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The Crucified Christ as the Recapitulation of the Garden of Eden in Revelation

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Michael Twohig, Christendom College

The Apocalypse of St. John constitutes an enigma to Christians in every age as to its proper interpretation. The many images, prophecies, symbols, and Scriptural and liturgical references that permeate the Apocalypse preclude easy interpretation, but regardless of its ambiguity, most Christians agree that the Apocalypse represents historical events of eternal significance.[1] Still, the Christian is left with many questions as to the specific identity, nature, and import of the events represented in the Apocalypse. In her analysis of the influence of Tyconius and St. Augustine’s interpretations of the Apocalypse on future exegesis, Paula Frederiksen provides this useful framework: “Against these two extremes, Tyconius and, following him, Augustine introduced in the late fourth and early fifth centuries a reading of John that affirmed its historical realism while liberating it from the embarrassment of a literal interpretation.”[2] However, even though many of the events and symbols described in the Apocalypse can be categorized as pertaining to real, albeit undetermined, historical events, the events narrated in chapters 21 and 22 clearly refer to the final triumph of God and the establishment of the new heaven and new earth at the end of time. In particular, Chapter 22 verses 1-5 provide a paradisaical depiction of the heavenly city: a “river of the water of life” cascading forth from “the throne of God and the Lamb” through the crystalline city, and “on either side of the river, the tree of life,” all bathed in the “light” of the “Lord God” (Rev. 22:1, 2, 5, RSVCE). However, these are more than simply evocative descriptions of the delights the saints will enjoy in heaven; specifically, the vision of the river of living water and the Tree of Life are especially significant. The prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Zechariah in the Old Testament record visions of living water, often in connection with the Temple. John’s Gospel explicitly links the living water with Jesus Christ, Who proclaims that “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38, RSVCE). Finally, the imagery of chapter 22 closely parallels the river flowing from Eden and the Tree of Life of Genesis, pointing towards the dramatic restoration of all of Creation to be expected at the end of time. Thus, St. John’s vision in chapter 22 verses 1-2 synthesizes all of these Old and New Testament types, references, and allusions, and reveals Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate, as the Person Who bridges the gap between the garden of Eden and the garden of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Alpha and the Omega of history.[3] The dual imagery of the river of the water of life and the tree of life in chapter 22 verses 1-2 of the Apocalypse, grounded in extensive Old and New Testament allusions, figures, and fulfillments, definitively reveals Jesus as the source of the divine life lost in Eden, restored through Baptism and membership in the Church that is brought about by the Cross, and fulfilled in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The imagery of water St. John refers to, variously described as flowing or living, and often connected to visions of the temple, has extensive precedent in the Old Testament prophetic literature, specifically Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. Jeremiah is the first prophet to connect the concept of living water to God. In the context of prophesying Israel’s lack of fidelity to God and apostasy in worshipping false gods, God exclaims through Jeremiah, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves” (Jer. 2:13, RSVCE).[4] Jeremiah again connects God with “the fountain of living water” in chapter 17 in another condemnation of the unfaithfulness of the Jews (Jer. 17:13, RSVCE). The Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia notes that the ancient “Israelites had a high appreciation for the value of the rare springs and brooks in Palestine,” and thus “designated as ‘living waters’” the “Running water, that is, waters taken from a spring, brook or river,” which was absolutely necessary for life.[5] Although his prophetic ministry mainly involved encouraging the construction of the Second Temple, Zechariah’s visions are also commonly interpreted as applying to the future time of the Messiah; indeed, he prophesizes a vision of “living waters” that “shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea” (Zech. 14:8, RSVCE).[6] The living water flowing from Jerusalem adds even more profundity to this vision, especially since Jerusalem is the location of the Temple, wherein God resided in a special way in the Tabernacle throughout much of Israel’s history. Ezekiel’s extended vision of the rebuilt Temple during the Babylonian exile synthesizes these various prophetic prefigurements, while also most directly paralleling John’s vision in the Apocalypse (Ezek. 40:1-3, RSVCE).[7] Ezekiel sees “water [was] issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east” that paradoxically becomes deeper the further away Ezekiel walks from the Temple (Ezek. 47:1-6, RSVCE). Moreover, the flowing river is also ‘living’ in the sense that it gives life to everything it waters, since Ezekiel is told that “when it enters stagnant waters of the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes every living thing which swarms will live,” and “on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food…[which] will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary” (Ezek. 47: 8-9, 12, RSVCE).[8] Thus, the prophetic tradition in the persons of Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Ezekiel very clearly associates the imagery of the living water with God, Jerusalem, and the Temple, with Ezekiel providing a vision of the Temple very similar to St. John’s vision.

The imagery of living water is also prominently featured in the New Testament, specifically St. John’s Gospel, where Jesus successively associates water with Baptism and the Holy Spirit, the Temple, and Himself. Jesus first mentions the correlation of water with Baptism and the Holy Spirit during His conversation with Nicodemus. When explaining to Nicodemus the necessity of being “born anew” in order to “see the kingdom of God,” Jesus states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3, 3:5, RSVCE). Here Jesus explains quite clearly the fundamental nature and form that this initial entrance into eternal life, Baptism, will entail: a sacramental action using the matter of water, through which the Holy Spirit interiorly transforms and conforms one to Christ. Jesus then connects this transformation of the believer through water and the Spirit with faith in Him, saying “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn. 3:16-17). Similarly, during His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus associates the living water of Old Testament tradition, which the Catholic Encyclopedia notes was “a common phrase for running water,” with eternal life, but in so doing identifies the source of this living water with Himself.[9] After telling the woman that she “would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” to drink, and receiving her confused response, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water,” belying her sensual understanding of His words, Jesus states: “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give Him will never thirst; the water that I shall give Him will become in Him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:10, 4:11, 4:13-14, RSVCE). Jesus continues the discourse on the importance of receiving the living water so as to enter eternal life that He began with Nicodemus by stating that this living water of eternal life has its source in Him.

Jesus’ teaching concerning the living water of eternal life reaches its crescendo during His preaching at the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles, wherein Jesus synthesizes the visions of the Old Testament prophets with His own teachings, and points towards their fulfilment at the end of time. St. John records the drama of the scene:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, ‘If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now this He said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive. Jn. 7:37-38, RSVCE

The liturgical backdrop of the Feast of Tabernacles provides the most fitting scene for these words of Jesus. Celebrated in commemoration of the Israelites’ joyous entry into the Promised Land, the final ritual action of Tabernacles involved pouring a massive libation of water from the spring of Gihon over the altar in the Temple, which would cascade in rivers from the altar and flow out of the sides of the Temple using the Temple’s plumbing system. Moreover, the Feast of Tabernacles began to have Messianic overtones associated with it; in recalling the past entrance of the Chosen People into the Promised Land, faithful Jews looked forward to the time that they would enter into the kingdom of God that the Messiah would institute on earth. Thus, Jesus associates Himself with the liturgical actions of the feast, the words of the prophets, especially Zechariah and Ezekiel, and the Messianic overtones of the feast. Jesus is the Messiah Who has come to establish the kingdom of God on earth, which the Jews have used this feast to anticipate. Already associating the Temple of Jerusalem with the Temple of His Body in John 2, Jesus completes this connection, and unites it with His identification as the source of this saving, life-giving water of eternal life by sharing His words, which are grounded in the prophetic imagery of the water flowing out of the Temple in Ezekiel’s vision and out of Jerusalem in Zechariah’s, as the water flows like rivers out of the Temple and through Jerusalem.[10] Jesus is God, the true Temple that the Temple of Jerusalem re-presented, out of Whom the life-giving waters of His Spirit shall flow and sanctify those who thirst for it.

Given the visions of the prophets from the Old Testament and the words of Jesus Himself in John’s Gospel, most commentators are unanimous in interpreting the river of life in the Apocalypse as pertaining to the saving grace of Christ, especially as expressed through Baptism. Wilfrid Harrington, O.P. interprets the river of life flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb in his book Understanding the Apocalypse as signifying that “The new Jerusalem has no Temple—‘for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb’ (21:22); consistently, the waters which flow from ‘the throne of God and the Lamb’…In the Fourth Gospel, as in Ap. 22, there is a communication of divine life.”[11] As Harrington highlights, the prophetic visions of rivers of living water flowing from the Temple, Jesus’ association of the Temple with His Body in John 2, and Jesus’ synthesis of these images on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles find their most profound expression at the end of the Apocalypse.[12] Similarly, in his The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation, R. C. H. Lenski identifies the river of living water as referring to the communication of divine life through his analysis of the Greek vocabulary used in Rev. 22:1:

We regard udwr zwhs as one concept, ‘life’s water’ or ‘water of life.’ It is similar to the udwr zwn in John 4:10, ‘living water,’ but uses the genitive of the noun in place of the participle, yet this genitive is not qualitative but rather an apposition, it is not ‘water that has the quality of life,’ but ‘water that is life,’ zwh, the very life or life essence.[13]

Lenski interprets the river to be “the whole tide of eternal life going out from the throne or the eternal power of God and the Lamb,” but thinks that it is “hasty…to find the Holy Spirit in the symbolism of ‘a river of life’s water’ and to go still farther and to see the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son in the river’s ‘going out from the throne of God and the Lamb.”[14] Lenski’s interpretation shares many elements with those of the Church Fathers, who interpret the river of the water of life as pertaining to the grace of Christ poured out in the waters of Baptism. Both Caesarius of Arles and Andrew of Caesarea interpret the river as itself being the waters of Baptism, with Caesarius stating that “This passage shows the fountain of baptism flowing from God and from Christ in the midst of the church.”[15] Meanwhile, Apringius of Beja asserts that “The living water is the Lord Jesus Christ,” but qualifies this by saying that “It [the water] is said to flow from the throne of God and the Lamb because the cleansing is from Him, life is from Him, and all righteousness and holiness of baptism flows from and proceeds from Him.”[16] Primasius interprets the Baptismal elements of this passage in a slightly different way, saying that “The river of life that flows in the midst of the city no longer signifies the administration of baptism” but that “the fruit of that sacrament is here revealed”; as this is a vision of the end of time, when those who were baptized and saved shall enjoy the fulfilment of eternal life, Primasius’s treatment seems most appropriate.[17]

Clearly, the river of life pertains to Jesus as the source of the sacramentally revivifying waters of Baptism. However, Lenski’s contention that one should not associate the river with the Holy Spirit does not capture the fullness of the Baptismal act, since the Holy Spirit is intimately connected to the sanctification accomplished through Baptism; Baptism “signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one ‘can enter the kingdom of God.’” [18] As St. John helpfully noted about Jesus’ words at the Feast of Tabernacles concerning Himself as the source of the living water: “Now this He said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive” (Jn. 7:37-38, RSVCE). In a very real sense, the redemptive grace of Baptism that flows from Christ’s Death and Resurrection is applied to us by the Holy Spirit, and maintained through a life lived in the Holy Spirit.[19] As C. C. Martindale states in The Household of God, specifically concerning the Heavenly Jerusalem as the Church glorified,

Deeper than this, surely, is the truth that John here, as in his Gospel, makes no absolute break between the New and the Old. ‘Glory is Grace at home.’ And his vision of the Church does not cleave her history in two. Already those in Grace and the New Life are, are wedded to Christ. He shows here the manifestation and eternalization of the thing that we are, albeit still precariously.[20]

Thus, Martindale can state that “It [the river of life] was the Holy Spirit, fully given at last…refreshingly falling upon all hearts, sinks into, impenetrates and indwells them, to rise thence once more in the flooding fountain of the Charity of Christ.”[21]

The tree of life that St. John mentions alongside the banks of the river of the water of life, which many commentators interpret as referring to Christ Himself, also recapitulates the wood of the Cross, Christ as the Wisdom of God, and ultimately the Garden of Eden. St. Jerome, Apringius of Beja, and Oecumenius all interpret the “tree of life” that is “on either side of the river” as being Christ, with St. Jerome and Apringius adding that the tree stands on both banks because the banks represent the Old and New Testaments (Rev. 22:2, RSVCE).[22] Andrew of Caesarea sees an inherent connection between Jesus as river of the water of life and the tree of life: “‘The river’ might signify the gifts of the life-giving Spirit, which flow down from the throne of the Father and of the Son…The ‘tree of life’ signifies Christ, whom we know by the Holy Spirit and through the Spirit.”[23] While these interpretations are more spiritual in nature, Caeserius of Arles connects the tree of life specifically to “the cross of Our Lord,” which “bears fruit in every season” and is what “the faithful, who are made wet by the water of the Church’s river, eat.”[24] Lenski notes “that xulon, the very word used so often with reference to the cross of Christ…reminds me of the cross, which is the wood or tree of life for all of us. It is never dendron, ‘tree.’”[25] The very Greek noun used by St. John for the tree of life intimately connects it to the wood of Christ’s Cross. Lenski goes further and states that “The foundation of the cross has attained its consummation, in the eternal city the xulon is entirely a ‘wood of life’…What the old rugged cross bought for us is now attained: Life, glorious and eternal in this city.”[26] St. Victorinus in his Commentary on the Apocalypse makes explicit the connections between Christ, the Cross, and the graces of Baptism as portrayed in the imagery of chapter 22:

The river of life sets forth that the grace of spiritual doctrine flowed through the minds of the faithful, and that manifold flourishing forms of odours germinated therein. The tree of life on either bank sets forth the Advent of Christ, according to the flesh, who satisfied the peoples wasted with famine, that received life from One by the wood of the Cross, with the announcement of God’s word.[27]

However, the Church Fathers do not stop with comparing the tree of life to the wood of the Cross. Oecumenius explicitly connects the tree of life with Christ as Wisdom, specifically in reference to Proverbs 3:18, which describes Wisdom as “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy” (Pro. 3:18, RSVCE).[28] Indeed, Primasius comments on the gold of the new Jerusalem in Rev. 21:18 as having a similarity with “the church symbolized by gold since it is often depicted by golden lampstands and bowls on account of its worship of Wisdom,” with Primasius equating Wisdom with Jesus.[29]

Finally, various commentators point out the striking parallels between Rev. 22, and specifically the tree of life, and the description of paradise in Genesis. The garden of Eden is described in Genesis 2 in this way: “And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden” (Genesis 2:9-10, RSVCE). Although Lenski parses the Greek vocabulary of Rev. 22:1-2 and establishes that “there is a beautiful park running through the entire city which has the avenue on one side and the crystalline river on the other,” which has obvious similarities to the garden of the heavenly Jerusalem, he asserts, “There is an allusion to Gen. 2:9 and 3:22, and yet it is only an allusion…Being an allusion and nothing more, the imagery far exceeds the allusion to the Old Testament.”[30] Interestingly, he does note that the same Greek word used for Christ’s Cross and the tree of life in Revelation, xulon, is used also to denote the tree of life in Genesis as found in the Septuagint.[31] However, Lenski’s dismissal of this vision as mere allusion does not capture the profound re-presentation of the Garden of Eden that St. John captures in the Apocalypse, which is made clear by the tree of life’s association with Jesus Christ, as represented by Wisdom and the Cross. St. Gregory of Nazianzus makes the striking association between the tree of life with the tree of the Cross clear, stating that “Christ is brought up to the tree and nailed to it—yet by the tree of life He restores us.”[32] Like St. Gregory, St. Cyril of Jerusalem highlights the paradoxical symbolic relationship between the tree of life in Genesis and the wood of the Cross: “Although to Adam it was said ‘For the day you eat of it, you must die,’ today you have been faithful. Today will bring you salvation. The tree brought ruin to Adam; the tree [of life] shall bring you into paradise.”[33] Hidden in Eden and the fall of the first man, then, is a dramatic historical prefigurement of the redemptive death on the Cross of the second Adam, and the birth of the Church by which men are baptized and made members of His Body, for as St. Augustine states, “So then the Church was formed for Him as His consort from His side, that is, from faith in His death and in baptism, because His side was pierced with a lance and poured out blood and water.”[34]

In order to fully understand the dramatic re-representation and fulfilment of the original Edenic paradise in the new paradise of the heavenly Jerusalem, one must first establish the connections between the Heavenly Jerusalem with the Church Glorified and the Garden of Eden with the Church. The early Church Fathers are essentially unanimous in their interpretation of “the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” as referring to the Church, glorified at the end of time, which is the same “holy city” found on “a great, high mountain” from which the river of the water of life pours down from the throne of God and the Lamb and waters the tree of life (Rev. 21:2, 21:9, RSVCE).[35] Caesarius of Arles provides a representative example of this conflation of the new Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb, and the Church: “By the mountain he refers to Christ…It is the church, the city established on the mountain, that is the bride of the Lamb…He has called this city the ‘bride’ of the Lamb, and therefore it is clear that it is the church itself that is going to be described.”[36] In a similar way, St. Cyprian describes the Garden of Eden as symbolizing the Church: “The church, expressing the image of paradise, encloses fruitful tree within its walls.”[37] The early Church Fathers interpret the rest of Genesis 2 and 3 within the same framework as St. Cyprian, with the various aspects of Eden prefiguring various aspects of the salvific nature and mission of the Church. For instance, St. Jerome states that “if wisdom is the tree of life, Wisdom itself indeed is Christ,” while St. Cyprian notes that, like the four rivers of Eden, the church “waters…with the four Gospels, from which it bestows the grace of baptism by the salutary and heavenly inundation.”[38] Concerning the tree of life located in the heavenly Jerusalem, Harrington notes that “The true tree grows in the new paradise.”[39] Harrington explicitly places the new paradise at the end of time in contrast with the old paradise of Eden, although he notes that both contained the tree of life.[40]

It is St. Augustine in his work On Genesis who synthesizes these various parallels between Genesis and Revelation. Placing himself squarely in the tradition of identifying the tree of life in Eden as representing wisdom, “by which the soul is made to understand that is has been set at a kind of mid-point in the whole order of things, so that although it has every material, bodily nature subject to it, it has to realize that the nature of God is still above itself,” St. Augustine states the following concerning the banishment of man from the garden before he could eat of the tree of life:

The stretching out of the hand, surely, is an excellent symbol of the cross, through which eternal life is regained. Though even if we understand lest he stretch out this hand and live for ever in that other way, it was an entirely fair punishment that he should be barred from access to wisdom after his sin, until by God’s mercy in the course of time the one who was dead might come to life again, and the one who was lost might be found.[41]

For St. Augustine, the tree of life is both wisdom and the Cross, both a figure of the immortal life  Christ would regain for men on the Cross and the means by which this redemption would be wrought, for Christ is “the wisdom of God,” even though “Christ crucified” is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:24, 23, RSVCE). But Christ did not incarnate as a tree, and St. Augustine focuses upon the mystery expressed by St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians, when St. Paul asserts that the union of “Christ and the Church” is hidden in the claim of Genesis 2:24 that husband and wife “shall be two in one flesh” in marriage.[42] As St. Augustine states, “So then, what as a matter of history was fulfilled in Adam, as a matter of prophecy signifies Christ, who left His Father…by appearing among human beings as a man”; Christ as man then “stuck to His wife, that is, to the Church, so that they might be two in one flesh.”[43] Christ, the new Adam, weds His Bride, the Church, which is comprised of all the faithful who, through Baptism by water and the Holy Spirit, die with Him on the Cross and are raised with Him into new life. These realities, hidden in the figures of river and tree and marriage in the beginning of time, are realized in an infinitely more perfect way in the river of the water of life and the tree of life and the wedding feast of the Lamb and the heavenly Jerusalem.

St. John’s Apocalypse provides a glimpse of history as seen from the vantage point of God. From the vast heights of the heavenly Sanctuary, St. John saw history as it was, is, and was to be. Hence, it should come as no surprise that history becomes compressed, and that particular events embody patterns that are repeated in subsequent events, foreshadow future events that will come to pass, or contain the seeds of realities that will only come into fruition at the end of time. Chapter 22 of the Apocalypse can thus be adequately understood on a merely symbolic or spiritual level.[44] But something is missing from an interpretation that ends there. St. John does not merely allude to the Garden of Eden in his description of the river of the water of life, gushing forth from the throne of God and the Lamb, and watering the tree of life in the midst of the paradisiacal heavenly Jerusalem. What St. John saw was glimpsed in the prophetic visions of the Old Testament prophets, and explicitly taught by Jesus during His public ministry. St. John beheld the glorious, definitive, and eternal recovery of paradise for mankind at the end of time. Is it the same paradise as that of Eden? No, in the sense that sin and death intervened in human history to drive a wedge between how Adam was before the Fall and how he, and his children, were afterwards. But it is the same paradise in a far more profound way, for Jesus Christ had been present in human history from the very beginning. Indeed, as St. Gregory of Nazianzen states in his Oration 45, “He [Christ] partakes of my flesh that He may both save the image and make the flesh immortal. He communicates a Second Communion, far more marvellous than the first, inasmuch as then He imparted the better nature, but now He Himself assumes the worse.”[45] He was the tree of life that Adam lost for all men, He who wedded human nature and divine nature in the Hypostatic Union, He Whose death on the tree of the Cross redeemed all men and gave man the means by which he could be sanctified, the redeeming living waters of Baptism and inclusion in His Mystical Body, the Church. As Lenski simply states, “Paradise lost is now Paradise regained,” but only by, with, and through Christ, “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13, RSVCE).[46]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Andrew of Caesarea. Commentary on the Apocalypse, 22.1-2, 22.2. Quoted in William C.            Weinrich, ed. Revelation. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New         Testament, Vol. XII. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Apringius of Beja. Tractate on the Apocalypse, 22.1, 22.2. Quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed.,   Revelation. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, Vol.        XII. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Caesarius of Arles. Exposition on the Apocalypse, 22.7, 22.2, 21.10, Homily 19. Quoted in           William C. Weinrich, ed. Revelation. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture            Series, New Testament, Vol. XII. Thomas C. Oden, general editor.Downers Grove, IL:    InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Frederiksen, Paula. “Tyconius and Augustine on the Apocalypse.” In The Apocalypse in the

            Middle Ages. Edited by Richard K. Emerson and Bernard McGinn. Ithaca, NY: Cornell    University Press, 1992.

Harrington, O.P., Wilfrid. Understanding the Apocalypse. Great Britain: Corpus Publications,      1969.

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg            Publishing House, 1961.

Martindale, S.J., C. C. The Household of God. New York: P. J. Kenedy and Sons, 1923.

Oecumenius. Commentary on the Apocalypse, 21.26-22.5, 21.9-14. Quoted in William C.             Weinrich, ed. Revelation. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New         Testament, Vol. XII. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Primasius. Commentary on the Apocalypse, 22.1, 21.18. Quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed.        Revelation, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, Vol.        XII. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

St. Augustine. On Genesis. Vol. I/13. Translation and notes by Edmund Hill, O.P. Edited by        John E. Rotelle, O.S.A. Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 2002. In The Works of      Saint Augustine (4th Release), Electronic Edition. Edited by Boniface Ramsey. Hyde     Park, New York: New City Press, 1990-. Intelex Past Masters Full Text Humanities    online (accessed November 14, 2020).

St. Cyprian. Letters. 73.10, 63.10. Quoted in Andrew Louth, ed. Genesis 1-11. The Ancient          Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, Vol. I. In collaboration with        Marco Conti. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,          2001.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechetical Lectures, 13.31. Quoted in Andrew Louth, ed. Genesis 1-11.             The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, Vol. I. In         collaboration with Marco Conti. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL:            InterVarsity Press, 2001.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Theological Orations, 29.29. Quoted in Andrew Louth, ed. Genesis 1- 11. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, Vol. I. In         collaboration with Marco Conti. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL:            InterVarsity Press, 2001.

St. Gregory Nazianzen. Oration 45. Trans. by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward           Swallow. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip      Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894. Revised     and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. New Advent online (accessed November     14, 2020).

St. Jerome. Homilies, 1. Quoted in Andrew Louth, ed. Genesis 1-11. The Ancient Christian          Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, Vol. I. In collaboration with Marco      Conti. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

St. Jerome. Homilies on the Psalms 1 (Ps. 1). Quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed. Revelation.      The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, Vol. XII.         Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

St. Victorinus. Commentary on the Apocalypse, paragraph 16. Trans. by Robert Ernest Wallis.     From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and         A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886. Revised and          edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. New Advent online (accessed November 14,           2020).

Steinmueller, John E. and Kathryn Sullivan. Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia: Old Testament.       New York City, NY: Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., 1956. In the Catholic Biblical     Encyclopedia.

Steinmueller, John E. and Kathryn Sullivan. Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia: New Testament.      New York City, NY: Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., 1950. In the Catholic Biblical     Encyclopedia.

The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition. Translation provided by the             Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain, revised according to Liturgiam       Authenticam (2001). San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2006.


                [1]Paula Frederiksen, “Tyconius and Augustine on the Apocalypse,” in The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, edited by Richard K. Emerson and Bernard McGinn (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), 20. Frederiksen states, “Christianity began with the announcement that time and history were about to end. This message, preserved variously in those documents that came to make up the New Testament, found its most flamboyant expression in the book that closes the Christian canon, the Apocalypse of John.”

                [2]Frederiksen, 21. Frederiksen makes this claim in the context of the two general approaches towards interpreting the Apocalypse taken by Christians during this time period: “Many earlier theologians had either allegorized any historical and temporal references out of John’s prophecy or repudiated the text altogether. Other Christians, and most notably those in North Africa, had on the authority of the Apocalypse asserted an enthusiastic and socially disruptive millenarianism.”

                [3]Frederiksen, 32. I was inspired in part by Frederiksen, who says this about St. Augustine’s understanding of the relationship between Salvation and history understood through the lens of the Apocalypse: “Scriptural history and the individual’s experience thus coincide at their shared extremes: birth in Adam, eschatological resurrection in Christ.”

                [4]The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, translation provided by Catholic Biblical Association of Great Britain, revised according to Liturgiam Authenticam (2001) (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2006), page 633. Any mention of the historical periods the Prophets lived during and the thematic content of their work are referenced from and beholden to the historical, cultural, and thematic summaries the translators and editors of this Bible provide at the beginning of each book of the Old and New Testaments.

                [5]John E. Steinmueller and Kathryn Sullivan, Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia: Old Testament (New York City, NY: Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., 1956) in the Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, 1124. The Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia states rather matter-of-factly that “Water is essential to all forms of life on earth.”

                [6]The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, 794. Any mention of the historical periods the Prophets lived during and the thematic content of their work are referenced from and beholden to the historical, cultural, and thematic summaries the translators and editors of this Bible provide at the beginning of each book of the Old and New Testaments. The editors state in the summary concerning Zechariah: “He [Zechariah] speaks in terms of a Messianic era in which the priesthood is supreme but the royal prerogatives are possessed by ‘the Branch,’ a Messianic term for Zerubbabel.”

                [7]The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, 695. Any mention of the historical periods the Prophets lived during and the thematic content of their work are referenced from and beholden to the historical, cultural, and thematic summaries the translators and editors of this Bible provide at the beginning of each book of the Old and New Testaments.

                [8]Note the similarities between how this passage ends, “Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing,” and Rev. 22: 2, “and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” It seems that St. John and Ezekiel have been given a very similar, if not exactly the same, vision of the heavenly Temple with the river of the water of life and tree of life.

                [9]John E. Steinmueller and Kathryn Sullivan, Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia: New Testament (New York City, NY: Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., 1950), in the Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia, 662. Concerning John’s use of the Old Testament concept of living water, the Encyclopedia states, “Water is also used in the metaphorical sense, especially by John. Thus, in the Fourth Gospel Christ speaks of ‘living water,’ a common phrase for running water, to express the doctrine of truth and the grace of God (John 4, 10; 7, 38); in the Apocalypse ‘the waters of life’ designate eternal happiness (Apoc. 7, 17; 21, 6; 22, 1.17).”

                [10]Jesus states, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” St. John helpfully notes, if there was any confusion, that “he spoke of the temple of His Body.” Jn. 2:19, 21, RSVCE.

                [11]Wilfrid Harrington, O.P., Understanding the Apocalypse (Great Britain: Corpus Publications, 1969), 264.

                [12]Harrington, 263-264.

                [13]R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 648-649.

                [14]Lenski, 649.

                [15]Caesarius of Arles, Exposition on the Apocalypse, 22.7, Homily 19, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 388. Andrew of Caesarea states: “The river that flows from the church in the present life indicates the baptism of regeneration that is made effective through the Spirit and makes those who are washed more clean than snow and crystal.” Andrew of Caesarea, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 22.1-2, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 388.

                [16]Apringius of Beja, Tractate on the Apocalypse, 22.1, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 388.

                [17]Primasius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 22.1, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 388.

                [18]Catechism of the Catholic Church, Vatican trans. of the Latin typical edition (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), paragraph 1215. Vatican online (accessed November 21 and 22, 2020). All subsequent citations of the Catechism will be from this online edition and cited by paragraph number. Andrew of Caesarea also notes that “The river that flows from the church in the present life indicates the baptism of regeneration that is made effective through the Spirit and makes those who are washed more clean than snow and crystal. But the river of God, filled up with waters, namely, the Holy Spirit, flows through the Jerusalem above, flowing from God the Father through the Son.” Andrew of Caesarea, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 22.1-2, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 388.

                [19]CCC 1265: Baptism “also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature.’” Also, CCC 1227, “Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies,” and 1966, “The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ. It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace to do it.”

                [20]C. C. Martindale, S.J., The Household of God (New York: P. J. Kenedy and Sons, 1923), 151-152.

                [21] Martindale, 155.

                [22]St. Jerome, Homilies on the Psalms 1 (Ps. 1), Apringius of Beja, Tractate on the Apocalypse 22.2, and Oecumenius, Commentary on the Apocalypse 21.26-22.5, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 388-389. For instance, St. Jerome states, “This river, moreover, has two banks, the Old Testament and the New Testament, and the tree planted on both sides is Christ.”

                [23]Andrew of Caesarea, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 22.2, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 390.

                [24]Caeserius of Arles, Exposition on the Apocalypse, 22.2, Homily 19, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 390.

                [25]Lenski, 651.

                [26]Lenski, 652-653

                [27]St. Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse, paragraph 16, trans. by Robert Ernest Wallis, from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886), revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. New Advent online (accessed November 14, 2020).

                [28]Oecumenius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 21.26-22.5, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 389. Oecumenius states, “The Lord is the ‘tree of life’ according to what the author of the Proverbs writes concerning wisdom. He says, ‘She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her.’”

                [29]Primasius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 21.18, quoted in William C. Weinrich, ed., Revelation, in The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, New Testament, vol. XII, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 372.

                [30]Lenski, 651.

                [31]Lenski, 651.

                [32]St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Theological Orations, 29.29, quoted in Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. I, in collaboration with Marco Conti, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 55.

                [33]St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 13.31, quoted in Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. I, in collaboration with Marco Conti, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 62. The editors provide a footnote stating that St. Cyril wrote this as a catechetical instruction “in preparation for Baptism,” which is fitting considering that Baptism is the believer’s participation in the death of Jesus on the cross so as to be raised to new life with Him.

                [34]St. Augustine, On Genesis, Vol. I/13, translation and notes by Edmund Hill, O.P., edited by John E. Rotelle, O.S.A. (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 2002), Book II, paragraph 24, 37, in The Works of Saint Augustine (4th Release), Electronic Edition., edited by Boniface Ramsey (Hyde Park, New York: New City Press, 1990-). Intelex Past Masters Full Text Humanities online (accessed November 14, 2020).

                [35]Oecumenius, Andrew of Caeserea, St. Bede, and Primasius all articulate, in their own ways, the idea that the heavenly new Jerusalem is to be understood as referring to the Church, the Bride of Christ, made perfect at the consummation of time. Oecumenius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 21.9-14, Andrew of Caesarea, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 21.9, St. Bede, Explanation of the Apocalypse, 21.9, and Primasius, Commentary on the Apocalypse, 21.9-10, quoted in Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. I, in collaboration with Marco Conti, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 363-364.

                [36]Caeserius of Arles, Exposition on the Apocalypse, 21.10, Homily 19, quoted in Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. I, in collaboration with Marco Conti, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 364.

                [37]St. Cyprian, Letters, 73.10, quoted in Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. I, in collaboration with Marco Conti, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 54.

                [38]St. Jerome, Homilies, 1, quoted in Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. I, in collaboration with Marco Conti, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 55, and St. Cyprian, Letters, 63.10, quoted in Andrew Louth, ed., Genesis 1-11, The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series, Old Testament, vol. I, in collaboration with Marco Conti, Thomas C. Oden, general editor (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 59

                [39]Harrington, 264.

                [40]Harrington, 264. Although Harrington notes that “‘tree of life’ may be understood as a generic singular, meaning ‘trees’ as in Ezekiel,” he emphasizes the connection between this passage in Revelation with that of Genesis.

                [41]St. Augustine, On Genesis, Book II, 9,12 and 34.

                [42]St. Augustine, On Genesis, Book II, 24, 37.

                [43]St. Augustine, On Genesis, Book II, 24, 37.

                [44]Frederiksen, 21. See Frederiksen’s analysis of the overly spiritualized interpretation of Revelation many early theologians indulged in.

                [45]St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 45, trans. by Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow, from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894), paragraph IX, revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. New Advent online (accessed November 14, 2020).

                [46]Lenski, 651.

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