Well WS has the NOAB 4 so i suspect they open to it now. I thought I would offer a comparative look at a few different chapters and an Introduction. I value both and like i said would welcome either version. Ruth 1, Psalm 1, Matthew 5, James 1, Introduction to Revelation.
1.1–22: Ruth and Naomi. The two principal characters of the story are Naomi, an Israelite woman, and her Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth. 1–5: Naomi had to leave her homeland because of a famine. While in Moab she lost her husband and both sons to death. 1: Bethlehem of Judah is five miles south of Jerusalem. It was the home of David’s family (1 Samuel 16.1–5). Moab occupied the territory east of the Dead Sea and south of the river Arnon. The Israelites believed that the Moabites were related to them through Lot (Genesis 19.37), the nephew of Abraham. Conflicting claims to the same territory led to enmity between the two peoples (Deuteronomy 23.4).
1.6–18: Ruth chooses to stay with Naomi, who was returning to Judah.
1.19–22: Naomi’s losses have embittered her.
1:1-22 Naomi and Ruth.
1:1 When the judges ruled, that is, in premonarchic Israel. Although famine is often God's mode of punishment (Lev 26:19-20; Deut 28:23-24; 1 Kings 17:1; Jer 24:10; Ezek 6:12), here, reminiscent of Abraham (Gen 12:10), Isaac (Gen. 26:1), and Jacob (Gen 45:6-28), it explains why an Israelite family would abandon its homeland. In the land implies a widespread, not merely local, famine. Bethlehem, 8 km (5 mi) south of Jerusalem, was the home of David's family (1 Sam 16:1-5). One meaning of the name Bethlehem ("house of bread/food") is ironic in view of the famine of ch 1, but also foreshadows the grain harvest of ch 2, and the parallel human harvest, the birth of an heir, in ch 4. Food and fertility are key themes in Ruth. Moab occupied the land east of the Dead Sea. Territorial disputes led to enmity between Israel and Moab (Deut 23:3-6). Israelites claimed the Moabites were related to them through Lot (Gen 19:37), nephew of Abraham, but many references to Moabites in the Bible are hostile or derogatory (Num 22-25; Deut 23:3-5; Isa 15-16; Jer 48).
1:2 Ephrathites, people of Ephrathah (see 4:11), either another name for Bethlehem or a nearby settlement; it was a place associated with David's family (1 Sam 17:12). Several of the characters' names have thematic significance. Naomi ("Pleasantness") pointedly changes her name in v. 21. Although Elimelech's name ("My God is King") does not seem symbolically charged, the names of his sons, Mahlon ("Sickly") and Chilion ("Frail") foreshadow their early deaths (v. 5).
1:4 The etymology of both Orpah and Ruth remains obscure.
1:6 Only here and in 4:13 does the Lord actively intervene in the story. Food (Heb "leḥem") supplies the impetus for Naomi's return home and is also an example of word play on the name Bethlehem. Return (Heb "shub"), although not always evident in English translation, this thematically important word occurs ten times in ch 1. See 4:15.
1:8-9 The first of a series of blessings (2:4; 2:12; 2:19-20; 3:10; 4:11-12; 4:14) that punctuate the story at key moments. Deal kindly (or do "ḥesed"), an expression (repeated in 2:20 and 3:10) that describes, above all, God's covenant relationship with Israel (Ex 20:5-6; 34:6-7; Deut 5:9-10); both Orpah and Ruth have exemplified this ideal on a human scale. The designation, mother's house, rather than the usual "father's house" (Gen 38:11; Lev 22:13; etc.), may have been used in circumstances associated with marriage (Gen 24:28; Song 3:4; 8:2). Only remarriage would ensure a childless young widow's security.
1:12 In a society that valued women primarily as childbearers, postmenopausal Naomi is too old to remarry. She faces destitution.
1:13 Naomi's experience of the hand of the Lord has been destructive (see Ex 9:15; 1 Sam 5:9), but she will find that the Lord's hand also rescues (Deut 6:21) and brings joy (Eccl 2:24).
1:17 Swearing by the Lord, Ruth makes good her new religious allegiance. She affirms her new kinship ties by her promise to stay with Naomi even in death, an allusion to burial according to Israelite custom in Naomi's family tomb.
1:19 The women of Bethlehem, commenting collectively on the new arrivals (cf. 1 Sam 18:6-7) call attention to Naomi's sad fate; in 4:17 they will celebrate her good fortune.
1:20 Almighty (Heb "Shaddai") is an ancient name for God (Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25; Ex 6:3; Num 24:4; Ps 68:14) that reappeared in the postexilic era (Job 27:2; Ezek 1:24; Joel 1:15; Job 27:2).
1:22 Describing Ruth as the Moabite... from the country of Moab, the narrative emphasizes her outsider status in Bethlehem. Notice of the barley harvest (April-May), ironic in view of Ruth and Naomi's poverty, nevertheless hints at a reversal of the motif of emptiness in 1:21 and propels the story into the next chapter.
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Psalm 1: The contrasting fate of the righteous and the wicked (a wisdom psalm). Compare Jeremiah 17.5–8. 1–3: The prosperity of the righteous. 1: Happy is the conventional translation of a Hebrew expression meaning literally “the happinesses of.” 2: Compare Psalm 119. 4–6: The disastrous end of the wicked. 4: In threshing, the crushed sheaves were tossed into the air, where the wind blew away the lighter chaff.
The two ways. A wisdom psalm, used as a preface to the Psalter, intended as a guide to the Psalter as a repository of divine instruction. Wisdom characteristics include the introductory assertion that the virtuous are happy (e.g., Prov 3:13); it continues with the language of the way, and the sharp contrast between the righteous and the wicked.
1:1-3 The psalmist's nonassociation with the wicked and devotion to the Torah.
1:4-5 The wicked are like worthless, insubstantial chaff; this contrasts with the righteous, who are like flourishing trees (v. 3; cf. Jer 17:7-8).
1:6 The final verse brings the righteous and wicked together for a sharper contrast.
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5.1–7.27: The Sermon on the Mount sounds the keynote of the new age that Jesus came to introduce. Internal analysis and comparison with Luke’s Gospel suggest that the Evangelist (in accord with his habit of synthesis) has inserted into this account of the Sermon portions of Jesus’ teaching given on other occasions. 1: He sat down, the usual position of Jewish rabbis while teaching (compare Luke 4.20–21).
5.3–12: The Beatitudes (Luke 6.17; Luke 6.20–23) proclaim God’s favor toward those who aspire to live under his rule. 3: Poor in spirit, those who feel a deep sense of spiritual poverty (Isaiah 66.2). 4: Comforted, the word implies strengthening as well as consolation.
5.5: Psalm 37.11. 6: Isaiah 55.1–2; John 4.14; John 6.48–51. 7: Will receive mercy, on the day of judgment. 8: Purity of heart is single-mindedness or sincerity, freedom from mixed motives; it is not synonymous with chastity, but includes it (Psalm 24.4; Hebrews 12.14). See God, 1 Corinthians 13.12; 1 John 3.2; Revelation 22.4.
5.9: Peacemakers are not merely “peaceable,” but those who work earnestly to “make” peace. Will be called children of God, will be acknowledged as such by God. 10: 1 Peter 3.14; 1 Peter 4.14. 12: 2 Chronicles 36.15–16; Matthew 23.37; Acts 7.52.
5.13–16: The witness of the disciples. 13: Mark 9.49–50; Luke 14.34–35. 14: Philippians 2.15; John 8.12. 15: See Mark 4.21 n. 16: 1 Peter 2.12.
5.17–20: The relation of Jesus’ message to the Jewish law was a great concern to followers with a Jewish background. 17: The prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures comprise the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets (see Luke 24.27 n.; Luke 24.44 n.). Many Jews esteemed the prophets less than the law; hence the word or here. 18: Mark 13.31; Luke 16.17. 19: Breaks, or “sets aside.” Teaches, James 3.1. 20: Righteousness, one’s acceptance of God’s requirements and one’s being accepted by God (Luke 18.10–14).
5.21–48: Illustrations of the true understanding of the Law. 21: The judgment, a local Jewish court established in every town or city in accordance with the command in Deuteronomy 16.18. 22: Council, the Sanhedrin, comprising seventy members. 25–26: Luke 12.57–59. 26: Penny, see Luke 12.59 n.
5.27: Exodus 20.14; Deuteronomy 5.18. Adultery carried the death penalty (Leviticus 20.10; Deuteronomy 22.22). 29–30: Mark 9.43–48; Matthew 18.8–9. 31: It was also said, Deuteronomy 24.1–4. 32: The expression except . . . unchastity occurs also in Matthew 19.9; it is absent from the accounts in Mark 10.11–12 and Luke 16.18 (compare also Romans 7.2–3; 1 Corinthians 7.10–11).
5.33–37: Leviticus 19.12; Numbers 30.2; Deuteronomy 23.21; Matthew 23.16–22; James 5.12. 35: Isaiah 66.1.
5.38: Exodus 21.23–24; Leviticus 24.19–20; Deuteronomy 19.21. Though this principle controlled retaliation in primitive society, it did not justify it. 39–42: Luke 6.29–30; Romans 12.17; 1 Corinthians 6.7; 1 Peter 2.19; 1 Peter 3.9. 40: To give the cloak, a long outer garment, was a proof of greater self-denial than to give the coat (inner tunic; see Matthew 10.10 n.). 41: Soldiers could compel civilians to carry their baggage; to go a second mile would relieve another from the burden. 44–48: Luke 6.27–28; Luke 6.32–36. 45: To be children of God is to pattern attitudes after God’s. The words children of commonly mean persons who show the quality named or trait of character implied (see Matthew 23.31 n.; Luke 6.35; Luke 10.6; John 8.39–47). 48: Be perfect, in love to all (Colossians 3.14; 1 John 4.19).
5:1-7:27 The Sermon on the Mount. The first of the five discourses (chs 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23-25). A much shorter version is in Lk 6:17-38.
5:1-12 The Beatitudes.
5:1-2 Jesus, like Moses (Ex 19:3), ascends a mountain to begin his teaching.
5:3-11 Blessed means happy or satisfied (Ps 1:1). In these nine beatitudes Jesus describes the ideal characteristics of the members of the Matthean community. They promise God's comfort in the coming age (Isa 61:2).
5:5 Ps 37:11. Meek, not "submissive" or "inconsequential" but aware of one's proper position in the kingdom; not overweening.
5:6, 10 Justice, fairness, or righteousness are vital for disciples of Jesus (Ps 72:2; 1 Enoch 96:5).
5:8 Pure in heart, sincere, free from mixed motives; Ps 24:4; 51:10.
5:11 A saying that perhaps reflects the difficult context in which the later Matthean community found itself (10:18, 39; 16:25).
5:12 Persecuted the prophets, see 1 Kings 19:10; Neh 9:26.
5:13-16 The disciple in the world.
5:13 Salt, a preservative as well as a flavoring agent.
5:15 Lamp, a term in the Hebrew Bible for David and his descendants (1 Kings 11:36; Ps 132:17). The members of the community will fulfill God's plan for Israel (Isa 42:6; 49:6).
5:17-48 Jesus and the law. This section discusses the community's understanding of the Torah, or law.
5:17-19 Jesus and his followers in Matthew fulfill the law through Jesus' teaching, though they were accused of neglecting the law (12:2). Prophets, the second division of the Hebrew Bible, including Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, as well as the prophetic books.
5:20 Scribes, authoritative interpreters of the law.
5:21-48 Jesus engages the ten commandments and other aspects of Mosaic law. His teaching reveals God's purpose in giving the law (19:3-9).
5:21 Ex 20:13; Deut 5:17. Judgment, by a local court.
5:22 Council, the Sanhedrin.
5:27 Ex 20:14; Deut 5:18.
5:30 18:8-9; Mk 9:43-48.
5:31 Deut 24:1-4.
5:32 Except... unchastity, absent from the parallels in Mk 10:11-12 and Lk 16:18, but see 19:9 [note].
5:33-37 Lev 19:12; Num 30:2; Deut 23:21.
5:35 Isa 66:1; Ps 48:2.
5:38-42 These verses form the core of the nonviolence associated with Jesus' teaching.
5:38 Ex 21:23-24; Lev 24:19-20; Deut 19:21.
5:40 To give the cloak, or outer garment, would leave a person naked. The law forbade keeping a poor person's cloak overnight (Ex 22:26-27; Deut 24:12-13).
5:41 Soldiers could compel civilians to carry their baggage (27:32); going the second mile would perhaps spare another from such compulsion.
5:43-48 Love and wholeness.
5:43 Love your neighbor quotes Lev 19:18 (see Ex 23:4-5), but hate your enemy is not commanded there.
5:48 Perfect (see 19:21), or "merciful" (Lk 6:36), reflects the command to complete obedience (Deut 18:13) and holiness (Lev 19:2).
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1.1: Salutation. 1: Dispersion describes Jews scattered outside Palestine (see John 7.35). Its metaphorical use here testifies to the church’s sense of being aliens in this world as well as the heir of Israel (Galatians 4.21–31; Philippians 3.20; 1 Peter 1.1).
1.2–18: The blessings of trials. Trials are a ground for rejoicing. 5: Wisdom, see James 3.13 n. 6: The sea, Isaiah 57.20; Jeremiah 49.23. 7–8: The doubter’s entire conduct reflects inconstancy of purpose (Matthew 6.24). 10–11: Isaiah 40.6–7.
1.12: The crown of life, see 2 Timothy 4.8 n. 13: Temptation is not from God, but from human passions. 17: Father of lights, creator of the heavenly bodies (Genesis 1.14–18; Psalm 136.7). 18: The first fruits of harvest were frequently offered to God (Leviticus 23.10; Numbers 15.21; Deuteronomy 18.4).
1.19–27: True worship. 19–20: Anger, see Ephesians 4.26 n. 21: Rid yourselves, strip off as dirty clothing. The implanted word, the gospel which has been received and is now growing. James uses a variety of expressions for the gospel: perfect law (James 1.25), law of liberty (James 1.25; James 2.12), royal law (James 2.8). 22: Be doers . . . , not merely hearers, Matthew 7.24–27; Romans 2.13. 25: The perfect law, the Jewish description of the Mosaic law, is here applied to the gospel, the “law” (James 1.27; James 2.1–13) through which a believer obtains freedom. Blessed, Psalm 1.1; Matthew 5.3–11. The word points to the happiness of the person who has God’s favor. 26–27: Religion consists of more than devotional exercises (Matthew 25.35–36).
1:1 Salutation. Servant of God occurs elsewhere only in Titus 1:1. In the Hebrew Bible, "servant of the Lord" or "my servant" is applied to Moses (Deut 34:5; Josh 1:1), David (2 Sam 7:5; Ps 78:70), Daniel (Dan 6:20), and Israel (Isa 42:1; 49:3). Dispersion, Greek "diaspora," the scattering of Jews outside Palestine, here applied to Christians (see 1 Pet 1:1). Twelve tribes, the church as the new Israel. Greetings, a Hellenistic literary refinement (see Acts 15:23).
1:2-8 Faith that rejoices in trials.
1:2 Trials, or "temptations," "tests" (see Gen 22:1; Mt 4:1-14; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 1:6).
1:3-4 Testing... endurance... complete, a catena, or series of linked phrases, that builds to a climax; cf. Rom 5:3-4. Mature and complete, better "and perfect," recalling the teaching of Jesus (Mt 5:48).
1:5 Wisdom, ask God, cf. 1 Kings 3.
1:6 Wave... sea... wind, see also 3:4; cf. Isa 57:20.
1:8 Double-minded, trying to hold two incompatible views; used in 4:8, and nowhere else in early Christian writings. The author's vocabulary includes other rare terms ("Father of lights" 1:17, "implanted word" 1:21, "cycle of nature" 3:6).
1:9-11 A reversal of fortunes.
1:9-10 Lowly... the rich, wealthy people can be Christians; the issue is not social standing but unjust behavior; see 2:2-6; 5:1-6.
1:10 Like a flower, see Ps 103:15; Isa 40:6-7.
1:11 On the reversal of fortune, see 1 Sam 2:7; Lk 1:52-53; 6:20-26; 16:19-31.
1:12-18 God who rewards faithful endurance.
1:12 Blessed is reminiscent of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-11; Lk 6:20-22) and the refrain in the Psalms (e.g., 1:1). The crown of life, the only other occurrence is in Rev 2:10. A reiteration of vv. 2-3. Promised to those who love him; cf. Ex 20:6; Deut 5:10; Rom 8:28.
1:13-16 Some Hellenistic Jews believed that each person has both an evil inclination and a good inclination; because God created both, the individual might blame God for moral lapses. James vigorously refutes this position (see Sir 15:11-20) without compromising a pastoral stance (my beloved).
1:17-18 A return to the subject of God's generosity (v. 5). Father of lights, the title also occurs in CD 5.17-18; Apocalypse of Moses 36.5; Testament of Abraham 7.60; cf. Gen 1:15-16; Ps 136:7. Gave us birth, i.e., as Christians (cf. 1 Pet 1:23). Word of truth, i.e., the gospel (see Eph 1:13; Col 1:5). The Christian life thus constitutes a new creation.
1:19-25 Righteousness in word and deed.
1:19 A threepart wisdom saying (cf. Sir 5:11) alerts the reader to an important distinction between James and Paul. Paul (2 Cor 5:21) probably means a "righteousness found in God" but imparted to believers as a gift, whereas the Jewish Christian James means a standard of righteousness established by God to which the believer seeks to conform.
1:21 Implanted word, a rare phrase meaning the same as "word of truth" in 1:18.
1:22-25 Righteousness for James is a unity of word and deed.
1:22 Be doers of the word, see Mt 7:24-27; cf. Rom 2:13.
1:25 Perfect law, the law of liberty, enables Christians to become perfect (1:4; cf. Ps 18:8).
1:26-27 Religion that is personal and social. A summary focus on the outward practice of one's faith (cf. Acts 26:5; Wis 14:27; 1 Clem 62.1).
1:26 Bridle their tongues refers to 1:13, 19, but also anticipates the discussion of speech ethics in 3:2-12.
1:27 Orphans and widows are wards of God the father (Deut 10-18; Ps 68:5) in whose distress believers are also to show mercy and love (cf. Sir 4:10).
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The Revelation to John
The book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, is a fitting close to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, for its final chapters depict the consummation toward which the whole biblical message of redemption is focused. It may be described as an inspired picture-book that, by an accumulation of magnificent poetic imagery, makes a powerful appeal to the reader’s imagination. Many of the details of its pictures are intended to contribute to the total impression, and are not to be isolated and interpreted with wooden literalism.
Through the centuries the Apocalypse has been the object of widely divergent systems of interpretation. It can be best understood when one takes into account the following considerations. (1) This book comprises the substance of real visions that repeat with kaleidoscopic variety certain great principles of God’s just and merciful government of the whole creation. By centering attention on these principles, the church in all ages has been encouraged and sustained despite the fiercest antagonisms of both human and demonic foes. (2) The book is written in apocalyptic style, a recognized literary genre (see “Introduction to the Apocalyptic Literature”). It contains other elements as well, such as the seven letters in Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 and the several prophetic utterances scattered here and there throughout its pages, but its difficulty will be found to arise largely from our unfamiliarity with apocalyptic writings. (3) As an apocalypse, the message of the book is couched in symbolism, involving numbers, strange beasts, and other typical apocalyptic features. Throughout one must recognize that the author’s descriptions are descriptions of the symbols, not of the reality conveyed by the symbol. (4) Although the key for understanding some of the symbols has been lost, in other cases a comparison with the prophetic symbolism of the Old Testament sheds light on the intended meaning. This is understandable in view of the author’s frequent allusion to the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures; of the 404 verses in Revelation, some 275 include one or more allusions to passages in the Old Testament. (5) The structure of the book involves a series of parallel and yet ever-progressing sections; these bring before the reader, over and over again, but in climacteric form, the struggle of the church, and its victory over the world in the providence of God Almighty. There are probably seven of these sections, though only five are clearly marked. The plan of the whole is, then, something like the following: Prologue; Revelation 1.1–8; seven parallel sections divided at Revelation 3.22; Revelation 8.1; Revelation 11.19; Revelation 14.20; Revelation 16.21; and Revelation 19.21; Epilogue, Revelation 22.6–21.
Although parts of the book (e.g. Revelation 11) may have been reduced to writing before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, it is probable that the author, whose name is John (Revelation 1.1; Revelation 1.4; Revelation 1.9; Revelation 22.8), put the book in its present form toward the close of the reign of the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81 - 96). It was then that Domitian began to demand that his subjects address him as “Lord and God” and worship his image. For refusing to do so, many Christians were put to death (Revelation 6.9; Revelation 13.15); others, like John (Revelation 1.9), were exiled, and all were threatened. One reason for the author’s couching his teaching in mysterious figures and extraordinary metaphors was to prevent the imperial police from recognizing that this book is a trumpet call to the persecuted, assuring them that, despite the worst that the Roman Empire could do, God reigns supreme, and Christ, who died and is alive forevermore (Revelation 1.18), has the power to overcome all evil. And therefore John closes his book with the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22.20).
THE REVELATION to John
The book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse (from the Greek word meaning "disclosure," "unveiling," or "revelation") brings the canon of the New Testament to a close, appropriately so in view of its vivid visions of the consummation of God's plan of judgment and salvation. While the book presents itself as a work of prophecy (Rev 1:3; 22:10), it has given its name to a literary genre, "apocalypse," found in Jewish and Christian writings from the mid-third century bce to the second century ce. Like other apocalyptic literature, the book of Revelation presents God's revelation to a human recipient. Unlike other apocalypses, which are pseudonymous, with their authors writing in the name of some revered figure from antiquity, the author of the book of Revelation identifies himself by name as John (Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). Although some ancient authorities (e.g., Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 81.4) have suggested that this is the apostle John, the son of Zebedee (see Mk 3:17), the internal evidence of the book itself is inconclusive. The author's acquaintance with the Jerusalem Temple and its rituals, the depth of his knowledge of the Hebrew Bible (of the 404 verses in Revelation, some 275 include one or more allusions to passages in the Hebrew Bible, or to its ancient Greek translation, the Septuagint), as well as his adoption of a literary genre that was familiar in Palestinian Judaism, combine to suggest that John might have been a Palestinian Jewish Christian who fled to the Diaspora during the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans (66-73 ce). His self-description as "your brother who share[s] with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance" (Rev 1:9) suggests that he was well known to his audience, probably because he exercised a prophetic ministry among them (see Rev 22:9). But he mentions the twelve apostles as figures from the past (Rev 21:14) and does not include himself among them. The traditional identification of the John of the book of Revelation with the apostle of the same name is thus questionable.
While the book of Revelation probably draws on traditional material and on sources that were written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 ce (e.g., Rev 11 and 12), the book as we have it appears to have been composed toward the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (81-96 ce). The book is addressed to "the seven churches that are in Asia" (Rev 1:4), Christian communities in the Roman province of Asia, located in the western portion of present-day Turkey (see Map, The seven churches). The book demonstrates its author's familiarity with the specific situation of each of the seven churches, beginning with Ephesus, the city that was the administrative capital of the province. The seven cities were quite diverse in economic, social, political, and religious terms. Although Christians may not have been facing widespread persecutions sanctioned by Roman authorities at the time the book was written, Christians in Asia were endangered by various forms of oppression, such as being "slaughtered for the word of God and the testimony they had given" (Rev 6:9). One such martyr, Antipas, is named in the message to the church at Pergamum (Rev 2:13). John himself endured exile on the island of Patmos "because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Rev 1:9), and reports that the visions took place there. Many different voices and viewpoints competed for the attention of the Christians to whom the book of Revelation was originally addressed. John exhorts them to stand firm in their convictions, to resist with "patient endurance" (Rev 2:2, 19; 3:10) and at any cost the overwhelming pressures to yield to accommodation and compromise. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 ce gave John ample cause to identify Rome as Babylon, recalling the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 bce. The breadth and depth of Rome's political and economic power found expression in the widespread worship of the emperor in the province of Asia, where cities competed for the honor of erecting temples to the emperor and to Rome personified as the goddess Roma. The book of Revelation takes sides in a battle over sovereignty where the Roman emperor competes with God and Christ for the allegiance of the faithful. Warning that those who worship the emperor, symbolized by "the beast" (Rev 13:1-10), will suffer ultimate defeat, the book urges believers to "hold fast to the faith of Jesus" (Rev 14:12) and to share in the paradoxical victory of his death and resurrection. Although the structure of the book of Revelation is widely debated among scholars, there is general agreement that it involves a series of parallel, interconnected, and yet progressing sections. It begins with a prologue (Rev 1:1-3), an epistolary salutation (Rev 1:4-8) and an inaugural vision (1:9-20), which are followed by messages to each of the seven churches (Rev 2:1-3:22). Next (Rev 4:1-5:14) we find a vision of God enthroned and of Jesus depicted as a Lamb, who receives the seven sealed scrolls from the hand of God. A series of sevenfold visions commences at 6:1, beginning with the opening of each of the seven seals (Rev 6:1-8:5), followed by the sounding of each of seven trumpets (Rev 8:6-11:19). The sounding of the seventh trumpet is followed by the vision of the woman, the child, and the dragon (Rev 12:1-17); the vision of the two beasts (Rev 13:1-18); and a threefold vision of the victory and vindication of the faithful (Rev 14:1-20). These are followed by a final sevenfold series, the outpouring of the bowls of divine wrath (Rev 16:1-21). The vision of the fall of Babylon (Rev 17:1-18:24) is followed by the great hymn of praise in Rev 19:1-10 that also looks forward to the eschatological victory (Rev 19:11-21), the defeat of Satan (Rev 20:1-10), the last judgment (Rev 20:11-15), and the vision of the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-22:5). The book concludes with an epilogue (Rev 22:6-21).
The book of Revelation is a work of extremes, ranging from soaring heights of hymnody inspired by biblical psalms and canticles to the gruesome language of plagues, warfare, and bloodshed. It uses the dualistic language characteristic of the apocalyptic genre to paint vivid portraits of the opposing sides in the eschatological conflict that will culminate in the victory of God and the final defeat of all evil. With its symbolic numbers and colors, animals, and angelic and demonic beings, and replete with echoes and images drawn from the literature of the ancient Near East, the Hebrew Bible, Greece, and Rome, the book of Revelation is so notoriously complex that the church father Jerome (345-420 ce) remarked that it contains as many mysteries as it contains words. Origen (185-254 ce) exclaimed, "Who can read the revelations granted to John without being amazed at the hidden depth of the ineffable mysteries, a depth apparent even to the person who does not understand what the text says?" (On First Principles 4.2.4). Many centuries later, the modern writer D. H. Lawrence wrote, "When we read Revelation, we feel at once there are meanings behind meanings." The symbolic visions of the book are by no means self-explanatory, and even John reports the need for an angelic mediator to explain the meaning of the mystery disclosed to him (Rev 17:7). This device, common in other works of the same genre, serves to emphasize that there are transcendent levels of meaning that must be unlocked. The significance of events on earth is to be sought above and beyond what is immediately apparent, and it is ultimately to God that believers must turn to receive the meaning and guidance that strengthen their perseverance in the face of adversity. Over the centuries, the book of Revelation has been considered from a wide variety of interpretive approaches, ranging from literal readings of the book as predictive prophecy to readings that recognize in its utopian language the promise of hope in the midst of contemporary situations of suffering and oppression.
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