The structure of Revelation

A brief history of my investigations into Revelation

It was around 1995 when I found a promising model of Revelation involving 76 pages with a mean of approximately 600 letters to the page. The resulting arrangement looked sufficiently good that I showed it to my former NT lecturer Dr.T.F.Glasson (then retired), who I knew had a special interest in this book. However over the next two decades I began to suspect that originally the author's planning may have invlolved a model with about 300 letters to the page. This was because certain very popular structural breaks (e.g. at 2:1 and 22:6) came close to half way through a page on the 76-page model.

The original archetype

So was the original archetype based on a 152-page model? This would have been a strange number to choose. We know that the author was obsessed with numbers, and from ch. 7 that the author considered the number 144 to have a special significance. Therefore it makes more sense to suppose that he would have planned for 144 pages. Could four 600-letter pages have been added to transform a 144-page 300-letters-per-page document into a 76-page 600-letters-per-page document? Indeed it could, and the natural candidate for these later pages is what we know as ch. 14. The main reasons are four-fold. Firstly, this chapter interrupts the portents described in 12-13 and 15:1. Secondly, in spite of the interconnections throughout most of the book, there are no references to anything in ch. 14 from elsewhere in the book. Thirdly, the 144 thousand of 14:1 is introduced as if for the first time (cf. 7:4) and they are called male celibates rather than Jews as in ch. 7. Fourthly the status of Babylon as "fallen" in 14:8 seems totally out of place (cf. 18:2).

My conclusion is that the author wrote what we might now call a first edition using a codex of 144 pages with a mean of about 300 letters to the page. But he encountered a problem because multiple quires had probably not been invented at that time. So with 36 sheets folded down the centre to make a codex, which was a lot more than the 20 sheets in the later codex of Acts, he (or a subsequent writer/scribe) realized that the central sheets protruded too far. This person had probably seen a perfectly satisfactory single-quire 20-sheet codex of Matthew's gospel, with the outer sheet as a cover and the writing on the 76 pages of the inner 19 sheets. (The evidence for which has not yet been presented on this site.) So he decided to add enough extra material (what we know as ch. 14) to make up a codex with 76 pages of writing at about 600 letters to the page. This new archetype became what I will call the second edition (even though the problem may have been noticed before any copies were made of the 'first edition').

Posited minor textual variations from NA27

1:6

Omit των αιωνων
This phrase is omitted in manuscripts p19, A and P.

2:16

Omit ουν
A minority of the UBS3 committee would have omitted this word.

8:8

Omit πυρι
A minority of the UBS3 committee would have omitted this word.

20:5

Omit the sentence rendered in NRSV as "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended."
This sentence looks like an interpolation because grammatically the next sentence ("This is the first resurrection.") refers back to it. Without the interpolation, it refers back to the last sentence in v.4, which was clearly the intention. The omitted sentence was probably a marginal gloss, i.e. a comment written in the margin by a scribe, and later mistakenly 'restored' to the text by another scribe.

21:3

Omit αυτων θεος
These words are marked in the NA text as being of doubtful authenticity. They may represent another marginal gloss.

21:4

Omit οτι
This word is marked in the NA text as being of doubtful authenticity.

21:6

Omit ειμι
This word is marked in the NA text as being of doubtful authenticity.

21:12

Omit τα ονοματα
These words are marked in the NA text as being of doubtful authenticity.

RevEdn1 - Arrangement of levels 1 and 2


chapter:verse Greek pages suggested
range letters   section title
 
 Letters to seven churches 
1:1-3 302 1     God's revelation is made known to John
1:4 - 3:22 [...] 6964 23     He writes to the churches
 A vision of heaven 
4:1-10a 1195 4     Around the throne
4:10b - 5:14 1798 6     The worthy ones
 Heralds of judgement 
6 - 8:3 4209 14     Seven seals broken
8:4 - 11:18 [...] 7196 24     Seven trumpets blown
 Signs in heaven 
11:19 - 13:18 4246 14     The first six signs
15:1-4 572 2     The song of Moses introduces the seventh sign
 The judgement of God 
15:5 - 19:17 9620 32     The consequences of his wrath
19:18 - 20:15 [...] 2421 8     The lake of fire
 The new Jerusalem 
21:1-11 [...] 1246 4     The bride
21:12 - 22:5 [...] 2091 7     The gated city ruled by God and the Lamb
 Jesus testifies to the churches through this book
22:6-15 936 3     The blessed are contrasted with the evildoers
22:16-21 576 2     He who testifies will be coming soon

Concerning the structure of levels 1-2

  1. The symbol [...] after a section chapter:verse range indicates that the letter counts shown reflect one or more minor textual variations from the NA27 text, as detailed above the table.
  2. This part of the structure is entirely symmetrical. Its seven major sections reflect one of the writer's favourite numbers.
  3. The level-1 structure is chiastic. The 1st and 7th levels refer to church(es). The 2nd and 6th levels are visions of heaven. The 3rd and 5th levels are about judgement.
  4. With a total of 144 pages, which is a whole multiple of four, the arrangement is consistent with what we would expect for a structure designed to help to produce an impressive document on a single-quire codex.


RevEdn1 - Full arrangement: levels 1 to 4


chapter:verse Greek pages suggested
range letters   section title
 
 Letters to seven churches 
1:1-3 302 1     God's revelation is made known to John
    Writing to the churches
1:4-20 [...] 1788 6        The commission
2 - 3 [...] 5176 17        The churches are called to repentance
 A vision of heaven
4:1-10a 1195 4     Around the throne
4:10b - 5:14 1798 6     The worthy ones
 Heralds of judgement
    Seven seals broken
6:1 - 7:3 2354 8        The first six seals are broken
       The redeemed
7:4-14 1222 4           The numbers and clothing of those receiving the seal
7:15-17 315 1           A poem foretelling their future
8:1-3 318 1        The seventh seal is broken
    Seven trumpets blown
8:4-6 287 1        Preparing to blow the seven trumpets
8:7-11 [...] 598 2        The first three trumpets
8:12-13 329 1        The fourth trumpet
9:1-11 1199 4        The fifth trumpet
       The sixth trumpet
9:12-19 873 3           A third of mankind are killed
9:20-21 329 1           The rest of mankind are unrepentant
       Interlude: directions to prophesy
10:1-10 1228 4           The little scroll
10:11 - 11:14 1765 6           The two witnesses
       The seventh trumpet
11:15-17a 284 1           The trumpet is blown
11:17b-18 304 1           The song of the 24 elders
 Signs in heaven 
    The first six signs
11:19 - 12:18 2147 7        The woman, the dragon, the serpent and the earth
13:1-18 2099 7        The two beasts
15:1-4 572 2     The song of Moses introduces the seventh sign
 The judgement of God 
    The consequences of his wrath
       Seven plagues poured out of seven bowls
15:5 - 16:16 2119 7           The first six plagues, leading to the final battle of Armageddon
16:17 - 16:19a 283 1           The seventh plague is poured out and the cities of the nations collapse
       The fall of Babylon
16:19b - 18:1 2430 8           Its destruction
18:2-8 905 3           Poetic voices from heaven
18:9 - 19:4 2388 8        The lament over Babylon
19:5-17 1495 5        The great banquets
    The lake of fire
19:18-21 620 2        The end of all flesh: the beast and the false prophet end up in the lake of fire
20:1-10 [...] 1230 4        The thousand-year reign, after which the devil ends up in the lake of fire
20:11-15 571 2        Anyone whose name is not in the book of life will also end up in the lake of fire
 The new Jerusalem 
21:1-11 [...] 1246 4     The bride
    The gated city ruled by God and the Lamb
21:12-14 [...] 310 1        Twelve gates for twelve apostles
21:15 - 22:5 1781 6        A city of glass and light
 Jesus testifies to the churches through this book
    The blessed are contrasted with the evildoers
22:6-11 626 2        Those who keep the words of this book and those who don't
22:12-15 310 1        Those who are inside the city and those who are outside it
22:16-21 576 2     He who testifies will be coming soon

Concerning the complete structure

  1. An interesting feature of this arrangement is that the author appears to have found it helpful also to envisage the 144-page book as six consecutive blocks, each with 24 pages. These blocks each start where a new part of the structure begins, at 1:1, 4:1, 8:4, 11:19, 16:19b and 19:18.
  2. 4:10b starts with:"And they worship ...". Thus "worship" in 4:10b and 5:14 forms a precise frame for the section on worthiness (4:10b - 5:14).
  3. 8:3/4 is the centre of a chiasm:
    7 angels with 7 trumpets, v.2
      censer, v.3a
        prayers of ... the saints, v.3b
        prayers of the saints, v.4
      censer, v.5
    7 angels with 7 trumpets, v.6
  4. 16:19a/b marks the transition between the general doom of the "cities of the nations", and the more specific doom of Babylon starting with "God remembered great Babylon .....".
  5. The section 18:2-8 consists of two poems, each with a brief introduction.
  6. 'banquet' in 19:17 and 'flesh' in 19:18 are consistent with the adjacent sections "The great banquets" (19:5-17) and "The end of all flesh ..." (19:18-21). 19:17/18 is a 24-page boundary. It is mid-sentence in Greek, but the mention of "flesh" five times in v.18 and once in v.21 supports my belief that the writer considered 19:18-21 as a section.
  7. The section "Twelve gates for twelve apostles" (21:12-15) is the first of the final twelve pages of the original archetype of Revelation.