JOHN’S USE OF EZEKIEL

EzekielPMT 2015-072 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Though John saw his visions, we do not. Consequently, he has to relate them to us through verbal communication. And John is so absorbed with the Old Testament Scriptures that he presents his visions in Old Testament language. John intentionally takes up the prophetic mantle, even mimicking the Old Testament grammar, as well as alluding to their writings.

H. Charles observes that “our author makes most use of the prophetical books.” Colin Hemer agrees: “the influence of the prophets on John’s mind is especially strong.” More precisely, H. B. Swete argues that John’s favorite OT books are in the following order: Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalms. I would qualify this by noting regarding the Psalms that John is especially interested in the prophetic and Messianic psalms. Charles Hill adds Zechariah to the list. G. K. Beale and D. A . Carson disagree with Swete’s ranking, pointing out that “Ezekiel exerts greater influence in Revelation than does Daniel.”

Interestingly, Steve Moyise argues that not only is Rev “the only New Testament book that significantly alludes to the book of Ezekiel,” but “over half of the allusions to Ezekiel in the NT come from the book of Revelation.” Many scholars agree with Ezekiel’s strong influence. F. D. Mazzaferri notes that “by a very long measure, [John’s] favourite exemplar is Ezekiel.” P. Prigent agrees: “it is patently obvious that the book of Revelation and Ezekiel are very closely linked.” D. Mathewson summarizes current scholarly conclusions that “there is little dispute that Ezekiel has exerted a formidable influence on the book of Revelation” and that there is even “substantial agreement on the major sections of influence.”


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Helpful introduction to Revelation presenting keys for interpreting.
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A sampling of the OT influence from Ezekiel is quite remarkable. The following few, clear samples illustrate how Ezekiel impacts Rev at significant points:

(1) The all-important throne-room vision of God in Rev 4:1–11 draws from Eze 1. (2) In 5:10 the double-sided scroll in God’s hand on the throne that initiates the divine judgments strongly reflects Eze 3:3. In addition, note: (3) the marking of the foreheads (Eze 9:4; Rev 7:3); (4) the coals thrown to the earth from heaven (Eze 10:2; Rev 8:5); (5) the four judgments related to the fourth seal (Eze 14:21; Rev 6:8); (6) Gog and Magog (Eze 38–39; Rev 20:7–10); (7) the birds flocking to their prey as symbols of divine judgment (Eze 39:17ff; Rev 19:17ff); (8) the glorified Jerusalem (Eze. 40–47; Rev 21); and more. According to Beale and Carson: M. D. Goulder has argued that broad portions of Ezekiel have been the dominant influence on at least twelve major sections of Revelation (Rev. 4; 5; 6:1–8; 6:12—7:1; 7:2–8; 8:1–5; 10:1–7; 14:6–12; 17:1–6; 18:9–24; 20:7–10; 21:22).

Carrington goes so far as to declare that “the Revelation is a Christian rewriting of Ezekiel. Its fundamental structure is the same. Its interpretation depends upon Ezekiel.” Goulder states even further that “these uses of Ezekiel are a dominant influence on the structure of Revelation, since they are placed to a marked extent in the same order as they occur in Ezekiel itself.” J. M. Vogelgesang agrees that “the order of Ezekelian passages used in Revelation approximate the order of Ezekiel itself.” I. Boxall concurs: “Ezekiel has been a key text for John throughout, often providing the sequential structure.”


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Boxall provides us with a helpful table demonstrating Ezekiel’s influence on Rev:

Rev 1 = Eze 1
Rev 4 = Eze 1
Rev 5 = Eze 2
Rev 6 = Eze 5–7
Rev 7:1–2 = Eze 7:2–3
Rev 7–8 = Eze 9–10
Rev 10 = Eze 2–3 (cp. Rev 5)
Rev 10–13 = Eze 11–14 (echoes)
Rev 11:1–2 = Eze 40
Rev 13:11–18 = Eze 14
Rev 17 = Eze 16, 23
Rev 18 = Eze 26–28
Rev 19:11–21 = Eze 29, 32 (39)
Rev 20:1–3 = Eze 29, 32
Rev 20:4–6 = Eze 37
Rev 20:7–10 = Eze 38:1–39:20
Rev 10:11–15 = Eze 39:21–29
Rev 21–22 = Eze 40–48

Thus, John’s fundamental backdrop is the OT prophetic witness, and particularly that witness as influenced by Ezekiel.

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One thought on “JOHN’S USE OF EZEKIEL

  1. Jay Culotta June 15, 2015 at 6:08 am

    Great post Ken. It’s so easy to forget that the writers of the NT only had the OT writings to draw from, since there was no NT yet.
    What we call Christian writing today was simply Jewish writing from a different perspective in those days, using revelation (pardon the pun) that was fresh and new.

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