Is this the end?

Signposts, 12th May, 2013. Acts 16:16-34; Rev. 22:12-14,16-17; John 17:20-26.

Sometimes you will find that the Biblical references at the top of Signposts differ from those on your pew-sheet, or what you hear in church on a Sunday. That’s because Paul and I have to write our little offering before the preacher in your church has decided to choose a different reading from what’s in the Lectionary. I know a priest who would sometimes read the Signposts before polishing up the sermon!

Sometimes (what again?) you will find that one or more of the biblical portions for the day, has two or three chunks with gaps between. That is because the group of Bible Experts (multi-denominational, including R.C.) who made our Three Year Lectionary decided that a verse or two do not conform to the teaching of Jesus. The best example, of course, is Ps.137, the first 6 verses of which must be about the most beautiful poetry in the Psalter, and the last 3 are the worst wicked curse imaginable. I’ve just re-read our Revelation portion, and lo, there’s some beautiful poetry in that, if you leave out verse fifteen of course. The writer was doing his best to ensure that his material would not be interfered with by a future copyist. I can easily imagine that a written scroll had enormous force, so the warning to any copyist attempting to make it mean something other than what the original writer meant, by making small changes, would have magic force. Nowadays we have the laws about copyright.

As we’re looking at the end of the end of the New Testament, I thought I’d look at some other ends. Matthew ends with just five abrupt verses. That’s a pity, in contrast with the two chapters that he begins with.

Mark was thwarted by having his scroll broken off at chapter 15:8 before another copy had made. It’s disappointing not to know how Mark ended, and have to put up with a copyist’s addition of twelve verses consisting of a summary of the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection, as recorded by Luke and John.

Luke ends up in the air, (in two senses, we celebrated one last Thursday), because that was only the beginning of the second half of his story..

John deals with the subject in detail, and ends with a note that he didn’t record the whole story, just enough for us to believe. Then comes another writer, adds another chapter to explain how Peter came to become the leader, and ends with a notable observation!

Well, there may be more to think about in those different ends.

Now for the apocalypse of John. The clever name in Greek means simply revelation in English. This form of writing was very popular in some Jewish circles. Ezekiel has a short revelation and Esdras a very long one and others up till Daniel’s. The Essenes of Qumran liked to write “visions”, and many writings of this kind were written about the beginning of the Christian era. The one we have at the end of our Bible had a shaky history before it was accepted, and has a mistake* in the first verse of chapter one, and some of the “pictures” have been so abstruse that the cleverest theologians can’t make head or tail of them. I had a little apocalypse a few years ago now, but that’s a different story.


*A number of the writers of the Second Testament were under the same delusion,
e.g. Matt 24:29-31 & 34.


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