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"Worthy is Christ": a modern hymn and its apocalyptic pedigree.

In 1978, a new Lutheran Book of Worship was published, containing a new and in truth surprising innovation to the eucharistic liturgy of North American Lutherans. As an alternative to the Gloria Patri ("Glory be to the Father and to the Son ..."), a hymn of praise that formed part of the entrance rite with which the liturgy traditionally began, a hymn was offered that was quite startling in its concept and wording: "This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia. Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God. Power, riches, wisdom, and strength, honor and blessing and glory are his. This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia. Sing with all the people of God and join in the hymn of all creation: Blessing and honor and glory and might be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen. This is the feast of victory for our God, for the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Alleluia" (LBW, 81-82).

Alleluias frame the hymn at beginning and close, thus making it particularly appropriate for use in the Easter season when the Alleluias return to the liturgy, accompanying and greeting the announcement that "Christ has risen!"

Not only was this a spanking new hymn rather than an English translation of some previous text of earlier time. It also was fresh in its language and conceptuality, virtually all of which was taken from lines and phrases of the New Testament book of Revelation, alias the Apocalypse of John. That Lutherans should be singing stuff inspired by the book of Revelation is remarkable given the differences between the staid, middle-of-the-road sensibilities of Lutherans (consult Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion" for details) and the wild and wooly visions and auditions of John the Seer.

So, to honor my irony-loving friend Bob, I invite readers to linger a bit and relish this delicious piece of Lutheran liturgical irony. Not that Bob was ever a liturgy whiz or a "chancel prancer," as they were called in his day. But I suspect that his funny bone must have been tweaked more than once as he sang this new hymn and contemplated its biblical source. For here is a hymn recently incorporated into the regular liturgy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, but a text based on passages in a biblical book that Lutherans have tended to avoid like the Bubonic Plague or the writings of Karl Marx. Bob, as a great exception to conventional Lutheran exegetical practice, has taught and commented (1) on this politically most "extremist" of NT writings, though himself hardly a political extremist. I myself have taught a course on "The Apocalypse of John Then and Now" each year since the early 1980s. This was not only to assure that students at the University of San Francisco were introduced to the entire New Testament including this writing (in contrast to most Lutheran seminaries where Apocalyptic amnesia seems to reign), but also because I too have found this text endlessly challenging and fascinating. Because we both have been singing "Worthy is Christ" since the advent of the LBW in 1978, it seems to me that an appreciative look at this hymn and its biblical origins would be an appropriate way to honor Bob, the churchman and the exegete. In the midst of writing this essay I learned of the untimely death of our honoree's president at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Timothy Lull, on May 20, 2003. So while writing in tribute to Bob, I join him in remembering Tim and offering thanks to God for this good friend, engaging interpreter of Luther, and faithful servant of the church.

A surprising Lutheran creation

Lutherans in general have never warmed up to the Apocalypse of John. Placed last in the New Testament canon, it also comes in last among Lutheran canonical favorites. Perhaps this should not surprise. Luther himself admitted to not knowing what to make of this perplexing and alien writing. When facing the Apocalypse, Luther included it among his unnumbered NT documents, abandoned his normal historical-critical approach, and resorted to allegorizing the text in a blast against the papacy and the Muslims. Most of his followers tacitly seem to share his quandary. Its bizarre imagery, its uncompromising "us-versus-them" mentality, its supposedly vengeful spirit, its clutter with gore, blood and guts, its wallowing in war, destruction, and death, its cannibalism, for goodness sake!--none of this is appetitlich or salonfahig for nice, go-with-the program, respectable, middle-class Lutherans. No radicalism for us progeny of the good professor of Wittenberg. No extremism in our tent. We're the successors of Junker Jorg (Martin incognito), client of princes, not followers of Thomas Munzer, rouser of rabbles. We ensconce ourselves safely, as did blessed Martin, between the rigid authoritarian legalist Thomists on one extreme and the frenzied Anabaptist and feather-covered Enthusiasten on the other. For the most part we leave the text of Revelation to the "fundies" and millennarians and just hope that our parishioners are not taking too seriously the book itself or the bestsellers based on it. So it is nothing short of amazing that a hymn inspired by this bizarre writing should have made its way into a safe and comfortable hymnal, the Lutheran Book of Worship. Even more amazing is that this hymn is actually used and not ignored and even adopted in the hymnals and liturgies of other ecclesial communions.

Composed fresh for Lutheran worship by the Lutheran author John W. Arthur (1922-1980), member of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship and of its Liturgical Text Committee (1967-78), the hymn is a pastiche or mosaic of lines, phrases, of words drawn from various passages of the Apocalypse of John. In the entrance rite of all three settings of the Eucharist as set forth in the Lutheran Book of Worship, this text is provided as an alternative hymn of praise to the venerable Gloria in Excelsis, which traditionally has opened the liturgy. The hymn, notes Philip H. Pfatteicher in his splendid Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship, was published initially by Pr. Arthur in Contemporary Worship 2: The Holy Communion (1970) and drew on "much the same material as the canticle Dignus est Agnus (Rev 5:12, 13; 15:3-4; 19:5,6), which was included in the Common Service Book (1919) and The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)." (2)

Pfatteicher's comment on the hymn itself (pp. 124-25) traces its wording to several passages of Revelation and notes how the antiphon relates the hymn to the Eucharistic banquet of which it is a part. The references to the Revelation of John are in fact even more extensive than Pfatteicher's brief observations indicate and echo several important motifs or themes of the Revelation that merit closer attention. Before examining this language of the hymn term for term, it will be useful to recall the gist of the writing inspiring this hymn, namely the Revelation of John, its literary structure and content, its historical situation, its rhetorical strategy, and its evangelical message.

The Revelation of John in brief

The Apocalypse/Revelation of John is one of several similar literary compositions that were produced in Israelite and Christian circles two centuries prior to the change of the era and two centuries thereafter. In the 300s B.C.E. Israel's political situation began to undergo drastic "degradation" (to use modern Pentagon lingo) when Philip and Alexander of Macedon began their military conquest of Greece, the Mediterranean, and much of the territory eastward. This military expansion was accompanied by a forceful imposition of Greek language and culture upon all of the subjected peoples, including the House of Israel. Conditions worsened to the point where military successors to Alexander began to raid the Jerusalem Temple and its treasury to support their military campaigns, to strip Israel of its autonomy, and to forbid circumcision and the practice of its worship. (3)

In response to this economic, social, and cultural oppression on the part of this Greek/Macedonian "military-political complex," while many Israelites (primarily the landed elites) collaborated with the Hellenization juggernaut, others (led by the Maccabees) protested and resisted. The struggle between occupying outsiders and subjected insiders continued, however, even when the Romans unseated the Greeks as top dogs of the Mediterranean world in the first century B.C.E. Military occupation and oppression brought about the collapse of previous institutions, confusion, and uncertainty, along with compromise and cooptation on the part of the subjected peoples.

To fuel the resistance, a new genre of writing emerged that offered clarification of the depressing situation and an unvarnished truth that revealed the lies, disinformation, and evil machinations of the oppressors. Rooted in the old prophetic tradition, its claim to absolute truth and to being a thoroughly accurate assessment of Israel's past, present, and future was based on its coming directly from God. Those recording and passing on this information had, they claimed, received it directly from God as "revelation" (apokalypsis in Greek), in contrast to conventional sources of information. Privileged with ascents into heaven and experiences of visions, auditions, and dreams, these communicators (generally remaining anonymous) transmitted in writing what they heard directly from God's mouth and witnessed in their sojourn in the heavenlies. This included what was gleaned from this other, yet equally informative, part of God's world, the sky, with its stars, planets, and constellations--all believed by the ancients to be living entities rich in data for those who could read the signs. (4)

In situations where conflict blurred vision and froze hearts, where conventional sources of enlightenment had failed, where confusion and uncertainty were rampant, where corruption was pervasive and deception widespread, only revelation from God could pierce the darkness, provide the truth, and evoke trust. This information from God to privileged humans was mediated through dreams, visions, and auditions while the seer was in a trance (or as we say today, an altered state of consciousness), (5) and when he/she had ascended into the heavens and learned there in the celestial sphere of the universe all the things that the sun, moon, planets, stars and constellations revealed about the terrestrial sphere below and the state of humanity, its past, present, and future.

Since this was resistance literature produced in times of war and conflict, authors took the protective measure of encrypting their message in a language and complex of images and symbols familiar only to fellow "insiders." For outsiders and oppressors who lacked "ears to hear," everything remained a mystery.

The Revelation of John was one of these many "apocalypses," or records of revelation, that circulated in Israelite enclaves and then later among followers of Jesus the Messiah in the first two centuries C.E. Written in the last decade of the first century C.E. and addressed to suffering followers of Jesus in the Roman province of Asia, it too was a response to harassment and conflict. This situation was causing confusion, fear, suffering, and death among the Jesus followers and also prompting cooperation and compromise with the oppressors--"going along in order to get along," as a Lutheran U.S. attorney general once put it.

The twofold structure of Revelation is announced in one of the concluding verses of the introduction (1:1-20). John the Seer is commanded, "Now write what you see, "What is and what is to take place hereafter" (1:19; cf. 22:6). This points to a basic two-part structure of the writing (2:1-22:5) that is framed by an Opening (1:1-19) and a Close (22:6-20). The first part (2:1-3:22) consists of a series of similarly constructed letters to seven churches, describing current conditions and challenges facing the Jesus Movement in Asia. These letters were composed by John the visionary on the basis of information revealed to him in an altered state of consciousness ("in the Spirit," 1:10) on the island of Patmos one Lord's day (1:9-10). They contain an account of "what is" (1:19a) in the here and now of the Seer and his addressees from his present terrestrial location. Addressed to seven churches of seven cities of Asia, the letters are combinations of praise and censure, calls for repentance and noncompromise, reminders of the Lord's imminent coming, warnings to "listen up" with ears primed for hearing and heeding, and assurances of victory to those who remain faithful to God and the Lamb in the face of present suffering.

At 4:1 the scene shifts from earth to heaven and opens the writing's second half (4:1-22:5). A voice from heaven declares, "Come up here and I will show you what must take place hereafter" (4:1), words repeating those of 1:19b. Having written about "what is" in 2:1-3:22, the Seer now will witness from a celestial, divine perspective the consequences of the present events that are soon to take place. Once again "in the Spirit" (4:2; cf. 1:10), our Seer, the sky-traveler and astral prophet, (6) now ascends to the sky and through a series of visions and auditions is granted a comprehensive perspective on the present earthly scene unavailable to ordinary terrestrials. His location high above the earth provides him a far more encompassing perspective so that he can now see the same present reality described in the seven letters in the light of both the past and the immediate future. At the heavenly "throne of God" (7) his vantage point is that of the Creator and Controller of time and space, the "Alpha and Omega," "the First and the Last." The current situation is in view once again, but set within an encompassing historical and cosmic framework embracing both earth and heaven and extending from primordial past to imminent future. Within this all-encompassing framework, the hidden meaning and imminent consequences of the present are made known to John the Seer. Both halves of Revelation focus on the same reality and are inseparably related. Both concern the conditions and challenges to followers of Jesus the Messiah in the seven churches of Asia. Identical language, motifs, themes, and accents pervade and unite both halves. The second far longer part presents information as the Creator makes it known from the observation of sun and moon, planets and stars, the constellations, and the actions of the Zodiacal "four living creatures and the rest of the celestial entourage. (8) This description of "what is to take place hereafter" is not a prognostication of events in any distant future but a declaration of what is right around the comer, the certain consequences of present conduct. The two parts of the writing reflect on the same events but from different points of view. The letters describe the scene from a here-and-now terrestrial perspective--events taking place in actual cities of the Roman province of Asia, the province most fully under Roman control. The seer's ascent into heaven provides him with a heavenly perspective on reality, "direct," as it were, "from God's throne room and command center" (chaps. 4-5). Here, "embedded" with the constellations, planets, and stars, he gets "frontline information" of a truly cosmic scope--information about the ultimate agents in the present struggle, the meaning of the struggle in which they are engaged, the ultimate agents involved, and the final outcome of this struggle. From this heavenly vantage point and in the Spirit he sees through the deceptions and confusions that distort the present scene, and he learns the actual truth about what is and what is soon to take place.

The situation and the dilemma of the Asian churches

The seven letters portray a situation rife with conflict, confusion, compromise, affliction, "tribulation" (2:9, 10, 22; see also 1:9 and 7:14), and suffering (2:10) to the point of the shedding of innocent blood (2:13; cf. also 6:9-11; 7:13-14; 11:7; 12:10-11; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2). Lying, deception, slander, and disinformation campaigns are the order of the day (2:2, 9; 3:9).9 Idolatry and immorality (= compromises with the powers that be) are occurring in some of the churches (2:14-15, 20-22) along with complacency (3:2, 15-16) and empty, delusional boasting (3:17). Other churches, or at least some of the members, have resisted assimilation and remained faithful to God and Christ (2:6, 13, 24; 3:4, 8, 10). The letters abound with references to "synagogues of Satan" (2:9; 3:9), the "throne of Satan" (2:13), the "deep things of Satan" (2:24); false apostles (2:2), false prophets (2:20); masquerading (2:2; 3:2, 9); mysterious names (2:17; 3:12), stars (2:1, 28); sword (2:12; cf. 1:16); eating together (3:20); God's throne (3:21); an "hour of trial coming upon the whole world" (3:10); and conquering and reigning (2:7, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21). The churches appear to be under pressure to relax their exclusive allegiance to God and conform to the ways of their Gentile neighbors, which John labels "adultery" (= climbing into bed with the highest bidder). This includes joining in public cultic activities (sharing in temple sacrifices and meals) and doing obeisance to the powers-that-be, which John labels "idolatry." John does not identify this enemy by its actual name but links it with Satan and the Devil. In the second hall of Revelation, however, it becomes clear for "anyone who has ears to hear" (2:7; 13:9) that this enemy is Rome and its local Asian allies. So, in anticipation of a look at these latter chapters of Revelation, a few remarks on Rome's imperial control of the Mediterranean world are in order.

By the time of John's writing (end of the first century C.E.), Rome was in sole control of the Mediterranean world. Like dominant powers of every age, it was forcing its allies in all of its twenty-five provinces to do its bidding "or else." Support and profitable trade agreements were available to "cooperative" provinces. Preemptive strikes and annihilation, on the other hand, were in store for any who refused to acknowledge the ultimate power of Rome and its legions. Confusion and deception were manufactured by Rome to cloak its takeover of power in the Mediterranean region, its bloody suppression of formerly independent states, and its totalitarian control of production, commerce, and trade around what it called "mare nostrum," "our sea." In a series of military coups, commanders-in-chief of the armed forces (imperatores) had recently taken over the government of Rome and transformed the state from a republic into an empire (from imperium, "military rule"). Masking this power grab and bloodbath, these emperors claimed to be establishers of a "pax romana" (in reality one of the bloodiest periods in human history). In a brilliant propaganda campaign, these blood-drenched military commanders also claimed to be benevolent "fathers" (pateres) of a now subjugated and subservient pan-Mediterranean "fatherland" (patriae). This military coup replacing a Roman republican form of government began with Octavian (a.k.a. Augustus = "revered one") in 31 B.C.E. and continued uninterrupted until the collapse of Roman power in the 400s C.E. Of course, many emperors claimed to be conservatives wanting to return to a republican form of government. But an unending chain of "crises," they regretted, required retention of the "national state of emergency" indefinitely (which, of course, was never lifted). This in turn required retention and expansion of the legions--as protection, of course, against enemies and "terrorists" internal and external. With the largest standing army in history--25 or more legions of 250,000 men under arms at all times--Rome dominated the Mediterranean region and beyond, from Spain to Parthia and from Scotland to Africa, for nearly half a millennium.

The province of Asia, a jewel in Rome's provincial crown, was particularly crucial to Rome's dominance of the entire territory of Asia Minor (roughly modern-day Turkey) and points to the east. Asia Minor was rich in natural resources, and Asia's cities and markets and centers of commerce and trade were vital to Rome's economic as well as political control of its eastern territories. Rome was making it difficult for the provincials not to cooperate. Loss of Rome's favor, let alone getting on Rome's bad side for failure to go along with the program, would have disastrous consequences. So the easiest course for maintaining economic viability and political survival was to praise, honor, and court Rome's favor in public, erect those shrines to Roma and its current imperator, and to do Rome's bidding as obsequious clients. The Seer alludes to Rome's control of Asia throughout his writing; in his letters he hints at how the provincials, including many of the followers of Jesus, were staking out the middle road of compromise and selling out to Rome (= "idolatry, adultery, immorality").

The Jesus movement, as John portrays it, is still a part of the House of Israel. The followers are nowhere called "Christians." Its assemblies are "synagogues" (2:9; 3:9), its worship is Israelite in language and tone, its faith is in the God of Israel as articulated in Israel's sacred scriptures; its spokespersons are prophets (10:7; 11:10, 18; 16:6; 18:24; 22:6.9). Its sense of itself, its history and hope, is still inspired and shaped by Israelite tradition. Without once explicitly citing Israel's scriptures, it contains more allusions thereto than any other New Testament writing. Its "holy city" is still Jerusalem, though it now lies in ruin and rubble with blood in the streets still witness to its devastation by Rome (11:1-10). It is a part of Israel, however, that is no longer concerned with the Temple in the holy city, because it is convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is God's crucified Messiah and that it is he who mediates God's power and presence (21:22-22:5). In sociological terms, the movement has now become a sect of Israel: Israelite in its roots, thought, theology, and practice yet divergent from other Israelite groups in terms of its adherence to a crucified Galilean as Messiah of YHWH and its devotion to him, the Lion of Judah, the Passover lamb and cosmic Lamb, as messianic agent of God's redemption. (10)

In Asia, the sect, along with the native populations of the seven cities, was under increased pressure from the boot of Rome. The punishment for resisting Rome had been made graphically clear by Rome's shock-and-awe wasting of Judaea, its holy city and its Temple in the war of 66-73 C.E. Acknowledgment of Rome's power and the claim of its emperors to be dominus et deus ("lord and god"), would compromise the sect's exclusive devotion to God and the Messiah and endanger the very cohesion and viability of the movement. While some members of the messianic sect did whatever it took to survive and succeed in these uncertain times, others had begun to resist and had paid with imprisonment (2:10) and their very lives (2:13; 6:9-11 etc.), like the followers slaughtered by Nero in Rome back in 64 C.E. as purported arsonists responsible for the fire that destroyed four fifths of the city.

John's cryptic assessment and message

While each of the seven letters (2:1-3:22) is geared for a specific audience and locality, all share a common structure, an identical analysis of the economic-social-political situation, and a similar message. This message is unfolded in full in 4:1-22:5. It is an ambiguous message in ambiguous form for an ambiguous time, full of parody and paradox, with a lamb vanquishing a dragon and victims becoming victors. It is a message not for predicting the time but for redeeming the time. Its intent is a clarification of muted grey areas into blacks and whites, evil and good, the polluted and the pure, Satan vs. God and the Lamb, a present unjust age and an age of justice soon to come. It is a warning concerning doom, destruction, and deliverance. It is an urgent call to remain steadfast despite suffering, to repent of complacency and compromise, to move from lukewarmness and the middle of the road to heated commitment, and from disillusionment and despair to confidence and hope.

In these letters John recounts elements of this struggle: the vacillation between resistance and compromise, vigilance and complacency; the innocent suffering and the bloody tribulation. In chaps. 13-20, the Seer provides more detail on this scene and assesses it in the harshest of terms. In cryptic terminology and imagery designed to be understood only by insider believers with ears attuned for hearing, (11) and in typical prophetic fashion, John denounces Rome and its slaughter of those resisting its totalitarian pretensions. The Seer depicts Rome as a watery "beast from the sea" (13:1-10), (12) who, with authority given it by the dragon (13:4), alias Satan/the Devil (12:9; 20:2; cf. 16:13), demands of its subjects exclusive allegiance and "worship" (13) and who would control all commerce and trade by requiring its clients to bear its "mark" or "name" or "number" (666) (13:16-18; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20).

In collusion with Rome and serving as its "prophet" of propaganda (16:3; 19:20) is the aristocracy of Asia, the "beast from the land" (13:11). It looks like a lowly lamb but speaks like a dragon (13:11), so it too, like the beast from the sea, is, aligned with the dragon=Satan=Devil. It exercises the authority of beast # 1 (13:12), urges its worship (13:12, 15), and causes those who refuse to be slain (13:15). As Rome's clients and beneficiaries of its patronage, these local rulers (decuriones) encourage and force their subjects to cooperate with Rome, acknowledge Rome's supremacy (= "worship"), and bear Rome's name or mark, the government seal of approval. While beast #1/Rome was intimidating Asia with its legionary weapons of mass destruction, local Asia puppets were "working great signs," "deceiving" the locals into making and worshiping an "image" of the beast/Rome (13:13-18), and deluding the populace with their weapons of mass distortion. As Rome's spin doctors and flacks, these local rulers, says John, have crawled into bed with a "whore," a "harlot," as John calls the beast from the sea (17:1-19:8). Their international trade agreements (compare the infamous NAFTA agreements), he insists, constitute adultery and idolatry (18:3, 9; cf. 2:14, 20-22) with a "great harlot" (17:1), who is "great Babylon," the "great city" (16:19) as evil as the Babylon that destroyed the people of Judah five hundred years earlier. This present Babylon sits enthroned on seven hills, i.e., Rome (17:1-18:24), and has been the residence of a string of seven heads/emperors (17:7-14) whose reign is limited. This location on seven hills, along with John's ascribing to Babylon features identical with those of the beast from the sea, (14) reveal to all insiders who have ears to hear the identity of Babylon and the beast from the sea as Rome. By ascribing to Rome (alias the beast from the sea) the same features as those of the dragon and by indicating that the beast acts with the authority of the dragon, John demonizes Rome and its Asian clients as agents of Satan/Devil/dragon and enemies of God and the Lamb. (15) Like the dragon of the old creation story dominating the waters of chaos, (16) Satan presently rules a chaotic scene, but its days are numbered by Almighty God and the angelic "sky servants." These forces of good and evil, John learns, are at war with one another in arenas both celestial and terrestrial, (17) The war in heaven between the dragon and Michael will overflow in its violent repercussions onto earth, which also will be wracked with war, violence, pestilence, famine, destruction, and death (as portrayed in 6:1-11:19 and 16:2-19:21). Ultimately, God, Michael, and the Lamb, the "holy trinity," will obliterate the forces of evil, the "unholy trinity" (dragon, beast from the sea, and beast from the land), and will gain the victory. (18) Babylon/ Rome, that scene of sorcery, deception, and bloodshed, will be reduced to a wasteland and den of demons (18:2-3; cf. 9:20-21). (19)

Like the dragon of primordial time, Satan and allies will ultimately be destroyed in a new creative act of the Creator. After the victory and its celebration (19:1-20:15), the Almighty and the cosmic Lamb will bring about a new heaven, a new earth, and a new holy city of Jerusalem where the primordial peace and bliss of Eden will prevail, God will be present, and life will be available in abundance (21:1-22:5). Those followers of Jesus who remain faithful despite conflict, suffering, and death will share in the victory; they will be liberated from the power of the axis of evil; and they will reign with Christ (2:7, 11, 17, 26, 28; 3:5, 12, 21.

In the meantime, followers of Jesus Christ, the slain Lamb, insists John (2:1-3:22), must remain faithfully committed to God and Christ alone. Their situation at the moment is indeed precarious. His sober message to the churches is one balancing commendation (2:2-3, 6, 9, 13, 19; 3:2, 8-9, 15) with censure (2:4, 9, 14-15, 20; 3:1-2, 19; 3:2, 9, 15-17), insisting on repentance (2:5a, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19) in view of the coming of God, Jesus and judgment (1:4, 7-8; 2:5, 16; 3:3, 10-11, 13; 4:8; 5:7; 16:15; 22:7, 12, 17, 20), calling for ears attentive to what the Spirit of God is saying (2:7a, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; cf. 13:9), and promising victory and salvation to all who remain faithful to God and the Christ. (20) The churches must repent of or refuse any compromising or cooperating with the enemy. They must see through and expose the lying and deception produced by the imperial and Satanic ministries of disinformation. They must testify boldly to the truth made known by God through Christ to the elect and the holy. And they must remain steadfast in allegiance to God and the Lamb so that they may share with Christ in God's victory over evil, both terrestrial and celestial.

From the Revelation to "Worthy Is Christ"

Many hymns punctuate the narrative (21) like bursts of song and "Amens" in rousing African-American Baptist hours of worship. As a contrast to the worship of the beast and its totalitarian claims (chaps. 13-19), they express the exclusive worship of Israel's God as sole Almighty Creator and Lord of the universe. They laud God's power and honor and that of the One at his right hand, Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain. They anticipate God's combat with Satan and the ultimate victory of God and the Lamb over Satan/the Devil/the primordial dragon of chaos and its human agents (Rome and its Asia allies). And they celebrate the paradoxical manner by which God exerts power, establishes his rule, and liberates those enslaved by the axis of evil: liberation and ransom through the shedding of blood of an innocent lamb, the seemingly harmless lamb overcoming the seemingly deadly dragon, the victim becoming the victor (both the Lamb and his followers), followers washing their clothes pure by drenching them in blood (the blood of the Lamb), going from slain to reign, etc. They thus serve in the Revelation as special expressions of the writing's good news and condensations of its evangelical message. For the centuries to follow, these hymnic expressions of worship and bursts of acclamation and honor provide appropriate models for the church's worship and praise.

The LBW's hymn "Worthy is Christ" resembles two hymns of Revelation in particular and echoes many of the motifs and themes of the writing in general. Chapters 4-5 of Revelation contain two parallel hymns announcing the worthiness of celestial personages. The celestial scene is the heavenly throne of God, the setting of the vision (4:2-5:14) that opens the second half of Revelation. Seated on this throne (4:2) is "the Lord God Almighty" (4:8). Around this throne are gathered four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. (22)

The first hymn, rendered by the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders prostrated before the throne in obeisance (4:2-10), declares the worthiness of God as Creator of the universe (4:11): "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you did create all things and by your will they existed and were created." (23)

This declaration that God is "worthy" (axios) to receive glory and honor and power for bringing the universe into being is followed by a second hymn rendered by the same heavenly chorus. The second hymn is addressed to the Lamb standing beside the throne on which God is seated. In the hand of the One seated upon the throne, as John saw it, was a scroll sealed with seven seals (5:1). In the entire universe there was no one worthy to open this scroll save one: "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David" (5:5), alias "the Lamb" (5:6), who took the scroll (5:7) and subsequently opened it (6:1-8:1). Doing obeisance to this Lamb (5:8), the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders sing a hymn declaring the worthiness of the Lamb: "Worthy (axios) are you to take the scroll and to open its seals; for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God: from every tribe and tongue and people and state, and have made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on earth" (5:9-10).

Myriad angels then join in the acclamation of the Lamb singing "Worthy (axion) is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (5:12)

Finally, all of the creatures of the cosmos then join in honoring both God and the Lamb with the doxology, "To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever" (5:13). (24)

Both God and God's agent of redemption, Christ the Lamb, are declared worthy of honor, but for different reasons. Almighty God is worthy to receive glory and honor and power because of his creative activity (4:11cd). This creating and recreating power of God is stressed elsewhere in Revelation (25) for at least three conceivable reasons. First, it affirms God as the Inaugurator of time and space and thus as Author of history and Controller of the cosmos. All that occurs in earth and heaven or in past, present, and future is under the Creator's rule. Second, it establishes God's authority to assess and judge humankind, his creatures. Third, it underlines the superiority of the God of Israel and his agents over Satan/the Devil and allies, including Rome, oppressor of God's people. In any combat of these forces, the Lord God Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, will prevail.

The hymn of 5:9-10 is addressed to the Lamb and answers the query posed in 5:2, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" Of all creatures terrestrial and celestial, only the Lamb was worthy, and this was because of what the Lamb had accomplished: it had been slain and through its blood had ransomed for God persons from all peoples and had made them "a kingdom and priests to our God." This statement echoes words acclaiming Jesus Christ at the outset of the writing: "Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, [126] to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (1:5-6).

The Lamb's opening of each of the seals is recounted in 6:1-8:5 and describes the events this unsealing sets into motion. The following section, 8:6-11:19, narrates a parallel series of events ushered in with the blasts of the seven trumpets, a reprise of which occurs in the pouring of the seven bowls of God's wrath (16:1-21).

The initial line of the hymn "Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain" makes explicit an identification left implicit in Revelation: the Lamb is Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected. "The Lamb" is the chief alias for Jesus Christ in Revelation just as "the dragon" is the chief image of Satan/Devil, and the "beast from the sea" a.k.a. "the whore/harlot" a.k.a. "Babylon" is the chief image for Rome. The image of the lamb is prominent in two independent cultural traditions, Israelite and Greco-Roman. Traces of both are evident in the manner in which the Lamb is portrayed by John.

The most important lamb in Israelite tradition was the lamb by whose blood the Hebrews were spared from the death meted out to the oppressive Egyptians (Exod 12; Deut 16:1-8; Num 9:1-14). In the annual Passover festival by which Israel commemorated the great salvation event of its history, its liberation from slavery in Egypt, the unblemished lamb and its blood played a central role. Followers of the resurrected Christ depicted him as an analogous Passover lamb--"Christ our paschal lamb has been sacrificed," declared Paul (1 Cor 5:7)--and regarded his shed blood and death as another occasion of the redemption and liberation of God's people. This motif recurs throughout Revelation (27) and is deftly captured in the language of the LBW hymn: "Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God."

Greco-Roman astronomical/astrological tradition also gave prominence to a lamb or ram; namely, to the constellation Aries (lamb/ram), which, explains Malina, "was always pictured in the most ancient representations of the sky with head turned so as to be facing directly over its back to Taurus" [the constellation of the Zodiac preceding that of Aries]. (28) John, in turn, "perceives Aries as having a broken neck twisted backward, yet standing, and thus as "slaughtered" and yet now living. (29) Aries' role in the scheme of things was to usher in the new year or era. It was when the sun passed through the "house" or constellation of Aries that the new year began. Aries, the cosmic lamb/ram, thus was seen to control time and space and human fortune. When associated with this cosmic Lamb, the crucified and resurrected Christ was seen as part of the royal retinue surrounding God's throne, with preeminent power over time and space and human lives. (30)

The Seer places greater emphasis on this identity of Christ as Lamb than any other NT writing. This double association of Christ as Lamb with both Israelite and Greco-Roman tradition is typical of John's combination of diverse traditions and of his interweaving of scriptural with astronomical/astrological lore throughout the narrative. It enables John to grab the attention of hearers/readers with differing cultural roots while at the same time remaining cryptically ambiguous. In the case of Christ as Lamb, it allows John to interpret Jesus' death as a means of redemption and liberation from the forces of evil while also acclaiming the resurrected Christ as cosmic ruler and inaugurator of a new age.

It is also thus appropriate that the Lamb, having ransomed people for God from everywhere (5:9) and having made them "a kingdom and priests to our God who shall reign on earth" (5:10), should be celebrated as "worthy" of honor and praise, as the hymns of 5:12 and 5:13 declare. It is the hymn of the angels (5:12) that provides the words of the LBW hymn: "power, riches, wisdom and strength, honor and blessing and glory are his." (31) His is the power and strength that outstrips that of Satan and his Roman and Asian allies; it is "the power received from his Father" (2:27). His is the wealth beyond that for which Babylon, kings of the earth, merchants, and seafarers prostitute themselves but lose in the end (18:24); the riches that the Laodicean church claims to have but does not possess (3:17); the wealth that belongs to the church of Smyrna, though she appears poor (2:9). His is the wisdom that "knows" the "mystery of the seven stars" and works of the churches (1:20; 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:2, 8-9, 15), that comprehends the number and identity of the beast from the sea (13:18) and the meaning of the beast's seven heads and ten horns (17:9). His is the honor and blessing and glory that are manifested in his overcoming of the forces of evil, aiding his suffering followers, restoring justice, vindicating the righteous, and joining with God in the inauguration of a new heaven and earth with healing for all peoples.

The second stanza of the LBW hymn is virtually identical to its source, the hymn of Rev 5:13. Both involve an expanding of the scope of the chorus to include all creatures from all points of the cosmos. Both combine God and the Lamb as joint objects of doxological honor and praise. Rev 5:13 reads: "And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all therein, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever! Amen.'" The second stanza of the LBW hymn reads similarly: "Sing with all the people of God and join in the hymn of all creation: Blessing, honor, glory, and might be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen."

Doxologies were an integral part of Israelite worship and that of the early church, appearing frequently in psalms and hymns. (32) Their function was to publicly declare the virtues of God, especially those that ranked him above all other deities. In a culture so concerned with honor and shame, those pivotal values of ancient Mediterranean societies, (33) honor was especially due God as ultimate Benefactor, Deliverer, and Source of life and countless blessings. Seen as God's Messiah and agent of redemption, Christ the Lamb was included in this honor and glorification.

The final line of the LBW hymn expresses several further themes of Revelation and is the formulation from which the antiphon is formed: "This is the feast of victory for our God, for the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign."

In a composition so focused on conflict, combat, and war, the theme of victory has a natural place. According to the Seer, the victory that Christ promised in his letters to followers who remain faithful (2:7, 11, 17, 26, 28; 3:5, 12, 21) will in fact be realized when God and the Lamb soon overcome Satan and his allies (11:15-18; 12:7-20:15). This good news of victory and commencement of reign is hailed in the hymns and in those several heavenly assertions that all who suffered as followers of the Lamb will also share in his victory and reign (1:5; 5:10; 7:11:15-18; 14:3-5, 13; 19:1-2; 20:4-6; 21:7; 22:1-5).

Victory is celebrated with a feast, says the LBW hymn following its source, Revelation 19, which speaks of a "marriage supper of the Lamb" (celebrating the marriage of the Lamb and his bride, that is, of Christ and the company of the holy (19:7-10). This rather familiar and positive image of union and joy is paralleled in Revelation, however, with a rather ghoulish feast: a "great supper of God" at which the birds of mid-heaven devour the population of the vanquished Babylon (19:17-18). At this meal the buzzards and vultures will "consume the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, the flesh of all persons, slave and free, both small and great" that have been slain by the sword of Christ, the warrior on the white horse, the one called "Faithful and True," who judges and makes war, whose robe is drenched in blood and who is called The Word of God" (19:11-13).

This motif of "feast of victory," appropriate as an image for the Seer's message, is also a motif that relates the entire hymn, "Worthy is the Lamb," to the eucharistic feast and liturgy of which the hymn is an important part. The "feast" of which the LBW hymn speaks is not likely the banquet of bodies and consumption of corpses of which John speaks in 19:17-21. It is rather the marriage banquet celebrating the union of Christ, the victorious victim, with the company of the righteous (19:6-9; 21:1-22:5)--an apt symbol for the communion taking place today in the eucharistic feast. With its derivation from Revelation, this reference to "feast of victory" is a poignant reminder of several aspects of eucharistic celebration: eucharists are, as the term itself indicates, "thanksgivings," joyous expressions of gratitude for God's presence in human lives and the universe. As "feasts," "banquets," celebratory meals, they are communal affairs of people affirming their unity with God, Christ, and one another through sharing in a meal, consuming food, and "becoming what they eat." This reference to "feast" thus recalls that a chief, core symbol of Christian identity is the meal, a communal act of sharing food, sustaining life, and forging communion. As a feast of victory, the eucharist acknowledges the struggle of the "human condition" but also God's dominance over the evil that daily threatens our survival.

This concluding line of the hymn also reflects a feature so characteristic of John's writing and also so dear to Luther's heart ("dennoch," "trotzdem") and authentic Lutheran sensibility: irony, parody, and the paradoxical nature of the gospel. The LBW formulation is even a rhyming irony: "for the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign." These ten words summarize in brilliant fashion one of the major structural themes of Revelation: its tracing of the role of Jesus Christ in the history of salvation--from his crucifixion, resurrection, and enthronement with God (1:5-5:14) to his campaign with God against the forces of evil (6:1-18:24), to their victory and inauguration of a new age of life in its fullness (19:1-22:5). Jesus Christ has morphed from "slain" to "reign." He died but is alive forevermore (1:18; 2:8). Ironically, the lowly Lamb has overcome the dreadful dragon. In lamb's skin was really the mighty "Lion of Judah" incognito. Against Lion/Lamb the bullying and blasphemous beasts from sea and land could not prevail. That beast from the land looked like the lamb but spoke like the dragon and by the Lamb was overcome. The Lion of Judah conquers--not as invincible king of the jungle but as slaughtered lamb. Paradoxically, the victim has become the victor, and the victimizers will become the vanquished. The church at Smyrna appears poor but in Christ's calculus is actually rich. The church at Sardis appears alive but is actually dead. The church at Laodicea claims to be rich but is actually poor; boasting of self-sufficiency, it is condemned as warm spit. Clean, holy garments are those drenched in blood. "Destroyers of the earth" will themselves be destroyed (11:18). Those who "have shed blood" will be forced to "drink blood" (16:4). The unclean denizens of Babylon (18:1-24) will be devoured by the unclean vultures of mid-heaven (19:17-18). The question, "who is like the beast?" (13:4) parodies the name of God's warrior, Michael, meaning "who is like God?" (12:7). Those currently ruled by the beast will, ultimately, rule with the Lamb. Power is manifested in powerlessness. Salvation emerges from suffering. To live, one must first be willing to die. It's a familiar melody, running through the church's gospel and Israel's story like an old refrain: God writes straight with crooked lines. The first shall be last and the last first. The humble will be exalted and the exalted humbled. The meek shall inherit the earth.


How appropriate to open the eucharistic celebration with this hymn so greatly indebted to the language and spirit of Revelation! When seen as a reflection of its canonical parent, this is a song of courage and defiance, good news and hope. It is not likely that all who sing this LBW hymn song today do so with the message of Revelation in mind and heart. "Liturgizing" parts of the Scriptures, especially the prophetic sections, not only enshrines these potent passages; it also domesticates and defangs them of their power. But this is the context of the song nonetheless. If you, gentle reader, choose to sing it with Revelation as its matrix, beware the consequences, and prepare for the slings and arrows! Whoever has ears to hear, listen up!

In these days of 2003, a present hour of confusion and conflict, corruption and compromise, it is tempting to observe some similarities between the narrative of John and the story of the U.S. of A. and its solemn religious assemblies. Even for entrenched historical critics like us, Robert, who respect the broad historical, social, and cultural gulf separating past and present, it is hard to resist seeing Washington as a modern-day Babylon and its play at empire, its omnipresent legions, its stars-and-stripes image on everything and everyone, and its efforts at economic hegemony as redolent of Rome's program in the days of yore. It is difficult not to spot parallels

--when the White House is looking as bloodily crimson as the beast from the sea and the body bags from Iraq keep piling up;

--when false prophets blast a steady stream of lies, disinformation, and weapons of mass distraction at a befuddled and deluded public desperate for the truth;

--when calculated untruths are passed off as verified (and hence reliable) "intelligence";

--when things are not as they seem and deception masquerades as truth and the synagogues of Christ, by blessing the bombs, make common cause with the beast and earn the epithet synagogues of Satan;

--when Uncle Sam's allies turn out to be kings and merchants feeding at the U.S. trough and peddling their bodies and booties to the rulers of the Babylon at 1600;

--when the dynasty of the Bush house is looking more and more like the seven heads of Rome and its Julio-Claudian line;

--when a Bush was, then was not, then was once more;

--when an appointee of the land's highest court spouts the Bible and mongers war in the name of the Prince of Peace;

--when daughters and sons of peace are mowed down by bulldozers and blown apart by suicide bombers and gun-packing members of the NRA, with their martyred bodies mounting beneath the altar;

--when peace and justice seem like distant dreams and a new heaven and earth beckon.

Surveying all of this makes it difficult for believers in the enduring power of the Word of God to resist making immediate connections. Yet resist we must. For John was not predicting George Jr. or Ariel or Saddam, but he was demonizing the beasts of his own day--Rome and its clients. The sense and power of John's message is shaped by first-century conditions of Roman Asia, the prophetic tradition in which he stands, and his own faith, experience, and imagination. Revelation is not a forecast or a blueprint of the present. And yet it is also sure that John's take on reality had no limited shelf life or expiration date. His inspired perspective has animated prophets and artists and dreamers down through the centuries. It has filled the streets and the prisons with latter-day Pauls and Johns and Berrigans and Rachel Corries and has set the standard for conscientious objection across the globe. The Lutheran hymn it has inspired is one that many might wish to sing today into the teeth of Rome's successor, the Washington pretender to world empire; the government who, like Rome of old, claims the sea--in fact all seas and all lands it desires--to be its for the taking through whatever preemptive strikes it chooses; the political-military complex, like that of Rome, that controls (or aims at controlling) all commerce and trade, all buying and selling, and forces its subjects to bear on their caps the sign of the owner/ beast: the swoosh, the GE logo, the H of Halliburton, the E of Enron, the stars and stripes.

However one decides the comparison issue, there is always comfort to be taken in the sentiments of "Worthy is Christ" itself and its canonical parent. Though blood is shed, victory is certain. Though the innocent are slain, the faithful will reign. Though the rich get richer, the poor will prevail. Though power is directed toward evil ends, the divine power of good conquers all. Jesus the crucified Christ is the paradoxical means by which God writes straight with crooked lines. Out of death, God brings new life; out of chaos, order; out of darkness, light; out of despair, hope. "Das," as the good Doktor once put it, "ist gewisslich wahr."

(1) Robert H. Smith, Apocalypse: A Commentary on Revelation in Words and Images. Illustrations by Albrecht Durer. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2000.

(2) Philip H. Pfatteicher, Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship: Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1990), 124.

(3) These events were recorded in 1-2 Maccabees and encrypted symbolically in the book of Daniel.

(4) On this genre of writing and its appeal to sources of celestial information see the highly informative study of Bruce J. Malina, On the Genre and Message of Revelation: Star Visions and Sky Journeys (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995). See also his Star Visions and Sky Journeys: A Reader's Guide to the Book of Revelation (Hendrickson, 1995).

(5) As explained by John J. Pilch, "Visions and Revelation and Alternate Consciousness: A Perspective from Cultural Anthropology," Listening 28 (1993): 231-44.

(6) These are more appropriate cultural-contextual designations than the modern term "apocalypticist," as Malina points out.

(7) Malina sees this throne linked to the constellation known to the ancients as Ara = "throne." In his study Genre and Message of Revelation, pp. 47-65 and passim, he provides the astronomical details on this and the several other constellations mentioned in Revelation as sources of special revelation.

(8) As explained by Malina in Genre and Message of Revelation and Star Visions and Sky Journeys. though with a different interpretation than that presented here.

(9) On this topic see John J. Pilch, "Lying and Deceit in the Letters to the Seven Churches: Perspectives from Cultural Anthropology," Biblical Theology Bulletin 22 (1992): 126-35.

(10) The features that qualify the Jesus movement as a sect, characterize its precarious social situation, and typify its sectarian perspective on and response to the world are set forth in John H. Elliott, "The Jewish Messianic Movement: From faction to sect," in Modelling Early Christianity: Social-scientific Studies of the New Testament in its Context, ed. Philip F. Esler (London: Routledge, 1995), 75-95.

(11) "Let the one who has ears to hear, hear!" (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9).

(12) From the perspective of Asia, Rome came from across the sea and claims to own the sea as mare nostrum ("our sea").

(13) Better understood as "submissive obedience" (13:4, 8, 12, 15; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 19:20).

(14) For example, the scarlet attire; the seven heads and ten horns; the association with Satan, the blasphemy; the war on the holy ones.

(15) The place denounced by John as "Satan's throne" (the city of Pergamum, a seat of Roman power in Asia) and the groups decried as "synagogues of Satan" or engaged in "the deep things of Satan" (2:24) were, by John's account, especially dangerous locations of Satan's presence and power.

(16) See Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1 ; 2 Esd 6:52; 2 Bar 29:3-8; cf. also Job 41:1; Ps 104:26.

(17) See 6:1-17; 9:1-21; 11:2, 16-18; 12:7-17; 13:7, 15; 16:1-21; 17:14; 19:11-21; 20:7-10.

(18) See 11:15-18; 12:7-17; 14:1-16:21; 17:14; 18:1-24; 19:1-20:15.

(19) The denunciation of Rome as a site of sorcery and the rhetorical aim of this accusation is discussed in John H. Elliott, "Sorcery and Magic in the Revelation of John," Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture 28/ 3 (1993): 261-76. This issue contains several essays illuminating the situation and strategy of Revelation.

(20) See 2:7b, 11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 21; 7:10-17; 11:15-18; 14:1-7, 13; 19:1-20:15; 21:1-22:5.

(21) See 1:5-6; 4:11; 5:9-10; 7:10-12; 7:15-17; 11:17-18; 15:3-4;19:1-4, 6-8.

(22) In ancient Mediterranean astronomical/ astrological celestial lore, as already noted, the sun, moon, stars, planets, and constellations were considered living entities whose locations and actions influenced human affairs as much as did events on earth. An informative description of the constellations and stars with which the Throne (the constellation Ara, Greek for "throne"), the four living creatures (from among the twelve living creatures" = the twelve constellations of the zodiac, Greek for "living creatures," through which the sun passed in its annual course), the twenty-four elders (= decans), and the Lamb (= Aries, the "ram," the creature of the Zodiac ushering in the new year/age, with its head turned backward toward the preceding constellation Taurus) is provided by Malina (1995: 66-75).

(23) Other hymns to God alone appear at 4:8; 7:12; 11:17-18; 15:3; 19:1-4, 5, 6-8.

(24) This coupling of God and the Lamb recurs throughout Revelation: see "our Lord and his Christ" (11:15; 12:10); "God and Christ" (20:6); "To him/God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb" (5:13; 6:16; 7:10; 22:1); "commandments of God and faith of Jesus" (14:12); "God and the Lamb (14:4); "the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb" (21:22; cf. 21:23).

(25) See 14:7; 21:1-22:5 and the identification of God as pantokrator (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 14; 19:6; 15; 21:22).

(26) The formulations (see also 20:6) are John's adaptation of the Exodus covenant formula of Exod 19:6. On this Exodus formula and the history of its use see John H. Elliott, The Elect and The Holy: An Exegetical Examination of 1 Peter 2:4-10 and the Phrase Basileion Hierateuma (Supplements to Novum Testamentum Vol. XII. Graduate Study VII of the Concordia Seminary School for Graduate Studies [Leiden: Brill, 1966]), 50-128; on Revelation, 107-20. This study then investigates its use in 1 Per 2:4-10 and the irrelevance of this passage to Luther's doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers." The work of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Priester fur Gott; Studien zum Herrschaftsund Priestermotiv in der Apokalypse (Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen, n.f. 7 [Munster: Aschendorff, 1972]), focuses on its use in Revelation.

(27) For the many references to the blood and death of Jesus Christ/the Lamb see 1:5, 7, 18; 2:8; 5:6, 9, 12; 7:14; 11:8; 12:11; 13:8; 19:13.

(28) Malina, Genre and Message of Revelation, (53)

(29) Malina, Genre and Message of Revelation, (53).

(30) The artistic depiction of Christ as lamb with head twisted backward provides graphic evidence of this association of Christ with Aries, the cosmic lamb/ram.

(31) Another hymn of the angels (7:12) is similar in content but is addressed to God.

(32) The basic study of NT doxologies and hymns in general is that of Reinhard Deichgraber, Gotteshymnus und Christushymnus in der fruhen Christenheit. Untersuchungen zu Form, Sprache und Stil der fruhchristlichen Hymnen (SUNT 5. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967); on the hymnic material of Revelation see pp. 44-59.

(33) On honor and shame see Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology, 3d ed., revised and expanded (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 27-57; and Biblical Social Values and Their Meaning: A Handbook, ed. John J. Pilch and Bruce J. Malina (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 106-15 and passim.

John H. Elliott

Professor Emeritus

University of San Francisco
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Author:Elliott, John H.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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