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 bright morning star’, v. 16b), when suddenly the voice of the narrator interrupts him stating that the Spirit and the bride invoke his Coming (v. 17a). He then adds three imperatives addressing the first and the second to the hearer and to ‘him who is thirsty’ respectively (v. 17a-17c), hoping that they might appropriate and repeat the same invocation, — and the third to everybody, hoping that one might come to draw the water of life freely (v. 17d). After these imperatives uttered by the narrator, the speech continues in the first person: ‘I testify to everyone who hears...’ (v. 18). Here the subject of ‘I testify’ is probably Jesus again, because below, in v. 20, ‘He who testifies’ is certainly Jesus, who promises his eschatological Coming again.
The last two unquestionable cases of interference are in v. 20. After the words of vv. 18-19 spoken by Jesus in the first person, an intervention of the narrator follows who in the third person reports: ‘He who testifies to these things says...’ (v. 20a). The following words (‘Amen! Come, Lord Jesus’, v. 20b) could in themselves originate from the narrator, but the ‘Amen!’ and the invoking of Jesus’ Coming, acquire a particular force, both of confirmation and of intense longing, if they are attributed, for example, to the choral voice of a congregation.
Other possible cases are in vv. 11 and 15. The four imperatives of v. 11 could, of course, be attributed by the narrator to the angel already speaking in v. 10, but they could as well be words of an unidentified speaker, or better, words pronounced by Jesus, who in fact speaks in the following verse. Secondly, the decree of expulsion from the city (v. 15) could be uttered by someone other than Jesus, since it does not contain Jesus’ ‘I’, which is found in vv. 12-13. However, both vv. 11 and 15 contain important moral-eschatological utterances that, as such, can reasonably be attributed to the authoritative Jesus who dominates the whole context.
In conclusion, the chaos of Rev 22,6-21 seems to be the result of the interference of the voice of the narrator (22,6.8-10.17.20a.21) with that of Jesus (22,7.12-14.16.18-19; possibly 11.15) and, probably, with that of an assembly which hears, approves, and invokes the glorious Coming of Christ (22,20b). The phenomenon is undeniable, and one wonders what the reason could be for such a bizarre conclusion of Revelation.
2. The themes and articulation of the text
If the chaos of 22,6-21 is not really impressive in regard to the number of the interfering voices, it is even less so in regard to