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Monday, December 27, 2010

Revelation 22:12 who is speaking?

Rev. 22:12 Ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, καὶ ὁ μισθός μου μετ᾿ ἐμοῦ ἀποδοῦναι ἑκάστῳ ὡς τὸ ἔργον ἐστὶν αὐτοῦ.  13 ἐγὼ τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος.

This chapter Revelation presents a number of difficulties which can be generally characterized as a lack of textual cohesion. For example, there are several different speakers and the change in voice is frequently not identified. R. H. Charles[1] attempts to solve the problem by reconstructing the text and there have be a number of other proposals for understanding the structure[2].

Leaving the text as it has come down to us, we are presented with the problem of identifying who is speaking in Rev. 22:12. ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ, in the first person, is jarring and abrupt and appears to introduce a a change in voice[3]. The voice in Rev. 22:8 is John Κἀγὼ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀκούων καὶ βλέπων ... in Rev. 22:9 we hear the voice of τοῦ ἀγγέλου. This is perhaps one of the bowl angels but it really doesn't matter. An attendant angel is a standard participant in Jewish apocalypse. John the seer has a personal "tour guide" for his visions. At this point John falls down in attitude of worship which the "tour guide" bluntly refuses. This refusal of worship is a key to identity of the angel. The angel cannot be Jesus Christ, because the Lamb is an object of worship throughout the vision, starting with Rev. 5:9ff.

In Rev. 22:10 Καὶ λέγει μοι· μὴ σφραγίσῃς τοὺς λόγους  it appears that the angel is still speaking here. In narrative, the typical pattern for encoding participant reference is a full noun phrase at the introduction of a participant and then to reduce the level of encoding to a pronoun or verb inflection. A voice which is reintroduced after someone else speaks may also need full encoding to avoid ambiguity.  Here we have verb inflection only λέγει. Under normal circumstances this would lead us to conclude that there has been no change in voice but John the seer doesn't follow these rules. It has been suggested that there may be a liturgical structure here with different voices answering one another[2]. Therefore, we cannot be absolutely certain who is speaking in Rev. 22:10. It could be the attendant angel, a.k.a, "tour guide" or the glorified Christ who is most probably the voice in Rev. 22:7 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ.

In Rev. 22:7 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ we encounter once again the question who is speaking. The only other active voices are John the seer and the angel. It doesn't make any sense for these words to be put in the mouth of John, perhaps the angel but that also seems unlikely. There are no other voices. The suggestion[4] that ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ could be spoken by ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς YHWH  ignores the fact that there are no speech acts recorded here for YHWH. Reported speech by YHWH is very rare in Revelation[5].  YHWH is not an active participant in the narrative structure. So to introduce direct speech would be abrupt and unusual but not impossible. A biblical text linguist might suggest that ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς  has the status of a global VIP (very important participant) in the Apocalypse and for that reason doesn't need to be introduced in the narrative as a speaker. A speech act by ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς without introduction in the Apocalypse is always possible but to reduce ambiguity identifying ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς as a speaker would be expected because such speech acts are rare.  As have seen already, John the seer doesn't always do this. It could also be argued ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς is not really a participant in the narrative and the patterns for participant reference do not apply to deities unless they are direct agents in the story. That fact that ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς is mentioned in the previous context[4] does not in and of itself make ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς a likely agent in a speech act. Being the subject of propositional content does not make one an active speaking participant.

If we understand the voice in Rev. 22:7 as the glorified Christ, then we have a block of verses all in one voice. If we read it as the voice of the angel, then we have an abrupt change of voice in Rev. 22:12. There are several reason why ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ cannot be the voice of the angel. In apocalyptic the role of the angel is define as a "tour guide". The "tour guide" doesn't predict his future advent, it is out of character. Furthermore, in our text, the coming one is clearly identified in Rev. 22:20 Λέγει ὁ μαρτυρῶν ταῦτα· ναί, ἔρχομαι ταχύ. Ἀμήν, ἔρχου κύριε Ἰησοῦ.
 

[1] R. H. Charles, Revelation ICC, v.2,pp. 211-222.
[2] David E. Aune,  Revelation v.3  WBC, pp. 1201-1208.
[3] voice is used here for to mean "the one who is speaking", not gramatical voice.
[4] David Barron, God in Christ, pp. 111-113.  


[5] Speech from ὁ κύριος ὁ θεὸς YHWH HaShem in Revelation:

Rev. 1:8 Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ, λέγει κύριος ὁ θεός, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, ὁ παντοκράτωρ. 
Rev. 21:5 Καὶ εἶπεν ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ· ἰδοὺ καινὰ ποιῶ πάντα καὶ λέγει· γράψον, ὅτι οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοὶ καὶ ἀληθινοί εἰσιν.

5 Comments:

Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

Good points. I agree that the most strength in this position is attached to 20:20. Since this the only place in the section where Jesus is explicitly attributed with "I am coming quickly," there is no reason to doubt that the same is speaking in v. 7, 12.

7:44 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Hi Mike,

Yes. That and the fact that in Apocalyptic literature in general the coming one is an agent of YHWH, sent by YHWH. Theos Hypsistos sends but does not come. I understand that that statement could be used by our Arian friends to promote their agenda but in GspJohn Jesus is the one sent by the Father to do what the Father send him to do. That is perfectly orthodox.

6:58 PM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

I think what an Arian would say is that Jesus can be the speaker, even called YHWH (like Moses was spoke "as God" in Ex. 7:1), but only insofar as he is an agent who represents YHWH. The more sharper ones will appeal to the Qumran texts where Melchizedek is YHWH's agent. So i'm honestly not sure what would lead them to a different interpretation of these texts, even within their own theology.

Where they run into a problem is when the agent is worshipped as well as identified with qualifications unique to YHWH's identity.

8:00 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Mike,

Thanks for the clarification. You have a better grasp of Arian framework than I do. Been quite a while since I did any reading on that.

YHWH sends Jesus Christ as his agent, but the not same sort of agent as angels, Hebrews clearly rules that out. Where I get bogged down is trying to figure out where James Dunn fits in all of this. At some points he seems to agreeing with the Arians but at other points he does not. I wonder if his chief contention with Hurtado and Bauckham is over how early high christology developed. Hurtado is claiming it was there from the beginning. What I have read from Dunn doesn't agree with that. Most of my works by Dunn are over decade old. Don't know if he has changed his tune.

1:19 PM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

Well, what I do know is that the Arians and Socinians latch on to Dunn's and McGrath's works to support their viewpoints. Though i've not read McGrath, he seems to hold views similar to Arians. I haven't read any of Dunn or McGrath. But I do know that it is in my best interest as a student of Christology to be familiar with their works.

3:05 PM  

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