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Friday, December 24, 2010

YHWH, Jesus Christ and the “divine identity” in Revelation 22:12-13.

YHWH,  Jesus Christ and the “divine identity”  in Revelation 22:12-13.

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.  6 καὶ εἶπέν μοι· γέγοναν. ἐγώ [εἰμι] τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ, ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος. ἐγὼ τῷ διψῶντι δώσω ἐκ τῆς πηγῆς τοῦ ὕδατος τῆς ζωῆς δωρεάν.

Identifying who is speaking in is a challenge in Revelation, particularly the last two chapters. In Rev 21:5-6 here we see YHWH as the agent of a verb of speech (cf. Rev 1:8) but there appears to be more than one voice indicated by repetition of the verb  εἶπεν … λέγει … εἶπέν. The first proclamation ἰδοὺ καινὰ ποιῶ πάντα is spoken by ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ but the command to write following λέγει probably comes from the attendant ἄγγελος with the voice switching back to ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ following the third verb εἶπέν. One is tempted to see verb aspect used here to identify the who speaking, the aorist εἶπέν for the voice from the throne and the present λέγει for the ἄγγελος. Another indicator of who is speaking is the nature of the content. Some words can only be spoken by YHWH in the first person. Other words, like the command to write this down are more likely to come from an attendant ἄγγελος. The words of YHWH can be put in first person in reported speech by the prophet; which is probably what we see in Rev 1:8 where λέγει κύριος ὁ θεός identifies the source of the proclamation but the speaker is the prophet. If we read the vision portion of Revelation as a narrative told by the prophet then the problem is to identify the speakers within that narrative. John does not always make this perfectly clear as we can see in chapter 22.

   Rev. 22:8 Κἀγὼ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀκούων καὶ βλέπων ταῦτα. καὶ ὅτε ἤκουσα καὶ ἔβλεψα, ἔπεσα προσκυνῆσαι ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ποδῶν τοῦ ἀγγέλου τοῦ δεικνύοντός μοι ταῦτα.  9 καὶ λέγει μοι· ὅρα μή· σύνδουλός σού εἰμι καὶ τῶν ἀδελφῶν σου τῶν προφητῶν καὶ τῶν τηρούντων τοὺς λόγους τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου· τῷ θεῷ προσκύνησον.  10 Καὶ λέγει μοι· μὴ σφραγίσῃς τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας τοῦ βιβλίου τούτου, ὁ καιρὸς γὰρ ἐγγύς ἐστιν.  11 ὁ ἀδικῶν ἀδικησάτω ἔτι καὶ ὁ ῥυπαρὸς ῥυπανθήτω ἔτι, καὶ ὁ δίκαιος δικαιοσύνην ποιησάτω ἔτι καὶ ὁ ἅγιος ἁγιασθήτω ἔτι.  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.  14 Μακάριοι οἱ πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν, ἵνα ἔσται ἡ ἐξουσία αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς καὶ τοῖς πυλῶσιν εἰσέλθωσιν εἰς τὴν πόλιν.  15 ἔξω οἱ κύνες καὶ οἱ φάρμακοι καὶ οἱ πόρνοι καὶ οἱ φονεῖς καὶ οἱ εἰδωλολάτραι καὶ πᾶς φιλῶν καὶ ποιῶν ψεῦδος.  16 Ἐγὼ Ἰησοῦς ἔπεμψα τὸν ἄγγελόν μου μαρτυρῆσαι ὑμῖν ταῦτα ἐπὶ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ῥίζα καὶ τὸ γένος Δαυίδ, ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρὸς ὁ πρωϊνός.

In Rev 22:8 John identifies himself as the one who heard and saw these things. Then he falls down in homage at feet of τοῦ ἀγγέλου who rebukes him and gives him more instructions through the end of verse eleven. Verse 12a presents us with a saying Ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ that is not appropriate on the lips of τοῦ ἀγγέλου. There is no other indication that the speaker has changed other than the content. We know from the end of the chapter that only Jesus Christ can say Ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ. The change in speaker may come earlier than verse 12a but certainly not later.

In Rev 22:13 we are once again presented with the question, who is speaking? The first part of the three fold formula ἐγὼ τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ is found in Rev 1:8 attributed to YHWH κύριος ὁ θεός  and in 21:6 the first part τὸ ἄλφα … and the third part ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος are spoken by the One Sitting on the Throne.  The second part ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος are spoken by Jesus Christ in Rev 1:17, 2:8. Therefore, the tree fold formula of Rev 22:13 combines content from speech acts attributed to both YHWH κύριος ὁ θεός who is  ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῷ θρόνῳ and Jesus Christ. Keeping in mind the change in voice at 22:12 without any signal other than the content of what is spoken, what is the best way of understanding the voice(s) in Rev 22:12ff? Should we assume that Ἰδοὺ ἔρχομαι ταχύ introduces a series of says by Jesus Christ? That is the position of most commentators but Henry Alford has doubts that that John would have even the glorified Jesus Christ say ἐγὼ τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ which is bound together in Rev 1:8 with the exegesis of the divine name ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος. I can understand Alford’s reservations about this, it has nothing to do with Alford’s christology. On the other hand, following Richard Bauckham’s thinking about Jesus Christ sharing the “divine identity” with YHWH κύριος ὁ θεός, it seems to me that this duel use of the formula’s ἐγὼ τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ and  ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος would be a very effective way demonstrating the shared “divine identity” between The Father and The Son.  

5 Comments:

Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

I'd like to hear more about this perspective. What commentaries or books cover this argument that you find most compelling with regards to these verses?

I'd be interested in what you think about the arguments presented in the following book on p. 119-123,

http://www.scripturaltruths.com/book/gc.html

6:11 AM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Actually R. Bauckham's argument for “divine identity” doesn’t make use of Rev 22:13, at least not in the books I have been reading. Apparently he does treat the text in The Theology of the Book of Revelation CUP, 1993 p.55 where he affirms that Alpha and Omega in Rev. 22:13 refers to Jesus Christ. Looking at my library, R. Mounce (Rev. NICNT 1977, p. 393) “In 1:8 and 21:6 it was God who identified himself as the Alpha and the Omega. The risen Christ now [Rev. 22:13] applies the title to himself.” The other works I have on hand which are in general agreement with R. Mounce include R. H. Charles ICC v2 pps. 210-220; H.B. Swete, 3rd ed. 1911, p. 307; D. Aune WBC 1998, v3 p. 1219; G. Beale NIGTC 1999, p. 1138. You might also take a look at B. Witherington III, The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament, pps. 290-291.

One point I should highlight about R. Bauckham's argument for “divine identity”. This approach is set off against the ontological approach to Christology. Bauckham wants to demonstrate that the new testament authors were not primarily concerned with ontology, a definition of the nature of the Father and the Son. In regard to Christology, they were primarily concerned with the question “who?” not “what”. When the risen Christ speaks the words ἐγὼ τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος, ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος in Rev. 22:13, he is identifying himself with κύριος ὁ θεός (Rev. 1:8), including himself in the “divine identity”.

The best treatment I have seen of Bauckham's argument for “divine identity” can be found in “Jesus and the God of Israel” 2008.

I am did take a look at the book you suggested, p. 109ff. Perhaps I will post on it later.

10:10 AM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

Thanks for the resources. Bauckham's approach, though I don't agree with him on everything, has caused me to very strongly reconsider my previous views on ontic Christology/Trinitarianism.

This is a text (Rev. 1:8) that i'm just not sure about, given Barron's objections. I'll look forward to your thoughts.

By the way, I just recently came across your blog and have really enjoyed it. Always good to run into someone interested in Christology from this angle. Keep up the good work!

4:22 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Mike,

I did a little googleling on David Barron. An Arlan more or less. Certainly lots of those fellows around and they like to get embroiled in endless debates. A few of them are actually scholars like Rolf Furuli, Greg Stafford and Edgar Foster. Did a little combat with them in the 1990s. Anyway, I'll look at Barron just for fun and post something if it seems worth engaging in.

CSB

10:08 PM  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

Well, I can't blame you for not getting into endless debates, especially with those who don't have a very prominent voice. You have to choose your battles and I understand that.

I was just curious to see how you would respond to his argument, since it is one of the strongest ones i've come across with regards to this passage. Perhaps it more for my sake as opposed to getting into a debate with someone :-)

6:40 AM  

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