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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Revelation 13



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. κέρατα δέκα καὶ κεφαλὰς ἑπτά. Here 1 omits the horns; in the parallel passage Revelation 17:3 it omits the heads.

Verses 1-10

Revelation 12:17 to Revelation 13:10. THE BEAST FROM THE SEA

Verse 2

2. τὸ θηρίον δ εἶδον κ.τ.λ. The fourth beast in Daniel 7 is not described as like any ordinary animal: here he is described as combining the likeness of the other three. We may draw the inference mentioned on Revelation 13:1, that this beast is not the fourth, but a combination of all four: but on the simpler view the description is not less appropriate. The Rome of St John’s day was “like unto” a Greek empire, and at the same time embodied elements derived from Babylon and from Persia. And if we watch the “spirit of Antichrist” that is working in our day, we shall see it in the various forms of Hellenic aestheticism, of Persian luxury, and of Chaldean scientific necessarianism. It remains for this spirit to mount the imperial throne of Rome, when he who now letteth is taken out of the way.

καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ δράκων. It is the Devil’s interest and policy to disguise his working under the forms of the world: at present, he has actually persuaded many to disbelieve in his existence.

τὴν δύναμιν αὐτοῦ, καὶ τὸν θρόνον αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐξουσίαν μεγάλην. For δύναμιν and ἐξουσίαν see on Revelation 12:10, for θρόνον on Revelation 2:13. Antichrist, or the Antichristian empire, bears just the same relation to the Devil as the true Christ to God.

Verse 3

3. καὶ μίαν ἐκ τῶν κεφαλῶν. This of course depends upon εἶδον in the first verse; but the ellipse is harsh and most Latin Versions repeat vidi.

ὡς ἐσφαγμένην εἰς θάνατον. Comparing Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:10-11, it has been thought that this indicates the death of Nero (the reality of which is clearly expressed, Revelation 17:8, though not here) and his expected reappearance as Antichrist. See notes on ch. 17 and Introduction, pp. lxiii., lxv., lxvi.

Verse 4

4. τίς ὅμοιος τῷ θηρίῳ; A sort of blasphemous parody of sayings like Exodus 15:11; Psalms 35:10; Psalms 71:19; Psalms 89:8, or of the name Michael, which is by interpretation “Who is like God?”

Verse 5

5. στόμα.…, Daniel 7:8.

ποιῆσαι. This may mean to “spend,” so that “to continue” (A. V[463]) will give the right sense: but perhaps rather, as in Daniel 8:24; Daniel 11:28; Daniel 11:30; Daniel 11:32, “do” is used absolutely for “do exploits.”

μῆνας τεσσεράκοντα δύο. See on Revelation 11:2.

Verse 6

6. τοὺς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ σκηνοῦντας. The order as in Revelation 12:12 is more like that of ordinary Greek than is usual in this book. The clause must be taken in apposition to τὴν σκ. αὐτοῦ. The host of angels are God’s Tabernacle, as elsewhere His Camp.

Verse 7

7. καὶ ἐδόθηαὐτούς. There is considerable authority for the omission of this clause: but the omission is no doubt merely accidental—it was left out in one or more very early copies, because scribes passed from one clause beginning “and there was given unto him” to another. For the sense cf. Daniel 7:21 and ch. Revelation 11:7 : the latter proves that “the Saints” (i.e. the holy people of God) are to be understood as Christians, not as Israelites.

ἐπὶ πᾶσαν φυλὴν καὶ λαὸν καὶ γλῶσσαν καὶ ἔθνος. See Revelation 5:9 n. The Devil gives to Antichrist what he offered to Christ, St Luke 4:6.

Verse 8

8. πάντεςοὖ. The singulars after the plural here are not more difficult than the plurals after the singular in St John 17:2 [24]; 1 John 5:16.

ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τῆς ξωῆς τοῦ ἀρνίου, Revelation 21:27 : see note on Revelation 5:1.

ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου. Perhaps in Greek, as in English, it is most natural to connect these words with “slain”: and 1 Peter 1:19-20 works out what, on this view, would be the sense. But the similar clause Revelation 17:8 seems to prove that the words are to be taken with “written”: it is God’s purpose of individual election, not of universal redemption, that is here dated “from the foundation of the world.”

Verse 9

9. εἴ τις κ.τ.λ. See on Revelation 2:7.

Verse 10

10. εἴ τις αἰχμαλωσίαν, εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει. This is decidedly the best attested reading; and, there being no verb expressed in the first clause, it is a question what verb is to be supplied. This will depend on the sense given to the rest of the sentence, and this on the reading adopted there. If the received text be right (it is, more literally than in the A. V[464], “if any will kill with the sword, he must be killed with the sword”: cf. St Matthew 26:52), its reading in the earlier clause must be accepted as a correct gloss. But there is a reading—not so well attested, and which might have arisen accidentally—“if any to be killed by the sword, [he must]” (one important MS. omits this) “be killed by the sword.” Inferior as this reading is in external evidence, it is supported by the parallel with Jeremiah 15:2; Jeremiah 43:11. We have therefore the choice between the two versions, “If any man [be] for captivity, he goeth into captivity: if any [be] to be slain by the sword, he must be slain by the sword,” and that of the A. V[465] with the word “leadeth” put in italics: and we shall choose between them, according as we think that St John is likelier to have had in his mind the text in Jeremiah or our Lord’s saying. Perhaps the former suits the context best—“the patience and the faith of the saints “is to be shewn in submitting to death or captivity. But the other view, that their patience and faith is to be sustained by remembering the certainty of God’s vengeance on their oppressors, is supported by the parallel passage, Revelation 14:12.

Verse 11

11. ἄλλο θηρίον. Afterwards called the False Prophet, Revelation 16:13, Revelation 19:20, Revelation 20:10. Some think that it is he, rather than the first Beast, who is to be identified with St Paul’s “Man of Sin,” the personal Antichrist—the first Beast being the antichristian Empire. But in Revelation 17:11 sqq. it seems plain that the seven-headed Beast, who is primarily a polity, at length becomes embodied in a person.

κέρατα δύο. Perhaps two only, because that is the natural number for a lamb—the only significance of the number being, that they are not seven or ten. Perhaps there is a reference to Daniel 8:3 : as Nero’s pride and guilt foreshadowed Antichrist’s, so the homage he seemed to receive from a representative of the one great rival empire may have foreshadowed Antichrist’s universal sway. It may be noted too, that Tiridates was a Magian who observed the rules of the order on the throne. But the meaning of the Vision is not to be gathered from the events of the time which not improbably coloured its imagery.

ὅμοια ἀρνίῳὡς δράκων. No doubt the obvious view is right, that he looks like Christ and is like Satan. Alford well compares St Matthew 7:15—though the resemblance is in the sense, not the language or even the image, so that perhaps there is no conscious reference.

Verses 11-16


Verse 12

12. ποιεῖ. The sense is, he does all that the Dragon has given the Beast power or authority to do.

ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ. The relation of the False Prophet to the Beast is nearly the same as that of Aaron to Moses, Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:9 sqq., or even of a true Prophet to God, 1 Kings 17:1.

τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ κατοικοῦντας. See on Revelation 13:6.

Verse 13

13. καὶ ποιεῖ σημεῖα μεγάλα. St Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

ἵνα καὶ πῦρ.… The similarity to 1 Kings 18, 2 Kings 1, is best explained by St Luke 9:54-55. To reproduce the acts of Elijah now shews the spirit, not of the true Christ, but of the false.

Verse 14

14. πλανᾷ., Revelation 19:20. There is still a reminiscence of St Matthew 24:24.

εἰκόνα. We cannot tell how, or how literally, this prophecy will be fulfilled in the last days: but it is certainly relevant to remember how the refusal of worship to the Emperor’s image was made the test of Christianity in the primitive persecutions—perhaps especially by humane and reluctant persecutors like Pliny (see his famous letter to Trajan), who acted not from fanaticism, but from supposed political necessity. And the king-worship of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,—the maxim, earlier acted on than avowed, cujus regio ejus religio,—shews us the really Antichristian element in the persecutions of that age. To the ingenious theory, that the second Beast is the Papacy, and “the image of the first Beast” the mediaeval Empire, it is a fatal objection that, though the Popes may be said to have made and vivified the “Holy Roman Empire,” they certainly did not make the world worship it—they might more plausibly be charged with making it worship them.

Verse 15

15. ἐδόθη αὐτῷ δοῦναι. A. V[466] to avoid the repetition of give translates here and above “he had power.”

πνεῦμα. Not πνεῦμα ζωῆς as in Revelation 11:11, though the sense is practically the same, except that there the life is true and blessed, as always in St John.

Verse 16

16. καὶ ποιεῖ resumes the construction of Revelation 13:14.

ἵνα δῶσιν αὐτοῖς. Is δῶσιν impersonal as λέγουσιν, Revelation 10:11, βλέπωσιν, Revelation 16:15? but for αὐτοῖς we should supply the subject from the previous accusatives.

χάραγμα. Cf. τὰ στίγματα Ἰησοῦ, Galatians 6:17. The image is, as there, that of the brand put upon slaves to identify them; pagan devotees sometimes received such a brand, marking them as the property of their god. In the so-called Third Book of Maccabees (which, stupid as it is, has perhaps some historical foundation) we are told that Ptolemy Philopator ordered the Jews of Alexandria to be branded with an ivy-leaf, the cognisance of Dionysus. One may compare also the sealing of the servants of God in chap, 7, and Revelation 14:1.

Verse 17

17. καὶ ἵνα. See crit. note. If καὶ be retained, the verb depends on ποιεῖ in Revelation 13:16; if omitted, the clause marks the purpose of the χάραγμα.

ἵνα μήτιςπωλῆσαι. Such disabilities seem to have been actually imposed, at least in the Diocletian persecution, by requiring business transactions to be preceded by pagan formulas.

τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. In Hebrew and in Greek, letters were used for numerals, every letter having its own proper significance as a number. Among the Jews (and to some extent among early Christians, especially heretics) this suggested the possibility of finding numbers mystically corresponding to any word: the numerical value of all the letters might be added together, and the sum would represent the word. This process was called by the Jews Gematria, a corruption of the Greek Geometria. Ridiculous as were many of the attempts made to find mystical meanings in the words of Scripture by this process, it remains true that a Jew of St John’s time would probably mean, by “the number of a name,” the number formed by Gematria from its letters: and probably the numerous guesses, from St Irenæus’ time to our own, that have been based on this method are so far on the right track. But there are too many that are plausible for any one to be probable. There are in fact an indefinite number of proper names whose letters will amount to 666 (or 616, see below) either in Hebrew or Greek—at least when the names are neither Hebrew nor Greek, and so have to be arbitrarily transliterated.

The attempts which are generally thought of most importance are Λατεινος, and Nerôn (or Nerô) Kêsar; the latter has the advantage that the alternative Hebrew transliterations of his chief titles give 666 or 616 as we retain or drop the final n. Both the solution Λατεινος and the reading 616 are as old as St Irenæus, who criticises the latter in a way to suggest that it was already interpreted of Nero. He insists that in a Greek book we should expect the name to be conveyed by the numerical value of Greek letters: he speaks of the reading 616 as due to an ‘idiotism’—a mispronunciation such as uneducated persons might fall into—an educated Greek would take care of the final n. Völter hardly presses his own objection that Kêsar ought to be written with a Yod between the Koph and the Samech: and whether Nero were living or dead at the moment of the vision it was equally dangerous to name him plainly. If he were alive it was treason against him to say he was the beast, if he were dead it was treason against the reigning emperor to say Nero would come back from the dead. Völter’s own ingenious solution—Trajanus Hadrianus—which gives either 666 or 616 also in Hebrew, cannot stand apart from his general theory of the book. If 616 were otherwise probable, it could be read of Gaius. ἔχιδνα gives the right number and might be referred to Nero as a matricide, for the viper’s birth was supposed to be fatal to the mother, and the three letters might be arranged as a rough outline of a snake. No other name (Genseric, Mohammed, and even Napoleon, have been tried with more or less violence) has any real chance of being right. Failing Λατεινος and Kêsar NerÔn, we may be pretty certain it will not be discovered till Antichrist appears: and then believers will be able to recognise him by this token.

Verse 17-18


Verse 18

18. ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω. “The terms of the challenge serve at once to show that the feat proposed is possible, and that it is difficult.” (Alford.)

ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν. Comparing Revelation 21:17, it appears that these words mean “is reckoned simply by an ordinary human method.”

χξϚʹ. The reading χιϚʹ is ancient, but certainly wrong: and it is not impossible that the repetition (which must strike every one in the words, though the Greek figures do not suggest it like the Arabic) of the number 6 is significant: it approximates to, but falls short of, the sacred 7. Certainly we get no help by referring to 1 Kings 10:14—where the number is probably arrived at by calculating that Solomon got 2000 talents every three years: cf. 1 Kings 10:22.


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Revelation 13:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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