Basic theme: Revelation 17-18
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 probably the most substantial of the whole quarter, so this blog will be longer than most.
In the Introduction to the Overview (and elsewhere in this week’s lesson) the word “prostitute” was changed to “harlot” in reference to Rev 17:18. This at first made no sense to me as the word “harlot” is no longer in common use, at least with the younger generation. But in light of my discovery that the editor(s) are working with the New King James Version, it made sense. There is a strong lobby in the SDA Church to retain the King James Version or its updated equivalent, the NKJV, as the Bible of choice for the English-speaking church. Such a move is not helpful for the younger generation and it is not supported by solid scholarship. There is nothing wrong with either version but to compel others to limit themselves to dated language and an inferior source text is not appropriate. I am not suggesting that the editors are compelling anyone, but their preference is no doubt grounded in the backlash that would come if they showed a preference for other versions of the Bible.
In Lesson Theme I a substantial editorial change improved the outcome.
In Main Theme I of the Commentary section the concept of a worldwide alliance of secular, political power was retained, but the Euphrates River (Rev 16:12) and “many waters” (Rev 17:1) were removed as examples. I can live with that.
There was a major revision in Main Theme III. I had written “The seventh ‘king’ would be the medieval papacy and the ‘eighth’ (Rev. 17:11) king, who is one of the seven, would be the revived Babylon of chapter 17, an entity that in its fullness is still in our future.” The editors removed that sentence and added the following: “The seventh kingdom is the medieval Roman papacy, and the “eighth” kingdom (Rev. 17:11), which is one of the seven, would be the revived Roman papacy—the Babylon of Revelation 17, which includes the other two members of the satanic triad (the “dragon” of paganism/spiritualism and the “false prophet” of apostate Protestantism). This globalized form of Babylon riding on the scarlet beast of secular political power is still in the future.” The latter is based more on what Ellen White says in The Great Controversy than on direct exegesis of the text. From a scholarly perspective, that would be appropriate to a lesson on SDA Eschatology or Ellen White’s use of Revelation. In a lesson on the Book of Revelation, the text itself should be the primary source, in my view. But I’m not the one tasked to make that editorial decision.
Even larger changes occurred in Main Themes IV. I will share them in full, so the lesson teacher can be aware of the changes and their significance. I wrote about an alliance of “religious institutions in opposition to God, an alliance of secular political power, and an alliance of the saints. All three are precipitated by the final worldwide proclamation of the gospel (Rev. 14:6-7) and its evil counterpart (16:13-14). Through the counterfeit gospel of demonic angels (16:13-14), Babylon (demonic trinity—16:19). . .” This was removed and the following was added in its place: “the saints composed of an enlarged remnant church that includes those who have come out of Babylon to join them, an alliance of religious institutions, and an alliance of secular political powers. The last two alliances are precipitated by the final, worldwide proclamation of the gospel by the remnant (Rev. 14:6, 7; Rev. 18:1–4). Through the counterfeit gospel “inspired” by the demonic angels (Rev. 16:13, 14), Babylon (the satanic triad [Rev. 16:19]). . .” Again, this is a shift from exegetical language to language more familiar to traditional Adventists, which has a place in a diverse church. I am glad that at least my direct textual references were retained.
Later on in the same paragraph my statement “But when God intervenes (Rev 17:17), drying up Babylon’s support system (secular/political powers (Rev. 16:12), it turns. . .” was replaced with “But the drying up of the Euphrates (Rev. 16:12) symbolically portrays the time when the secular/political powers that supported the harlot Babylon turn. . .” This changes the wording but not the basic meaning of what I wrote. I will have a concluding comment on the challenges of editing in a theologically charged environment in the next and last blog in this series.
Editing the Sabbath School lessons and their Teacher’s Editions is a challenging task. One cannot simply utilize editorial skills and Bible knowledge, there is a whole world of expectations to satisfy both from central leadership and from the wider field of pastors and lay people. Today anyone can have a “bully pulpit” and attract a small or large segment of followers from around the church. Such groups exert pressure and sometimes affect editorial decisions. Although the results are sometimes (some would say often) disappointing from a scholarly perspective, I respect the process. As regards my own Teacher’s Edition, the outcome is probably the best that could have been expected.
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.