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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 6

 

 

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Verse 1

Revelation 6:1. καὶ, and) By the first four seals it is shown, that all the public times of all ages, the flourishing condition of empires, war, supplies of provisions, and calamities, are subject to Jesus Christ: and a specimen of the first seal is intimated in the east, which followed in the reign of Trajan; of the second, in the west; of the third, in the south; of the fourth, in the north and the whole world. For it was towards these quarters of the world that the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle were looking.— ὡς φωνὴ βροντῆς) See App. Ed. ii. On the nominative case, φωνὴ,(73) which displeases Wolf, but does not displease Valla, see below at ch. Revelation 16:13.— ἔρχου, ἴδε) Wolf has curtailed my words on the subject of this call: I would have my readers seek for my opinion, if it is of any consequence, from the Apparatus on this passage.


Verse 2

Revelation 6:2. ἵππος λευκὸς, a white horse) D. Lange altogether applies these seals to the future, Comm. Apoc. f. 73, where he uses five arguments:

I. From the figures of the seals. I reply, The Past, when rightly explained, agrees with them.

II. From the failure of the reasons on which Vitringa, together with others, relies. I reply, Better reasons both exist in abundance and are brought forward. See on ch. Revelation 4:1.

III. From the parallelism of Matthew 24:6 and following verses with the second, third, fourth, and fifth seal. See fol. 83, 257. I reply, That the end, in Matthew 24:14, denotes the destruction of Jerusalem, is proved by the whole connection of the discourse, and especially by the particle οὖν, therefore, Revelation 6:15, and the question of the disciples, as Mark and Luke represent it. A similarity in the plagues inflicted in each text does not imply that the plagues themselves are the same. See above, p. 135 and next.

IV. From the parallelism of Zechariah 6 with the same seals. See fol. 84. I reply, In Zechariah there is not one horse only of each colour, but there are more, and they too joined to chariots: nor are the colours entirely the same (D. Lange undoubtedly puts paleness for whiteness); nor is there the same order of the colours; nor is there the same road to the four quarters of the world, nor the same expedition. In the first seal he applies the white horse to the conqueror, Christ; in the third, the black to the dearness of corn: in what manner this is parallel with Zechariah 6:6; Zechariah 6:8, cannot be shown.

V. From the connection [of the seals] with the trumpets and vials. I reply, As this celebrated interpreter too much extends the epistles, so he also too much compresses the seals, trumpets, etc. The vials almost exhaust the whole of that space, which he supposes to be represented also in the seals and trumpets. There are four distinct spheres, each of which has its own subject-matter agreeing with the titles, churches, seals, trumpets, and vials; and where they are explained distinctly [as distinct from one another], they obtain an amplitude worthy of this prophecy. In such a manner the true explanation preserves the natural ARRANGEMENT of the book; but if this is once laid aside, there is nothing which the ingenuity of man cannot divide and put together, and congratulate itself on the discovery of the truth. As far as relates to the system of the venerable D. Lange, the little season under the fifth seal, the 42 months and 1260 days in ch. 11, the 1260 days and the short time, and the (1) time, (2) times and half a time, in ch. 12, the 42 months in ch. 13, and the short space in ch. 17, which are periods of times, differing both in every kind of way, and widely and elegantly, are not only regarded by that system as equal, but are also put for one [period], and that a period of three years and a half, and the seals and trumpets are arranged in accordance with that hypothesis: Comm. Apoc. f. 16, 115, etc.: they who shall duly weigh the same, f. 15, 88, 95, 133, 143, etc., will perceive how many things are moved from their place and disarranged by this view. In his Epicrisis, for instance, p. 390, he has not sufficiently weighed my arguments, from a reliance on those things, which he had before written.(74)


Verse 4

Revelation 6:4. τὴν εἰρήνην τῆς γῆς) See App. The shorter reading is generally the genuine one.— ἵνα) See App. [Most dreadful wars are signified.—V. g.]


Verse 5

Revelation 6:5. ΄έλας) The Greek poets call the famine which this horseman would inflict on men, were he not withheld, αἴθοπα λιμὸν, λιμὸν αἰανῆ, that is, black, gloomy: and the Latins use the same epithets.


Verse 8

Revelation 6:8. χλωρὸς) χλωρὸς, ch. Revelation 8:7, is green; but here it is pale, ὠχρός, which sense is confirmed by Eustathius: as also the Septuagint renders the Hebrew ירק by each of these Greek words.— ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τὸ τέταρτον) There is a similar construction, ἐπὶ with an accusative, ch. Revelation 16:9.— ἐν θανάτῳ) by pestilence. דבר pestilence; Septuagint, θάνατος, Exodus 9:3; 2 Samuel 24:13, and repeatedly. [An accumulation of different calamities.—V. g.]


Verse 9

Revelation 6:9. καὶ, and) The fifth, the sixth, and the seventh seals relate to invisible things; the fifth, to those who have died well, namely, martyrs; the sixth, to those who have died badly, kings, etc.; comp. Ezekiel 32:18, and following verses; the seventh, to angels, especially those illustrious ones, to whom the trumpets are given.— ὑποκάτω) With this agrees that which the seventh of the brothers says, 2 Maccabees 7:36, οἱ μὲν γὰρ νῦν ἡμέτεροι ἀδελφοὶ βραχὺν ὑπενέγκαντες πόνον ἀεννάου ζωῆς υπο διαθήκην θεοῦ πεπτώκασι: for which the Latin translator, For my brothers, having now sustained moderate pain, have been brought [effecti sunt] under the covenant of everlasting life. Not only the Church fighting under Christ, as the world does under Satan, but even the Church in its consummated state, and the kingdom of darkness, are described in this book. Moreover, the actions of the forces of the good and wicked alike on the earth, and their removals from it to a happier or more wretched state, succeeding one another at different times, distinguished by various degrees, celebrated by various applaudings, and the increments of the expectation itself and of the rejoicing in heaven, and of the terror itself and punishment in hell, are at the same time shown. See ch. 4. 5. 6. 7. 14. 19. and following, and the notes.


Verse 11

Revelation 6:11. αὐτοῖς ἑκάστῳ(75)) You may with reason doubt, says Wolf, whether John wrote αὐτοῖς ἑκάστῳ. But he wrote ὑμῖν ἑκάστῳ, ch. Revelation 2:23; and so Luke, ch. Revelation 2:3, and Acts 2:8, πάντες, ἕκαστος· ἡμεῖς, ἕκαστος: Paul, Ephesians 5:33, ὑμεῖς ἕκαστος. The very expression, αὐτοῖς ἑκάστῳ, occurs, Sirach 17:14. They who have not admitted the joining together of the plural and singular number, have made various changes: some of them have omitted ἑκάστῳ, Mill incorrectly giving his assent, Proleg. § 1003.(76)χρόνον) Others, χρόνον ΄ικρόν; and Wolf defends that reading. He says, John uses the same phrase below, ch. Revelation 20:3. From that place, in fact, some have introduced the adjective into this: for the copyists everywhere delighted to insert adjectives, lest the style should appear too abrupt. Whence also Augustine, in his second book against Gaudentius, c. 19, uses it more than once; and Jerome, in his treatise on the Perfect Man, thus has it. But this χρόνος, which is the subject of ch. Revelation 6:11, ends by a long interval before the beginning of the little season ( μικροῦ χρόνου), which is the subject of ch. Revelation 20:3. Wolf subjoins: It certainly might have done much towards the arousing of those souls, if they understood that the delay of the Divine judgments would only be for a short time. It was this indeed which induced the African writers to add μικρὸν,(77) as a solace to the martyrs (comp. Coll. Antithet. of Antonius, p. 909, on precipitate hope); although in cases where the delay is in reality not short, they who affirm that it is short, cause an arousing which is not lasting. The best consolation is in the truth itself, which, in the meantime, by the form of speech in which it is veiled, softens down the more unfavourable points which are from time to time mingled with those more joyful, as the long-continued delay in this passage. As to criticism, I have nothing here to add to the Apparatus, except the explanation of Apringius, which is as follows: But because the everlasting recompense of the saints and the damnation of the wicked is about to come at the last time, it was said to them that they should wait, and for the comfort of the body, etc. He makes no remark respecting the shortness of the time. χρόνον is used absolutely, as ἐπὶ χρόνον, without an epithet, Luke 18:4; on which passage E. Schmid remarks, that χρόνον is frequently used absolutely also by Homer. But it is used also, Acts 19:22, and Isaiah 27:11 in the Septuagint. χρόνον is the reading which is supported by the most ancient, the most numerous, and best authorities, short, natural, without any adulteration, and, as the interpretation now demonstrates from the structure of the whole book, necessarily true. D. Lange places a short time from the crying of the souls to the time of judgment and vengeance, Comm. Apoc. f. 81, and everywhere. This is one of those passages, in which the labour spent by this illustrious man upon the Apocalypse would have produced greater fruits, if he had more thoroughly weighed the arguments for the true reading. The prophecy refuses shortness as applied to this time. Its subject extends itself from the time of John through the ages of the world which still remain, and which are not much fewer than those which have passed, by a continuous thread to the end of the world: and yet it shuts up many things into periods of times of considerable length, which are definitely expressed in their proper places: all other things are done ἐν τάχει, quickly. Therefore the Lamb immediately, and in rapid succession, opens the seven seals, the fifth of which contains the souls crying out. This cry, this complaint, long afterwards, IN THE SAME WORDS, is transposed into a song, ch. Revelation 19:2; then at length, namely, when the judgment of the saints and apostles shall be passed upon Babylon or Rome, ch. Revelation 18:20. Therefore two classes of martyrs are pointed out: the one under heathen Rome; the other under papal Rome. The former arc ordered to take their rest until the latter are added to them: the age of John already had the former; the thirteenth century bore the first-fruits of the latter. To the former, therefore, while they were expecting the latter, there was not μικρὸς χρόνος, but truly χρόνος. As καιρὸς has a special meaning in this book, ch. Revelation 12:12; Revelation 12:14, so also has χρόνος, which even in Latin we call chronos (derivatives of which word are not unknown to the Latins), that the time καιρὸς may not be confounded with it. Chronus has 11111/9 years, as we show in its proper place; and this Chronus flowed on from the year 98 to 1209, or from the first year of Trajan to the Crusade stirred up against the Waldenses by the zeal of Innocent III. Before this the Pope had never been a bloodthirsty persecutor: afterwards he never ceased to be such. To this Chronus is opposed No longera Chronus, ch. Revelation 10:6, whence there is a beautiful antithesis between the two passages, χρόνον ἔτι, χρόνος οὐκέτι. The expression NonChronus itself includes times of sufficient length, expressed, ch. 11 and 12 and 13, and yet a Chronus exceeds a NonChronus in length. How correctly these things are spoken, however paradoxical they are, the truth will bring to light, but after a time. I will here make a remark, which applies to all passages which have any indication of time. The times are not entirely determined from facts, much less are facts from times: but they afford mutual aid to each other, so that the event may be definitely distinguished.— ἕως, until) A Chronus is placed between this answer and the beginning πληρωσέως, of the fulfilment, as there were four kings of Persia between the prophecy and the destruction of the fourth King: Daniel 11:3. After a Chronus, “brethren” are to be added, by the continual slaughter of whom, accomplished under the fury of the beast, the promise is fulfilled. The Chronus extends to the times of the beast; when these are elapsed, the judgment takes place.— πληρωθῶσι) Comp. Al. Lat. most suitably have this passive form: many, with Andreas of Cæsarea, have the neuter πληρώσωσι.(78) Erasmus alone has the middle form, πληρώσονται (although the construction required the subjunctive); and, in what manner he proceeded in revising the Apocalypse, I have shown in the Apparatus, Fund. Cris. § xvii. But since that discussion is not specially suited to any particular text, I greatly fear, lest many readers should pass it by, and consequently, in particular passages of the text to which it ought to be applied, should be the less prepared to judge. Wherefore I have considered it my duty, in these annotations also, to put forward some of the strong points of my argument. I will here speak what is suitable for the subject.

I.) Erasmus had only one manuscript on the Apocalypse, the Reuchlinian.

II.) The Reuchlinian copy was the commentary of Andreas of Cæsarea upon the Apocalypse, and this had τὸ κείμενον, or the text inserted amidst the commentary.

III.) Erasmus wonderfully extols the antiquity of this manuscript. undoubtedly had a good text, and that in some places of singular gcellence; but that it was likewise mutilated, is understood from his, that Erasmus was both ignorant of the author of the commentry, and supplied a part of chapter 22 from Latin editions. He imself acknowledges the former point in his Annotations upon the New Testament, and the latter in his Epistles.

IV.) The edition of Erasmus is often so different from the Comslutensian edition, and from all the MSS., especially those which have been duly collated, and from all the versions and fathers whose pinions are on record, and from the remaining copies of Andreas himself, that it agrees with the Latin MSS., and those of an inferior character, and which are refuted by the Latin MSS. of a better class, sometimes also with Ticonius, or his faulty edition; and it Introduces into the text Greek words which are at variance with the usage of the Greek language.

V.) Not a few of such passages occur to us while we make these remarks; and in such passages, there is no doubt that the Renchnian MS. was worn out by its antiquity, and that Erasmus patched up its deficiency from Latin copies. In this passage, therefore, Erasmus has given πληρώσονται from the Latin compleantur, and he as easily laid hold of the middle voice, answering to the nearest verb ναπαύσωνται. As often as anything of this kind occurs to Erasmus, his revision has not even the weight of a single MS.; nor do any renturies of subsequent editions make his conjecture better, in opposition to all the MSS. I sometimes speak τολμηρότερον, more holdly and confidently, not indeed through want of modesty, but that they may be excited to perceive the truth, who too superstiously defend the particular edition, whatever it is, to which they have once been accustomed. πληρωθῶσι is used in this passage with reference to the completing of the number of the martyrs.


Verse 12

Revelation 6:12. τὴν ἕκτην, the sixth) See notes at Revelation 6:9. D. Lange, Comm. Apoc., f. 11, says, that it is proved by the agreement of almost all interpreters, that the events of the sixth seal are future. But almost all interpreters, with the exception of those who refer it to the very consummation of the world, interpret it of the past; as even the Apocalyptic Parallels of Sentiments by Jungnitius teach, p. 138, and following. As far as relates to the subject, he has not proved that this seal refers to those things which are about to take place before the end of the world, and have not however as yet taken place: and yet on this theory he has built up the whole mass of his superstructure, fol. foll. Wherefore this ought to have been demonstrated as firmly as possible. We lately vindicated the passage from Matthew 24, to which there is a parallel in Luke 21— ἥλιος σελήνη,(79) the sun—the moon) They are here taken in their literal sense. There is a description of the alarm occasioned to the dead by that condition of the universe which there shall be at the last day: an alarm occasioned at the time when the Apocalypse was written: which even at that early time truly said, it is coming. [It is plain that these things cannot be referred to the destruction of the world itself; for there follows at length (not until after the sixth) the seventh seal, containing many things, and those of importance: nor to any other judgment, to be put into execution against enemies; of whom, in fact, the mention is made afterwards. In like manner, under the fifth seal, it was revealed to the souls under the altar, out of favour to them, what was being done on their account. The beginning is made from the earth; as ch. Revelation 20:11.—V. g.](80)


Verse 17

Ver. 17. τίς, who) They who are freed from wrath to come, having fellowship with the Lamb.—V. g. ABCh Vulg. support ὅλη: Rec. Text omits it.—E.

 


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 6:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-6.html. 1897.

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