Friday, September 14, 2012

Beale on Revelation 17

I have two items for my write-up today on G.K. Beale's The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text.

1.  Revelation 17:10-11 states (in the King James Version): "And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, [and] the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.  And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition."

Beale refers to different interpretations of this passage: attempts to identify the seven kings with seven Roman monarchs, as well as the argument that the five fallen kings are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece (nations that oppressed Israel), Rome is the king who is, and an unknown kingdom is the one who is to come.  Beale is open to these interpretations (although, on some level, he finds them problematic), but he ultimately interprets the passage as symbolic and as relevant to the church age, the time between Christ's first and second comings.  Seven, for Beale, indicates that the Beast's oppression is complete, for seven is a number of completion.  The reference to the past, present, and future depicts the Beast as counterfeiting God, who was, is, and is to come.  The reference to the Beast as the eighth, for Beale, presents the Beast as counterfeiting Jesus Christ, whose number (according to gematria) is 888.  And Beale contends that the Beast was and was not in the sense that Satan was defeated by Christ's death, and thus the Beast is (in some sense) powerless, and yet the Beast continues to exercise power in oppressing God's people.  So the Beast exists, but does not exist.

For Beale, these are things that are pertinent to the entire church age.  And yet Beale also believes that they related to the first century, as the Roman emperor counterfeited God and Christ----not in the sense that he pretended to be the Jesus Christ whom Christians worship, but in the sense that he claimed divinity and professed to do things that Christians ascribed to Jesus Christ, such as inaugurating new beginnings.

2.  On page 889, Beale takes on the preterist view that the woman of Revelation 17 is Jerusalem.  Remember that many preterists interpret the Book of Revelation in light of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and thus their view of Revelation is as Jerusalem-centric as they can make it.  Beale acknowledges that the woman is described as Israel is in the Hebrew Bible----as a harlot.  Yet, his problem with interpreting the woman as Jerusalem is that Jerusalem did not rule over the kings of the earth, especially not in the few centuries prior to 70 C.E.  But Beale refers to how some scholars have attempted to get around that: by saying that God gave Jerusalem spiritual rule over the earth, that the state of the world (whether it was at peace or in chaos) was contingent on Israel's faithfulness to God, or that there are biblical and rabbinic texts indicating that Jerusalem had "spiritual and economic influence over the whole earth throughout the ages" (Beale's words). 

Beale thinks that the woman represents Rome, in some capacity.  But, because Revelation 17 depicts the Beast killing the woman, Beale believes that the woman and the Beast represent different components of Rome: the woman is the religious-economic aspect, whereas the Beast is the political-military.  But Beale also says that, in a sense, the churches that compromise with Rome's idolatry are part of Babylon.  For Beale, Revelation 17 is about how other nations benefit from Rome economically and are influenced by her idolatry (but Beale probably also believes that Revelation 17 somehow relates to the church age).

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