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Revelation 1:11: John's Commission to Write

Updated: Jun 20, 2019

Verse 11:[1] Saying, (Rev. 1:8) I am Alpha and Omega, (Rev. 1:17) the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

[Saying[2]] Namely, the trumpet saying, not the voice saying, just as if the mouth was a trumpet (Cotterius). This sound, therefore, spoke articulately (Menochius).

[I am the Alpha, etc., Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Α, etc.] This is not read in the Vulgate, nor in two ancient codices[3] (Beza). However, all the remaining Codices read in this way (Cluverus). Now, these words are repeated here, 1. further to assert the eternal divinity of Christ (Cluverus, similarly Durham); by whose enemies I think that this was erased (Cluverus): and, so that both John and the Churches might know from whom John had received these commands (Durham): and, so that the certainty and preeminence (of this prophecy) might be shown to all from the prescience, omnipotence, and trustworthiness of the Author (Cluverus).

I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; I, who speak unto thee, am the eternal, immutable God.

[What thou seest[4]] That is, This vision which thou hast seen (Durham); or, which now thou wilt see and hear (Grotius, similarly Durham). For the Present is in the place of the proximate Future: and to see is in the place of whatever sense (Grotius).

[Write in a book] Bound, not on leaves unbound, for the matter that was to be written is one, namely, the entire Apocalypse. And note that Christ is the author of the Apocalypse as written (Cotterius). Not only was the composition inspired by Him, but the writing was also mandated (Cluverus).

What thou seest, write in a book; what thou shalt presently see, write in a book, not in loose papers. Whence we may observe, that this book is not only the revelation of the will of Christ, but written by his direction.

[Send to the seven Church, etc.] He does not say to the populations: for the Word of God is the children’s bread, not the bread of dogs[5] (Cotterius): that is to say, Hide it not in a corner, but send it unto them, so that thence it might be published to the entire world (Cluverus). Send, namely, the transcript of this vision (Grotius, similarly Pareus): for this does not pertain unto all the rest of this book. The diverse visions occurred to John at diverse times, as also to the Prophets (Grotius). [Concerning which see on the preceding verse.] But soon, in verse 19, there will be a general commandment concerning the writing of all, even what follows (Pareus). The Apocalypse makes much use of the number seven, for among the Hebrews it denotes the totality of things (Grotius).

And send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; not to all that lived within the jurisdiction or compass of these cities, but only to those Christians who lived in or near these places, which are all cities in the Lesser Asia.

[Unto Ephesus, etc., εἰς Ἔφεσον, etc.] Above he calls them Churches, here the very cities; for the Churches are conjoined with the places that they inhabit in such a way that they produce for them happiness or ruin, according as they stand to their office or recede from it (Cotterius). Here, the Churches are designated by the name of the cities which they inhabit, for in these places, inasmuch as they were heavily populated, were a great many ministers; who, although they might run here and there, according as there was hope of harvest, nevertheless there they had their fixed seats. Nevertheless, the surrounding Churches are here included. Thus the Church of Jerusalem includes all the Churches of Judea; the Church of Corinth, that of Cenchrea,[6] etc. Now, it is to be observed that the number of the Churches corresponds to the places where their members were dwelling; whence it is evident that Parochial Churches agree with Sacred Scripture. For no inhabitant of Ephesus was a member of the Church of Smyrna, etc. (Durham). The Prophets are wont to allude to the names of cities, as in Micah 1:14, 15. All these names were elegently advising Christians of their duty. Ἔφεσος/Ephesus advises them that they ought to be stirred by a desire for eternal things: for ἔφεσις is desire. Σμύρνα/Smyrna, so that they might by uncorrupted, as myrrh is; concerning which we spoke on Matthew 2:11. Pergamos, so that they ponder sublime things. For, that all sublime things are call πέργαμα/pergama[7] among the Asians, Hesychius,[8] Suidas,[9] and Servius[10] observe. Thyatira, θύειν ἀτειρέα, thuein ateirea, to sacrifice unyielding things, that is, for the honor of God to kill unruly affections. Σάρδεις/ Sardis, to hold the precepts of Christ well impressed upon the soul, just as among all gems Sard best impresses signs. Φιλαδέλφια/Philadelphia, unto the love of brethren.[11] Λαοδίκεια/Laodicea stirs unto the demonstration of Justice towards all peoples.[12] Now, these were the most famous cities of Ionia, Lydia, Æolia, Caria, as it appears out of Stephanus,[13] Pliny, Ptolemy (Grotius). Ephesus was a city of Ionia (Cotterius, Pareus), the greatest and most famous (Ribera), with a market, and with a temple of Diana[14] (Pareus, Cluverus, Ribera), with a most populous Church, where Paul spent his labor for three years[15] (Cotterius). Smyrna was likewise a city of Ionia (Pareus, Ribera, Cotterius), maritime (Pareus, Cluverus), a colony of the Ephesians (Pareus). Pergamos[16] was a city of Troas or Phrygia, known for papers, which thence they were calling pergamenas/parchments (Pareus, Ribera). Thyatira was a city of Mæonia or Lydia (Ribera, Cotterius), concerning which see Acts 16:14 (Ribera, Pareus). With respect to Pergamos it was near to the Lycus River[17] (Pareus). Now, it was of the jurisdiction of Pergamos (Ribera, Cotterius), so that it might rightly be placed after it (Cotterius). Sardis was a city of Lydia[18] (Ribera, Cotterius), great and famous, as Pliny testifies in his Natural History 5:29. This jurisdiction, says he, is now called Sardian, and the Cadueni,[19] Philadelphians, etc., resort unto it in addition to the forementioned Macedonians (Ribera). Whence we learn by what principle Philadelphia follows Sardis (Cotterius). Philadelphia was a city of Mysia, or of Æolia, near to Lydia[20] (Ribera, Cotterius), named, either after the founder, Attalus Philadelphus[21] (Ribera); or, from Ptolemy Philadelphus[22] (Cotterius). There were also two other Philadelphias (Ribera), one in Egypt, the other in Cœlesyria[23] (Pareus, thus Ribera). Laodicea was a city of Caria (Ribera, Pareus, Cotterius), or of Ionia (Pareus), or of the greater Phrygia (Cluverus), set on the Lycus,[24] the greatest and most famous (Cluverus, thus Ribera), Metropolis of Phrygia (Cotterius). Now, there were other Laodiceas in Lydia, Lycaonia,[25] Media, Syria (Ribera, thus Pareus). The order appears to descend. For we easily assign to Ephesus the first place (Cotterius), which they called the other light of Asia, as Pliny testifies in his Natural History 5:29 (Ribera). Smyrna was in the second place (Cotterius). But where then was Rome, to which it could have been written with great profit to all? Certainly Christ, who passed over the vicar, was not forgetful of His own. But He knew that he was not able to err, neither was he in need of a counselor (Brightman).

Ephesus was the most famous, where Paul preached, Acts 19:1, etc., and stayed three years, Acts 20:31. It was a noble city in that part of Greece which was called Ionia. Smyrna was a seaport city in the same country. Pergamos was a city of Troas, or Phrygia. Thyatira was a city in Lydia, or Mysia. Sardis also was a city in Lydia, near the mountain Tmolus.[26] Philadelphia was a city in Lydia, next Mysia. Laodicea was a city in Asia, near the river Lycus. In all these cities there were congregations of Christians formed into churches, to whom God here ordereth St. John to send these visions, when he had written them in a book. Our countryman, Mr. Brightman, asks, Where Rome was all this while? And how it came to pass God directed not these mysteries to be sent, and kept in their archives, especially if (as the papists say) the bishop there be Christ’s successive vicar? And considering, too, how great friends Peter and John were wont to be? But the forementioned author tartly replies to his own question: That that church, it seems, could never err, and therefore needed not any correptory or monitory epistle.

[1] Greek: λεγούσης, Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος· καί, Ὃ βλέπεις γράψον εἰς βιβλίον, καὶ πέμψον ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ταῖς ἐν Ἀσίᾳ, εἰς Ἔφεσον, καὶ εἰς Σμύρναν, καὶ εἰς Πέργαμον, καὶ εἰς Θυάτειρα, καὶ εἰς Σάρδεις, καὶ εἰς Φιλαδέλφειαν, καὶ εἰς Λαοδίκειαν.

[2] Revelation 1:10b, 11a: “…and heard behind me a great voice (φωνὴν μεγάλην, in the Accusative case), as of a trumpet (σάλπιγγος, in the Genitive case), saying (λεγούσης, in the Genitive case)…”

[3] What two codices may be in view is difficult to determine. Codices Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Ephræmi Rescriptus all omit this reading, as do a great number of Byzantine codices.

[4] Greek: Ὃ βλέπεις.

[5] See Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27.

[6] Cenchrea was just east of Corinth.

[7] Πέργαμος in general refers to a citadel or acropolis, a high place.

[8] Hesychius of Alexandria (fifth century AD) composed a Greek lexicon of almost fifty-one thousand entries, filled with explanations of rare and obscure words and phrases.

[9] Suidas was the compiler of the Suda, an encyclopedia containing more that thirty thousand entries concerning the ancient Mediterranean world. It was probably composed in tenth-century Byzantium.

[10] Maurus Servius Honoratius was a fourth century Roman commentator on Virgil.

[11] Φιλέω signifies to love; ἀδελφὸς signifies a brother.

[12] Λαὸς signifies a people; δίκαιος signifies righteous.

[13] Stephanus Byzantium wrote a geographical dictionary, entitled Ethnica, which only survives in fragments.

[14] See Acts 19:21-41.

[15] Acts 20:31.

[16] Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos were on the coast of the Ægean Sea, Ephesus being the southern most, Pergamos the northern most.

[17] Thyatira was about thirty-five miles south-east of Pergamos.

[18] Sardis was about forty miles south-east of Thyatira.

[19] The Cadueni were the people of Cadi (Gadiz), a Macedonian colony of Phrygia.

[20] Philadelphia was about twenty miles south-east of Sardis.

[21] Attalus II Philadelphus (220-138 BC), King of Pergamon, founded the cities of Philadelphia and Attalia.

[22] Ptolemy Philadelphus (third century BC) was king of Egypt, remembered for his library in Alexandria.

[23] Cœlesyria was the valley between the Libanus and Anti-Libanus mountains.

[24] Laodicea was about thirty miles south of Philadelphia.

[25] Lycaonia was a large region in the interior of Asia Minor, just north of Mount Taurus.

[26] Mount Tmolus, named for the Greek mountain god of that name, is in Lydia, or Phrygia.

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