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.
The last fifteen verses of Revelation present not a few problems to the reader above all for their particular, disturbed literary form. In fact, notwithstanding the optimism of Charlier who uses expressions such as ‘perfectly structured’ and ‘attentive care’1, interpreters speak of negligence (Allo), incoherence (Loisy), haphazardness (Beasley-Murray, Beale), utmost disorder (Charles), or of different hands (Kraft), chaotic agglomeration (Vanni) and disconcerting ‘mare magnum’ (Boismard). A good number of authors complain in particular about isolated sayings (Yarbro Collins) and unannounced voices (Giblin) or loose ejaculations (Moffatt), and recognise that it is often difficult to state who is uttering this or that sentence (Swete, Moffatt, Barclay, Müller, Giblin, Beasley-Murray)2.
Even if such loose utterances prove in the end to be not so numerous as may appear at first sight, undeniably some voices alternate in Rev 22,6-21 and interfere with one another, infringing the rules of correct reportage.
I. The chaos of Rev 22,6-21, undeniable but not wild
1. The many voices, their intermittence and interference
The first undeniable interference is in vv. 6-7a. While the narrator is speaking in the first person (cf. the pronoun in ‘And he said to me [moi/]’, v. 6), another voice, again in the first person singular, suddenly proclaims: ‘And behold, I am coming soon’ (v. 7a). Such an ‘I’ is no doubt the ‘I’ of Jesus, assuring the reader about his imminent Coming. The beatitude immediately following in v. 7b is also to be ascribed to Jesus: it can be inferred from Rev 16,15 where a similar sequence, of an announcement of the Coming uttered by Jesus in the first person and a beatitude promised to the faithful, is found. The second indisputable case occurs in vv. 16b-17. Here, Jesus is speaking (‘I am ...