Thunker’s Weblog

Revelation 21-22 (Part 3)

Robert Wheadon-126x150

Here we go with the third installment of my review of, “Apocalypse-Reading Revelation 21-22.”

The third lecture is by Brandie Siegfried and is entitled, “The Fruit of Eden’s Tree: The Bride, the Book, and the Water of Life in Revelation.”  Brandie Siegfried is an associate professor of English at BYU, specializing in sixteenth and seventeenth century literature.  Her area of expertise shines through in this lecture.  The reader immediately is immersed in Dr. Siegfried’s love of the English language.

Her lecture takes a rather different approach than other biblical scholars.  Modern biblical scholarship tends to shy away from the King James Version (KJV) in preference to more modern translations, such as the New International Version (NIV), or the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).  Dr. Siegfried’s paper examines the beauty of the language in Revelation 21-22 as found in the King James Version.

The first point made relates to the imagery of the tree of life found in Revelation 22.  When the KJV was produced in 1611, the Reformation was in full swing.  One of the images popular in this time period was the joining of the tree of life with the tree of knowledge.  The idea of obtaining Godly knowledge through the publication of the bible for all to read would bring people to the tree of life.

Dr. Siegfried then makes an interesting point about the genealogies found in both the Old and the New Testaments.  The genealogies, of course, legitimize the royal line of David and the royal lineage of the Savior back through the line of King David and back to Adam.  Yet Dr. Siegfried makes the point that the genealogies also serve as a reminder that God has been mindful of His children here on the earth from the beginning.  The genealogies show that God has placed prophets, patriarchs and kings on earth with the unified purpose of bringing the Savior to mortality and the Atonement to actuality.

Dr. Siegfried introduces her second point with a quote from a seventeenth century Englishman, Thomas Browne.  He said, “There is a piece of Divinity in us, something that was before the elements, and owes no homage unto the sun.  Nature tells me I am the image of God, as well as scripture: he that understands not thus much, hath not his introduction or first lesson, and is yet to begin the alphabet of man,”(Keynes,  Sir Thomas Browne, 83.)

Each of us is born with a spirit springing from the Eternal.  Our journey in this life is comprised partly of proving, trying and expanding our souls in molding our natures to be like Christ’s nature.  Much as a child must learn his or her first letters in the quest for literacy, each of us takes tottering steps as we try to find and stay on the straight and narrow path, take hold of the iron rod and reach the tree of life.

Thirdly, Dr. Siegfried makes a wonderful comparison between biblical translation, personal scriptural interpretation and the midrash.  If you have ever read the midrash or portions of it, you realize that the midrash consists of collected rabbinical interpretations of the Old Testament.  Rabbinical tradition is solidly set on a foundation of Talmudic interpretation; of explaining the Law of Moses in excruciating detail.

In the same way, biblical translators have set forth their own interpretations of doctrine through their translations.  Translations are done in the context of the time in which they are made.  Bias is regularly construed through a particular religious viewpoint in translations, as well.

The fourth point in the lecture focuses on the roots of three words used in the chapters of Revelation being discussed.  The words behold, come, and offspring, are examined at a deeper level.  Behold, in our modern usage brings to mind the act of looking or seeing something or someone.  In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, behold, had a different meaning.  In Old English the word derives from bihaldan.  The bi connotes to examine something thoroughly or completely.  Haldan suggests the act of grasping, as by the hand.  So, when the KJV translators chose behold in Revelation 21:3-5, they are trying to convey an action deeper than mere looking.  When the Savior says, “Behold, I make all things new,” (Revelation 21:5) he is not merely  commanding us to look at the rejuvenating and restoring of the earth and righteousness or at the temple that has come down from heaven.  He is commanding us to to internalize his words, his teachings and his expression of eternal charity for his children.

The word come also possesses a deeper meaning than our modern usage incorporates.  We use the word currently to invite someone to approach or draw closer.  An older definition of the word added the meaning of acting with vitality, to arrive swiftly, full of life and vitality.  So, in Revelation 22:7, the Savior says, “Behold, I come quickly.”  An added meaning to this phrase would now include the ideas of actively pursuing the life of a disciple of Christ and embracing life as one of His own.

Offspring is an interesting word choice by the KJV translators.  They could have chosen child, heir, descendant, or something along those lines of definition.  Instead, they chose offspring, with its related nuances to a root and a branch growing up from the root.  In Revelation 22:1 we read, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”  The idea of pure water emanating from the throne of God supports the idea of the water nourishing the offspring of God, those who actively seek to spring up and follow the flow of water to the tree of life.

The final point in the lecture is the comparison between the tree of life in the garden of Eden and the  tree of life in the New Jerusalem.  Both trees are mentioned in referenced acts of celestial creative acts.  The tree of life in the garden of Eden is an initial symbol of the plan of salvation: God setting out His desire to have His children return to Him.  The tree of life in Revelation demonstrates that the love of our Heavenly Father is eternal and for all His children who actively desire to return to Him.


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