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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Revelation 5

A book sealed with seven seals, which could be opened by none but Christ, who took the book to open it. (1-7) Upon which all honour is ascribed to him, as worthy to open it. (8-14)

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A book sealed with seven seals, which could be opened by none but Christ, who took the book to open it

1 And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.

2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?

3 And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.

4 And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.

5 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

7 And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

Upon which all honour is ascribed to him, as worthy to open it

8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

11 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;

12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. A book written within and without.[1] Books were then skin, membranes, or parchments, and when written on both sides part of the writing appeared, though they were rolled up. — Sealed with seven seals, as containing mysteries and secrets of high importance. Wi.

Ver. 3. No man was able,[2] &c. As to the contents, some understand the prophecies and mysteries both of the Old and New Testament; others, the events that should afterwards happen to the Church of Christ, as various persecutions against Christians. Alcazar would have the sense of these words to be, that only Christ and his Spirit could open the book to others, and make them believe and know the punishments prepared for the wicked, and the reward reserved for God’s faithful servants. Wi.

Ver. 5. Behold the lion, of the tribe of Juda, &c. viz. Jesus Christ, who was descended from that tribe, denominated a lion on account of his great power, by which title we find him designated also in the prophecy of Jacob. Gen. xlix. 9. Calmet. — It is he who has merited by his triple victory over death, sin, and hell, the great honour of opening the book, and revealing the secrets therein contained.

Ver. 6. I saw . . . . a lamb standing as it were slain, with the prints and marks of its wounds. It was of this lamb (i.e. of our Saviour Jesus Christ) that S. John Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.” Jo. i. 29. Wi. — Here again Jesus Christ is plainly marked out, the Lamb of God, the victim of expiation, who by his death has reconciled us with his Father; and who, even in heaven, bears the marks of his passion, and by the wounds therein received continually inclines his Father to shew us mercy. He has seven horns, as so many crowns and marks of his omnipotence; and seven eyes, to represent his infinite knowledge and wisdom. Calmet. — Having seven horns and seven eyes, (to signify his power and his knowledge,) which are the seven spirits subject to Christ. See C. i. 4. It is observed that in the Revelation of S. John, the number seven is divers times applied to signify a multitude, and a number implying perfection, and three and a half for a small number. Thus are represented the seven candlesticks, seven churches, seven spirits, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, &c. Wi.

Ver. 7-8. He . . . took the book,[3] . . . . and when he had opened it, or was about to open it, (in the Greek is only, he took it: which was a sign that he would open it) . . . the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, to adore him, as appears by what follows, v. 13. — Having every one of them harps to celebrate his praise, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of the saints: which shews that the saints in heaven offer up before the throne of the Divine Majesty the prayers of the faithful. Wi. — Harps, &c. These harps are symbols of the praise which good men render to God; and the vials full of odours, represent the prayers of the saints. In conformity with this idea, S. John wishes to represent these four and twenty ancients as so many senators, who present to the Almighty the prayers and homages of good men on earth. Estius. Clemens Alex. — This also is an imitation of what was practised in the temple, in which were always around the altar, in times of sacrifice, Levites with musical instruments, priests with vials to contain the wine and blood, and censers to hold the incense. Calmet. — The prayers of the saints. Here we see that the saints in heaven offer up to Christ the prayers of the faithful upon earth. Ch.

Ver. 9. They sung a new canticle, &c. called new, as belonging to the New Testament, or alliance of the new law of Christ. Wi. — Canticle; that is, excellent. The Scripture generally attaches the epithet new to canticles. New canticles are always more agreeable, says Pindar. Grotius. — And hast redeemed, &c. The twenty-four ancients here may well represent all, who are in possession of beatitude. They all acknowledge it is to Jesus Christ they are indebted for the felicity they enjoy; it is he that has assembled at the foot of God’s throne all the nations of the world, faithful souls from every tribe and tongue, and people and nation, by his blood. Calmet.

Ver. 10. And hast made us to our God, &c. See 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9. Wi. — All Christians may justly be styled kings and priests of God, by the spiritual empire they possess over their passions and the world; and by the continual offering they make on the altar of their hearts, by means of the prayers they daily offer up to God. Origen. — Thus they say, we shall reign on the earth by the empire we shall exercise over our passions; and by the union we shall have with Jesus Christ and his Church, triumph over all who have persecuted us. Estius. Andræas.

Ver. 11. The number of them was thousands of thousands.[4] In the Greek also, ten thousand times ten thousand. Wi.

Ver. 12. The Lamb is worthy . . . to receive power and divinity,[5] &c. The Socinians and new Arians from hence pretend that the Lamb, Jesus Christ, is not the same true God with the Father, but only deserved divinity, or to be made God in an inferior and an improper sense. The argument is of no force at all in the ordinary Greek, where for divinity is read riches. The sense is, thou art worthy to have thy power and divinity acknowledged and praised by all creatures both in heaven and earth: and the following words are a confutation of the Socinians, “I heard all saying: To him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction, and honour, and glory, and power, forever and ever,” where the same divine power is attributed to the Father and to the Son of God, Jesus, true God and true man. Wi.

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[1] V. 1. Intus et foris, esothen kai opisthen; on the back side.

[2] V. 3. Aperire librum, neque videre illum, blepein kai anagnonai, legere.

[3] V. 7-8. Cùm aperuisset: in the present Greek only, ote elabe; and in one or two MSS. of the Marquis de Velez, enoixe.

[4] V. 11. Millia millium, muriades muriadon, kai chiliades chiliadon.

[5] V. 12. Accipere virtutem et divinitatem: in the Greek, instead of divinitatem, plouton. In one or two MSS. of the Marquis de Velez, theoteta.