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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Revelation (Book of)
The last book in the New Testament canon, yet in fact one of the oldest; probably the only Judæo-Christian work which has survived the Paulinian transformation of the Church. The introductory verse betrays the complicated character of the whole work. It presents the book as a "Revelation which God gave . . . to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass," and at the same time as a revelation of Jesus Christ to "his servant John." According to recent investigations, the latter part was interpolated by the compiler, who worked the two sections of the book—the main apocalypse (ch. -21:6) and the letters to the "seven churches" (- and close of )—into one so as to make the whole appear as emanating from John, the seer of the isle of Patmos in Asia Minor (see 1:9, 22:8), known otherwise as John the Presbyter. The anti-Paulinian character of the letters to the seven churches and the anti-Roman character of the apocalyptic section have been a source of great embarrassment, especially to Protestant theologians, ever since the days of Luther; but the apocalypse has become especially important to Jewish students since it has been discovered by Vischer (see bibliography) that the main apocalypse actually belongs to Jewish apocalyptic literature.
The Letters to the Seven Churches:
The first part (1:4-3:22) contains a vision by John, who is told by Jesus to send a letter to the seven angels of the seven churches in Asia (founded by Paul and his associates), rebuking them for the libertinism that has taken hold of many "who pass as Jews, but show by their blasphemy and licentiousness that they are of the synagogue of Satan" (2:9, 3:9, Greek). These seven churches were those of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Owing to their heathen associations many of their members had lapsed into pagan or semipagan views and practises, under the influence of heretic leaders. Of these one is singled out by the name of Nicolaites (2:6,15; comp. Acts 6:5), called also Balaam (2:14, ="Nicolaos"), because, like Balaam, he seduced the people to idolatry and fornication by his false prophecies and witchcraft (Numbers 25:1; 31:8,16). Another singled out was a woman, probably a prophetess, called Jezebel (2:20) on account of her idolatrous practises (1 Kings 18:19, 21:25). Evidently the seed sown by Paul and his associates, who in their antinomian Gnosticism boasted of having penetrated "the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10), had borne evil fruit, so that the seer of Patmoscalls these heretics "false apostles and liars" (2:2), and their teachings "the depths of Satan" (2:24).
How much local cults, as that of Esculapius in Pergamos ("Satan's seat"; 2:13), had to do with these heresies it is difficult to say; certain it is that many were "polluted" by pagan practises (2:13,26; 3:4). All the more severely does the seer condemn the Pauline teaching as "the teaching of Balaam" (comp. 2:15; Jude 11; Sanh. 106b; Giṭ. 57a; see BALAAM). On the other hand, Jesus, through John, promises to the poor, the meek, and the patient toilers of the churches who refuse to partake of the meals of the pagans that "they shall eat of the tree of life" in paradise (2:2,7); to those who are to suffer from the pagan powers that they shall, as true "athletes" of this world, be given the "crown of life" (2:10); to him "that overcometh" in the contest (comp. the rabbinical term, "zokeh") will be given a lot or mark ("goral") bearing the Ineffable Name, and he shall "eat of the hidden manna" (2:17; comp. Tan., Beshallaḥ, ed. Buber, p. 21; Ḥag. 12b; Apoc. Baruch, 29:8; Sibyllines, 2:348); or, like the Messiah, he will "rule them [the heathen] with a rod of iron" and be given the crown of glory (2:26-28; the "morning star," taken from 22:16, if it is not the error of a copyist); those who "have not defiled their garments" "shall be clothed in white raiment," and their names shall be written in the book of life and proclaimed before God and His angels (3:4-5); while those who stand the test of Satan's trials shall be spared in the great Messianic time of trial and become pillars in the temple of the "new Jerusalem" (3:10-13, Greek), or shall partake of the Messianic banquet, sitting by (scarcely "in") the seat of Jesus (3:21).
Jewish Point of View of Writer.
Obviously, the writer of these visionary letters to the seven churches of Asia was in his own estimation a Jew, while believing in Jesus as the risen Messiah. He beheld him in his vision as "the faithful witness" (martyr) who is next to God, "who is, was, and will be" ("come" is the emendation of the late compiler), his seven angelic spirits standing "before his throne" (1:4-5); "the Son of man" grasping seven stars in his right hand, while out of his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword (1:13-16; 2:1,12 [taken from the apocalypse, 14:14]; 3:1); who "holds the keys of hell and of death" (1:18); who is "the holy and true one" that "holds the key of David" (3:7, with reference to Isaiah 22:22); who is called also "the beginning of the creation of God" (3:14). However, the identification of "him who was dead and became alive again" with God, who is the First and the Last, the ever-living Almighty (1:17; comp. 1:8 and 2:8), is the work of the late compiler. The close of the visionary letters is found at 22:16, where Jesus is represented as saying, "I am the root and the offspring of David" (comp. Isaiah 11:1,10), "the bright and morning star" (after Numbers 24:17 and [probably] Psalms 110:3; comp. LXX.). To find in these chapters traces of a persecution of the early Christians by the Jews, as do most modern exegetes, is absurdly illogical. On the contrary, the writer condemns the anti-Jewish attitude of the Pauline churches; the document is therefore of great historical value. It is important in this connection to note the Hebraisms of the whole of this part of the book, which prove that the writer or—if he himself originally wrote Hebrew or Aramaic—the translator could neither write nor speak Greek correctly. As to the relation of this to the apocalypse which follows see below.
The Main Apocalypse:
The succeeding part (-20:8) contains several Jewish apocalypses worked into one, so altered, interpolated, and remodeled as to impress the reader as the work of the author of the letters to the seven churches. In the following the attempt is made to acquaint the reader with the contents of the two original Jewish apocalypses, as far as they can be restored, the Christian interpolations and alterations being put aside.
First Jewish Apocalypse: After the introductory verses, part of 1:1,8 ("I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was and will be ["will come" is a Christian alteration], the Almighty") and part of 1:12-19, the apocalyptic seer describes (4:1 et seq.) how he was carried up by the spirit (with the angel's word, "Come down hither," compare the expression "Yorede Merkabah"), and how he saw "a throne set in heaven and One sitting on the throne," after the manner of Ezekiel 1:26-28. "Round about the throne were twenty-four seats, and upon these I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white raiment, and they had golden crowns on their heads": obviously heavenly representations of the twenty-four classes of priests serving in the Temple (Ta'an. 4:2; 1 Chronicles 24:7-18; Josephus, "Ant." 7:14, § 7; comp., however, Gunkel, "Schöpfung und Chaos," pp. 302-308, and Isaiah 24:23 [Bousset]). After a description of the four "ḥayyot," taken from Ezekiel 1:5-10,18 and combined with that of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2-3, the text continues, "They rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts [παυτοκράτωρ, translated "Almighty" in A. V.; comp. Amos 4:13], who was, is, and shall be" (Greek text, "is to come"). And when the ḥayyot give glory and honor and praise to Him who sits on the throne, Him who lives forever and ever ("ḥe ha-'olamin"), the twenty-four elders prostrate themselves and, laying down their crowns, say, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou hast created all things, and by Thy will they have been created."
- Ch. : The seer then describes how he saw at the right hand of God a scroll written within and without and sealed with seven seals (it was customary for the last will to be sealed with seven seals and opened by seven witnesses; see Huschke, "Das Buch mit den Sieben Siegeln," 1860; Zahn, "Einleitung in das Neue Testament," 2:591), which none in heaven, on earth, or beneath the earth was found worthy to open until one of the twenty-four elders pointed out that "the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, had merited to open the book and loose its seven seals." Then the lion (the Christian reviser rather awkwardly substituted "the slain lamb") suddenly appeared, with seven horns and seven eyes, standing between the throne and thefour ḥayyot and the twenty-four elders; and he stepped forth and took the scroll while the ḥayyot and the elders prostrated themselves before him, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book and open the seals thereof; for . . ." The remainder has been worked over by the Christian reviser.
- Ch. 6:1-12: At the opening of the first seal by the Messiah the seer hears the thunder-call of one of the four ḥayyot, and sees a white horse appear, with a rider holding a bow (representing, probably, Pestilence); at the opening of the second seal, a red horse, with a rider armed with a great sword (representing War); at the opening of the third seal, a black horse, with a rider holding a pair of balances to weigh flour, bread having become scarce (signifying Famine); at the opening of the fourth seal, a "pale" horse, the rider thereof being Death. These four are to destroy the fourth part of the earth by the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts. What plague is ushered in at the opening of the fifth seal is no longer stated; apparently it is persecution of the saints, as the text continues: "I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony they gave" (as martyrs; see Ḳiddush ha-Shem). "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth." And white robes were given them, and they were told to rest for a while until the number of the martyrs was full (comp. Apocalypse of Baruch, 30:2; IV Esd. 4:36).After this the seer beholds a great multitude of people of every land and language, both Jews and proselytes, also arrayed in white robes, standing before the throne; and he is told that, "having undergone great tribulation, they have made their robes white by the blood of the martyrs" (of course, not "of the lamb," as the Christian reviser has it); and that now they serve God in the heavenly temple day and night, and the Shekinah dwells with them (7:9-17, which part is misplaced).
- Ch. 6:12-17: At the opening of the sixth seal "the birth-throes of the Messianic time" appear, as depicted in Joel 3:3-4; Isaiah 2:10, , 34:4; and Hosea 10:8. Fear of the great day of God's wrath (Malachi 3:2) and of the wrath of His anointed (Psalms 2:12) seizes the whole world.
Opening of the Seventh Seal.
- Ch. 8:1-13: The opening of the seventh seal forms the climax. The awful catastrophe is marked by "silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." The four angels that hold the winds at the four corners of the earth are told to check the blowing of the winds on land, on sea, and on the trees until an angel has sealed upon the forehead, with the seal of the living God, the 144,000 servants of God, that is, 12,000 of each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Dan as idolater is excluded, and Levi takes his place along with the two sons of Joseph), in order to guard them against the impending destruction (7:1-8). The seven trumpets of the seven angels before God usher in seven great calamities: the first four involve a world conflagration ("mabbul shel esh") that burns up the third part of the land and dries up a third part of the sea and the rivers, and an eclipse of sun, moon, and stars (8:2-12; comp. Sibyllines, 3:80-90,540); the remaining three, who are announced by an angel flying through the midst of heaven (8:13), bring even greater woes; first the torment of locusts, described in all its fierceness in the apocalyptic chapters of Joel (1:6, 2:2-9), coming forth from the abyss over which the angel Abaddon (Destruction; comp. Job 28:22; comp. "Ẓefoni," Joel, 2:20; Suk. 52a) alone has power (9:1-12); secondly, the letting loose from the banks of the Euphrates of the four kings (; not "angels," ), with numberless hosts of wild Parthian horsemen wearing breastplates of fire and brimstone, and riding on horses that have heads of lions and tails of serpents, and out of whose mouths come fire, smoke, and brimstone (comp. Nahum 2:4-5, 3:3). As with the former plagues, a third part of mankind is killed; they were prepared for this task from the beginning of the world. "And yet," closes the seer, "the rest of the men which were not killed repented not, but continued to worship demons, idols of gold and silver, bronze, stone, and wood, practise witchcraft, and commit murders, fornications, and thefts" (9:13-21; see Sibyllines, 2:255-262, 4:31-34; and compare the four kings of the mighty hosts upon the banks of the Euphrates in the Midrash of Simeon ben Yoḥai, in Jellinek, "B. H." 3:81).
The third and last wo, announced in 11:14 (-11:13 interrupts the connection), is no longer given in what follows 11:15a; for the Christian reviser changed the text which originally described the last judgment passed upon the non-repentant people, "the kingdoms of this world," and instead speaks of their having "become kingdoms of Christ." Only verse 18, telling of "the wrath of God that has come upon the nations that shall be destroyed as they have destroyed the land," contains traces of the former contents of the chapter; although possibly part of 14:1-5, referring to the 144,000 of Israel who had been saved, and the proclamation to all the nations to "fear God and worship Him who made heaven, earth, sea, and the fountains of water," "for the hour of His judgment has come" (14:6-7), formed part of the original Jewish apocalypse; also 11:16-18, the song of praise by the twenty-four elders before God and the vision of the reappearance of the Ark of the Covenant (11:19; comp. Yoma 53b, 54a).
In all probability this apocalypse was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, at a time of persecution, when many Jews died as martyrs, though many others yielded; hence only 12,000 of each tribe are to be selected.
Moses and Elijah.
The Second Jewish Apocalypse: Far more powerful, and expressive of intense hatred of Rome, the Babel-like destroyer of Judea, is the second Jewish apocalypse, or series of apocalypses, written during the siege and after the destruction of Jerusalem, and contained in ch. 10:2-11:13, 12:1-13:18, and 14:6-22:6. After the manner of Ezek. ii 8-3:3, the writer represents his vision as having been received in the form of a book, which he is to eat with its bitter contents. In imitation of Ezek. 3 and Zechariah 2:5-6, the angel gives him a measuring-rodthat he may measure the site of the Temple and the altar, which is to remain intact, while the rest of the Holy City is doomed to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles (the Roman soldiers) for forty-two months (Daniel 7:25, 8:14, 12:7). He is then told that during this time there shall be two prophets, witnesses of the Lord (Moses and Elijah), who shall again manifest their power of restraining the heavens from giving rain (1 Kings 17:1), of turning the water into blood, and of striking the land with plagues (Exodus 7-); and whosoever shall attempt to hurt them will be devoured by fire from their mouths (2 Kings 1:10). But they will finally fall victims to the beast that ascends out of the abyss to make war upon them. After their dead bodies have been lying for three and a half days in the streets of the Holy City, which shall have become a Sodom and Gomorrah, and the people of all tongues and of all nations have looked upon them and rejoiced at the death of the prophets that had chastised them (by their preaching of repentance), refusing to give them burial, God's spirit will again imbue them with life, and they will, to the astonishment of the people, rise and ascend to heaven; and in the same hour a great earthquake will cause the death of 7,000 people (11:1-13). Of this eschatological feature no trace is found in rabbinical sources, except the appearance of Moses and the Messiah during the war of Gog and Magog (Targ. Yer. Exodus 12:42). Possibly this is the older form of the legend of the Messiah ben Ephraim or ben Joseph being slain by Gog and Magog, based on Zechariah 12:10-11 (comp. Jellinek, "B. H." 3:80).
Then follows (13:1,12a, 5b, 10) the description of the beast (after Daniel 7:4-7; comp. 7:8, 11:36). It bears (in "Augustus Divus") the name of blasphemy, and its mouth speaks blasphemy against God and His Shekinah on earth and in heaven (1:5-6, misunderstood by the Christian translator). It has power over all nations and tongues, and over all those whose names are not written in the book of life (the awkward addition "of the lamb" betrays the Christian hand) from the foundation of the world, and it makes war upon the "saints" (the Jewish people, as in Daniel). For forty-two months (the three and a half years of Daniel) will its power last, trying the patience of the saints.
Vision of the Seven Plagues.
But then (14:6-7) an angel in the midst of heaven announces good tidings to the people on the earth, saying, "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea." Here follows (15:5-16:21) the vision of the seven angels coming out of the Temple with "seven golden vials full of the wrath of God who liveth for ever and ever." The first angel pours out his vial upon the earth and there falls an evil and grievous sore (comp. Exodus 9:8) upon the men who bear the mark of the beast and worship his image (an allusion to the cult of the emperors and to the Roman coins). The second angel pours out his vial (comp. Exodus 7:19) on the sea, which turns into blood, so that all living things therein die. The third pours out his vial upon the rivers, and they become blood, the angel of the waters praising the justice of God ("ẓidduḳ ha-din"), which makes those drink blood who have shed that of the saints and prophets. The fourth pours out his vial upon the sun, which becomes a fire to scorch the people who blaspheme and repent not. The fifth pours out his vial upon the seat of the beast (Rome), and its empire becomes full of darkness; yet the people repent not. The sixth pours out his vial upon the great Euphrates (comp. Sanh. 98a), and it is dried up, so as to prepare the way for the kings of the East (the Parthians) to gather in Armageddon ('Ir Magdiel, symbolic name for Rome; 16:13-15 is an interpolation; see Targ. Yer. to Genesis 36:43; Pirḳe R. El.; Gen. R. ). The seventh pours out his vial into the air and causes an earthquake which splits the great city (Rome) into three parts, and the cities of the nations fall, and islands and mountains are removed, and Babylon (Rome) takes from the hand of God the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath (comp. Jeremiah 25:15).
Rome the Great Harlot.
In ch. -, in imitation of Isaiah's and Ezekiel's vision of Tyre (Isaiah 23:17; Ezekiel 27-), the apocalyptic writer then proceeds to dwell on the judgment held over the great harlot that sits upon the many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk. He then sees in the wilderness "a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast full of names of blasphemy [idolatry] and having [seven heads and] ten horns [comp. Daniel 7:7], herself arrayed in purple and scarlet and decked with gold and precious stones, and holding in her hand a golden cup full of the filthiness of her fornication" (the picture is taken probably from the Syrian representations of Astarte riding on a lion with a cup of destiny in her hand). Greatly astonished at this sight, he learns from the interpreting angel (verses 5-14 and 16 are later insertions which anticipate the interpretation) that "the many waters" are the many nations given into the power of the beast, and that the woman is the great city (of Rome) which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Then he beholds (18:1-8) one of the glorious angels descending from heaven, and crying out (in the words of the ancient seers—Isaiah 21:9, 24:11-13), "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, and has become the habitation of demons," for all the nations have drunk of the glowing wine of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her (Isaiah 23:17; Jeremiah 25:15,27). "Go out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins and receive not of her plagues" Jeremiah 51:6,9); "for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities" (Psalms 137:8; Jer. 15, 29). In rhythmic sentences, taken from the Bible, the voice is heard saying: "Fill her cup double of what she offered you, and give her as much torment and grief as she has had glory and pleasure." All that is said of Babel (Isaiah 47:7-9; Jer. 32-34) is applied to her; and Ezekiel's lamentation over the fall of Tyre (26:16-27:36) is repeated by the kings of the earth overthe fall of Babylon (Rome). "Alas, alas, Babylon the great, mighty city! in one hour is thy judgment come!" is the refrain (18:10,19). The rhythmic form in which the whole is composed indicates a Hebrew author, whereas the Christian interpolations always spoil both context and rhythm.
Finally (18:21-24), an angel casts a large stone into the sea (comp. Jeremiah 51:63-64), saying, "Thus shall Babylon be cast down forever and no longer be found"; her musicians shall no longer be heard in her (comp. Ezekiel 26:14); nor shall any craftsman be seen; nor shall "the sound of a millstone" or "the voice of bridegroom and bride be perceived"; nor shall "the light of a candle" shine in her (comp. Jeremiah 25:10).
The Beast, the Dragon, and the Messiah.
In order to understand the relation between the prophecy concerning the beast and Rome and the visions of the dragon and the Messiah (the Christian "lamb") which precede and follow, it is necessary to bear in mind that since the days of Pompey Rome was in the eyes of the Jewish apocalyptic writers the fourth beast in the Daniel apocalypse (see Daniel 7:7), the last "wicked kingdom" whose end is to usher in the Messianic kingdom (Cant. R. 2:12; Gen. R. 44:20; Lev. R.; Midr. Teh. Psalms 80:14; see Romulus). Rome was found to be alluded to in Psalms 80:14 (A. V. 13), in the words ("the boar out of the wood"), the letter ע being written above the others so as to make the word ("Rome") stand out in transposed order (comp. Enoch, 89:12, where Esau is spoken of as "the black wild boar").
The identification of Rome with Babylon is found also in the Jewish Sibyllines, 5:159, and the identification with Tyre in Ex. R. 9:13—facts which indicate the lines of Jewish apocalyptic tradition. "The wild beast of the reeds" (Psalms 68:31 [R. V. 30]) has also been identified with Rome (see Midr. Teh. Psalms 68 [ed. Buber, p. 15]). But in order to account for the delay of the Messiah, who was to "slay the wicked by the breath of his mouth" (Isaiah 11:4), a cosmic power in the shape of an Ahrimanic animal, the dragon, was introduced as the arch-enemy plotting the destruction of the Messiah, the ANTICHRIST who with his hosts hinders the redemption ("me'aḳḳeb et ha-ge'ullah"; Sauh. 97b; Nid. 13b; comp. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). To this end the author used a mythological story (13:1-6), borrowed from Babylonia, as Gunkel (c. pp. 379-398) claims, from the Apollonic myth, as Dieterich ("Abraxas," 1891, pp. 117-122) thinks, or from Egypt, as Bousset suggests. He sees (12:1-6) Zion in the garb of "a woman clothed with the sun, the moon beneath her feet, and twelve stars on the crown of her head," while about to give birth to a child destined to "rule all nations with a rod of iron" (Psalms 2:9), pursued by a seven-headed dragon; the child (the future Messiah) is carried up to the throne of God (that is, he is hidden), and she flees to the wilderness, where a place is prepared for her by God to be nourished in for 1,260 days (three and a half years; comp. 11:3, 13:5, and Daniel 7:8, 11:25). Compare with this the Talmudic legend of the Messiah babe carried off by the storm (Yer. Ber. 2:5a). Here follows a similar story from another hand (12:7-15), telling of a battle raging in heaven between Michael, the "Synegor" (= "pleading angel") of Israel (Midr. Teh. Psalms 20), and Satan, the "Kategor" (= "Accuser"), which ends in the casting down of the old serpent with his hosts—a victory brought about by the merit of the Jewish martyrs, which silenced the Accuser.
It was thereafter, says the second version, that the woman (Israel) was pursued by the serpent; but she was carried by a great eagle into a safe place in the wilderness, where she was nourished for "a time, two times, and a half time" (three and a half years; comp. Daniel 7:25); "and when the dragon cast forth a flood of water to drown her, the earth opened her mouth to swallow the water." Finally, unable to slay the woman with her Messiah babe, the dragon made war with the remnant of her seed, the pious ones "who observe the commandments of God."
The prophecy concerning Rome seems to have received many interpolations and alterations at the hands of Jewish and Christian compilers. Both "the second beast, the false prophet who aids in the worship of the image of the emperor (13:11-17), and the interpretation of the seven heads (17:8-11) are later insertions. The number 666 (; 13:18), also, is scarcely genuine, inasmuch as the number 256 represents both the beast and the man ( and ) as stated in the apocalypse. For the second beast, called Beliar, comp. Sibyllines, 2:167,210; 3:63-90.
The story of the Messiah hidden with God in heaven is continued in 14:6-20, a passage which has but few traces of the Christian compiler's hand. Announcement (not of "good tidings") is made to the nations: "Fear God the Creator, for the hour of His judgment is come" (14:6-7). Then "the Son of man coming on the cloud" (comp. Daniel 7:13) appears, a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand, and a voice calling forth from within the Temple, "Thrust in thy sickle and reap, for the harvest of the earth is come"; "Tread ye the clusters of the vine of the earth, for the grapes are ripe" (comp. Joel 4:13); and he "thrust the sickle, and gathered the clusters of the vine of the earth and cast them into the wine-press of the wrath of God" (comp. Isaiah 63:1-6); and as the wine-press was trodden, outside the city (comp. Zechariah 14:4), there came blood out of the wine-press, reaching even to the bridles of the horses, for the space of 1,600 furlongs (comp. Enoch, 94:9, 99:6, c. 3).
The same scene is depicted in ch. 19:11,16 (also altered by the Christian compiler), where the seer beholds "upon a white horse" him who is "to judge and to make war"; his eyes are a flame of fire, and on his (triple ?) crown the Ineffable Name is written; he is clothed with a vesture dipped in blood (Isaiah 63:3), and his name is. . . . Heavenly hosts follow him on white horses, and out of his mouth goes a sharp sword with which he shall smite the nations. He shall rule them with a rod of iron (comp. Psalms 2:9) and tread the wine-press of the wrath of the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 73:6); and on his vesture and thigh is written, "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." The closing scene is describedin 19:17-18,21: A voice ("of an angel standing in the sun"—certainly not genuine) calls, in the words of Ezekiel 39:17-20, all the fowls and beasts together for the great sacrifice ("supper") of God, at which they are to eat "the flesh of kings, of captains, and mighty men, of horses and of those who ride on them, and the flesh of all men both free and bond, small and great, . . . and the fowls were filled with their flesh."
Then the writer dwells, in ch. 20:1-5, on the judgment passed in heaven upon the dragon, Satan, the primeval serpent, who is, like Azazel in Enoch, bound and cast into the abyss, there to be shut up for a thousand years, the seventh millennium which the Messiah shall pass together with the elect ones. Here the original apocalypse probably told of the resurrection of the "saints who had died in the Lord" (14:13), and of the triumphal song they sang at the union of the Messiah, the bridegroom, and the daughter of Zion, the bride (15:2-4, 19:1-8).
Gog and Magog.
After the lapse of the seventh millennium (comp. "Bundahis," 29:8) the old serpent is again letloose to deceive the nations of the earth, and the numberless hosts of GOG AND MAGOG beleaguer the Holy City. Then Satan is cast forever into Gehenna (comp. ib.), and "seats of judgment" (Daniel 7) are set for all the dead who rise to be judged (20:7-15). Then all whose names are not written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire. "All the cowardly and faithless ones who yield to abominable rites, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars, shall meet the second death" (comp. Targ. Yer. to Deuteronomy 33:6) "and be cast into the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (21:8). There shall be "a new heaven and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17); the old ones shall disappear, and God's Shekinah shall be with men: they shall be God's people, and "He shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more sorrow or pain" (comp. Enoch, xc. 29; IV Esd. 7:26; Apoc. Baruch, 4:3, 32:2; Ḥag. 12b; Ta'an. 5a).
Then (21:9-27) in place of the old the seer beholds the new Jerusalem come down from heaven, prepared "as a bride adorned for her husband" (Isaiah 61:10), in all the glory and splendor described in Isaiah 54:11-12, 62:6, with the twelve gates mentioned by Ezekiel 48:31-35, for the twelve tribes of Israel. The twelve foundation-stones (the twelve names of the Apostles merely betray the Christian reviser's hand) are to be of precious stones, corresponding to the twelve on the high priest's breast-plate (comp. Ezekiel 39:10), the twelve gates, of twelve pearls; and the city with its streets, of pure gold, transparent as crystal (the same dreams of a golden Jerusalem with gates of pearls and precious stones are indulged in by the Rabbis; see B. B. 75a). No temple shall be there, as the Lord of Hosts will be its temple (comp. Ezek. 35). The words "and the Lamb" (21:22), "and the Lamb is the light thereof" (21:23; comp. 22:5, taken from Isaiah 60:19) are Christian interpolations. Verses 24-27 are taken from Isaiah 60:2,11; 52:1 (comp. Ezekiel 44:9), only so modified as to avoid the mention of "the night," while, instead of the passage concerning "the uncircumcised," it is said that "whosoever worketh abomination and falsehood may not enter; only they who are written in the book of life."
The Throne of God.
Finally, the seer beholds (22:1-5) a crystal-like river of water flow forth from the throne of God (comp. Ezekiel 47:12 and Sanh. 100a, where the river is said to issue from the Holy of Holies). Jewish Gnostics (Ḥag. 14b) also spoke of the white marble throne and the "waters" surrounding it, exactly as "the sea of glass" near "the white throne" is described in Revelation 4:6, 20:11. On either side of the river he sees the tree of life (Enoch, 25:4-6) "bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations." "There shall be no more curse" (comp. Zechariah 14:11, ), for the servants of the Lord "shall see His face" (comp. Isa. 5), and they shall reign for ever and ever" (comp. Daniel 7:27).
The whole apocalypse, of which 22:10-15 is the conclusion, is, like the shorter one which precedes it, in every part and feature (except where altered by the Christian compiler) thoroughly Jewish in spirit and conception, as was fully recognized by Mommsen ("Römische Gesch." 5:520-523). It presents the development of the whole eschatological drama according to the Jewish view. It is Hebrew in composition and style, and bears traces of having originally been written in Hebrew, as is shown by the words ρκήυη (tabernacle; 21:3) for ; (angels) mistaken for (Kings; 9:14); ευίκηρευ (has conquered) for (is worthy); and others. The two apocalypses appear to have been, like that in Matthew 24, or like the Epistle of JAMES and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, in the possession of Essenes who joined the Judæo-Christian Church after the destruction of the Temple (comp. Revelation 21:22, showing that the author did not believe in the future restoration of the Temple). Hence it was easy for a member of the early Church to adapt the whole to the Christian view by substituting or inserting frequently, but not always skilfully and consistently, "the Lamb" for "the Messiah," and by occasionally changing or adding entire paragraphs (5:9-14; 7:9-10; 11:82; 14:2-5; 16:15; 19:7-10; 20:6; 21:2; 22:7-10,16-17,20)
Possibly the seer of Patmos when writing the letters to the seven churches, or one of his disciples when sending them out, had these apocalypses before him and incorporated them into his work. This fact would account for the striking similarities in expression between the first three chapters and the remainder. Attention has been called also to the fact that the name "The Word of God" given to the Messiah by the Christian writer in Revelation 19:13 corresponds exactly to the "Logos" of the Gospel of John 1:1 and "the Lamb" of John 1:29. To this may be added the conception of the Antichrist, dwelt upon alike in Revelation and in 1 John 2:18, 4:3, and 2 John 7. Owing to these and other similarities John the Presbyter, author of the letters to the seven churches and perhaps of the Secondand Third Epistles of John (see introductory verses), was identified with John the Apostle, the assumed author of the Fourth Gospel. Under his name these books passed into the canon, notwithstanding the fact that the views held by the writer of the Book of Revelation differed widely from those expressed in the Gospel and in the Epistles. The Epistles are, like the Gospel, Pauline in spirit and written for Pauline churches; the Book of Revelation remains, under its Christian cloak, a Jewish document.
- Bousset, Die Offenbarung Johannis, Göttingen, 1896 (written from an apologetic point of view and without familiarity with the rabbinical sources);
- H. Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos, 1895, pp. 379-398;
- P. Schmidt, Anmerkungen über die Komposition der Offenbarung Johannis;
- E. Vischer, Die Offenbarung Johannis, Leipsic, 1886;
- Fr. Spitta, Die Offenbarung des Johannis, Halle, 1889;
- Weiss, Die Offenbarung des Johannis, ein Beitrag zur Literatur- und Religionsgesch. Göttingen, 1904;
- J. Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, 1899, 4:215-234.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Revelation (Book of)'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/r/revelation-book-of.html. 1901.