Monday, February 09, 2009

Belongs to OR about Jesus Christ? (Revelation 1.1)


The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.
(Revelation 1.1)

During this morning lecture, Tony Siew made a passing remark on the exegetical debate among scholars over the phrase "The revelation of Jesus Christ". The contention is over the word "of" in the phrase.
One camp argues that the "of" is a subjective genitive. That means the phrase should be understood as "The revelation belongs to Jesus Christ".

The opposite camp argues that the "of" is an objective genitive. So the understanding should be "The revelation about Jesus Christ".
While thinking over Tony's passing remark, I start to wonder if there could be a third way to exegete it. It dawn to me that there is. And here's my try:

Instead of polarizing the "of" as subjective vs objective, I suggest to read it as a reflexive genitive. Before any furtherance I have to clarify that I don't know if there is such term in NT Greek studies. I derived it from 'reflexive pronoun', a common grammar the biblical writers applied in their writings.

The pattern of a reflexive genitive is commonly seen in the form of testimony made by a person about himself. And if that is true, then that act of testifying about oneself is also a self-revelation; someone revealing something about himself.

The reflexive genitive functions not merely to combine the subjective and objective genitive ('both/and') over against their polarization. This combination opens up a third hermeneutic:
a theological interpretation.

That means the revelation mentioned in Rev. 1.1 neither merely a belonging of Jesus Christ plus a testimony about Him. Genitive reflexive's main contribution to the understanding of this passage is its emphatic implication on the act of divine revelation.

Going back to the form of testimony as statement made by a person about himself, such statement is not simply a belonging to the person about the person. If anything, such statement has to first came from the person himself (via a messenger, as later part of v.1 shows). Therefore such reading points the readers to the act of (active) testifying; a self-disclosure of that self.

Applying that to Rev. 1.1, we have a disclosure that came from Jesus Christ that is about Himself and belongs to Him, and it is given by God.

Just a try.

2 comments:

pearlie said...

its emphatic implication on the act of divine revelation.
So you are saying that a "reflective genitive" has a divine quality to it?

Going back to the form of testimony as statement made by a person about himself, such statement is not simply a belonging to the person about the person. If anything, such statement has to first came from the person himself (via a messenger, as later part of v.1 shows). Therefore such reading points the readers to the act of (active) testifying; a self-disclosure of that self.: I thought that both subjective+objective genitive (I forgot what it is called combined) should suffice to carry this out.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Pearlie,

hmm...I dont think "reflexive genitive" has any divine quality. What I mean is it emphasize in a way of implication that the revelation is divinely originated.

Yes, I think the combination is suffice to carry that out. In the post, I try to explore whether are there any more implication to be drawn out.

And from my observation, This combination opens up a third hermeneutic: a theological interpretation (as in the rest of the post).

Just like a man marries a woman is a combination. They are suffice to constitute a family. I'm trying to explore more what does it mean such constitution means. Something along this line loh.

Thank you for your penetrating comments!