(image from Hello-Bible.com)
What is the “sealed scroll” in Isaiah 29:11 and Revelation 5:1?
According to a commenter on the first CatchForChrist YouTube video, it may be the Bible itself — a Book that has been sealed to our understanding. See a screenshot of (part) of their comment below:
Initially, I thought I should just delete the comment. For it did not seem that the commenter responded to anything in the video. Perhaps he or she just wanted to promote his or her website — which is plugged at the end of the comment. However, I figured I could strive to provide a reasonable response and then share/archive it on CatchForChrist. See the response below:
@Philosopher8659 I am not sure what you are responding to in this video… But, in any case, in your opinion, what is “the most important point of the Bible” — which I have apparently forgotten?
When responding, as Greg Koukl of StandToReason.org emphasizes in his book Tactics, it is extremely important to ask clarifying questions in order to properly understand the other person’s point of view. Otherwise, it is easy to succumb to the Straw Man Fallacy — knocking down a caricature of the person’s actual claim. However, online, you never know if or how a person is going to respond. So, in this case, I decided to just continue with my line of reasoning without a complete understanding of the commenter’s claim.
Secondly, are you equating the scroll mentioned in Isaiah 29:11 and Rev 5:1 with the Scriptures themselves? If so, why? The Bible is a compilation of books written over centuries — not a singular “book” or scroll. Also, of course, when Isaiah was written, there was not yet New Testament. It does not seem to be reasonable to believe that the “scroll” mentioned in these two instances refers to the entire Bible or the Bible at all. Therefore, I am very hesitant to agree that the “Book” — meaning the Bible in your view — has been sealed to our understanding. Let’s look at these two Scriptures a little more in depth for my reasoning:
Earlier in Isa 29, the vision of the siege of Jerusalem and God’s saving work to deliver the city of David from its enemies is described (Isa 29:1-8). And it is the words of this vision that has — metaphorically — become like words in a sealed scroll. This is not a reference to a literal scroll; Isaiah is using figurative language to describe how the aforementioned prophets and seers (Isa 29:10) were unable to correctly understand the aforementioned words of prophecy.1 2
Regarding Revelation 5:1, some have thought the “book” or scroll to be a reference to Revelation or the Old Testament — or perhaps, as you say, the entire group of “the Books as the Judeo-Christian Scripture.” However, this “book” is “that which contains the world’s destiny.”3 It is described, probably metaphorically, as a scroll sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1). This would evoke a not uncommon image in Roman law: a contract deed or testament/will that had to be sealed by seven different seals by seven different witnesses in order to be deemed legally authentic.4 Thus, it is plausible that this scroll on the hand of him who sat on the throne (Rev 5:1) is a binding “covenant promise of judgment and kingdom for humanity.”5
All in all, the scrolls or books in Isa 29:11 and Rev 5:1 are not referring to the Bible or certain sections of Scripture in the Bible. And, the words in Scripture can be understood and applied today. For, as Paul writes to Timothy, all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for correcting, rebuking, teaching, and training in righteousness so that servants of God may be equipped (2 Tim 3:16).
Will the commenter respond to my long-winded reply? Who knows. But, when discussing matters online, I feel that it is vitally important that it is, in many respects, a public conversation. Therefore, you never know who else may be currently listening, or who may listen in the future. Often, those who are the most vocal on a given issue are so entrenched in their positions that convincing them otherwise would be no mean feat. However, concerning other potential readers of the thread, you may be able to, as Koukl says, “put a stone in someone’s shoe” – giving them something to think about. When top apologists like Dr. William Lane Craig debate atheists and people of other worldviews publicly, one could say that is primarily for the sake of the audience. So, although I was aiming to address the claims from the comment, I was potentially addressing many more people than just one commenter.
Well, I hope I put a stone in at least one person’s shoe with this response. Feel free to respond to my response — giving me something to think about — in the comment section below.
- Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1–39, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2007), 494-501.
- Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 124-126.
- Leon Morris, Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 96.
- Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 162.
- George R. Beasley-Murray, “Revelation,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1434.