The Message of the Third Angel – Revelation 14:9-13

The message of the third angel is a further expansion of the condemnation of Babylon. Rather than drinking the maddening wine of Babylon, those that have accepted the mark will drink the wine of God’s fury. The wine of God’s fury is “unmixed” (ἄκρατος) or “full strength” in most modern translations.  In the ancient world, wine was normally diluted with water. If it was not mixed with wine, then the drinker would get the full strength of the wine.

Torments in hell

Making someone drink a cup of strong wine is a common metaphor God’s wrath in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 75:8 (LXX 74:9), “For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs” (cf. Isa 51:17-22; Jer 25:15-17, Hab 2:16; Pss 11:6; 73:10). Describing God’s fury towards Jerusalem leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile, the writer of the Psalms of Solomon said:

Ps Sol 8:13–17 (LES2) They trampled the altar of the Lord from every uncleanness, and they stained the sacrifices with ⌊menstrual blood⌋ like profane meat. 14 They left no sin undone that they did not do worse than the nations. 15 Therefore God mixed them a spirit of error.  He gave them a drinking cup of unmixed wine to drink, for drunkenness. 16 He led the one from the end of the earth, the one who strikes strongly. 17 He decided on war against Jerusalem and her land.

John further describes God’s untempered wrath on those who worship the beast. The one who has taken the mark of the beast will be “tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.” This disturbing image of judicial torture is shocking to most modern readers, but the original readers would have understood torture as part of the Roman judicial system. The verb translated torture (βασανίζω) refers to being put to the test in order to determine a person’s legal status. For example, the phrase βεβασανισμένος εἰς δικαιοσύνην appears in Plato’s Republic (361c), “having been tested/tortured for the purpose of justice.” The related noun βασανισμός refers to pain inflicted by torture (BDAG). In the fifth trumpet, the demonic locust tormented people for five months (Rev 9:5). The noun also appears in 4 Maccabees 9:6 for the “coercive tortures” inflicted on pious Eleazar.

Beale softens this by taking the torment as “primarily spiritual and psychological suffering” (760), although he does think Revelation describes “a real, ongoing, eternal, conscious torment” (763). The verb and noun have the sense of physical punishment which often resulted in death (4 Maccabees especially).

Those who have taken the mark of the beast will be tortured with fire and sulfur.  Sulfur (θεῖον) had a number of uses in the ancient world and was sometimes used as a medicine. Older translations have brimstone, a common word used for what we call sulfur, “brunston.” People are tormented by fire and sulfur (14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8) and the final judgment on the wicked is to be cast into “the lake of fire and sulfur” (19:20; 20:10; 21:8).

The prototypical image of God’s wrath is Genesis 19:24, God rained fire and sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah. When Abraham looked across the valley, he saw the smoke going up like “the smoke of a furnace” (Gen 19:28). Isaiah 30:33 describes God’s wrath on the king of the Assyrians as a long-prepared burning place kindled by “the breath of the LORD, like a stream of sulfur.” The psalmist calls on God to rain fire and sulfur on the wicked (Ps 11:6).

Surprisingly, this torment takes place in front of the Lamb and the holy angels. Although there is no other reference the punishment of the wicked in presence of a messianic figure or the angles, there are a number of examples of the he wicked being tormented before the righteous (1 Enoch 27:2-3, 90:26-27; 48:9; 4 Ezra 7:36 [possibly a Christian interpolation]) The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the rich man appears to be able to see Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

1 Enoch 27:1-3 At that moment, I said, “For what purpose does this blessed land, entirely filled with trees, (have) in its midst this accursed valley?” 2 Then, Uriel, one of the holy angels, who was with me, answered me and said to me, “This accursed valley is for those accursed forever; here will gather together all (those) accursed ones, those who speak with their mouth unbecoming words against the Lord and utter hard words concerning his glory. Here shall they be gathered together, and here shall be their judgment, in the last days. 3 There will be upon them the spectacle of the righteous judgment, in the presence of the righteous forever. The merciful will bless the Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, all the day.

1 Enoch 90:26–27 In the meantime I saw how another abyss like it, full of fire, was opened wide in the middle of the ground; and they brought those blinded sheep, all of which were judged, found guilty, and cast into this fiery abyss, and they were burned—the abyss is to the right of that house; 27 thus I saw those sheep while they were burning—their bones also were burning.

If this scene evokes Roman practice, then torture in front of a conquering king makes sense. The king is seated on his throne with his military on display around him while the enemy is tortured publicly. In Revelation 14, the Lamb is the conquering king and judge who will oversee the judgment of the worshipers of the beast.

Revelation 14 concludes by returning to the followers of the Lamb. They will be blessed when they endure torment and die on “in the Lord” (14:13). John intentionally contrasts the worshipers of the beast and the worshipers of the Lamb (Rev 4:8-10). The words in 4:8c are identical to 14:11: the worship of the lamb never stops, just as the torture never stops never stops.

Save 50% on Library Expansion Packs from Logos Bible Software

Logos Expansion Packs Sale

For a limited time you can save up to 50% on Logos Expansions and Feature Expansions. These are additional books and resources which are included in some base packages, but not all base packages. They are sorted by topic and size of the expansion.

For example, you can upgrade Ancient Texts and Translations in a small (13 vol.), medium (26 vol.), large (50 vol.) or extra-large (110 vol) bundle. If you own some of the books in an Expansion pack, the Logos website will not include those in your price. So scan through the expansion packs on the Logos sale page, click on the icon and see what your price is. Because I owned many of the resources in the Ancient Texts already, the price for upgrading was very attractive. There were two or three books I really wanted which were more expensive than the dynamic price on the bundle. As they say, this is a deal that is hard (for me) to refuse. Time to use a little of that stimulus money to load up on Logos resources.

Here is a list of the Library and Feature expansion categories.

Library Expansions

  • Ancient Texts and Translations
  • Apologetics
  • Bible Backgrounds
  • Biblical Interpretation
  • Church Fathers
  • Church History
  • Classics
  • Gospel Studies
  • Greek Studies
  • Hebrew Studies
  • Jewish Studies
  • Lexham Press
  • Literature
  • New Testament Studies
  • Old Testament Studies
  • Pastoral Care and Counseling
  • Pauline Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Preaching and Sermons
  • Theology
  • Master Collection (the kitchen sink bundle, the X-Large is 1375 vols.!)

Feature Expansions

  • Ancient Literature Collection
  • Biblical Theology Collection
  • Cultural Concepts Collection
  • Factbook Collection
  • Grammars Collection
  • Parallel Passages Collection
  • Sermon Editor Collection
  • Sermon Finder Collection
  • Systematic Theologies Collection
  • Textual Variants Collection
  • Timeline Collection
  • Confessional Documents Collection
  • Logos Feature Expansion Master Collection (collect them all, 1,631 resources!)

This is one of those limited time deals from Logos, so visit the sale page and stock up on great resources for your Logos Library.

Kregel Sale Logos Bible Software

There is also still time to save on Kregel and Kregel Academic books.  Here are a few of the academic highlights with links to my reviews:

The Kregel Exegetical Commentary series are 50% off:

Volumes of the Kregel Exegetical Handbooks are 50% to 66% off ($9.99 each):

There are several other Kregel Academic books I have reviewed on sale:

There are many, many more books in this sale, such as John Philips Exploring series (all volumes are $9.99 each). There are dozens of theology and practical theology books on sale as well.  So go to the sale page, browse the titles and fill that shopping cart up.

You need to have Logos Bible Software to use these resources.  As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading that will keep you from mortgaging your home. At the very least, download the free Logos Basic or the $79 Logos 8 Fundamentals. Use the coupon code PARTNEROFFER8 to save 30% on base packages. You can also read these books via the free iOS app.

The Message of the Second Angel – Revelation 14:8

For the first time in Revelation, the kingdom of the beast is identified as “Babylon the Great.”  As with the message of the first angel, this second angel announces Babylon has (already) fallen although the judgment on Babylon is not narrated until Revelation18:1-19:10. What does John mean by “Babylon the Great”?

Great Whore rides the beast

There are some commentators who take John’s reference to Babylon literally. Robert Thomas, for example, thinks “Babylon the Great” alludes to Daniel 4:30 and considers this verse to prophesy a central role for the city of Babylon in world affairs (Revelation 8-22, 207). Ironically, such overly literal interpretations of Revelation 14:8 must take predictions that Babylon will fall and never be rebuilt as non-literal (Isa13:19-22; Jer 50:39-40).

Since Babylon was not the capitol of a major empire at the end of the first century and the region was not particularly important for world affairs until recently, older interpreters usually found an allusion to the Roman Catholic church here, but this reflects an older, historicist view of Revelation and is (mostly) abandoned today.

Others consider Babylon as a reference to Jerusalem. In Four Views on Revelation, Ken Gentry argued Babylon is an allusion to Jerusalem as part of his thesis Revelation was written prior to A.D. 70 as a prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem. Bruce Chilton thinks the whore of Babylon represents “Apostate Jerusalem is the Harlot-city” and the fall of Jerusalem is “Israel’s final excommunication” (Days of Vengeance, 443). In his recent ITC commentary on Revelation, Peter J. Leithart states “Jerusalem is the only first-century city that fits the description of a πόρνη, a harlot city given to πορνεία. A harlot is a city that has turned from Yahweh” (172).

The majority of scholars consider Babylon the Great as an allusion to Rome. This is clear in 1 Peter 5:13, where Peter, living in Rome, greets his readers but says that he is in Babylon. Peter may be drawing a parallel between his “exile in Rome” and the Babylonian exile.

After the first century, the identification of Rome and Babylon was common in Jewish apocalyptic literature as well as Christian writings. In the fifth Sibylline Oracle, Nero’s flight from Rome is a flight from Babylon (this is probably an allusion to the return of Nero myth): “He will flee from Babylon, a terrible and shameless prince whom all mortals and noble men despise” (5.143) and in 5.434 the oracle declares “Woe to you, Babylon, of golden throne and golden sandal.” A few lines later it predicts the Parthians will terrify the “impious race of Babylonians” (5.440). These are all clear allusions to Rome. David Aune draws a parallel to the Dead Sea Scrolls which refer to Rome as the Kittim.

The parallels between Babylon and Rome are obvious. A Jewish writer would see both world empires arrogant and opposed to God; both empires destroyed Jerusalem (in 586 B.C. and A.D. 70). Dating Revelation to the end of the first century, both empires demanded worship as a sign of loyalty (cf. Daniel 3, 6 and the Imperial Cult). John calls the enemy Babylon several more times in Revelation (16:19, 17:5-6; 18:2, 10, 21). By Revelation 19:10 is seems clear he has Rome in mind.

The prediction that Rome had (already) fallen would have been laughable in the first century. Rome had endured for centuries by the time John wrote Revelation and would last for several hundred more, even if its glory was in decline. However, there were predictions of the fall of Rome in the first century, such as the Oracles of Hystaspes which predicted Rome would fall to powers from the east, but 6,000 years in the future (Aune 2:831). This work is only known through the third century A.D. writer Lactantius (Div. Inst. 7.15.11) so it is not particularly relevant for the end of the first century.

Revelation 14:8 describes Babylon the Great made the nations drink “the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” John just hints at what the maddening wine is here, he will expand in this in Revelation 17.

The Message of the First Angel – Revelation 14:6-7

Revelation 14:6-13 three angels who appear in mid-heaven to announce the judgment on the kingdom of the beast is near.

angels of death Durer

Each of the three angels in this section are called “another angel,” despite there being no first angel in the series.  In 14:8 the next angel is called the second; in 14:9 the angel is the third. In Revelation 8:3 there was an eagle who announced the beginning of three woes. Similar to this angle, that eagle was flying in the mid- heaven, but it was not clear in that context the eagle was an angel. Although there is no text variant, some scholars suggest “another angel” (ἄλλον ἄγγελον) ought to read “another eagle” (ἄλλον ἀετόν).  Both the eagle (8:3) and the angel (14:6) proclaim their message to the inhabitants of the earth. But the eagle announces three woes, this angel is announcing “good news” (εὐαγγέλιον).

Despite the angel is in the air, there is no implication the angel as wings. The verb (πέτομαι) is associated with the flight of birds and insects in classical Greek, but also with running or moving quickly (BrillDAG). The angel is located in the midpoint of the sky, “midair” (NIV; μεσουράνημα), hence the ESV translation “directly overhead.”

The angel has an “eternal gospel to preach” to everyone on earth. Other than Romans 1:1, this is the only place in the New Testament where the word Gospel does not appear with the article, suggesting this is not the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus (Aune 2:825). This announcement of good news may allude to Isaiah 40:9-10 and/or 52:7-9. In both cases someone is on a mountain top and announcing good news and in both cases the good news is the salvation of Jerusalem and Zion. In the context of Isaiah 40-55, the good news of Zion’s salvation is the defeat of Babylon and the destruction of her gods (Isa 46). The next angel in Revelation 14:8 announces the fall of Babylon the great.

The angel proclaims good news to all the people of the earth and the message is simple: the day of God’s judgment has come, therefore they ought to “fear God and give him glory.” Most commentators see an allusion to Deuteronomy 10:12-15 or other similar passages. God requires all people to fear him and walk in all his ways (cf. Prov 8:13).

This announcement implies the day of judgment has already come. If this is so, is it too late to glorify God? The aorist verb “has come” may be a proleptic aorist, or an aorist of assurance (Aune, Revelation, 2:828). John often expresses the nearness of God’s judgment by declaring the time “has come.” A similar statement is made in Revelation 6:17 and 11:8 and will appear again in 18:10.

Another option the command to fear God and give him glory does not mean the ones do so are will be saved from the coming judgment. If they have taken the mark of the beast, then they are under God’s judgment. Even those under the judgment must acknowledge that God is worthy of glory. This is similar to Philippians 2:10-11, every knee will bow and acknowledge that Jesus the Messiah is Lord.

The angel concludes by declaring God is the creator. Similar to Paul’s preaching in Acts 14:15-16 and 17:24, the announcement to all peoples of the earth to fear God is based on his status as the creator of everything (cf., Romans 1:18-23).

Book Review: John D. Schwandt, An Introduction to Biblical Greek

Schwandt, John D.  An Introduction to Biblical Greek: A Grammar with Exercises (Revised Edition). Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2020. 497 pp.; Hb.  $23.99  Link to Lexham Press

This new Introduction to Biblical Greek is in many ways not new. Schwandt bases his introduction on H. P. V. Nunn, The Elements of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913). This has been done before: J. W. Wenham published an update of The Elements of New Testament Greek in 1965 for Cambridge University Press. Elements is now in its third edition by Jeremy Duff (with a forward by David Wenham, J. W. Wenham’s son) in 2004. The third edition is considerably different in sequence than Nunn’s original text, compressing the original thirty-seven lessons into twenty chapters. Although the new edition included a few composition exercises, these exercises are greatly reduced from Nunn’s Elements.

Schwandt’s Introduction is a return to the original spirit of Nunn’s Elements. Schwandt says in his introduction that the structure of his book is essentially the same as Nunn’s Elements, as are the vocabulary lists and exercises. He was attracted to Nunn because of its diachronic approach and emphasis on composition. Schwandt believes composition will help the student master the “grammatical fountainheads” like spelling and grammar. In fact, Schwandt argues passionately for composition of Greek sentences as essential for mastering New Testament Greek. Although this method was standard in Greek primers a hundred years ago, few modern introductions to New Testament Greek include composition. Even if a primer does include composition exercises, most Greek professors skip them if they are included (mea culpa).

For comparison purposes, I used the 1923 edition of Nunn’s Elements since it is included my Logos Library. Lesson titles have been updated. For example, lesson 10 on adjectives is now entitled “2-1-2 pattern adjectives” rather than “adjectives of the second declension.” Schwandt calls the second aorist the “thematic aorist” rather than the second aorist. Other lessons are re-titled to better reflect the content. Paradigm charts are clearer in Schwandt’s text, with effective headings and shading. The book has a brief summary of paragraphs in wide margins. These modernizing features are more than just cosmetic updates, the will enhances the student’s ability to navigate the textbook.

In almost every case Schwandt’s explanations follow Nunn’s basic outline but are greatly expanded. For example, he has an expanded discussion of deponent verbs and verbal aspect. In most cases, what Nunn explained in a single line, Schwandt explains in a paragraph. This further explanation will help students grasp the details of Greek grammar. As most Greek professors know, most New Testament Greek students do not have a good grasp of English grammar. Nunn’s original textbook assumed mastery of English grammar (and likely several years of Latin). Schwandt offers more explanation of English grammar than Nunn, and often provides a footnote for details or further discussion in other grammars. The exercises are taken from Nunn, with the slight modification dropping the use of “thou” for the second person pronouns.

One frustration with many older grammars is the use of made-up Greek sentences. On the one hand, creating a sentence in order to give a clear example of a grammatical concept makes sense, especially at the beginning of a Greek class since the student does not know enough to read the New Testament yet. But on the other hand, reading the New Testament from the beginning is encouraging for a student since they see the exegetical payoff for all their hard work. Schwandt therefore adds grammar exercises and biblical translation exercises with footnotes for vocabulary and unusual grammar.

Schwandt introduces the present active indicative verb in lesson 3 using λύω rather than λέγω, Nunn’s paradigm word. This was an unfortunate choice because λέγω is so different in the future, aorist, and perfect tenses. For anyone teaching Greek with Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek, introducing the verb this early is shocking since Mounce holds off on the verb until lesson 16. However, this is the way Greek grammars were written in 1913. By introducing the verb early students are able to work on full sentences from the very beginning of their Greek studies.

One observation: despite the association of Lexham with Faithlife and Logos Bible Software, there is nothing in the book on using Logos as an aid for reading the Greek New Testament. Schwandt himself was Executive Director of Mobile Education for Faithlife. Schwandt wrote a Biblical Greek course for Logos Mobile Education as well as two exegesis courses based on 1 John (both exegesis courses are still on pre-order at this time). I would have expected more connection to the Logos ecosystem, but that is not the case at all.

The book has seven appendices: All vocabulary lists appear in the first appendix and the answer key for all exercises in the second. Schwandt has a short appendix on both accents and prepositions, followed by morphological reference tables, an English-to-Greek glossary, and a Greek-to-English glossary.

Conclusion: Schwandt has indeed revived the original Elements and modernized aspects of the book for use in college and seminary New Testament Greek classes. If a return to the old-school style represented by Nunn (or Machen, Summers, or even Chase and Phillips) is desired, then Schwandt’s An Introduction to Biblical Greek will be a welcome addition to the classroom. For many Greek professors, they might want all the bells and whistles (and teaching aids) found in Mounce’s ubiquitous Basics of Biblical Greek (fourth edition).

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Great Deals on Kregel Academic from Logos Bible Software

Kregel Sale Logos Bible Software

Logos Bible Software posted  a collection of Kregel and Kregel Academic books with deep discounts.  Here are a few of the Academic highlights with links to my reviews:

The Kregel Exegetical Commentary series are 50% off:

Volumes of the Kregel Exegetical Handbooks are 50% to 66% off ($9.99 each):

There are several other Kregel Academic books I have reviewed on sale:

There are many, many more books in this sale, such as John Philips Exploring series (all volumes are $9.99 each). There are dozens of theology and practical theology books on sale as well.  So go to the sale page, browse the titles and fill that shopping cart up.

You need to have Logos Bible Software to use these resources.  As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading that will keep you from mortgaging your home. At the very least, download the free Logos Basic or the $79 Logos 8 Fundamentals. Use the coupon code PARTNEROFFER8 to save 30% on base packages. You can also read these books via the free iOS app.

The Firstfruits of the Lamb – Revelation 14:4-5

In Revelation 14:1-5, the 144,000 witnesses are marked with the name of the Lamb and his father. This stands in contrast to those marked with the name of the beast at the end of chapter 13. What can we know about these 144,000 witnesses?

The Lamb's Supper

First, they have not defiled themselves with women and are virgins (ESV). Normally the Greek word for virgin (παρθένος) is used for a young woman, not a young man (BDAG, a female of marriageable age). Joseph and Asenath 8:1 refers to Joseph as a virgin using this word. First, it is possible this use of virgin implies they men were unmarried at the time they were killed for their faith (although that they are killed is not clear at this point in Revelation). Second, the term is applied to men because they abstain from immorality, whether married or not. Aune dismisses this as “unconvincing.” Third, it is possible to take “virgin” literally as a reference to men who have chosen to remain celibate because of their service to God. Priests and soldiers were exclusively male in the Old Testament. Priests avoided sexual activity during their time of service to avoid ritual uncleanliness (Lev 15:16-18).

It is possible this virginity as a refers to soldiers engaged in holy war. Caird thought the background for this verse was the requirement of Israelite soldiers to be ceremonially pure for battle (Revelation, 179). Richard Bauckham thought the 144,000 were engaging in “an ironic holy war” (Climax of Prophecy, 229-32).

There are several places in the Old Testament were men abstain from sexual activity while engaged in a Holy War. In Deuteronomy 23:9-10 men who are encamped against an enemy should keep themselves from “any evil thing,” with the implication of sexual activity. The reason given is the Lord himself walks in the camp, therefore the camp must be holy, free from any indecency that might turn away the Lord (24:14).

It is tempting to draw a parallel with The War Scroll. The men preparing for the eschatological battle are to be in a state of ritual cleanliness and the army will have “no lame, blind, paralysed person nor any man who has an indelible blemish on his flesh, nor any man suffering from uncleanness” (1Q33 Col. Vii.4). These are all categories of people excluded from temple worship. The main problem with the 144,000 as soldiers in a holy war is that they are not called solders in Revelation nor are they engaged in warfare.

Since these men are described in verse 5 as a sacrifice, the “firstfruits to God,” then “defilement with women” may stand in contrast with those who have followed the beast. In Revelation 17 John will describe worship of the beast as adultery with the great whore of Babylon. In Revelation 2:20 the church at Thyatira tolerated the teaching of a false prophet styled as Jezebel. The association of Jezebel and sexual immorality in that context may refer to worship in the imperial cult (although sexual immorality in the context of a banquet is a possibility). In either case, idolatry is often described as spiritual immorality (Hosea 1-3, for example).

The 144,000 follow the Lamb wherever he goes. The language of “following” Christ is almost completely limited to the Gospels. Following in the Gospels does not mean “accepting the teachings of” the one you follow. For example, “Pastor Smith followed N. T. Wright in his teaching on sanctification.” The “following” is completely intellectual.

In Revelation, following Christ is to become his disciple on a more intimate level. It implies the commitment to continue following Christ even to death. There are many passages that talk about the disciple’s willingness to give up earthly pleasure and security in order to follow Christ on the deepest level possible. The point of the “take up your cross and follow me” saying is that the disciple must be ready to forsake all earthly relationships and be willing to be executed for his faith. This is perhaps the only hint that the 144,000 are martyred, that they continually followed Christ to the point that they gave their lives resisting the beast.

The other unusual thing about this description is that the Lamb is portrayed as a shepherd (as in 7:17). This is to be expected since the Messiah’s leadership is described as a “shepherd” in Is 40:11 and Ezekiel 34:23 and became a part of the Jewish idea of the Messiah (Aune 2:812 for rabbinic apocryphal writings).

The 144,000 were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. The martyrdom motif continues in the next description. “Offered as a firstfruit” is a clear reference to sacrifice. Firstfruit refers to the practice of offering the first portion of a crop to the Lord, or the best of one’s flock to the Lord. The Old Testament is very clear that the only acceptable sacrifice is the best sacrifice, therefore the flawless firstborn male lamb is the most pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. This anticipates Revelation 14:14-20 the harvest of the earth.

No lie was found in their mouths; They are blameless. This description concerns moral purity and continues the theme of describing the 144,000 as spotless sacrifices. The phrase is used in Zephaniah 3:13 to describe the remnant of Israel in the last days.

This whole scene is designed to give comfort to the reader; those that have been set aside to the Lord in the tribulation are being brought through and will stand with the Lamb in Zion and will apparently rule with him in the Kingdom. After the description of the protection of the 144,000, John describes three angelic messengers that continue the theme of comfort and hope.

Book Review: Tremper Longman III, How to Read Daniel

Longman III, Tremper. How to Read Daniel. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2020. 189 pp. Pb; $20.  Link to IVP Academic

Tremper Longman has previous published five volumes in the How to Read series (on Psalms, Proverbs, Genesis, Exodus, and Job [with John Walton]). In this series, Longman intentionally targets the lay person, pastor and seminarian rather than an academic audience. Like the previous volumes in this series, Longman provides a clear introduction to this fascinating but sometimes frustrating prophetic book.

Longman, How to Read DanielIn the first part Longman deals with some introductory issues in three chapters. In the first chapter he deals with the genre, language and structure of the book of Daniel. Daniel is composed of a series of “court tales” (Dan 1-6) and apocalyptic visions (Dan 7-12). Longman uses the genre to divide the book into two units, although he does consider using the use of Aramaic in chapters 2-7 and the clear chiastic pattern as a way to structure the book.

Second, he sets the book of Daniel into the historical context of the Babylonian exile. He briefly treats a historical problem for the historicity of Daniel, the identity of Darius the Mede. Not surprisingly Longman accepts an early date for the book. Since the prophecy in Daniel 11 is so detailed many scholars consider it an example of prophecy after the fact, a common feature in apocalyptic literature. Since Longman believes God often predicts the future, he sees no reason to bracket out his faith when he interprets Daniel 11. If the prophecy is after the fact, then “these texts traffic in deception” (p. 33).

Third, Longman sketches a brief theology of the book by tracing the primary theme of God’s control of the events of history (which guarantee his ultimate victory). This is true despite present difficulties, as illustrated in the court tales. This theme of God’s sovereign control of the events of history should be comforting to those enduring oppression. A secondary theme in Daniel is that God’s people can survive and thrive in a toxic culture. While the theme is found throughout the book, Longman illustrates this theme with the testimony of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when Nebuchadnezzar demands they demonstrate their loyalty to him or die in the fiery furnace. These two themes are developed further in the final two chapters of the book.

The second part of the book devotes a chapter to each of Daniel’s chapters with the exception of last vision (Daniel 10:1-12:4) and 12:5-13 (the conclusion to the book). This is a light commentary on major sections of the English text. Longman offers insight into key details when necessary, but this is an introduction not an exposition of the text. For controversial issues, Longman usually does not take a side. For the empires represented by the four metals, he says “it does not really matter which kingdoms are represented by these metals” (69). When he summarized the vision of four beats in Daniel 7, he does not consider the possibility the arrogant little horn represents Antiochus IV Epiphanes (although the contemptible person in 11:21-35 is Antiochus).

The final part of the book concerns the application of Daniel for the twenty-first century Christian. These final two chapters are more detailed expansions of the two themes he introduced in chapter 3. First, Longman returns to Daniel 1-6 and makes several suggestions for living in a toxic culture. Daniel and his friends engage with culture and provide a model for navigating how Christians can engage contemporary culture. Second, the visions of Daniel 7-12 offer comfort in God’s ultimate victory. Longman says Daniel 7-12 gives readers “the long view to help them live with confidence in a troubled world” (166). Here Longman refers to Jesus’s own apocalyptic discourse which cites the book of Daniel. This chapter also relates the book of Daniel to Revelation. Daniel certainly looks forward to God’s intervention in history to rescue his people, but Longman is clear: Daniel’s visions do “not have an interest in giving us information that will allow us to predict when that great even will happen” (140). Although he briefly mentions Hal Lindsey and Harold Camping (along with the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary) as using Daniel and Revelation to predict the return of Christ (or interpret current events), he refrains from bashing them unfairly and he does not relate these attempts to dispensationalism. He concludes, “perhaps the saddest consequence of the obsession with Daniel as a tool to reconstruct an apocalyptic timetable is that we often miss the important message the book has for us today in the twenty-first century” (142).

Each chapter concludes with several discussion questions which could be used in the context of a small group Bible study or classroom. An annotated commentary list appears as an appendix including Goldingay (WBC), House (TOTC), Longman (NIVAC), Lucas (AOTC), Miller (NAC), Widder (SOG), and E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Banner of Truth, 1949). Occasional endnotes point interested readers to other literature.

Conclusion. Like Longman’s other How to Read books, How to Read Daniel succeeds in introducing the reader to the book by providing the background necessary to better understand Daniel. Longman’s careful explanations and judicious application of the text to contemporary issues will appeal to lay Christians who want to dig deeper into Daniel.

NB: There is a minor typographical error on page 24, Nebuchadnezzar’s reigns until 662 BC; this ought to be 562 (it is correct in the next paragraph). On page 128, Antiochus Epiphanes IV ought to read Antiochus IV Epiphanes (it is correct elsewhere in the text).

Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

The Lamb and the 144,000 – Revelation 14:1-5

Just as Revelation 13 ended with the beast writing his name on the forehead of his followers, Revelation 14:1-5 describes God writing his name and the name of the Lamb on the heads of the 144,000 witnesses introduced in Revelation 7. John intentionally contrasts those who have the mark of the beast with the 144,000 witnesses. As Gordon Fee observes, “this passage has had as rocky a history of interpretation as any other in the book, and maybe more than most” (Revelation, 189).

lamb of god at dormition abbey jerusalem

John sees the Lamb and the 144,000 witnesses on Mount Zion. Is this scene in heaven where the Lamb is seated on the throne with God, or is this on earth in literal Jerusalem? Zion is a Hebrew word which means “citadel”, and probably first referred to the fortress of David in Jerusalem (2 Sam 5:6-10).  The name became associated with the temple mount after Solomon’s reign, Psalm 2:6, 46:4, 78:68-69. In the Psalms, Zion could refer just to the temple mount or to all Jerusalem, and eventually Zion was idealized (Psalm 125) and became an image for heaven (Heb 12:22). Since this is the only place in Revelation where Mount Zion is mentioned, it is difficult to be sure what John has in mind.

Robert Mounce, for example, argued John refers to a heavenly Zion, citing Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26, the “Jerusalem above.” Like Revelation 4-5, the “entire scene is one of praise before the throne of heaven” (Revelation, 267). It is possible this passage indicates the 144,000 have already been put to death and are in heaven at the throne of God.

On the other hand, George Ladd argues this gathering is on the earth; the 144,000 are those who have been preserved through the great tribulation and are in the messianic kingdom when the heavenly Jerusalem descends to earth (Revelation, 188-90). Dispensationalist John Walvoord took the reference to Zion as looking forward to Christ’s reign from Jerusalem in the Millennium (Revelation, 214-15). Buist Fanning refers to this paragraph as a “preview of judgment and victory for the Lamb” and argues it “anticipates the scene, soon to be presented in full (19:11-20:6), when Christ will return to earth…to conquer the beast and his armies and establish his rule from earthly Zion” (Fanning, Revelation, 388).

There are several references to an eschatological pilgrimage in the Old Testament. Isaiah 4:5 and Joel 3:5 describe the nations streaming to Zion, In Isaiah 24:23 the Lord almighty will reign from Zion and “in Jerusalem there will be deliverance (cf. Isa 31:4; Micah 4:7; Joel 2:32).

Other Second Temple period apocalypses developed a similar idea of eschatological victory over God’s enemies on Mount Zion:

Jubilees 1.28 And the LORD will appear in the sight of all. And everyone will know that I am the God of Israel and the father of all the children of Jacob and king upon Mount Zion forever and ever. And Zion and Jerusalem will be holy.”

2 Baruch 40:1 The last ruler who is left alive at that time will be bound, whereas the entire host will be destroyed. And they will carry him on Mount Zion, and my Anointed One will convict him of all his wicked deeds and will assemble and set before him all the works of his hosts.

4 Ezra 13:35–39 But he will stand on the top of Mount Zion. 36 And Zion will come and be made manifest to all people, prepared and built, as you saw the mountain carved out without hands. 37 And he, my Son, will reprove the assembled nations for their ungodliness (this was symbolized by the storm), 38 and will reproach them to their face with their evil thoughts and with the torments with which they are to be tortured (which were symbolized by the flames); and he will destroy them without effort by the law (which was symbolized by the fire). 39 And as for your seeing him gather to himself another multitude that was peaceable. This song is unusual in that it is the only song mentioned in Revelation that is not quoted (in full or in part.)  Aune 2:808 says that this indicates that wither John cannot understand the song, or that he is not a part of the 144,000 who are singing the song and therefore does not know the song.

Two additional features of this scene are unusual. First, the “harpers are harping their harps” (KJV, the NIV avoids the redundancy by translating “playing their harps”). This is a rare case were popular images of heaven have some support in Scripture, but there is nothing here to imply everyone who goes to heaven plays a harp!

Second, the Lamb is standing. In Revelation 5 the Lamb was seated on the throne. It is likely this an allusion Psalm 2:6. There the Lord says, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”  George Caird thinks much of Revelation is an exposition of Psalm 2 as Christian Scripture (Revelation, 178). In Acts 7:56 Stephen sees the heavens open and “the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” That the Son of Man is standing is usually taken as a sign of impending judgment.

I think this scene on Mount Zion needs to be read along with the actions of the second beast in Revelation 13. Even though there is another “and then I looked” signaling another unit, John’s intent is to contrast the followers of the beast and the followers of the Lamb.

Book Review: Daniel Zacharias, Biblical Greek Made Simple: All the Basics in One Semester

Zacharias, H. Daniel.  Biblical Greek Made Simple: All the Basics in One Semester. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. 329 pp.; Hb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press

Danny Zacharias wrote this textbook to cover the basics of biblical Greek in one semester. In the conclusion to the book he says, “if you made it this far, your brain probably hurts” (p. 271). Anyone who has taken an intensive introduction to Greek or Hebrew knows this particular quality of pain.

There are two schools of thought on the “hell week” practice of teaching a biblical language. Since much of the first year of Greek is rote memorization of paradigms and vocabulary, some feel it is better to immerse as deeply into the language as possible in order to get to second year exegesis classes sooner. Sometimes the intensive is supplemented with a “how to use Bible software” seminar so that students can start exegesis right away. Others observe the students have trouble retaining the information that they have smashed into their heads in the intensive format, they need to be retaught basic concepts when they take an exegesis class. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Gone are the days with incoming college freshman have knowledge of English grammar (let alone two years of Latin!)

Another difference of opinion among people who teach biblical languages or write Greek textbooks is the amount of memorization required. For example, in Bill Mounce prefers to introduce concepts and rules and then observe how those play out in various paradigms and declensions. Several times in his Basics of Biblical Greek Mounce says something like “don’t memorize this yet.” Zacharias has the opposite approach: there are a number of occasions where he says, “memorize this.” He provides repeated drills and tools (apps or Quizlet) to help hammer vocabulary and paradigms into the heads of students and firmly embedded them in their memory. I’ve often thought of this is a difference in personality. As a student I preferred to memorize and reproduce charts and I loved making vocab cards by hand. But many of my students prefer to see the big picture and want to know the “whys” for various grammatical concepts and resist memorizing anything.

Zacharias’s textbook claims to cover “all the basics in one semester.” This is exactly what is delivered. Over eleven chapters Zacharias presents each major element of the Greek language.  After a chapter on the alphabet, pronunciation, and all the “jots and tittles,” Zacharias covers nouns in two chapters, first declensions and case endings, then case functions. These two chapters constitute more or less everything said about nouns in the whole textbook. Chapter 4 covers all tenses, voice in the indicative mood (chapter 10 deals with non-indicative moods, subjunctive, imperative and optative). Chapter 5 completes verbs by introducing principle parts, deponent, contract, compound, second aorist and -μι verbs. Although -μι verbs are not difficult, they usually are left until the end of a two-semester textbook. Chapters 7-8 deal with articles, pronouns, numbers, adverbs, prepositions and clauses. Chapters 9-10 cover participles, infinitives in chapter 11.

Each chapter begins with a short statement, “What’s the Point?” Here Zacharias gives a brief reason why it is important to master the grammar presented in the chapter. He is necessarily concise in their presentation of the grammatical topic given the goal of covering everything in a single chapter. For example, he covers the present, imperfect, future, aorist, perfect, and pluperfect tenses in about three pages. For most Greek introductions, each of these tenses require a chapter with exercises focused on just that tense.

The chapters include various tables and charts for paradigms and other concepts, there are 72 tables in the book not counting the appendices. One helpful feature of these charts is the use of colors to indicate roots and endings. Occasionally the grammatical lesson includes a link to a YouTube video to help reinforce the chapter’s concepts. Zacharias has a collection of videos on Greek syntax and many paradigms set to music (these also turn up without links).

Following the presentation is a section of exercises, including re-reading the text and memorize the vocab lists, followed by short phrases to parse, translate, identify grammatical function, etc. There is usually a learning activity using Bible software. Finally, each chapter includes this series of advanced exercises. Zacharias estimates the time required for each of these activities, usually about 10 hours total if one does the advanced exercises.  Some of the exercises introduce students to basic lexical resources such as the Dictionary of Biblical Languages: Greek (James Swanson, Logos Research Systems 1997, second edition Faithlife, 2001).  This lexicon is based on The Greek-English Lexicon by Louw & Nida and included in many Logos base packages; Zacharias gives instructions on using the lexicon along with Strong’s numbers and Louw and Nida’s numbers (p. 46-48). There is an appendix with instructions for using BDAG. Occasionally he refers students to an exegetical dictionary (NIDNTTE, EDNT, etc).

Each chapter ends with a section entitled “The Least You Need to Know.” This is a series of questions the student should be able to answer having completed the presentation of grammatical concepts. Zacharias includes a Quizlet link for these questions to help students review. There are brief sections entitled @Logos which seem to all refer the reader to Logos support. This is disappointing; I expected since Zacharias produces tutorials on how to use Logos. Finally, in each chapter is a section entitled “Second Time Around.” This provides further practice with the grammatical concepts in each chapter, including encouragements to re-read and memorize the paradigms. The sections also include translations of biblical texts with glosses.

There are several appendices. There are a vocabulary lists based on word frequency, principal part lists, a rubric for preparing sermons (essentially an exegetical method), a section on how to use BDAG, a glossary for Greek vocab in alphabetical order, and example of a syntax sheet based on the First John 1:1–14.

In the conclusion to the book, Zacharias offers for some advice on how to continue developing one’s Greek skills after completing a basic introduction. He says, “STOP using your Bible software and start the practice of reading.” I cannot agree more. Are usually recommend students begin carrying their Greek New Testament to church with them sometime during the first semester. Even though they don’t understand all of the words yet, students can pick out grammatical features and vocabulary words they know. He also recommends purchasing a Reader’s Greek New Testament. There are a number of these available from different publishers. These books usually print vocabulary that appears less than 40 times in the New Testament at the bottom of the page. This is very helpful since a first-year Greek students words used more than 40 times. These types of New Testament are crutches, but they can be tools to encourage newer students find success in daily reading.

Conclusion: Zacharias’s textbook covers the content of a typical two-semester Greek introductory course. It should be obvious this is an aggressive goal for most students given the necessary time to complete the work each week along with continual review of previous vocabulary and concepts. Even with apps and Quizlet to help review, it would be difficult for a student to complete a one semester class unless they were only working on Biblical Greek. However, for someone who intends to refresh their Greek or teach themselves without the constraints of a college semester, this textbook will be useful. The pedagogy reminds me of David Allen Black’s It’s Still Greek to Me (Baker 1998), a book I used as a third semester grammar review for several years.

NB: For additional material on this textbook, videos and links to mobile apps, visit Danny Zacharias’s website. Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.