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When I was researching a question with reference to the book of Revelation,i came across a couple of scriptures that intrigue me.The first portion of scripture is taken from Revelation 17:14

Revelation 17:14 New International Version (NIV)

14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

The next portion of scripture is taken from Revelation 19:16

Revelation 19:16 New International Version (NIV)

16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

King of kings and Lord of lords.

I am wondering why the author reverses the order of words in Revelation 19:16.I would have thought that the author would use the same phrase that is written in Revelation 17:14 where he inserts the "Lords of lords" before the "King of kings".

Is this a "slip of the pen" or does the author word it this way for another reason?

  • I probably won't have time to dig into this particular question, but a tip for anyone looking to net the bounty: You may wish to consider that it is the beginning and end of a section or subsection of a Chaistic Structure. – James Shewey Mar 16 '17 at 5:24
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Interesting question!

Slater, in the journal article 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords' Revisted, in New Testament Studies 1993 39:159f argues that the origin of the phrase is the Septuagint of Daniel.

He argues that the LXX version of Daniel 4:37 is almost identical to Rev 17:14, particularly at Rev 17:15 also mirrors Dan 4:37.

Daniel 4:37 in the LXX (not in the MT) includes:

he is the God of gods and Lord of lords and King of kings

Slater argues that the reversed title found in Rev 19:16 is similar to the titles used in Daniel 2:37 and 2:47. I think that this is a bit less convincing though. Dan 2:37:

You O King are a king of kings to whom the God of heaven has given...

Dan 2:47:

Your God is a God of gods, and Lord of kings

Alternatively, Aune (Word Biblical commentary 2002), argues that the title first appears in 1 Enoch 9:4, and implies that it was later incorporated into the LXX of Daniel.

He also notes, but doesn't give any reasons for the reversed order in Rev 19:16. He does also comment that the title 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords' is found in 1 Timothy 6:15.

In short, no-one actually knows, but it seems that both orders were known and used, so perhaps John wanted to use both?

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Bauckham, in his "Climax of Prophecy", believes John did this intentionally with series of words and phrases all throughout Revelation. Bauckham cites a Jewish literary device known as gezera shawa which, as Bauckham believes, John was sure to have known and been desirous to employ given the prophetic nature of the book.

Below are excerpts from Bauckham's book (emphasis added):

(p22) A remarkable feature of the composition of Revelation is the way in which very many phrases occur two or three times in the book, often in widely separated passages, and usually in slightly varying form. These repetitions create a complex network of textual cross-reference, which helps to create and expand the meaning of any one passage by giving it specific relationships to many other passages. We are dealing here not with the writing habit of an author who saved effort by using phrases more than once, but with a skilfully deployed compositional device. One reason we can be sure of this is that such phrases almost never recur in precisely the same form. The author seems to have taken deliberate care to avoid the obviousness of precise repetition, while at the same time creating phrases which closely allude to each other.

(p29) One way of understanding John's literary technique of repeating phrases is to relate it to the Jewish exegetical technique of gezera sawa, which John, like many of his Jewish contemporaries, used to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures. This technique depended on observing verbal coincidences between scriptural texts. Texts containing the same words or phrases could be used to interpret each other. In effect, Scripture was treated as containing the same kind of network of internal cross-reference by repetition of phrases (often, of course, in somewhat varying form) as John has created in his own work. Since John certainly understood himself to be writing the same kind of inspired, prophetic work as the prophetic scriptures he studied, the parallel is surely not accidental. John wrote a work to which he expected the technique of gezera sawa to be applied, a work which would yield much of its meaning only to the application of this exegetical technique.

An additional description on gezera shawa from Britannica:

One exegetical device of the Jewish rabbis (teachers, biblical commentators, and religious leaders) was that of gezera shawa, “equal category,” according to which an obscure passage might be illuminated by reference to another containing the same key term. There are several examples in Paul’s Old Testament exegesis, one of the best known being in Galatians 3:10–14, where the mystery of Christ’s dying the death that incurred the divine curse (Deuteronomy 21:23) is explained by his bearing vicariously the curse incurred by the lawbreaker (Deuteronomy 27:26). One may compare the explanation in Hebrews 4:3–9 of God’s “rest” mentioned in Psalms 95:11 by reference to his resting on the seventh day after creation’s work (Genesis 2:3)—an explanation dependent on the Septuagint, not the Hebrew.

Pierre Prigent doesn't agree with Bauckham's conclusion as noted in his "Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John":

There are indeed structured entities in the book of Revelation based on numbers or themes. We should note the obvious parallels they contain, draw theological conclusions from them, and refrain from going any farther. Otherwise, one runs the risk of yielding to the fever of calculations with no longer any clear understanding of whether or not they are solely products of our intellectual virtuosity.

Note his footnote:

Must we really cite as an explanation the Rabbinic technique of the gezera shawa as Bauckham claims?

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In Revelation 17 , John is recording what he is witnessing. As with all Biblical writers , God uses the personality of John to describe the events unfolding before him. (see 2 Peter 1:21 and 2 tim. 3 :16-17) Although all Scripture is inspired , John is giving his point of view in Rev.17:14. So, his expression is "Lord of lords, and King of kings ". Notice only the the first "Lord" and first "King" are capitalized. In rev.19:16 ,John is quoting an exact title as it appears. Notice the these titles are capitalized, because he is recording them exactly as they appear unto him.

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    This does not answer the question about why the reversal in wording occurs. It is also factually incorrect, as John did not write the Revelation in English with capitalization. He wrote in first century Greek, so the text of 19.16 would have read as 'ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΥΡΙΟΣ ΚΥΡΙΩΝ'. – user2910 Mar 5 '17 at 23:20

protected by James Shewey Apr 4 '17 at 22:07

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