The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Rev. 1:1-2
The work known to us as “Revelation of John” begins similarly to other Jewish apocalyptic writings:
Rev.1:1-2 set forth 1) what it is (a revelation of Jesus Christ), 2) why it was given (to show to his bond-servants the things which must soon take place), 3) how it was given (God sent it to be communicated it by His angel) and 4) who in fact was the primary recipient of this revelation (his bond-servant, John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw).
In order for you to see that the opening section of this book is a type of apocalyptic opening that is, if not typical, then fully acceptable for this Jewish literary genre (apocalyptic literature), we will briefly review a few relevant examples. In Enoch 1:1-2:
“The word of the blessing of Enoch, how he blessed the elect and the righteous, who were to exist in the time of trouble; rejecting all the wicked and ungodly. Enoch, a righteous man, who was with God, answered and spoke, while his eyes were open, and while he saw a holy vision in the heavens.
This the angels showed me. From them I heard all things, and understood what I saw; that which will not take place in this generation, but in a generation which is to succeed at a distant period, on account of the elect.”
We also read in 3 Baruch 1:1-8 (Apocalypse of Baruch):
Verily I Baruch was weeping in my mind and sorrowing on account of the people, and that Nebuchadnezzar the king was permitted by God to destroy His city… and behold as I was weeping and saying such things, I saw an angel of the Lord coming and saying to me: Understand, O man, greatly beloved, and trouble not thyself so greatly concerning the salvation of Jerusalem, for thus saith the Lord God, the Almighty. For He sent me before thee, to make known and to show to thee all (the things)… and the angel of the powers said to me, Come, and I will show thee the mysteries of God.
The above passages clearly establish that what we read in Revelation’s opening verses is in fact very similar to other Jewish apocalyptic accounts either authored during or traceable to roughly the same time period.
The Jewishness of the Book of Revelation is so obvious that a number of scholars who don’t see Jesus traditions as originally Jewish, erroneously concluded that the current form of the Book of Revelation is full of clustered Christian interpolations (mostly in Chap.1 and 22). They maintain that the original pre-Christian version had no distinctively Christian theological trademarks. Such charge of Christianization of the original Jewish Book of Revelation has been argued by these and other points as follows:
If one removes “the Christian material”, the text itself can be read just as smoothly, if not more smoothly (alleged Christian interpolations to the Jewish original are in bold type). So for example in Rev. 1:1-3 we read:
The revelation [of Jesus Christ,] which God gave [him] to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and [to the testimony of Jesus Christ], even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.
Although intriguing, we view the above exercise as futile and utterly subjective. We argue that some other portions of this and other sections could also be cut without causing many problems and with the same level of success. This in and of itself proves nothing. There are also other things to consider.
Please, let us illustrate. It has been observed that the Samaritan version of the Torah reads much more smoothly than the Jewish Torah. Jewish Torah is far more unpolished and at times inconsistent and convoluted in its presentation of events. But, if anything, the smoother reading argues for later editorial activity of the Samaritan scribes and not vice versa.
Our understanding in this case is, just because the text reads more smoothly once the explicitly “Christian” content is cut out, this is no indication of anything significant. To conclude more than that, is to overstate the evidence that is otherwise nothing more than a curious and intriguing possibility that has absolutely no evidence to back it up.
But there is another more central problem that we think plagues those who argue that the original Jewish Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) was Christianized by someone in the end of the first century or even later. In short, they fail to see that such phrases (designated by them in bold) as Jesus Christ and his “testimony” (among others) are first century Jewish names and concepts that only centuries later became alienated from their original Israelite connection. The argument for differentiation between Jewish and Christian material is therefore anachronistic and artificial.
What do you think? How to you respond to the above argumentation?
Join the conversation (136 comments)
Dear Dr. Eli,
What is transparent to me is that the message was delivered to John, a Jew, and therefore the message was said in a Jewish context to be understood by John. Any suggestion otherwise is preposterous and purely illogical. To accurately interpret Revelation therefore, the reader has to see with a Hebrew mindset.
Fred, I read Psalm 2. Somewhere on Dr. Eli website is insight into the word “strive”. This says it all. My New Jesus mindset influenced by ? would have replied “we are not under law, we are under grace”. My Old Exodus mindset influenced by ? cried out “help me” :)
When you say, you’re under grace & not under the Law, do you mean you don’t observe the Law anymore? Yeshua observed the Law & christians should; however only those parts that are not specifically pertaining to Hebrews. Yeshua only rendered obsolete the sacrificial system but not especially the moral laws.
Fred, Let’s just say evangelism didn’t seem to take into account my Ten Commandment beginnings. Proving it was my beginnings is proving Revelation’s Jewishness to me. 🙂
I think this is well argued. You mentioned the Samaritan version of the Torah vs the Hebrew Torah. At least we have both versions of that. But where is the evidence for an ‘unchristianised’ Revelation to John? Did it have any currency at any time? To whom was it given? To a Jewish man also on Patmos?
There is no evidence that I am aware of. It is a pure speculation.
I agree with you Kostya. Good deduction.
@ Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg – Has there been any work studying the Greek of Revelation that suggests it was once in Hebrew. The Greek that I can see seems to suggest that the ideas are Hebrew but language was definitely Greek in origin. I am no Greek scholar though.
I am not familiar of anything credible. There has been attempts to show that it was Revelation was once Jewish in a sense that it was not also Jesus’ type of Jewish.
At this time, I am greatly troubled by the evident acceleration of Ishmael’s lineage [Islam] on the world stage and the significance of this fact in evidence. No appreciable reference to this prophesied development appears in the Christian Holy Bible. The rise of Islamic influence in virtually every cultural society, is generating trepidation!
Daniel 2:42-43 – in the Hebrew you will can see the word there for mixed (Arav) H6151. There are sages who believe the last kingdom spoken of will be a kingdom mixed with the Arab’s (muslims) (Ishmael-Esau). But it is stated in Scripture that Esau will dwell in the face of his brothers. He is always mixed in among (The tares among the wheat).
Interesting proposal… Yes there is that meaning there! We also have words like “ma’arav”, “erev” and “ma’ariv” come from this same root. Arabah desert?
Dear Robert, there are some Christians who see the plagues and judgements of Rev as Arabs… If you are thinking about Islam as religion it would make sense that NT would not address it. The notion of religion (as a category) is foreign and unknown in biblical thought. The Bible does address many of the nations, kingdoms and lands by name though.
Messiah Yeshua was a Jew; He lived a perfect life; Thus He was a perfect Jew. I believe Messiah Yeshua nor His followers ever denounce Judaism; They all call us to a Messianic Jewish life style where Messiah Yeshua is the center of our desires, motivations, and life. Not all choose this path; and very few will be when He comes back.
Does Christianization have more than one meaning? I all too often make reference to God instead of Jesus because my vocabulary is underdeveloped. I see the reverse (all two often making reference to Jesus) in others. How did the NT writers now when to use Jesus and when to use God in their writings (besides God inspired)?
Kat, I think that they were deliberate in their choice of words.
Kay, I am just a student and follower, but I prayed about this question in 2006 when my father was in a coma and I kept catching myself cry out to Jesus in my prayers and asked if it was wrong to address the Son as the Father or if I was only supposed to pray in Jesus’ name TO the Father. John 1:1 practically jumped off the page it seemed. I have b
Catrina, I don’t shut people in crises out just because they misspell or call me by the wrong name. I can’t image the Father or the Son doing that. I do think John 1:1 speaks in our defense. I also found Dr. Eli’s insight on Adonai Tsvaot helpful. I am a student too.
Sorry for my misspelling…on a small phone
My point in sharing my experience with His name is that my name is Catrina, but my friends call me Trina, my siblings call me sis, my husband calls me honey, my children call me Mom, or Mommy if they want to soften me up, my granddaughter calls me Mommom, etc. I answer to them all, but some have a special meaning.
If it’s any help, I pray TO the Father, THROUGH the Son, IN the Spirit.
Chris, evangelism reached me with a New Jesus mindset. This did not cause me to follow Jesus. I followed Jesus because of my established Old pre gospel, pre Jesus mindset -Exodus -10 Commandments. So I followed Christ because God revealed to me things I had no words for; but all the New Jesus words I got didn’t influence me to follow Christ. 🙂
Please read Ps 2 & Prov 30:4. You do all this by the power of the Hoky Spirit. ELOHIM gave Himself a Name in Ex 3 & we must use that Name.
Romans comes to my mind; If we do naturally the things of God, although we do not have knowledge, then God counts as righteous. If we do the things of God, when we have knowledge, then God counts as righteous. Even though God is patient with us and provides us much grace; we should always strive to live holy lives. (Paraphrase)
I too when converted was impressed to follow the weekly Sabbath; the Sabbath our Messiah Yeshua kept. I was also impressed to follow God’s moral law found in Torah. Where did these insights come from? Man or God? I am the only Christian in my biological family so it’s safe to say that it wasn’t from man.
I’m still being impressed to follow God in ways I could not have imagined some 17 plus years ago. This too is from God. I’m not perfect, but I trust that God will lead me into all righteousness. I think this is the key…I believe He overlooks the small things we are not doing because of ignorance.
catrina shalom no soy un ilustre escritor pero tengo un articulo en mi canal de youtube …edgar sanchez ISRAEL titulado bautizandolos en el nombre del Padre del Hijo y del Espiritu Santo, talvez sea de alguna ayuda.
I only speak English so far, so it will take me a while probably to translate this. I do make out some words like YouTube, so I will start with looking for that. Shalom Edgar <3 <3 <3
Edgar, thank you so much! I don’t know that I got the right videos, but I did see people being re-baptized in the Jordon River as a reaffirmation, and I am still in prayer about this for my daughter especially. They will be very helpful in my meditations. I also shared a memorial video to my Facebook. If that was your son, or family, I am sorry for
Your loss. I am attending my 21 year old nephews calling hours today, and funeral Friday from a drinking & driving crash. He liked “the music” and I think his friends and loved ones will enjoy the song I shared about that from you. Bless you and your family always. And the translating was FUN <3 <3 <3
Thank you so much for this informative analysis. It surely makes me ‘hungry’ for further analyses of the rest of the Book of Revelation.
More is coming. Hang in there! 🙂
G-d has picked all the separate letters and writings that are contained in the Holy Scriptures. No one has the right to say which ones should or shouldn’t be in them. People need to believe G-d knows what HE is doing. They need to study to show themselves approved, that is what it is all about, serving Him and walking as HE has told us to walk.
Well… it is not that simple :-). On the one hand you are right of course, but the “devil”, as they say is “in the details”. God did not give Israel the BIBLE as we know it. He gave a large collection of sacred works during various times. They were not always sure what books were in and what books were out. The process of deciding on those issues was complicated one and the acceptance was not uniform. For example, Ethiopian Orthodox Church accepts the Book of Enoch, Roman Catholic Church accepts the Book of Maccabees, both are quoted/referred to in the NT but the Protestant Bible (66 books collection) does not accept them as God given.
One is forced to say that people were part of Bible creation – I mean selection of books, position of those books in the Bible too is a human creation. For example, the Gospels are before Paul in our Bibles, while Paul wrote before the Gospels, etc.
Let’s keep on thinking together.
It World be interesting to make a short explanation of the canonization of books in the Catholic Church. It will reveal a very interesting evolution for Epoch was originally accepted in pre canonical times. The canon was a later concept.
Indeed. Ramon, welcome back, brother and friend! eli
I was taught that G-d looked after His Word and so it came to us perfect. As I grew up, I firsts of all learnt that the king James Bible was NOT the original, as so many people in churches seem to think. Then, more recently, learnt that even in the Hebrew and Greek there have been minor changes – especially in the New Testament.
Translations are not what came to us. They are useful tools, however you will always have the translators bios. You need to go to the original. The Tanach in Hebrew is reliable. There are very very few changes which can be shown by the dead sea scrolls. The new Testament we do not have the original writings, but we can us the Septuagint……..
We can bring the Greek, back to the Hebrew, and get a better understanding of what is being said. Remember the entire book was written by Hebrew minded people. Also remember not to put G-d in a box. It is never the case of if someone is right the other way of seeing it is wrong. G-d is big enough for both to be right or for both to be wrong.
Isa 34:16 Seek from the book of the LORD, and read: Not one of these will be missing; None will lack its mate. For His mouth has commanded, And His Spirit has gathered them.
Isa 34:17 He has cast the lot for them, And His hand has divided it to them by line. They shall possess it forever; From generation to generation they will dwell in it.
I have come to understand that it really doesn’t matter who wrote what in the Bible or elsewhere if my trust is in the One inspiring and guiding my reading and understanding. As I have been a skeptic, and still look for human error in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has answered questions for me about Scripture through Scripture.
Hi, Catrina. There is a sense in which I agree with you fully. The obsession with the exact authorship is misguided. There is the ultimate author and that is the key. On the other hand, however, I disagree with you because that are many times when the Holy Spirit chooses to show us many things about authorship and when that is the case we are much edified when we consider it, because knowing who wrote it, to whom it was written, when and why oftentimes changes our interpretation of the Holy Text dramatically. So if we are mistaken about context, we may (and often do) misinterpret the words of the Holy One.
Hi Dr. Eli 🙂 Thank you for your reply. I absolutely agree and actually believe your reply says the same:) I have misinterpreted and have been taught misinterpretations which is why depending and trusting in the only One that knows will ultimately lead to correct interpretation in His time when we are truly following Him <3 <3 <3
I have been studying this book for years and I have noticed a analogy between some Psalms and this book. e.g. Psalm 3 and Rev 1:1
Mizmor, = גילוי = revelation
ledavid, = ליהושע = of /for Yehoshua’
beborcho mipney ‘avshalom = אשר נתן לו אלהים= which God gave him..
David is considered a messianic prophet indeed!!
Eric, please, explain what is the connection that you see.
It’s short and simple:
kind of writing: Mizmor/ revelation
Author/dedicated to: David/Yehoshua’
Description/containing: when he fuged/ which gave him God….
The above argument prompts much thought through its persuasive extrapolations respecting the subjective interpretation imparted in this argument! However, – the aspiring Student’s quest for more insightful interpretation, is present, and quickens inspiration to learn more!
Yes, this is the main idea :-).