Monday, April 16, 2007

The Lion and the Lamb

Last sunday morning I preached on Revelation 5. I set out trying to explain and exposit the meaning of vv. 5-6 "Behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah ... I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain".

During my sermon I said: "Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, with the head of a Lion, the body of a Lamb, and the head of Lamb" [those who know their American sitcoms will recognize the Simpson's intertexture, an area of textual discourse as yet uncharted by V.K. Robbins and friends]. My own thinking is that the function of such imagery is rhetorically apologetic and simultaneously ironic. That is, John the Seer argues that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah/Root of David (i.e. the Messiah) is also the Lamb who was slain (i.e. the crucified Jesus). In other words, the crucified Jesus is Israel's Messiah! The messiahship of Jesus (as a crucified messiah) was a point of contention in Jewish - Christian relations and I would be prepared to argue that Mark's Gospel in particular is an apology for the cross (see also Robert H. Gundry, Craig A. Evans and S.G.F. Brandon). I think Rev. 5.5-6 is advocating a similar picture here.


Daniel Kirk said...

And is part of the irony in the way that the lion/lamb conquers (not by military might), a la R. Hays, Moral Vision of the New Testament?

J. Ted Blakley said...

Richard Bauckham has a very interesting article that argues a very similar sort of thing. He makes the point of showing the contrast between what is seen and heard. John *hears* one of the elders saying "Behold the Lion of Judah . . . has conquered" but what he *sees* is the Lamb standing as if slaughtered. Bauckham argues that the expectation of a militaristic Davidic messiah is being replaced by the messiah who conquers through giving not taking life. Later on, this same sort of thing occurs in Revelation. In Rev 7, John *hears* (7:4) the number of those sealed, the 144,000, whom Bauckham argues is an army (in the OT a census was designed to assess Israel's military strength); but what John *sees* (7:9) is a multitude who are before the Lamb and who are those who have been martyred, thus conquering in the way that the Lamb has conquered, through the giving of their lives not the taking of lives. Basically, Bauckham argues that Revelation subverts the Jewish expectations of an eschatological war as one finds for instance in the War Scroll; and in fact what has been hidden in the scroll that only the Lamb, because of his sacrifice, is able to open is that God's kingdom and salvation will be made available to all nations and that it is through the martyred saints that this will occur. For more see, "The Book of Revelation as a Christian War Scroll," Neotestamentica 22 (1988) 17-40, which can also be found in his collection The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1993.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

You are right, but he's also arguing a particular interpretation: that the Messiah--expected as a military leader, a Lion--is none other than the slain Lamb, the Crucified Jesus. Too often Christians are ashamed of the nonviolent Jesus and can't wait for Christ's return--believing they will get a Warrior, a Lion. But John the Revelator is saying that the Victorious Christ who has/will triumph is none other than the Lamb, "this same Jesus." We ONLY get the nonviolent Jesus because he ALWAYS conquers by means of the cross. Even later in Revelation with the Rider on the White Horse facing the Kings of the earth--the latter are slain/conquered "by the sword of his mouth," i.e., by evangelism.