Revelation 1:15: The Majesty and Loveliness of Christ, Part 3

Updated: Jul 3, 2019

Verse 15:[1] (Ezek. 1:7; Dan. 10:6; Rev. 2:18) And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and (Ezek. 43:2; Dan. 10:6; Rev. 14:2; 19:6) his voice as the sound of many waters.



[And His feet, etc., οἱ πόδες—χαλκολιβάνῳ] And His feet like unto chalcolibanum (Montanus, Erasmus, Illyricus, Pagnine, Castalio, Beza, Piscator, etc.), or, aurichalcum/brass (Vulgate), or, the brass of Lebanon (Syriac). Question: What is χαλκολίβανος/chalcolibanum here? Response 1: Copper, or manly, frankincense: for both χάλκεον, of brass, to the Greeks, and æneum, of bronze, to the Latins, are taken for manly and strong, as in this, This wall shall be of copper.[2] Now, what is supplied, as if burning in a furnace, that is to say, as if frankincense in a fire, shows that frankincense is understood. Now, this frankincense, not indeed ours, but Arabian, set to fire, with its own violence ignites in flames pure and purified of smoke. Hence in the hymns of Orpheus, calcolibanos is a common title, for Apollo, for Latona,[3] and for other gods, that is, manly frankincense, or an offering of manly frankincense;[4] as in Virgil, and burn the fat branches of aromatic trees, and manly frankincense[5] (Nebrissensis’[6] An Explanation of Fifty Passages[7] 4). This does not satisfy: for χαλκολίβανος is something that endures and shines in ordinary fires. For, it is here, not for its odor, but for its splendor. Neither is that frankincense tawny or reddish-yellow, that thence it might be called χαλκολίβανος, because it has the appearance of brass, as they maintain; but it is white, as the Greeks, Hebrews, and Arabs assert, and the Hebrew name evinces[8] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:6:16:886). Response 2: amber or electrum[9] (Camerarius, thus Ribera, Hammond out of Andreas Cæsarius), which is a certain thing compounded by a certain mixture of diverse metals, or thus indeed being produced (Camerarius); which Suidas says is more precious than gold, and is composed from different materials, is mixed with glass and gems, and of this composition is the sacred table of the Church of Saint Sophia in Constantinople[10] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:6:16:884). But such a thing was not before the time of Justinian,[11] who constructed this table in such a way that there was nothing in the nature of precious things that would not shine forth in that (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 2:6:16:886). But Suidas is quite deceived, for electrum is a metal. Pliny’s Natural History 33:4, Silver is in all gold in a diverse measure, here a tenth part, there a ninth part, elsewhere an eighth part; wherever there is a fifth part of silver, it is called electrum. Electrum is made with care and with silver added, etc. Hence that in Virgil’s Æneid 8, Which is able to be made with iron or liquid electrum (Ribera). Moreover, electrum has the appearance of fire, the flame of which (to which the eyes of Christ are here compared) is pale; indeed, the surface (to which the head and hairs correspond) is absolutely white. Therefore, there is here an appearance of flaming fire to represent the glorious coming of Christ for the destruction of His enemies, which He does in the following visions (Hammond). Response 3: It is aurichalcum/brass[12] (Jerome in Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals, certain interpreters in Grotius), which Pliny,[13] the Scholiast on Hesiod,[14] and Servius teach us is the most excellent sort of copper. The common people said that the brightness of aurichalcum/brass is unlike gold, as it is in Festus[15] (Grotius), as if mixed from gold and copper; or, orichalcum/brass, from ὄρος/oros/mountain, and χαλκός/chalcos/copper, because it originated in the mountains (Ribera, similarly Beza). Response 4: It is Livianum copper,[16] which was with respect to excellence nearest to Aurichalcum/ brass, as Pliny testifies in his Natural History 34:2, so that χαλκολίβανος/ chalcolibanum, with one little letter elided, is said in the place of χαλκολιβιανόν/chalcolibianon. Namely, as Livia is Λιβίη/Libie in Strabo,[17] Plutarch,[18] etc., so also Livianum copper is χαλκὸς Λιβιανὸς, chalcos Libianos, and, with the word compounded, χαλκολιβιανὸς/chalcolibianos (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 884). Nevertheless, it hinders that the glory of that copper was not great, for, as Pliny testifies, it was found to be very poor (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 886). Response 5: It was copper brought forth from Mount Lebanon (Vatablus, Andreas Cæsarius and Arethas and the Syriac and the Ethiopic in Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals, Cotterius, Cluverus), concerning which see what things are said on Deuteronomy 33:25[19] (certain interpreters in Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals). To which it is objected that you read nothing of copper of Lebanon in ancient or more recent authors (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 885). Response 6: This is most excellent copper, shining, nearest to gold, as mixed with it (Durham); either white copper, or a copper of fiery whiteness, which sort it is when it becomes hot in a fire, which itself is called קָלָל/chalal, burnished copper:[20] now, a great many of the Hebrews render קָלָל as pure and burnished; Saadias,[21] having a reddish glow and gleaming; the Syriac, flashing (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 887); the Septuagint, ἐξαστράπτον, flashing as with lightning; Theodotion, στίλβον/shining (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 887, thus Grotius). This conjecture is supported by what follows and is able to appear to have been added ἐξηγητικῶς/exegetically, as burning in a furnace. [Now] χαλκολίβανος/chalcholibanum appears to be a hybrid word (Grotius), or, a Semi-Hebrew word (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 888); from the Greek χαλκὸς/chalcos/copper, and the Syriac or Hebraic לָבֵן/laben, to be white (Grotius, Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals), which is στίλβειν, to gleam, or ἐξαστράπτειν, to flash as with lightning (Grotius). Thus there are Semi-Persic words, ἀποκιδαρόω, to take κίδαρις, the Persian head-dress, off,[22] Leviticus 10:6;[23] 21:10;[24] γαζοφυλάκιον, a place[25] for γάζα/treasure, here and there in the Gospel;[26] ἀγγαροφορεῖν, to bear[27] as ἀγγᾶρος, a mounted carrier, in Suidas: Semi-Egyptian words in Cicero,[28] Juvenal,[29] etc., Ἀλαβάρχης/Alabarch of Alexandria:[30] Semi-Hebrew words in Justinian, ἀρχιφερεκῖται/archipherekitai, Jewish headmasters;[31] in others, κακομάζαλος /kakomazalos, born under an evil star[32] (Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals 888). But this opinion is contrary to the analogy that is preserved in the composition of words, in which the latter part denotes the thing or person, but the former part denotes some attribute of the same. Thus χαλκίντερος is one having copper entrails, not copper having entrails: and χαλκοχίτωνες are those having copper tunics: and χαλκόμμα is a fly which recalls copper by its color, or by some other thing (Hammond). Question 2: Why feet here? Response: The feet signify, either, 1. the strength of Christ, upon which He supports Himself, as a man upon his feet (Cotterius); and He stands in strength and invincibly, with His feet, like columns of brass, planted in His own territory, which feet all the gates of hell are not able to shatter or crush (Cluverus), and by which feet He will tread down His enemies and the persecutors of the saints (Ribera out of Tichonius[33]). Or, 2. the human nature of Christ (Ribera, thus Zegers), which was led through the fire of suffering unto the glory of Divinity; by which example Christians might know that they also are rendered by their sufferings most pure and honorable, etc. As the head signifies that which is highest in Christ, that is, His Divinity; so also the feet signify that which is lowest (Ribera). Or, 3. actions, as we said on John 13:10, the uprightness of which this signifies. For a similar reason, to the Angel are given feet like fiery columns, Revelation 10:1. Now, many of the same things are in the vision of Daniel, and in this vision of John; for, as there the adversities and triumphs of the Jewish people are foretold, so here of Christian people (Grotius). He designs here not His power only, but principally His ways, counsels, and economies in the government of His Church; in which He directs all things to His own glorious ends well, wisely, and holily (Durham). The righteousness and power of Christ in executing His office appear to be denoted here. For, as feet denote going forward: so also brightness elegantly depicts righteousness; fire, efficacious severity, in the chastisements of the Church and punishments of enemies. Consult Revelation 2:18 (Gomar).


[As if, etc., ὡς ἐν καμίνῳ πεπυρωμένοι] Thus Proverbs 10:20,כֶּ֣סֶף נִ֭בְחָר, choice silver, is translated ἄργυρος πεπυρωμένος, fired/tried silver. Also צָרַף, to smelt or test, is translated πυροῦσθαι in many places, and it is used of Silver in Psalm 66:10[34] and Zechariah 13:9.[35] Now, κάμινος/furnace here is that which is elsewhere χωνευτήριον/smelting-furnace[36] (Grotius). [Thus they render the words:] As in a furnace (or, camino/smelting-furnace [Vulgate, Montanus, Erasmus]) burning (Beza, Piscator, etc.), or, made red-hot (Montanus, Erasmus, Piscator), that is, filled with fire, by which He consumes His enemies (Piscator). It is signified, therefore, that the copper is both excellent in its own nature, and cleansed by fire in addition (Grotius). It signifies that all the ways of Christ are, 1. pure and perfect, Deuteronomy 32:4; and, 2. firm, solid, and stable (Durham).


And his feet like unto fine brass: there are nice disquisitions what this chalcolibanum (which we translate, fine brass) was: see Poole’s Synopsis. I understand not of what profit the determination will be to us. By the feet of Christ (probably) are signified his ways, counsels, and methods, in ordering and governing his church, which are compared to fine brass, for the beauty and glory of them, and for their firmness, strength, and steadiness. As if they burned in a furnace; they appeared like brass filled with fire, as if it were burning, and red-hot in furnace.



[His voice as the voice of many waters] Either, of the Ocean or rivers, when they are dashed against the rocks or shore by a stirring wind (Cluverus); when they rush through stones with great fury, as it happens in the Cataracts of the Nile or Rhine (Pareus): or, of rain falling from heaven with a great din, etc. (Cluverus): that is to say, The voice was emphatic and loud (Menochius, thus Piscator); the sound, as it were, of a great army shouting and charging, which is wont to be compared to this sound, Isaiah 17:12; Ezekiel 1:24 (Ribera); Revelation 19:6 (Ribera, Cluverus). Thus concerning the Cherubim, Ezekiel 43:2. See also Jeremiah 50:42. Just as of the Trumpet sounding, so also of the Sea sounding, the sound is mighty (Grotius). Thus the Gospel [which is the voice of Christ] is heard far and wide (Grotius, similarly Menochius, Cluverus). Here he indicates Christ’s, either, 1. majesty (Piscator); or, 2. absolutely efficacious will, by which He does all the things that He wishes to be done. Voice in the place of commandment, as elsewhere.[37] Or, 3. Christ’s tremendous power, from a comparison with Psalm 18:13; 29:3, etc. (Durham); or Christ’s strength, by which He converts the elect, terrifies the impious, which the whole world did not prevail to hinder (Pareus).


And his voice as the sound of many waters; loud and terrible, like the noise of the sea dashing upon a rock, or the shore.

[1] Greek: καὶ οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ ὅμοιοι χαλκολιβάνῳ, ὡς ἐν καμίνῳ πεπυρωμένοι· καὶ ἡ φωνὴ αὐτοῦ ὡς φωνὴ ὑδάτων πολλῶν.


[2] Horace’s Epistles 1:1.


[3] Latona, the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Leto, was the mother of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus.


[4] Hymns 7, 19, 21, 65.


[5] Eclogue 8:65.


[6] Anthony Nebrissensis (1441-1552) was a Spanish scholar and classicist. He employed his learning to further classical literature among his people, to produce the first grammar of the Spanish language, and to assist in the production of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible.


[7] Quinquaginta Locorum Explanatio.


[8] לְבֺנָה/lebonah/frankincense is derived from the verbal root לָבֵן/laben, to be white.


[9] Electrum is a gold and silver alloy.


[10] The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was for a thousand years the largest cathedral on earth. The sacred table was an altar which was removed and presumably destroyed when the Muslims conquered Constantinople in 1453.


[11] Justinian I (483-565) was the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire from 527 until his death.


[12] The word aurichalcum appears to be derived from aurum/gold and chalcum/copper.


[13] Natural History 34:1.


[14] Shield of Hercules 122. Hesiod lived around the turn of the seventh century BC. In his poetry (particularly, Theogony), he preserves a most ancient form of Greek mythology. Hesiod’s authorship of The Shield of Hercules is very much in doubt.


[15] Sextus Pompeius Festus was a second century Roman grammarian. He composed an epitome of Verrius Flaccus’ De Verborum Significatu.


[16] Livianum was a copper mine in Gaul, named after Livia, the wife of Augustus.


[17] Geography 5.


[18] Life of Galba 3. Mestrius Plutarchus (c. 46-127) was a Greek historian.


[19] Deuteronomy 33:25: “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass (וּנְחֹשֶׁת; καὶ χαλκὸς, in the Septuagint); and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.”


[20] For example, Daniel 10:6b: “…and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass (נְחֹ֣שֶׁת קָלָ֑ל; χαλκοῦ στίλβοντος, in Theodotion)…”


[21] Saadias Ben Joseph (892-942) was a leader (Gaon) in the Babylonian Jewish community and a champion of Talmudic orthodoxy. His scholarship is remarkable, for he labored during a period in which learning was at a low ebb. He produced an Arabic version of the Pentateuch, and translations and commentary for the books of Isaiah, Job, and Proverbs. He tends to interpret, and sometimes to wrest, the text, so that it might conform to traditional rabbinic interpretation.


[22] 0Apo/ signifies separation from.


[23] Leviticus 10:6a: “And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not (οὐκ ἀποκιδαρώσετε, in the Septuagint) your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people…”


[24] Leviticus 21:10: “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover (οὐκ ἀποκιδαρώσει, in the Septuagint) his head, nor rend his clothes…”


[25] Φυλάκιον is a guard or watch.


[26] For example, Luke 21:1: “And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury (τὸ γαζοφυλάκιον).”


[27] Φορέω signifies to bear.


[28] Epistles to Atticus 17.


[29] Satires 1130.


[30] An alabarch was a chief magistrate over the Jewish population in Alexandria Egypt during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. In Greek, ἄρχων signifies a ruler; ἅλς/hals appears to signify sea in ancient Egyptian; together (perhaps), one having rule over the sea.


[31] In Hebrew, פִּרְקָא/pirka signifies lesson; in Greek, ἄρχων signifies a ruler.


[32] In Hebrew, מַזָּלוֹת/mazzaloth signifies constellation; in Greek, κακός signifies evil.


[33] Tichonius (late fourth century) was an African Donatist. He wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse, which is now lost, but referenced by others. He was influential in moving Augustine away from premillennialism.


[34] Psalm 66:10: “For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us (צְרַפְתָּנוּ; ἐπύρωσας, in the Septuagint), as silver is tried (כִּצְרָף; πυροῦται, in the Septuagint).”


[35] Zechariah 13:9a: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them (וּצְרַפְתִּים; πυρώσω, in the Septuagint) as silver is refined (כִּצְרֹף; πυροῦται, in the Septuagint), and will try them as gold is tried…”


[36] 1 Kings 8:51b: “For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace (χωνευτηρίου, in the Septuagint) of iron…”


[37] For example, Exodus 23:21.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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