Testimony Of The Things That Must Soon Take Place (rev.1:1-2) – Dr. Eli Lizorkin-eyzenberg And Peter Shirokov

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, 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?

 

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  1. Kat

    Our words are influenced by people too. I understand the Hebrew mindset was public (other oriented). Their public appearance to others was important to them. What connects “adding to or taking away” to editing rather than hearing and doing? Sorry, my head is spinning from all of my influences 🙂

    1. Peter Shirokov

      You are right all of us are influenced by others. Public mindset – yes, I see that. What is missing for us is that John and his audience have been influenced by the same factors, same texts, life and spiritual ideas, many of which we would not recognize even by staring right at them. 🙂

  2. gustavo vargas angel

    Take of or add some words to Revelation, may be only a matter of interpretation or translation, according the language to which it goes: considering over 30 , and not all of them uses the same word for the same meaning. Take a look around, that is better than arguments.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I think it is a warning to scribes who were known to edit materials they copied.

      1. Dave Ness

        The last words of revelation really do cause some pause. It does seem to suggest that editing was a real possibility. I think what most modern scholars miss is the motivation of the scribe or translator to make a change. I think if you are a believer, afraid GOD would punish you, if a professional scribe – the your reputation. Paul didnt have NT sc

        1. Dave Ness

          …scholars he was referring too right? The believers themselves were coping these in the beginning with what I believe could be fear and trembling of misrepresenting what was given to them by GOD. My speculation. It could have been that letters written on Patmos had issues. Just extreme speculation on my part. What we have is what was intended.

  3. Ralph

    You cannot remove any words from the original text. To do so is blasphemy. Jesus identified himself to John. Nothing wrong with that. And remember anyone who removes or adds to this book is condemned. You cannot gut parts of the bible you do not agree with. Otherwise the Sodomites would remove all references to fornication. Leave the book alone

    1. Prof. Peter Shirokov

      Ralph, there are some who would try to take some phrases out because for them the book would read more authentically. Is it any better practice to add words in the text that were not there to begin with? Scholars assume that both kinds of editorial work was done to Rev. We do not agree because we see no evidence of that.

      1. Ralph

        Amen brother.

  4. Brad Thompson

    This morning I noticed the author used doulois and doulO or “slave”. The translator experts interpret this word as servant as it applies to Yochanan (John) and those like John an emissary for God. This, I believe, provides evidence of Jewish thought behind the writing. Jewish slaves were like workers; taken care of and shown mercy by their masters.

  5. Eric Rodriguez

    BS”D

    Yehoshua’ is the ‘Atiq Yomin עתיק יומין of the Book of Daniel, the first and oldest Apocalytical book, and that’s the origin of the expression of Paul in Col 2:9-10 He is who died in גלגלתא, he came as טלא דבדולחא, when He goes up, he receive קרומא דאויר and sent to us pure words אמר נקא being the רעוא דרעוין, פקיחא דלא נעין וחותם כל הבריאה

  6. gustavo vargas angel

    Dear Dr.:
    In noplace in Facts of the Apostles, is said who Luke is jew, but do is said who he is or came from Macedonia, which by those days, was a turkish and greek settlement or city, besides, his clothes were with greek feature, from where comes that he is greek; however, could have been a jews descendant whose foreparents had had a long time

    1. Peter Shirokov

      Besides the established church tradition (which is not usually substantiated) I am not aware of any hard evidence that Luke was not Jewish.

  7. Brad Thompson

    All the books of the New Testament, except for Luke and Acts, are Jewish. They were written by Jewish people who believe in Yeshua the Messiah. They grew up Jewish, were instructed in Jewish thought and customs. The connection between Messianic Jews or Hebrews and Messianic Goyim or Gentiles was never meant to be severed. See Gen.14.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Yes to everything with the exception of the alleged non-Jewishness of Luke. What are the reasons to think (as most do) that Luke was not Jewish?

      1. Brad Thompson

        The only evidence is that most scholars believe Luke was Goyim. At the same time they cannot prove it either beyond a shadow of doubt. It’s quite possible Luke was Jewish; He was a believer in Yeshua the Messiah and traveled with Paul a great Jewish teacher. In essence he thought like a Jew when it came to God’s truth, but wrote like a greek.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          The fact that most scholars believe he was not a Jew (goy) is no evidence. Once I heard a list of almost 10 arguments about why he was not a Jew. None was convincing.

          1. Brad Thompson

            Yes…thank you…

  8. gustavo vargas angel

    Lois Eaton:
    In the prime page, when is introduced this study, Dr. Eli includes a Revelation to Enoch, very similar to Johns Revelation, when starting, after that, I do not know. Greetings¡

  9. gustavo vargas angel

    To Robert Arthur Gillis: Please, do not be worry about the increasing of Ismael lineage, because they are coming to be christians. Best for you¡

  10. Lois Eaton

    Are there any writings similar to Revelation that date from before the advent of Yeshua?

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      yes, we will have this in our class also :-). The Book of Enoch is very similar.