Thursday, January 11, 2024

Two Witnesses (11.7–13)


And when they have completed their witness, the wild animal rising from the abyss will make war with them, and will conquer them and kill them. And their body will be on the street of the great city that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also crucified. And the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will look at their bodies for three and a half days, and they will not allow their bodies to be placed in a tomb. And those dwelling on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate and send gifts to each other, because these two prophets tortured the ones who dwell on the earth.

And after the three and a half days, a breath of life from God went into them, and they stood on their feet. And a terrible fear fell on those looking at them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven, saying to them, ‘Ascend here.’ And they ascended to heaven in the cloud, and their enemies looked at them. And in that hour there was a massive earthquake and the tenth of the city fell, and the names of seven thousand men were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the god of heaven.


Continuing the author’s apparent midrash on Daniel, this is the first reference to the ‘wild animal’, the embodiment of the tyrannical Roman Empire. The phrasing is close to that in Daniel 7 regarding the triumphant war against the ‘holy ones’, the faithful Torah-observant Judeans during the Maccabean Revolt. This might suggest the ‘two witnesses’ represent not two literal individuals, but those within the author’s community who uphold a prophetic resistance to Roman authority. The ‘three and a half days’ are conceptually similar to the forty two months and twelve hundred sixty days previously mentioned, a period of imperfection and disorder.

The ‘great city’ complicit in the wild animal’s tyranny and murder of the two witnesses is indicated to be Jerusalem (‘where their Lord was also crucified’), despite that Jerusalem had just been identified as the ‘holy city’, a victim of gentile oppression. Later parts of the book give a different identity for the ‘great city’, the capital city Rome. This has led some interpreters to strain themselves with the argument that the identifier ‘where their Lord was also crucified’ should be taken figuratively for the Roman capital, rather than literally for Jerusalem.



79.1–3 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have given the bodies of your servants to the birds of the air for food, the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth. They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them.


1.10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Listen to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

3.9 The look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom


23.14 all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.


2.9 Moab shall become like Sodom and the Ammonites like Gomorrah, a land possessed by nettles and salt pits, and a waste for ever.


16.46 Your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.


1.17–18 if I saw the dead body of any of my people thrown out behind the wall of Nineveh, I would bury it. I also buried any whom King Sennacherib put to death when he came fleeing from Judea in those days of judgment that the king of heaven executed upon him because of his blasphemies. For in his anger he put to death many Israelites; but I would secretly remove the bodies and bury them.

Joseph & Asenath

11.6 And now, in this humiliation of mine, all have come to hate me and gloat over this affliction of mine.


7.13–14, 21–22, 27 As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed. […] As I looked, this horn made war with the holy ones and was prevailing over them, until the Ancient One came; then judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom. […] ‘The kingship and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’

Testament of Moses

6.8–9 After his death there will come into their land a powerful king of the West who will subdue them; and he will take away captives, and a part of their temple he will burn with fire. He will crucify some of them around their city.

4 Ezra

13.3 And I saw that this man flew with the clouds of heaven

Greek Revelation of Ezra

3.15 For the opponent of men himself will come up from Tartarus and will show many things to men.

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