Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary
Religion, New Testament PhD
P. Richard Choi
Jacques B. Doukhan
The narrative of Rev 11:1-13 involves two prophet-witnesses. The question of the identity of the two witnesses of Rev 11:1-13 has been answered in a variety of ways. In the history of exegetical investigation, they have been seen as two actual people, a symbol for a larger group, or even a symbol for inanimate objects. Clearly, some proposals seem more plausible than others do; however, the debate remains open. Indeed, the possibility exists that a stronger case could be made for a previous proposal or that a new one could be found that is more agreeable to scholars of Revelation. The purpose of the present study is to clarify the nature of the problem of identifying the two witnesses and to form a plan for finding a more satisfactory answer. In this way, the research illuminates the path beyond the current state of inconclusiveness. This purpose is accomplished through a survey of arguments that are representative of those used to support the major exegetical identifications of the two witnesses and through an examination of the broad interpretive issues that can be derived from those arguments. In short, the research aims to meet the need for a review of the literature that will more fully expose the state of the question concerning the identity of the witnesses and so offer a basis for a new investigation into that question.
The most popular identifications of the two witnesses can be divided into those that understand the witnesses literally and those that understand the witnesses symbolically. The presentations of argumentation are separated according to this division, with one chapter dealing with literal identifications and another chapter covering symbolic ones. In each chapter, the presentations begin with an extensive summary of one exposition. These summaries function as the basis for discussing other significant expositions of the witnesses that, although differing in certain ways from the main ones, still represent the same broad class of identifications. Descriptions of the broad issues of interpretation that are deducible from the presented arguments are given at various points in the presentations. Issues of interpretation shared by the commentators are identified in the conclusions to each chapter.
The thinking of Donatus Haugg forms the central exposition for the chapter on literal interpretations. The expositions of James Henthorn Todd, Isbon Thaddeus Beckwith, and Christine Joy Tan are also featured. All four commentators identify the witnesses as two individuals who appear in the future after the composition of Revelation. The work of Johannes Munck is also featured in this chapter. He identifies the two witnesses with Peter and Paul. His exposition represents those interpreters who identify the witnesses as two people contemporaneous to John. Munck's exposition receives an abbreviated treatment.
The thinking of Gregory Kimball Beale forms the foundational exposition for the chapter on symbolic interpretations. The expositions of Hendrik Rijk van de Kamp and Gerhard Maier are also featured. All three commentators see the two witnesses as a symbol of God's people. The work of Ekkehardt Müller is also featured in this chapter. He argues that the two witnesses symbolize the Bible. His exposition represents those interpreters who see the witnesses as a symbol for sacred writings. Müller's exposition receives an abbreviated treatment.
When one considers these chapters, thirty-five broad issues of interpretation are common to at least two of the nine featured commentators. In the penultimate chapter, these issues are evaluated. In the evaluation, fourteen issues are identified as the main issues in the debate over the identity of the two witnesses, because the majority of the nine representative commentators address them. As for the issues that are less common among the nine commentators, these issues are assessed to see whether they should join the main issues in a new investigation of the identity question. Seventeen of these are found to be relevant for further discussion of the identity question. Four issues appear to be of such low relevance that they need not be a part that discussion.
Accompanying the evaluation are small summaries of what the commentators have said in addressing the broad issues of interpretation. In a brief way, argumentation from the two preceding chapters can be seen together and is arranged first by issue, rather than by commentator.
The rest of the penultimate chapter concerns how the issues that result from the evaluation can be organized into a research plan to aid scholars in treating them. Although not exhaustive, the plan in theory includes the issues essential for a more intimate engagement with the debate over the identity of the witnesses. The first part of the plan consists of five issues related to the interpretative framework that may be applied to the tale of the two witnesses. These issues concern the use of the OT in Revelation, the symbolism present in Revelation, and the matter of how Revelation relates to history (an interpretive approach). The second part of the plan consists of sixteen issues related to the text of Rev 11:3-13, such as the themes of testimony and prophecy, the images of the olive trees and the lampstands, and other aspects of the passage that involves the witnesses. Seven issues that concern the history of the interpretation of the passage, such as the early interpretation of the witnesses and various traditions about significant OT and NT figures, form the third part of the plan. The issues of the immediate context before the passage and after the passage form the fourth part of the plan. The issue of historical data completes the research plan. The final chapter summarizes and concludes the study.
Bible. Revelation--Criticism, interpretation, etc.; Two Witnesses
Brown, Ian R., "The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11:1-13: Arguments, Issues of Interpretation, and a Way Forward" (2016). Dissertations. 1616.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.