Basic theme: The Seven Seals of Revelation 6
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 more significant than average this week. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.
Under Life Application in the Overview part the phrase “Adventist reading” of Revelation was replaced with “historicist interpretation.” Since Seventh-day Adventists are the only major denomination that holds to historicist interpretation, the two phrases are really saying the same thing. But this change was made consistently, so the editors wanted to imply that historicism is more than just an Adventist approach out of several options. As a believer, I agree with that, but again thinking that non-SDAs are likely to be reading the lesson or attending classes I felt the phrase “Adventist reading” would play better with them. This underlines an Adventist trend from a focus on mission to a focus on apologetics (defending the faith to our own). Both tasks are needed, but if we turn our focus away from mission our reason for existence is harder to defend.
In the Commentary section (Main Themes II) the editors removed references to the throne as the main theme of the narrative (based on 14 references to the throne in chapter 4 and 5 more in chapter 5) and replaced that with “worship of God the Creator and the worthiness of the Lamb to apply His heavenly mediation to counter the threats on earth to God’s kingdom.” I don’t particularly disagree with that statement, but it is certainly less obviously on the actual data of Revelation 4 and 5 itself. This illustrates a trend in the church away from serious exegesis toward the assertion of “biblical” conclusions without much evidence given. Both conclusions can be argued from the text, but the first has the advantage of repeated language in the text itself.
In Main Themes V the editors removed my phrase “understood to be” in the sentence “The first earthquake was understood to be fulfilled by the Lisbon earthquake. . .” In my phrase you see the caution of the scholar and the missionary leaving space for those who disagree with a particular point to stay engaged with the text anyway. I like leaving readers the freedom to think and sometimes to disagree. But that may not be what major elements of the church need or at least think they need. At the end of the same section, the editors changed my “fourfold” use of “as” in Revelation 6:12-14 to “threefold.” I assume the editors were working from an English translation where the Greek “hôs” can be variously translated “like” or “as,” which masks the original. In the Greek, my “fourfold” was correct and the editors are wrong. The King James Version is consistent in translating all four “as.” I have noticed through the years an editorial preference for the New King James Version and in the NKJV the Greek “hôs” is translated “as” three times and “like” once. So it seems dependence on a single translation led to the editorial error in this section.
The first section of the Life Application has numerous small changes to strengthen the apologetic assertion of the historicist method over against a more measured scholarly and missional approach. The previous generation of Adventist leaders (1980s) was eager that everything be as accurate to the text of the Bible as possible and to be more tentative when the Bible was not crystal clear. The current generation seems more threatened by that kind of openness, so maybe these changes are the right thing to do, at least for some. But I am sure others will be disappointed at this shift in emphasis.
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.