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 prophets...’11. The u(mi=n, also, constitutes them as receivers of Jesus’ witness through John, and mediators of it for the benefit of the churches.
A second parallelism between the first and third strophes regards John’s book. In the first strophe, the reader learns from the words of the angel that the book has to be left unsealed, since the time is near (v. 10). Every interpreter rightly connects that command with the pretence of the pseudo-epigraphical writers who, on the contrary, simulate recovering and publishing books written in ancient epochs, for instance by Enoch, Moses, or Baruch etc., and awaiting the right time for their revelation and diffusion, after being intentionally sealed or hidden 12. If this is true, the angel says to John that his book is not destined to the generations of the age to come; on the contrary, it prepares the churches of the present time for the kairo/j by now imminent (22,10b; cf. 1,3), revealing what is to happen very soon (22,6c; cf. 1,1.3). In the third strophe as well, the reading of John’s book is the object of heavenly instructions coming from the Christ himself, but they now concern those to whom they are addressed, and not the author. The Christ speaks here through the formulae of juridical casuistry. The cases foreseen are two: first, that someone adds something to the book (e)a/n tij e)piqh=|) or, second, that something be taken away from it (e)a/n tij a)fe/lh||). By way of a pun, which is rather artful and difficult to render in our versions, John says that ‘something will be added’ to he who adds, and ‘something will be taken away’ from he who takes away. Such a sanction follows the ‘reciprocity rule’, drawing chastisements from the book itself, because what ‘will be added’ are the plagues written of in the book, and what ‘will be taken