New Exodus as a Background for “The Sea was No More” in Revelation 21:1C -- By: Dave Mathewson
TrinJ 24:2 (Fall 03) p. 243
as a Background for
“The Sea was No More”
in Revelation 21:1C
Dave Mathewson is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.
And I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and the sea was no more. —Rev 21:1
There now appears to be widespread recognition that one of the crucial interpretive keys to unlocking the meaning of the Apocalypse is an informed understanding of the author’s use of the OT. Despite the fact that John never once formally quotes the OT, his vision is saturated with its language and imagery by means of allusion. John’s visionary piece stands at the climax of God’s prophetic revelation.1 As such, he gathers up the various threads of OT prophetic expectations “in a fresh vision of the way they are to be fulfilled.”2 This is especially true in John’s climactic vision, Rev 21:1–22:5, where the author assembles an extensive diversity of prophetic traditions in order to express the eschatological hope of God’s people.3 It is the purpose of this article to examine one phrase in this climactic section that has often been overlooked for its possible OT antecedents and interpretive significance. In John’s visionary denouement, the author declares that ἡ θάλασσα οὐκ ἔστιν ἔτι (“the sea was no more”; Rev 21:1c). In the wake of the establishment of the new creation (21:1a-b), why does John single out the sea as undergoing removal? Most scholars are content to draw attention to associations with mythological ideas of chaos and evil or to the
TrinJ 24:2 (Fall 03) p. 244
antipathy harbored by ancient people toward the sea.4 Or construed in purely cosmological terms, the sea could simply be regarded as a division of the tripartite references to creation throughout Revelation (heaven, earth, and sea; cf. 5:13; 10:6; 12:12; 14:7) which now no longer plays a part in the new creation. Some have even concluded that it quite literally refers to the ocean that spatially separated John from ...
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