Saturday, September 19, 2020

Apocalyptic? #10: They're Digging in the Wrong Place (Rev. 1:4a)

 

John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia

 

(Revelation 1:4a NIV)

 

Inside Address and Return Address


                                                                                                                                              

John  No doubt, this book is written by John—but which John?  Not the same John as the one who wrote the Gospel or the same person as the one who wrote I John, II John, or III John.  This John writes in Greek, but thinks in Hebrew.  Not so for the writer of the fourth Gospel, who writes in very clear Greek, or any of the three letters attributed to John.  The author, a Jewish Christian prophet known only by the name John, was adept at the use of figurative language.  Some Revelation scholars (primarily, source-theorists) believe that the book was written by several different authors.  The frustration associated with reading source-theorists (those who believe the book is compiled by various authors using various sources at various times) is the scholarly consensus that Revelation's unique grammar argues convincingly that it was written by a single author at a particular time.  While earlier fragmentation-based theories (or source-theories) of authorship have survived, the majority view now holds that the work is a unity by one author.  Evangelicals should happily accept this scholarly conclusion:  John is the only author of Revelation.  In I John 1:1-4, the (unnamed) author claims multiple times to have seen, heard, and touched Jesus.  These are apostolic credentials, even though no apostleship is specifically claimed by the author.  The Gospel of John identifies its author as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”: 

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them . . . 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true” (John 20:20-24 ESV).


The evidence that this disciple whom Jesus loved is the Apostle John is found in John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, and 21:7, in addition to 20:20.  The author of II John and III John identifies himself only as “The Elder.”  Only in Revelation, of these all so-called “Johannine” writings, does the author identify himself as “John.”  The reader of this blog is certainly free to disagree with me with regard to the authorship of Revelation (it really doesn’t change any part of the perspective I am offering), but I believe that the Gospel of John and I John were written by the Apostle John.  I believe that II John and III John were written by someone (possibly, but not necessarily, named “John”) who was a disciple of the Apostle John and who received a spiritual gift of “eldership” through the laying on of the Apostle John’s hands.  (Note that, according to II Timothy 1:6 and I Timothy 4:14, Timothy received a miraculous spiritual gift of “eldership” by the laying on of the Apostle Paul’s hands.  See my blogpost “The Logic of Christianity 17:  And Batting Cleanup:  The Holy Spirit.”)  John the author of Revelation claims to have the spiritual gift of “prophecy” (which he surely received by the laying on of hands of an apostle [see Acts 8:18], possibly the Apostle John).  All books in the New Testament not written by Apostles were written by individuals with such miraculous spiritual gifts:  evangelists, prophets, elders, etc.  These gifts were administered by the laying on of the hands of apostles; therefore, all of the New Testament books may be called the Apostles’ Doctrine (Acts 2:42).  This is what certifies the infallibility of all New Testament books.  Henry Chadwick, in The Early Church, writes: “Sixty or seventy years later, Ignatius was speaking of Antioch and the Asian churches as possessing a monarchical bishop, together with presbyters and deacons.  In his time, there were neither apostles nor prophets” (p. 46).  Whether the John of Revelation is John the Prophet, John the Elder, or John the Apostle, his testimony is inspired of God (and, therefore, Apostle’s Doctrine) and should be considered infallible by believers.  As a believer, therefore, I reject Adela Yarbro Collins’s assertion that the crisis addressed in Revelation is more perceived than real, i.e., that the writer of Revelation was mistaken in his prophecy.  Prophets who were mistaken in their prophecy were condemned in Ezekiel 13.  Such false prophets were condemned to death by God in Deuteronomy 18:20-22:


20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.

John, most certainly, claimed to speak in God’s name (The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him”) in Revelation 1:1.  How terribly ironic it would be, if John, who states in Revelation 1:3 that what he writes is “prophecy” and who consigns the “false prophet,” along with the Beast and the Dragon to the lake of fire in Revelation 20:10, were himself a false prophet!  Yarbro Collins reaches a conclusion that is too equivalent to the assertion that John was a false prophet, if and when she and so many other Revelation scholars try to place the writing of Revelation in 96 A.D.  My answer, in the immortal words of Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is: “They are digging in the wrong place! 


Scholars have recognized TWO possible dates for the Book of Revelation:  96 A.D. and 69 A.D.  Scholars who are digging through the historical referents of 96 have come up empty (if Yarbro Collins is correct in her assessment of the historical situation).  Therefore, in a fresh perspective, I recommend digging through the historical referents of 69 A.D.

 


The issue of whether we date the writing of the book in 69 or 96 also hinges on whether we consider John’s testimony concerning the date of writing to be false or true.  This issue should, therefore, be a no-brainer for Evangelicals.  This issue is phrased by scholars as a conflict between “internal” and “external” evidence for the date of the book.  By “internal,” scholars mean what the author actually claims or appears to claim.  By “external,” scholars mean what others say about the book.  J. Massyngberde Ford (pp. 3-4) asserts that the bulk of internal evidence demands a Jewish milieu, prior to 70 A.D.  Although Adela Yarbro Collins concludes that Revelation was written around 96 A.D., she presents a balanced discussion of the external evidence in dating the book.  Yarbro Collins writes:

 

The earliest witness is Irenaeus [born c. 130 A.D., died c. 202 A.D.], who says that the Apocalypse was seen at the end of the reign of Domitian.  Since Domitian ruled from 81 to 96, Irenaeus' comment refers to 95 or 96.  . . . [Yet,] Irenaeus is not reliable on figures of the first century . . . .

     Victorinus, who . . . died in 303 . . . and Eusebius [born c. 260 A.D., died c. 339 A.D.] say that Revelation was written during the reign of Domitian.  They add that John was banished to Patmos by Domitian . . . .  [Yet,] [c]ommentators have disagreed about whether this tradition of John's banishment is reliable historical information or a legendary motif inspired by Rev. 1:9 . . . .

     A few late sources date Revelation to the time of Claudius [reigned 41-54 A.D.], Nero [reigned 54-68 A.D.], or Trajan [reigned 98-117 A.D.].  These texts show that there were traditions about the date that were apparently independent of Irenaeus . . . .

     Irenaeus' testimony has been questioned recently on the grounds that he believed both Revelation and the Fourth Gospel to have been written by the apostle John.  If Irenaeus was wrong about authorship, so the argument goes, he may have been wrong about the date too . . . .

     Another objection to Irenaeus' dating could be raised on the basis of Domitian's portrayal as the second persecutor, a new Nero . . . .  There is extremely little evidence that this tradition was accurate.  (pp. 55-56)

In fairness, despite some external evidence that it was written before 70 A.D. (during the reigns of Nero or Claudius), the bulk of the external evidence favors a date of 96 A.D.  The internal evidence supplies another story.  Not only does J. Massyngberde Ford (pp. 3-4) assert that the bulk of internal evidence demands a Jewish milieu, prior to 70 A.D., a number of scholars (Charles, Grant, Caird, Bruce, et. al.) would concur that a date between 68 and 70 A.D. to be a possibility. 


What is it internally that demands the earlier date?  Firstly, the most poignant verses in the book for those looking for internal evidence of the date of Revelation are 17:10-11.  Scholars have agreed that the "seven heads = seven kings" refer to Roman emperors.  Hence, calculations ensue in an effort to determine the emperor's reign under which the book is being written.  John states that "five fell, one is, and the other has not yet come."  That places John and his audience precisely in the reign of emperor number six.

Calculations to determine the date of the book look something like this:  It is difficult to see how the head count could begin before Julius Caesar.  If Julius were head one, head six would be Nero who died in 68 A.D.  Since Julius was never officially an emperor, it seems more likely that Augustus is head one, and that Galba who reigned only in 69 A.D. is head six.  Since Tiberius was the first Emperor following Jesus birth, he might be head one in which case Otho who reigned only in 69 A.D. is head six.  Skip Tiberius as head one and you have Vitellius who reigned only in 69 A.D. as head six.  How many heads may be skipped before this clue of John's becomes meaningless?  It appears that John is claiming that the book is being written around 69 A.D.  There are elaborate (forced?) ways of making Domitian equal head six, but it seems much easier to conclude that 69 A.D. is the date John claimed to write.


Secondly, Revelation 11 discusses the measurement of the temple.  Is it possible to speak of measuring the temple after 70 A.D., the year it was destroyed?  Yarbro Collins (p. 65) states that "before 1882, this passage was used to date the book as a whole before 70 [A.D.]"  She points out, "Recently, J. A. T. Robinson has revived the argument that Revelation as a whole was written before 70" based somewhat upon chapter 11.  Yarbro Collins (p. 67) sees that (at least part of) chapter 11 refers to Jerusalem:  "The earthly Jerusalem is referred to later in ch. 11 as Sodom and Egypt, the place where the lord was crucified (v. 8)."


Thirdly, Yarbro Collins (p. 76) offers one more ambivalent piece of evidence:  "Laodicea suffered a serious earthquake in 60/61 [A.D.]  Nevertheless, it is addressed in Revelation as an affluent church.  The earthquake is not mentioned or alluded to in Revelation.  . . . [Yet, t]he fact that the citizens did not need imperial help to rebuild is an indication that a date in the late 60's is not impossible."

If Yarbro Collins and other scholars are unsuccessfully digging for historical referents in 96 A.D., I repeat the Indiana Jones line: “They are digging in the wrong place.”  They need to be digging in the historical events around 69 A.D. 


Who, then, is John?  He is an infallible witness of a message from God and Jesus.

 

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:  Martin Kiddle, in The Revelation of St. John, a vol. of The Moffat New Testament Commentary, p. 216, states that "John's picture of the [devil] is as syncretistic as the pagan religions of Asia Minor.  These seven churches have all been planted in the midst of this syncretistic scene.  Most of the churches have good and bad traits. Those bad traits in the churches are primarily related to the sin of syncretism, which John calls porneia/fornication. The sin of Jerusalem—the harlot/Babylon/pornē—is also syncretism.  She (the Jerusalem High Priestly family) committed adultery/porneia with the Roman Empire.  (Syncretism was defined and explained in my post “Apocalyptic?  #7.) The churches are encouraged to repent from their bad traits so they will be prepared for the awe-full events in the coming Divorce of Israel (also, explained in my post “Apocalyptic?  #7).

 


One can see in the attached map that starting from the Isle of Patmos, the seven churches are in a circular route on the mainland of what is now modern-day Turkey. 

 


The circular route begins with Ephesus, which (along with Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria) was one of the three great cities in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, according to Ford (p. 388).  Significantly, Ephesus was a key church for the Apostle Paul.  He wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians, in which he praises the church for the “love” they show toward all the saints (1:15).  This may be significant since, in the next chapter in Revelation, they are called out for having forsaken their “first love.”  The Gentiles in the church were called “the Uncircumcision” by the Jews who called themselves “the Circumcision” (2:11).  This may indicate, if not outright opposition, at least some antagonism between Jewish and Gentile Christians, but both seem to be present in this church at Paul’s time.  Nevertheless, Paul seems to indicate that Jesus had accomplished a peace between the two factions (?), so that he could reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having slain the enmity (2:16).  Perhaps, this peace and reconciliation was the “love” which the church in Revelation had forsaken, or perhaps, it was the “love” that husbands should show their wives, as Christ also “loved” the Church and gave himself up for it” (5:25-33).  If the “fornication” of which Revelation accuses the Nicolaitans in Revelation 2:14 is literal fornication (violating the love between husband and wife), this “forsaken” love could be indicated. The final verse of Ephesians suggests another love to which Revelation could be referring: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible” (6:24 ASV).  That Paul had a loving relationship with the Ephesians is indicated in Acts 20:17-38.  Before Paul returns to Jerusalem in what he believes will be the last trip of his life, he calls for the elders from Ephesus to meet him.  He recounts the prophecies that he has received that he will be carried away into captivity.  At this news, the Ephesian elders “all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him” (20:38 ASV).  Paul spent altogether about three years at Ephesus and had left Aquila and Priscilla there for a while to help the church (Acts 18:18-21).  These two had further instructed Apollos (Acts 18:26).  Paul endorsed Timothy’s ministry in Ephesus (I Timothy 1:3), thanked Onesiphorus of Ephesus for his help, and commissioned Tychicus to Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21-22, Colossians 4:7, and II Timothy 4:9, 21).  While Paul experienced much love in Ephesus, he tells the Corinthians (I Corinthians 15:32) that he had fought “wild beasts” in the city, but that he was being successful (I Corinthians 16:8-9): “for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.”

 

While we know a decent amount about the early church at Ephesus, from Paul’s time, the Ephesian church is virtually the only one of the seven churches of Revelation that we know much about (other than the information found in the Book of Revelation). 


Colossians 2:1; 4:13-16 does indicate that the Church in Laodicea exists, and even receives an epistle from Paul, but that epistle has been lost. Since Paul instructed the Colossians and Laodiceans to share the epistles sent to each (Colossians 4:16), the Laodiceans would have, at least, been taught the doctrine found in Colossians.  Paul’s companion Epaphras (Colossians 4:12) may have been the founder of the church.  Paul seems not to have visited the church in person. 

The Book of Acts does not state that a church in Thyatira existed, but an influential woman from Thyatira whose name (or nickname) was Lydia was the first European converted to Christianity by Paul (Acts 16:13-16, 40).  She, however, was living in Philippi at the time of her conversion, not Thyatira.  She houses Paul and his company while they are in Philippi, perhaps, serving also as the host of a house church there.  It is certainly not inconceivable that, given her influence and business connections, she may have converted others upon her return visit(s) to Thyatira, but we do not explicitly know of a church in Thyatira until Revelation mentions it.


After Revelation, the church at Smyrna is referenced in writings as the church at which the Christian martyr Polycarp [born c. 69 A.D., died c. 155 A.D.] is a bishop (or elder) nearly 100 years after Revelation was written.  Polycarp attests that Ignatius of Antioch [a contemporary of Polycarp] wrote letters to the Ephesians, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans, but the copies of letters that currently exist are either forgeries or spurious or come from a later period in the history of the Church, when there was a single (monarchical) bishop in each church, when the Roman Catholic church was attempting to establish hierarchy in the Church.  In New Testament times, a plurality of elders and deacons were found in each church, not a single-bishop-per-church model.

Probably, as a result of the dearth of information regarding the seven churches of Revelation, “creative” Christian teachers took it upon themselves to posit a “dispensationalist” interpretation of these seven churches.  See the chart below. 


The dispensationalist interpretation of the seven churches is incorrect.  These seven churches were actual historical churches in what is now modern-day Turkey.  Since we know little about the churches other than Ephesus, however, we will consider what we know about the cities themselves and what is implied or stated concerning the churches in Revelation as we interpret. It is quite likely that many Jewish Christians from Judea traveled to the region of Asia Minor, especially after escaping from Jerusalem before the seven-year war of 66 to 73 A.D. between the Jews and the Romans.  Revelation is concerned more with the problems surrounding Jerusalem at this time than with the religious circumstances of Asia Minor.

BOTTOM LINE:  1.  Whether the author is John the Apostle or John the Prophet, he is still inspired and his writings are infallible.  2.  The seven churches, even though we only know much about the church in Ephesus, are all historical churches existing in 69 A.D.  Dispensationalism should be ruled out.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Apocalyptic? #9: Revelation 1:1-3 Commentary

 


Writing from the Isle of Patmos (pictured above):

1 “The revelation from 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, 

2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

 

(Revelation 1:1-3 NIV)

                                                                                                                                              


Are you ready to “take on” what the dean of all Revelation scholars, R.H. Charles, has called “the most difficult book in the entire Bible”?  Dr. Charles began his Lectures on the Apocalypse for the British Academy in 1919 with the words:  "From the earliest ages of the Church, it has been universally admitted that the Apocalypse is the most difficult book of the entire Bible.  School after school has essayed its interpretation, and school after school has in turn retired in failure from the task."  Nevertheless, using principles culled from the writings of more recent scholars of Revelation, over the past 100 years, fully understanding Revelation is very possible.  I have attempted to prepare you for this daunting task with my first eight posts in this series:

Apocalyptic?  #1:  The End introduced Jesus and God as the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  Before John penned these words in the Book of Revelation, the Greek philosopher Aristotle coined a word—entelechy/εντέλεχεια—to describe any process that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Although I began this series with a look at YOUR END, the human drama John sees had its beginning in Creation (Genesis 1-2) and its end in a New Creation (Revelation 21-22).  God is there at both the beginning and the end.  He is also there at every point in the middle—even the point at which you and I are living (and dying).


Apocalyptic?  #2:  Reading Revelation through the Mirror showed you how to read this book, in light of the entelechy John is unfolding.  Entelechies (the one in Revelation, included) are frequently mirror images.  If the same person is BOTH the First AND the Last, BOTH the Beginning AND the End, we can visualize a single person looking into a mirror.  The individual appears BOTH Outside the mirror AND Inside the mirror as equidistant images of the VERY SAME INDIVIDUAL.  I showed you that the book of Revelation is a mirror image of everything that had happened before John wrote the book, and that the key to understanding the book is to look at the future through the mirror of the past.

Apocalyptic?  #3:  The Mirror Image of the Week showed you that one of John’s major mirror images is the Creation “week”—which lasted 7 “days.”  John takes us to Daniel 9 and makes much of the fact that, in 69 A.D. (when John is writing), his audience was living in the MIDDLE of the last WEEK of years (7 years) prophesied by Daniel:  “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (7 years): and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of ABOMINATIONS he shall make it DESOLATE, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the DESOLATE”  (Daniel 9:27).  Daniel’s prophecy of the ceasing of the sacrifice was fulfilled in 70 A.D., as the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple.  The Roman War against the Jews had begun in 66 A.D. and would last for SEVEN years (3 ½ more years)—until 73 A.D. 

Apocalyptic?  #4:  The Week that Lasted 7000 Years cites Revelation 20:2 (NIV): “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.”  With his mention of the 1000 years in which the Dragon is confined to the Abyss, John raises the specter of the Cosmic Week (7000 year human history) discussed by the School of Elias.  The German scholar, Paul Billerbeck, observes that, according to the school of Elias, humankind would exist on earth for a total of six thousand years, followed by the 7th day (Sabbath), i.e., eternity in the New Heavens and New Earth. 


Apocalyptic?  #5:  The 7000 Year Drama and the 3 Women introduced a breakdown of the 7000-year-long week into 3 segments of 2000 years each, with each 2 day (2000 years) represented by a metaphorical woman at war with a metaphorical dragon.  The first woman, Eve, represented the time from Adam to Abraham.  That time was PAST, when John penned his book.  The second woman, Israel, represented the time from Abraham to the birth of Christianity and the 7-year-long war between the Jews and Romans (from 66-73 A.D.).  That time is now PRESENT (for John’s audience), but its END IS NEAR.  The third woman, the Church, is preparing to be rescued from the world, and to rule with Christ for more than a thousand years.  That time is still FUTURE (for John’s audience), but its BEGINNING IS NEAR.

Apocalyptic?  #6:  The Divorce of God (7 Seals) points to God saying in Isaiah 50:1 (See also Jeremiah 3:6-10): “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, with which I have put her away?” Isaiah and Jeremiah were prophesying a time when God would divorce Israel.  Catching the attention of Israel was the goal of the Seven Seals of Revelation.  He wanted to warn Israel that (in 69 A.D.) she was in the process of being DIVORCED, to give her the chance to repent.  J. Massyngberde Ford observes: “The Hebrew document which resembles the apocalyptic scroll most closely is the get mequssar, the tied (folded and sealed) deed [used by] . . . priests who wished to divorce their wives.”


Apocalyptic?  #7:  The Number 666 and the Friday Fixation enlightens us concerning the SIXES in Revelation (including the ominous number 666 [Revelation 13:18]). John is using what Kenneth Burke calls the psychology of form to indicate to his audience (in 69 A.D.) that it was on the brink of the “end” of a list of seven.  Something cataclysmal was about to happen.



Apocalyptic?  #8:  ZERO STRESS—Shalom—The New Heaven and New Earth glimpsed the “happy ending” of this vast human drama.  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no stress at all.  Zero Stress or perfect peace/perfect rest involves experiencing Zero Corporal Stress—no illness, injury, hunger, thirst, pain, tears, death, etc.  Zero Community Stress—no conflict, war, litigation, argumentation, fighting, etc.  Zero Conscientious Stress—zero temptation.  Zero Cash Stress—no money.  Nothing to spend money on. Zero Competence Stress—no difficult tasks required to be done.  Zero Confusion Stress—no sense of being lost.  Zero Chrono Stress: Eternity has no deadlines.

 

So, now to my commentary:

Revelation 1:1-3:  The Prologue


1
 The revelation”--The literary genre in which Revelation is placed most frequently is the literary genre "apocalyptic."  Even this placement, however, is not totally satisfactory.  (The genre placement proves itself by itself.)  The genre is actually named for the book of Revelation (Oepke, in Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, III, 578).  The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis from which derive the English terms:  Apocalypse and Apocalyptic.  Thus, the book of Revelation became the paradigm (prime example) for the genre classification "apocalyptic."  There are, nonetheless, both Jewish and Christian "apocalypses" which parallel many of the features of Revelation and at least some of these "apocalypses" borrowed much of their form from Revelation.

“from Jesus Christ, which God gave him . . . He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.”John may be the one writing this book, but his Acknowledgements begin with the person who showed him the revelation—Jesus the Messiah—and the person who gave the information to Jesus—God.  John does not mention, in the first sentence of the Prologue, either the other intermediary—God’s angel—or himself, John, perhaps, because, by so doing, he is indicating that he and the angel are less significant than the true authors: God and Jesus.  Indeed, John refers to himself as but a “servant.”


“to show his servants what must soon take place.”  Even though John is but a “servant,” he states that it is, actually, FOR THE SAKE OF God’s “servants” that they are given the revelation.  God and Jesus want their servants to know something about THEIR IMMEDIATE FUTURE: “what must SOON take place,” so that they will not lose faith, but will persist through the tragedies.  R. H. Charles asserts that the close affinity of Revelation to Jewish apocalypses indicates that (like Jewish apocalypses) Revelation should "be taken as referring first and chiefly to the times in which it was originally written" (Lectures, 1).  This assertion by Charles summarizes the position of the CONTEMPORARY-HISTORICAL methodology of interpreting Revelation.  Along with the scholarly consensus, the Contemporary-Historical methodology is the methodology I follow in my interpretation.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance to decide which of the two dating extremes is more acceptable.  The two optional dates are 96 A.D. and 69 A.D.  As you may have noticed in my previous posts, like F. F. Bruce, I am much more persuaded by the 69 A.D. date.  The historical events John describes in Revelation are events that “took place” SOON after 69 began.  Disagreeing with the 69 A.D. date, Adela Yarbro Collins cites evidence from individuals who wrote long after John’s book was written, suggesting that the "date [of writing] [was] about 95 or 96" (Crisis, 76) under the reign of Domitian.  However, she also states that "[t]here is insufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that Domitian persecuted Christians as Christians" (Crisis, 77).  She points out that many interpreters see Revelation as a response to this situation:  Domitian was persecuting Christians, even forcing them to worship the emperor.  She says this entire scenario is false.  Yarbro Collins claims the crisis addressed in Revelation is more perceived than real.  In other words, she thinks the writer of Revelation was mistaken in his prophecy.  Collins’s view is frustratingly erroneous.  A more elaborate dramatistic analysis and more historical consistency may be found by dating the writing in 69 A.D.  A more consistent and elaborate dramatistic analysis of Revelation is what this blog series attempts to produce.


2 [John] who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  John is not personally “composing” this revelation; he is simply “testifying” to what he “saw.”  In the 7 letters in chapters 2 and 3, he even appears to be taking dictation from Jesus to the seven churches of Asia Minor, much in the same way Silas did for the Apostle Paul, in his letters.  Yet, John clearly uses his own symbol-system (as Kenneth Burke would call it).  John uses his own language in giving his testimony. 

Incidentally, the terms “testifies” and “testimony” are cognates (in the same word family) of the word “martyr.”  The word “martyr” did not originally mean one who is killed; it simply meant one who witnesses.  Later, as the witnesses were slain for their testimony, “martyr” took on the connotation of one who is killed because of his testimony.  John identifies himself along with his "brothers--those having the testimony [marturia] of Jesus—and states that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (19:10).  Also connected as a cognate of the word “martyr,” then, are the two Witnesses (martusi) that prophecied for three and one-half years, and then lay dead for three and one-half days on the street of the great city where their lord was crucified (11:3,6).

Even though John is only reporting/testifying to what he saw, John’s language is unique.  This fact is actually evidence that only one person (John) wrote the book of Revelation.  Some Revelation scholars have made the mistake of thinking that Revelation was “composed” from several sources.  Although John writes in Greek, he thinks in Hebrew.  His language shows that dual-language mind, throughout the book.  Therefore, correspondence between Greek and Hebrew terms often points to and resolves important issues.  John’s “Hebraized Greek” language may be compared to someone’s unique use of Spanglish (Spanish and English mashed together), in modern day.  Johns unique language is so prominent that Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza states: “The unitary character of Revelation's language and symbol system argues against . . . an arbitrary dissection of the text" (161).  Throughout her chapter on "The Composition and Structure of Revelation," Fiorenza champions the unity of Revelation:  "The unitary composition of Rev[elation] does not result from a final redactor's arbitrary compilation but from the author's theological conception and literary composition" (159).  Once again, although Fiorenza uses the term “composition,” John is not composing this revelation.  He does, however, choose from his own unique vocabulary the terms of his testimony.  As a lawyer might say to a witness on the stand: “Tell us in YOUR OWN WORDS what happened.”


3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.  The concept of a Hebrew “blessing” is often misunderstood by modern-day Christians.  Christians say, “Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies.”  When Jesus “blessed” food, however, he did not actually “bless food.”  He used the words, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, who bringest forth bread from the earth, the one who created the fruit of the vine.”  Christians say, “Bless this house, O Lord, we pray,” but in the Hebrew mind, we do not ask God to bless food or houses.  Instead, we BLESS PERSONS (especially God)!  John blessed “the ONE who reads aloud the words of this prophecy AND . . . THOSE who hear it and take to heart what is written.”  We bless GOD.  We always give a justification for our blessing:  BECAUSE He brings bread out of the earth; He creates grapes.  For John, the justification for blessing the reader and hearers is this: “BECAUSE the time is near.”  The time is near for what?  John already mentioned it in verse 1: “what must SOON take place.”

 

More commentary SOON!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Apocalyptic? #8: ZERO STRESS—Shalom—The New Heaven and New Earth

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. . . .  

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. . . .  

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

(Revelation 21:1-4 NIV)

                                                                                                                                              

How does the matter of stress pertain to the New Heaven and New Earth?  Tomorrow (August 7, 2020), I will officially retire from my Teaching Professorship at Florida State University.  I will continue, however, at the request of the school, to teach two online courses (with the assistance of three mentors who hold master’s degrees from FSU—Ms. Lara Herter, Ms. Mary Sue Woodruff, and Ms. Julia Chrencik).  One of these two courses is my most popular course in my career, attracting hundreds of FSU students each year:  COM4132 Communication and Stress Management, based upon my book, The Seven Cs of Stress. 

In my book and my course, I teach that humans face, essentially, only SEVEN basic types of stress.  I use alliteration to label each of these stressors with a word beginning in the letter C.  Hence, the Seven Cs of Stress are:  Community, Competence, Confusion, Conscientious, Corporal, Chrono, and Cash.  If you desire a fuller explanation of each type of stress and the available relief valves for each, you may read my book.  If you are a good navigator and chart your course using the information that my book provides, you can successfully "sail the Seven C's of Stress!"  In a nutshell, the Seven Cs may be briefly summarized:

Corporal Stress:

Corporal stress is any stress that is encountered primarily due to the functions of the human body. The word root “corp-“ means “body.” When someone dies all that remains is the “corpse.” When children are spanked, they receive “corporal” punishment. Animals and humans certainly experience disease, injuries, hunger, fatigue, thirst, the need to urinate, the need to defecate, sexual tensions, etc. These are all Corporal Stresses.

Community Stress

Community stress is the stress that one feels when one must deal with other people.  Because humans often disagree, stress between humans occurs. Even friendships are frequently tested by Community Stress. Married people experience a good deal of this stress.  A humorous toast goes: Here’s to you, here’s to me; hope we never disagree. Just in case we ever do, here’s to me; the heck with you.  Community Stress may be inevitable in this world.  

Conscientious Stress

Conscientious Stress is the stress humans face due to morality. Kenneth Burke asserts that the human penchant for morality (and the moral codes or laws that come with it) relates to the very nature of humans. According to his definition of the human, humans are “moralized by the negative” (p. 9).   What Burke considers important about the human use of the negative is what he calls the “hortatory negative,” represented by the injunction: “Thou shalt not!”  Saying “Thou shalt not!” to someone implies that the person to whom it is spoken has free will. It implies morality. It implies choice.  The Conscientious Stress comes as we struggle to abide by the dictates of our conscience, to obey our own “Thou shalt nots.”

Cash Stress

Cash Stress is any stress that is produced by the necessity of performing money management.  Kenneth Burke refers to money as a sociological function (1984, p. 163) and as a substitute for God (1984, p. 194, and 1969, pp. 108-113). Clearly, money is symbolic; it can represent time, property, labor, food, shelter, political interest, etc. When one does not have enough of it, Cash Stress results. When one has a great deal of it, but is unsure where to safely and successfully invest it, Cash Stress results.  The easiest stress for many to understand is Cash Stress — stress caused by disparity between one’s monetary supply and the demands of one’s lifestyle.

Competence Stress

Competence Stress is the stress one feels when one questions one's own competence to perform a task (when one does not consider oneself completely competent to handle a specific task).  This stress may be due to a lack of self-esteem, a lack of knowledge on the subject, or a lack of skill, etc.  When you first learned to drive, you were nervous, tense, stressed.  When you needed to take an exam over a subject you were uncertain of, you were nervous.  When you first asked someone for a date or went on your first date, you were nervous, experiencing Competence Stress.

Confusion Stress

Confusion Stress occurs whenever someone feels lost.  Children feel it when they become separated from their parents at a large store. Travelers feel it when they are in transit and suddenly realize they do not recognize any of the road signs or surroundings. Students feel it when taking an educational course that is far too difficult for them to pass. Litigants feel it when attempting to win a court case and the lawyer opposing them confuses every issue.  Religious people experience it when their religious faith is challenged and they do not have appropriate answers.  It is Confusion Stress.

Chrono-Stress

Chrono Stress is stress caused by the perceived need to accomplish something within a fixed time limit.  Chrono-logical means that our narratives are presented according to the logic of time—the time order in which events occur.  That humans are conscious of their own death produces not only confusion stress (we do not know about the beyond) but also chrono stress — the stress one feels when confronted with deadlines. One’s death is, after all, one’s ultimate time deadline. There are tasks one must complete within a specific timeframe. As the deadline draws near and tasks remain unfinished, stress mounts. Any task that carries with it a time deadline is capable of producing some Chrono Stress.

ZERO STRESS is Impossible

No living person has yet experienced Zero Stress.  From the time we first experience pain—even in the womb—our “corpses” (i.e., our bodies) have Corporal Stress.  Once born, we feel stresses to breathe, to eat, to urinate, etc.  We have illnesses, injuries, skin rashes, body aches.  Ask a newborn baby at 3 a.m. if he or she is experiencing stress and he or she will scream the answer back to you.  The only time there is Zero Corporal Stress is when we die and only our unfeeling “corpse” remains. 

From the time we first interact with other humans, we have Community Stress.  When your baby wanted attention and you chose to sleep instead, your baby let you know that there was a disagreement between you two at that time, as well.  When two preschoolers want the same toy, there is Community Stress.  The only way for humans to completely avoid Community Stress is to become total hermits.

Babies might not experience much Conscientious Stress, but teenagers do.  Children who hugged and kissed their parents goodnight are appalled at the thought of such behavior when reaching their teen years.  Why?  Their society (teenage society) issued a Thou Shalt Not on that behavior.  Some humans appear to be amoral, having no moral code, but the vast majority of us do have such a code—whether our list of Thou Shalt Nots is supplied by religion, family, or even political correctness.  To struggle with keeping those moral codes is to experience Conscientious Stress.  Even Jesus displayed Conscientious Stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, as he sweat drops of blood, praying to God that he be spared the ordeal of crucifixion.  Hebrews 4:15 states: “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”  To be tempted is to experience Conscientious Stress.

All humans who exchange money experience Cash Stress.  This includes the boy in the old song, “My name is Michael; I’ve got a nickel; I’ve got a nickel, shiny and new.  I’m gonna buy me all kinds of candy; that’s what I’m gonna do.”  Granted, Tom Hanks’s character in the movie Castaway, could not have experienced Cash Stress, unless he was worried about financial issues back home, while he was stranded on a desert island.  But even Jesus’ disciples were faced with Cash Stress when faced with feeding the 5000 from their own funds.  Jesus, of course, was not concerned.  He just momentarily borrowed two little fishes and five loaves of bread from a little boy in the crowd and solved the problem.  Having served as a financial consultant for several years, I can assure you that humans have Cash Stress until the day they die.  They even worry about cash stress experienced by others after they are dead; they buy life insurance to protect their families.

There are situations where we no longer experience much Competence Stress.  Experts call the circumstance “unconscious competence.”  For example, I may now have nearly zero Competence Stress as I drive my car on “auto-pilot” after years of practice driving.  However, when I drove a new rental van (with the driver’s seat on the right-hand side) in Ireland, driving on the opposite side of the twisting narrow roads, with no knowledge of the land and roadways, I experienced a good deal of Competence Stress.  Michael Jordan may experience nearly zero Competence Stress on the basketball court, but he surely had Competence Stress on the baseball field.  Humans always have Competence Stress about something.

Confusion Stress abounds throughout our lifetimes.  As babies, our Confusion Stress pertains to the frustration of not knowing how to communicate our wishes or needs to parents or baby sitters.  As a child, I became lost in a cornfield on my parents’ farm.  I was in severe Confusion Stress as I wandered seemingly miles in the maze, seeking an exit.  As a retiree, I do not know for certain that my future will be secure.  Though I have employed financial planning, I wonder:  what if the American Currency melts down or what if politicians manage to destroy our nation’s capitalistic system?  I mentioned earlier that humans are conscious of their own death, and that produces Confusion Stress.  Even as a Christian, I do not know what dying will be like.  Not knowing brings Confusion Stress.

Chrono Stress means that human lives are fraught with time deadlines.  When my children were young and we made annual treks from Indiana to Florida and Walt Disney World, they moved frantically from one Disney ride to another, since we only spent one day per year in the parks.  They were afflicted with Chrono Stress as they sought to do everything in a single day—the maximum that we would pay for.  College students experience Chrono Stress as they struggle to turn in all assignments on time.  Old people compose “Bucket Lists,” and try to complete everything on them.  Rarely do we find an individual who doesn’t have incomplete goals out in front of him or her.

Shalom, Peace, and Sabbath

Although there is no such thing as Zero Stress in this lifetime, we long for the “relative” lack of stress from time to time.  “Shalom” is the Hebrew “Hello” greeting and good-bye message that indicates our wish that the one to whom it is spoken has “Peace”—i.e., the relative lack of stress.  The Apostle Paul used the greeting in each of his letters/epistles, but he used the Greek word for “peace (IRENE)” and coupled it with the word “grace (CHARISE)”—plausibly the method by which one attains maximum peace.  God instituted the law of Sabbath to facilitate a period of relative peace, every week, for humans.  We all need respite from stress from time to time (Rest=Sabbath).

Maximum peace/rest involves experiencing the least amount of Corporal Stress—very little illness, injury, hunger, thirst, pain, tears, death, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Community Stress—very little conflict, war, litigation, argumentation, fighting, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Conscientious Stress—very little temptation, desire, greed, lust, need to lie, hatred, etc.   It involves experiencing the least amount of Cash Stress—very little financial need, concern for monetary safety, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Competence Stress—very few difficult tasks or jobs required to be done, very little required skill, etc.   It involves experiencing the least amount of Confusion Stress—a very low sense of being lost, a sense of security, etc.  It involves experiencing the least amount of Chrono Stress—very few deadlines, plenty of time to complete tasks.

Retirement



I think such “peace” is what most people envision for retirement.  My wife planned a surprise retirement party for me, two days ago, and arrived at my home with pizza and our pickup truck pulling a trailer with a golf cart in it.  It was a big surprise, and I have enjoyed driving the golf cart around our subdivision.  Unfortunately, I have a little too much Corporal Stress (sciatica) to actually play golf, but the cart is a great way to get from my house to my mailbox, up the street.  I still have blog posts and books and musicals to write and courses to teach so there is still some Chrono Stress in my life as I check things off my “bucket list,” but, at least, I have no meetings to attend any more, and that’s great!  I have Competence Stress as I try to master electronic music software to record and publish my musicals, but less Competence Stress regarding job-related matters.  My Conscientious Stress has steadily decreased over the years as I have matured as a Christian, but that’s probably not attributable to retirement.  Having no disagreements with colleagues means that my Community Stress has been diminished.  My Cash Stress is probably lower for the time being, because I have used financial planning principles throughout my career.  I expect my Confusion Stress to tick upwards toward the end of my life, but for now, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge and wisdom.  On the other hand, that’s not really attributable to retirement.  Nevertheless, my retirement years do not even approximate Zero Stress.

New Heaven and New Earth:  Zero Stress

So, John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no stress at all.  Zero Stress or perfect peace/perfect rest involves experiencing Zero Corporal Stress—no illness, injury, hunger, thirst, pain, tears, death, etc.  Revelation 21:4 paints the picture: “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Community Stress—no conflict, war, litigation, argumentation, fighting, etc.  The greatest adversary we have had—the Devil—will have been been completely annihilated in the Lake of Fire, along with Gog and Magog and all enemies of God’s people (Revelation 20).  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Conscientious Stress—zero temptation.  Our “test” will be over.  The “tester” himself is gone. We will have “passed.”  Revelation 21:8 assures us: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice drug use, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”   John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Cash Stress.  Psalm 50:10 states: “For every animal of the forest is [God’s], and the cattle on a thousand hills.  Jesus tells his disciples in John 14:2: “In my Father's house are many mansions” (KJV). No money.  Nothing to spend money on. “The kings of the land will bring their glory into” the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24).  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Competence Stress—no difficult tasks required to be done.  God’s “servants shall serve Him . . . and they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).   John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Confusion Stress—no sense of being lost.  I Corinthians 13:12 states:  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (NIV).  Jesus’ servants “shall see his face . . . And there shall be night no more . . . for the Lord God shall give them light” (Revelation 22:4-5).  John offers us a glimpse of an existence in which there is no Chrono Stress.  Eternity has no deadlines.  “He that is athirst, let him come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17 ASV). 

Talk about a Retirement Party!  Shalom!