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?