Celebrating Michael and his angels in Revelation 12

Tomorrow is the feast of Michael and All Angels, which some will be celebrating at the weekend, and the key lectionary reading for the feast is Rev 12.7–12. Although the festival focusses on Michael, everything about this passages actually focusses away from Michael and points us to the victory of God and the lamb—even Michael’s name! This is what I wrote in my Tyndale Commentary, as an introduction to chapter 12, comments on the particular verses, and a theological conclusion to the whole chapter.

We now come to what commentators universally agree is the central and pivotal chapter in the book. Although this chapter is not styled as an interlude to a series in way chapters 7 and 10–11 are, it stands out as distinctive in style and language. A decisive break with the previous narrative is marked by the opening comment, not ‘And I saw…’ but ‘And a great sign appeared in heaven…’

The shape of this chapter and the one that follows are also distinctive. Together, Rev. 12–13 form the longest continuous narrative within the whole book. But Rev. 12 itself has perhaps the clearest structure of any section, following into four interconnected parts:

  1. opening narrative about the woman, the child and the dragon (vv. 1–6)
  2. short narrative about war in heaven (vv. 7–9)
  3. poetic hymn of praise (vv. 10–12)
  4. resumption of the opening narrative of woman, child and dragon (vv. 13–17)

As we shall see, sections 2 and 3 are epexegetical of each preceding section, that is, they function to explain what has gone before, until  the original narrative is resumed after the hymn has made clear what this whole episode is about. And explanation is needed because of the unusual nature of the main narrative in 1–6 and 13–17, which contains many ideas that are not found in the Old Testament nor earlier in Revelation. We can recognize the characters easily enough – the woman as the people of God awaiting deliverance, the dragon as ‘that ancient serpent called the devil’, the child who is the anointed king in Psalm 2, Michael the great angelic prince of Israel – but the plot is strange to us.

However, it would not have been strange to John nor to his audience. It has clear connections to a myth that was widely circulated from the third century BC to the second century AD in a variety of forms, the best known being the story of Leto, Python and Apollo. Python, a huge dragon, was warned by an oracle that he would be destroyed by one of Leto’s children. Leto was a lover of Zeus who was married to Hera. When Hera learned that Leto was pregnant, she banished her; Leto gave birth to her twins, Artemis and Apollo, on the island of Delos (about 40 miles (70 km) due West of Patmos). Python pursued her in order to destroy her offspring, but she was carried away by Aquilo (Latin for the north wind) and protected by Poseidon with waves. When four days old, Apollo hunted down Python and killed him with arrows (both Apollo and Artemis were archers). [This is a summary of the version recorded by the Latin author Hyginus in his collection of mythology Fabulae (no. 140). Hyginus (ca. 64 BC to AD 17) was a freedman of Augustus and the superintendent of the library on the Palatine.] This story was used as imperial propaganda, particularly by Domitian, to portray the emperor as Apollo, the son of the gods and defeater of the chaos monster.

John has previously blended Old Testament ideas with elements of the emperor cult, particularly in the vision of worship in Rev. 4. Here, though, is a particular way of bringing the two together – by taking the characters from one narrative (the biblical story) and inserting them into the plotline from another narrative (the Leto myth). This is a device we continue to see today in many forms of political cartoon. To make sense of it, we need to recognize both the characters (which come from one context, the scriptures of the Old Testament) and the plot (which comes from another context, the world of Greco-Roman mythology, particularly as appropriated in imperial propaganda). In doing this, John’s vision report inverts the story, displacing imperial power from the role of Apollo by the Davidic messiah, and instead associating the empire with the chaos monster, the dragon.

War in heaven (12:7–9)


7. The register of language now changes, and John’s vision report switches from drawing on the Python/Leto myth to drawing on Jewish images of angelic combat. [In a related myth, Typhon, another dragon monster, fights Zeus and is cast down to Tartarus by him. Though John’s audience might have been familiar with this story, the shape of it does not appear to have been a major influence on the text.] The war in heaven is initiated with the enthronement of the male son, which implies a clash of authorities, even though the presence of Satan in heaven has not been previously mentioned (in contrast to the scene described in Job 1:6–8).  The advent of angelic warfare was taken by Jews and pagans as a sign that human warfare was about to break out, though here the heavenly conflict actually leads to conflict on earth when Satan is cast down.

Michael was one of the four or seven ruling angels (‘archangel’; Jude 9) and presumably one of those who blew the trumpets (see comment on 8:2). His name (mi-cha-el) in Hebrew means ‘Who is like God?’, a question parodied in the later question ‘Who is like the beast?’ in 13:4. Though some Jewish literature gives Michael a primordial role in confronting Satan in the creation, his main function is eschatological. He is described in Dan. 10:13, 21;12:1 as the ‘chief of princes’ who assists other angels in their warfare against other angelic powers, and as ‘the great prince who protects your people’, thus linking him with the woman as an image of God’s people. Within the narrative, it is notable that it is not the enthroned male son who fights against the dragon, but one of his angels. His authority has been delegated, and victory is certain; the struggle between the forces of good and evil is in no sense a clash of equals.

8. ‘Might’ or ‘strength’ is a quality ascribed to God (7:12) and various angels (10:1; 18:21) as well as something claimed by Babylon (18:10); Revelation could therefore be characterised as depicting an (unequal) power struggle in which (contrary to appearance) the power of the dragon (which is behind the power of human empires) is not strong enough to overcome the apparent weakness of the child or the slain lamb. The phrase translated they lost their place in heaven is grammatically very odd, literally reading ‘nor was their place found any longer in heaven’. The loss of a ‘place’ contrasts with the ‘place’ prepared for the woman for her protection. But more importantly, the same phrase is found in one Greek version (Theodotion) of Dan. 2:35, describing the destruction of the statue which represents human empires by the stone ‘not made by human hands’ which symbolises the coming kingdom of God. It is also found in the Greek of Ps. 37:36, about the wicked who ‘soon passed away and were no more’. Though the psalm reads like a reflection on the wicked in general, in Qumran it was interpreted as predicting the eschatological overthrow of the Wicked Priest who opposed the Teacher of Righteousness. Michael is here enacting the rule of the promised king, now enthroned with God, whose kingdom displaces all human empires and whose rule brings wickedness to an end.

9. John here draws together the various traditions in the Old Testament about the primeval opponent of God. In the Greek Old Testament, the word for ‘dragon’ or ‘sea monster’ and ‘serpent’ are often the same, so this identification is natural enough, and it draws the chaotic monsters of the deep who were tamed by the ordering of God alongside the agent of evil who stands against the goodness of God. The serpent in the garden of Eden is not identified with Satan in the Genesis narrative, but by the first century this identification was common, for example in Paul’s encouragement that ‘the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ (Rom. 16:20), an allusion to Gen. 3:15. Devil (diabolos) meaning ‘slanderer’ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Satan meaning ‘accuser’, and the two terms are used interchangeably in the New Testament. ‘Satan’ could refer to a human accuser (as in Ps. 71:13) but came to mean the spiritual being who was the accuser of God’s people (as in Job 1:6–8). The devil was particularly associated with demons (who were understood as his malevolent angels) and in this capacity was called Beelzebub (‘Lord of the flies’, Matt. 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15) a name derived from a Philistine god (2 Kings 1:2–3). He is the ‘evil one’ from whom we pray for deliverance (Matt. 6:13) and is also Belial or Beliar, meaning ‘worthless one’ (2 Cor. 6:15). The devil is often depicted as deceiving people by luring them into temptation, as in Jesus temptations in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). In the Johannine tradition he is ‘the father of lies’ (John 8:44) and Paul highlights his deceptive disguise (2 Cor. 11:14).

When did Satan’s fall occur, when he was thrown down? The account of the fall of the ‘morning star’ (Latin Lucifer) in Isa. 14:12–14 appears to refer to the king of Babylon but has later been read as a description of Satan’s primordial fall and corruption – though there is no clear connection made in this passage. When the seventy-two return from their ministry of proclamation, healing and exorcism Jesus declares ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Luke 10:18) – but this must be understood as an anticipation of Jesus’ victory over evil in his cross and resurrection rather than the attainment of it. In John’s gospel, the ‘hour’ of ‘judgement on this world’ in which ‘Satan, the ruler of this world cast out’ (John 12:31) is the moment when Jesus is ‘lifted up’, that is, his crucifixion. In the narrative here in Revelation, Satan’s fall follows Jesus’ exaltation to the throne, but we are soon told that ‘the accuser’ has been thrown down and victory won in the first instance ‘by the blood of the lamb’ (v. 11). So there is a twin focus on Jesus’ death and his exaltation, expressed earlier by the presence of the slain lamb on the throne in Rev. 5.

Though Satan no longer has a place in heaven, he does continue to exercise power on the earth. John is recasting the temporal paradox of the Christian life into a spatial one. The time that the followers live in is one of testimony and victory yet at the same time one in which they experience suffering and apparent defeat. In spatial terms, they are heaven-dwellers who are before the throne in heaven and constitute the temple of God, and so are protected from the power of Satan who has no place there. And yet they continue as members of many tribes, languages, peoples and nations, living in their various cities on earth where Satan, for a short time (12:12), wields his limited power.

The hymn of praise (12:10–12)


10. In the second major change of style within this chapter, John hears the authoritative declaration of a loud voice from heaven. In the now we have reached the central point of the central chapter of the book – the pivot around which the whole narrative turns. John has been speaking the words of the exalted Jesus to the particular situation of the Christian communities in the province of Asia. He has shared with them his vision of worship in heaven and of the slain lamb who shares the throne. He has depicted the chaos and evil unleashed on the world under the permissive authority of God. And the repeated implicit and explicit question has been ‘How long will this last? What will God do about it?’. The preliminary answers have been offered in the two interludes – that he has formed a people for himself from every nation, that he has called John and others to exercise a ministry of prophetic witness. But now the fullest answer comes to the question, the one which his people and their testimony point to: that in Jesus’ death, resurrection and exaltation the kingdom of God and with it the authority of his Messiah or Christ have now come. If the first half of the book has been building up to the revelation of this, not least through it frequent anticipations of it, then the second half of the book depicts its working out, not least in the judgement that comes to all other rival kingdoms (empires).

Salvation has been acclaimed as belonging to God by the uncountable multitude in 7:10, and will be acclaimed again at the fall of Babylon in 19:1. It represents a direct counter-claim to that of the Roman emperor, who claimed to bring salvation by subduing the empire’s enemies and bringing peace and prosperity. Power is mentioned 12 times in the text, and (like the language of strength in v. 8 above) expresses the rival claims of God and his spiritual opponents (cf. 13:2; 17:13). In the past, Satan’s accusations of God’s people could be countered (Job 1:8) or forgiven (Zech. 3:1–4) by God, but now the accuser himself has been expelled, and no more accusations will be heard. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1).

11. The language of triumph (nikaō) connects this central passage to the exhortations in the messages to the seven assemblies in Rev. 2–3. Although it is the lamb who has triumphed, the victory belongs too to God’s people, since they now enjoy freedom from the fear of accusation and participate in the kingdom and power that has been made available to them. The victory has two parts to it, one which is de jure which establishes the victory, and the other which is de facto, in that it makes the victory real and visible. The first is the blood of the lamb which is a metonym for his death, and the second is the word of their testimony, that is, their faithful witness to the truth and transformative power of the death of the lamb. Without the first, there is no basis for victory over Satan and the power that he exercises; without the second, there is no reality in it. And the two are bound closely together, since true testimony means that the witnesses do not shrink from death which is precisely following the pattern of Jesus, the faithful witness, who ‘loved us and freed us from our sins by his blood’. To follow the crucified one means to live the cruciform live (Mark 8:34; Phil 3:10). This kind of conquest, which involves suffering from violent oppression, is in sharp and constant contrast with the conquest of the beasts who inflict violence. This does not mean either that only the martyrs are saved, or that all God’s people will die a martyrs death, but simply that this is emblematic of the kind of faith and its ‘patient endurance’ (1:9) to which the whole community is called.

12. The victory of the lamb is both good news and bad news – good news for those who dwell in the heavens, but bad news for the earth and the sea. This corresponds to John’s experience of eating the scroll, which is both sweet and bitter (10:10) since his prophetic message is given both to those who receive the message of salvation and those who reject it. The spatial distinction between heaven and earth is again about distinctions in spiritual reality, since those following the lamb are the ones who ‘dwell in heaven’ (13:6) while those who follow the beast are described as ‘inhabitants of the earth’ (13:8). The earth here is bracketed with the sea, which in the Old Testament is the source of chaos and opposition to God. The devil’s time (kairos) is short, not in terms of days and years so much as being limited in extent by the authority of God.

Although it is not numbered by John, this is the next proclamation of woe following the two which corresponded to the fifth and sixth trumpets (in 9:12 and 11:14). The declaration that ‘the third woe is coming soon’ (11:14) is followed immediately by this narrative and this warning of woe, which suggests that John understands the present era, between Jesus’ exaltation and his return, as the third ‘woe’. The first two woes constitute the threats from the north and the east to the empire itself, and any other kind of threat to human peace and well-being; but the third woe is the threat that the empire itself presents as an instrument of the dragon in the oppression of the people of God. From the story of cosmic conflict in Rev. 12, we turn in Rev. 13 to the specific expression of that manifested in Roman imperial power in the province of Asia.


Even though the figure of Jesus (depicted in person or in an image) is not as central here as he is in chapters 1 and 5, in this pivotal chapter the claims of Jesus are brought most sharply into focus as rival claims to that of the Roman empire. In the literary equivalent of a political cartoon, John’s vision report takes a piece of imperial propaganda and inverts its effect. Rome is no longer the strong hero Apollo who vanquishes the chaos monster, but is in fact allied with the chaos monster and so is threatened with defeat. Jesus is not a marginal figure who is the inspiration for an insignificant religious movement, but is the Apollo figure who is the true bringer of victory and peace. The effect of this on John’s audience is to push them to a crisis of decision; they have in different ways been affirmed and challenged in their loyalty in the seven messages, and the seals and trumpets have confronted them with the true source of uncertainty and the real answer to it. Now the crisis deepens: to ally oneself with the empire is to ally oneself with the spiritual adversary to both God and his people.

John’s use of Old Testament traditions, particular those of Daniel, paints this crisis of decision on a wide historical canvas. Although the particular challenge faces John’s audience is one particular system of empire, his coalescing of the description of the beasts in Daniel 7 portrays their situation as one among the many that humanity faces from one era to the next. Inasmuch as they are the claims that only God can make, all such human empires ultimately derive their power from the enemy of God. Jesus’s victory by his death is not only the denial of the claims of empire, it is also the answer to the aspirations of the people of God down the ages to live in peace and worship God in freedom (Luke 1:69–75).

This narrative also confirms what John has already suggested about the times we live in. The followers of the lamb live in the in-between time which was inaugurated with Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, and will be consummated with his return as depicted in Rev. 1922. This is the age of the ‘third woe’, when Satan is at large in this world even though he has no authority in the heavenly realm. Therefore God’s people will continue to experience the presence and protection of God (because Jesus’ death has silenced the accuser and the (seven) Spirit(s) of God are abroad in the world) but they will also experience suffering (tribulation) and opposition, because Satan continues to be at large for a ‘short time’ until he is finally locked up and then destroyed in the final judgement. This paradoxical pattern of suffering and victory for Jesus’ followers is the same thing that Jesus himself experienced; the hardships of being a disciple are not a mistake, nor a sign of the failure of God, but are part and parcel of what it means to be a faithful witness.

The chapters that follow now unfold this situation. We read in detail of the trials of John’s audience living under the empire and its allies in Asia in the next chapter. We then read in stark contrast of the security and victory of the faithful and the certainty of God’s judgement (Rev. 14). We read of the final plagues that are to come on the earth (Rev. 16), and the full disclosure of the nature of the empire (Rev. 17) before leading into the unfolding significance of the return of Jesus – the certainty of the end of evil (Rev. 18 and 19) and vindication of the saints (Rev. 20), and the sparkling vision of hope for eternity (Rev. 21).

For commentary on the whole of chapter 12, you can buy the commentary direct from IVP or from other online retailers.

The picture at the top is a detail from ‘Saint Michael Triumphs over the Devil‘ by Bartolomé Bermejo (1468), ‘widely considered the most important early Spanish painting in Britain’.

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13 thoughts on “Celebrating Michael and his angels in Revelation 12”

  1. Thank you Ian,
    I was not going to comment until October but I’m currently thinking about creating a work of art for chapter 12. So here is my peep on this at the moment.

    I think the last verse of Ch.11 should always herald ch.12. An interlude between scene changes on some grand stage. The curtains of hail are drawn aside to reveal ‘the sign in heaven’.

    On reading ch12 afresh recently it occurred to me that Matthew’s genealogy is being used as a back-drop. The 13 ancestors of Jesus from Abraham to Jesse are like the phases of the moon going up the left hand side of the stage. Abraham was after all occluded in moon worship. Abraham was the new moon.

    15 Stars, David to Jeconiah, make their way over the top.

    Shealtiel to Joseph are 12 stars going down the right hand side.

    Mary is the 13th star who is under them and wears them like a crown.

    She is clothed in the sun; another way of saying she is clothed by the Holy Spirit.

    The moon under her feet looks very much like a birth stool. This is on the left near where Sarah is giving birth to Isaac.

    A third of the stars are cast down. 5 of the 15 kings in Jesus’ genealogy were corrupt and died apostate. Could the ref. to stars falling from the sky refer to these kings? It would certainly make an interesting image as the serpent glides up and over the stage knocking a third of the stars down to earth.

    Michael is the Holy Spirit in us waging war by displacing the serpent attacking us and giving the space won for God’s throne. He has been at work, all the time, throughout history. He is the narrator of Revelation and so does not speak of Himself directly but at all times presents Jesus as the focus of every scene.

    The Woman is Mary in the genealogy but she is also the mother of all mothers, from the tent of Sarah to the church today. The stars Abraham saw were these genealogical stars.

    There were 42 generations, (3.5 times), to Christ.
    There will be 1260 generations, (3.5 times), to His return.
    Total 7.

    • Steve

      Could the woman be Israel and the 12 stars an allusion to the 12 tribes (Gen 37). Clothed with Sun – radiant and glorious?

      Satan is very powerful. His tail alone sweeps away some heavenly figures.

      Very hard to be sure about some of these images.

      There is a key difference between ch 12 and ch 20. In Ch 12 Satan is cast from heaven to earth. In Ch 20 he is cast from the earth to the bottomless pit. Here he rules for 3 ½ years while in ch 20 he is imprisoned for a thousand years.

  2. I receive help from you on Revelation Ian. Allow me to raise two questions one of which I’ve raised before.

    The first is how John builds on C1 situations. Don’t get me wrong John seems definitely to draw from contemporary situations. Aspects of the seven churches seem to echo the cities in which they existed. Yet the preponderance of John’s allusions and images seem to arise from the OT. It need not be an either/or but its good to keep in mind OT sources. With this I’m sure you will agree.

    Where I more definitely part company is your view that the 3 and a half years which dominate the middle section of Revelation should be taken as the whole era of the church.

    A) not all numbers in Revelation are symbolic. 3 ½ years may be literal.
    B) the 3 ½ years are drawn from Daniel, an apocalyptic book where 3 ½ years appear frequently and are always literal. It seems that John is shedding more light on these Danielic years.
    C) There are real parallels between Daniel’s 3 ½ years and those in Revelation. In Daniel they refer to 3½ years of intense persecution at the end of history by one king bringing in their wake the return of Christ (Dan 7). In Revelation the 3 ½ years also refer to the period a world ruler persecutes the people of God and is overcome by the return of Christ.
    D) In Rev 13 we are specifically told the 3 ½ years fall within the reign of the beast. The Beast is not just a general reference to human empires. The beast refers to a specific empire (the Roman Empire) in its manifestation under one specific ruler.

    I tried to see the case for the 3 ½ years being the whole age since so many see it that way but have not so far been able.

    For John these years were imminent, just over the horizon. It is how we must think of them too. For the first time in my lifetime it is not difficult to see one empire being dominant in the world (in a way beyond the British and American empire). The world believes in globalisation despite the resistance of populism. One world order will seem like the answer to all its problems – heralding. World peace and prosperity. It is not hard to see that Christianity will be rejected everywhere its values hated by all. It’s obvious that society will swallow any lie that suits them however ludicrous. The giants of the internet can easily cancel from commerce or conversation and voice that resists. Witness PayPal recently. I have found myself remembering more and more that God is on the throne (Rev 4)

    Are the convulsions of the last few years just part of the ongoing traumas of life of which Jesus spoke or are they signalling an end no longer over the horizon? Are these reflections just apocalyptic fever or are they possibly true?

    • John – ummm …. I probably shouldn’t be commenting on Revelation – I very much enjoyed Ian’s post, but I understood that I should keep out of the `below the line’ comments.

      For the three-and-a-half years, though, Elijah’s three-and-a-half years is key. 1 Kings seems to talk about 3 years, which James turns into three and a half years – and I didn’t quite understand why. With this in view, the period drought – the time of trial and tribulation – seems quite appropriate (at least to me) for the whole era of the church.

      Not sure I agree with Ian’s take on Rev 10:10 (comment on 12:12); as far as I can see, this doesn’t have much to do with the fact that it is good news for some, but bad news for others; the scroll tastes as sweet as honey it is (after all) the Word of Life – but I take the `make thy belly bitter’ as an allusion to the fact that, when you come to believe, this puts you at odds with the way of the world, things that we see around us that were maybe OK before are not OK now – they bother us. In some sense, life as a believer is more difficult (especially, of course, if you’re the one who is expected to prophesy bad news).

    • DA Carson largely agrees with Ian in his book Scandalous, which Im reading. He too views the woman as the messianic community as a whole. The 12 stars probably relate to the 12 tribes of the old covenant and the 12 apostles of the new. Satan after being cast out of heaven following the sacrificial death of the Messiah and His resurrection, now rages against His followers. The sweeping of the stars out of the sky is apocalyptic metaphor that derives from Hebrew poetry – basically when things are going bad the stars fall from the sky and nature is in disarray.

      He views the 3 1/2 year period as a commonly understood time of persecution, suffering and testing, followed by God giving rest to His people. It refers to the time between Jesus’ leaving and His return.

      It’s a decent book and I found his understanding persuasive, though only one chapter refers in detail to part of Revelation.

  3. Yes, it is the prophesying of judgement that makes the belly bitter. It is the close ties with a ) a Daniel prophesying about a time in the future not yet fulfilled b) the very close parallels between events in Daniel and those in Revelation ties them together c) the 3 ½ year period which is literal in Daniel seems to be literal in Revelation. Elijah is alluded to in the two witnesses. Perhaps his 3 ½ year period is alluded to. I don’t know. I’d need to look a bit more closely to have an opinion.

    • John – I found the three-and-a-half-years as an allusion to the Elijah story in two places: WIlliam Hendriksen’s ‘More than Conquerors’ and WIlliam Still ‘A Vision of Glory’.

      W.S. isn’t a ‘scholarly’ work – it’s more like study notes for the Gilcomston South congregation, but I found it helpful. I think that others here (who are scholars) could point towards scholarly treatment.

  4. John, I think what you say about the stars being the 12 tribes is correct but only in a limited way. There are more layers to this passage. The Michael sequence seems like a recap of what went before.
    Jesus is the Morning Star, the 42nd in Matthews genealogy. His mother is the 41st, the 13th in the 3rd set of 14. It seems to me the exiles, all 12 , are repositioned from ignominy and crown her head like an heirloom. The star of Bethlehem is heralding the 14th star that comes down through the genealogy , the last to return from exile.
    If the allusion to Matthews genealogy is possible then the birth of the church from Abraham to Mary, 42, is another 3.5, or 7 halves. Therefore the 1260, is another symbolic 3.5 from The Morning Star to full day.
    The Holy Spirit is the Narrator of Revelation. John is in the Spirit. He remains in the Spirit throughout. The whole book is in The Day of The Lord. In every scene the Holy Spirit talks in the third person. In Rev. 12 He is Michael. We have the Spirit in us. He is at war through us.
    I see this passage about Michael and his angels as a depiction of The Spirits work in us as we work out our salvation under the sun of the Lords Day. This day.
    Sorry, I have to go. I’m on holiday for a few days.

  5. One of the intriguing things I have found in this passage, which may just be linguistic coincidence, is the tense and form for “was seen”. As Ian says it is an unusual construct, and it is rarely used in the NT but it is found in the Transfiguration accounts, which are also an interlude when the clouds part and we see something transcendent and then the moment ends and we are back in the “real world”. They too are a “middle moment” that helps define what is around, before and after, gives a clearer sense of what is real
    I think this is right but others will no doubt either confirm or not, and maybe comment on whether they think there is deliberate echoing here, or maybe implicit structuring.

    • Hi Peter,
      I wonder if the Lector reading the Revelation to a gathering would have help? Would the interludes like ch11:19 be performed by a chorus? It would make the whole thing come alive. BTW a relative with a PhD in greek theatre assures me no props like curtains of hail woud have been employed.
      at the beginning of Ch13 the Dragon stands on the shore of the sea. Is the Greek really ‘stands’? It seems to alude to Ezekiel 32:2-4 where the monster of the sea is hauled up and thrown on the shore. This would be a better way to end Chapter 12.?

  6. I wonder if, instead of (or, perhaps, as well as) seeing vv1-6 as connecting with the Python/Leto myth, we should see it as recapitulating Matthew’s nativity story? Coln Nicholl argues this in detail in ‘The Great Christ Comet’ (2015).

    • Hi Jonathan, I think the star of Bethlehem is the Lord returning from exile on the wings of the cherubim. The Chebar canal is exactly due east of Jerusalem. Matthew ‘s genealogy rise and sets like stars.
      The description of the sign in the sky has the feel of that moment when clouds appear to form some recognisable shape for a moment before dispersing. Perhaps John witnessed hail and lightning followed by an eclipse. After all, Genesis says the great lights were placed there to perform as signs. What better fulfillment of their mission than to perform for John.


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