bible blog 305

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1, Revelation 22:1-7

The River Tay at Dundee

1 Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear.

2 Down the middle of the city street, on either bank of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the nations.

3 The curse of destruction will be abolished. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city; his servants will worship him, 4 they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads.

5 And night will be abolished; they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.

6 The angel said to me, ‘All that you have written is sure and will come true: the Lord God who inspires the prophets has sent his angel to reveal to his servants what is soon to take place.

7 I am coming soon!’ Blessed are those who keep the prophetic message of this book.

(Throughout this translation there is evidence of carelessness and a tin ear for language. In verse 2 “a cure for the nations” compares badly with the more literal “healing of the nations.” The preposition is important. Verse 3 is a strangled attempt to translate “and there will be no anathema (accursed thing) there” i.e. nothing that requires rejection by God. Verse 4 messes up the beautiful words “and they shall see his face” (“face to face” is a democratic alteration which has no place here.) There is no word for “written” in the Greek and no need for it in English. In verse 5 the Greek says “And there is no night there”- where does “abolished” come from? Then compare the rest of the verse with the A.V “And they need (present tense!) no candle neither light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light…” When the little words cease to be important, there’s no hope for systems of theology.)

This is a lovely picture of the city God has prepared for those who are strangers and sojourners on the earth. Rivers or canals that flow through cities are a great joy to me, so I’m ready to believe that “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” beside which grow the trees of life, endlessly fruitful, whose leaves are medicine for the greed and violence of the nations. All this is a description of the nature of God. There will be no night there, because night has been the incorporation of primal darkness, of randomness, uncertainty, accident and suffering, into creation. In the new creation, these will have gone because God’s presence will shine over all.

The purpose of a vision is to give hope. I gratefully acknowledge that in a life compromised by my own evil and the evil of others, this vision never fails to bring tears of longing to my eyes.

Gospel, Luke 21:34-36

34 ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come down on all those living on the face of the earth.

36 Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of man.’

To the watchtower

Having criticised the translation above, I want to praise it here. Literally the last verb in verse 36 is “to stand” and is often so translated. By the form used is the aorist passive which has the stronger sense of “taking one’s place”, “making a stand” etc. so “hold your ground is a good and challenging translation. It refers us back to Jesus’ question, “When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” Will there be those who have kept trusting in and hoping for the saving justice of God? Those who “stay awake” can hold their ground before the Son of Man because they are ready like watchmen to greet the dawn, now and always.

Tomorrow, it’s Advent.


  1. I believe that we should live more in heaven, and allow it – with its hope and courage – to spill over into the rest of our lives. When I read about your tears of longing this is what I see.

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