Basic theme: The Vision of Christ and the Church at Ephesus (Rev 1:9 – 2:7)
The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were fairly small for this week, I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive. Toward the end of the Overview (Part I) I spoke of the “frightening picture of Jesus” in Revelation 1:12-16. The editor(s) changed “frightening” to “startling.” I suppose they found the idea that Jesus could be frightening distasteful. But I based that adjective on Revelation 1:17 where Jesus assures John afterward, “Do not be afraid.” I understand the shift, but prefer to use biblical language when possible.
In the first paragraph of the Commentary section (Part II) the editors took out a sentence where I note that verses 11 and 19 form an “envelope” around the vision of Jesus (Rev 1:12-18). Since verse 11 invites John to write what he sees and verse 19 encourages him to write what he has seen, I take it that the entire vision of Revelation (summarized in 1:19) was seen in between (my reasons are spelled out in the third section of the Commentary part, which survived). That would mean that the whole book of Revelation came in a single vision. The editors prefer the idea of multiple visions. If Revelation 1:19 describes the whole book (the “things which are” describing the seven churches and the “things which must happen after this” [compare with Rev 4:1] from Revelation 4-22), then my view is to be preferred. I think the motive in removing this sentence is to protect the idea that the prophetic role of the seven churches is primary, which I find hard to see in the text itself. I see the seven churches as prophetic letters, with a primary address to the original audience (“the things which are”), but prophetic implications for church history. This is not a life and death sort of difference. The prophetic view of the churches is exegetically defensible either way, even if not exegetically compelling. Related to this, in the third section of the Commentary part, a sentence is removed where I said that the seven churches are not apocalyptic in style, like Daniel 7 and Revelation 12. I will let the reader compare these texts and decide for themselves.
In the second section of the Commentary part, a sentence was removed (“No individual church, therefore, has the full picture of Jesus”). I think that is evident in the text, as each church is approach with one to three characteristics of Jesus, not the whole of Rev 1:12-18). I suspect the sentence was removed so readers would not get the implication that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has less than a full picture of Jesus. We can discuss what “full picture of Jesus” means in that context. In my experience, I have learned a lot about Jesus from believers who are not Seventh-day Adventist.
The editors added the fifth section of the Commentary part, as I did not say anything additional regarding the message to the church at Ephesus, leaving the reader to draw that from the standard lesson. I thought it was a good and helpful addition.
Finally, in the Life Application section, I note that the editors left my reference to the appearance of Jesus frightening John “to his core.” That tells me that the change was editorial preference rather than a deep-seated difference in theology or interpretation of the Bible.
Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at https://www.absg.adventist.org/. My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at http://pineknoll.org/sabbath-school-lessons.