Basic theme: Revelation 13
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 frequent and significant than average this week. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.
It seems to me that the changes in this lesson are made to preserve a strong parallel between the historical portions of Rev 13 (13:1-7, 11) and the historical portions of Rev 12 (Rev 12:6, 13-16). I agree that these parts are parallel but traditional Adventism has assumed the parallel (largely on the basis of the 1260/42 months parallel) more than grounded it in the text of Rev 12 and 13. I have expanded our understanding by pointing out that 12:17 sets the time of Rev 13 (final battle of earth’s history) and that past tense portions of Rev 13 locate them at an earlier stage (parallel to Rev 12:13-16). This grounds the SDA position in exegesis of the text. But to the editors locating Rev 13 as an end-time passage seemed to deviate from traditional Adventism and they removed it. This is based in a misunderstanding of the text rather than a real danger to SDA theology. I believe that we are trending away from our biblical foundations to simply assert that which the church has earlier concluded. This is an understandable trend in a generation that is less biblically literate. But it is not likely to end well. I feel we need to increase our engagement with the text if we are to keep a younger generation engaged. Assertions tend to have a negative effect with them. The changes reflected in the above are largely found in the Overview: Study Focus and Introduction and the Main Themes I of the Commentary section. The changes were small in quantity and don’t change the outcome, but are significant in how one reads Rev 12 and 13.
In Main Themes I, as has occurred elsewhere in the series of lessons, my language of “historical reading” is changed to “historicist interpretation.” Also, where I say the “focus” of Rev 13 is on the final battle of earth’s history, the editors change “focus” to “climax.” I don’t disagree, but that undermines the exegetical consistency of Rev 12:17 and Rev 13, which weakens the basis for our position, in my opinion. Most, of course, would not be troubled either way. At the end of Main Themes I the following sentence, “So Rev 12:17 sets the time of Rev 13, but Rev 13 includes historical introductions, which fit very well the Adventist perspective,” is replaced with “(this grammatical analysis fits).” It does, but without the connection with the time of Rev 12:17, the exegetical path is less clear.
In Main Themes II my reference to a “satanic trinity” (drawn from the work of the Daniel and Revelation Committee in the late 1980s) is removed again and the word “Catholic” is added to the last sentence. I am not afraid to “name the beast” but obsession with that can distract from the deeper spiritual issues involved. As a pastor, I have been concerned with how our prophetic interpretations can become a distraction from deep spiritual engagement with our personal issues. I have sought to do both in my work through the years. As Martin Luther once said, “the pope I fear the most is Pope Self.” And that is the most important message readers should take away from Revelation (Rev 1:3).
I am delighted that Main Themes III-V were completely untouched. You can disagree with me if you want, but those are my words not someone else’s.
There was a small but perhaps significant alteration in Life Application 2. I wrote that the line between good and evil is not between “us” and “them;” rather , it runs right down the middle of each of our hearts.” This was changed to “the middle of our experience,” leaving the rest of the sentence intact. I don’t have a problem with that language, but it softens what I think is the key point: The battle between good and evil takes place within us not outside of us. That means that the battle of Rev 13 may be seen in the political and historical context of world events, but ultimately what matters for me is how I respond to that information in my own choices and actions. I’d hate for people to miss that point.
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.