Monday, July 3, 2017

Stumbling Through Revelation 1:13, A Layman's Commentary

And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man,
    I’ve already talked about the seven candlesticks. It's been pointed out that most of the oldest manuscripts don't have the word “seven” here, but I don't see where that makes a whole lot of difference. John already said there were seven of them.
           So let’s talk about “one like unto the Son of man”. Why couldn’t it just say “in the midst of the candlesticks was the Son of Man”? That would have been easy. The Son of Man = Jesus. OK, let’s talk about His clothes.
    But Noooo! It was “one like unto the Son of Man”. What in the (supply your own favorite term for frustrated confusion here - but keep it clean, this is a Bible study) does that mean?

          Let me stop here and point out that when I was young, I read the King James version of the Bible. Then I discovered the New King James version and was thrilled to escape all the “thees” and “thous” that seemed to make the Bible so hard to read. The New King James version says: “One like the Son of Man”. So that version has the same problem: What do you mean “like” the Son of Man? Is it the Son of Man or isn’t it? The footnotes didn’t help. They referred me to Daniel 7:13 - I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. That verse had the same problem: Like the Son of man? How did Daniel know what the Son of Man looked like?
    In the Old Testament, I counted 107 times the term “son of man” was used. 92 of those times it was referring to the prophet Ezekiel. Did Daniel really mean that he saw someone that looked like Ezekiel coming with the clouds?
My apologies to anyone who grew up reading the NIV, English Standard, New American Standard, or any of the other handful of Bibles that translated it “‘a’ son of man.” Those folks are probably amused by my confusion.
    Turns out that little word “a” makes all the difference in the world. The Greek didn’t have any article in front of “son of man”, so I guess the translators had the choice which article to put there. (they had to put something in there or the sentence wouldn’t have made any sense at all in English.) I would say the King James translators chose poorly.
    I have been studying on what “son of man” actually means and why Jesus used the term to describe Himself so often, but there are as many opinions on this subject as there are commentaries, and after three days of trying to put together a coherent explanation for this commentary, I’ve come to the conclusion that it really isn’t germane to the subject at hand.
(That’s right: I chickened out.) Though, it is clear that “son of man” means a man, as opposed to a child, or a woman.
    Down to the foot, but not covering it. We get a description of His feet later.
Common Jews  in the first century generally wore garments that reached to the knees, or just below. This allowed for some freedom of movement. When they were working, they sometimes wore less than that: John 21:7 - Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. There is some disagreement over just how naked Simon Peter was, but it’s pretty clear he wasn’t wearing much.
That the garment went down to His foot would seem to show that the figure John saw was not a common man. Some commentators claim that this person was dressed as the high priest, but John doesn’t tell us what color the garment was. The priest’s robe was blue: Exodus 28:31 - And thou shalt make the robe of the ephod all of blue. The high priest also wore a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle. (Exodus 28:4)  
    “Paps” (mastos) mean breasts. Young’s concordance gets a little more specific than that, but suffice it to say, this golden girdle wrapped around His chest. This is not the same kind of girdle that the high priest wore. The high priest’s girdle had gold in it, but it wasn’t pure gold. Exodus 28:8 - And the curious girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. I love the use of the word “curious” here. Even the New King James says “ intricately woven “, but it reminds me of the billboards for Altoids® - the curiously strong mints. (No, I didn’t get paid for that)
    I’m not quite sold on the idea, put forth by many, that this is the clothing of a king either. Now, I could be wrong. Jesus is a High Priest and a king (Hebrews 6:20 - Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 7:2 - To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace), and taking care of the menorah(s) is the job of the high priest. But just going by the text here, there being no mention of a scepter, crown or any of the other clothing associated with a king, face value speaks only of a man in a long garment with a gold band around his chest.
The closest thing I can find to match this description is in Revelation 15:6 - And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.
    It seems to me, if we’re going to try to interpret the clothing, the best we can say is that He was dressed in the uniform of Heaven.
    There are a lot of spiritual insights that I have read in the study of this scripture alone. I almost feel guilty skipping over them, but some of the most powerful insights (for me personally anyway) came from the rabbit holes I went down while trying to find references to go with this verse. I invite you, dear reader, to disagree with me and do your own study for the sake of rebuttal. You’ll be surprised at the things you learn while studying the subject that don’t even have to do with that subject.

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