Blessed Is The One Who Reads (rev.1:3) – Dr. Eli Lizorkin-eyzenberg And Peter Shirokov

Rev. 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

As we continue to slowly walk through the book of Revelation, we will repeatedly see that the book is not a sporadically and feverishly written version of what John saw happening in heaven. Instead, the Book of Revelation has a very carefully nuanced literary structure characteristic of biblical literary traditions in general, and of the Jewish apocalyptic genre/tradition in particular, mixed together with epistolary (letter-writing) and prophetic genres.

When we come to verse 3, we are introduced for the first time to a carefully written series of seven blessings that are interspersed throughout the book. It is too early in our exploration to see the rhythmic pattern of John’s presentation and how these seven blessings serve as literary devices that help to organize and communicate John’s vision. However, a part of the pattern can be discerned even now.

It is clear that the number seven is a crucial number throughout the book and constitutes the base numeric structure of the book’s composition. The word Messiah (anointed one) or “Christ” is used seven times (1.1, 1.2, 1.5, 11.15, 12.10, 20.4, 20.6), John announces Messiah’s coming seven times (2:5, 2:16, 3:21, 16:15, 22:6, 22:12, 22:20), seven times the form “Lord God Almighty/Lord of Hosts” is used (1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 19:6, 21:22). Moreover, there are seven “amens” in the book (1:6, 1:7, 3:14, 5:14, 7:12, 19:4, 22:20), the word “prophets” is referred to seven times (10:7, 11:18, 16:6, 18:20, 18:24, 22:6, 22:9) and the phrase “the one who sits on the throne” is used seven times (4:9, 5:1, 5:7, 5:13, 6:16, 7:15, 21:5). (1)

It, therefore, becomes obvious to any reader that John is very fond of the number seven and uses it intentionally. There are other ways that the number seven is used, usually in multiples (the name of Jesus is used fourteen times and the Lamb is mentioned twenty eight times.) At this point in our study it is important that we survey all the seven blessings and see how the first one (Rev.1:3) is related to the other six blessings. Please, allow us to give a brief explanation about the literary method that ancient Jewish (Biblical and non-biblical) authors frequently used as they composed their works.

In modern biblical studies, this literary structure is called chiastic, after the Greek Letter Chai (X). Essentially this is the way Semitic thought patterns came to be represented in literary studies. In addition, Jewish poetic style is based on parallelism, on repetition, on analogy as typically the second line or idea repeats the content of the first line, sometimes taking it further, sometimes elaborating or clarifying it. It is easier to first show a diagram of how chiastic structure looks before I attempt to explain it. The literary unit when analyzed has the following structure:

CHAISMThe sentence, either word-by-word, or at the very least, thought-by-thought is repeated in the beginning and at the end of the literary unit. It is as if the original author goes from A1 to B1, from B1 to C1, from C1 to D1. Then he suddenly switches gears and moves backwards in the same order (D2, C2, B2, A2).

We suggest that the first blessing (Rev.1:3) stands outside of the chiastic structure that follows it. Its purpose is to summarize or set the stage for the rest of the 6 blessings that are in fact organized in the chiastic form. Once one looks at the entire set, the parallelism of meaning is very hard to deny. Here is how we see it.

Summary statement: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things, which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev. 1:3) Each summary statement is connected to Rev. 1:1-2 where we are told that this apocalypse/unveiling concerns events that are soon to come (in vs.3 “for the time is near”).

Chiastic structure

A1. ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” (Rev. 14:13)

B1. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” (Rev. 14:13)

C1. Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! (Rev. 16:15)

C2. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. (Rev. 20:6)

B2. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:7)

A2. ‘Blessed are those who obey His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Rev. 22:14)

Notice that A1 and A2 speak of the death of the believer and one’s eternal destiny (dying in the Lord, having the right to the tree of life, and entering through the gate into the city of the New Jerusalem). John paints a picture for his readers and hearers of the gates of the city with the names of tribes inscribed on them.

Both B1 and B2 are without a doubt connected by the desperate need for vigilance (I am coming as a thief and I am coming quickly). Moreover, the idea of keeping is also a connecting factor (keeping the garments from being stolen, keeping the words of the prophecy). (2)

The blessings of C1 and C2 are no exception – both speak of the blessed future for the believers (being called to the wedding (3) of the Lamb and deserving of taking part in the first resurrection).

The idea of being “blessed” sometimes gets lost in translation. The Greek word translated as “blessed” is μακάριος (makarios) which is an equivalent of the Hebrew word אַשְׁרֵי (ashrey) which means happy, joyful, blessed, and found in a favorable circumstance. This noun expresses a passive idea of being on the receiving end of favor and is most often found in the book of Psalms. In fact the book opens with this word, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked (Ps 1:1).

As we continue to move from verse to verse, and from chapter to chapter we can already see early glimpses of the level of authorial design in the composition of the Book of Revelation within the traditional contours of the genre of Jewish apocalyptic literature.

[divider]

1 Bauckham Richard, The Climax of Prophecy, (Bloomsbury Publishing Edinburgh, 1993), pp.1-38.

2 Jesus spoke of coming as a thief in the night in his apocalyptic discourse in Mat. 24. In his parables, he also used wedding imagery of expectation of God’s Kingdom – as the bride waits for the groom. Weddings are accompanied by a grand feast and one needs “wedding garments” to enter feasts (Mat 22:11-14).

3 In the first century, Jewish wedding feasts presented two opportunities to join the celebration. One was a general admission as one simply was ready and followed the bridal processional in the courtyard of the groom’s house. The other was by individual invitation, which was dispatched well ahead of time to family and friends.

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  1. John Landt

    Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg,

    Thank You!

    ~ John Landt

  2. John Landt

    Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg,

    Thank you so much for the wonderful post!

    Question, what is D1 & D2 within the A, B, C, D chiastic structure?

    ~ John Landt

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Hi, John. D1 and D2 form the center of chiasm, which usually it means that that is the center of the authors argument. Welcome to forum, please, pass the ward around to your friends. Dr. Eli

  3. Drs. Charles van den Berg

    Sorry Eli. There are a few errors in the text references of the chiastic structure.
    B1 ) Rev. 14:13 must be Rev. 16:5
    C1 ) Rev. 16:15 must be Rev. 19:9
    Charles

  4. Charles van den Berg

    A small addition to the number 7 in the numeric structure of the book’s composition.
    – the Spirit is referred to fourteen times (1:10;2:7;2:11;2:17;2:29;3:6;3:13;3:22;4:2;14:13;17:3;19:10;21:10;22:17).
    – the list of Babylon’s cargo includes twenty-eight products (18:11-13).

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Charles, many thanks for your thoughtful and valuable contributions.

      Eli

  5. Dellareese

    Thank you.
    This is so awesome and enlightening and extremely heart-wrenching at the same time. I have had my own struggles to grapple with regarding marriage and divorce.

  6. José Hélder Saraiva Bacurau

    Shalom! Sim haverá paz sobre ISRAEL,quando o MESSIAS voltar,um dos seus nomes é:Príncipe da Paz.
    O livro do Apocalipse não foi escrito pela mente de João,ele apenas escreveu a revelação do que ele viu; creio que o propósito principal do livro é mostrar que O SENHOR DEUS é SENHOR da história e governa absolutamente tudo,nunca nada fugiu do seu domínio. Ele sempre foi,ele é,e sempre será.
    Para mim a chave para entendermos o livro de apocalipse está na palavra ETERNIDADE,pois quem o revelou disse: sobe para aqui (AP.4.1…).
    Para mim é uma honra pode aprender com todos vocês.
    Paz sobre ISRAEL!

    1. Eric de Jesús Rodríguez Mendoza

      BS”D

      Shalom José!
      Obrigado pelo aporte. É verdade, todo o livro fala do porvenir e o mondo venideiro. ELE É o Senhor da historia. gostei! 🙂
      Bençoes!

  7. Vern Stranberg

    I find this interesting but the most important point can be found the book of Galatians chapter 3.
    Vs 26-29 ” For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
    For as many of you have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
    There is neither Jew nor Greek, There is neither bond nor free, There is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
    And if you be Christ’s then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”
    (KJV)

  8. Vern Stranberg

    “Do all 12 tribes know they are the descendants of Israel still today?” is the question.
    Judah certainly, maybe some of Benjamin and Levi. the rest probably not.
    Jacob ( Israel) blessed Joseph and his sons ( Gen 48) and the others ( Gen 49) could give some idea about the who and were of them.
    It is interesting that it is said in Gen 49:1 “And Jacob called unto his son’s and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.”
    I believe eventually it will be revealed where each tribe finally settled.
    I do know that some in this country (USA) during the 1800 settling of this country believed in “Manifest Destiny”.
    I personally believe Rev :7 .

    1. Minka Leeser

      To Vern Stranberg:

      Ephraim and Manasseh know they are descendants of Israel, The a Latter-day Saints have a great understanding of lineage and the tribes of Israel. Many of them are Ephraim and Manasseh. I am from Judah.

      Minka Leeser

    2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Vern, tribal designations have been set aside at the time of return from Babylon on purpose, to promote national unity among all sons of Jacob. Levites continued to marry within the tribe (for an obvious reason), but many others have mixed. Some people know their tribal history, others do not. However God can sort it out. 🙂 He has the means 🙂

  9. Catrina Crawford

    Do all 12 tribes know they are descendants of Israel still today?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      A better question is “Can a tribe that lost its connection to others (Israel) can be considered a proper tribe?” We hear a lot about lost tribes today and I am on board with restoration idea (overall) , but Jewishness is not a genetic matter and never has been. Just because someone found some long lost chromosomes that does not make them Jewish, does not make them part of the people, does not mean they will laugh at my jokes and cry with me when I cry. Genetic tie to Israel does not mean one is an actual member of a community. Acceptance is mutual and Jewish identity is not determined in a unilateral way.

      1. Catrina Crawford

        I think I understand what you are saying, but not altogether sure. I understand what being a member of a family means, genetic or otherwise. I have been fortunate enough to experience family ties with those that are considered just as much my family as my blood. We are family through our acceptance of one another as members, even after divorce in many cases. But we have different family “issues” that have involved our nativity. I am asking about both genetic (blood) & family (mutual acceptance). Thank you for your replies. Shalom.

        1. Prof. Peter Shirokov

          Dear Catrina, I see that you understand that sometimes family ties (and that is what Israel is – a hereditary way) exist between non-blood relatives. 12 tribes of Israel have all intermingled for the most part. Yes, all 12 tribes exist (this is probable) but no one has been tracking the tribes separately. There was no reason to do so, especially through the years of suffering and desolation. Often survival makes such things impossible.

          What Dr. Eli is trying to say is that Israel is a family and a nation, a way of life and a people group that is diverse, all at the same time. Often people determine their belonging via genetic decent, but that is not how it works with Jews. Countless people (not from Abraham’s stock) have joined Israel over the years, so it is not merely a blood factor to being Jewish, it is a communal belonging to a people, to a culture, to a way of seeing the world.

          1. Catrina Crawford

            Thank you all for the responses. I do not at all mean to undermine the ties that bind family & culture of the heart. I realize that there are many bloodlines involved, especially when we look at all the blood in our Savior. However, just like cancer that runs in the blood, there are genetic conditions and curses that I am questioning about. There are things from our ancestors that still have consequences in the flesh today.

  10. Vern Stranberg

    The twelve tribes of Israel presumed to have disappeared after captivity BCE.
    !. Rev Chapter 7: 144,000,12 thousand of each of the twelve tribes sealed just before Messiah’s return.
    2. Josephus Book XI,5:2 :Where for there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now an immense mult