Friday, May 29, 2009

Revelations 21: 5-9

5And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. 9And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.

Summary and Approach

This segment stirs additional symbols and allusions into the initial visionary experience of 1-5, eventually coming back around to the New Jerusalem-as-bride, thereby introducing the expansive, highly detailed and densely symbolic description of the bride/city developed later in the vision. With that subsequent orientation in mind, the remarks below focus primarily on themes, symbols and (selected) possible allusions developed in the narrative’s recursive and expanding gyre.

Although I focus on the LDS edition of the KJV, I am also looking at the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV), and at Tyndale’s 1520 translation of the New Testament (a means of keeping this blog related to my other projects).

Verse 5

In addition to what Eric has already said about this line, note that the durable symbol of authority, the throne, is also used as a special modifier for the simple pronoun "he" used to refer to God. Given that it is difficult in the context of Jewish tradition to hear "throne" without thinking of David’s throne, and Solomon’s seat of judgment, the making of "all things new" is framed in the memory of an ideal of protection, commitment, wise judgment, and the exercise of justice -- actions that create communities of mutual trust (true and faithful). In contrast to Roman imperial authority, which like Babylon’s gets expressed through the literal and spiritual destruction of Jerusalem, Divine sovereignty is exercised through an act of creation that acknowledges the righteous traditions and endeavors of humanity (hence the proper echoes around the symbol of the throne) while recognizing serious limitations and the need of Divine rescue.

Moreover, the Creator’s oral exclamation/direction ("behold" or "look" or "see") gives way to the instruction to "Write," with the implication that the words are not meant primarily for historical accounting nor spiritual recollection, but as another mode for making "all things new." William Tyndale’s Pathway into the Holy Scripture asserts that revelatory words in fact perform actions: they wound, heal, liberate, command, promise, inspire.

Comment: With regard to the throne imagery, and given my bias toward theologies that orient us toward action, I am immediately put in mind of the rebuke given to Jehoiakim in Jeremiah 22. Here, Jehoiakim is seen as being misguided in his attempts to recover the glory of Solomon through elaborate building projects supported by means of uncompensated labor and restrictions on freedom (see notes in the NRSV). This is not a righteously conceived nor divinely approved city.

Rather, Jehoiakim is enjoined to emulate his father Josiah, whose throne was based on a true and faithful form of righteous sovereignty: "Are you a king / because you compete in cedar? / did not your father eat and drink / and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. / He judged the cause of the poor / and needy; / then it was well. Is not this to know me? / says the LORD" (15-16). I quote from the NRSV, here, because it is much more plainly spoken on the issue of what constitutes a true throne at the heart of a righteous city (England’s King James asserted an ideology of absolute monarchy, claiming power over subjects rather than power on behalf of citizens, and such themes certainly had to be handled carefully by the KJV scholars).

Verse 6

The pronouncement, "It is done," might be read as meant to invoke a double image:

(1) the conclusion of new-making, the results of which we are about to see in glorious detail, and

(2) Jesus’s death, concluding a ministry based on what one commentator describes as "the astonishing promise offered to the riffraff" (Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution, 56).

The prospect of visionary doubling seems likely given that, as the verse then goes on, the Lord is declared to be "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." And as mentioned in a previous post, the latter image forms a nice bracket to the vision of the throne and the command to write.
Thirst, the fountain and the water of life, and the freely given gift form the symbolic transition from the throne in verse 5 to the prospect of inheritance in verse 7. The fountain, or spring, deserves much more attention than I will give it here. However, especially striking is the tonal nuance it gives to what might otherwise seem a fairly stentorian proclamation of the Divine nature as all-in-all: here, "the beginning and end" is to "give the water of life freely." Again, the vision coaxes us to see true might in God’s terms. God’s might, as it turns out, is the act of giving freely that which gives life, especially an abundance of life. In fact, the bejeweled splendor and perfection of measurement we are about to see is an elaborate extension of Jesus’s clarification of Divine purpose: "I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

Comment: I do think that "Alpha and Omega" is a fairly practical means of linking the kinds of action performed by inspired words, and a more general them of the New Jerusalem as the city of living abundance (as opposed to mere soul-deadening acquisition). In this regard, I am especially fond of Isaiah’s poetic dramatization of the proper plenitude that sustains, nurtures, and results in a robust growth, strength and vigorous pleasure – a feast of righteousness that begins with thirst, leads to the fountain of life, and progresses to a table set for all "the peoples": "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come yet to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness . . . and your soul shall live" (55: 1-3).

Think also of the invitation to participate in Wisdom’s banquet in Proverbs 9:5. These feasts and fountains suggest a delightful paradox: dependence on God is really the freedom of unrestrained growth.

Verses 7 & 8

Here, a dramatic juxtaposition forms a narrative hinge by which the door to a more expansive view of the New Jerusalem will swing open. The Divine throne dramatized earlier in the vision is now seen in relation to inheritance, and God insists, "He that overcometh . . .shall be my son." If there are any doubts as to what is to be overcome, the subsequent list in verse 8 gives a few specific examples, all of which contrast starkly with the theme of abundance – these latter are all forms of limiting, distorting, or outright ending life’s potential, and constitute a "second death." This death, in turn, is metaphorically constituted as a "lake which burneth with fire and brimestone," an image set off against the freely-flowing water of the fountain of life.

Comment: The juxtaposition of the fountain "of the water of life" to the "lake which burneth" implies that there are moral implications and consequences for how and why we thirst. Given that thirst sometimes refers to spiritual seeking and sometimes to those who stand in material need, and that frequently scripture suggests that they are satisfied in each other, it begins to look like the New Jerusalem is to be conceived of less as a complete ideal toward which one moves, and more as being fully present in any material case where life is made more abundant. In this sense, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand -- or, in my reading, to hand. Actually, I’m still working out what looks like an interesting tension between future-directed doing, and now-focused creating. More on this later.

Verse 9

Not surprisingly, the vision now moves from the prospect of inheritance back to "the bride, the Lamb’s wife." In verses 10 and 11, that bride will be revealed as the "holy Jerusalem," and again we are invited to bring two images together into one. The bride’s capacity for regeneration is framed in terms of a holy beauty, and the city’s splendor is likewise developed in terms of incandescence. In short, the graphic but relatively simple metaphors of the living fountain and the burning lake will give way to a more spectacular, more complex series of symbols. To say the least, this is the point in the vision where the theme of abundance will become mind-boggling in its splendor, requiring the imagination to stretch to accommodate the full breadth and depth of the grandeur. Yet it is also the point in the narrative where we sense a fine equipoise between abundance and thirsting, intimacy and inclusiveness.

Comment: The desire to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" (1 Chr. 16:29, Ps. 29:2, 96:9) is perhaps a good starting place for thinking about the elaborate images that follow the reintroduction of the Bride. The Bride also reminds us of what Aquinas movingly suggests: that charity presupposes rather than excludes the erotic.


1. Julie has suggested that we explore the relationship between the story of creation in Genesis and the account of created newness developed in Revelation. What, specifically, changes in our understanding of the thematic development in this passage (God’s throne, writing, Divine doing as beginning and end, living water freely given, inheritance vs. second death, the Bride), if we consider any of the symbols or metaphors of Eden in relation to those of this vision? What contradictions or paradoxes arise, and what possibilities for theological insight?

2. What are the further theological possibilities in this passage when we account for physicality, as Kevin suggests, especially in relation to themes of inheritance, living water, beauty, and holiness?

3. What capacities are implied by the "son" who inherits from God by "overcoming" or "conquoring"?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Revelation 21:1-5a

1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people[s], and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” 5aAnd he that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”


This pericope is the first part of John’s vision of a New Heaven and New Earth (21:1–22:5), which in turn concludes John’s second set of visions, portents seen from an earthly perspective (12:1–22:5) as opposed to his first vision, which was seen from a heavenly vantage point (4:1–11:19). I have elected to include 5a, “And he that say upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new,’” with verses 1–4 because the repetition of “new” (kainon and kainēn in v.1 and kaina in v. 5a) creates a clear inclusio and because of the resonance with God’s verbal creation in Gen 1:1–31.

This passage is the first of two pericopes describing the new Jerusalem, the other being 21:9–22:5. Gaechter, who called the ordering of the final chapters of Revelation into question, linked these verses with 22:3–5 as a description of the eternal city and proposed that 21:9–22:2 signifies the spiritual Jerusalem (sc. the church) that coexists with this present world (see Ford, 38–39). While this position has been alluded to by Kevin and is amenable to progressive dispensationalists, it is by no means certain that two Jerusalems were, in fact, intended.

This passage, as with most of the visions in 12:1–22:5 constitutes a vision report, as distinct from the ascension that is the setting for those of 4:1–11:19. There is an emphasis on seeing and hearing, but in each case John sees and hears from a position outside of heaven (although in this last case technically not from an earthly vantage point, since the old earth and heaven had fled from God’s face in 20:11). The seer sees the holy city “coming down from heaven” and hears a voice “out of heaven.” One interpretive approach is that the first set of visions, received during John's ascent into the heavenly court, was received outside of time; he sees the Lamb’s role in unfolding history past, present, and future, whereas in the second set, he “experiences” them “on the ground” as they occur (although the timing is still open to interpretation).


I saw a new heaven and a new earth. In the first sentence there is an immediate echo of Genesis 1:1, “God created the heaven and earth.” The word “new” here is the Greek kainos, not neos. Whereas neos is consistently new in the sense of time, kainos, in additional to the temporal sense, can refer to newness in sense of quality and not just time (see Beale, 1040). The idea of a renewal of the earth was a common feature in apocalyptic literature as in 1 Enoch 45:4–5 (Mounce, 380). Exegetical links connect the passing of the old world the rise of the new directly to pattern of Christ’s resurrection (cf. 2 Cor 5:4–17; Col 1:15–18).

for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. As noted, the old earth and heaven fled from the face of God when he sat upon the great white throne (20:11), much as man was driven out of the presence of God in Genesis 3:24. Whereas the verb in 20:11 is stronger (ephygen or “fled”), apēlthan in 21:1 does have more of the sense of “go away from” than the simple English “pass away.”

there was no more sea. While perhaps perplexing to modern readers, the lack of a sea in the new earth should be seen from an ancient, Near Eastern perspective, where it represented the roiling powers of chaos (cf. Tiamat, who was slain by Marduk, and from whose corpse the dry land was created, Mounce, 381; Beale, 1041–1047, 1050–1051). Hence the lack of a sea reflects the lack of any kind of Satanic or chaotic influence in the new creation. Consider also connections with Jesus’ stilling of the sea in the gospels.

And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem. The earliest references to a new Jerusalem (outside of Ether 13!) seem to be Ezekiel 48:30–35 and Testament of Dan (Mounce, 381). “New” Jerusalem may have a connection with Isa 62:1–5, where Zion/Jerusalem is called by a new name and depicted as a bride (Beale, 1044).

Coming down from God out of heaven. Although the lexical parallels are not exact, references to Jesus being and coming “from above” (e.g., John 3:3, 31; 8:23) and the city’s coming down “out of heaven from God” (a more precise rendering of ek ouranou apo tou theou) does suggest a connection. T
he sense here may also refer to the source or quality of the new Jerusalem and not just the place of its spatial origin. Just as Christ came down from heaven, so too will the new Jerusalem. Indeed, elsewhere the heavenly Jerusalem always seems to be somewhere in heaven itself (e.g., Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22–23).

prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Bridal imagery here connects the new Jerusalem both with the Old Testament covenant image of Israel as the spouse of YHWH and New Testament imagery of the Church as the Bride and Christ as the Bridegroom. Isaiah precedents for the city as bride are found in Isa 52:1–3 and 62. Within Revelation itself, the marriage of the Lamb is announced in 19:7–9, and the purity of the new wife appears in direct contrast with the Great Whore of Rev 17.

“Behold, I make all things new.” Just as God ended his creative work in Genesis 2:2 and then blessed it in 2:3 (implying that he spoke a final time), so the creation of the new heaven and earth is completed when he declares that he has “made” (poieō, interestingly present in Greek) all things new.

Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them. Tabernacle here is the Greek skēnē, simply “tent,” which the LXX used for the wilderness Tabernacle in which YHWH dwelt in the midst of his people. Despite being from different linguistic families, there it also seems to be closely related to the Hebrew shekinah, denoting the glory and presence of God (Mounce, 383). “He will dwell (skēnōsei) with them” resonates with John 1:13, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt (eskēnōsen) with us.” See also Ezekiel 37:27 and 43:7.

and they shall be his people[s], and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. A final fulfillment of the OT covenant promise (e.g., Lev 26:11–12; Jer 31:33; Ezek 37:27; Zech 8:8). Significantly, John modifies the promise to includes peoples (laoi) rather than people (laos), a distinction frequently made in modern translations but alas not in the KJV (Beale, 1047).

God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. The reversal of the effects of the fall, realized to some extent with the Millennium of chapter 20, is a fulfillment of promises such as those in Isa 25:8, 35:10. It was promised in Rev 7:16–17.

he that sat upon the throne said. The throne where God sits has been mentioned throughout Revelation but mostly in the portion chronicling John’s ascent (4:2, 9; 5:1, 7; 6:16; 7:10, 15 as opposed to 19:14 and here at 20:4). God’s reticence in the apocalypse is noteworthy; other than here at 21:5, he speaks at 1:8 (although this requires some exegetical efforts for Latter-day Saints) and perhaps at 16:1 and 17 as well (Mounce, 384 n. 23).

“Behold, I make all things new.” Just as God ended his creative work in Genesis 2:2 and then blessed it in 2:3 (implying that he spoke a final time), so the creation of the new heaven and earth is completed when he declares that he has “made” all things new. Interestingly, as noted the verb poieō is actually present tense in Greek, perhaps suggesting that God is in the process of making things new here and now (see Meztger, 99, supporting an Idealist and Progressive Dispensationalist approach).

Interpreted broadly and without yet subscribing to a particular expositional approach, this pericope illustrates that with God’s final victory the earth and heavens are either remade or renewed; the forces of chaos and evil are henceforth absent; the righteous dwell with God in a holy community, perhaps an actual city; and God's presence effects the end of pain, death, and suffering. Indeed, the separation from God that brought these factors into human experience at last comes to an end, with the final chapters of Revelation forming an appropriate pendant to the opening chapters of Genesis in the current canonical order.


Standard approaches interpret this pericope literally, spiritually, or symbolically. Many futurists, especially classical dispensationalists, tend to interpret this and the succeeding description of the New Jerusalem very literally. “Spiritual” approaches apply the description of the New Jerusalem to the new, spiritual creation found in the Church, in which is found the real presence of God. Symbolic interpretations see the new earth and the New Jerusalem not so much as a real place on a new earth but as a fantastic description of the final heavenly state of glorified saints.

LDS exposition of “a new heaven and a new earth” tends to be literal but informed and shaped by the idea that just as a man is baptized by water, then by fire, and finally dies and is resurrected, so shall the earth itself. Hence the flood represents water baptism (whether total or token is debated; see White and Thomas, Dialogue 40.3 [Fall 2007]); the cleansing of the earth by fire at a premillennial appearance of Jesus represents the sanctification attendant upon the baptism of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 29:23–25; 88:18–19; also McConkie, 580 and passim; Draper, 227–228); the "fleeing" of the earth from God's face in Rev 20:11 represents it death; and the new earth represents its resurrection.

But while LDS interpretation of the concept of a New Jerusalem is often literal, the discussion of multiple Jerusalems in Ether 13—whether yet to be built in the Old World, later to be built in the New, or coming down from heaven as here (for all of which, see again McConkie, 580–581)—actually suggests that the LDS approach ought to be polyvalent. Saints in every age labor to build a holy community. Sometimes they succeed (Enoch’s Zion, Melchizedek’s Salem), sometimes they fail (Jewish Jerusalem, Mormon Missouri), and often they toil on with the goal still on the horizon. In these instances a Spiritual approach is appropriate, because a spiritual community is trying to realize heaven on earth in this fallen sphere. Further, an LDS literal interpretation is also a symbolic one, inasmuch as the celestialized earth indeed becomes “heaven” for its inhabitants.

In this sense the progressive dispensationalist approach, which allows for both a futurist and symbolic interpretation for some of the same images, ought to be welcome to LDS students of this passage. While we look forward not just to Christ’s return at the onset of the Millennium but to God’s return at its end, we continue to labor to create heaven here and now, recognizing that our efforts to build Zion will in fact bring us to the point when our Millennial Zion, Enoch’s Zion, and finally God’s Zion all become one: “The Lord hath redeemed his people; And Satan is bound and time is no longer. The Lord hath gathered all things in one. The Lord hath brought down Zion from above. The Lord hath brought Zion from beneath.” (D&C 88:100; cf. Moses 7:63).

Interpretive Approaches to Revelation (A Review Summary)

While the prologue (1:1-9), John’s inaugural vision of Christ (1:10-18), and the visions for the seven churches (1:20-3:22) are seen as being "things which are," the balance of the apocalypse until the resumption of the epistolary frame in 22:8-21 focuses on things which "shall be hereafter" (1:19; cf. 22:6, where “things which must shortly be done” has raised the whole question of the timing of the events of Revelation!).

Of these "future events," those revolving around the judgment of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous in Revelation 4-19 have typically been approached in one of the following ways (see Gregg, 34-46; Pate, 19-28):

  • Preterist: events in the visions seen by "John" are symbolic representations of events before or contemporary with his time: e.g., the fall of Babylon represents the fall of Jerusalem in the Roman-Jewish War of A.D. 66-72.
  • Historicist: events in the visions occur after John but before the time of modern readers: e.g., the fall of Babylon represents the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century or the near-fall of the Roman papacy in the Reformation.
  • Idealist: the events in John’s visions are symbolic of greater, eternal truths (e.g., the ultimate victory of God over evil) and illustrate recurring themes. As a result, the visions do not necessarily have clear temporal or spatial connections. This is, perhaps surprisingly, an ancient exegetical approach, beginning with some early Church Fathers who were influenced by Philo’s allegorical interpretation of the Jewish scriptures.
  • Futurist: these prophecies have yet to be fulfilled and most will occur in the period leading up to the glorious return of Jesus: e.g., the fall of Babylon represents either the destruction of a single, worldly city or the worldly system in general.
  • Classical Dispensationalism is a particular branch of the futurist school which distinguishes between OT Israel and the NT Church, is premillennialist, and usually espouses a pretribulation rapture (the use of "dispensation" here should not be confused with LDS use of the term)
  • Progressive Dispensationalism applies the "already/not yet" hermeneutic throughout chapters 4-19 in joining aspects of the Idealists and Futurist schools. The Christ event began his heavenly reign and Christians, while living in this fallen world, have citizenship in a heavenly Jerusalem at the same time that they continue to dwell on this earth below. While progressives still look forward to a literal fulfillment of the prophecies in the future, they hold that believers are enjoying them spiritually even now (Pate, 28-34).

The LDS View, at least for the visions opened by the seven-sealed scroll in Revelation 5-11, can be termed eclectic inasmuch as each seal represents events of a different "1000-year" period of the earth’s history (see the usual reading of D&C 77:6-7). By this argument the first four seals incline towards a preterist interpretation, with some of the events of the fifth seal being contemporary with John’s time and others yielding a historicist interpretation. Much of the sixth and all of the seventh, with its seven trumpet judgments could be see as futurist.

This notwithstanding, the kinds of events that occur in the different “dispensations” (using the standard LDS meaning of the term) are the kind of judgments that happen in every age, suggesting that an Idealist approach is not out of order. I will also argue that a Progressive Dispensationalists approach is particularly useful for Latter-day Saints, allowing them to appreciate the strengths of both the Idealist and Future schools, both in Revelation 9-19 and especially in chapters 20-22, much of which we are covering in this seminar.

Other terms useful for the final chapters of Revelation include the following:

  • Premillenialist: Christ comes before the Millennium to effect the binding of Satan and the inauguration of the 1,000 year reign. This period ends with a final battle, judgment, and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
  • Amillennialist: The binding of Satan began with the ministry of Jesus and was accomplished by his death and resurrection. The 1,000 years is an indeterminate period approximating the “Church Age”
  • Postmilllenialists: the binding of Satan and the establishment of peace is accomplished by Christ through his Church, that is through the successful preaching of the gospel. The 1,000 years may or may not be a literal period of time.

Despite differences on the “millennium,” only discussed in Revelation 20, most commentators accept the concept of “a new heaven and a new earth,” whether an actual new creation, a renewed creation, or a spiritual creation. The nature of the new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem is often approached in three different ways (see Gregg, 186-488):

  • The Literal, propounded largely by futurists and especially classical dispensationalists, sees chapters 21-22 as accurately describing the creation at the end of time.
  • The Spiritual applies these visions to a spiritual new creation, the Church, which exists here and now. This fits with the Idealists and Progressive Dispensationalists approach used for the earlier chapters.
  • The Symbolic applies to the vision in these chapters as referring to heaven, i.e. symbolizes not this earth but the saints heavenly home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Overview - Revelation 21-22

Welcome to the fourth iteration of the Mormon Theology Seminar. Previous versions have focused on Abraham, Alma 32, and the recently completed "Reading Nephi Reading Isaiah" seminar on 2 Nephi 26-27. This time around we are going to focus on Revelation 21-22, the final two chapters in the New Testament. Our fearless leader for this go-round is Julie Smith of Austin, Texas, who blogs at, and I imagine that she will add any housekeeping details that I may have missed.

This seminar will feature 12 weeks of blog discussion by six participants; this general post is the first volley in the series. Then, sometime in September (date to be determined), there will be a conference in Austin where the participants will each present a paper dealing with some aspect of these particular chapters. (I already have an idea for mine!) It should be great fun, and I'm looking forward to the experience.

After this initial post, the other weeks will be devoted to small portions of the text, on the order of three to five verses, so we will really drill down into some fine detail as the weeks progress. For this initial foray, it seems to me that we ought to focus on broader contextual issues affecting the chapters as a whole, and indeed the rest of the Apocalypse of which these chapters form the conclusion.

As I reread the chapters, I thought of two broad issues that I would like to roll out there for discussion. (Others should of course feel free to raise other broad, contextual issues in the comments to this post.)

1. The first is, to what extent are we constrained in our readings by modern scripture? 

I'll give two illustrations, and then show how this issue arises in our selected chapters.

The first illustration has to do with who authored this book. The traditional position is that the "John" of Revelation is the Apostle John. This is certainly the most common point of view of the early external evidence, such as titles of the book as they developed in the manuscripts and attributions in the Church Fathers (the most notable exception being Dionysius). But my impression, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that on internal grounds most modern scholars would agree with Dionysius that the Gospel of John and Revelation could not have been written by the same man. These scholars acknowledge that Revelation was written by an otherwise unknown "John," just not the Apostle with that name. The Book of Mormon, however, clearly identifies the Apostle John as the author of Revelation (see 1 Nephi 14:18-27 and Ether 4:16). So does a modern Mormon student have leave to conclude that the Apostle John was not the author of Revelation, the Book of Mormon passages notwithstanding? Why or why not?

The second illustration has to do with basic approaches to the material in Revelation. The LDS Institute Manual for the NT in Section 12 describes basic scholarly approaches to Revelation. Under the caption "The Non-prophetic View" the authors describe two approaches. One is the preterist approach, which was influenced by the historical-critical schools of the scholarship of the last couple of centuries. According to this view, Revelation is describing events of the author's own day. Another school is the idealists, who read Revelation allegorically. Under the caption "The Prophetic View," the authors similarly describe two different approaches. The historicists see Revelation as describing the history of the church from the time it was written to the day of judgment. So while this material was future from John's perspective, most of it is past from ours. Finally, the futurists see the material in the book (after the letters to the churches) as relating to the last days.

The manual goes on to describe in contrast "A View Based on Latter-day Revelation." Since D&C 77:6-7 suggests that the seven seals represent the whole of the world's history in seven 1,000-year periods, we might call this the "dispensanionalist" approach. Given that according to this view the material in Revelation sweeps through the whole of human history, this suggests that portions of Revelation could be read from a preterist point of view, portions from an historicist point of view, but the bulk of the material from a futurist point of view (with perhaps a little allegorizing thrown in for good measure).

But are we bound to read Revelation that way? If there is relevant material in D&C 77, or 29, or 88, does that material in all events take precedence over how we may read the text?

The reason I am raising this issue is that it will affect profoundly how we read our given text, since much of that text has to do with something called the New Jerusalem. The idea of a New Jerusalem has a specific meaning in traditional Mormon sources. As summarized in McConkie, DNTC, 3:580-81 (and quoted in the Institute Manual):

To envision what is meant by this title [i.e., New Jerusalem], we must know
these five facts:

1. Ancient Jerusalem, the city of much of our Lord's personal ministry among men, shall be rebuilt in the last days and become one of the two great world capitals, a millennial city from which the word of the Lord shall go forth.

2. A New Jerusalem, a new Zion, a city of God shall be built on the American continent.

3. Enoch's city, the original Zion, "the City of Holiness. . . . was taken up into heaven." (Moses 7:13-21)

4. Enoch's city, with its translated inhabitants now in their resurrected state, shall return, as a New Jerusalem, to join with the city of the same name which has been built on the American continent.

5. When the earth becomes a celestial sphere "that great city, the holy Jerusalem," shall again descend "out of heaven from God," as this earth becomes the abode of
celestial beings forever. (Rev. 21:10-27)

So my question to you is, to what extent are we bound by this schema in discussing the New Jerusalem of our Revelation chapters? Do we need to relate it in some material way to, say, Jackson County, Missouri? Why or why not?

2. The second issue for reflection I would like to roll out there is whether the traditional ordering of the material in our chapters is completely messed up.

I happen to have in my home library two different commentaries on Revelation: the two-volume International Critical Commentary by R.H. Charles and the Anchor Bible volume by J. Massyngberde Ford, which I bought used at a terrific religion used book store called Loomis near Minneapolis. I wanted to read through what these commentaries had to say on our selected chapters. Boy, was that a frustrating experience! Both commentaries assume that the original order and structure of this material was different than the traditional order, and so they present their commentary material in their posited order. It was very frustrating trying to locate particular verses this way. But my question is, is this German scholarship run amuck (especially given the lack of any textual evidence for these theories), or do we think there may actually be something to this conjecture?

The Anchor Bible volume has a two-page excursus at pp. 38-39 explaining this, under the caption "The Last Two Chapters." (This caption is a mistake; it is clear from the discussion that the author means the last three chapters. My guess is that he visually saw chapters 20-22 mathematically as 22-20=2, but of course chapters 20-22 inclusively totals three chapters, not two.) Ford points out that the text in various places in chapter 20 seems to fit badly. For example, the future tense occurs in 20:7, "Satan will be released," but then two verses later the past tense is used, where Gog and Magog and their forces "marched" and "surrounded." He gives several further examples.

The textual difficulties in chapters 21 and 22 are even greater. In particular, there are two different descriptions of the New Jerusalem that conflict with one another. At this point, I'll quote Ford:

P. Gaechter concludes that there are two new Jerusalems, one which coexists with the present world (21:9-22:2) and one which is eternal (21:1-4c, 22:3-5). the former will last until the disappearance of this heaven and this earth, and will then be replaced by the latter. The eternal city is the same as the temporal but it is transformed. According to Gaechter, the two descriptions follow one another in the wrong order. The description of the city which is of this earth should come before that of the eternal city: 21:9-22:2 and then 21:1-4c with 22:3-5. Gaechter also believes that the duration of the city on earth corresponds to the thousand years and the period of the chaining and imprisonment of Satan. When Satan is chained the way is opened for the conversion of the nations which the millennial Jerusalem resupposes; 20:3, cf. 21:4.

Gaechter suggests a triplet: 20:1-3, the chaining of Satan "for a thousand years"; 21:1-22:2, the millennial Jerusalem; 20:4-6, Christ and his saints reigning "for a thousand years." He brings chs. 20-22 into close relationship to Rev. 12. The millennial Jerusalem is the woman who is protected from Satan by his imprisonment. After the millennium there is another triplet of scenes: 20:7-10, Satan's release, last onslaught, and final ruin; 20:11-15, the last judgment and the condemnation of the wicked; 21:1-4c, 22:3-5, the eternal Jerusalem.

The book ends with the conclusion of the visions (22:7b, 10-13, 16b-17b, 20) of the epistle (22:21) and of the prophecy itself (22:18-19). the present writer believes that 22:16a, 20b, 21 are Christian interpolations akin to chs. 1-3. . . .

So the revised order is something like this:

Satan's chaining 20:1-3
Millennial Jerusalem 21:9-22:2, 22:14-15 clausulae
Millennial Kingdom 20:4-6
Satan Unchained 20:7-10
Last Judgment 20:11-15
Eternal Jerusalem 21:1-4c, 22:3-5, 21:5ab, 4d, 5c-6, 7 clausulae
Conclusion of the Visions 22:10-13, 7b, 16b-17b, 20
Conclusion of the Epistle 22:21
Conclusion of the Book 22:18-19

So what do you think about this? The revised order makes sense, but is it necessary? Do you buy that it is original?

And again, feel free to roll out any other broad issues for reflection you would like the group to consider.