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2.14.1 - Recapitulation of Events

The author of the earliest surviving commentary, Victorinus of Pettau, subscribed to the recapitulation view.1 This view emphasizes similarities between elements of the three series of symbols (seals, trumpets, bowls) and understands the similarities as an indication of identity. Although there are many variations on this scheme, the following diagram illustrates the general idea. The passages describing the trumpet judgments are seen as depicting additional details concerning the earlier seal judgments. Similarly, the passages describing the bowl judgments are understood as elaborating on the previous trumpet judgments. See [Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 128] for a more elaborate example.

Recapitulation of Events

Recapitulation of Events

Often, a similar event (e.g., an earthquake) found in association with two judgments leads to their association.

Alford, following Isaac Williams, draws attention to the parallel connection between the Apocalypse and Christ’s discourse on the Mount of Olives, recorded in Mat. 24:4-28. The seals plainly bring us down to the second coming of Christ, just as the trumpets also do (compare Rev. 6:12-17+; 8:1+, and Rev. 11:15+), and as the vials also do (Rev. 16:17+): all three run parallel, and end in the same point. Certain “catchwords” (as Wordsworth calls them) connect the three series of symbols together. They do not succeed one to the other in historical and chronological sequence, but move side by side, the subsequent series filling up in detail the same picture which the preceding series had drawn in outline. . . . the earthquake that ensues on the opening of the sixth seal is one of the catchwords, that is, a link connecting chronologically this sixth seal with the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:13+; 11:13+): compare also the seventh vial, Rev. 16:17+, 18+. The concomitants of the opening of the sixth seal, it is plain, in no full and exhaustive sense apply to any event, save the terrors which shall overwhelm the ungodly just before the coming of the Judge. . . . the loosing of the four winds by the four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, under the sixth seal, answers to the loosing of the four angels at the Euphrates, under the sixth trumpet.2

Other times it is a similarity in pattern which leads interpreters in this direction:

The strongest argument for the recapitulation view is the observation of repeated combined scenes of consummative judgment and salvation found at the conclusions of various sections throughout the book. The pattern of these scenes is always the same, consisting of a depiction of judgment followed by a portrayal of salvation; cf. respectively Rev. 6:12-17+ and 7:9-17+; 11:18+a and 11:18+b; 14:14-20+ and 15:2-4+; 16:17-21+, including 17:1+-18:24+, which functions as an intensified judicial conclusion of the whole book, and 19:1-10+; 20:7-15+ and 21:2-8+, including the following section of 21:9+-22:5+, which serves as an intensified salvific conclusion to the entire book.3

Even similarity of phrase has been seen as indicating recapitulation:

A third phrase which recurs four times, and which may serve as a division point is “thunders, voices, lightnings, and an earthquake [Rev. 4:5+; 8:5+; 11:19+; 16:18+].” . . . The last three mark respectively the conclusions of the judgments of the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls, and have consequently been interpreted by some to indicate that their judgments are concurrent, or at least continuous. Does the repetition of the phrase mean that the same reaction takes place three times, or that there are three types of judgments of increasing intensity converging at the same point?4

The main weakness of the recapitulation view is that it emphasizes similarity between passages over distinct differences which remain. But, similarity does not equal identity. Those who believe that details are intentionally revealed in the text for the reader to notice are unlikely to embrace the recapitulation view because it glosses over these differences.

Notes

1 “This position was taken by Victorinus of Pettau, the author of the oldest surviving commentary (d. ca. 304).”—Adela Yarbro Collins, “Book of Revelation,” in David Noel Freeman, ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1996, c1992), 5:696.

2 A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 1:1.

3 Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 121.

4 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 34.


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