Immediately following the above verses comes the account of the “Two Witnesses”. In Thomas Witulski’s view Revelation was composed in the time of Hadrian and the years of the Bar Kochba revolt, that is between 130 and 135 CE. Previous posts have covered how he explains the trials of the seven churches, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the emergence of two beasts, one of them identified by the number 666, in the context of major events in the eastern Mediterranean world during the times of Trajan and Hadrian. It’s time I covered Witulski’s analysis of Revelation 11.
- Is the passage about the temple at the time Jerusalem was under siege in 69/70 CE?
- Is the passage a depiction of a heavenly temple?
- Is it an allegory of the church?
- Is the measuring for the destruction or for the preservation of an existing temple or for plans for a future temple?
Before attempting to decide how a passage fits events around the time of writing, W takes a close look at what, exactly, the text appears to be saying.
A significant point that stands out in W’s discussion is the notice that the author who is given the command is never said to carry it out. He does not measure anything.
He is told not to measure the outer court because it is given to the gentiles. He is then told that the Holy City shall they tread under foot for forty and two months.
The treading down of the holy city is introduced as a future event. The measuring of the temple and the instruction to leave out the outer court is all present tense. The outer court is given to the gentiles — now, at the time of the instruction; but the news that the holy city is to be trodden down is introduced as something that is yet to happen. W concludes that the 42 months duration of the treading down of the holy city is not part of the present time in which the measurement is expected to take place and in which the outer court (only, not the entire temple or city) is given to the gentiles. Here is an adapted version of W’s explanatory table:
We do not read that all of the city except for the temple will be trampled underfoot by the gentiles for 42 months but that the city — implying the whole city — will be trodden under. The “holy city” is holy because the temple stands there. Without the temple it is not holy. W cites Dulk:
This sentence is unintelligible if the first part of the text is construed to mean that the temple will be preserved. If the holy city is trampled, that includes the temple. The text does not state that the rest of the city will be trampled, but simply that the city (without exception) will be trampled. Moreover, the city at issue is the ‘holy city’. What makes the ‘holy city’ holy is precisely the presence of the temple. It is hard to see how this sentence could be otherwise construed than with the implication that the whole city, with as its central element the temple, will be trampled. (Dulk, 441). — (in part cited by W, 26)
The reference is to the Septuagint (Greek) of Zechariah 12:3
And it shall come to pass in that day [that] I will make Jerusalem a trodden stone to all the nations: every one that tramples on it shall utterly mock at [it], and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together against it.
By replacing “Jerusalem” with “holy city” the author of Revelation is reminding readers of the temple and emphasizing that the temple itself will be included in the destruction (W, 27). Compare Joel 3:17 (4:17 in LXX)
. . . ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. Then shall Jerusalem be holy . . .
W concludes that the measurement that is announced and whatever is implied by it will be overtaken by the fact that everything about it will be destroyed.