Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Emerald Rainbow

REV 04.03b: The rainbow (Gk = iris) is not just an arc, but a halo or radiance completely encircling the throne. Our English versions modify the noun rainbow with the phrase, “resembling an emerald,” and the majority of English commentators accept the emerald comparison as applying to the rainbow.

However, the masculine adjective in the Gk text, omoios (like) does not agree with the feminine gender of the word iris. While the word order seems to connect the comparison to emerald with the iris, the more important grammatical agreement seems to connect the emerald appearance with the One sitting on the throne. (The emerald likeness does not describe the throne, for though the adjective omoios agrees with thronou in masculine gender, it does not agree in case.) Though awkward, the verse could translate something like this: And He who sat there had the appearance of jasper stone and sardius — a radiance completely encircled the throne! — [He had] the appearance of an emerald. However, Oecumenius (6th century), who wrote the first extant Greek commentary on the Revelation, understood the emerald comparison as applying to the iris:
The natural rainbow, which the holy Scriptures call the “bow” of God, occurs from the reflection of the sun’s light, which when taken into the thickness of clouds is intercepted and produces multiple and various colors. But this spiritual rainbow that encircles the divine throne is of one color, for it was like an emerald, and this reveals the multitude of holy ministering angels, which surrounds God. And for this reason it is called a “rainbow,” even though it is of one color, in order that from the multitude of colors of the rainbow we might recognize the distinct orders of the holy angels. And yet, all are bound together into one color since all alike imitate their Lord according to his good works, and therefore the emerald color testifies to their sustaining work, even as jasper did for God. (Bold emphasis added. Source: Commentary on the Apocalypse 4.1-3, quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary: New Testament XII: Revelation, Intervarsity, 2005).
Apparently Oecumenius was working from Greek manuscripts (of which there are many) that had omoia (feminine) rather than omoios (masculine). Interestingly, the Modern Greek Bible of 1850 employs omoia thereby making the emerald comparison explicitly apply to the iris, the rainbow. I’m inclined to agree and see omoia as the less problematic reading; until I find stronger contrary evidence, I will accept that the rainbow was in appearance like an emerald, i.e., a shimmering green.

Any biblical mention of a rainbow points us back to the first mention of the phenomenon after the flood of Noah (Gen 9.12-17). The rainbow symbolically speaks of God’s covenant-keeping and promise-keeping character (see Rev 10.1,6). In the Revelation the rainbow hints of mercy in the face of wrath (cf. Hab 3.2), and of a coming new earth, cleansed of evil, and even more glorious than the one repopulated by Noah’s family.


Esther Irwin said...

Are you still studying this topic?

hedgehog said...

thank you - very helpful. :)

Ryan Rockich said...

Look at the human iris. Of course it is circular. This covenant of the rainbow (iris) was with man. There are seven visible colors in the rainbow. To swear an oath in hebrew is to "seven one's self". Also, of course, the circular nature of the "bow" (or ring) as seen from the sky represents unending covenant. The green? Take a look at 2 Sam 23:4 where it says: "And [he shall be] as the light of the morning, [when] the sun riseth, [even] a morning without clouds; [as] the tender grass (hebrew De'sheh meaning green) [springing] out of the earth by clear shining after rain" (hmm, flood?) Also notice the emerald is the 4th precious stone in the wall found in Rev 21:19 (four represents God's creative works, especially as it relates to earth). Another reference in Song of Solomon says "Behold, thou [art] fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed [is] green" (where green denotes freshness and happiness). Jesus' finished work on the cross has the Father in a GOOD MOOD! God bless you in the knowledge of his grace!

craig fairweather said...

Hello. The apocalypse uses many symbols from the sky and stars. The figure of God on the throne holding something in his right hand is using the constellation Cepheus as a symbol. This constellation is close to the North Celestial Pole which symbolises going up to the highest region of heaven. When the aurora borealis is visible it looks like emerald coloured rainbow that arcs around the constellation Cepheus. Occasionally this aurora is visible from the Mediterranean Sea.When Looking out to sea towards the north the aurora arc can be reflected in the sea giving the illusion of a circle around Cepheus and it's nearby constellations.

leon strauss said...

Hi. I would like you all to know that I have seen the chariot that has the bow all around, these chariots are causing the crop vortex marks. They are like the halo[nimbus]but are of thick smooth cloud that rotates like a perfect wheel within the air. On the outer side of the ring of cloud is a rainbow that also rotates,and appears as one rotating inside of the other. They appear as whirlwinds of thick mist and ascend as what I have described. This is the UFO phenomenon of today not flying saucers. Now you all know. God bless.