Category Archive: Bible – NT – Revelation
Ever wonder why Scripture requires two or three witnesses to establish a matter?Â Here’s Gary North’s answer:
The Christian view of God is trinitarian.Â God is three Persons, yet also one Person.Â Each Person always has the corroborating testimony of the others.Â Therefore, God’s word cannot be successfully challenged in a court.Â Two Witnesses testify eternally to the validity of what the other Person declares.Â Each has exhaustive knowledge of the others; each has exhaustive knowledge of the creation.Â The truth of God’s word is established by Witnesses. â€” The Dominion Covenant: Genesis, p. 458.
North goes to discuss another instance of the principle of two or three witnesses:
The doctrine of the two witnesses also throws light on the New Testament doctrine of the rebellious third.Â In Revelation 8, we are told that a third of the trees are burned up (v. 7), a third of the sea becomes blood (v. 8 ), and a third part of the creatures and ships in the sea are destroyed (v. 9).Â A third part of the rivers are hit by the star from heaven (v. 10), and a third part of the sun, moon, and stars are smitten (v. 12).Â In Revelation 9, we read that angels in judgment work for a time to slay a third part of rebellious mankind (v. 15), to testify to the other two-thirds of the coming judgment, yet they do not repent (v. 21).Â A third of the stars (angels) of heaven are pulled down by Satan’s tail (Rev. 12:4).
Why these divisions into thirds?Â Because for every transgressor, there are two righteous witnesses to condemn him.Â God’s final judgment is assured, for in God’s court, there will always be a sufficient number of witnesses to condemn the ethical rebels (p. 458).
“The rebellious third” may not be the best name for what North is talking about; it’s more “the non-rebellious two-thirds,” who function as witnesses, but that’s a clunky term to use.Â Â North may be on to something here, and what he says is intriguing.Â In biblical history, however, there certainly seem to be times when more than a third of mankind is rebellious (e.g., during the time of Noah).Â I’m not sure how North’s thesis fits with that.Â But the division into thirds in Revelation and the judgment striking only one third may have something to do, as North says, with the two witnesses requirement.Â Grist for the mill….
Some months back, in the comments on one of Tim’s posts, I made some comments about the exegesis of Revelation 13:8. I haven’t been blogging much lately (too busy, what with being a dad and all!), but I thought I’d post these comments, slightly revised, here.
I’ve often heard people refer to Jesus as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” That phrase often leads to certain theological notions, such as “justification from eternity.” Even before the creation of the world, people say, we were already justified through Jesus’ death because Jesus is “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” In a sense, they say, Jesus has always been slain.
But does the Bible refer to Jesus this way? The phrase in question comes from one particular rendition of Revelation 13:8, but even if we accept that this passage calls Jesus “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” it isn’t immediately clear that it is saying that Jesus was, in some sense, slain before the creation spoken of in Genesis 1.
D. Holwerda, a classics prof at Utrecht and the brother of the noted Old Testament scholar, Benne Holwerda, argued strongly in a series of essays that “the foundation of the world,” throughout the New Testament, refers to the new creation, not to the original creation in Genesis 1. Thus Jesus’ death is said to take place before “the foundation of the (new) world.”
Of course, if understanding of “the foundation of the world” is correct, it would have interesting implications for the exegesis of Ephesians 1 (“chosen in Him before the foundation of the world”) and a number of other passages. It is certainly an exegetical option worth considering.
But I’m not persuaded. More than that, I’m not persuaded that Revelation 13:8 speaks of Jesus as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” It seems to me, rather, that “from the foundation of the world” does not modify “slain” but rather “written.”
It is not that the lamb was slain “from the foundation of the world.” Rather, it’s that the names were “written (in the book of the lamb who was slain) from the foundation of the world.” “The foundation of the world” would be the original creation in Genesis 1, and from before that time these names would have been written in the slain lamb’s book.
It is grammatically possible to take “from the foundation of the world” with “slain,” but it isn’t likely. First, it’s hard to make sense of the idea that Jesus was actually slain before the world was created. Second, the parallel with Revelation 17:8 is the clincher. In that verse, John speaks about those whose names were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world â€”Â exactly as he does in 13:8, except that in 13:8 he identifies the book of life as belonging to the slain lamb.
When I checked my commentaries on Revelation, I found that tis latter position, which I do find compelling, is held by Aune, Chilton, Greijdanus, Hendriksen, Hughes, Poythress, Van de Kamp, and Wilcock. It’s also the way Revelation 13:8 is rendered in the ASV and the NASB, though surprisingly the NIV, which has this better reading in the margin, sticks to the questionable reading in the main text!
Last night, I returned home from a colloquium hosted by Knox Theological Seminary. During the course of that colloquium, we had the opportunity to hear three fascinating lectures by Warren Austin Gage, Knox’s Assistant Professor of Old Testament.
For the past several years, Gage has been engaged (pardon the pun) in a study of biblical typology. In particular, together with Fowler White, he has been studying the relationship between the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, which is what he focused on in his lectures for us.
The papers in the John-Revelation Project trace the literary, structural, and thematic connections between the two books. Gage and White argue that John and Revelation are connected chiastically. The opening of John, for instance, talks about darkness not being able to conquer light, and Revelation ends with light triumphing over darkness. You’d think Gage had read Jim Jordan, but he hasn’t (yet).
Knox’s theological journal, Semper Reformanda, contains three articles by Gage: “Biblical Theology” (focusing a lot on Rahab, Joshua, and Jericho), “Analogical Imagination,” and “The Long Ending of Mark.” In the latter, he argues that the literary structure of Mark’s Gospel warrants accepting the longer ending. Similarly, in one of the John-Revelation papers, he argues for accepting the narrative of the woman caught in adultery (John 8) as an authentic part of John’s Gospel.
The Knox website also includes a sermon by Gage on the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. Did you recognize that the three people converted in Acts 8, 9, and 10 are representatives of Noah’s three sons: Ham, Shem, and Japheth?
And while I’m talking about Gage, let me also mention his book The Gospel of Genesis, now back in print.
Enjoy! I certainly did.