Giancarlo Biguzzi, «The Chaos of Rev 22,6-21 and Prophecy in Asia», Vol. 83 (2002) 193-210
Interpreters of the Apocalypse agree that in Ap 22,6-21 disorder reigns and that, most of all, various voices in these verses interfere with one another, without care for rules which would produce a proper development. Therefore, chaos is undeniably in the text. But it is equally true that with some ease one can discern in the text an articulation in three strophes: the first and the third speak of the revelation received by John and of the transmission of that revelation to the churches by means of John’s book, while the second is concerned with the ethical life and its eschatological reward. All this reveals the anxiety of John about a relaxation of vigilance on the part of the churches of Asia, so that John consequently insists on the imminence of the eschatological Coming and labors to show the legitimacy of the demands of his book, especially before the eyes of his ‘brother-prophets’. It is the framework of their prophetic style, probably charismatic like that of the prophets of 1 Cor 14, which allows us to make sense of the interference and injection of various voices in these verses of the johannine Apocalypse; we find a similar style in certain other verses at the beginning and in the body of John’s book.
bliss. From there, identifying his addressee with the one who thirsts for the reward, he bids him to come: ‘Let him who is thirsty come’ (v. 17c), and, almost as if his interlocutor had already arrived in the eschatological Jerusalem and at the river of living water, invites him to draw freely: ‘Let him who desires take the water of life without price’ (v. 17d).
The metamorphosis of the addressee is not yet complete. When repeating once more the promise of the Coming (v. 20a), John strengthens it with a nai/ that makes it surer and easier to expect, and finally, he drops the imperative of an individual invocation (ei)pa/tw e!rxou, v. 17b) involving everybody — himself, the ideal Church, and the non-ideal Christian — in a common invocation, so that all assent with the ‘Amen’ and unanimously implore the Coming, saying: ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’ (v. 20b). The rhetorical resources of John have reached their climax. In fact only the final wish of grace follows, and the book ends.
With great skill, then, John is leading his addressees from the lack of will-power and the relaxed vigilance to a renewed alertness, to the thirst for the last realities and the firm resolution of conquering them.
2. Ethical exhortations and the real addressees
If John tries to enliven the eschatological waiting in his interlocutors, it is because he is looking to solicit other ethical choices from them. This is seen for example in the beatitude promised to the one who gives acceptance, keeps and puts into practice (threi=n) the words of the book (v. 7b), but still more in vv. 11-15, through the tension John creates between the real interlocutor and the ideal one.
Verse 22,11 cannot be properly exploited, unless it is correctly understood from the grammatical and syntactical point of view. Its four sentences are connected each with the other by means of three kai/ which do not have the same syntactical value. The first kai/ co-ordinates two homogeneous sentences since the two subjects (evildoer, the filthy one) and the two imperatives related to them (‘Let him still do evil’, ‘Let him still be filthy’) are all negatives: this first kai/ has then the value of the Latin et/atque. The third kai/ is similarly to be translated with a co-ordinating et, since it connects two homogeneous subjects (righteous, holy) and two homogeneous imperatives (‘Let him still do right’, ‘Let him still be holy’). The non-homogeneous kai/, which cannot be translated with et, is the second one. It connects, in fact, the two sentences with negative subjects and verbs, to the two