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Home » Daily Readings, New Testament Writers

Behold My Two Witnesses

Submitted by on Saturday, 22 November 2008No Comment
  • Reading IRevelation 11:4-12
  • Resp. Psalm: Psalm 144:1,9-10
  • Gospel Reading: Luke 20:27-40

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One of the more boggling prophecies in the book of Revelation are the two witnesses?  Who are they exactly?  Below are some articles on the web where the question is explored:

If one historicizes the Book of Revelation and seeks particular persons to fit the description of those given in the selection, the most that one can come up with is another wildcard with a few descriptions. The best way to approach this selection is to follow the hints given by John himself:

First they are described as two olive trees and two lampstands. Consistent with the imagery in Revelation, we find here two images for each of the witnesses. The olive tree was a particularly useful tree for the people of the Mediterranean: they made us of its leaves, oil and fruits. It is very much like the coconut tree for us here in South-east Asia. They are also lamp posts. A fruitful tree, a good tree and a source of light. Both are significant members of the community of faith. Leaders in fruitfulness and giving light.

Second, they are described in the same way as Elijah the Tishbite. These are men of God who fight for the people of the Covenant as Elijah did and who did their work empowered by the Holy Spirit.

It is no surprise then that the Enemy should target them for "assassination". And that is what he does: he conquers them and they die.

The way John describes them defeated is reminiscent of the way the Book of Wisdom characterizes the just who lie apparent beaten while those who have done him harm smirk in the shadows

1But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. 2 They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction 3 and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. 4 For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; 5 Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. 6 As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. 7 In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; 8 They shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the LORD shall be their King forever. 9 Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with the elect. (Wisdom 3:1-9)

And consistent with this vision of the just man being vindicated by God, those two witnesses rise up on the fourth day, participating in the Resurrection of the Lord as Lazarus did (John 11). And like Elijah, they are caught up and are brought to the presence of God as their enemies watch (in dismay, I presume). Associated with their Lord in death, they also rise like He did and are vindicated before their enemies.

How John writes about these two witnesses reminds one of the way hagiographies were written during the Middle Ages. There is a lot of allussion to the Scriptures and a lot of "narrated" theology thrown in. So who are these two witnesses? The answer is not difficult to see once we understand that the Book of Revelations is coded language meant to help us understand the present (NOT the future!). The two witnesses are any of those heroes of the community of faith who have died in the struggle against the Devil. In my lifetime, I’ve seen two of them, John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Somebody else can perhaps point to someone like Chiara Lubich and the founder of the Opus Dei. These are the witnesses that John talks about: heroes of the Christian Community, olive trees whose light will never fade.

Read an explanation of the Gospel reading here:  God of the Living
Revelation 11:4-12
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
4These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks, that stand before the Lord of the earth.
5And if any man will hurt them, fire shall come out of their mouths, and shall devour their enemies. And if any man will hurt them, in this manner must he be slain.
6These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and they have power over waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues as often as they will.
7And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast, that ascendeth out of the abyss, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
8And their bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which is called spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified.
9And they of the tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations, shall see their bodies for three days and a half: and they shall not suffer their bodies to be laid in sepulchres.
10And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry: and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth.
11And after three days and a half, the spirit of life from God entered into them. And they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them that saw them.
12And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying to them: Come up hither. And they went up to heaven in a cloud: and their enemies saw them.
Psalm 144:1,9-10
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war.
9To thee, O God, I will sing a new canticle: on the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings I will sing praises to thee.
10Who givest salvation to kings: who hast redeemed thy servant David from the malicious sword:
Luke 20:27-40
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
27And there came to him some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is any resurrection, and they asked him,
28Saying: Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man's brother die, having a wife, and he leave no children, that his brother should take her to wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
29There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children.
30And the next took her to wife, and he also died childless.
31And the third took her. And in like manner all the seven, and they left no children, and died.
32Last of all the woman died also.
33In the resurrection therefore, whose wife of them shall she be? For all the seven had her to wife.
34And Jesus said to them: The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage:
35But they that shall be accounted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, shall neither be married, nor take wives.
36Neither can they die any more: for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
37Now that the dead rise again, Moses also shewed, at the bush, when he called the Lord, The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
38For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him.
39And some of the scribes answering, said to him: Master, thou hast said well.
40And after that they durst not ask him any more questions.
Revelation 11:1-13
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and it was said to me: Arise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar and them that adore therein.
2But the court, which is without the temple, cast out, and measure it not: because it is given unto the Gentiles, and the holy city they shall tread under foot two and forty months:
3And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
4These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks, that stand before the Lord of the earth.
5And if any man will hurt them, fire shall come out of their mouths, and shall devour their enemies. And if any man will hurt them, in this manner must he be slain.
6These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and they have power over waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues as often as they will.
7And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast, that ascendeth out of the abyss, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
8And their bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which is called spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified.
9And they of the tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations, shall see their bodies for three days and a half: and they shall not suffer their bodies to be laid in sepulchres.
10And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry: and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth.
11And after three days and a half, the spirit of life from God entered into them. And they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them that saw them.
12And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying to them: Come up hither. And they went up to heaven in a cloud: and their enemies saw them.
13And at that hour there was made a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell: and there were slain in the earthquake names of men seven thousand: and the rest were cast into a fear, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Revelation 11:1-13
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and it was said to me: Arise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar and them that adore therein.
2But the court, which is without the temple, cast out, and measure it not: because it is given unto the Gentiles, and the holy city they shall tread under foot two and forty months:
3And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.
4These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks, that stand before the Lord of the earth.
5And if any man will hurt them, fire shall come out of their mouths, and shall devour their enemies. And if any man will hurt them, in this manner must he be slain.
6These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and they have power over waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues as often as they will.
7And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast, that ascendeth out of the abyss, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
8And their bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which is called spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified.
9And they of the tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations, shall see their bodies for three days and a half: and they shall not suffer their bodies to be laid in sepulchres.
10And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry: and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth.
11And after three days and a half, the spirit of life from God entered into them. And they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon them that saw them.
12And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying to them: Come up hither. And they went up to heaven in a cloud: and their enemies saw them.
13And at that hour there was made a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell: and there were slain in the earthquake names of men seven thousand: and the rest were cast into a fear, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

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