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Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

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Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Mon May 19, 2014 12:48 am

Having finished a second draft of the textual variation unit mark up for the Apocalypse of John, I have now been working for several weeks on semantic questions mostly lexical which crop up in the Apocalypse. This is the second phase of the same project for the STEP bible. I am finding that locating genuine lexical semantic problems of sufficient magnitude a more complex problem than textual variation units.

I have stumble through chapters 15-22 using all the technical and semi-technical commentaries as well as the UBS handbook on translating Revelation which is about 20 years old. I have SIL exegetical guides on their way but not in hand as yet. Takes a while to get these, the libraries are far away.

Anyway, my first post on this is theological in focus.

Rev. 17:17 ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἔδωκεν εἰς τὰς καρδίας αὐτῶν ποιῆσαι τὴν γνώμην αὐτοῦ καὶ ποιῆσαι μίαν γνώμην καὶ δοῦναι τὴν βασιλείαν αὐτῶν τῷ θηρίῳ ἄχρι τελεσθήσονται οἱ λόγοι τοῦ θεοῦ.

NASB Rev. 17:17 “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be fulfilled.


A rare sample of ultra explicit divine agency in directing the minds and the actions of evil agents in Rev 17:17. The active form of δίδωμι with God as an agent is not John's preferred method of expressing divine agency. John's preferred method is to use the passive form and leave the agent unexpressed. This is sometimes called the "divine passive."

Here are some examples of the passive διδωμι where the agent is not provided. The passive is used in discourse to reduce the salience of the agent. And if there is no agent mentioned, that indicates agency isn't an "issue" (low salience) for that discourse unit.

( διδωμι @ [VERB passive] 23 hits

Rev. 6:2 καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἵππος λευκός, καὶ ὁ καθήμενος ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν ἔχων τόξον καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ στέφανος καὶ ἐξῆλθεν νικῶν καὶ ἵνα νικήσῃ.

Rev. 6:4 καὶ ἐξῆλθεν ἄλλος ἵππος πυρρός, καὶ τῷ καθημένῳ ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν ἐδόθη αὐτῷ λαβεῖν τὴν εἰρήνην ἐκ τῆς γῆς καὶ ἵνα ἀλλήλους σφάξουσιν καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ μάχαιρα μεγάλη.

Rev. 6:8 καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἵππος χλωρός, καὶ ὁ καθήμενος ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ ὄνομα αὐτῷ [ὁ] θάνατος, καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἠκολούθει μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τὸ τέταρτον τῆς γῆς ἀποκτεῖναι ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ καὶ ἐν λιμῷ καὶ ἐν θανάτῳ καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν θηρίων τῆς γῆς.

Rev. 6:11 καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἑκάστῳ στολὴ λευκὴ καὶ ἐρρέθη αὐτοῖς ἵνα ἀναπαύσονται ἔτι χρόνον μικρόν, ἕως πληρωθῶσιν καὶ οἱ σύνδουλοι αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ αὐτῶν οἱ μέλλοντες ἀποκτέννεσθαι ὡς καὶ αὐτοί.

Rev. 7:2 Καὶ εἶδον ἄλλον ἄγγελον ἀναβαίνοντα ἀπὸ ἀνατολῆς ἡλίου ἔχοντα σφραγῖδα θεοῦ ζῶντος, καὶ ἔκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ τοῖς τέσσαρσιν ἀγγέλοις οἷς ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἀδικῆσαι τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν θάλασσαν

Rev. 8:2 Καὶ εἶδον τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀγγέλους οἳ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ἑστήκασιν, καὶ ἐδόθησαν αὐτοῖς ἑπτὰ σάλπιγγες. 3 Καὶ ἄλλος ἄγγελος ἦλθεν καὶ ἐστάθη ἐπὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ἔχων λιβανωτὸν χρυσοῦν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ θυμιάματα πολλά, ἵνα δώσει ταῖς προσευχαῖς τῶν ἁγίων πάντων ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον τὸ χρυσοῦν τὸ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου.

Rev. 9:1 Καὶ ὁ πέμπτος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισεν· καὶ εἶδον ἀστέρα ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεπτωκότα εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἡ κλεὶς τοῦ φρέατος τῆς ἀβύσσου

Rev. 9:3 καὶ ἐκ τοῦ καπνοῦ ἐξῆλθον ἀκρίδες εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐταῖς ἐξουσία ὡς ἔχουσιν ἐξουσίαν οἱ σκορπίοι τῆς γῆς.

Rev. 9:5 καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς ἵνα μὴ ἀποκτείνωσιν αὐτούς, ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα βασανισθήσονται μῆνας πέντε, καὶ ὁ βασανισμὸς αὐτῶν ὡς βασανισμὸς σκορπίου ὅταν παίσῃ ἄνθρωπον.

Rev. 11:1 Καὶ ἐδόθη μοι κάλαμος ὅμοιος ῥάβδῳ, λέγων· ἔγειρε καὶ μέτρησον τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας ἐν αὐτῷ. 2 καὶ τὴν αὐλὴν τὴν ἔξωθεν τοῦ ναοῦ ἔκβαλε ἔξωθεν καὶ μὴ αὐτὴν μετρήσῃς, ὅτι ἐδόθη τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, καὶ τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἁγίαν πατήσουσιν μῆνας τεσσεράκοντα [καὶ] δύο.

Rev. 12:14 καὶ ἐδόθησαν τῇ γυναικὶ αἱ δύο πτέρυγες τοῦ ἀετοῦ τοῦ μεγάλου, ἵνα πέτηται εἰς τὴν ἔρημον εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτῆς, ὅπου τρέφεται ἐκεῖ καιρὸν καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἥμισυ καιροῦ ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ ὄφεως.

Rev. 13:5 Καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ στόμα λαλοῦν μεγάλα καὶ βλασφημίας καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἐξουσία ποιῆσαι μῆνας τεσσεράκοντα [καὶ] δύο.

Rev. 13:7 καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ποιῆσαι πόλεμον μετὰ τῶν ἁγίων καὶ νικῆσαι αὐτούς, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἐξουσία ἐπὶ πᾶσαν φυλὴν καὶ λαὸν καὶ γλῶσσαν καὶ ἔθνος.

Rev. 13:14 καὶ πλανᾷ τοὺς κατοικοῦντας ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς διὰ τὰ σημεῖα ἃ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ποιῆσαι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θηρίου, λέγων τοῖς κατοικοῦσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ποιῆσαι εἰκόνα τῷ θηρίῳ, ὃς ἔχει τὴν πληγὴν τῆς μαχαίρης καὶ ἔζησεν. 15 Καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ δοῦναι πνεῦμα τῇ εἰκόνι τοῦ θηρίου, ἵνα καὶ λαλήσῃ ἡ εἰκὼν τοῦ θηρίου καὶ ποιήσῃ [ἵνα] ὅσοι ἐὰν μὴ προσκυνήσωσιν τῇ εἰκόνι τοῦ θηρίου ἀποκτανθῶσιν.

Rev. 16:8 Καὶ ὁ τέταρτος ἐξέχεεν τὴν φιάλην αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸν ἥλιον, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ καυματίσαι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἐν πυρί.

Rev. 19:8 καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῇ ἵνα περιβάληται βύσσινον λαμπρὸν καθαρόν· τὸ γὰρ βύσσινον τὰ δικαιώματα τῶν ἁγίων ἐστίν.

Rev. 20:4 Καὶ εἶδον θρόνους καὶ ἐκάθισαν ἐπ᾿ αὐτοὺς καὶ κρίμα ἐδόθη αὐτοῖς, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν πεπελεκισμένων διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ καὶ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ οἵτινες οὐ προσεκύνησαν τὸ θηρίον οὐδὲ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἔλαβον τὸ χάραγμα ἐπὶ τὸ μέτωπον καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν χεῖρα αὐτῶν. καὶ ἔζησαν καὶ ἐβασίλευσαν μετὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ χίλια ἔτη.
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Re: Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Mon May 19, 2014 7:57 pm

Rev. 14:4 οὗτοί εἰσιν οἳ μετὰ γυναικῶν οὐκ ἐμολύνθησαν, παρθένοι γάρ εἰσιν, οὗτοι οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες τῷ ἀρνίῳ ὅπου ἂν ὑπάγῃ. οὗτοι ἠγοράσθησαν ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρχὴ τῷ θεῷ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ,



Several semantic problems in Rev. 14:4, need to nail down the meaning of several words as used in this context: ἐμολύνθησαν, παρθένοι, ἠγοράσθησαν

αἱ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες the 144,000 have been the subject of endless controversy. It is assumed that these are all males, based on the statement οὗτοί εἰσιν οἳ μετὰ γυναικῶν οὐκ ἐμολύνθησαν παρθένοι γάρ εἰσιν. What ever that means. παρθένοι isn't typically used of males. αἱ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες the 144,000 have been the subject of endless controversy. It is often assumed that these are all males, based on the statement οὗτοί εἰσιν οἳ μετὰ γυναικῶν οὐκ ἐμολύνθησαν παρθένοι γάρ εἰσιν. What ever that means. παρθένοι isn't typically used of males. What if we understand the feminine gender of the αἱ not as being in concorde with χιλιάδες but as a article which makes the whole construct function as a noun-substantive in the feminine plural. This is possible given the grammatical habit of John in the Apocalypse of making something work as a noun-substantive by prefixing an article with complete disregard to what might follow. In other words John shows little concern for concorde of number and gender and case but he does attach articles to all sorts of constituents to make them work like nouns.

NOTE: the literary and cultural context make it highly improbable that the αἱ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες refers to women. This is probably an army of men who follow the LAMB. οὗτοι οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες τῷ ἀρνίῳ ὅπου ἂν ὑπάγῃ. Where the demonstrative is οὗτοι masculine.



Some context:
Rev. 14:1 Καὶ εἶδον, καὶ ἰδοὺ τὸ ἀρνίον ἑστὸς ἐπὶ τὸ ὄρος Σιὼν καὶ μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες ἔχουσαι τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ γεγραμμένον ἐπὶ τῶν μετώπων αὐτῶν. 2 καὶ ἤκουσα φωνὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὡς φωνὴν ὑδάτων πολλῶν καὶ ὡς φωνὴν βροντῆς μεγάλης, καὶ ἡ φωνὴ ἣν ἤκουσα ὡς κιθαρῳδῶν κιθαριζόντων ἐν ταῖς κιθάραις αὐτῶν. 3 καὶ ᾄδουσιν [ὡς] ᾠδὴν καινὴν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν τεσσάρων ζῴων καὶ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο μαθεῖν τὴν ᾠδὴν εἰ μὴ αἱ ἑκατὸν τεσσεράκοντα τέσσαρες χιλιάδες, οἱ ἠγορασμένοι ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς. 4 οὗτοί εἰσιν οἳ μετὰ γυναικῶν οὐκ ἐμολύνθησαν, παρθένοι γάρ εἰσιν, οὗτοι οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες τῷ ἀρνίῳ ὅπου ἂν ὑπάγῃ. οὗτοι ἠγοράσθησαν ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρχὴ τῷ θεῷ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ, 5 καὶ ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν οὐχ εὑρέθη ψεῦδος, ἄμωμοί εἰσιν.
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Re: Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby Markos » Wed May 21, 2014 3:31 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
Rev. 14:4 οὗτοί εἰσιν οἳ μετὰ γυναικῶν οὐκ ἐμολύνθησαν, παρθένοι γάρ εἰσιν, οὗτοι οἱ ἀκολουθοῦντες τῷ ἀρνίῳ ὅπου ἂν ὑπάγῃ. οὗτοι ἠγοράσθησαν ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπαρχὴ τῷ θεῷ καὶ τῷ ἀρνίῳ,

...παρθένοι isn't typically used of males.


Joseph and Aseneth 4:9:
καὶ ἔστιν Ἰωσὴφ ἀνὴρ θεοσεβὴς καὶ σώφρων καὶ παρθένος...
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Re: Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby mwh » Sat May 24, 2014 1:47 am

“What if we understand the feminine gender of the αἱ not as being in concorde with χιλιάδες but as a article which makes the whole construct function as a noun-substantive in the feminine plural.”

I don’t see what would be gained by this. Why not simply take the article as agreeing with xiliades, picking the earlier anarthrous phrase? As your NOTE comes close to acknowledging, there surely can’t be any doubt that these are males he’s talking about. It’s true enough that parqenoi “isn’t typically used of males” (though Markos provides a good parallel), but here the context, especially the previous clause, leaves no room for doubt.
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Re: Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sat May 24, 2014 8:59 pm

mwh wrote:“What if we understand the feminine gender of the αἱ not as being in concorde with χιλιάδες but as a article which makes the whole construct function as a noun-substantive in the feminine plural.”

I don’t see what would be gained by this. Why not simply take the article as agreeing with xiliades, picking the earlier anarthrous phrase? As your NOTE comes close to acknowledging, there surely can’t be any doubt that these are males he’s talking about. It’s true enough that parqenoi “isn’t typically used of males” (though Markos provides a good parallel), but here the context, especially the previous clause, leaves no room for doubt.



I don't think there is any room to doubt but I am engaged in a discussion with someone who is somewhat fed up with the male-centered exegetical tradition. Occasionally it is useful to explore highly improbable readings as a form of supporting more viable readings. I do this all the time, look at other ways to read a text even if they are highly unlikely to produced acceptable results.
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Re: Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby mwh » Sat May 24, 2014 9:36 pm

Anyone fed up with male-centeredness should be advised against reading any part of the Bible.
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Re: Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sat May 24, 2014 11:22 pm

mwh wrote:Anyone fed up with male-centeredness should be advised against reading any part of the Bible.


Yeah, right … but there are feminists readings of the bible which don't take the normal path of finding nothing there but a patriarchal framework; rather try and read the text in a manner which doesn't support the traditional male-centered point of view. For example, the Corinthian Women Prophets Antoinette Clark Wire, an old book now. But I have it in my library.
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Re: Semantic issues in the Apocalypse of John

Postby mwh » Mon Jun 02, 2014 1:38 am

I can only imagine how feminist Christians cope with Paul, who set back equality of the sexes hundreds if not thousands of years. It calls for the kind of sophistry that theologians through the ages have specialized in.

-- PS I've just looked up a review of the Wire book you mention. It seems like a good analysis.
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