Rev 12:1-14:20

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Home > The New Testament > Revelation > Chapters 12-14
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  • Rev 12: The Joseph Smith Translation. In the original manuscripts for the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, there are only a few changes to the Book of Revelation. The first eight verses of the first chapter are changed quite a bit, and two or three verses in the rest of the book have substantial changes. Besides these, there are only words here and there adjusted. Except for this chapter. Joseph performed something of an overhaul on chapter 12, and the consequences of the changes are quite important--especially for the Latter-day Saint understanding of the temple and its role. Besides a number of word changes, the very order of the verses in chapter 12 are reworked. For example, what is in the NT the whole of verse 5 becomes part of verse 2 in the JST. This first example of reordering the verses has a major consequence: there seem to be two visions in the JST. A first vision of the birth of the son is followed by a retrospective vision of the dragon's threat. The temporal flow of the chapter is, in short, disturbed in the JST, and it is not exactly clear why it should be. These difficulties call for interpretation.
But perhaps even before these questions might be approached, there is a major interpretive addition to these verses in the JST, one that deserves careful attention. Joseph adds in what would roughly be verse 7 the briefest explanation of what the symbols are (though not exactly what they represent). Joseph writes: "and the draggon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman, which was the church of God, who have been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his christ." Two rather simple points emerge here: the woman is "the church of God," and the child she brings forth is "the kingdom of our God and his christ." These identifications call for some comment.
At the very least, this much can be said: John's vision, as Joseph translates it, is of a woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, and crowned with the stars, who pains to give birth, eventually bringing forth a son, and this process is to be understood as "the church of God" giving birth to "the kingdom of our God and his christ." In short: the Church gives birth to the Kingdom. The very image calls into question the all-too-often suggested identification of the Church and the Kingdom (the Church as the Kingdom of God). In other words, there is the hint here that Joseph here understands the Church to be something other than the Kingdom, to be something closely tied to the Kingdom, but something other than it (even its Other).
To make sense of the image, one might turn to the architecture of the earliest Latter-day Saint temples. The Nauvoo temple, like the Salt Lake temple, was an amalgamation of celestial symbolism, carved into the very stone of the temple. Each stone pillar was clothed with the sun, stood on the moon, and the whole building was crowned with stars. The same is true of the Salt Lake temple now. The hint: the temple is the woman, and hence, apparently, also "the church of God." This suggests further, then, that what is going on inside the temple is the slow development of the Kingdom, the preparation of the Kingdom that is eventually to come forth and to begin a separate existence, over and against the Church. If the temple embodies the Church, and within the temple the development of the Kingdom is afoot, then there is here a hint at how Joseph understood the Kingdom to be related to the Church: the Church is a vehicle for the emergence of the Kingdom, is the very womb in which it takes shape, but from which it must eventually part. In short, the Kingdom must eventually outstrip the Church--and it is probably for this reason so important that the "child was caught up unto God, and to his throne" (verse 5).
These preliminary comments perhaps open the way for discussing the rearrangement of the verses in the JST, the discussion of which should open the way for discussing the actual content of each of the verses as they sit in the NT.
  • Rev 13:18: 666. Many people have tried to tie the number "666" to specific historical figures. A different way to approach the number is not as six hundred sixty six (666), but as a sequence of three sixes (6-6-6). Approached in this way, the number could generically stand for three of something, which signifies presiding or being in charge, and that this something is 6, which stands for imperfection or evil (being just less than a complete or perfect 7), or in other words three 6's could simply mean the head of evil.

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