Alteration Of OT Imagery In The Book Of Revelation: Its Hermeneutical And Theological Significance -- By: Thomas Edward McComiskey

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 36:3 (Sep 1993)
Article: Alteration Of OT Imagery In The Book Of Revelation: Its Hermeneutical And Theological Significance
Author: Thomas Edward McComiskey


Alteration Of OT Imagery
In The Book Of Revelation:
Its Hermeneutical And Theological Significance

Thomas Edward McComiskey*

One of the striking features of the book of Revelation is its adaptation of OT imagery to its Christocentric proclamation. We frequently find in its pages imagery hauntingly familiar to us from the OT but different in form or application from its OT setting.1 Do the observable differences resulting from Revelation’s borrowing of OT imagery create a supratextual bank of theological material depicting discontinuity and progression in the program of God, or does Revelation share only the immediate cognitive values these symbols have in their OT settings apart from any interest in creating a theological continuum?

A recent commentator on Revelation, for example, says concerning the transference of the motif of white hair from God, the Ancient of Days, in Dan 7:9 to Christ in Rev 1:14: “Thus, John made it clear that all the attributes of the Father which the Old Testament visions described are also attributes of the Son. To the Son has been given all power and authority both to reign and to be the world’s Judge.”2 It is clear that the observable process of alteration itself has for this writer important theological significance.3

* Thomas McComiskey is presiding fellow of the American College of Biblical Theologians, 2 Hawthorn Drive, Hawthorn Woods, IL 60047.

The present article will explore the questions posed by conceptual and structural alteration of OT imagery and suggest that we are on the safest ground theologically and hermeneutically when we seek the significance of altered apocalyptic symbols only within the intentions of the appropriate OT and NT texts as context defines those intentions.4

I. Modes Of Adaptation Of OT Prophetic Material
To The Message Of Revelation

There are several ways in which the book of Revelation makes use of OT materials.5 One is its interweaving of OT phraseology into the tapestry of events it depicts. One has only to scan the bold type in the Nestle edition of Novum Testamentum Graece to observe this. We find allusions to the OT on almost every page.6 While many of them are merely faint echoes, we nevertheless gain the overwhelming impression that the whole...

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