The City the Holy
30th July 2008, hej
This Article: (7 Pages)
5) The Analogy of the City
If we go back to see how John is introduced to the vision of the holy city, we are told actually, that the holy city is the Lamb's Bride. The Lamb's Bride is a title of a group of people. It is an analogy to help us understand the relationship. The bride refers to the saints. The saints as 'a bride' are likened to a holy city.
Before we go further we should explore what is meant by a city. A city is a political entity, embodied in its government. A city is defined by its political boundaries, or the limits of its governance. Good examples are Sparta and Athens, which were city states. Ezekiel's city, attached to 'the house' that he saw, was defined by the Hebrew word 'ar' (עיר), from the word for 'a watch'. It is a word that describes waking and watching over the defence of a physical place. However, John's vision was of a 'polis'. The Greek word 'polis' is from 'polus' or 'polos', which means 'many' or pelomai, which means 'bustle', as in the movement of people. In Greek 'polites' means a citizen and 'politeuma' means citizenship and community. These words have been imported into English directly as 'polity' meaning a political entity, and 'politics'. All these words are about the people. They are not about buildings. For the people living at the time of John, a city referred to the political entity.
John confirms that the city refers to a political entity. Unfortunately it is a little lost in the translation of the Greek. The interlined Diaglott translation of Revelation 21:2 reads:
And the city the holy, Jerusalem new I saw coming down out of the heaven from the Diety..
Why “the city the holy”? This sounds very odd. Elsewhere when Holy 'something' is used it reads as it would in English. In Revelation 14:10 the Greek text literally reads “the holy angels”. It does not read “the angel, the holy”. And in the Greek in Matthew 27:53 it says literally that many people go into “the holy city”. Again it does not say they go to “the city, the holy”. Why does John do this? Why place the word city first? Let us put what he says in long hand. John says he saw a 'political entity of a multitude of people' (a polis), which are 'sanctified' (the holy).
We can confirm this understanding as it seems John is quoting a Hebraism from Isaiah. Isaiah Chapter one introduces the whole purpose of Isaiah and a key verse contains an unconditional promise by Yahweh:
Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, “Ah, I will ..avenge me of mine enemies: And I will turn my hand upon thee,
and purely purge away your dross, and take away all your tin: And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counsellors as at the beginning: afterward you shall be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city”. (Isaiah 1:24-26 KJV).
By restoring judges the 'city' is made righteous. This is not about stones, this is about the city politic, the rulers of people. This is the city John sees. The analogy in Isaiah compares the people to gold. The text says that this city is 'purged of dross and tin', the two things removed to make pure gold. But the key link to John's vision is that this purged gold entity is called in literal Hebrew “the city, the Holy”! The underlined section above literally translated reads “the city, the Holy true-building”. The word for 'city' is not repeated in Hebrew, rather it says a 'true or sure foundation' or 'flooring' also 'building'. So the vision that John sees is of the people that Yahweh promises to Isaiah that he will make holy as a 'building' built up on a firm or true foundation. And these will constitute Zion which is Jerusalem renewed or purged. This political entity of the saints, or this 'city' sanctified, was likened to a bride.
So was this city like a bride? Or was the bride like this city? Which is the real entity? The bride! What characteristics of 'the city the holy' that John saw are like the bride?