2013 Book of Revelation

Session 1

Cosmological duality in the Apocalypse and the ‘apocalyptic Paul’

Following the seminal work of J. Louis Martyn (and, behind him, Ernst Käsemann), contemporary Pauline scholarship which describes the centre of the apostle’s thought as ‘apocalyptic’ generally does so by highlighting the presence of dualisms, notably of the eschatological and cosmological variety, as the hallmarks of an apocalyptic thinker. Yet for all the work done on the ‘apocalyptic Paul’, remarkably little of it relates his letters to the trajectory of Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature, not least the New Testament’s only apocalypse, the book of Revelation.

This paper will examine cosmological dualism in the book of Revelation and how this may inform discussions of apocalyptic themes in Paul. It will argue that apocalyptic cosmological dualism (or better duality) is best understood within the framework of a temple-shaped cosmology. This insight has two consequences. First, a proper appreciation for the way in which temple and cosmos relate should cause us to question the preference among advocates of the ‘apocalyptic Paul’ for the category of invasion in describing the action of God in the world. Second, the temple-shaped cosmology of the book of Revelation suggests that to be truly ‘apocalyptic’ is to invoke both the forensic and the cosmological as inextricably linked themes not, as has been argued for Paul, as a dichotomy.

 

Michelle Fletcher (King's College London)

How the Apocalypse Defined and Defied a Genre: Reading Revelation as Genre Pastiche

How did the Apocalypse end up not being classed as an apocalypse? This paper re-approaches this genre paradox from a previously unexplored perspective; reading Revelation as a genre pastiche. In essence, it examines how Revelation taps into sensibilities and features found in past texts bringing them to the fore through exaggeration, distortion and combination. It then argues that this pastiching of past texts creates a new text which allows the reader to recognise these characteristics in other texts, leading to “genre awareness.” To do this it reads the development of scholarly awareness/classification of the genre apocalypse and Revelation alongside the development and understanding of Film-Noir and Neo-Noir. It explores the history of the terms “apocalyptic” and “Noir,” and examines the methods used to group texts which led to the “discovery” of the genres Film-Noir and apocalypse. It then shows that only when Neo-Noir was born did scholars become aware of Film-Noir and the sensibility “Noir.” Finally, it proposes that only when Revelation came into being did an awareness of what we now call apocalypse and the sensibility we call “apocalyptic” come about. Ultimately, it argues that Revelation’s reconstruction of past texts creates a manifestation of past textual features and sensibilities which both defines and defies the genre apocalypse.

 

Session 2

Angus Paddison (University of Winchester)

Revelation and public theology: a proposal

Can Revelation shape public discussions of the ‘common good’? Can Revelation contribute to the work of public theologians who seek to relate the insights of the Christian faith to matters of public concern? Has Revelation a role to play outside the boundaries of the church as worshipping community? In the context of renewed theological and philosophical interest in apocalyptic as a category and recent proposals that an apocalyptic vision of the world has much to contribute to a Christian political imagination this paper investigates the role that Revelation has to play in public, political projects. As such, this paper brings together questions and debates in contemporary political theology with attention to Revelation as authoritative text.

After setting out ways in which public theology and the Bible can and should relate to one another the paper shall move to explore how apparently divergent emphases of the text, on the one hand a robustly maintained ethical dualism and on the other hand universalist themes associated with the ‘New Jerusalem’, can be read alongside one another. Specific attention will be paid to the closing vision of the ‘New Jerusalem’ (Revelation 21-22) and the role this vision can play in invoking new ways of imagining our common life.

 

Garrick Allen (University of St Andrews)

Textual Pluriformity, Second Temple Judaism, and the Book of Revelation: Methodological Implications for Investigating the Use of Scripture in Revelation 7

A major area of interest in the book of Revelation continues to be the identity of the source texts that John used to craft his erudite literary composition. Most scholars interact with the issue of Vorlage on a cursory level, suggesting that the author of Revelation used either a Hebrew text (usually referring to MT), the “LXX” (sometimes referencing other ancient Greek revisions), or his (sometimes faulty) memory. Moreover, this interaction often takes place within the arena of modern literary criticism, largely disregarding the interpretive and compositional strategies of John’s contemporaries. The goal of this paper is to argue that the complex textual situation in the first century demands that the way in which modern scholars conceive of John’s use of textual sources be rethought. It is my contention that John’s use of scripture is better understood when conceptualised within the context of the reuse of scripture in Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament. A further goal of this argument is to propose a new methodological starting point for examining John’s use of Scripture: the question of Vorlage. This desired end is arrived at by first briefly describing the textual culture of the first century as witnessed at Qumran and other NT texts. Second, the results of the preceding data are tested by reading John’s use of Zechariah 6 in Revelation 7 in a textually pluriform context. This analysis illustrates the importance of investigating the textual form of allusions in Revelation, sheds light on the author’s compositional techniques, and gives insight into the author’s strategy for reading Zechariah. The primary interlocutors of this discussion are Marko Jauhiainen and G. K. Beale.

 

Session 3

David G Palmer

The Structure of the Revelation to John

The structure of the Revelation to John is a chiasm (1 2 3 C 3’2’1’) of Seven Sections, where each Section’s theme is introduced before it is presented in seven parts. A Prologue and an Epilogue frame this seven times seven book scheme. The simple evidence for all this is cradled visibly in the Greek text where it remains hidden to all who propose other schemes. A fully referenced artwork will be the focus of my paper; we will check each reference against the Greek; and at the last I’ll be asking the group for its vote on verification.

Early in this year, we have witnessed two outstanding discoveries. In January, a Coroner’s Court declared that a further find was indeed part of the Staffordshire Hoard of gold, silver and cloisonné garnets, found in July 2009 near Lichfield. In February, a Team from Leicester University declared to the world that the human remains found in September 2012 under a car park in Leicester were beyond doubt those of King Richard III. In August, the British New Testament Conference could have its own discovery to celebrate, of a skeletal structure found actually in New Jersey in July 1986!

 

The Book of Revelation: a visual hermeneutical approach with special reference to the illustrations of Dave Pearson

A search in Word for ‘see’ and ‘saw’ in the King James Cambridge Edition of the Book of Revelation yields a total of 71 references. With its powerful, iconic imagery, Revelation is essentially a highly visual text.

The Book has been the subject of literal interpretations of a fantastical, sometimes potentially dangerous nature, for instance in relation to recent attitudes to war in the United States both in politics and in popular culture (the latter exemplified in the Left Behind series). However, while literal readings may be inspired by the power and seductiveness of the Book’s imagery, they also derive from its innate complexity and arcane nature. A wealth of diverse analytical approaches to the Book of Revelation has perhaps never been so important, but I believe that to complement these there is room also for a direct, visual, experiential approach. To the degree that the layered, vivid imagery resists conceptualisation, it also has the capacity to sweep away the security of familiar explanatory constructs, affording the reader/viewer an opportunity to enter into the visions with a pre-linguistic sensibility.

The Book of Revelation has been visualised in Western European art since the early Middle Ages, in a variety of contexts and for different functions, among them liturgical, devotional, meditative, didactic, polemical and idiosyncratic. I should like to promote a discussion of visual approaches to the Book of Revelation with reference to artworks through the centuries, but also from a less descriptive, more experiential viewing of a series of 284 illustrations made by artist Dave Pearson in 1972.