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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

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Commentary on Revelation

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Text Commentary side-by-side

1, 1–3 :

This prologue describes the source, contents, and audience of the book and forms an inclusion with the epilogue ( 22, 6–21 ), with its similar themes and expressions.

1, 3 :

Blessed is the one: this is the first of seven beatitudes in this book; the others are in 14, 13; 16, 15; 19, 9; 20, 6; 22, 7.14 . This prophetic message: literally, “the words of the prophecy”; so 22, 7.10.18.19 by inclusion. The appointed time: when Jesus will return in glory; cf 1, 7; 3, 11; 22, 7.10.12.20.

1, 4–8 :

Although Revelation begins and ends ( 22, 21 ) with Christian epistolary formulae, there is nothing between chs 4 and 22 resembling a letter. The author here employs the standard word order for greetings in Greek letter writing: “N. to N., greetings …”; see the note on Rom 1, 1 .

1, 4 :

Seven churches in Asia: Asia refers to the Roman province of that name in western Asia Minor (modern Turkey); these representative churches are mentioned by name in v 11 , and each is the recipient of a message ( 2, 1–3, 22 ). Seven is the biblical number suggesting fullness and completeness; thus the seer is writing for the whole church.

1, 5 :

Freed us: the majority of Greek manuscripts and several early versions read “washed us”; but “freed us” is supported by the best manuscripts and fits well with Old Testament imagery, e.g., Is 40, 2 .

1, 8 :

The Alpha and the Omega: the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In 22, 13 the same words occur together with the expressions “the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”; cf 17; 2, 8; 21, 6; Is 41, 4; 44, 6 .

1, 9–20 :

In this first vision, the seer is commanded to write what he sees to the seven churches ( 9–11 ). He sees Christ in glory, whom he depicts in stock apocalyptic imagery ( 12–16 ), and hears him describe himself in terms meant to encourage Christians by emphasizing his victory over death ( 17–20 ).

1, 9 :

Island called Patmos: one of the Sporades islands in the Aegean Sea, some fifty miles south of Ephesus, used by the Romans as a penal colony. Because I proclaimed God’s word: literally, “on account of God’s word.”

1, 10 :

The Lord’s day: Sunday. As loud as a trumpet: the imagery is derived from the theophany at Sinai (Ex 19, 16.19; cf Heb 12, 19 and the trumpet in other eschatological settings in Is 27, 13; Jl 2, 1; Mt 24, 31; 1 Cor 15, 52; 1 Thes 4, 16 ).

1, 11 :

Scroll: a papyrus roll.

1, 12–16 :

A symbolic description of Christ in glory. The metaphorical language is not to be understood literally; cf Introduction.

1, 13 :

Son of man: see the note on Mk 8, 31 . Anklelength robe: Christ is priest; cf Ex 28, 4; 29, 5; Wis 18, 24; Zec 3, 4 . Gold sash: Christ is king; cf Ex 28, 4; 1 Mc 10, 89; 11, 58; Dn 10, 5 .

1, 14 :

Hair … as white as white wool or as snow: Christ is eternal, clothed with the dignity that belonged to the “Ancient of Days”; cf 18; Dn 7, 9 . His eyes were like a fiery flame: Christ is portrayed as all-knowing; cf 2, 23; Ps 7, 10; Jer 17, 10 ; and similar expressions in 2, 18; 19, 12; cf Dn 10, 6 .

1, 15 :

His feet … furnace: Christ is depicted as unchangeable; cf Ez 1, 27; Dn 10, 6 . The Greek word translated “refined” is unconnected grammatically with any other word in the sentence. His voice … water: Christ speaks with divine authority; cf Ez 1, 24 .

1, 16 :

Seven stars: in the pagan world, Mithras and the Caesars were represented with seven stars in their right hand, symbolizing their universal dominion. A sharp two-edged sword: this refers to the word of God (cf Eph 6, 17; Heb 4, 12 ) that will destroy unrepentant sinners; cf 2, 16; 19, 15; Wis 18, 15; Is 11, 4; 49, 2 . His face … brightest: this symbolizes the divine majesty of Christ; cf 10, 1; 21, 23; Jgs 5, 31; Is 60, 19; Mt 17, 2 .

1, 17 :

It was an Old Testament belief that for sinful human beings to see God was to die; cf Ex 19, 21; 33, 20; Jgs 6, 22–23; Is 6, 5 .

1, 18 :

Netherworld: Greek Hades, Hebrew Sheol, the abode of the dead; cf 20, 13–14; Nm 16, 33 .

1, 19 :

What you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards: the three parts of the Book of Revelation, the vision ( 10–20 ), the situation in the seven churches (chs 2–3 ), and the events of chs 6–22 .

1, 20 :

Secret meaning: literally, “mystery.” Angels: these are the presiding spirits of the seven churches. Angels were thought to be in charge of the physical world (cf 7, 1; 14, 18; 16, 5 ) and of nations (Dn 10, 13; 12, 1 ), communities (the seven churches), and individuals (Mt 18, 10; Acts 12, 15 ). Some have seen in the “angel” of each of the seven churches its pastor or a personification of the spirit of the congregation.

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