Revelation as Prophecy: What is Prophecy?

For some background on my argument here, see this post.

The Book of Revelation is often called, rightly, a prophecy, but far too often does that mean in the minds of most readers, something in the future. Many believe that ‘prophecy’ is always in the future, but I believe that this is a fallacy based on misunderstanding of what prophecy is. Simply, prophecy is not the fore-telling of far distant events, but the inspired message for the audience there and then. It is not a secret code to be worked out by later readers, nor should the genre be ignored, but everything to be understood correctly but be put in its place.

The author clearly denotes that the work is a prophecy in Revelation 1.3 (and several other places), meaning of course, that he is a prophet.

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. NASB

God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. NLT

Μακάριος ὁ ἀναγινώσκων καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντες τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας καὶ τηροῦντες τὰ ἐν αὐτῇ γεγραμμένα, ὁ γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς.

It’s that key word, προφητείας, which plagues us and which we must attempt to discover what it actually meant, still means, and not what we subjectively wish it to mean today.

First, I note that in the Septuagint, we see the word used by Tobit (2.6) in reference to the prophet Amos who spoke in his own time about the destruction coming to Israel because of the injustices done to the poor.

Then I remembered the prophecy of Amos, how he said against Bethel, “Your festivals shall be turned into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation.” And I wept. (NRSV)

καὶ ἐμνήσθην τῆς προφητείας Αμως καθὼς εἶπεν στραφήσονται αἱ ἑορταὶ ὑμῶν εἰς πένθος καὶ πᾶσαι αἱ εὐφροσύναι ὑμῶν εἰς θρῆνον καὶ ἔκλαυσα

Amos wasn’t speaking about Tobit, and Tobit knew that. Instead Tobit fulfilled what Amos had said, then went and did what Amos said. Amos was dead, but Tobit took what Amos said and applied to his own life.

Paul would later use say that gifts were bestowed through prophecy,

Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 1 Timothy 4:14 NRSV

μὴ ἀμέλει τοῦ ἐν σοὶ χαρίσματος, ὃ ἐδόθη σοι διὰ προφητείας μετὰ ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τοῦ πρεσβυτερίου.

In a pseudepigraphical book, prophecy is connected to nothing more that delivering God’s Law or ruling Israel,

And Eupolemus says in a certain ‘Concerning the Prophecy of Elijah,’ that Moses prophesied for forty years, then Joshua the son of Nun for thirty years. lived for one hundred ten years, and set up the holy Tabernacle at Shiloh.  Eupolemus Concerning Moses 2:1

Εὐπόλεμος δέ φησιν ἔν τινι Περὶ τῆς Ἠλίου προφητείας Μωσῆν προφητεῦσαι ἔτη μ· εἶτα Ἰησοῦν, τὸν τοῦ Ναυῆ υἱόν, ἔτη λ· βιῶσαι δ᾽ αὐτὸν ἔτη ρι πῆξαί τε τὴν ἱερὰν σκηνὴν ἐν Σιλοῖ.

Philo, in line with the mention above, cites Moses and defines prophecy,

But since there is an infinite variety of both human and divine circumstances which are unknown both to king, and lawgiver, and chief priest, for a man is no less a created and mortal being from having all these offices, or because he is clothed with such a vast and boundless inheritance of honor and happiness, he was also of necessity invested with the gift of prophecy, in order that he might through the providence of God learn all those things which he was unable to comprehend by his own reason; for what the mind is unable to attain to, that prophecy masters. De vita Mosis 2:6

ἀλλ᾽ ἐπειδὴ μυρία καὶ βασιλεῖ καὶ νομοθέτῃ καὶ ἀρχιερεῖ τῶν ἀνθρωπείων καὶ θείων ἄδηλα γενητὸς γὰρ οὐδὲν ἧττον καὶ θνητός ἐστιν, εἰ καὶ τοσοῦτον καὶ οὕτως ἄφθονον περιβέβληται κλῆρον εὐπραγιῶν, ἀναγκαίως καὶ προφητείας ἔτυχεν, ἵν᾽ ὅσα μὴ λογισμῷ δύναται καταλαμβάνειν, ταῦτα προνοίᾳ θεοῦ εὕροι· ὧν γὰρ ὁ νοῦς ἀπολείπεται, πρὸς ταῦθ᾽ ἡ προφητεία φθάνει.

Prophecy, so far, has been defined as ruling, law giving, comprehension and bringing representing God’s legal case against Israel. We could boil it down to this, that prophecy and thus prophets are those who claim direct inspiration from God. Rather, a prophet who claims direct inspiration from God issues words (these are prophecies) which he claims are from God, under the inspiration of the Spirit. The notion of inspiration by the breath of God (Spirit) can be derived easily enough from Philo –

And if, indeed, any one assuming the name and appearance of a prophet , appearing to be inspired and possessed by the Holy Spirit, were to seek to lead the people to the worship of those who are accounted gods in the different cities, it would not be fitting for the people to attend to him being deceived by the name of a prophet. For such an one is an impostor and not a prophet, since he has been inventing speeches and oracles full of falsehood, De specialibus legibus 1:315

κἂν μέντοι τις ὄνομα καὶ σχῆμα προφητείας ὑποδύς, ἐνθουσιᾶν καὶ κατέχεσθαι δοκῶν, ἄγῃ πρὸς τὴν τῶν νενομισμένων κατὰ πόλεις θρησκείαν θεῶν, οὐκ ἄξιον προσέχειν ἀπατωμένους ὀνόματι προφήτου· γόης γὰρ ἀλλ᾽ οὐ προφήτης ἐστὶν ὁ τοιοῦτος, ἐπειδὴ ψευδόμενος λόγια καὶ χρησμοὺς ἐπλάσατο.

In Josephus, he notes that the Temple was chosen by Prophecy (Ant. 4.200). In 7.72, David is seen asking the Prophets about the will of God while in 8.418, it is said that by prophecy, people know the will of God and what they should avoid. Still, the sense of the future events is immediate which is echoed in 10.93 when describing Jeremiah’s predictions about what would soon happen. For Josephus, prophecies were meant to be fulfilled quickly (I note Revelation 22.20 here) which in accordance with Deuteronomy 13 would allow for testing of the prophet.

What about the actual meaning of the word?

Friberg –

προφητεία, ας, ἡ prophecy; (1) as the gift (χάρισμα) of inspired speaking granted to believers by the Spirit prophecy, ability to prophesy (RO 12.6); (2) as the utterance of a prophet prophetic words, inspired saying, prophecy (1C 14.6); (3) as a foretelling of future events prediction, prophecy (MT 13.14); (4) as the work of a prophet prophetic activity, prophesying (RV 11.6)

Louw-Nida –

33.460 προφητεία, ας f: an utterance inspired by God – ‘inspired utterance, prophecy.’ καὶ ἀναπληροῦται αὐτοῖς ἡ προφητεία Ἠσαΐου ‘so that the prophecy of Isaiah comes true in their case’ Mt 13.14; εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, καταργηθήσονται ‘and if there are inspired utterances, they will cease’ 1 Cor 13.8. It is possible that προφητεία in 1 Cor 13.8 refers to the action of producing such inspired utterances rather than to the resulting verbal form of the utterances themselves.

Liddell-Scott –

προφητεία, ἡ, the gift of interpreting the will of the gods, Orac. ap. Luc.
II. in N.T., the gift of expounding scripture, of speaking and preaching.

Thayer –

προφητεία, προφητείας, ἡ (προφητεύω, which see), Hebrew נְבוּאָה, prophecy, i. e. discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; especially by foretelling future events. Used in the N. T. — of the utterances of the O. T. prophets: Matt. 13:14; 2 Pet. 1:20,21 (on this passage see γίνομαι, 5 e. α.); — of the prediction of events relating to Christ’s kingdom and its speedy triumph, together with the consolations and admonitions pertaining thereto: Rev. 11:6; 22:19; τό πνεῦμα τῆς προφητείας, the spirit of prophecy, the divine mind, to which the prophetic faculty is due, Rev. 19:10 ; οἱ λόγοι τῆς προφητείας, Rev. 1:3; 22:7,10,18; — of the endowment and speech of the Christian teachers called προφῆται (see προφήτης, II. 1 f.): Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10; 13:2; 14:6,22; plural the gifts and utterances of these prophets, 1 Cor. 13:8; 1 Thess. 5:20; — specifically, of the prognostication of those achievements which one set apart to teach the gospel will accomplish for the kingdom of Christ, 1 Tim. 4:14; plural 1:18 (see προάγω, 2 a. and compare the commentaries). ((The Septuagint, Josephus); among native Greek writers used only by Lucian, Alex. 40, 60; (to which add inscriptions (see Liddell and Scott, under the word, I.)).)*

So, the generally agree – it is an inspired speech from a person sent of God to tell about His will. The ‘future’ is generally immediate or better yet, it is generally about the prophet applying the ‘how come’ to the ‘what’s happening now.’ Prophets do not make ‘predictions’ because what they say are to be the words of God, nor do they tell of events thousands of years hence. A prophecy is the words of a prophet which is a person sent by God to tell about the will of God.

Eschatology is a part of Christianity, but I have seriously doubts if Revelation is apart of Eschatology, or at least not in the way we’ve been told to think about Eschatology.

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30 Replies to “Revelation as Prophecy: What is Prophecy?”

  1. (For your convenience, I am repeating my comments here that I made on the other location where this blog is posted. Minus a few typos. Hope I got them all.)

    Joel, thanks for linking to my blog post, even if you did misrepresent my point by using as the link text “nor should the genre be ignored.” I, of course, do not “ignore” the genre of Revelation, I argue that the conventional wisdom about what the genre is is mistaken. Do you understand the difference? If you understand the difference, why would you misstate my point?

    I’m quite familiar with the standard explanation of the difference between prophecy and apocalypse. I just think it is faulty on a number of counts. I don’t think historical evidence supports it, and I don’t find the logic behind it compelling. Of course, it’s easier just to say I “ignore” the genre.

    Then, of course, this very post is in fact doing that very thing, from my point of view: ignoring the genre. The genre, state in the text, is prophecy. The text states that John saw a vision and recorded it. The “genre” argument you seem to be making is that everyone back then knew the rules of the game when they read such a thing, and would interpret it in light of those rules.

    I just cannot see that this actually is what took place. And I think there is a great deal of difference between:

    a. Receiving a vision from the glorified Christ to give to the church and then recording and commenting on that vision.

    b. Composing a work using the name of a famous person of the past, using the conceit of having received a vision, and writing about the current day as if some was predicted centuries before.

    I don’t know, but I can’t quite see lumping those similar-looking but ultimately dissimilar works into the same genre. I take it you can.

    So my argument is that we have to understand the book as describing a real vision, and John as author of the book, but not of the vision itself nor its imagery. I think this is fundamental to the correct interpretation of the book, and failure to understand this will lead to complete distortion of its contents.

    This is a different thing to the suggestion either that that the genre is being “ignored” or that “Many believe that ‘prophecy’ is always in the future, but I believe that this is a fallacy based on misunderstanding of what prophecy is.” Still a straw man is easier to knock off than the genuine issue.

    I’m not sure why you resort to multiple definitions of the word prophecy, rather than considering the text itself. Actually, I’m pretty sure why you do.

    In the first place, Revelation not only proclaims itself to be prophecy, but to be predictive prophecy: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.” I understand that is says “soon,” but we also see that some of “what must soon take place” includes the Second Coming and the New Heavens and New Earth.

    A large section of it consists of a type of drama played out with various characters, including “the beast.” That the activities and fate of this character (Rev. 19:20) corresponds to that of the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Tim. 2:8-12, an entity clearly future in Paul, such that he is destroyed by the returning Christ, provides pretty serious evidence that this section is predictive in nature, and that distant.

    You also object to the idea of the text being treated as “a secret code to be worked out by later readers.” Indeed, this demonstrates the divide between:

    a. a composed work employing deliberate literary imgery, such that it was intended to be understood at that time, and

    b. a true vision, in which the imagery is perhaps not any clearer to John than to anyone else.

    A true predictive prophecy actually is only truly understood as it is fulfulled, as 1 Pet. 1:10-12. By the way, in scouring for the definition of prophecy, did you consider this passage, which seems to connect prophecy fairly strongly with prediction? Apparently the prophets themselves found it something of a jigsaw puzzle to put together.

    This is consistent with what the Scriptues themselves tell us about prophecy, that God speaks in “visions” and “dreams” (Num 12:6), which things constitute “riddles.” Are there such riddles in Revelation? Rev. 13:8, concerning the name and number of the beast is presented as one. Rev. 1:20 and 17:7 present John himself receiving an explanation of the symbolism. Or maybe that’s just part of the game. Read the text with the urim and thummim that you call “genre” and the nature of what is going on is radically transformed.

    I will agree with you that one of us misunderstands the nature of prophecy.

  2. Marv, your ‘wisdom’ is your own, and ignores the historical setting of Scripture itself. Further, considering that the book opening by declaring itself within the genre, there is no harm in seeing it as such. His audience certainly would have. What you ignore is reason.

    Your straw man arguments are rather weak. Genre not is simply denoted by the misuse of a name, although some would see that ‘John’ is not the Apostle John, and thus, should be excluded from the canon. Genre is the style of the work, and the goal. Further, prophecy is generally the same thing as ‘revealing’ or, you know, apocalypse. Both purport to reveal God’s will. Further, your attempt to suggest that unless one understands Revelation according to your predetermined limits is, well, dishonest. Considering that many throughout history simply do not see your viewpoint, I would say that it best to keep your imposed limits to yourself. Reading the book subjectively has lead to much damage, such as the damage done to a reading Genesis 1 as such.

    Your attempt at limiting my words is laughable. I am not sure if you know what the word ‘soon’ actually means, but such as in the end of the book, ‘quickly’ gives an effect of immediacy. Ask a preterist what soon means, if you need to.

    You use distant based on what? considering that people generally haven’t come to the conclusion on a date, or the fact that Revelation is connected with the other writings of the New Testament, I could argue that the Beast is modeled after Paul’s imagery, sure, but more so such things as the King of Tyre and the ‘ruler’ that Daniel angel fought.

    The passage you quoted is an supreme example of my point, actually, and excludes the idea of a ‘jigsaw’ puzzle thousands of years hence. Messianic Expectation, by the way, was developed not with Isaiah and others, but during the so-called intertestamentary times. Isaiah search for hope, and didn’t know when it would arrive, but that doesn’t mean that he thought his words were of any significance 700 years later. As a matter of fact, to think that what Isaiah said was about what was coming 700 years later is to sorely misunderstand the use of the office of the prophet and the message of Matthew.

    Tell, by quoting Numbers 12.6, where do you find the idea they constitute ‘riddles’? This is sad, but it demonstrates your subjective reading of Scripture as something that you want it to say and mean instead of what it actually does.

    You have yet to prove that you can discourse without attack, symbolizing your faulty and very subjective position, nor the meaning of prophecy – which I notice you didn’t actually return to the meaning of the word but inserted your own; and finally, that you understand the role of prophecy, which, again, are the words of the prophet who is a person sent by God to reveal God’s will for that audience.

    For example, Isaiah 7.14; 9.6 – Isaiah was speaking about Christ, but about the then and there of his situation. To think otherwise would be rather foolish. You can speak of your ‘game’ and your ‘exe-cheating’, which is anti-intellectualism at its finest, but until you realize the ancient use of such things as prophecy and genre, you’ll never understand Scripture.

  3. Point by point then.

    1. You say the book opens by “declaring itself within the genre.” This is the very statement (made by someone else) that led ultimately to my rejecting the idea of Revelation as apocalypse. Apokalupsis was not a genre designation when John wrote Revelation. None of the prior works in this putative genre so self-identify, only later works–and this term was used because of John’s use of it in Revelation. The Revelation is the genuine article of which other “apocalypses” were derivative imitations. The notion that there was a genre of “apocalypse” is a modern one. I don’t think, contrary to your assertion, that we have historical evidence that a first century audience would have had such a notion in mind, or that they did in fact read Revelation in this way. I know that this is a currently accpeted textbook answer, but I think it is wrong. You can continue to assert it, and I’m sure you will, but that doesn’t make it so.

    2. I am assuming that you are familiar with the standard explanation of how “prophecy” differs from “apocalyptic” or “apocalypse.” If not the wikipedia article is as good as any: I will admit that I did not express myself clearly in my response. I was not referring to pseudonymity in regard to Revelation, but as part of the typical description of apocalyptic. Allow me to try again in generic terms:

    a. Let A be a text that says it was written by X and was written by X, that presents itself as the report of a vision and truly is the report of a vision, that to the extent that it makes statements of prediction, does so before the events predicted.

    b. Let B be a text that says it was written by X but was actually written by someone much later, that presents itself as a report of a vision, but this is mere literary device, that presents statements of prediction but these are actually written after the events themselves.

    I suggest that A and B may likely look much alike, but not genuinely be alike, B being a fictive version of what A truly is. I suggest that Revelation is true prophecy, as I describe in A, and non-canonical apocalypses understood to be as I describe in B. I think clearly B-type documents exist, 1 Enoch for example. I do not think it is historically supported that ancient readers “understood the game” however, such that they recognized and accepted the pseudonymity, or recognized it as a text much later than Enoch. I don’t think such rules as we are told existed actually did. At any rate to read A by the rules constructed to read B would be the height of folly, if A is genuine prophecy and B spurious, immitative prophecy.

    3. I don’t think you’ve quite grasped what I say about the book, what you are describing as reading it “subjectively.” Funny you’d accuse me of dishonesty. What I am saying is that to understand the book one needs to accurately understand its genre. Misunderstanding the genre leads to distortions of interpretation. If myking this statement is what is “dishonest,” then you’ll have to take the same charge for yourself, since you are making the same statement. What we disagree on is the genre of the book.

    4. The genre is prophecy, and this entails a literary level encompassing a visionary level, i.e. John narrates his experience of the vision given by Christ through the Holy Spirit. The symbols are visionary not literary, though they certainly allude to the Scriptures, constantly. Thus they are visual representations used by Christ to convey His message to John and to the church, not word pictures used by John to communicate his understanding to his audience. The difference between these two approaches is foundational.

    5. Joel, you seem to have a rare gift of condescension. I’m not sure which statement you are referring to by “limiting my words,” but if laughter is the best medicine, glad to be of assistance. Revelation is a first century document. The Parousia has yet to occur. This gives us some indication of the extent of “soon.” Some of the events happened in the lifetime of the original audience, certainly, particularly in regard to Chs. 2 and 3. But the Preterist attempts and interpretation based on “soon” putting everything prior to A.D. 70, for example, are indeed laughable. Thanks, I enjoyed the guffaw. Feeling healthier already.

    6. Had to look back to see what “distant” you were referring to. “Distant” is based on Paul and John (the apostles, not the Beatles) being first century people and this being the 21st century and the glorious return of Christ having not yet occured. I did not suggest the the beast is “modeled after Paul’s imagery.” Certainly these are tied in with Daniel and the other prophets as well. It isn’t surprising, is it, that canonical prophecies are cohesive?

    7. I suppose you can imagine what you like about “messianic expectation,” based on what? The text of 1 Pet 1:10-11 is pretty clear: “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” Yes, this means the very prophets themselves tried to figure out the hows and whens at the time they prophesied. Yet they didn’t have all the pieces to put together, much less having them put together. As the various pieces were prophesied, more information was available. However, it was only after the coming of Christ that the pieces could accurately be assembled. You make a truly bizarre statement about “sorely misunderstand[ing” the use of the office of prophet…” Prophecies most definitely include predictions of events hundreds and even thousands of years in the future. It isn’t all that they do, but these predictions are very significantly present. I’ll admit one of us sorely misunderstands the concept. I’ll let you guess which one I think it is.

    8. Numbers 12 tells us that (Moses being the exception) God does speak in riddles (His word) when giving the prophet dreams and visions. This is not so they would be subjectively interpreted, though speculation is welcomed, but these riddles become meaningful at the time of fulfillment. Likely all our best guesses will be shown false when God fulfills his prophecy and the riddles “solved.” So sorry to make you sad, but this is the way God says that he operates in regard to prophecy. Paul alludes to this very passage in 1 Cor. 13:8, we see through a glass “darkly” (en ainigmati “in an enigma”). If we believe God Himself the visionary imagery of Revelation is largely in the nature of riddle, to be understood at fulfillment. It is not a set of stock images that would have been immediately obvious to first century readers.

    9. I detect a certain amount of projection in your statement about discoursing “without attack.” I think you are wrong about some of your positions and I state this clearly. I also provide Scriptural and what I consider logical reasons. You are the one who summarize my point of view as that the genre should be ignored. You would not characterize this as an “attack.” Since this is not what I say, to call this misrepresentation is no more than to make an accurate statement. You clearly have the intellectual heft to understand my point. So I have to conclude that in misstating it you do so intentionally.

    One of us employs verbage like “wisdom” in scare quotes, “dishonest” (in no quotes), the aforementioned condescension, characterization of my statements as “sad,” and so on. One of us resorts to personal characterizations. If I wanted to get nasty I’d get dyslexic with “Polycarp” or something. That would appear to be you. I am happy to discourse in terms of text, evidence, and logic, fallable as I may be. So “attack” is a poorly directed accusation, Joel.

    10. You do make a point with my “exe-cheating term,” which isn’t the nicest term, to be sure. The “game” I think may have been your own term. In this case I take it as neutral to positive. Why do you say this is anti-intellectual. That doesn’t really make sense. To advocate sound reason-based exegesis and reject spurious manipulaton of textual and interpretive arguments to reach a preconceived conclusion is what I mean by “purpose-driven exegesis” or “exe-cheating.” This is not anti-intellectual.

    That enough points for now?

  4. First, Marv, while I appreciate your layout, most would have understood point by point to mean one point at a time.
    1.) Parable. Christ spoke in parables. Parables are genres and methods of storytelling. According to your logic, it is not. I stress ‘your’ because you have created your own limitations without any grounding in reality. Your speculation is without evidence and is nothing more than a rejection of ‘modernity’ and biblical studies. Can you show that the first audience would have understood it to mean something more than what it said it was? You can say that the Revelation is the ‘genuine article;’ however, every other book was accepted by someone as the ‘genuine article’. Further, it wasn’t until much later that the book was considered completely canonical, and even then, questions lingered in the West until at least Luther. Again, you submit nothing but statements.

    2.) You silly notion of ‘the game’ undermines your intellectual credibility, Marv. Further, again, your ‘I don’t think such rules as we are told existed actually did.’ So, you create your own sceneries, history and evidences and build your argument on that? How can anyone honest argue based on those grounds?
    Yes, Revelation is ‘genuine’ but like the ‘genuine’ parables, does not remove it from historical examination nor genre setting. Simply because 1st Enoch was presented as written by Enoch – which, by the way, doesn’t mean that the community accepted it as such and could have accepted it as prophecy without accepting the author as stated – and it falls without the genre, doesn’t mean that Revelation does not. After all, we know that Jude had to have known of it and accepted some of it at the very least, just as early Church Fathers did. Again, your point is a logical fallacy because you have created your own evidences as nominated them as truth.

    3.) Again, only by your own evidences do you see your point. That is subjectivity.

    4.) The book is a prophecy because it is spoken by a prophet; it is apocalyptic because it reveals God’s will. The prophet suffers under immediate inspiration and speaks about what is to come ‘soon.’ The visions, while real, are expressed in the language of the prophet, through literary allusions to various Jewish and other contemporary sources. They are very much word pictures used to communicate to his Jewish-Christian audience his message.

    5.) I believe your gift is much more powerful, Marv, just as powerful as your subjectivity and your unwillingness to give any credence to views except for your own. You have redefined soon, quickly and Parouisa

    6.) Have you missed Pentecost? Or do you not understand the nature of the argument of preterism? Or, better yet, do you not understand that Revelation was to the audience then while Paul was speaking to the Eschatological end? Only cohesive when you ignore the facts.

    7.) Oh, let me guess, you don’t believe in Messianic Expectation of the 2nd Temple Period either? Considering how bad you misunderstand Scripture, the use of it and the ability to argue objectively, I have no doubt that you will not get what I am about to write. Read the passage again. While the Prophets spoke of Christ, there is no evidence that they knew about it. Even Christ Himself had to reveal to the Apostles what was contained their in – after the Resurrection, and with that, a mentioning of something not found in the current Canon. Further, regarding the Greek, there are some technical arguments in translation. (The Bible, contrary to popular opinion, wasn’t written in English nor last year). The meaning is simple – they wanted to know more than what was given. Does this mean that they thought that their prophecies were pointed to Christ hundreds of years later? No. They prophesied under immediate inspiration for the immediate. Christ brought completion to those words. I regret that you have leaned to your own understanding and cannot grasp that. Again, examine that passage again, fully, with the original languages and more than your own commentary.

    8.) Uh… No. The notion of dreams and visions are separated from riddles. Try again. 12.8 is about God speaking face to face someone and promises not to do so with hidden meanings, to Moses. Considering that God promised to give interpretation, as seen in Daniel and the New Testament, your ‘riddles’ are again, wrong. Nice, by the way, your new doctrine of having to believe your way in order to believe in God Himself. Actually, there were stock images because they were pulled from the Scriptures which were being read by John’s audience.

    9.) What Scripture? Two passages? No, your attacks are easily seen. You can go ‘dyslexic’ but the word is moderated and edited rather quickly.

    10.) Actually, ‘the game’ is your term, unless of course, you don’t read you own blog? No, what you mean is that when someone comes to a different conclusion than you, they are ‘manipulating’ the text and clearly doesn’t believe in God Himself.

  5. Joel, I have to wonder why you grow more acerbic with each interchange. May I suggest “please separate your different points into individual comments,” if that is what you wish. It may be that you overestimate your own clarity rather than my clairvoyance, which is limited at best. I guess I’ll let this be its own point.

  6. No, Marv, sorry, not more acrebic at all. Just returning what you have given. You may suggest it, and I will use it for you, but others have understood it easily enough. Sorry that you can’t.

  7. 1. Why are you talking about parables? I take it this is supposed to be a kind of parallel. It isn’t parallel. The parable was a known form and referred to as such in the NT. It is a tecnical term.

    I am saying that ,i>apocalypsis in Rev. 1:1 is not a technical term for a genre of literature the way parabola is for parables. I say that because I don’t think the evidence supports the idea that it is. Though there was a body of similar literature, I cannot find an ancient reference that these were called “apocalypses” or that the group was classed together in antiquity by the name apocalyptic or apocalypse. This is a term affixed to these in a later era, given the name specifically because of the similarities to Revelation. I believe there are a few texts that introduce themselves as “the revelation of X” but that these follow Revelation chronologically. The point here is that if I am correct about the evidence and what it shows then Rev. 1:1 is not a declaration about the genre of the book. Thus to suggest that it is would be to engage in anachronism.

    What does fill this role is the word propheteia. You are certainly correct that at this point we need to determine correctly what this tells us. While cutting and pasting from various dictionaries is a helpful place to start, I have suggested that Scripture’s own statements about the nature of Biblical prophecy would provide important information.

    I don’t know what your understanding of inspiration is exactly, but I hold that those books that were inspired were inspired from the moment of their composition. Thus it means little what the history of canonic recognition was, antilegomenon, Luther, whatever.

    At this point, rather than making snippy statements about me or the ideas I am expressing here, perhaps you have evidence that I am factually incorrect about the ancient use of the term apocalypsis>/i> for example. That would mean something. This “so’s your old man” approach is less than compeletely persuasive.

  8. 2. In regard to my notion of “game,” which you helpfully counter by labelling it “silly,” I did think that it was first your term. Looking back at TC’s blog, it does appear I first used it there. I don’t think it is original with me. The idea is that a genre constitutes a linguistic-cultural entity and comes equipped with “rules” that you have to know in order to process the data correctly. Your own example of parable is, at this point, apropos. So when we hear a sower went out to sow, though it is a direct statement, we understand it to be non-referential in terms of actual history.

    The game in question according to this notion of “apocalyptic” is that even though the text directly states X saw a vision and an angel told him this, by the nature of the rules of the “game” everyone knows this is similarly not referential to an actual event but a figure utilized by the author, similar to the way that Bunyan opens Pildrim’s Progress with talk about a dream. We know that this is not really a dream he had, but a literary device. (Actually I just checked, and even Bunyan says “in the similitude of a dream.”)

    My point is that I do not find that the evidence supports that this was a recognized game in the first century as it has been described in later centuries (the modern era). I have not found any ancient text that interprets a so-called apocalypse according to these rules or in any way shows that ancients did in fact understand such texts in this way. I conclude that this notion is an extrapolation backward as what they “must have understood” at the time.

    I suggest that the concept though well articulated and widely accepted is without historical support in terms of ancient reaction to this type of text. An appropriate response, should you think I am incorrect about what evidence is available is to direct me to the kind of ancient evidence that I claim is lacking. “Liar, liar, pants on fire” would be an example of a response that would be less helpful, though more consistent with past Polycarpian offerings.

  9. 3. Your point three being non-substantive, I will comment no further than to recognize my glaring fault in committing a split infinitive.

  10. Yes, and John’s prophecy notes that it is a revealing, an apocalypse. John meant it to denote to his audience exactly what he was writing about. We can place it in the genre along with the other books of the time which either denote that they are to reveal something about God’s will or call themselves a ‘revealing.’ No difference than the parable denotation.
    Again, a prophecy is the words of the prophet. Anything, such as Amos, etc.. is a prophecy. Whether denoting something in the immediate future or the hidden present, a prophecy reveals God’s will for the audience.
    You can choose to allow the destructive ‘scripture interprets scripture’ as the only method of interpretation, but to get to what the writer meant when they used certain words, we must turn to what the actual words, well, mean. Lexicons are there for that. I realize that you may not like them because they do not allow for subjectivity, or rather, keeping with how you interpret scripture so that it in turn interprets scripture to fit you (plural you here). The Scripture is clear, and has provided many examples. Further, the literature of the time does the same. As do the actual meanings of the words.

    Scripture is inspired. They weren’t voted on to be inspired, but breathed out by God in one way or another. But, the point of the recognizing the Canon – which it took a long time to do – is that not everyone accepted certain books, especially as the cultural center of Christianity moved away from its roots, which is why the meaning of Revelation has been lost. The point, again, is that Revelation has been argued over, from its canonical status to the method of interpretations, etc… for a very long time, and to assume that one way in particular is to ‘believe in God Himself’ is ludicrous.

    Actually, I’m not sure I am the one who has to prove these things. You are presenting a counter to the widely accepted position that Revelation is an apocalypse. If I were too, I could point to the apocalyptic literature in which God the thrust of the message is God revealing something, whether sins, the immediate future, etc…. Revelation is prophetic because the writer is a prophet shown by God His will in which John reveals to his audience.

  11. Marv, not the many ‘I’s’ in your comment. You have created a faulty notion of ‘the game’ 2000 years ago without any evidence, dismissing all the other evidence along the way. I suspect completely that is because you must hold on to your bad interpretation of Revelation at any costs, even if means dismissing evidence. i have learned that with debaters such as yourself who create their own evidence, no argument is won, because no matter the evidence presented, it will not satisfy you.

    What you simply do not ‘get’ is that the book was written for that time, for that audience, and that audience would have gotten it just fine, regardless of either your opinion or mine opinion about genres, or interpretations. To reveal God’s will and not have it understood would defeat the purpose. I would urge you to read the link provide for by Steve for a better understanding of prophecy in the OT.

  12. 4. I agree with you about John’s making several conscious allusions to the OT. However, this is driven by the visual experience he had. That the beast is described, for example, in ways that draw on the sequential beasts in Daniel, this is in no way attributable to John’s authorial creativity.

    I think you are stating the matter backward by saying it is prophetic because it is spoken by a prophet. A prophet may say many things that are not prophecy. The act of giving a prophecy, however, is some justification for calling someone a prophet.

    Apocalyptic because it reveals God’s will? Does this make the Decalogue apocalyptic?

    “Soon” is definitely a crux interpretum in the book. In my opinion it is made to do unlikey feats of amazing contortionism by the Preterists. Perhaps you have a different opinion on the matter.

  13. ‘Several’? No offense, Marv, but have you actually read the book? Something like 2/3’s of the Revelation can be traced back to the OT. Of the 405 verses, 275 show connection to the Jewish scriptures. That’s not several, Marv, and attributable to both God’s inspiration and John’s creativity in telling the story.
    A prophecy, but the nature of the work, is spoken by a prophet.
    You can leave off all the others things I’ve said about revealing God’s will for the audience, etc… and you can leave off the fact that Moses is considered a prophet. You can, but it doesn’t help your case.
    Again – opinion. Yours.

  14. 6. As a matter of fact, I was out of town when Pentecost happened.

    There are Preterists and there are Preterists. If you are now stating that Pentecost was the Second Coming, this pulls up two words that begin with h, one being Hymenaeus.

    I am informed regarding the other by perusal of your posts.

  15. 7. Joel, you’ve been reading books, haven’t you? I know the Bible wasn’t written last year because I have a copy I bought ten years ago. It is in English though.

    The above was in the genre known as sarcasm. Not to be interpreted literally. Maybe some of the below too.

    Joel, why do you use such big words if you know I won’t get what you’re writing. So unfair.

    Had to glance at your CV. How do you expect me to match up to your nine hours in religion?

    Since it is an original language argument, maybe you’d better explain it to me with the benefit of your training and experience.

  16. I really enjoyed reading this post. I’ve been having casual conversations about eschatology with friends recently and have been wondering about the nature of prophets and prophecy.

    Can you recommend any books that I can check the library for?

  17. Nathan, Fee and Bauckham have some excellent books on Revelation. Also, Beale has one on the Greek text. As far as apocalypticism, Horsley has one concerning the genre during the time period which I find essential.

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