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THE HEBREW CHARACTER OF THE BOOK.
Though this may be considered by some as a minor point, it is so important that it must not be passed over.
Most critical commentators have to deal with it: because from the earliest times the enemies of the Book have made use of this undeniable fact in order to argue that it has no right to a place in a Canon of the other Greek Books of the New Testament!
The Hebrew character of the book is shown in its use of idioms, expressions, words and phrases, which cannot be called Greek; and indeed is called by many "bad Greek."
Professor Godet in his Studies on the New Testament, says, p. 331: "The only serious objection that can be urged against the authenticity of the Apocalypse, lies in the difference which is observable between its style, and that of the fourth Gospel. The latter is free from Aramaic expressions, the former is saturated with them." And again (p. 351), "the Apocalypse bears, from one end of it to the other, the character of a Hebrew prophecy."
The argument based on this fact by the opponents of the Apocalypse is dealt with by scholars in various ways. But the subject is not one which would be of general interest to grammar. Those who wish to see the subject exhaustively treated are referred to the Commentary on the Apocalypse, by Moses Stuart, who devotes over twenty pages to it (pp. 190-210).
There is however another side to the question: and that is, that, while the enemies use the fact against the Book itself, we use it against the popular interpretation of it. Though the language is Greek, the thoughts and idioms are Hebrew; and this links it on, not to the Pauline epistles, but to the Old Testament, and shows that its great subject is God's final dealings with the Jew and the Gentile; and not the Church of God.
Connected with this fact there is another, that emphasizes it in a remarkable manner. It is not only Hebrew in character as to its linguistic peculiarities, but especially in its use of the Old Testament. Only those who have most intimate acquaintance with the Old Testament can properly understand the Apocalypse. But all who know anything of old Testament history cannot fail to detect the almost constant reference to it.
All the imagery - the Temple, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the Altar, the Incense, the heads of the twenty-four courses of Priests (the pattern of which David's was a copy, I Chron. xxviii. 19, see chap. xxv., and compare Heb. ix. 23, etc), all this belongs peculiarly to Israel.
The same may be said of the judgments, which follow on the lines of the plagues of Egypt, and therefore are to be just as real: indeed they are to exceed in dread reality those which were executed in the Exodus from Egypt. For it is written (Ex. xxxiv. 10) - "And he said, Behold, I make a covenant: before all they people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the people among which thou art shall see the word of the lord; for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee." It is the fulfilment of this covenant with Israel which is the great subject of the Apocalypse.
But it is when we come to look at the literary connection between the Old Testament and the Apocalypse that we find evidences of the most striking kind.
If we count up the number of Old Testament passages quoted or alluded to in the New Testament,22 We take the lists as given in Bagster's Bible. we find that the gospel of Matthew has a very large number, amounting in all to 92. The Epistle to the Hebrews comes higher still with 102. Now both these books are connected in a special manner with Israel. Matthew, it is universally admitted, stands out among the four Gospels as being specially Jewish in its character. And the Epistle to the Hebrews was specially written to Hebrews, and they are addressed as such.
Now, when we turn to the Apocalypse, what do we find? The result which to our mind is overwhelming. No less than 285 references to the Old Testament. More than three times as many as Matthew, and nearly three times as many as the Epistle to the Hebrews.
We ask whether this does not give the book of Revelation a very special connection with the Old Testament, and with Israel? It is undoubtedly written about the people of the Old Testament who are the subjects of its history. These will understand it as Gentile Christians can never hope to do.33 It is most remarkable that at the present time, 1900, a movement has been commenced in Palestine to overcome the difficulty arising from the fact of Jews assembling in Palestine speaking different languages. Hebrew is to be made and to become the common vernacular! It is not only to be taught in all the Jewish schools, but all other subjects are to be learnt in Hebrew. With this fact must be stated another, and that is the recent wide-spread publication of the Salkinson-Ginsburg Hebrew New Testament by the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, amounting to some three-quarters of a million copies.
We are merely stating certain important facts which must be taken into account by any who are seeking to find out what the Book of Revelation is all about. The facts exist, and the question is, What do they say to us?
Not until we discover this, and thus learn the scope of the book, can we hope to understand it.
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