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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Revelation 1

 

 

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Verses 1-3

αποκαλυψισ ιωαννου

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1–3.] SUPERSCRIPTION: in which the contents and Writer of the book are declared, and the importance of its subject indicated by a blessing on those who shall read and hear it.

The Revelation ( ἀποκάλυψίς ἐστιν ἡ τῶν ἱερῶν μυστηρίων δήλωσις, καταυγαζομένου τοῦ ἡγεμονικοῦ τῆς ψυχῆς, εἴτε διὰ θείων ὀνειράτων, εἴτε καθʼ ὕπαρ ἐκ θείας ἐλλάμψεως. Arethas. Here, the word need not be taken in any but this its general sense, as in 2 Corinthians 12:1, where it is plural; the particular purpose of this revelation follows, with the inf. δεῖξαι below, ἀποκάλυψις is one of those words which have passed, in their later usage, from indicating the act, to signify that with which the act is concerned: so καύχησις, 2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Corinthians 7:14. Jerome on Galatians 1:11-12, vol. vii. p. 387, says: “Verbum ipsum ἀποκαλύψεως, id est, revelationis, proprie scripturarum est, et a nullo sapientum sæculi apud Græcos usurpatum.” But Plutarch, de placit. philos. i. 7, τίς ἐστιν ὁ θεός, says that Euripides was an atheist, but ἀποκαλύψασθαι οὐκ ἠθέλησε, δεδοικως τὸν ἄρειον πάγον. Porphyry’s use of the word, vit. Plotin. c. 16, is no exception. It is said to be later Greek for ἀνακαλ.) of Jesus Christ (how is this genitive to be understood? Is our Lord the subject or the object? Clearly here the former: for it is not Christ who is here revealed, except in a remote sense: but Christ who reveals, as is plain in what follows: see also ref. Ebrard makes the gen. possessive, which comes to the same thing. Heinrichs understands ἀποκ. . χρ. of the appearance of our Lord which is related below, after St. Paul’s manner (but not in 2 Corinthians 12:1), and St. Peter’s (reff.: and 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1), see also Luke 17:30. But see below. The not very important distinctions between ἀποκάλυψις and its result προφητεία are laid down at great length in Hengstenberg, h. 1.), which God (the Father) gave to Him (Stern asks, “How are we to understand this? Is not Christ very God, of one essence with the Father from eternity? Did He not, by virtue of the omniscience of His divine nature, know as exactly as the Father, what should be the process of the world’s history, what the fate of the Church? What purpose was served by a revelation from God to Jesus?” He proceeds to say that the words cannot refer merely to the revelation as made to us, but are clearly against such an interpretation: and gives, at some length and very well, that which in one form or other all will accept as the true explanation, in accordance with John 7:16; John 14:10; John 17:7-8. The man Christ Jesus, even in his glorified state, receives from the Father, by his hypostatic union with Him, that revelation which by His Spirit He imparts to His Church. For, Acts 1:7, the times and seasons are kept by the Father in his own power: and of the day and the hour knoweth no man, not the angels in heaven, nor even the Son, but the Father only, Mark 13:32. I may observe, that the coincidence in statement of this deep point of doctrine between the Gospel of St. John and the Apocalypse, is at least remarkable), to shew (is this infinitive of the purpose dependent on ἔδωκεν, or on the subst. ἀποκάλυψις? Is it the purpose of God in giving, or the purpose of the revelation in revealing, that is asserted? At all events, Heinrichs is wrong, who takes ἣν ἔδωκεν δεῖξαι together, “which God gave (empowered) Him to shew.” But of the others, the construction with ἔδωκεν is the more probable, as being the more usual: “that He might shew,” &c. δεῖξαι must not here be confined to its stricter meaning of shewing in vision, as Hengst.; for then, as De W. remarks, we must confine τοῖς δούλοις αὐτ. to the Apocalyptic Seer alone: but must be taken in its wider sense of exhibiting as knowledge, informing of. So in Matthew 16:21; where however Hengst. strangely denies this meaning, and upholds that of prove, demonstrate: which our Lord did not do till after His resurrection) to His (Christ’s, most probably, as below in this verse, and in ref.: for thus the αὐτός is kept to the same subject throughout) servants (here meaning all Christians, not, as Hengst., prophets only: indeed his sense of δεῖξαι, which necessitates this, brings confusion into the whole sentence. That John himself is one of these δοῦλοι below, does not affect this general meaning) what things must (by the necessity of the divine decree: see besides reff., Matthew 17:10, al.) come to pass shortly (i. e. ‘before long:’ see reff. especially Luke. The context, the repetition below, ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς, and the parallel ch. Revelation 22:6, followed Revelation 22:7 by ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, fix this meaning here, as distinguished from the other of ‘swiftly,’ which indeed would be hardly intelligible with the historic aorist γενέσθαι. This expression, as De W. well remarks, must not be urged to signify that the events of apocalyptic prophecy were to be close at hand: for we have a key to its meaning in Luke 18:7-8, where our Lord says, ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ τῶν βοώντων αὐτῷ ἡμέρας κ. νυκτός, καὶ μακροθυμεῖ ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς; λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν αὐτῶν ἐν τάχει: where long delay is evidently implied. Hengstenberg repudiates this, and says it is self-evident that these words can only be adduced here “nach unrichtigen Auslegung.” But surely the two cases are exactly parallel: and Hengst.’s strong language, here as elsewhere, proves nothing. His own interpretation of the words, natural as he seems to think it, is forced and unwarrantable. He (in common with many others) takes them to mean that the events spoken of would very soon begin to take place. The axe, he says, lay at the root of the Roman Empire when John wrote this, as it did at the root of the Persian Empire when Daniel wrote. But this interpretation is not borne out by the Greek, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει is not “which must soon begin to come to pass,” but, in the well-known sense of the aorist, “which, in their entirety, must soon come to pass:” γενέσθαι being in fact, a past tense, “must have come to pass,” “be fulfilled:” so Bengel most truly, “Totus liber tanquam unum verbum uno momento pronunciatione debet accipi.” So that we are driven to the very same sense of ἐν τάχει as that in Luke 18 above, viz. to God’s speedy time, though He seem to delay: in spite of the scorn which Hengst. pours on this meaning. His maxim, that a Prophet, speaking to men, must speak according to men’s ideas, is quite worthless, and may be confuted by any similar prophetic saying, even by the one which he brings in its favour, Haggai 2:7; and his complaint, that thus we make the Seer and even the Lord Himself like bad physicians who delude their patients with false hopes (so, in the main, Stern also), is unworthy of a Christian Expositor, after our Lord’s own plain use of the same method of speech again and again in His prophecies in the Gospels and in this book. It remains to observe, that these words cannot with any fairness be used as furnishing a guide to the interpretation of the prophecy. They are far rather to be regarded as a prophetic formula (see Beza), common with him to whom a thousand years are as one day, and used in order to teach us how short our time, and the time of this our world, is. See, on the whole, Ebrard’s able note, and his remarks on the absurdity of Hengstenberg’s pressing the words in favour of his præterist scheme.

τὴν ἔκβασιν δὲ τῶν χρηματιζομένων ἐν τάχει ὑπισχνεῖται προβῆναι, οὐχ ὡς ἔτυχεν, ἀλλὰ παραμετρῶν τὰ ἀνθρώπινα τοῖς θείοις, οἷς καὶ τἀ πολυχρονίως καὶ χιλιαστῶς ἐκτελούμενα ὡς ἡ χθὲς ἡμέρα, καὶ ἡ ἐν νυκτὶ φυλακὴ κρίνεται. Arethas. There is a profitable and consolatory exegesis of the words in Ambrose Ansbert, B. P. M. ix. pt. 2, p. 310. Dionysius of Alexandria, as cited in Eus(1) H. E. vii. 25, omits the words ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι, joining δεῖξαι with ἐν τάχει); and He ( ἰησοῦς χριστός, not ὁ θεός, see ch. Revelation 22:16; the subject is changed, and the relative construction abandoned. So almost all Commentators) signified (it) (it is remarkable (see reff.), that with one exception, this prophetic use of σημαίνω is confined in the N. T. to the Evangelist St. John) sending by His angel (the aor. part. is contemporary with the aor. verb, not necessarily antecedent to it. ἀποστ. διὰ, as in reff. No word, as τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν, need be supplied, the verb being used absolutely after the manner of the Heb. שָׁלַח בְּיָד of Exodus 4:13 and ref. 2 Kings. Still less must διὰ be taken with ἐσήμανεν, as Hengst.

The Angel mentioned is perhaps the same who informs the Seer in ch. Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:7; Revelation 17:15, Revelation 19:9, Revelation 21:9, Revelation 22:1; Revelation 22:6, which latter place takes up this; Revelation 22:8 ff.; and who is spoken of by our Lord Revelation 22:16. It is remarkable that this angel does not appear as the imparter of the visions until ch. 17. Some indeed, as Ewald, have fancied that they trace his presence in ch. Revelation 4:1 and throughout: but ch. Revelation 17:1 is too manifestly the introduction to a new appearance for this to be the case; and previously to that the Seer receives his information from different persons. Our Lord Himself opens the Apocalyptic vision. It is another voice which calls John up to the place of heavenly vision, ch. Revelation 4:1. In Revelation 7:13, one of the four and twenty elders speaks to him; in Revelation 10:8, it is the former voice again which addresses him, and in Revelation 10:9, it is the angel who stands on the earth and the sea that gives him the book. Only in the great close of the prophecy, opening with ch. 17, does one angel stand by him; referred to, as here, under the name ὁ ἄγγελος. In the visions of Daniel and Zechariah an angel mediated: Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:20; Daniel 10:10 ff., Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 1:19, al.) to His servant John (on the whole question of the writer of the book, see prolegomena),


Verse 2

2.] who testified of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, whatsoever things he saw (these words must, in all fairness of construction, be referred to this present book, and not, as by some of the older Expositors, and recently by Ebrard, to the Gospel of St. John. The reasons given by Ebrard for such reference will not hold. He objects to ἐμαρτύρησεν being taken of this book, that such a use of the aor. would be peculiar to the Epistolary style, whereas this book, though containing Epistles, is not itself an Epistle. Even were the usage thus confined, it might be answered from Revelation 1:4, that the whole is in an Epistolary form. But the usage is not thus confined, as every scholar knows. Witness Thucyd. i. 1, θουκυδίδης ἀθηναῖος ξυνέγραψε τὸν πόλεμον κ. τ. λ. Again, Ebrard objects that the sense thus obtained would be a strange one: “God gave the Revelation to Christ; He signified it by His angel to John, which last hereby makes it known.” But I own I am unable to see any strangeness in it. It seems to me the obvious way in which a faithful account of this Revelation would be prefaced by its Writer. On the other side, the objections to Ebrard’s reference are to me insuperable. First, as to its introduction with the simple relative ὅς. We may safely say that had any previous writing or act been intended, we should have had ὃς καί, or in St. John’s simple style, even more than this, ὃς καὶ τὸ πρότερον, or ὃς καὶ ἐν ἄλλῳ βιβλίῳ. The ὅς as it stands, I submit, carries on the action, and does not identify John as the same who at a previous time did some other action. Next, as to the things witnessed. The words ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ κ. ἡ μαρτυρία ἰ. χρ. cannot with any likelihood be taken to mean “the (personal) Word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ;” for why, if the former term refer to Christ personally, should He be introduced in the second member under a different name? Besides, the words occur again below, Revelation 1:9, as indicating the reason why John was in the island Patmos; and there surely they cannot refer to his written Gospel, but must be understood of his testimony for Christ in life and words: moreover, ἡ μαρτυρία ἰησοῦ is itself otherwise explained in this very book, ch. Revelation 19:10. But there is yet another objection to the supposed reference to the Gospel, arising from the last words, ὅσα εἶδεν. First, the very adjective ὅσα refutes it. For the Evangelist distinctly tells us, John 20:30, that in writing his Gospel, he did not set down ὅσα εἶδεν, but only a portion of the things which Jesus did in the presence of His disciples, whereas in the case of this Revelation it was otherwise: he set down all which he saw, as a faithful transmitter of the Apocalyptic vision to the churches. But still more does the verb εἶδεν carry this refutation. In no place in the Gospel does St. John use this verb of his eye-witnessing as the foundation of his testimony; indeed he only uses it of himself at all on two occasions, John 1:40; John 20:8. But in this book, it is the word in regular and constant use, of the seeing of the Apocalyptic visions; being thus used in it no less than 55 times. And some of these usages are such that there can be no doubt this place is connected with them; e. g., Revelation 1:19, γράψον οὖν ἃ εἶδες, and the repetition itself so frequently occurring καὶ εἶδον καὶ ἰδού. Taken then as representing the present book, τὸν λόγον here will be the aggregate of οἱ λόγοι, Revelation 1:3; ἡ μαρτυρία ἰης. χρ. will be the πνεῦμα τῆς προφητείας, embodied in writing for the Church in all ages).


Verse 3

3.] Blessed is (or be, in the ordinary meaning of μακάριος: not necessarily referring on to eternal blessedness, as Hengst.) he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy and observe the things written in it; for the time is near (it can hardly be reasonably denied that in the ὁ ἀναγινώσκων and the οἱ ἀκούοντες, the Apostle had in his mind the one public reader and the many hearers. Ebrard attempts to deny this, but it seems to me unsuccessfully. His instance of St. John’s passing from a singular to a plural, πᾶς ὀφθαλμός, καὶ οἵτινες αὐτὸν ἐξεκέντησαν, Revelation 1:7, would be applicable only if we had here πᾶς ὁ ἀναγινώσκων. Considering that no such transition is elsewhere found, we can hardly escape the inference that it was intended. And so the great majority of Commentators: so Andreas (“plures uno legente possunt audire,” Gloss. ord.), Bed(2) (“doctores et auditores”), Lyra (“qui legit, quantum ad doctores: qui audiunt, quantum ad discipulos”), &c.: Bengel (“unus, ille primum, per quem Johannes librum ex Patmo in Asiam misit, legebat publice in ecclesiis, et multi audiebant”), Ewald, Hengst., De Wette, Stern, Gräber, &c. Others have explained the change of number variously: e. g., Beza, ex Hebraismo; Cotter (in Pool), “quia soli legimus, audimus conjuncti:” Ribera, “quoniam multo plures audiunt, quam legunt:” &c. If the words are to be understood as above, they form at least a solemn rebuke to the practice of the Church of England, which omits with one or two exceptions the whole of this book from her public readings. Not one word of the precious messages of the Spirit to the Churches is ever heard in the public services of a Church never weary of appealing to her Scriptural liturgies. Surely it is high time, that such an omission should be supplied. Notice that not three classes of persons, but two only, are here indicated: he that reads, and they that hear and do. Had there been an article before τηροῦντες, these latter would have formed a separate class from the ἀκούοντες.

The E. V. is right in the sense, in rendering τῆς προφ., ‘this prophecy:’ it = τῆς προφ. τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου, ch. Revelation 22:7. τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ γεγραμμένα are the several exhortations to repentance, faith, patience, obedience, prayer, watchfulness, stedfastness, which are scattered up and down in the prophecy. The time being near makes the book of the more importance, and the blessedness of reading and observing it greater. The nearness spoken of is to be understood as the ἐν τάχει, Revelation 1:1, which see. We know little now of relative nearness and distance in point of time: when the day of the Lord shall have opened our eyes to the true measure, we shall see, how near it always was).

CH. Revelation 1:4 to Revelation 3:22.] INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPHECY, in the form of a sevenfold Epistle to the seven churches of Asia. And herein, Revelation 1:4-6, address and greeting, ending with doxology. (Ebrard, who seems to love singularity for its own sake, objects to the above arrangement, because the sevenfold epistle has not yet begun, and prefers calling this a dedicatory title to the whole book. But the other view is far simpler and better. The sevenfold Epistle is clearly before St. John’s mind, and, full of the images of the vision which he had seen, he only interrupts it by solemn ejaculatory references to the glories of that vision and the sublime announcement of the Lord’s coming, and then hastens on to introduce it by a prefatory account of his own circumstances when the Epistles were entrusted to him and of the appearance of the Lord who thus entrusted them.) John to the seven churches which are in Asia (the form of address is exactly that in the Epistles of St. Paul: see Romans 1:1 ff., 1 Corinthians 1:1 ff., &c. That St. Paul in Rom. and elsewhere is careful to designate himself and his office, and St. John introduces himself without any such designation, belongs doubtless in part to the individual character of the two Apostles, but is besides a strong testimony that the John who here writes needed no such designation in the eyes of those to whom he was writing. See this, and other evidence as to the authorship, urged in the prolegomena. See on the seven churches prolegg. § iii. 7 ff. ἀσία, as always in the N. T., is the proconsular province so called. “Constabat,—ut a Cicerone alicubi dicitur illa proconsularis Asia, quæ inter præcipuas Romani orbis provincias olim habita,—ex Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, Lydia; sub quibus insuper, sub Mysia nempe et Lydia, intelligi debent Ionia et Æolis, ac addi præterea vicinæ maris Ægæi insulæ. Qui amplissimus terrarum tractus, præ aliis Romani orbis provinciis, ingenti imprimis urbium, et multarum ex iis insignium et magnarum, numero gaudebat. Dicebatur Proconsularis, quod eadem a viro consulari sub Proconsulis nomine regebatur.” Spanheim de usu numismatum, p. 610 (from Hengstenb.)); grace be to you and peace (so St. Paul in all his Epistles except the two to Timothy) from Him who is and who was and who is to come (a paraphrase of the unspeakable name יהוה, resembling the paraphrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה in Exodus 3:14, for which the Jerusalem Targum has, as here, qui fuit, est, et erit: as has the Targum of Jonathan in Deuteronomy 32:39, Schemoth R. 3. f. 105. 2: “Dixit Deus S. B. ad Mosen: Ego fui et adhuc sum, et ero in posterum.” Schöttg., Wetst., De Wette. “ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, instants, i. e., futurus: ut Marc. 10:30. Caret lingua Hebræa participio quale est ἐσόμενος.” Ewald. Each of the appellations by itself is to be regarded as a proper name— ὁ ὤν,— ὁ ἦν (not ὃ ἦν: the imperf.—or aor.—being used in the lack of a past participle of εἰμί), and ὁ ἐρχόμενος: and it follows from what is remarked above that the meaning of ἐρχόμενος is not here to be pressed as referring to any future coming, any more than in its English representative, “He that is to come.” By doing so we should confuse the meaning of the compound appellation which evidently is all to be applied to the Father, ὡς αὐτοῦ περιέχοντος ἐν ἑαυτῷ πάντων τῶν ὄντων τὴν ἀρχὴν καὶ τὰ μέσα καὶ τὰ τελευταῖα, as the second alternative in the Catena. In the first (Arethas?) ὁ ὤν is supposed to mean the Father ( ἐγὼ εἰμὶ ὁ ὤν, as said to Moses), ὁ ἦν the Son ( ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος), and ὁ ἐρχόμενος the Spirit, as ever proceeding forth and descending on the Church. Hengstenb., who presses the literal sense of ἐρχόμενος, avoids this confusion, but falls into that of making the covenant Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, come to judge the world and the Church. At least so it would seem: for when he comes to this the weak part of his exegesis, he obscures his meaning by raising a cloud of rhetorical description of what shall take place at that coming. He connects ἐρχόμενος with ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται μετὰ τῶν νεφ. below, in spite of the καὶ ἀπὸκαὶ ἀπό intervening. It is needless to say, that that ἔρχεται is to be referred to the last subject only, viz. to ἰησοῦς χριστός. And wherever the ἔρχομαι ταχύ, with which he also connects it, occurs, it is distinctly said of the glorified Saviour), and from the seven spirits which (are) before His throne (Andreas, in catena, takes these for the seven principal angels (ch. Revelation 8:2): so Clem.-Alex(3), Beza, Lyra, Ribera, Hammond, Bossuet, Wetst., al. But this is highly improbable, as these angels are never called πνεύματα, and as surely mere creatures, however exalted, would not be equalized with the Father and the Son as fountains of grace. The common view is doubtless right, which regards the seven as τὰς ἐνεργείας τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος (so τινές in catena: Andr(4), Victorin(5), Primas(6), al.):—“Thou the anointing Spirit art, Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart:” but rather perhaps to be regarded as expressing His plenitude and perfection, than to be separately assigned as (but qu.?) in the following lines of the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. The key to this expression, which is an anticipation of the visions afterwards to be related, is ch. Revelation 5:6, where see notes: as also on ch. Revelation 4:5. The ἑπτά can hardly be entirely without allusion to the ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαι, and to the sevenfold imagery throughout. The number seven denotes completeness, and, as Schöttgen shews h. 1., was much noted by the Jewish Commentators as occurring in the O. T. The seven spirits betoken the completeness and universality of working of God’s Holy Spirit, as the seven churches typify and indicate the whole church. The reference to Isaiah 11:2 is but lamely made out, there being there but six energies of the Spirit mentioned. That to Zechariah 4:2; Zechariah 4:10 is more to the point: see notes as above.

The , without its verb, is solœcistic), and from Jesus Christ (as we have before had the Father and the Holy Spirit mentioned as the sources of grace and peace; so now the Son, coming last, on account of that which is to follow respecting Him: “quia de illo continuanda erat oratio,” Vitr., who also notices that what follows has respect to His threefold office of Prophet, King, and Priest: see however below), the faithful witness (see John 18:37, εἰς τοῦτο ἐλήλυθα εἰς τὸν κόσμον, ἵνα μαρτυρήσω τῇ ἀληθείᾳ. It is to the general mission of the Redeemer to bear witness to the truth, and not merely to the apocalyptic portion of His testimony which is to follow (De W.), that this title must be referred. This book (Revelation 1:2) is ἡ μαρτυρία ἰησοῦ χρ.: but the title reaches far wider. Embracing as it does that μαρτυρία before Pontius Pilate, and indeed that of His whole life of witnessing to the truth, we can perhaps hardly say that it marks out his prophetic office with sufficient distinctness for us to believe it indicated here), the first-born of the dead (death is regarded as the womb of the earth, from which the resurrection is the birth: see note on ref. Col.: and Acts 2:24 note. πρωτότοκος must not with Hengst. be diluted into πρῶτος. The ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων, 1 Corinthians 15:20, is quite a different figure), and the Ruler of the kings of the earth (this kingly office of Christ is reached through his death and resurrection. In Ps. 88:27, the combination of titles is much as here, κἀγὼ πρωτότοκον θήσομαι αὐτόν, ὑψηλὸν παρὰ τοῖς βασιλεῦσι τῆς γῆς. See also Isaiah 55:4, ἰδοὺ μαρτύριον ἐν ἔθνεσιν ἔδωκα αὐτόν, ἄρχοντα καὶ προστάσσοντα ἔθνεσιν. “That which the Tempter held forth to Jesus, Matthew 4:8, on condition of worshipping him, He has now attained by the way of his humiliation unto death: viz. victory over the world, John 16:33.” De Wette). Now follows, consequent upon the glorious titles of Christ which have been enumerated, an ascription of praise to Him for His inestimable love to us. Unto Him that loveth us ( ἀγαπῶντι,—present part., not imperf. as Bengel,—includes in itself ἀγαπήσαντι, which is the feebler, as it is the more obvious reading. It is His ever-abiding character, that He loveth His own, John 13:1; out of that love sprang the mighty act of love which follows: but it did not exhaust its infinite depth: it endures now, as then. The waiting till He become, in the unfolding of the Father’s purposes, the acknowledged Head over his Church, is in reality as great a proof of that love now, as the Cross was then) and washed (or, loosed) us from our sins in His blood (the aor. points to a definite event, viz. his sacrifice of Himself. In such an image as this, which occurs again ch. Revelation 7:14 we have enwrapped together the double virtue of the atoning blood of Christ in justification, the deliverance from the guilt of sin, and sanctification, the deliverance from the power of sin: the forensic and the inherent purity, of both which it is the efficient medium: of the former by its application in faith, of the latter by such faith, in its power, uniting us to Him who is filled with the Spirit of holiness. See 1 John 1:7 and note),


Verse 6

6.] and He made (the breaking up of the participial into the direct construction is Hebraistic: so De W., al. “It belongs to the delicacy of the Hebrew diction, to follow up the participle which gives the tone to the sentence by finite verbs, which, through the influence of the relative notion embodied in the participle, are themselves to be taken as conditioning clauses.” Delitzsch on Habak. (in Hengst.)) as a kingdom (viz. the kingdom of God or of heaven, so much spoken of by our Lord Himself and his Apostles: consisting of those who are His, and consummated at His glorious coming. This kingdom is one in which his saints will themselves reign, see the parallel place ch. Revelation 5:10, where καὶ βασιλεύσουσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς is added: and Daniel 7:27; but above all the place which is here referred to, Exodus 19:6, ὑμεῖς δὲ ἔσεσθέ μοι βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα καὶ ἔθνος ἅγιον (1 Peter 2:9)), priests (the βασιλείαν was the collective description: ἱερεῖς is the individual designation. See on the union of the two characters in the individual Christian, the note on 1 Peter 2:9) to (as belonging to; the Father being the ultimate object of reference, as His will is the origin, and His glory the result, of all that is brought about by the mediatorial work of Christ) God and His Father (to Him who is God and His Father: or, to His God and Father. The former is the more probable here, Ebr. remarks, on account of St. John’s habit of repeating the possessive genitive after words of possession: e. g. ch. Revelation 6:11, οἱ σύνδουλοι αὐτῶν κ. οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτῶν: Revelation 9:21, ἐκ τῶν φόνων αὐτῶν οὔτε ἐκ τ. φαρμάκων αὐτῶν οὔτε ἐκ, &c.: John 2:12, which is more to the point here,— ἡ μήτηρ αὐτοῦ κ. οἱ ἀδελφοὶ [ αὐτοῦ] κ. οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ. See notes on the places where the expression occurs in St. Paul (reff. Rom. Eph.), where I have taken the other rendering), to Him be (or, is, belongs: the like ambiguity is found in all doxological sentences) the glory and the might unto the ages (i. e. for ever. See note on Galatians 1:5): Amen.


Verse 7-8

7, 8.] A solemn announcement of the coming of Christ, and declaration, by way of ratification, of the majesty and omnipotence of God (see below). Behold He (the Person last spoken of: the subject being continued from the preceding verses) cometh with the clouds ( τῶν, viz. of heaven: so expressed in reff. Dan., and Mark: cf. ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ, ch. Revelation 11:12), and every eye shall see Him (by a well-known figure, not merely Hebraistic but common to all tongues, the acting member is said to do that which the man does by its means. This is to be understood of the whole human race, risen and summoned before Him), and (among them: the καί does not couple a separate class, but selects a prominent one) they which ( οἵτινες, of the whole class: almost = “whoever:” “all they who”) pierced Him (see John 19:36 f. and note. As there St. John evidently shews what a deep impression the whole circumstance here referred to produced on his own mind, so it is remarkable here that he should again take up the prophecy of Zechariah (ref.) which he there cites, and speak of it as fulfilled. That this should be so, and that it should be done with the same word ἐξεκέντησαν, not found in the LXX of the passage, is a strong presumption that the Gospel and the Apocalypse were written by the same person. It is true, that Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion have used the verb ἐκκεντεῖν; but this hardly comes into consideration as affecting this presumption.

The persons intended in this expression are beyond doubt those to whom our Lord prophesied in like terms, Matthew 26:64; viz. those who were His murderers, whether the Jews who delivered Him to be crucified, or the Romans, who actually inflicted His death. That the meaning must not here be generalized to signify all who have by their sins crucified the Son of God afresh, is plain from the consideration that this class, οἵτινες, are taken out from among the πᾶς ὀφθαλμός which precedes, whereas on that supposition they would be identical with it; for we all have pierced Him in this sense), and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn at Him (i. e. their mourning shall be directed towards Him as its object: in fear for themselves in regard to the consequences of his coming: similarly πρός τι, John 13:28. The account to be given of the meaning in ref. 2 Kings, ἐκόψατο ἐπὶ τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς, is in fact the same, the circumstances only making the difference. In Zechariah 12:10, both meanings are united.

The prophecy is in allusion to Matthew 24:30; and its sense, that all, even the holiest of men, shall mourn at the visible approach of that day. But as Bengel well remarks, there will be then two kinds of mourning: “præ terrore hostili,” and “præ terrore pœnitentiali.” The former will prevail in the impenitent and careless world; the latter even in the comforted and rejoicing church. The holiest saint when that Presence is manifested, in the midst of his “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us,” will personally feel with St. Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” The whole is an adaptation and amplification of the words of Zechariah, l. c. See Vitringa’s note. But we must not adopt his notion, taken up also by Hengst., “Venire dicitur Christus to nubibus cœli, quoties gloriam majestatemque suam in singularibus gratiæ, severitatis et potentiæ suæ effectis demonstrat, et se ecclesiæ quasi præsentem exhibet:” for thus we confuse and indeed stultify the whole of this solemn announcement. The certainty of Christ’s revealing Himself to his Church in mercies and judgments needed no such asseveration as is here used: but the certainty of His great personal second coming did and still does; being the one fact which the world and the church alike are disposed to lose sight of). Yea, Amen (both these words are used in ref. 2 Cor. as forms of ratification. The former is Greek, the latter Hebrew: and both together answer to the “Thus saith the Lord” of the prophets: τούτοις δὲ τοῖς εἰρημένοις τὸ βέβαιον ἐπιμαρτυρῶν, ἐπεσφράγισε διὰ τοῦ εἰπεῖν ναὶ καὶ ἀμήν. τοῦ ναὶ μὲν ἐξ ἑλληνικῆς συνηθείας τὸ ἀμετάστατον τῶν εἰρηένων ἐξακριβοῦντος, τοῦ δὲ ἀμὴν παρʼ ἑβραίοις, εἰς τὸ μηδὲν ἂν γενέσθαι ἐμποδὼν μὴ ἐκβῆναι τὰ ἠπειλημένα ἐπαγομένου. Andr(7) in Catena). I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord God, He that is and that was and that is to come, the Almighty (by whom are these words spoken? Certainly as they here stand, with κύριος ὁ θεός, and ὁ παντοκράτωρ, they must be understood as uttered by the Eternal Father. And similarly we find Him that sitteth on the throne speaking in ch. Revelation 21:5 ff. In our Revelation 1:17, and in ch. Revelation 22:13, it is our Lord who speaks. Nor need we be surprised, that He who is of one essence with the Father should assert of Himself the same eternal being as the Father. This need not lead us to force the reference of any passage, but each must be ruled by considerations of its own context. Schöttgen gives examples of the Rabbinical usage of “ab Aleph usque ad Tau,” to signify “completely,” “entirely:” and of the word את being a name of the Shechinah, because it comprehends all the letters. The ἀρχὴ κ. τέλος was a correct gloss, from ch. Revelation 21:6, Revelation 22:13).

ὁ παντοκράτωρ answers in the LXX to the Hebr. צְבָאוֹת also to שַׁדַּי. See note on Romans 9:29.


Verse 9

9.] Description of the Writer, and of the place where the Revelation was seen. I John (so again ch. Revelation 22:8; so Daniel 8:1; Daniel 9:2; Daniel 10:2) your brother (no inference can be drawn against the apostleship of the Writer from this his designation of himself. Indeed from his entire silence respecting himself in his Gospel, we may well believe that here, where mention of his name was absolutely required, it would be introduced thus humbly and unobtrusively), and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus (the construction and arrangement are peculiar. The conjunction of these terms seems to be made to express, a partaker, as in the kingdom, so in the tribulation and endurance which are in and by Christ: but the insertion of βασιλείᾳ between θλίψει and ὑπομονῇ is startling, and the effect of it must be to make the construction zeugmatic, ἐν χρ. . not properly belonging to βασιλείᾳ. It can hardly be that the words are, as De W., “ordnungslos neben einander gestellt.” More probably, the tribulation brings in the kingdom (Acts 14:22), and then as a corrective to the idea that the kingdom in its blessed fulness was yet present, the ὑπομονή is subjoined. “Tres hæreditatum uncias introducit Johannes, quibus se participem ostendit. Sed media harum, i. e. regnum, possideri non potest, nisi et hic tribulatio exercuerit, et illic patientia defenderit.” Ambr(8) Ansbert), was (“befand mich:” not = ἦν, which announces the simple fact. When an event is notified with ἐγένετο, we express the meaning by “came to pass:” when a person, we have no word which will do it) in the island which is called Patmos (see Prolegomena, § ii. par. 4) on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus (the substantives form the same expression as occurred before Revelation 1:2, where see note. There they indicated this portion of the divine word and testimony, of which John was a faithful reporter. Whether their meaning is the same here, will depend partly on what sense we assign to the prep. διά. In St. Paul’s usage, as in reff., it would here signify for the sake of, i. e. for the purpose of receiving: so that the Apostle would thus have gone to Patmos by special revelation in order to receive this ἀποκάλυψις. Again, keeping to this meaning of διὰ, these words may mean, that he had visited Patmos in pursuance of, for the purposes of, his ordinary apostolic employment, which might well be designated by these substantives. And such perhaps would have been our acceptation of the words, but that three objections intervene. 1) From what has preceded in this verse, a strong impression remains on the mind that St. John wrote this in a season of tribulation and persecution. Why should he throw over his address this tinge of suffering given by the θλῖψις and ὑπομονή, if this were not the case? De W. will not allow this: but to my mind Hofmann is quite right in pressing it (Weiss. u. Erfull. ii. 308). 2) The usage of our Writer himself in two passages where he speaks of death by persecution (reff.) shews that with him διὰ in this connexion is “because of,” “in consequence of.” De W. naively says that had it not been for these parallel places, such a meaning would never have been thought of here. We may as simply reply, that owing to those parallel places, it must be accepted here. St. John’s own usage is a better guide in St. John’s writings than that of St. Paul. And Origen’s ear found no offence in this usage, for he incorporated it into his own sentence, … κατεδίκασε τὸν ἰωάννην μαρτυροῦντα διὰ τὸν τῆς ἀληθείας λόγον εἰς πάτμον τὴν νῆσον. See the passage, Prolegg. § i. par. 12. 3) An early patristic tradition relates that St. John was banished to Patmos. See the authorities in the Prolegg. ut supra, and the question discussed, whether we are justified in ascribing this tradition solely to our present passage. These considerations, mainly those arising from the passage itself, compel us, I believe, to understand the words of an exile in Patmos).


Verses 9-20

9–20.] Introduction to the Epistles. Appearance of our Lord to St. John, and command to write what he saw, and to send it to the seven churches.


Verse 10-11

10, 11.] I was (on ἐγενόμην, see above. Not merely “I was,” but “I became”) in the Spirit (i. e. in a state of spiritual ecstasy or trance, becoming thereby receptive of the vision or revelation to follow. That this is the meaning is distinctly shewn by the same phrase occurring in ch. Revelation 4:2; where after seeing the door open in heaven, and hearing the ἀνάβα ὧδε, he adds, εὐθέως ἐγενόμην ἐν πνεύματι. See also ch. Revelation 21:10. Ebrard well says, “Der Rapport mit der Umgebung durch die Sinne ist unterbrochen, und ein Rapport mit der unsichtbaren Welt tritt ein:” “connexion with surrounding objects through the senses is suspended, and a connexion with the invisible world established.” On the attempt made by some to give the words a different meaning, see below) on the Lord’s day (i. e. on the first day of the week, kept by the Christian church as the weekly festival of the Lord’s resurrection. On any probable hypothesis of the date of this book, this is the earliest mention of the day by this name. This circumstance, coupled with an exegetical bias, has led certain modern interpreters, of whom as far as I know, Wetstein was the first, to interpret the words of the day of the Lord’s coming, ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου. So Züllig, and in our own country, Drs. S. R. Maitland and Todd. But 1) the difficulty, of the thus early occurrence of this term, is no real one. Dr. Maitland says (see Todd’s Lectures on the Apoc., Note B, p. 295), “I know of nothing in the Scripture or in the works of the ante-Nicene Fathers on which to ground such an assumption.” To this we may answer, that the extent of Dr. Maitland’s knowledge of the ante-Nicene Fathers does not, happily for us, decide the question. For, while he repudiates passages “professedly (?) brought forward from Ignatius, Irenæus, &c.,” those of Tertullian (“die dominico jejunium nefas ducimus,” de coron. c. 3, vol. ii. p. 70: “quomodo dominica solennia celebrabimus,” de fug. pers. c. 14, p. 119), Dionysius of Corinth ( τὴν σήμερον οὖν κυριακὴν ἁγίαν ἡμέραν διηγάγομεν, ἐν ᾗ ἀνέγνωμεν ὑμῶν τὴν ἐπιστολήν, Eus(9) iv. 23), Julius Africanus ( τάχα τε σημαίνει τὸ πολυχρόνιον αὐτοῦ διὰ τὴν ὑπερκόσμων ὀγδοάδα, κυριακὴν ἡμέραν, de temp. 5), Epiphanius ( πῶς τε ἀπολύειν εἰς ἐπιφώσκουσαν κυριακήν, φανερόν ἐστι; Hær. lxxv. 7, p. 910), Clem.-Alex(10) ( οὗτος ἐντολὴν τὴν κατὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον διαπραξάμενος κυριακὴν ἐκείνην τὴν ἡμέραν ποιεῖ, Strom. vii. 12 (76), p. 877 P.), are apparently unknown to him. Indeed he confesses (Todd, ut supra p. 301) to have found the word in Origen against Celsus viii. 22, vol. i. p. 758 ( ἐὰν δέ τις πρὸς ταῦτα ἀνθυποφέρῃ τὰ περὶ τῶν παρʼ ἡμῖν κυριακῶν, ἢ τοῦ πάσχα, ἢ τῆς πεντηκοστῆς …), and concedes that there may be many more places, but this does not modify his opinion, nor its adoption by his successor Dr. Todd. It may be well to cite the testimonies from Ignatius (ad Magnes. 9, p. 669, μηκέτι σαββατίζοντες, ἀλλὰ κατὰ κυριακὴν ζωὴν ζῶντες) and Irenæus (in the Quæstt. ad Orthod. in the works of Justin Martyr, 115, ed. Otto, vol. iii., p. 180 f., τὸ ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ μὴ κλίνειν γόνυ, σύμβολόν ἐστι τῆς ἀναστάσεως.… ἐκ τῶν ἀποστολικῶν δὲ χρόνων ἡ τοιαύτη συνήθεια ἔλαβε τὴν ἀρχήν, καθώς φησιν ὁ μακάριος εἰρηναῖοςἐν τῷ περὶ τοῦ πάσχα λόγῳ, ἐν ᾧ μέμνηται καὶ περὶ τῆς πεντηκοστῆς, ἐν ᾗ οὐ κλίνομεν γόνυ, ἐπειδὴ ἰσοδυναμεῖ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κυριακῆς κατὰ τὴν ῥηθεῖσαν περὶ αὐτῆς αἰτίαν): whence it is hardly possible but that the word should have occurred in Irenæus. Mr. Elliott, Hor. Apoc. iv. 367 note, has pointed out that the Peschito renders οὐκ ἔστιν κυριακὸν δεῖπνον φαγεῖν, 1 Corinthians 11:20, “not as befitteth the day of the Lord ye eat and drink” (Etheridge), which is an interesting proof of the early usage. This chronological objection being disposed of, and the matter 2) taken on its own merits, it really is astonishing how any even moderate Greek scholars can persuade themselves that the words can mean that which these Commentators maintain. They must be bold indeed who can render ἐγενόμην ἐν πνεύματι ἐν, “I was transported by the Spirit (or, in spirit) into,”—in the face of ch. Revelation 4:2; and κυριακὴ ἡμέρα, “the day of the Lord’s coming,” in the face of the absence of a single precedent, and of the universal usage of the early Church. No such rendering would ever have been thought of, nor would it now be worth even a passing mention, were it not that an apocalyptic system has been built upon it.

What Drs. M. and T. say of the art. τῇ as making for their sense, is really past comprehension! as it is, that Dr. T. should call it the emphatic article. I need hardly remind students that it is in this connexion any thing but emphatic, being merely designative, as in ἐν τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ, Acts 20:26; τῇ ἐχομένῃ ἡμέρᾳ, Acts 21:26; ( ἐν) τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ, so often used by St. John in his Gospel. One day being known by the name κυριακή, any thing happening on it would be designated ordinarily as happening ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ κυριακῇ, or, as ἡμέρα is one of those nouns which frequently lose the article, ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κυριακῇ. In either case, the meaning, as far as the sense of κυριακή is concerned, is precisely the same. Nor does either the art., or the use of the word κυριακή by Chrys. in that sense (? I have not been able to find it), make it probable that Easter Sunday is meant): and I heard behind me (cf. Isaiah 30:21) a voice (ref. Ezek.), great as of a trumpet, saying (the trumpet is the instrument of festal proclamation, Numbers 10:10; Joel 2:15, &c.: accompanies divine manifestations, Exodus 19:19 f.; Joel 2:1; Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16. The similarity to the sound of the trumpet here was in the loudness and clearness of the voice: see also ch. Revelation 4:1. From this latter it appears that this voice was not that of our Lord, but of one who there also spoke to the Apostle. Düsterd. remarks that the ὀπίσω μου leaves an indefiniteness as to the speaker), What thou seest (the present carries on the action through the vision now opening,—“what thou art seeing”) write (forthwith: aor.) into a book (the prep. of motion gives the transference from the writer to the document), and send to the seven churches, to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamum, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea (for all particulars respecting these churches see the Prolegomena, § iii.).


Verse 12

12.] And I turned about to see the voice which was speaking with me (the voice, the acting energy, being used for the person whose voice it was. ἥτις, giving the force of qualis; of what sort it was which was speaking, &c.): and when I had turned about I saw seven golden candlesticks ( λυχνία is a word repudiated by the Atticist writers. So Phrynichus, App. p. 50, λυχνίον· οἱ ἀμαθεῖς αὐτὸ λυχνίαν καλοῦσι: and Eustathius, p. 1842. 26, λαμπτῆρες λέγει ἃς νῦν οἱ ἀγροτικοὶ λυχνίας φασίν, ἐφʼ ὧν δᾷδες κείμεναι ἀνάπτονται. It is found in Philo, Josepbus, and Lucian. See Lobeck’s Phrynichus, p. 313 note. It is the vessel containing the λύχνος: better therefore rendered candlesticks than lamps, which gives more the idea of the light itself. The seven golden candlesticks are (united in one λυχνία) part of the furniture of the tabernacle, Exodus 25:31 ff. Again, in ref. Zech., we have the λυχνία χρυσῆ ὅλη with its seven λύχνοι. Here there are seven separate candlesticks, typifying, as that one, the entire church, but now no longer bound together in one out-ward unity and one place. Each local church has now its candlestick, to be retained or removed from its place according to its own works):


Verses 12-20

12–20.] THE VISION, in which our Lord appears to St. John, and the command is repeated. This vision is the introduction, not only to the messages to the churches, but to the whole book: see further on Revelation 1:19.


Verse 13

13.] and in the midst of the [seven] candlesticks one like to the Son of Man (i. e. to Christ: see John 5:27. I will not deny that the anarthrous use of this title may mark out less sharply our Lord himself than the use with the articles; but in N. T. Greek we should be no more justified in rendering υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in such a connexion as this, “a son of man,” than πνεῦμα θεοῦ, “a spirit of God.” That meaning would doubtless have been here expressed by τοις υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων. The same remarks apply to ref. Dan.), clothed in a garment reaching to the feet (see the reff. in Dan. and Ezek., which the description and even the diction closely resemble. The χιτὼν ποδήρης, vestis talaris, was a sign of high rank or office: “sunt enim vestes pendulæ et laxæ, apud Persas imprimis, regum nobilium et sacerdotum insigne, cf. Esa. Revelation 6:1, Ezekiel 10:2 :” Ewald. Arethas, in the catena, supposes the dress to be that of the Melchisedek-priesthood (see also Andreas and Vitr.); but without reason, as De W. shews.

Cf. ref. Sir., ἐὰν διώκῃς τὸ δίκαιον, καταλήψῃ καὶ ἐνδύσῃ αὐτὸ ὡς ποδήρη δόξης), and girt round at the breasts with a golden girdle (in ref. Dan., Gabriel has his loins girt with gold of Uphaz. Bengel, and after him Züllig and De Wette, suppose a distinction—the girding round the loins betokening activity, while that round the breast is a sign of repose. But Hengst. well observes that this would hardly apply: for Christ is here in fulness of energy as ruler and orderer of His Church. Ebrard seems nearer the truth in regarding the higher girding as a sign of majesty. But perhaps after all the point is not to be pressed; for the angels in ch. Revelation 15:6 are also girt περὶ τὰ στήθη. Nor is the golden girdle distinctive of regal majesty: for this they also bear, ibid. In 1 Maccabees 10:89; 1 Maccabees 11:58, the πόρπη χρυσῆ is the privilege of the συγγενεῖς, or φίλοι τῶν βασιλέων, not, as is commonly cited, of kings themselves):


Verse 14

14.] and his head and his hairs (were) white like white wool, as snow (by the κεφαλή is perhaps indicated the forehead; not the face, which is afterwards described. It is only in colour, not in material, that His hair is compared to white wool; and the ὡς χιών is afterwards added to impress this still more. The whiteness signifies purity and glory, not as Aug(11) (Expos. ad Galat., c. 40, vol. iii. p. 2134: “quia et Dominus non nisi ob antiquitatem veritatis in Apocalypsi albo capite apparuit”), Vitr., Stern, al., eternity, either here or in Daniel 7:9), and his eyes as a flame of fire (so Daniel 10:6; representing perhaps, as Vitr., “perspicaciam divinæ et puræ mentis, omnia arcana pervadentis.” This may be, notwithstanding that Gabriel has eyes like lamps of fire in Daniel. Though omniscience could not be ascribed to him, the figure might be relatively consistent. But it is perhaps better to consider these physical details rather as in themselves characteristic, than as emblematic of attributes lying “beneath” them. The “fiery eye,” among the sons of men, is indicative of energy and power of command: so also in the Son of man Himself):


Verse 15

15.] and his feet were like to chalcolibanus (this word has defeated all the ingenuity of Commentators hitherto. The Vulg. has aurichalcum (or ori- see Cic de Off. iii. 23. 12, Hor. de Art. poet. 202), the Syriac and Arethas, “brass from Lebanon” (1st altern. in catena,— εἴτε τὸν ἐν τῷ λιβάνῳ τῷ ὄρει μεταλλευόμενον), the Arabic “Greek brass,”—Andreas, and most of the German editions of the Bible, a kind of incense so called (2nd altern. in catena,— εἴτε καὶ τὸν χαλκοειδῆ λιβάνωτον νοητέον, ὃν ἰατρῶν παῖδες ἄῤῥενα καλοῦσιν, εὐώδεις καὶ αὐτὸν πυρὶ ὁμιλοῦντα ἀτμοὺς ἀποπέμποντα: Germ., Erzmeihrauch), on the authority of Antonius of Nebrissa (in Salmasius (Wetst.), ὁ λίβανος ἔχει τρία εἴδη δένδρων, καὶ ὁ μὲν ἄῤῥην ὀνομάζεται χαλκολίβανος, ἡλιοείδης καὶ πυῤῥός, ἤγουν ξανθός), who understands by the word some superior species of frankincense, the so-called ‘thus masculum:’ for in Greek frankincense is called λίβανος, after the Heb. לְבָנָה or לְבוֹנָה, from the root לָבַן, albus fuit. This writer refers to hymns of Orpheus in honour of Apollo and of Artemis, in which χαλκολίβ . occurs in the sense of a costly kind of incense (but all we find in the titles of hymns 7, 19, 21, 65, is λιβανόμαννα, possibly a mixture of frankincense and manna), and to Virg. Ecl. viii. 65,—‘Verbenasque adole pingues et mascula thura.’ Still it appears somewhat strained to refer χαλκολίβανος or - ον to ‘thus masculum:’ for, granted that ‘masculum’ may betoken its purity and clearness, how is χάλκος accounted for, which looks more like a hint at hardness? Besides, incense is not burnt ἐν καμίνῳ, in a smelting furnace, but in a censer or shallow vessel, and its colour while burning is no way observable. The interpretation, “brass from Lebanon,” does not appear to be tenable, as there is no notice of Lebanon ever having produced brass of superior quality, such as this from the context must be. Suidas interprets it thus: χαλκολίβανον, εἶδος, ἠλέκτρου τιμιώτερον χρυσοῦ. ἔστι δὲ τὸ ἤλεκτρον ἀλλότυπον χρυσίον μεμιγμένον ὑελῷ καὶ λιθείᾳ. And this, considering that in the similar and model passage, Daniel 10:6 LXX, we have χάλκος ἐξαστράπτων (as also in Ezekiel 1:7), ib. Theod. χάλκος στίλβων (as also in Ezekiel 40:3), and in Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 1:27; Ezekiel 8:2, ἤλεκτρον,—seems the most likely direction in which to find the meaning. Still, as almost all Commentators confess, it must remain enigmatical, of what the word is compounded, and to what it precisely applies. According to usual analogy, not χάλκος but λίβανος is the central idea, and χάλκος the qualifying one, as in χαλκάνθη, χαλκόλιθος, χαλκοθήκη, &c. But this makes the difficulty greater; for we can assign no meaning to λίβανος which would fit this requirement. If conjecture were admissible (which it is not), I should, in despair of any way out of the difficulty, suggest whether the word might not have been χαλκολιβαδίῳ, a stream of melted brass: δι having been read λι or ν. At all events this may rank with Hitzig’s conjecture, χαλχοκλιβάνῳ), as if they had been burnt in a furnace (and so red-hot and glowing): and his voice as the voice of many waters (Ebrard sees an allusion to the quiet and majestic sound of the sea, appealing to ch. Revelation 17:1 and Revelation 13:1; but, as Düsterdieck remarks, there seems to be no such allusion here, but only to the power of the voice as resembling the rushing of many waters. So Daniel 10:6 Theod., ἡ φωνὴ αὐτοῦ ὡς φωνὴ ὄχλου: Ezekiel 43:2, where the same expression is found (in the Heb., with which agree Vulg., Syr., &c., but not LXX), ezee 1:24, where the sound of the wings of the creatures is ὡς φωνὴ ὕδατος πολλοῦ).


Verse 16

16.] And having ( ἔχων, not = καὶ εἶχεν, but as in ref. St. John takes up the description from time to time irrespective of the construction, as if (De W.) with separate strokes of the pencil) in his right hand seven stars (not, as Heinr., on his right hand, as a number of jewelled rings, but in his right hand, as a wreath or garland held in it. De W. well remarks that this, which is the more natural rendering, is also required by the symbolism. If the seven churches which the seven stars symbolize, were on the Lord’s hand as rings, they would seem to be serving (adorning?) Him, and not to be the objects of his action: but now that He holds them in his hand, He appears as their Guardian, their Provider, their Nourisher: and, we may add, their Possessor, who brings them out and puts them forth to be seen when He pleases. His universal Church would hardly be thus represented, but only a portion of it which it pleases Him to take in his hand and hold forth as representing the rest): and out of his mouth a two-edged sharp sword going forth (cf. Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 49:2 ( ἔθηκε τὸ στόμα μου ὡς μάχαιραν ὀξεῖαν): also our ch. Revelation 2:16, and Wisdom of Solomon 18:15-16. The same figure occurs with reference to men in Psalms 55:21; Psalms 57:4; Psalms 59:7; and Wetst. and Schöttg. give examples of it from the Rabbinical writings. The thing signified may perhaps be as in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, ὁ ἄνομος ὃν ὁ κύριος ἰησοῦς ἀνελεῖ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ στόματος αὐτοῦ …: and in ch. Revelation 19:21; but clearly we must not exclude (as Düsterd.) the attributes of the word of God, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17. And this all the more, inasmuch as 1) here the Lord is represented not as taking vengeance on his enemies, but as speaking with his own, both in the way of comforting and of threatening: and 2) in ch. Revelation 19:21, where this very sword is again alluded to as slaying the Lord’s enemies, His title as καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ ἵππου is ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ): and his countenance (not, as Düsterd., who wrongly quotes De W. as supporting him, general appearance: so also Ewald, al. Had this been so, how should the Apostle have noted the details just mentioned? for the whole figure of our Lord would have been too dazzling for him to contemplate. It is natural that after describing the eyes, and that which proceeded from the mouth, he should give the general effect of the countenance. And as matter of usage, John 11:44 is decided, being spoken of a person, which John 7:24 is not) as the sun shineth in his strength (see ref. Judges:—that is, when unclouded and in full power: not necessarily at midday, but at any time. The construction is again broken: ὡς ὁ ἥλ. φαίνων would be the regular connexion).


Verse 17-18

17, 18.] And when I saw Him, I fell at his feet as dead (the effect of the divine appearance: see Exodus 33:20; Job 42:6; Isaiah 6:5; Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 8:17 ff; Daniel 10:7 ff. There is no discrepancy in this bodily action with the spiritual nature of the vision, as De W. thinks, either here or in the places where similar physical effects are described, ch. Revelation 5:4, Revelation 19:10, Revelation 22:8 (Daniel 7:15). Düsterd. well remarks in reply, that the ἐν πν. of Revelation 1:10 does not supersede existence in the body. Just as dreamers express their bodily feelings by physical acts, e. g. by starting or weeping, so might St. John while in this ecstasy: cf. Acts 9:3). And he placed his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not (see, besides reff., Luke 2:10, Matthew 17:7, Mark 16:6. These places, and the whole character of our Lord’s words, shew that the Apostle’s falling down as dead was purely from fear, not, as Ebrard imagines, as an expression of ecstatic love); I am the first and the last (reff.: = α and ω above: not as the semi-Socinian Commentators, Grot., Wetst., “summus dignitate … contemtissimus:” it is the eternity of God which is expressed—of Him who is before all and after all, from and to everlasting), and the living One (not = ὁ ζωοποιῶν, however true the fact may be; nor here signifying alive from the dead: but is the well-known attribute of God, the Eternal, not in bare duration, but in personal Life, The ζωοποιεῖν is included, but the word expresses far more. The E. V. is wrong in connecting these words with those that follow); and I was (not ἦν, but ἐγενόμην,—I became: it was a state which I passed into) dead, and behold I am alive for evermore (see Romans 6:9, Acts 13:34. ζῶν εἰμί expresses, more emphatically than would the simple verb, the residence and effluence of life. By this mention of His own death and revival, the Lord reassures his Apostle. He is not only the living One in His majesty, but He has passed through death as one of us, and is come to confer life even in and through death), and I have the keys of death and of Hades (I can bring up from death, yea even from the mysterious place of the spirits of the departed. The figure of the keys is often used in this book; see reff. Wetst. quotes from the Targum of Jonathan on Deuteronomy 28:12, “Quatuor sunt claves in manu Domini, … clavis vitæ et sepulchrorum et ciborum et pluviæ;” and other testimonies of the same kind. We have the gates of death as opposed to the gates of the daughter of Zion, Psalms 9:14; cf. also Job 38:17; and the gates of Hades, Matthew 16:18. Isaiah 38:10).


Verse 19

19.] Write therefore (‘because I have vouchsafed thee this vision,—I whose majesty is such, and whose manifested loving-kindness to thee.’ The connexion is better thus than with Revelation 1:11, as some: “Now that thy fear is over, write what I bade thee,” Hengst. So Aret., who remarks, “ ἔκστασις memoriam lædit.” But it is very doubtful whether Revelation 1:11 is spoken by our Lord at all: see there) the things which thou sawest (just now: the vision which was but now vouchsafed thee), and what things they signify (two meanings of ἃ εἰσίν are possible. 1) ‘the things which are,’ viz. which exist at the present time. This has been taken by Arethas, Lyra, Corn.-a-lap., Grot., Calov., Vitr., Beng., Wolf, Züll., Hengst., Ebrard, Lücke, Düsterd., al. 2) as above, ‘what things they (the ἃ εἶδες) signify:’ so Alcas., Aretius, Eichhorn, Heinr., Ewald, De W. In deciding between these, we have the following considerations: a) the use of the plural εἰσίν, as marking off this clause in meaning from the next, which has ἃ μέλλει γενέσθαι. If this latter is sing., why not this? Is it not because the μέλλει γενέσθαι merely signifies the future time, in which this latter class, en masse, were to happen, whereas this ἃ εἰσί imports, what these things, each of them, severally, mean? And b) this seems to be borne out by the double repetition of εἰσιν in the next verse, both times unquestionably in this meaning. So that I have no hesitation in taking the meaning given above), and the things which are about to happen after these (viz. after ἃ εἶδες: the next vision, beginning with ch. 4., which itself opens with μετὰ ταῦτα εἶδον. I would take γενέσθαι in the sense of happening, not in the wide ages of history, but in apocalyptic vision: seeing that, ταῦτα meaning ἃ εἶδες, a present vision, ἃ μέλλει γενέσθαι will by analogy mean the things which shall succeed these, i. e. a future vision. Notice, it is not ἃ δεῖγενέσθαι as in Revelation 1:1; not the necessity of prophecy, but only the sequence of things seen);


Verse 20

20.] the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest upon (held in, and so standing over, as a wreath) my right hand ( τὸ μυστ. is in apposition with ἃ εἶδες κ. τ. λ., and governed by γράψον. Lyra interprets the word well, “sacramentum stellarum,” i. e. “sacrum secretum per ipsas significatum:” see reff.), and the seven candlesticks of gold (elliptic construction for ‘and the mystery of the seven candlesticks,’ &c.). The seven stars are (the) (the prefixed predicate ἄγγελοι, though on that account wanting the article, is rendered definite by the definite gen., τῶν ἑπτ. ἐκκ., which follows) angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches (the import of the ἄγγελοι has been much disputed. Very many Commentators take them for the presiding presbyters, or bishops, of the churches. So Primas(12), Bed(13), Joach., Lyra, Alcas., Corn.-a-lap., Ribera, Bossuet, Beza, Grot., Calov., al. m. So also Vitr., Whitby, and with some modification, Hengst. This view is variously supported. It derives probability from the analogy of the vision itself, in which, seeing that the candelabra represent the churches themselves, existing vessels containing much light, the stars, concentrated sparks of light, should represent some actually existing persons in or connected with the churches. Again it is supported by our finding that throughout the seven Epistles the angel is treated as representing and responsible for the particular church. But before we pass on to the other great section of interpretation, we may at once dismiss those forms of this one which make ἄγγελος the ideal representative of the governing body (as Hengst.), or an ideal messenger from the church (as Ebrard), or a proleptic idea of the office of Bishop, not yet instituted, as Rothe, or, in short, any idealism at all. As the ἐκκλησία is an objective reality, so must the ἄγγελος be, of whatever kind. This consideration will also affect the current of interpretation which takes the angels to be the churches themselves. So Andreas and Arethas (in Cat.,— ἄγγελον τῆς ἐφέσου, τὴν ἐν αὐτῇ ἐκκλησίαν λέγει. οὐ γὰρ ὁ προστατῶν ἄγγελος ἡμαρτήκει, ὥστε δεῖν ἀκοῦσαι μετανόησον, ὁ διʼ ἁγιότητα ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ τοῦ κυρίου ὑπάρχων ἀστὴρ ὢντίς δὲ καὶ χρεία γράφειν τῷ ἐν τῇ δεξιᾷ τοῦ διαλεγομένου παρόντι; κ. τ. λ.). The second line of interpretation is that which regards the ἄγγελοι as angels, in some way representing the churches. In favour of this is 1) the constant usage of this book, in which the word ἄγγελος occurs only in this sense: 2) the further usage of this book, in which we have, ch. Revelation 16:5, the ἄγγελος τῶν ὑδάτων introduced without any explanation, who can be none other than the angel presiding over the waters: 3) the expression of our Lord Himself Matthew 18:10, οἱ ἄγγελοι αὐτῶν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ διὰ παντὸς βλέπουσιν τὸ πρόσωπον τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς, coupled with the saying of the church in the house of Mary the mother of John Mark, Acts 12:15, with regard to their disbelief of Peter standing at the door, ὁ ἄγγελός ἐστιν αὐτοῦ: both asserting the doctrine that angels are allotted to persons, and are regarded as representing them: a subject full of mystery, and requiring circumspect treatment, but by no means to be put aside, as is commonly done. 4) The extension of this from individuals to nations in the book of Daniel, which is so often the key to apocalyptic interpretation. See Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; an analogy according to which there might well be angels not only of individuals, but of churches. 5) The fact that throughout these Epistles, nothing is ever addressed individually as to a teacher, but as to some one person reflecting as it were the complexion and fortunes of the church in a way in which no mere human teacher or ruler could. That there is no exception to this in ch. Revelation 2:20, see maintained in note there.

6) To the objection advanced in the comment of Arethas above, οὐ γὰρ ὁ προστατῶν ἄγγελος ἡμαρτήκει κ. τ. λ., the reply may be made, with advantage to this interpretation, that there evidently is revealed to us a mysterious connexion between ministering angels and those to whom they minister, by which the former in some way are tinged by the fates and fortunes of the latter. E. g., in our Lord’s saying cited above, the place of dignity there asserted of the angels of the little children is unquestionably connected with the character of those whose angels they are: and it cannot be following out such a revelation too far to say that, if some of the holy angels are thus and for this reason advanced to honour, others may be similarly, and for the opposite reason, placed in less honour and relatively disgraced. That this idea is found expressed in the Rabbinical writings (see in Wetst.) is a mark of the further development of the truth which seems to have been first revealed to Daniel 7) It will be perceived that this interpretation does not lie under any of the objections stated above as idealizing that which ought to be an objective reality. For it contemplates the angels of the churches as really existent, not as ideal beings. It is only when this latter is the case, that those objections can apply. 8) It will also be perceived, that both the circumstances, which were cited as making for the former interpretation, tell equally for this: viz. a) that just noticed, the actual existence of these persons in or belonging to the churches, and b) the fact that in the Epistles the angel is treated as representing and responsible for the particular church.

So that I cannot but regard this second view as far the more likely one. It has been taken by Origen, Greg.-Naz(14), Jerome, Andr(15), Areth(16) (in Catena: holding as above, the churches themselves to be virtually meant, inasmuch as the angel himself could not need repentance, &c.: but never doubting that by ἄγγελοι the angels are meant), Wetst., Züllig, Wahl, Bretschneider, Bleek, De Wette (see above), al.

The attempt to defend the interpretation of ἄγγελοι as bishops by the analogy of the שליח צבור, legatus Ecclesiæ, in the synagogue, appears to be futile, inasmuch as that officer held quite an inferior place, in no way corresponding to a bishop, or any kind of president of the church.

I may also notice, that the weight laid by Brightmann, al., and recently by Ebrard, on the omission of the art. before ἄγγελοι is worth nothing (see the rendering above). Such a sentence as Ebr. suggests in case ἄγγελοι had been definite, οἱ ἑπτ. ἀστ. οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν ἐκκ. εἰσιν, could hardly be written in Greek: it would have stood εἰσὶν οἱ ἀγγ. τῶν ἐκκλ. The fact, that each succeeding epistle is addressed τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν.… ἐκκλησίας, should have guided Commentators aright in this matter.

As regards the symbolism, stars are the symbols of the angels of the churches, inasmuch as angels are beings of light, Hebrews 1:7 (from Psalms 104:4), where see note; Job 38:7, where they are called the morning stars. The same symbolism is used in the prophets of Lucifer, the day-star, the son of the morning, Isaiah 14:12 ff., who would exalt his throne above the stars of God, ib. Isaiah 14:13; Revelation 12:4; Revelation 12:9. See also Luke 10:18. That stars are also used to symbolize earthly authorities, is what might be expected from the very nature of the symbol, and should never have been alleged here as a reason against the literal interpretation of ἄγγελοι.

The churches themselves are represented by candlesticks, agreeably with the universal symbolism both of the prophetic and evangelic Scriptures. Cf. Proverbs 4:18; Isaiah 60:1; Isaiah 60:3; Matthew 5:14; Matthew 5:16; Luke 12:35; Philippians 2:15).

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/revelation-1.html. 1863-1878.

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