Jesus (Revelation 1:1-3)


The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

We expect books, stories, articles and poems to have titles. A title is a kind of invitation to read, and publishers try to help their authors think up catchy titles that will sell their books. Bible readers take it for granted that the books of the Bible have titles too not catchy, but informative. The title is supposed to tell us what the work is and often who wrote it. The last book of the Bible is known simply as the book of Revelation, or the Revelation of John, or sometimes the Apocalypse, or the Apocalypse of John. No one expects it to be called The Late Great Planet Earth or God's Great Tomorrow. Few Bible readers are aware that most biblical books did not originally have titles at all. They simply began, said what they had to say, and ended. The titles were added in very early manuscripts, but the authors themselves did not bother to attach them. There are a few possible exceptions, depending on how the opening words are interpreted. Some have argued, for example, that The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ in Mark 1:1, and The book of the generation of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:1 are titles. Revelation is probably the clearest New Testament example of a work that does give itself a title. Its title is not The Revelation of John, for these words were supplied by later scribes who copied the manuscript. The real title is very long, like some obscure 18th century religious tract. It is emphatically not a catchy title. In fact, it comprises all of the first three verses of chapter 1. If there is a short title, it has to be the simple phrase with which the longer one begins, the revelation of Jesus Christ. This revelation has the form of a letter, the longest letter in the New Testament. But the title, or heading prefixed to the letter, makes it clear from the start that this is no ordinary letter from a Christian leader to a group of churches. It is a letter from heaven, a prophetic revelation from Almighty God.

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