My Translation

Initially, the first recipe for my Beyond Malignant Materialism cake read as follows:

Find top English translations of the original Greek text of the Book of Revelation

Combine these translations into the best possible English text

Put this best English text in left-hand columns

Gather every Baha’i interpretation of Revelation verses and symbols

Combine these interpretations into a full interpretive text, verse by verse

Put the interpretive text in right-hand columns, facing and matching the Revelation text in the left-hand-columns

Fill interpretive gaps as seamlessly as possible in the same Baha’i spirit

Add an ‘Introduction’, a ‘Discussion’, and ‘Notes’.

Easy. My interpretive cake should bake well and taste delicious. Right?

Wrong! Time and again, the lack of the essential leaven of a good translation made itself sharply apparent. From the start, repeated translation issues raised their awkward heads. Even top translations in the New American Bible, New English Bible, Complete Jewish Bible, and Greek English New Testament showed striking disparities in 20% or more of their verses. This was far too often for comfort. Nor could these disparities be explained away simply as just “translators differ”. Soon enough the real reason became painfully clear. The problem was not the translations but the odd Koine Greek of Revelation itself.

Common (Koine) Greek was the basic working language imposed by the Greek Empire on its conquered peoples. It worked so well that it continued as the lingua franca of the Roman Empire and hence the language of the New Testament. But the Revelation Greek of John is far from the standard Koine Greek in his Gospel or Epistles, or for that matter anywhere else in the New Testament. It contains Hebraized phrases, clumsy in-your-face grammar, peculiar usages, barbarous idioms, and inaccurate Greek.[1]‑C This tough Revelation Greek has for centuries tantalized the translators tackling it. In striving to give it the best possible English face, they usually pick wording that fits each specific prophetic or historical context most comfortably. But in doing so—and here’s the rub—they skirt or blur many vital odd literal wordings that code for the hidden meanings of John.

So I realized very reluctantly that I had to retranslate the odd Greek of Revelation on top of interpreting it, and join the hundreds of others who had done so already. I had to discover just how its Hebraized Greek text ticked in order to do it full justice. Taking on this extra burden of translating came as a rude awakening. But happily in the end it proved very worthwhile. My reward was to find that John’s Hebraized Greek was more coded than odd, and to discover his many codes and multiple meanings popping out from the text.

Luckily, this Hebraized Greek fell somewhere between my school Latin and my modern oral/aural Hebrew. Its nouns and verbs read like those of Latin, and its sentences sound like the Hebrew heard in the streets of Israel today. As I translated, the spirit of John shone down upon me from somewhere in the sky. He seemed to be cheering me on. He watched me listening to the music in his words. He relished me whiffing the delectable aromas and savoring the redolent spices of his Hebrew soul-food cooked in the Greek pot of Prochorus. He delighted at me nibbling at the layers of literary icing on his Temple cake. He enjoyed my being dazzled by the sparkling gems of his hidden meanings. He smiled as I ran the literary gauntlet through his text and tripped over his word traps. He laughed at me losing my way amid the maze of his symbols and codes. He chuckled as I teased out his methods, meanings, and messages. He played on my desire for his beautiful New Jerusalem bride.

My resulting translation steers its course between the Scylla of its literal meanings and the Charybdis of its spiritual messages. It sails closer to the Scylla of its literal meaning since its parallel interpretive text delivers the Charybdis of spiritual messages anyway.[2]B Here and there alliteration mellows meanings in a coy attempt to emulate John’s own plethoric word-games.




[1] Dionysius, third-century bishop of Alexandria who opposed millennialism, cited by Eusebius, Church History, 7.25.26–27. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.xii.xxvi.html?highlight=barbarous,idiom‌s–highlight#highlight.

[2] Aqdas 11