmat miyyayin, “intoxication from wine,” is also to be compared. The word lᵉwɔṯ must have been used here in the original text of Revelation. The interpretation by toû thumoû was most unfortunate. See further the notes on 14:19 and 16:19. In verse 10 of this chapter, “wine of the wrath of God is evidently the intended meaning.
14:15. Charles, 2, 22, objects to the verb exēranthē [ἐξηράνθη] here as ill-suited to express the idea of ripeness of the harvest, and thinks that it may have rendered a slightly corrupt Hebrew text in which a verb YBS (“be dry, wither”) had resulted from careless transcription of the words kı̂ ḇāšal [ כִּי בָשַׁל ] in Joel 4:13.
[καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἐξῆλθεν ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ κράζων ἐν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπὶ τῆς νεφέλης· πέμψον τὸ δρέπανόν σου καὶ θέρισον, ὅτι ἦλθεν ἡ ὥρα θερίσαι, ὅτι ἐξηράνθη ὁ θερισμὸς τῆς γῆς]. Quotation of the passage in Joel (4[English 3]:13) is indeed certain, both in this verse and in verse 20, but in neither case is the quotation direct. There can be no question of Hebrew―the text was only Aramaic. The use of the verb xērainō [ξηραίνω] is strange, but hardly to be called impossible, if the writer would say, “The harvest is not only ready, but more than ready.” This is the grain harvest, contrasted with the vintage in verse 18; both are mentioned in the verse in Joel which our Apocalyptist is expanding.
The conjecture made by Charles is nevertheless attractive and plausible, and may well be adopted. The supposed misreading would be the same in Aramaic as in Hebrew. The original of hoti exēranthē ho therismos tēs gēs [ὅτι ἐξηράνθη ὁ θερισμὸς τῆς γῆς] would have been ʾᵃrē ḇᵉšel ḥᵃṣɔḏɔʾ dī ʾarᵃсɔʾ, “for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” The main purpose of this whole passage, verses 14-20, seems to have been to make use of the verse in Joel and to paint in detail the pictures which it suggested.
The word állos at the beginning of verse 15 is manifestly impossible, for this is a new scene quite distinct from the preceding, and in it no angel has been mentioned. The presence of the word in our text is due to the mistake of a copyist whose eye fell on the beginning of verse 17, which has the same verbal form. Scribal error of this nature is so very common that it can hardly fail to be accepted as the solution to the present difficulty.
Rev 14:19-20 (NA27): 19 καὶ ἔβαλεν ὁ ἄγγελος τὸ δρέπανον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν γῆν καὶ ἐτρύγησεν τὴν ἄμπελον τῆς γῆς καὶ ἔβαλεν εἰς τὴν ληνὸν τοῦ θυμοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν μέγαν. 20 καὶ ἐπατήθη ἡ ληνὸς ἔξωθεν τῆς πόλεως καὶ ἐξῆλθεν αἷμα ἐκ τῆς ληνοῦ ἄχρι τῶν χαλινῶν τῶν ἵππων ἀπὸ σταδίων χιλίων ἑξακοσίων.
Transliteration (Accordance): 19 kai ebalen ho aggelos to drepanon autou eis tēn gēn kai etrygēsen tēn ampelon tēs gēs kai ebalen eis tēn lēnon tou thymou tou theou ton megan. 20 kai epatēthē hē lēnos exōthen tēs poleōs kai exēlthen haima ek tēs lēnou achri tōn chalinōn tōn hippōn apo stadiōn chiliōn hexakosiōn.
NRSV: 19 So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse’s bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles.
The first of three paragraphs of comment by Torrey:
Recourse to the original Aramaic explains the matter at once. The text of the passage given above in its Greek rendering was the following: urᵉmɔʾ lᵉmacᵃṣarᵉtɔʾ dī lᵉwɔṭɔʾ dī ʾɛlɔhɔʾ hɔhūʾ rabɔʾ. The translator naturally saw here “the great winepress of the wrath of God.” Translating word by word, as always, he could only render hɔhūʾ rabɔʾ by tòn mégan [τὸν μέγαν]. The rendering should have been: “the winepress of the great wrath of God,” the Aramaic adjective referring to the word lᵉwɔṭ which is masculine.
Aramaic lᵉwɔṭ is used in the Targums for the “wrath” of God; rendering zacam for example, in Isa 10:5. But the word properly means “curse“; and in the Targums it is oftener used for the poisoning, maddening, or paralyzing effect of the curse; see the note on 16:19, the “intoxicating cup,” and compare also the note on 14:8, above.
Transliteration (Accordance): Kai eidon allo sēmeion en tō̧ ouranō̧ mega kai thaumaston, aggelous hepta echontas plēgas hepta tas eschatas, hoti en autais etelesthē ho thymos tou theou.
NRSV: Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.
15:1 ff. Verse 1 is the preliminary announcement of the especially portentous vision (mega kai thaumaston [μέγα καὶ θαυμαστόν]) which is to follow. Verses 1-4 form an impressive introduction.
The Aramaic original of etelesthē [ἐτελέσθη] was the verb šᵉlem, as in Ezra 5:16: the seven plagues, in which (dī ḇᵉhēn) is accomplished the wrath of God”; i.e., is to be accomplished. The particle dī is here the relative pronoun, wrongly rendered (as so often!) by the conjunction hoti [ὅτι], which here, as the commentators remark, certainly does not introduce any “satisfactory explanation.” Another false rendering of the same sort occurs just below, in verse 4. Such cases as this―and they are not a few―show at once and infallibly that our Greek renders Aramaic, not Hebrew.
Rev 15:2 (NA27): Καὶ εἶδον ὡς θάλασσαν ὑαλίνην μεμιγμένην πυρὶ καὶ τοὺς νικῶντας ἐκ τοῦ θηρίου καὶ ἐκ τῆς εἰκόνος αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκ τοῦ ἀριθμοῦ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ ἑστῶτας ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν τὴν ὑαλίνην ἔχοντας κιθάρας τοῦ θεοῦ.
Transliteration (Accordance): Kai eidon hōs thalassan hyalinēn memigmenēn pyri kai tous nikōntas ek tou thēriou kai ek tēs eikonos autou kai ek tou arithmou tou onomatos autou hestōtas epi tēn thalassan tēn hyalinēn echontas kitharas tou theou.
WEB: I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who overcame the beast, his image, and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.
Torrey’s comment ― the first of three paragraphs:
This phrase as it stands seems to designate a class, or collection, of harps. Charles, 2, 343, refers to 1 Chron. 16:42, kᵉlē šīr hɔʾɛlohīm and 2 Chron. 7:6 kᵉlē šīr YHWH; but (1) the introduction of the word šīr makes the case quite different; and (2) it is worth noticing that Targ. Chron. does not permit even this form of words, but in both passages inserts qɔdɔm (“in the presence of”) before the word designating God.
It can hardly be doubted that the present text is wrong. The Greek gives no foothold for emendation, but as soon as the Aramaic it renders is restored, the cause of the trouble is made clear. What the author of the Apocalypse wrote was not kinnɔrīn dī ʾɛlɔhɔʾ, “harps of God,” but kinnɔrīn dī ʾᵃlɔhɔʾ, “harps of aloes wood This precious wood, famed for its fragrance (Psa. 45:9[8 English]; Prov. 7:17; Song of Songs 4:14), is precisely the material that would be expected in this place. The word was either carelessly miswritten or else too hastily translated. Another characteristic misreading.
15:3 f. The seer is shown a company of martyrs, first fruits of “the great tribulation,” victims of the persecution instituted by Nero after his return to the throne, standing by the glassy sea and singing the Song of Moses and the Lamb.
The form of the phrase has given trouble to interpreters. inasmuch as there seems to be mention of two songs: “the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.” Accordingly, since there is only one song here, several editors of the Greek text have proposed to cut out the words kai tēn ō̧dēn tou arniou [καὶ τὴν ᾠδὴν τοῦ ἀρνίου / and the song of the Lamb] as an interpolation. Charles, 2, 34 f., on the other hand found it necessary to omit the mention of Moses, believing the words tēn ō̧dēn Mōuseōs tou doulou tou theou [τὴν ᾠδὴν Μωϋσέως τοῦ δούλου τοῦ θεοῦ / the song of Moses, the servant of God] to have originated in a marginal gloss. There is no good reason, however, for any operation on the text. The word “song” was repeated simply in order to escape the necessity of (apparently) characterizing Moses as “the servant of God and of the Lamb”; thus certainly the Aramaic would be understood, unless the word šı̂r [שִׁיר / song] were repeated.
The song (which has nothing to do with Exodus 15) represents both periods in the history of the true religion on earth: the age of Israel’s preparation and the now dawning age of the divine Leader. The main theme of the song, which gives it its character as representing both dispensations, is its promise of the submission of all the world, verse 4b. Only in the Messianic time, according to the Hebrew prophets since Second Isaiah, would the Gentiles accept the truth from Israel and worship the One God (Isa. 45:14-17; in the first definitely and formally “Messianic” chapter in this prophecy, employing for the first time, in verse 1, the term mɔšīaḥ [מַשִׁיחַ]).
As already remarked, the very numerous songs, doxologies, and other bits of verse which are scattered through the book are all in metric form. The meters familiar in O.T Hebrew now reappear, unchanged, in N.T. Aramaic. There is here in Revelation a use of the 3│2 meter (the type characterized by lyrical fervor) so strikingly important as to demand illustration. The form of this verse can be recognized in the Greek translations from Hebrew or Aramaic, if the rendering is close.
Three songs are given special prominence in the book: the New Song, 5:9 f.; the Song of Moses and the Lamb, 15:3 f.; and the Hallelujah chorus, “like the sound of mighty thunders.” in 19:6-8. When the attempt is made to restore the metric form, the three songs are seen to exemplify a single very distinct pattern.
dī nᵉḵísᵉtᵉ ūzᵉḇánᵉtᵉ leʾlɔhɔ́ʾ│biḏᵉmɔ́ʾ dīlɔ́k││
min kól šᵉḇáṭ wᵉliššɔ́n│wᵉᶜám wᵉʾummɔ́ʾ││
waᶜᵃḇáḏᵉtɔnnún leʾlɔhánɔ́ʾ│malᵉḵú wᵉḵɔhᵃnín││
…..wᵉímᵉlᵉḵūn ᶜál ʾarᵉᶜɔ́ʾ
This retroversion into Aramaic follows the Greek word for word and in the exact order throughout. The Aramaic words conjectured are the usual equivalents of the Greek. As very often in the O.T., so also here the 3│2 verses are finished off with a single three-beat line. The fact of translated Semitic verse is quite unmistakeable, and since the words are all in such regular use it may well be that the original “song” is exactly restored.
The “Song of the Lamb”, megála kaì thaumastá [great and amazing], 15:3 f.:
zakɔʾɔn wᵉqaššīṭɔ́n ʾɔrᵉḥɔṭɔ́k│mᵉlék ᶜɔmayyɔ́ʾ││
man lɔʾ yíḏᵉḥᵉal wīšábaḥ šᵉmɔ́k│dī lᵉḥṓd qadíš││
dī ḵōl ᶜamᵉmáyyɔʾ yeʾṯṓn│wᵉyisᵉdún qɔdɔmɔk││
….ʾᵃrḗ qᵉyɔmɔ́k ʾiṯᵉlíw̅
The metric form in this case is exactly as in the preceding, including the three-beat member (coda) at the end. Two of the lines in the Greek are slightly overloaded, and the explanation seems to be that the vocative kúrie (twice) is a later insertion; this rendered the more probable by the fact that in the Psalter the same vocative (YHWH) is many times shown to be secondary. In this case, as before, the retroversion is word for word and in unbroken order. Both songs read smoothly and are high-sounding in the Aramaic.
If there could be any doubt that the prosodic form thus exhibited is carefully designed, not accidental, the example which here follows would set the doubt at rest. The third song, Ebasieúsen Kúrios, 19:6 ff.:
nεḥεḏéʾūnᵉḏū́ṣ wᵉninᵉtén│yᵉqɔ́rɔ́ʾ léh││
ʾᵃrē ʾᵃṯɔ́ʾ ḥītū́n ʾimmᵉrɔ́ʾ│wᵉʾitᵉṯéʾ ʾitaqqᵉnát││
wīhīb láh dī ṯilᵉbáš būṣɔ́ʾ daḵᵉyɔ́ʾ││
….ūbūṣɔ́ zɔḵᵉwɔ́t qadīšáyyɔ́ʾ
Here again, in this third example, the Greek text is followed word for word with no change in order. In this case also the metric scheme 3│2, three metric accents followed by two, is evident in the Greek. As in the two preceding songs of praise, I had marked off the metric lines in the printed text some years ago, but until recently it had not occurred to me to compare the strophic forms. The three, it will be observed, are in all respects identical.
The clause at the end of 19:8: has perplexed some commentators; but the figure, which is indeed peculiar, is taken from the mᵉᶜīl ṣᵉḏɔqͻ̅, “robe of righteousness,” of Isa. 61:10 (Targum renders by zɔḵū). Observe the context: Messianic wedding ceremony, in both passages; for the speaker of 61:10, as in the first verse of the chapter, is the Messiah. See this writer’s The Second Isaiah, pp. 138, 149, and 432 ff.
We are given here, in these three lyric songs of praise, a most interesting glimpse of the writer’s art in the Christian Aramaic literature of the first century. Whether we have in each case the precise words or not, we certainly have the precise form. The three, moreover, are marked as a single group not only by their literary structure but also by the prominence given to them. Each of the three is introduced with special emphasis: two are given titles, and the third has, in 19:5 f., the most impressive introduction in the book. We may perhaps recognize, in this symmetrical stanza of four long lines with a coda, the Apocalyptist’s ideal pattern of a doxology.
In thus touching incidentally upon the metrics of Revelation―a fascinating subject which must be left to future investigators―there is one other fact which may perhaps be given brief mention. It is not only in the songs, doxologies, etc., plainly indicated as verse by the context, that metric form is to be recognized. Wherever the language is highly rhetorical, verse division and accented lines are pretty sure to be found, as in the O.T. books (whence the prevailing usage in Hebrew prophecy). An example may be given here before leaving the subject. In 6:16 f., where the terrified peoples call upon the rock and mountains to fall on them and hide them, their quoted words may be restored:
pélū ᶜᵃlḗnɔʾ waḥᵃp̅ṓnɔʾ
min ʾapḗ ḏī yɔṯéb ᶜal kurᵉsᵉyɔ́ʾ│ūmin rū́gᵉzeh dī́ ʾmmᵉrɔ́ʾ
ʾᵃrē ʾᵃṯɔ́ʾ yōm rūgᵉzᵉhōn rábɔʾ│ūmán yikū́l limᵉqɔ́m
The metric regularity is not accidental
The passage also illustrates the Apocalyptist’s way of using O.T. scripture. In the Gospels in their original Semitic form, verbal quotation was the rule and the sacred text was given in its own Hebrew, rarely in Aramaic paraphrase. In Revelation direct quotation is purposely avoided, a most significant fact. There is remarkably wide and obvious use of the Old Testament, especially the prophets, but in the form of free reminiscence. Thus in the present instance familiar phrases from Hos. 10:8, Isa. 2:19, and Joel 2:11 are combined, but with no one of them in its original form. It is remarkable that in the many other borrowings of the same sort (always from the Hebrew, never the Greek), such as 7:16 f., 10:9-11, 14:15, 18:7 f., 21:23-27, there should be no citation of the original words, but only free combination in Aramaic. The fact has already been remarked, with an attempt at explanation, in the earlier sections of these notes.
15:5 [Καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον, καὶ ἠνοίγη ὁ ναὸς τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ]. There is here no definite quotation from the Old Testament. The sanctuary in heaven was not a tent, but a temple, and so it is here styled with the significant addition of the sacred name of the Tabernacle (Hebrew ʾohεl mōᶜed or ʾohεl hͻedūt): not the temple of Solomon, nor of Zerubbabel, nor of Herod, but the sanctuary of Moses the man of God. Ho naòs tês skēnēs toû martyríou [ὁ ναὸς τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ] is the rendering of hēḵᵉlͻʾ ḏī mašᵉkan sahᵃḏuṯͻʾ; cf. Targ. Exod. 38:21, Num. 9:15, etc. It is perhaps needless to say that there is no influence of the LXX to be seen here. The translator renders, as usual, without regard to any other Greek version.
15:6. The original reading of the Greek translation was líthon, not línon. This is a mistranslation, which Charles (2, 38) explains convincingly. The word translated was šeš [שֵׁשׁ], which in Hebrew means “byssus, fine linen,” in the LXX rendered nearly forty times by bússos, bússinos, and in the Targums regularly by būṣ. In Aramaic the same word (at least in form) means “marble, alabaster,” and it is thus rendered in three passages in very late Hebrew: Esther 1:6 líthos, Song of Songs 5:5 márminos, 1 Chron. 29:2 párion. The true Aramaic word for “byssus, fine linen,” is būṣ, also found a few times in the latest O.T. Hebrew (Chronicles, Ezekiel, Esther).
The Aramaic author of Revelation made the mistake of employing in this one passage the long-familier Hebrew word (contrast the evident use of būṣ in 19:8, 14!), while the Greek translator of course rendered it as Aramaic líthon. Charles points out that the same mistranslation, recognized as such by Ball, was made in the Epistle of Jeremiah, verse 71.
16:5 And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgments.[Καὶ ἤκουσα τοῦ ἀγγέλου τῶν ὑδάτων λέγοντος· δίκαιος εἶ, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν, ὁ ὅσιος, ὅτι ταῦτα ἔκρινας,]
Another example of the mistranslated hōti [ὅτι]. See Introduction, p. 42, and note on 13:4.
16:7 [Καὶ ἤκουσα τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου λέγοντος· ναὶ κύριε ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ, ἀληθιναὶ καὶ δίκαιαι αἱ κρίσεις σου].
Why should the alter be represented as speaking?―It may not be futile to raise the question. The words uttered are a deeply felt echo of what the angel had said in the preceding verses: The blood of the saints and prophets is now justly avenged! Below the alter were the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the faith (6:9 f.). They had no apparent connection with the alter itself, and on the former occasion it did not speak for them; they themselves cried out, “How long must we wait before our blood is avenged?” At this point we certainly should expect to hear from them again.
I would like to make a suggestion as a mere possibility that here again, as in 4:6, a single line of the Greek text fell out by accident, and that it was a spokesman of the martyrs who echoed the words uttered by the angel. Thus, kaì ḗkousa [henòs ek tôn esphagménōn tôn óntōn hupokátō] toû thusiastēríou légontos, etc.
The supposedly omitted portion has just thirty-four letters―one line―as in the case of 4:6; the grammatical connection with the line omitted is perfect, and there is now agreement with 6:9 f.
16:10 [Καὶ ὁ πέμπτος ἐξέχεεν τὴν φιάλην αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν θρόνον τοῦ θηρίου, καὶ ἐγένετο ἡ βασιλεία αὐτοῦ ἐσκοτωμένη, καὶ ἐμασῶντο τὰς γλώσσας αὐτῶν ἐκ τοῦ πόνου].
There is something seriously wrong with the text of this verse., as is now generally recognized. Darkness does not make men writhe in anguish and gnaw their tongues “because of their sores” (ek tôn helkôn autôn [ἐκ τῶν ἑλκῶν αὐτῶν], verse 11). This word shows plainly enough that in some way two very different chastisements are confused here. That which descended on the kingdom of the beast was not the Egyptian plague of darkness, but the plague of boils, Exod. 9:9-11.
The source of the trouble is then easily seen. This is one of the numerous examples in Revelation of that most common source of textual error, the eye of the scribe or of the translator taking in at a glance a group of Semitic consonants with some change in their order.
The kingdom was eskotōménē [ἐσκοτωμένη], “smitten with darkness,” maḥᵉyɔʾ bᵉhɛšᵉkɔʾ, according to our text. But the original reading, beyond doubt, was maḥᵉyɔʾ bᵉšiḥᵉnɔʾ, “smitten with boils.” This is the Aramaic word regularly used in the Targums, whether for the Egyptian plague (Exod. 9:9-11; Deut. 28:27, 35) or for the boils with which Job was smitten (Job 2:7). The man who made the mistake in this passage knew that the Egyptian plagues were being repeated and thought he saw the word “darkness.” The example is especially valuable because of the certainty of the explanation, given by the Greek text (helkôn [ἑλκῶν]) itself. In the LXX hélkos [ἕλκος], hélkē, is used only to translate Hebrew šᵉḥīn [ שְׁחִין ] (a dozen times or more), and the Hebrew word is never otherwise rendered. As in the other instances of the kind, the mistake might have been made either by the translator or by a copyist of the text.
16:13 f. Καὶ εἶδον ἐκ τοῦ στόματος τοῦ δράκοντος καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος τοῦ θηρίου καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στόματος τοῦ ψευδοπροφήτου πνεύματα τρία ἀκάθαρτα ὡς βάτραχοι· 14 εἰσὶν γὰρ πνεύματα δαιμονίων ποιοῦντα σημεῖα, ἃ ἐκπορεύεται ἐπὶ τοὺς βασιλεῖς τῆς οἰκουμένης ὅλης συναγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν πόλεμον τῆς ἡμέρας τῆς μεγάλης τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ παντοκράτορος.
The difficulty here, and especially the nominative case of bátrakhoi, is the result of false division of the sentence. The Greek translator began as follows: “I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon . . . three unclean spirits.” The text which followed he divided thus: kᵉᶜūrᵉdᵉᶜīn ʾiṯēhōn, rūḥē šeḏīn ᶜɔḇᵉḏē ʾɔṯīn dī ʾɔzlīn ᶜal malᵉḵayyɔʾ dī ʾarᵉᶜɔʾ ḵolloʾ, “They are like frogs, demon-spirits working miracles, that go forth to the kings of the whole earth,” etc.
Subsequent editors of the Greek text saw plainly that the opening sentence must include the frogs; there must be no pause after akátharta. Reading in this way necessitated the insertion of gár (the Aramaic needed no conjunction), while the nominative case of bátrakhoi could be regarded as quite characteristic of the Greek of this apocalypse!
The correct translation of the original Aramaic would have been: “I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon . . . three unclean spirits like frogs; they are demon-spirits working miracles, who go forth to the kings of the whole earth, to gather them,” etc.
16:16. The demons (pneúmata daimoníōn [πνεύματα δαιμονίων, verse 14]) who arouse the armies of the pagan world for an overwhelming attack on Israel assemble them at the place called Har Magedon: kaì sunḗgagen autoùs eis tòn tópon tòn kaloúmenon Ebraïstí Hàr Magedṓn [Καὶ συνήγαγεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸν τόπον τὸν καλούμενον Ἑβραϊστὶ Ἁρμαγεδών].
The specification “in Hebrew” was probably in the original text; so also in 9:11. The meaning “Har Magedon” and the origin of the form given by our Greek were discussed at length by the present writer in the Harvard Theological Review, 31 (1938), pp. 237-48. It was there shown that the scene of the final conflict of Israel with the armies of the hostile nations, definite in this apocalypse as in all other Jewish eschatology, is the mountain about Jerusalem. This unvarying feature of the apocalypses is set forth very clearly by the author of Revelation in chapter 20, verses 7-9. We therefore can be fairly certain that the strange geographical term designates either the city of Jerusalem or some part of its immediate vicinity. The initial har, which obviously represents the Hebrew word for “mountain,” gives strong support to this conclusion. It is the same picture which we see in chapter 13 of 2 Esdras and in chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel. The Greek text is faulty here. The original (Aramaic) reading was Har Mōᶜed, “Mount of Assembly.” The translator, not understanding this, translated HRMᶜD as Har Maged, which―perhaps under the influence of the familiar name Megiddo―became Magedon.
Har Mōᶜed, “Mount of Assembly,” in pagan Semitic mythology the abode of the gods (Isa. 14:13), was taken over by the Jews into their own religious terminology as a designation of Mount Zion, as is shown by Pss. 2:2 f., 48:2 ff. It is both the place of meeting God with his people (cf. ʾohel mōᶜed, the “Tent of Meeting”) and the place of assembling of the heathen armies at the great day of the final reckoning.
This designation of Mount Zion, doubtless familiar and in frequent use in the time when Psalm 48 was written and still occasionally employed, seems to have been unknown to the Greek translator of this apocalypse.
16:19. “And Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God,” dounai autȩ̄ to potērion tou oinou tou thymou tēs orgēs autou. [δοῦναι αὐτῇ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦ οἴνου τοῦ θυμοῦ τῆς ὀργῆς αὐτοῦ], “to give her the cup of the wine of the wrath of his wrath.”
The intolerable tautology has called forth much comment, but has remained unexplained. Bousset remarks that though the phrase is “überladen” it will not do to emend the text, for the very same form of words occurs in 19:15.
The source of the difficulty has already been shown in the notes on 14:8 [here and here] and 14:19 [here and here]. Greek thumós regularly renders Aramaic lᵉwɔṭ, whether the meaning is “wrath,” or “poison,” or “intoxication.” In the LXX thumós orgês is the standing translation of ḥᵃrōn ʾap, “burning anger,” tendered regularly in the Targums by toqɛp rᵉgaz. That is not, however, the phrase employed here, as is evident from 14:8 (and the O.T. parallels adduced in the note on the passage), in which thumoû, “intoxicating,” is descriptive of the wine, as also in 18:3; and from 17:2, where its effect is described by the verb emethysthēsan [ἐμεθύσθησαν].
We have here an example of another favorite compound with lᵉwɔṭ, the “intoxicating cup,” or “poison cup.” kɔs lᵉwɔṭ is a standing phrase, occurring in the Targums even where nothing in the Hebrew corresponds to it; see Isa. 13:1; Jer 1:5; and Psa. 75:9. Other examples are Targum Isa. 51:22; Jer. 25:15; see also the similar phrases quoted in the note on 14:8.
The meaning of the phrase in the present passage, and likewise in 19:15, is therefor clear. The original Aramaic text here was kɔsɔʾ ḏī ḥᵃmar lᵉwɔṭɔʾ ḏī rūgᵉzeh, “the cup of the intoxicating wine of his wrath.”
17:4 (SBL Greek) [NRSV: The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication].
This passage is a remarkable specimen of the method of the too-cautious translator. It illustrates the recognition of an untranslated dī (as shown above in numerous examples), and also, in two other particulars, loyalty to the Aramaic at the expense of the Greek. “The woman was clothed in purple . . . holding in her hand a golden cup (potērion chrysoun [ποτήριον χρυσοῦν]) filled (gemon! [γέμον]) with abominations and the unclean things (bdelygmatōn kai ta akatharta! [βδελυγμάτων καὶ τὰ ἀκάθαρτα]),” etc. A wild bit of Greek, but produced with full knowledge and a definite plan. The editions have gemon [γέμον], but this is correction. The Greek participle translates Aramaic dī mᵉlɔʾ, and “cup” (kɔs) is masculine; gémōn therefore is the only reading that can accomplish the translator’s purpose (see above). The sense of the passage is not harmed. In 21:14 “wall” (šūr [Hebrew שׁוּר, Greek τεῖχος]) is masculine.
As for the mixture of cases in the next phrase, the accusative is the regular Semitic construction with this verb, and the translator satisfies both languages; he does exactly the same thing with another verb in 22:5, see the note there. Compare also the use of the feminine gender in tēs kaiomenēs [τῆς καιομένης], 19:20, already described, and in pepyrōmenēs [πεπυρωμένης], 1:15. This interpreter felt himself at liberty to turn to the original text in such matters, no loss or misunderstanding being involved.
18:5 hoti ekollēthēsan autēs hai hamartiai achri tou ouranou. “Her sins have reached to heaven” (the true meaning in spite of the Greek.
This is not a quotation, nor does the writer appear to have in mind any particular passage of O.T. scripture. The idea was familiar and probably often expressed, see especially Jer. 51:9 and Ezra 9:6.
18:5 hoti ekollēthēsan autēs hai hamartiai achri tou ouranou. “Her sins have reached to heaven” (the true meaning in spite of the Greek.
This is not a quotation, nor does the writer appear to have in mind any particular passage of O.T. scripture. The idea was familiar and probably often expressed, see especially Jer. 51:9 and Ezra 9:6.
The language is not legitimate Greek, but can only be understood as translation. In Biblical Greek the verb kollâsthai [infinitive of κολλάω; occurs in 18:5 as aorist passive ἐκολλήθησαν] is the standing equivalent of DBQ (Hebrew and Aramaic) in its various forms. The ordinary meaning of the Semitic verb is “cleave to, stick fast to,” exactly corresponding to the Greek; but in both Hebrew and Aramaic derived meanings, one of them illustrated in the present passage, are in frequent use. In English usage a man who continues to follow upon another is said to “stick to” him; thus also in Semitic usage. In Psa. 63:9 the Hebrew has the phrase dāḇᵉqāh nap̱šı̂ ʾaḥᵃrêḵā [ דָּבְקָה נַפְשִׁי אַחֲרֶיךָ ], and the LXX its translation-Greek rendering: ekollēthē hē psychē mou opisō sou [ἐκολλήθη ἡ ψυχή μου ὀπίσω σου]. Note the same idiom, “follow close after,” in Jer. 42:16 where the Targum has dᵉḇaq and bɔṯar (“after”); the same two words are used in the Palestinian Syriac of John 10:5, “a stranger they will not follow.”
Along with this is the meaning “overtake,” as in Gen. 31:23 (DBQ [דבק] in both Hebrew and Aramaic) and elsewhere; and finally the simple meaning “reach to, extend to,” especially in Aramaic, where the ʾp̱ᵉᶜel stem of the verb is regularly thus used. An O.T. example of the Greek word is given by Zech. 14:5, “the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azel”; where the LXX with its egkollēthēsetai . . . heōs [ἐγκολληθήσεται . . . ἕως] (Hebrew ʾεl [אֶל]) closely resembles the “Greek” of our passage in Revelation, where the original was ʾaḏᵉbeqū . . . lišᵉmayyɔʾ.
18:13. The text of the latter part of the verse has suffered in the process of manuscript transmission. There is no ground for charging the translator of Revelation with this particular monstrosity: the unmotivated insertion of three genitives in the midst of a succession of accusatives. The frequently offered theory of an incorporated marginal reading has much in its favor; indeed, it seems the only natural explanation of the trouble. Words originally intended to be added to the list of genitives (dependent on gōmon) in verse 12a found their way into verse 13. There is, however, another difficulty: the word sōmátōn [σωμάτων], bound to the preceding words by its case, has far better logical connection with the words that follow. If the theory of a marginal gloss is right, the verse probably ended with the words: semídalin kaì sîtōn, kaì ktḗnē kaì próbata, kaì sṓmata, kaì psukhàs anthrṓpōn. After the words híppon kaì rhedôn [ἵππων καὶ ῥεδῶν] had been introduced, a scribe continued with the genitive before noticing his mistake. “Souls of men” [ψυχὰς ἀνθρώπων] comes from Ezek. 17:13. The Apocalyptist, who always prefers to vary the text of his allusions to the prophets, wrote “bodies and souls” (Isa. 10:18; Matt. Matt. 10:28; etc.).
18:19. Here is another example of the mistranslated Aramaic dī; the more interesting because Charles in his note on the passage (2, 106 f.) has shown that the present text is wrong. His restoration, however, which supposes accidental corruption of a Hebrew text and also transposition of a phrase, is not the true explanation. The Greek text is exactly what the translator wrote, and the only trouble is the false rendering of the Aramaic pronoun.
“Woe, woe, the great city, wherein all those who have their ships on the sea were made rich from her wealth, which all at once has been destroyed!” The Greek should have been ek tês timiôtētos autês, hḕ midi hṓrāi ērēmṓthē, rendering Aramaic min ᶜūṯᵉrah dī bᵉšɔᶜɔ̅ ḥᵃḏɔ̅ ʾišᵉḏdī. Charles showed, by comparing the end of verse 16, that what was “destroyed” here was the great city’s wealth (timiótēs). The translator had a good excuse this time for his mistake, inasmuch as the ever-troublesome dī in the parallel verses 10 and 16 does mean “because”!
18:23. The utter destruction of “Babylon” is proclaimed. The great city shall vanish from the earth; all her industries, arts, and festivities shall suddenly cease; instead of the roar of traffic there shall be silence. “The light of a lamb shall shine no more at all in thee; the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee; because thy merchants were the princes of the earth” (hóti hoi émporoí sou êsan hoi megistânes tês gês), etc.
The hóti clause is meaningless; as Charles (2, 112) remarks “There is no ground for saying that God destroyed Rome because its merchants were the great ones of the earth.” Charles accordingly rearranges the text, putting this clause into the middle of verse 11 of the chapter (see p. 102). But the obvious fact is that we have here the usual trouble caused by the Aramaic dī. The translators of the Four Gospels constantly render the word mechanically by hína or hóti where the sense requires the relative pronoun, and the too-familiar mistake was made here.
In the original text it was said: No tradesman (verses 1-17), no craftsman, no musician, shall be found in thee; no voice . . . shall be heard in thee, “whose merchants were the princes of the earth!” (dī ṯagɔrɔyk raḇᵉrᵉḇē ʾarᵉᶜɔʾ hᵃwō). This is one of the clearest items of evidence to show that the original language of the Apocalypse was Aramaic, not Hebrew. See the note on 13:4 above and the other examples from Revelation that are given there.
19:10. This is a most important verse, which has not been understood by the commentators. It is made perfectly clear in the context, both here and in the repetition in 22:6-10, that the words of the angel have to do with written prophecy. The revelation given to John is such prophecy. He is repeatedly told to “write down” what is revealed to him, and it is again and again declared to be prophēteia [προφητεία] ([Aramaic] nᵉḇūʾɔʾ) [Hebrew נְבוּאָה]. He thus joins the company of the Hebrew prophets, and is expressly numbered with them in 22:9. His book is thus ranked as canonical Israelite scripture (on this point see the Introduction to Documents). The new revelation, drawing material from the Old Testament in every paragraph, and filled with the images and phrases of Ezekiel and Daniel is of one kind and quality with the older works and is their true continuation; such is the representation.
It is not because of this resemblance, however, that John is hailed as one of the prophets of Israel. His book is given this exalted rank by virtue of its testimony to Jesus. “Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” This is virtually said again in 22:6 (where the text is met with an accident; see the Note). John’s “brethren” the prophets all shared in this testimony. This must include not only the Hebrew prophets, who testified to Jesus the Messiah, but also any later prophecy bearing the same witness. The phrase tôn ekhóntōn tḕn marturían Iēsoû [τῶν ἐχόντων τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ] had been used in 12:17; but whatever its meaning may have been it that passage, here at 19:10 it is more specific, for the inspired seers and their written testimony are the subject at hand. Charles, 2, 129, commenting on this verse speaks of “the limited body of Christian prophets.” Christian prophets?―what can the phrase mean? John’s own prophecy, this Apocalypse, was composed in Aramaic. According to the well-established Jewish doctrine, composition in Hebrew or Aramaic was an absolutely essential feature of any work claiming inspiration.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John must have been in mind. They were written in Aramaic; their sole concern was with the witness to Jesus the Messiah of the Jews; inspiration was claimed for them (Moore, Judaism, I, 244); and they were well known to the author of Revelation. He could hardly have been more definite here, but he had no need to be. His own book once received as sacred scripture, the rest would follow. He does, however, in the immediately following paragraph appear to allude significantly to one of these Gospels; to the one in fact, that John was believed to have written. In verses 13 ff. there is mention of the Messiah’s now secret name and also of two of his chief titles (onómata [ονόματα]); the former of the two, ho lógos toû theoû [τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ], Aramaic mēmᵉrɔʾ dī ʾεlɔhɔʾ, evidently reminiscent of John 1:1 ff. The proximity of this title to verse 10 may be purely accidental, but it is far more likely that when the Apocalyptist wrote this verse it suggested to him the glorious witness borne by John’s Gospel―a true “prophecy”―and that he therefore made the allusion.*
The angel’s declaration that the written record of these visions is divinely inspired (and therefore sacred scripture) is repeated in the same terms and under like conditions in 22:6 ff. because of its extreme importance. Here in 19:10, in the first occurrence of the pronouncement, it is set forth with especial clearness. The last clause of the verse is in the place where it is most effective.
19:16. The preceding verses have told how the Messiah rides forth on a white steed, at the head of the armies of heaven, prepared for the final conflict. Verse 16 then adds: And he has upon his garment and upon his thigh a title inscribed, “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
This “thigh” [μηρός] has given the interpreters great trouble, as may be seen in any commentary. Charles remarks, “Of this text there is no satisfactory explanation,” and he mentions (with disapproval) Wellhausen’s conjecture, to read hippon in place of himátion and to suppose that the words were branded on the animal’s thigh (a proud title for any horse). It is quite useless to try to emend the Greek text, and “the occasional appearance of names and inscriptions on the thighs of statues” is not relevant, for the Messiah was not a statue.
The explanation of the curious phrase is seen as soon as the Semitic origin of the text is recognized. In Aramaic writing no distinction is made between D and R. The word which the translator supposed to be rag̅ᵉleh, “his leg,” was intended by the author of the Apocalypse to read dig̅ᵉleh, “his banner“; the noun dεgεl, with this meaning, being familiar in both Hebrew and Aramaic. This is a good illustration of the fact, of which there are scores of examples in the Greek of the Gospels, to say nothing of the LXX, that the translator from Semitic into Greek all but invariably chose the reading which gave the more familiar word, without raising the question whether it was the word best suited to the context. He did not work with a dictionary before him, nor waste time in balancing probabilities. The Greek translation was always thought of as a temporary convenience, a thing that could be revised at any time from the original, which of course was expected to be the permanent authority.
The word rεg̅εl, in either Hebrew or Aramaic, ordinarily means “foot,” but may also in both early and late usage mean “leg.” Thus 1 Sam. 17:6; Ezek. 1:7; Dan. 10:6 (so Theod.), and there are other examples. The word is used of the legs of animals, the leg of a table, etc. Thus also in Syriac and Arabic. Notice in this apocalypse the passages 1:15; 2:18; and 10:1, in which the Greek pódes undoubtedly renders the plural of rεg̅εl and has the meaning “legs.” In the present passage the translator, having his choice among possible renderings, put the inscription as high on the “leg” as he could. The idea of tattooing the Messiah’s leg is not edifying.
This conjecture was first published in the Harvard Theological Review in 1938, in the article “Armageddon,” cited above.
19:17. Kaì eîdon héna ángelon hestôta en tôi hēlíōi, kaì ékraxen, etc. “And I saw an angel standing in the sun (!), and he cried out,” etc.
This is a typical example of translator’s nonsense, and also of the ambiguity of an unpointed Semitic text. The words confused in this instance are šMšʾ, “sun” and šMšʾ, “service.”
The angels are God’s “ministers,” šammɔšɔw͟; malᵉʾɔḵayyɔʾ dimᵉšammᵉšin qōmōy, Jerusalem Targum Gen 1:21; šammᵉšin qadīšīn bᵉrūmɔʾ, “holy servants in heaven,” Targum Isaiah 6:2. The phrase “standing on duty” with the verb qūm is in frequent use, thus limᵉqɔm lᵉšammɔšɔʾ, “to stand on duty, to stand for service.” Targum Deuteronomy 18:5; 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 5:14. A good example of the fixed use is 1 Kings 10:5: when the queen of Sheba visited Solomon, she “saw the standing of his servants” (the translation of the Jewish Publication Society renders “the attendance of his ministers”); cf. also Deut. 10:8; Num. 16:9; Exek. 44:11; 2 Chron. 29:11; Esther 4:5.
The meaning of the original text of the passage was simply: I saw an angel standing at his post―”standing in (the performance of) the service; and the Aramaic was qɔʾem bᵉšimmušɔʾ. This is another good illustration of the fact that the translator of an unpointed Semitic text was always likely to choose the most common word, wherever there was a possible choice, without close attention to context.
21:9. This verse has made much trouble; it has been thought to contain one of Revelation’s worst solecisms. There is, however, no solecism, but a typical mistranslation.
Kai ēlthen heis ek tōn hepta aggelōn tōn echontōn tas hepta phialas tōn gemontōn (!) tōn hepta plēgōn tōn eschatōn [Καὶ ἦλθεν εἷς ἐκ τῶν ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλων τῶν ἐχόντων τὰς ἑπτὰ φιάλας τῶν γεμόντων τῶν ἑπτὰ πληγῶν τῶν ἐσχάτων]. As far as the mere reading of the Greek is concerned the sentence could pass muster, for the verb “to fill” might conceivable be used in this way: “There came one of the seven angels who held the seven bowls, (those angels) who were ‘laden’ (English R.V.) with the seven last plagues.” But this is not the true intent of the second clause. The Greek itself has been corrected in many manuscripts to tàs gemoúsas (cf. 15:7!), while both ancient versions and modern interpreters with few exceptions agree that the bowls. not the angels, were “filled.”
Tôn gemóntōn [τῶν γεμόντων] has been called “a slip” (so Swete, Bousset, Charles), but with the admission that such a blunder is inexplicable. It indeed seems clear that no man in his senses could write tas phiálas, tōn gemontōn [τὰς φιάλας, τῶν γεμόντων], if he intended to say that the bowls were filled! Nor could any scribe who had before him tas phiálas, tōn gemontōn [τὰς φιάλας, τῶν γεμόντων] fail to copy it correctly. But as a translator’s error it is typical and widely illustrated. Cf. the false rendering in 1:11 (mentioned above) and repeated in 4:1. The Aramaic text had the participle MLYN, preceded by dī or kᵉḏī. The correct vocalization was that of the feminine plural passive participle, malᵉyͻn; but the translator did here what was done so often by those who rendered into Greek these unpointed texts, Hebrew or Aramaic: he took the more common reading, active voice instead of passive, masculine instead of feminine. (So in Matt. 14:2; Mark 6:14; 10:12; and frequently in the O.T. In this case nothing forbade the reading, two masculine plurals had just preceded, and he continued the construction of tôn ekhónton [τῶν ἐχόντων]. No clearer proof of translation could be desired!.
22:1 f. On the form of the text here and its meaning, especially the meaning of en mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ], see above the note on 4:6 [here, here, and here]. Verse 1, and the sentence, must end with the word arníou [ἀρνίου]. En mésōi [ἐν μέσῳ] is this translator’s characteristically uniform rendering of bēn [בֵּין], “between.” The word plateîa [πλατεῖα], Aramaic šūq, does not mean an ordinary “street,” but (as very commonly) a broad open space in the city. Cf. Ezra 10:9, where the people gather “in the broad place before the house of God,” and Neh. 8:1, “in the broad place before the water gate.” Hebrew rᵉḥôḇ [רְחוֹב] in both passages, and this word is regularly rendered by plateîa [πλατεῖα] in Chron.-Ezra-Neh., as generally in the Greek O.T. What is denoted by the Greek word in Revelation is virtually an enormously broad street with the river flowing down the middle. The LXX (Esdras A) renders in both the quoted quoted Ezra-Nehemiah passages by eurúkhōron.
The Aramaic of Revelation 22:2 began, as so often, without a conjunction, and the text may be restored as follows: bēn šūqeh ūlᵉnahᵃrɔʾ mikɔʾ ūmikɔʾ ʾīlɔn ḥayyīn dī ᶜɔḇed pīrīn tᵉrē ᶜᵃśar, etc., “Between her street and the river, on this side and on that, were trees of life bearing fruit of twelve kinds,” etc. The word ʾīlɔn, “tree,” is collective here, as occasionally elsewhere, like Hebrew ᶜeṭ [עֵץ]. It is also masculine and therefore in the dī clause which follows, the readings poiôn and apodidoús must be given the preference as the original, according to the fixed habit of this translator, already described and illustrated. Cf. 17:4, which closely resembles the present case.
22:5. This instance of disregard of (or superiority to) Greek grammar is interesting enough to be considered separately rather than merely included in a general treatment of such cases. The Greek reads: οyk echousin chreian phōtos lychnou kai phōtos hēliou [οὐκ ἔχουσιν χρείαν φωτὸς λύχνου καὶ φωτὸς ἡλίου], “They have no need of lamplight” (genitive case) “nor of sunlight” (accusative case). Swete’s rendering, “They have no need of lamplight and sunlight they have none,” is too artificial to be given consideration.
In Aramaic, “they do not need” is lɔʾ ḥɔšᵉḥīn and the participle requires the direct object. In Greek translation, however, the word is rendered by khreían ékhein, and consequently the thing of which there is need must be in the genitive case if it immediately follows khreían. The best example is in 21:23, “The city has no need of sun or moon” ou chreian echei tou hēliou oude tēs selēnēs [οὐ χρείαν ἔχει τοῦ ἡλίου οὐδὲ τῆς σελήνης]. If the word expressing the thing needed, or not needed, precedes chreian echein [χρείαν ἔχειν], the translator of this Apocalypse might well be expected to retain the case of the Aramaic original, the accusative; and this in fact is what he does in 3:17: “of nothing have I need,” ouden chreian echō [οὐδὲν χρείαν ἔχω], Aramaic minᵉdaᶜam lɔʾ ḥɔšaḥ ʾᵃnɔ̅.
In his rendering of the present passage it is quite evident that in coming to the second occurrence of the word “light” he had in mind the Aramaic construction rather than the Greek, and consequently wrote the accusative, phós [φῶς].
The participle ḥɔšaḥ occurs both in Daniel 3:16 (rendered chreian echomen [χρείαν ἔχομεν] in both Greek versions) and in Ezra 6:9, where the meaning is “to be needful” (as very frequently in Syriac) rather than “to need.” The vowel pointing ḥa-, in both passages merely records the popular pronunciation of a later day, otherwise attested in a great many words whose ɔ was pronounced as a.
22:6. There is here a mistranslation, or rather a slight corruption, of the original text which could have occurred only in Aramaic. What is more, and especially interesting, the very same textual error―the easy misreading of the same word―is known to have taken place in Biblical Aramaic.
The phrase, “the God of the spirits of the prophets,” ho theos tōn pneumatōn tōn prophētōn [ὁ θεὸς τῶν πνευμάτων τῶν προφητῶν], is very strange, as commentators have remarked. We might expect “the God of the prophets,” or else “the God of the spirit of prophecy,” since that spirit has already received mention; but the present phrase is without parallel and no plausible explanation of it has been given (see Charles, 2, 218). Some Greek manuscripts offer the reading “the holy prophets” in place of “the spirits of the prophets”; whence the reading in the King James Version.
The explanation of the strange phrase is to be found in the graphic resemblance of the word nᵉḇūʾɔ̅, “prophecy,” to nᵉḇiʾayyɔ̅, “the prophets.” The author wrote “the God of the spirit of prophecy,” repeating the phrase he had used in 19:10. His chief interest here was not in the prophets of the past, but in the present testimony of the Christian prophet; see the phrase tēs prophēteias tou bibliou toutou [τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου]. Especially significant is the way in which the substance of 19:9b, 10, where to pneuma tēs prophēteias [τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς προφητείας] was mentioned, is exactly repeated here in verses 6-9! [NRSV, see Greek here]. We could naturally expect to see in verse 6 allusion to that “spirit” which had an important place in the former passage.
The illustration from Biblical Aramaic is the be found in Ezra 5:1, where confusion of the two words in question is made evident by comparison of the two independent Greek translations. Esdras A, the old Greek version, read nᵉḇiʾayyɔ̅ and rendered hoi prophêtai, while Esdras B, Theodotion’s translation, read nᵉḇūʾɔ̅ (the original reading, cf. 6:4), and rendered prophēteían. See Ezra Studies, p. 189; Bewer, Der Text, des Buches Ezra, p 56; JAOS, 43 (1923), p. 236. The translator of Rev. 22:6, seeing or thinking he saw in his Aramaic original the words ʾεlɔhɔʾ dī rūaḥ nᵉḇiʾayyɔ̅, could only render as in our text; cf. Isa. 57:16, etc.
The Apocalypse of John
1 The Revelation of Jesus the Messiah, which God gave him to show his servants the things which must soon come to pass. He made known through his angel whom he sent to his servant John, 2who bears witness to the word of God and to the testimony to Jesus the Messiah: all the things which he saw. 3Blessed is he who reads, and those who hear the words of the Prophecy and hold fast the things which are written in it; for the time is near. 4John, to the Seven Churches which are in Asia: 5Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven spirits who are before his throne; and from Jesus the Messiah, the faithful witness, and the firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and has freed us from out sins by his blood; 6who made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him the glory and the might for ever and ever. Amen. 7Lo, he comes in the clouds, and every eye shall see him, they also who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over him. Thus it shall be. Amen. 8I am the Aleph and the Tau, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. 9I, John, your brother and partner in tribulation and counsel and steadfastness in Jesus, was in the island called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony to Jesus. 10I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, 11saying: This which you see, write in a book, and send it to the Seven Churches; to Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum, to Thyatira and Sardis, to Philadelphia and Laodicea. 12I turned to see what voice it was that spoke to me, and I saw seven golden lamps, 13and in the midst of them the form of a man, clothed with a flowing garment and girded at the breasts with a golden girdle. 14The hair of his head was like white wool, or like snow; his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15his feet were like brass refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. 16in his right hand were seven stars; from his mouth came forth a sharp two-edged sword; and his face was as the sun shines in its might. 17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead; but he laid his right hand on me, saying: Fear not; I am the first and the last, 18he who who lives; I was dead, but lo, I am alive for ever and ever, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19Write therefore the things which you have seen, the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter. 20As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lamps: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven lamps are the seven churches.
2 To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: This is the word of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamps. 2I know your works, and your toil, and your steadfastness; that you cannot endure evil men, and have tested those who call themselves apostles (but are not), and have found them false. 3You have patience, and have borne the burden for my name’s sake without growing weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5Remember, then, whence you have fallen, and repent, and do as at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp from its place, unless you repent. 6This indeed you have, that you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I hate. 7Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God. 8To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: This is the word of the First and the Last, of him who was dead but returned to life. 9I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich!), and the blasphemy of those who profess to be Jews, and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Have no fear for what you are to suffer. The devil, indeed, is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who conquers shall not be harmed by the second death. 12To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The is the word of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. 13I know where you dwell, where Satan has his throne; and you hold fast my name, and did not deny my faith, even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells. 14But I have a few things against you: that you have there those who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat food offered to false gods and to commit fornication. 15So you also have some among you who hold the teachings of the Nicolaitans, in like manner. 16Repent, therefore; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight them with the sword of my mouth. 17Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will give of the hidden manna; I will also give a white stone, on which is written a new name, which no one knows but he who receives it. 18To the angel of the church at Thyatira write: This is the word of the Son of God, of him whose eyes are like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like shining brass. 19I know your works and your love and your faith, and the service which you have rendered, and the patience which you have shown, and that your last works exceed the first. 20But I have against you that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess; who leads astray my servants, teaching them to practice immorality and to eat food offered to false gods. 21I gave her time to repent, but she will not repent of her immorality. 22Behold I will bring her to her deathbed; those committing adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they renounce her works. 23Her children I will visit with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches minds and hearts; and I will give to each of you according to his work. 24But to the rest of you who are in Thyatira, who do not hold to this teaching, who know not the depths of Satan, as the saying is; to you I will lay upon you no other burden; 25only hold fast what you have until I come. 26He who conquers, and keeps doing my work until the end, I will give him power over the nations. 27and he shall rule them was a rod of iron, as vessels of the potter are broken in pieces, even as I myself received power from my Father; 28and I will give him the morning star. 29Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
3 To the angel of the church of Sardis write: This is the word of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works; that you have the name of being alive, and are dead. 2Arouse yourself, and strengthen what remains and has been at the point of death; for I have not found your works satisfactory in the sight of my God. 3Remember what you have received and heard; keep it safe, and repent. If then you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4Yet you have a few names in Sardis who have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; and I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 7To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: This is the word of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8I know your works; I have put before you an open door which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9Behold the presumptuous ones, of the synagogue of Satan―those who say that they are Jews, and are not, for they speak falsely; I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you. 10Because you have kept my charge of steadfastness, I likewise will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming upon the whole world to try those who dwell upon the earth. 11I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, that no one take away your crown. 12He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, never again shall he go forth from it; and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which is to come down from heaven, from my God, and I will write on him my own new name. 13Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. 14To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: This is the word of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15I know your works; that you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth. 17As to that which you say: I am rich, I have gained great wealth, I have no need; not knowing that you are wretched and miserable, poor, blind, and naked; 18I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19Those whom I love I reprove and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me. 21To him who conquers I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat with my Father on his throne. 22Whoever has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
4 After this I saw, in my vision, a door opened in heaven, and the voice as a trumpet, which I had heard at first, was speaking to me, saying, Come up hither, and I will show you the things which are to take place hereafter. 2At once I was borne away in the Spirit; and lo, a throne stood in heaven, 3and on the throne was one seated, one whose appearance was like jasper and carnelian; and round the throne was a rainbow with the appearance of an emerald. 4Round the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments with golden crowns on their heads. 5From the thrones came forth lightnings, fearsome sounds, and peals of thunder; and before the throne are burning seven lamps of fire, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6and before the throne there is as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. Between the throne and the twenty-four elders sitting round about the throne are four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind; 7the first of these living creatures is like a lion, the second is like an ox, the third has the face of a man, the fourth is like a flying eagle. 8And the four living creatures, each of them has six wings, full of eyes round about and within. Day and night they never cease to sing,
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come.
9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever; and they cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
to receive glory and honor and power;
for though didst create all things,
by thy will they were, and were created.
5 And I saw in the right hand of him who was sitting on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a great voice, Who is worthy to open the scroll, and to loose it seals? 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it; 4and I wept much because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it; 5but one of the elders said to me. Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has proved worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals. 6Then between the throne with the four living creatures and the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth; 7and he came and took [the scroll] from the right hand of him who was sitting on the throne. 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints; 9and they sang a new song, saying,
Worthy art thou to take the scroll,
and to open its seals;
for thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God
with thine own blood
men from every tribe and nation,
a kingdom and priests;
and they shall reign on earth.
11Then in my vision I heard the voice of many angels, round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a great voice, Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might, and honor and glory and blessing. 13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things that are therein, saying, To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and power, forever and ever. 14And the four living creatures said, Amen; and the elders fell down and worshiped.
6 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say, with a voice like thunder, Come! 2And I saw, and lo, a white horse, and its rider had a bow, and there was given to him a crown; and he went forth conquering and to conquer. 3When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, Come! 4And there came forth another horse, red, and to its rider was given permission to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another; and he was given a great sword. 5When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say Come! And I saw, and lo, a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand. 6Then I heard a voice, seemingly from the midst of the four living creatures, saying, A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius, and harm not the oil and the wine. 7When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature say, Come! 8And I saw, and lo, a pale horse, and the name on its rider was Death; and Hades went along with him. They were given authority over a fourth part of the earth, to kill with the sword, and with famine and pestilence, and by the wild beasts of the earth. 9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw beneath the alter the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they had borne; 10and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, the holy and the true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? 11To each of them a white robe was given, and they were told to rest a little longer, until the number should be complete of their fellow servants and and their brethren, who were to be killed, even as they had been. 12When he opened the sixth seal, I saw that there was a great earthquake; and the sun became backcloth, and the full moon became as blood, 13and the stars of heaven fell to the earth as the fig tree shaken by a gale throws down it unripe fruit. 14The sky disappeared, like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth, and the magnates and chief captains, and the rich and the strong and every slave and freeman, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16saying to the mountains and the rocks,
from the face of him who sits on the throne,
and from the wrath of the Lamb;
17for the great day of their wrath has come,
and who can stand before it?
7After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, so that no wind should blow on the earth or the sea or on any tree. 2And I saw another angel ascend from the rising of the sun with the seal of the living God; and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3saying, Harm not the earth or the sea or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. 4I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed from every tribe of the children of Israel. 5Of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed, of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand, 6of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand, 7of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand, 8of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed. 9After this, in my vision, lo, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation and of all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out with a great voice, saying, Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. 11And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying,
thanksgiving and honor, and power and
might be to our God, forever and ever; Amen.
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, Who are these, clothed in the white robes, and whence did they come? 14I said to him, Sir, you know. He said to me,, These are they who came out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
and they serve him day and night in his temple;
he who sits on the throne will give them shelter.
16They shall hunger no more, nor thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike upon them, nor any
..scorching heat;17for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne
..will be their shepherd,
and will guide them to springs of living water;
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
8 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half a minute; 2and I saw that the seven angels who stand before God were given seven trumpets. 3Then another angel came and stood beside the alter, holding a golden censer, and he was given much incense, the prayers of the saints, to put on the golden alter before the throne; 4and the smoke of the incense (the prayers of the saints) went up before God from the hand of the angel. 5The angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the alter and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, fearful sounds, flashes of lightening and an earthquake. 6Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to sound them. 7The first angel sounded, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was thrown on the earth; a third of the earth was burnt up, a third of the trees were burnt up, and all green things were burnt up. 8The second angel sounded, and what appeared to be a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; a third of the sea became blood, 9a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10The third angel sounded, and down from heaven fell a great star blazing like a torch; it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died of the waters because they were made bitter. 12The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun was smitten, also a third of the moon and of the stars, so that a third of their light should be darkened and the third part should illumine neither the day nor the night. 13Then in my vision I heard an eagle, flying in midheaven, crying out with a loud voice, Woe, Woe, Woe, to those who dwell on the earth, from the utterances of the remaining trumpets which the three angels are yet to sound.
9 The fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fallen from heaven on the earth, and he was given the key of the abyss. 2He opened the pit of the abyss, and from the pit went up smoke like the smoke of a great furnace; the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the pit; 3out of the smoke came forth locusts on the earth and they were given power like that of the scorpions of the earth. 4They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green herbage or any tree, but only those men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads; 5they were not permitted to kill them, but to torture them for five months, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion, when it strikes a man. 6In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will greatly desire to die, and death flies from them. 7In appearance the locusts were like horses equipped for war; on their heads there seemed to be crowns of gold; their faces were like men’s faces, 8they had hair like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth; 9they had breastplates which seemed like breastplates of iron; the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10They have tails like scorpions, and stings, and in their tails is their power to hurt men for five months. 11They have as king over them the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he has the name Apollyon. 12The first woe has passed; behold, there are two woes yet to come. 13The sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the horns of the golden alter before God 14saying to the sixth angel with the trumpet. Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates. 15So the four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of mankind. 16The number of the hosts of cavalry was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17Thus I saw the horses in my vision, and their riders wearing breastplates of fire and hyacinth and brimstone: the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and from their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. 18By these three plagues the third part of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and brimstone issuing from their mouths; 19for the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; their tails are like serpents, with heads, and with them they do harm. 20The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, to cease from worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their immorality or their thefts.
10 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud and with a rainbow on his head; his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; 2in his hand was a little scroll, open. He set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, 3and he cried out with a loud voice, like the roaring of a lion; and when he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. 4Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down. 5Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6and swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created heaven and all that’s in it, that there should be no more delay, 7but that in the days of the utterance of the seventh angel, when comes his time to sound his trumpet, will be fulfilled the mystery of God, which he promised his servants the prophets. 8The voice which I had heard from heaven spoke again to me and said, Go, take the scroll which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land. 9So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; he said to me, take it and eat it; it will be bitter to your stomach, but in your mouth sweet as honey. 10So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 11And I was told, You must again prophesy concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.
11 Then I was given a measuring reed like a staff, with the command, Up, measure the temple of God, the altar, and the barrier which is within; 2but leave out the court which is without the temple, do not measure it; for it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will trample over the holy city for forty-two months. 3And I will permit my two witnesses to prophesy for a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth. 5If any one would harm them, fire issues from their mouth and consumes their enemies; whoever would harm them is doomed to die in this manner. 6They have power to shut the heavens, that there may be no rain during the days of their prophesying; also they have power over the waters, to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire. 7But when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war on them, and conquer them, and kill them. 8Their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9For three days and a half men from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look upon their dead bodies, and will not permit them to be put in a tomb. 10Moreover, those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and send gifts one to another; because these two prophets had tormented those who dwell on the earth. 11But after the three days and a half the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12There was heard a great voice from heaven saying to them, Come up hither. And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them ascend. 13Immediately there was a great earthquake, and a tenth part of the city fell; seven thousand men perished in the earthquake, while the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come. 15The seventh angel sounded, and the voices in heaven were heard, saying, The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Anointed, and he shall reign for ever and ever. 16And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, 17saying,
Who art and wast,
because thou didst take thy great power and
18While the nations were enraged
then came thy wrath, and the time
for the dead to be judged;
and for giving thy reward to thy servants,
thy prophets and saints,
and to all those who fear thy name,
both small and great,
and to destroy those who destroy the earth.
19Then was opened the temple of God which is in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his covenant; and there were flashes of lightening, fearful sounds, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
12 A great portent was now in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2she was with child, and she cried out, in the pains of childbirth, laboring to be delivered. 3And another portent appeared in heaven, behold, a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and with seven diadems on its heads; 4his tail swept a third of the stars of heaven and cast them down to the earth. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to bring forth, that when she was delivered he might devour her child. 5She brought forth a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. 7Now there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels battling with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8but they were defeated, and there was no longer found any place for them in heaven. 9The great dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10And I heard a great voice in heaven saying, Now has come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Anointed; for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before our God; 11and they overcame him, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, nor did they love their lives even unto death. 12Therefore rejoice, O heaven and you that dwell therein; but woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time. 13When the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had borne the male child; 14but she was given the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is to be nourished for a time and half a time. 15The serpent sent out from his mouth, as he pursued the woman, water like a river, that it might sweep her away with the flood; 16but the earth gave help to the woman, opening its mouth and swallowing up the river which the dragon had sent forth from his mouth. 17Then the dragon was enraged with the woman, and redoubled his attacks on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.
13 Then I stood on the sand of the sea, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea; it had ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on his horns and blasphemous names on his heads. 2The beast that I saw was like a leopard. His feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth was like the mouth of a lion. To him the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. 3Now one of his heads seemed to have been dealt a mortal blow; but the death-wound was healed. The whole earth wondered concerning the beast; 4they worshipped the dragon, who had given his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast saying, Who is like the beast, and who is able to fight with him? 5Also, he was given a mouth speaking bold and blasphemous things, and he had permission to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6So he opened his mouth to utter blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7He had permission to make war on the saints, and to overcome them; and he was given authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. 8All who dwell on the earth will worship him, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. 9Whoever has an ear, let him hear. 10If one is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes; if one slays with the sword, with the sword he must be slain. Here is need of patient endurance and the faith of the saints. 11I saw still another beast coming up out of the earth. He had two horns like those of the wild ox, and he howled like a dragon. 12He exercises all the authority of the first beast, in his presence; he makes the earth and all those who dwell therein worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. 13He performs great wonders, so that he could even make fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men. 14He deceives all those who dwell on earth by the wonders which he is permitted to do in the service of the beast, bidding them make an image of the beast, who was smitten by the sword and yet lived. 15And he was permitted to give breath to the image of the beast so that it should even speak, and to cause that those who would not worship the image of the beast should be slain. 16He causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both bond and free, to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead, 17so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man, and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.
14 Thereupon in my vision, behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with him were a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. 2And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters, and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps; 3and they sang a new song before the throne and the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth. 4These are they who have not been defiled with women, for they are chaste; 5these are they who follow the Lamb whenever he goes; these were ransomed from among men as the first fruits for God and the Lamb. In their mouth no lie was found, they are without blemish. 6Then I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having a universal message to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7and he said with a loud voice. Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; worship him who made heaven and earth and the sea and the fountains of water. 8Another angel, a second, followed, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the poisoning wine of her fornication. 9Yet another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any one worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also shall drink the wine of God’s wrath, prepared unmixed in the cup of his anger, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11The smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; they have no rest day or night, they who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name. 12Here is seen the steadfastness of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. 13And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth; yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their works follow them. 14Then I saw, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one in human form, on whose head was a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. 15And another angel came out of the temple in heaven, crying with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, Put forth your sickle and reap, for the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe. 16So he who sat on the cloud brought down his sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17And another angel came out of the temple, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18Still another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the alter, and he cried out with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, Put forth your sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for its grapes are fully ripe. 19So the angel brought down his sickle into the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and threw it into the winepress of the great wrath of God. 20The winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress as high as the horses’ bridles, for a thousand and six hundred stadia.
15 I now saw another portent in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels with seven plagues, with which the wrath of God is ended. 2I saw what seemed to be a sea of glass mingled with fire; and those who have gained victory over the beast and his image and the number of his name were standing beside the glassy sea with harps of aloes wood in their hands. 3And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
Lord God, the Almighty!
True and righteous are thy ways,
thou King of the ages!
4Who shall not fear and glorify thy name, O Lord?
who only art holy;
thou to whom all nations shall come,
and bow down before thee;
for thy judgments have been made manifest.
5After this I saw in my vision that the sanctuary of the Tent of Meeting in heaven was opened, 6and forth from the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure bright linen, and girded about their breasts with golden girdles. 7One of the four living creatures then gave the seven angels golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever; 8and the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels should be finished.
16 Then I heard a great voice from the temple saying to the seven angels. Go now and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God. 2So the first went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and an ugly and distressing sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his image. 3The second poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a dead man, and every living thing died that was in the sea. 4The third poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. 5And I heard the angel of the waters say, Just art thou, who art and who wast, thou Holy One who hast given these judgments. 6For they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and blood thou hast given them to drink; they have their due. 7And I heard one of the martyrs below the alter say, Yes, Lord, thou God the Almighty, true and just are thy judgments. 8The fourth poured his bowl on the sun, and it was permitted to scorch men with fire. 9So men were scorched by the great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who had power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory. 10The fifth poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was smitten with boils, and men gnawed their tongues in anguish. 11and blasphemed the God of heaven for the pain of their boils; and they did not repent of their deeds. 12The sixth poured his bowl into the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. 13And I saw coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet three unclean spirits like frogs. 14They are demon spirits working miracles, who go forth to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for the battle of the great day of God Almighty. 15(Lo, I come as a thief. Blessed is he who is awake with his garments at hand, lest he go forth naked and his shame be seen). 16And they assembled them at the place which is called in Hebrew Har Mōʿed. 17The seventh poured out his bowl into the air, and there came a great voice from the temple, from the throne, saying, It is done! 18And there were lightnings, fearful sounds, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake; there had not been seen, since men were on the earth, so great and mighty an earthquake. 19The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the intoxicating wine of his wrath. 20Every island fled away, and the mountains were not to be found. 21Great hailstones of the weight of a talent kept falling down from heaven on men, and men blasphemed God for the plague of hail, for it was frightful.
17 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls then came to me and said, Come, and I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, 2with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with whose foul wine the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk. 3And he carried me away in the Spirt into a wilderness, where I saw a woman seated on a scarlet beast which was covered with blasphemous names, and which had seven heads and ten horns. 4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and precious stones and pearls, and she held in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication. 5On her forehead was written a name of mystery: Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth. 6I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, and I wondered greatly. 7But the angel said to me, Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss, and to go to perdition; and dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will be amazed when they see the beast who was and is not and is to come. 9Here is need of a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman is seated; 10there are also seven kings; five of them have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain but a little while. 11And as for the beast that was and is not, he is an eighth and yet is one of the seven, and he goes to perdition. 12The ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received full royal power, but they shall receive authority as kings for one hour, along with the beast. 13These are of one mind, and they give their power and authority to the beast. 14They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and those who are with him are called and chosen and faithful. 15And he said to me, the waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 16And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, they will hate the harlot, and will make her desolate and naked, they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire; 17for God will put it into their minds to carry out his purpose, and to be of one mind in giving their royal power to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. 18And the woman whom you saw is the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.
18 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was lighted up with his glory. 2And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and has become a habitation of demons, a hold of every unclean spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird; 3for all the nations have drunk the poisoning wine of her fornication; the kings of the earth committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich through the power of her wantonness. 4Then I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come forth from her, my people, that you have no share in her sins, lest you partake of her torments. 5For her sins are piled high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6Render to her even as she rendered, and pay to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she mixed mix for her twofold. 7However much she glorified herself in her wantonness, 8so much give her of torment and mourning. Since she was wont to say in her heart, I am a queen enthroned, and no widow am I, mourning I shall never see; therefore in one day shall the blows fall upon her, death and mourning, and famine, and with fire she shall be burned up; 9for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. The kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived wantonly with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10standing far off, in fear of her torment, they will say, Alas, alas, great city, Babylon, strong city! for in one hour your judgment has come. 11The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, for no man buys their merchandize any more. 12merchandize of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls, of fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of fragrant wood, every sort of thing made of ivory, or of most precious wood, of brass, iron and marble; 13cinnamon and spice, incense, myrrh and frankincense, wine and oil, and fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep, horses and chariots and slaves, even bodies and souls of men. 14The fruits for which your soul longed are gone from you, and all things that were dainty and sumptuous have perished from you, nor shall they ever again be found! 15The traders in these goods, who were made rich by her, will stand far off, for fear of her torment, weeping and mourning; saying 16Alas, alas the great city! she that was arrayed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls! 17for in one hour all this wealth has been made desolate. Every shipmaster and all who travel by sea, the sailors, and all those whose trade is on the seas, stood far off 18and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning. What city was like the great city? 19And they threw dust on their heads, and cried out, weeping and mourning, saying, Alas, alas, the great city! where all who had ships on the sea were made rich from her wealth, which in one hour has been destroyed. 20Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you upon her. 21Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon the great city be thrown down and shall be found no more. 20Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you upon her. 21Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon the great city be thrown down and shall be found no more.
of flute players and trumpeters,
shall be heard in thee no more,
and the sound of the millstone
shall be heard in thee no more;
23also the light of a lamp
shall shine in thee no more.
The voice of bridegroom and bride
shall no more be heard in thee,
whose merchants were the princes of the earth,
and by whose sorcery all nations were deluded.
24In her was found the blood of prophets and
even of all who have have been slain on earth [ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς Matt. 23:35a = marginal note by JR many years ago; see Rev 19:2 below].
19 After this I heard what seemed to be a mighty voice of a great multitude in heaven saying,
and power belong to our God,
2whose judgements are true and righteous,
who has judged the great harlot
who corrupted the earth with her fornication;
and he has avenged at her hand the blood of his servants.
3A second time they cried,
4And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne, saying, Amen, hallelujah! 5and a voice came from the throne, saying,
you who fear him, small and great.
6And I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunders, saying,
7Let us rejoice and exalt and give him glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8it was given her to array herself
in fine linen, bright and pure.
(For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.)
Thus ends The Apocalypse of John, by Charles Cutler Torrey.