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Revelation 4-5. Throne 4:2-6 Introduced 4:1 Meta tauta is a transitional formula. Introduces new section Previous concern: what has occurred on earth in the churches. Now concerned with heavenly realities. Revelation 4-5. Open door Possibly reflects ancient cosmology

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Revelation 4-5


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    1. Revelation 4-5 • Throne 4:2-6 • Introduced 4:1 • Meta tauta is a transitional formula. • Introduces new section • Previous concern: what has occurred on earth in the churches. • Now concerned with heavenly realities.

    2. Revelation 4-5 • Open door • Possibly reflects ancient cosmology • Earth is surrounded by a vault of heaven, the dominion of the divine. • Seer hears a voice. • Summoned to ascend, see things necessary meta tauta • Note usage 1:19 • Chronological?

    3. Revelation 4-5: The Throne • Described 4:2-6 • Note description of throne • In heaven • One on the throne is described as jasper and sardis, and around the throne an emerald or, more accurately, a nimbus of emerald color • See Ezekiel 1:26-28 • See 1 Enoch 18:8-11 • See 1 Enoch 14:18-22.

    4. Revelation 4-5: The Throne • Similarities • Floor of crystal (see 4:6) • Lightning (see 4:5) • Cherubim of fire (Rev 4:6) • Latter reminiscent of the four living creatures. • Rev. 4:, the living creatures are in the midst of the throne. • In Ezek. 1:22-26, they are separated from it.

    5. Revelation 4-5: The Throne • Other Epiphany scenes • Ex. 19:16-25 • Epiphanies of Zeus • IL 8:1-5 • Od. 5:1-5 • Portrayals of Jupiter on Roman coins, particularly in period of Domitian

    6. Revelation 4-5: The Throne • Peculiarities • In most visions of the heavenly throne, or throne chariot, millions upon millions worship God. • In Rev 4 there are 4 living creatures and 24 elders. • This is remarkable in visions of the divine throne, or throne chariot (Merkavah) in Jewish literature.

    7. Revelation 4-5: The Throne. • The “Rainbow” • See Ezek. 1 • Also, descriptions of near eastern divinities. • Often surrounded by a “nimbus” • Can be a rainbow or a halo, or a fire • It surrounds the divine figure

    8. Revelation 4-5: The Throne • Conclusions • Depiction of the throne derives primarily from texts of the Hebrew Bible, or Jewish documents, such as 1 Enoch. • Also imagery comprehensible to the wider Hellenistic/Roman world. • Depictions of gods, especially Jupiter/Zeus. • Nimbus.

    9. Revelation 4-5: The Throne • Significance of imagery. • Similar to theophanies from the Hebrew Bible. • What is the impact on Jewish Christian readers? • Can be read as similar to theophanies in classical and near eastern texts. • What is the impact upon Gentile readers • What is it saying about the imperial cult?

    10. Revelation 4-5: Around the Throne • Four Living Creatures (4:7-9) • See Ezek. 1:6-21 • What is similar? • What is different?

    11. Revelation 4-5: Around the throne • Creatures Ezek. 1:6-10 • Each creature has 4 faces • Order of faces: • Human • Lion • Ox • Eagle

    12. Revelation 4-5:Around the throne • Rev. 4:7 • Each creature has one face • Are in following order • Lion • Ox • Human • Eagle

    13. Revelation 4-5: Around the throne • Differences • Both conclude with face of an eagle. • Revelation, each creature has one face • Ezekiel, each creature has 4 faces • What accounts for the differences?

    14. Revelation 4-5: Around the throne • How many wings do the creatures have in Ezekiel? • How many in Revelation? • Why?

    15. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • In Ezekiel, each creature has four wings. • In Rev. 4, the creatures have six wings. • What accounts for the differences? • See 4:8 • What happens here?

    16. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Not only do the creatures fly about, they sing in 4:8, whereas in Ezek. 1. they are silent. • They sing the Trishagion, “Holy, Holy, Holy …” • This imagery derives from Isa 6. • The description of the wings combines the imagery from Ezek 1 and Isa 6.

    17. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • We see here an example of John’s method. • He does not quote Scripture, he alludes to it. • In the process, he simplifies the description of the four living creatures. • He combines two texts, and in the conflation provides a new description.

    18. Revelation 4-5. Around the Throne • Is the description actually derived from the Hebrew Bible? • Most scholars say yes. • A minority, however, say no. • From where do they propose that John derives his imagery?

    19. Revelation 4-5: Around the Throne • Astrological imagery (see Kraft, Boll, Malina). • Of twelve astrological signs, four are primary, and rule the others. • Thus, the four creatures are thought to represent four astrological signs. • Is this perspective valid?

    20. Revelation 4-5: Around the Throne • Problem comes with the sign of the eagle. • It comes where one would expect the water bearer, Aquarius. • Scheme is based upon the precedent of ancient near eastern depictions of heavenly scenes combining astral and animal imagery. • Similarly, later synagogues have depictions of the zodiac, with Helios at the center and the four seasons at the side, in typical Hellenistic fashion.

    21. Revelation 4-5. Around the Throne • Precedent. • In Qumran 4Q318 there is a zodiac calendar with a brontologion (“word of thunder”), associating thunder and zodiac. • Rev 4 can, thus, be placed on a continuum of Jewish zodiac speculation • Does this mean the four living creatures derive from zodiac themes?

    22. Revelation 4-5: Around the throne • Zodiac as inspiration for 4 living creatures. • Probably, this is not the source of John’s description. • The simplest explanation is probably the best. • John employs imagery from the Hebrew Bible. • He combines Isa 6 and Ezek 1, with some reference to Ex. 19.

    23. Revelation 4-5. Around the Throne • Does our conclusion about the four living creatures exclude the possibility that John employs astrological imagery? • Not necessarily. • There is one image where this is explanation is very plausible.

    24. Revelation 4-5. Around the Throne • The twenty-four elders • Johns description of twenty four elders has caused much scholarly speculation. • Are they representative of the twelve tribes of Israel combined with the 12 apostles (see Rev 21:12-14) • Are they the twenty four priestly orders of 1 Chron 24:7-18? • Neither of these explanations explain the elders’ attire • Gold crowns • Dressed in white

    25. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Here the case for astrological derivation of the imagery makes more sense • John is utilizing the tradition of the heavenly court (Job 1-2; 1 Kings 22:19-23). • Ancient traditions include subordinate deities in the presence of the high god. • These divinities carry out the work of the high god (see again, 1 Kings 22:19-23)

    26. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • The twenty four elders, then would represent the twenty four star gods of Babylonian speculation. • Astrological speculation is quite popular in the 1st century, and the imagery is available to John. • Also, we have seen that there are precedents for utilization of astrological imagery in 1st century Judaism. • Here, John applied astrological speculation with other imagery

    27. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Also the imagery of casting crowns. • From time of Augustus, emperors receive gifts from subject peoples. • The coloniae and municipa of Italy, for example, offered Augustus crowns, weighing about 35,000 pounds of gold in 29 BCE (F Millar, The Emperorint he Roman World (31 BC-AD 357), 1977, p. 141.

    28. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • D. E. Aune concludes that since there is no parallel here in Jewish or Israelite literature, the only possible source of imagery is Hellenistic Roman custom (D. E. Aune, “Roman Imperial Court Ceremonial”). • This theme is also linked to the hymnic praise, as we shall see shortly.

    29. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Lion who is a Lamb (5:5-7). • One of the most dramatic scenes of Rev. 4-5 includes the description of the Lion of Judah (Rev 5:5), who becomes the slain Lamb, who takes the scroll and opens its seals. • From where does this imagery derive?

    30. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • The scene has strong antecedents in both the Hebrew Bible, as well as in ancient near eastern and classical myth. • The ancient creation myth describes a heavenly court in anxiety. • Who will defeat the chaos monster, Tiamat? • After this question [period of anxiety], Baal steps forward and accepts the task. • He engages and defeats the monster • As a result, he is installed as high god.

    31. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Hesiod’s Theogony. • Zeus accepts the role of leader of the gods. • He leads the gods in defeat of the Titans. • As result, he is established as ruler of the gods (2.881-84). • Likewise, the classic creation myth has Apollo commissioned to defeat Python. • He does so, and his honored.

    32. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Commissioning scene in the Hebrew Bible • 1 Kings 22:19-23. • In the heavenly court, figures are assembled. • The question is raised, who will go out and cause Ahab to come up to Ramoth Gilead? • One says one thing, and then another [period of anxiety] • Finally, one comes forward and has a plan, to put a lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets to deceive Ahab. • This figure is commissioned to go on, accomplish this task, and bring about Ahab’s destruction.

    33. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Similarly, Job 1-2. • The satan provides a similar role. • The satan is asked of God what he has been doing. • He has been roaming the earth. • Has he considered God’s servant Job • The satan proposes a test. • God allows it.

    34. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Revelation 5:1-5 • John sees a scroll with seven seals. • He is asked who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals. • None is worthy. • John weeps • He is told not to weep, because the Lion of Judah, the root of David, is worthy. • These are traditional names for the Messiah.

    35. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Rev. 5:6-8, the Lamb comes forward. • The lion becomes a Lamb, with seven horns. • The horn is a symbol of power. • Yet, this power is unusual. • It is not exercised through the crushing of enemies. • It is exercised by being the lamb that is slain.

    36. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Why is this imagery unusual? • Example. In the “Animal Apocalypse” of 1 Enoch, the messianic figure is a white bull with great horns. • This figure destroys the corrupt priests and enemies of God. • There is nothing in the text about the bull being killed.

    37. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • In 4 Ezra 7:28-32. • The Messiah, God’s son, does die. • This is after reigning 400 years. • But so does the rest of creation, which is restored after seven days. • There is nothing about the messiah defeating God’s enemies by dying.

    38. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne. • Why is the lamb portrayed this way? • It is without precedent in Judaism • The Lamb is slaughtered, and receives the scroll, possibly a book of destiny. • Note, despite the fact 1:5 refers to Jesus as the “one who loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood” nothing in 5:6-8 or 5:9-14 mentions that the Lamb has redeemed people from their sins. • Sin offerings were goats and bulls.

    39. Revelation 4-5. Around the throne • Work as slaughtered Lamb is not so much a sacrifice, but dying and through this act constituting a new people. • Allusion seems to be to the Passover Lamb of Exodus, which is not seen as a sacrifice for sin. • Lamb acts as a redeeming people, who creates a new people through his own sacrifice.

    40. Revelation 4-5. Around the Throne • Further remarkable features of the imagery. • For its violent imagery • Despite the fact that the Lamb leads an army in 19:11-21 • No battle scene is ever described. • Enemies of God assemble, and are destroyed by the sword that proceeds out of the mouth of the rider. • The heavenly army does not participate in the victory • What does this say about the Lamb’s victory (5:5)? • See L. L. Johns, Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John, 2003.

    41. Revelation 4-5. Hymns of praise • Both Rev 4:11 and 5:9-14, we find hymns. • Common features • Hymns of 4:11; 5:9 and 12 all begin with acclamation “ worthy” • All give praise to God and to Christ for accomplishments, either in creation or redemption. • Both receive acclamation from an appropriate group. • God and Christ receive similar praise. • L. Hurtado describes this as “binetarian worship.” • See. R. Bauckham, “The Worship of Jesus,” in Climax of Prophecy, 118-49.

    42. Revelation 4-5. Hymns • In 4:11, four features to be noted. • Praise opens with, “worthy are you.” • Outline of God’s characteristics, for which praise is due. • Ceremony of prostration. • Attire of the elders.

    43. Revelation 4-5. Hymns. • Acclamation, “worthy” similar to that given by Roman Senate to the emperor. • This worthiness is inspired by a description of the throne. • Imagery of Rev. 4-5 reminds readers not only of theophany scenes from the Hebrew Bible, but also to the likening of the emperor to being the embodiment of Jupiter, particularly in the Roman East.

    44. Revelation 4-5. Hymns • Outline of reasons for praise in 4:11b-d is reminiscent of reasons for praise given to gods and humans in Quintillian, Inst. 3.7.6-9.

    45. Revelation 4-5. Hymns • “Oratory is directed primarily to the praise of gods and men, but occasionally to the praise of animals or even of inanimate objects. In gods, we first venerate the majesty of their nature in general germs, and then the power of each individually and any inventions which may have benefited the human race. Power is demonstrated of Jupiter in the governance of all things, of Mars in war … Some must be praised from their offspring, as Apollo and Diana to Latona. Some must be praised because born immortal, others because they won immortality by their valor, a theme which the piety of our sovereign has made the glory even of the present times (tr. by K. M. Krentz, in “Epideiktic and Hymnody: The New Testament and its World,” BR 40 [1995], 56).

    46. Revelation 4-5. Hymns • Quintillians criteria also apply to 5:9-14 • The Slain Lamb accomplishes a task which makes him alone worthy to open the scroll by breaking its seals (5:1-5) • The Lamb is acclaimed with shouts of worthiness • The Lamb accomplishes his goal

    47. Revelation 4-5: Hymns • Similar language was ascribed to Domitian, who, in defeating the Chatti in Germany wages a war in behalf of Zeus (Jupiter). • He restored peace to the empire. • As Jupiter (Zeus) defeated the Titans with a thunderbolt, so Domitian has accomplished a victory, restoring order to the universe. • Similar language is applied here to the slain Lamb.

    48. Revelation 4-5: Hymns • Ceremony of prostration, and acclamation of a multitude • Ceremony of prostration was the typical act of obeisance, either of a defeated enemy, or of subordinate ruler. • Likewise, the Senate, in its acclamation of an emperor, acted in behalf of the whole empire, the “universal consensus.

    49. Revelation 4-5. Hymns • In contrast to the fiction of universal consensus in the senatorial ritual, the Lamb receives true universal acclamation in Rev 5:13. • This universal acclamation demonstrates the Lamb’s worthiness to receive praise as God’s agent,. • The language mirrors in reality what the Senate ascribes symbolically, and demonstrates the Lamb’s greater worthiness.

    50. Revelation 4-5. Hymns • The Attire. • The clothing of the 24 elders represents the vestments used by priests in Asia minor. • By imitating the attire, the Seer points the reader to the truth behind the appearances, what the imperial cult ascribes to the emperor and the empire, belongs only to God and Christ (see my article “Glory to God and to the Lamb, JSNT 83 [2001], 89-109).