The use of simile in the Revelation of John
In the book of Revelation, John the evangelist teaches through vivid visions and dreams the apocalyptic prophecies that express what the last days will be like. There are two books in the Bible that constitute the literature of revelation: Danielin the Old Testament and Revelationin the New Testament. Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse (from the Greek word for “unveiling” or “revelation”), has a reputation as a mysterious book. John was deported to the island of Patmos because of his faith. And so, living there in exile, he wrote the Lord’s Epistle. John’s imagery and style follow in part the popular form of literature at the time of Jesus. In the first part of his book, John interprets contemporary events, and in the second part he tells God’s plan of salvation.
We all know that John’s language is poetic: symbolic imagery and other literary devices shape John’s style. He felt the need to use a kind of cryptic language (symbols) to avoid further persecution by the Roman Empire. Surely this explains only part of the style of the book Revelation. Now let us remember that John also had to face the difficulty of expressing in human language images of things never before seen by the human eye.
The opening vision in Revelation (Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, NRSV, 1989) is a good example. The scene shows the presence of the Lord in all his glory. John admits that “when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1, 17). How does the evangelist describe our Lord?
John uses a figure of speech called a simile to describe his vision. A simile is an indirect comparison of two different things using like or like to make the comparison clear. Remember that a metaphor is a direct comparison. In short, John uses figurative language. Then let us look at the above quoted verses from the opening vision.
John (Revelation 1, 14-16) describes the head and hair of the Lord; his eyes; his legs; His voice; and his face. For example: “His head and hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire.” The comparisons used can be grouped into two groups. The first set has words that represent the characteristics of the sun (eg, shine, white, fire, burnished bronze, shining sun), while the second set has words that represent the sea (eg, wave, waters). These are two effective Christian symbols: the sun stands for Jesus, while the sea stands for divinity. We see that John’s similes refer to symbols, which then refer to values. It’s a fascinating way of explaining things. John could describe this superb vision with vivid similes.
#simile #Revelation #John