Monday, January 1, 2024

Epistolary Blessing (1.4b–6)


from the one who is and who was and who is coming, and from the seven spirits that are in front of his throne, and from Jesus the Anointed One, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the earth’s kings. To the one who loves us and releases us from our sins with his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him is the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.


The early Christian letters frequently offer blessings to the recipients from divine authority, frequently distinguishing ‘God’ from ‘Jesus’. John identifies three representations of that divine authority.

The first representation is phrased similarly to Greek paraphrases of the revelation of the divine name Yhwh to Moses. This identifies the first as Yhwh, the god of Israel, frequently called the Father in early Christian texts.

The third representation is Jesus, identified with various epithets. If held in continuity with the Hebrew Bible and even the biblical gospels, Jesus was not the first person to ever be raised back from death, which would have been known to the author. The title ‘firstborn from the dead’ implies specifically the eschatological resurrection; Jesus was the first person to be resurrected into eternal life.

The second representation is more ambiguous. A common historical view is that the ‘seven spirits’ should be understood rather as the ‘sevenfold’ holy spirit, yielding a trinitarian theology. These seven spirits may instead be an iteration of the tradition of seven archangels, which were sometimes noted for their unique nearness to God’s presence or throne. The resulting triadic shape of the greeting would suggest the heavenly court—enthroned Yhwh God, attendant archangels, co-regent Jesus the Anointed One—rather than a trinitarian deity.



89.27, 36–37 I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. […] His line shall continue for ever, and his throne endure before me like the sun. It shall be established for ever like the moon, a faithful witness in the skies.


61.6 but you shall be called priests of Yhwh, you shall be named ministers of our god


3.14 God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’

19.6 Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.

1 Enoch

20.1–8 These are the names of the holy angels who watch. Uriel, one of the holy angels, who is in charge of the world and Tartarus. Raphael, one of the holy angels, who is in charge of the spirits of men. Reuel, one of the holy angels, who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries. Michael, one of the holy angels, who has been put in charge of the good ones of the people. Sariel, one of the holy angels, who is in charge of the spirits who sin against the spirit. Gabriel, one of the holy angels, who is in charge of the garden and the serpents and the cherubs. Remiel, one of the holy angels, whom God has put in charge of them that rise. The names of the seven archangels.

LXX Exodus

3.14 And God said to Moses, ‘I am the one who is.’


12.15 ‘I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord.’

Sibylline Oracles

1.137–140 I am the one who is, but you consider in your heart; I am robed with heaven, draped around with sea, the earth is the support of my feet, around my body is poured the air, the entire chorus of stars revolves around me.


2.2 For on the first day he created the heavens, which are above, and the earth, and the waters and all of the spirits which minister before him: the angels of the presence, and the angels of sanctification, and the angels of the spirit of fire, and the angels of the spirit of the winds, and the angels of the spirit of the clouds and darkness and snow and hail and frost, and the angels of resoundings and thunder and lightning, and the angels of the spirits of cold and heat and winter and springtime and harvest and summer

16.18 because he would become the portion of the Most High and all his seed would fall into that which God will rules so that he might become a people to the Lord, a possession from all people, and so that he might become a kingdom of priests and a holy people.

Targum Pseudo-Jonathan

Exo 3.14 And he said, ‘You shall say this to the children of Israel: “I am he who is and who will be” has sent me to you.’

Deut 32.39 I am he who is and was and will be


Life of Moses 1.75 And God said, ‘At first say to them, “I am that I am” […] who am the only being to whom existence belongs.’

Prayer of Joseph

A ‘I, Jacob, who is speaking to you, am also Israel, an angel of God and a ruling spirit. […] Are you not Uriel, the eighth after me?’

Testament of Abraham

7.11 The commander-in-chief said to him, ‘I am Michael, the commander-in-chief who stands before God’

1 Corinthians

15.20–23 But in fact the Anointed One has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being. For as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in the Anointed One. But each in his own order: the Anointed One the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to the Anointed One.

1 Peter

2.5, 9 let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood […] you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people


1.18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.

1 Timothy

5.21 In the presence of God and of the Anointed One Jesus and of the elect angels


2.14 He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.


1.19 The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God’

Exodus Rabbah

3.6 I am who was, I am now, and I will be in the future

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