Monday, March 12, 2012

Exegesis of Revelation3:14-22 Part 1

**This series originated as an assignment for my studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary**


Perhaps the most complex book in all of Scripture, the Book of Revelation contains numerous literary genres though it is largely apocalyptic. Revelation records four visions that Jesus instructed the Apostle John to write down and send to the churches in the Roman province of Asia.[1] Early in the book John records letters to seven churches in Asia from Jesus. This monograph will focus on the letter to the church at Laodicea found in Revelation 3:14-22 and discuss the translation, exegetical issues, and historical context of the book. After a short literary analysis, the application to modern Christians and a possible sermon outline will conclude the author’s exegesis of the passage.

Translation and Exegetical Issues

In reviewing a number of English translations, all are quite similar in the choice of language used by the various translation teams. As one would expect, translations that use a formal equivalence approach to translation such as the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the King Kames Version (KJV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), and English Standard Version (ESV) are all quite similar. Translations that utilized dynamic equivalence in their translation method are also similar though the variations are a bit more distinct.

Translation issues begin in the first verse of the letter. In verse 14 Jesus is describing Himself to the Laodiceans. The reader finds in most formal equivalence translations Christ referring to Himself as “the beginning of God’s creation”. The impression many readers may be left with is that Christ is God’s first creation. This is certainly not the case. Though the Greek word ἀρχή (archē) is correctly translated beginning, it is also correct to translate this word ruler and in this instance provides the reader with a clearer understanding of the text. Other passages in Scripture such as Colossians 1:15-17 and John 1:3 clearly demonstrate that God the Father created all things through the Son, Jesus Christ. With this in mind, dynamic equivalence translations such as The New International Version (NIV84), God’s Word translation (GW), and the Good News Translation (GNB) all do a better job of clearly stating the true nature of the risen Savior.

An interesting yet common translation found among formal and dynamic equivalence translations is the choice to render the word ἐμέω as spit in verse 16 where Jesus expresses is disapproval of the lukewarm Laodiceans. A better translation is vomit which more clearly indicates the disgust Jesus has with the indifference displayed by the Laodicean church. The Message[2] and Young’s Literal Translation[3] both choose the more graphic description to convey the sentiment being expressed by Christ.

While there are stylistic differences, the balance of the letter is more or less translated using very similar language. In describing the close, personal fellowship to be shared sitting next to Him on the throne, the more common use of conquerors in verse 21 is not as clear as using the term those who overcome to indicate who will share in the rewards of making the changes Jesus had mentioned previously. Again, Young’s Literal Translation[4] represents formal equivalency well while the New International Version[5] represents dynamic equivalency. The Amplified Bible also does an excellent job imparting the sense of closeness and fellowship to be shared with Christ by those in the church at Laodicea if they correct their ways.[6]

[1] Easley, Kendall H. Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 1.

[2] Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002), Re 3:14-22.

[3] Young, Robert. Young's Literla Translation. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997), Re 3:14-22.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Holy Bible: New International Version (electronic ed.). (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Re 3:14-22.

[6] The Amplified Bible, Containing the Amplified Old Testament and the Amplified New Testament. (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1987), Re 3:14-22.

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