Basic theme: The Two Groups in Revelation 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 more significant than in previous weeks. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.
The introductory paragraph of the Overview was entirely replaced. I wrote “Chapter 7 offers an answer to the question of Revelation 6:17. The 144,000 sealed ones and the great multitude in white robes will both be discussed.” For this the editors substituted “Revelation 7 reveals the importance of being sealed in order to survive the calamities that accompany the Second Coming.” I’ll let you decide which option is more useful to you. My intent was to set chapter 7 in its immediate context. A question is asked at the end of chapter 6 and receives a double answer in chapter 7. This change seems to illustrate the shift away from exegesis to summaries of what the church has generally understood about the passage. Since this is the Teacher’s Edition, I thought here that teachers needed to go deeper than surface summaries.
In Lesson Themes IV there was another complete substitution. I was making the point that within the church there are two ways of viewing the two groups of Revelation 7. If felt this is important for teachers to know. It now reads “The lesson is ambiguous regarding the answer to this question,” which is kind of saying the same thing in less clear terms, or so it seemed to me.
In the introductory paragraph of the Commentary section of the lesson there is a small change due to a textual problem in the text. The medieval manuscript tradition behind Rev 6:17 (the basis for the KJV and NKJV versions) has “his wrath,” referring back to either the Lamb or the one sitting on the throne in 6:16 (most likely “the Lamb”). The broader text tradition (behind most English versions) has “their wrath,” referring to both divine figures. The editors switched from the reading of the NRSV (which I had placed there to the reading of the NKJV, underlining their seeming preference. From a scholarly perspective, this is disappointing, but the KJV tradition is very popular in the churches, especially the older generation, and they can be very vocal about their preferences. Several other small changes in that paragraph seemed helpful to me.
In Main Themes III the editors saved me from an error. Joseph replaces Ephraim rather than Manasseh. Not sure how I did that, just a mental mistake.
In Main Themes IV there is a major omission of exegetical material regarding how God’s people are described with many names in Revelation. I include the entire omission here. “Two examples. 1) God’s people are called “remnant” in 12:17, then 144,000 in 14:1. But 14:1 alludes to Joel 2:32, where the same group is called “remnant.” The two groups are the same. 2) The 144,000 are then called “saints” in 14:12. So remnant, 144,000 and the saints are different ways of describing the same end-time group.” It seemed to me that was helpful information for a Teacher’s Edition, but maybe space was needed and that seemed the best place to make it. The addition of “Also, Revelation 14:1-5 further distinguishes the 144,000 form that group” at the end of the section leaves the impression the editors believe the two groups are different, but in other parts of the Teacher’s Edition, they have left references to the evidence for a unified reading in the text. In any case, Sabbath School classes should be aware that Adventists are not in agreement on how to read this aspect of chapter 7.
Changes in Life Application 1 are consistent with an editorial view that the destruction of the wicked is an active punishment by God rather than a natural consequence of their separation from God. You can defend both positions from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy and both positions are held in the church, but the editorial position has greater popular support and is likely the reason for these changes.
In summary, this week’s lesson is the most heavily edited and contains the most interesting theological implications so far. On the other hand, the changes are still fairly minimal. I am glad that technology allows us all to explore these issues more deeply here.
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.