2014 Book of Revelation

Session 1

Reading Revelation Typologically

Most critical readings of Revelation seek to understand its meaning and function in its original 1st century context: Babylon is Rome, the Beast is the Emperor, and the saints must forsake both if they are to remain faithful to the Lamb and conquer as he has conquered. If the question of what relevance Revelation might have for later generations is addressed, then these particulars may be generalised: Babylon and its Beast stand for any self-absolutizing political, military, and religious power, and the saints would do well to be wary of any of the above.

Another well-established reading of Revelation is that it is (at least from chapter 4 onwards) direct and literal prediction of cataclysmic events yet ahead of us, culminating in the second coming of Jesus. The most fundamental criticism of this reading is its failure to take seriously Revelation’s symbolic language, but its popular appeal is precisely in the simplicity of the ‘literal if possible’ hermeneutical approach and the detailed eschatology that this produces.

This paper explores the capacity of a typological understanding of Revelation to combine some of the strengths of these divergent readings. Viewing Rome and Emperor as types with future antitypes relies on sensitivity to Revelation’s polyvalent symbolism whilst affirming the specificity of its eschatological prediction. It will be suggested that a typological reading is already invited in the way that Revelation and the rest of the New Testament employ typology as a primary means of interpreting and appropriating the Hebrew Bible.

 

Dr Ian Paul

The sources, structure and composition of Revelation

Session 2

Garrick V Allen (University of St Andrews)

The Process of Changing Texts

An oft overlooked question in the discussion surrounding the reuse of scriptural traditions in the book of Revelation is that of the author’s techniques of reuse—the mechanic by which a source text is altered in the process of incorporation into a new work and co-textual environment (target text). These alterations include quantitative adjustment (omission, expansion) and other qualitative elements (morphology, syntactic alterations, possible translation issues, lexical or synonym substitution, serial alteration, phonological play, etc.). The purpose of this essay is to examine examples of John’s techniques of reuse by noting surface feature divergence between allusions to the Hebrew Bible embedded in the Apocalypse and the source tradition from whence the allusion came. The analysis will include examples where the author seems to reuse Hebrew texts and other where the Vorlage of allusions seems to reflect Greek scriptural text (OG/LXX). This approach is fruitful because it takes into account the textual complexity of John’s allusions and provides comparisons that allow is to ascertain if John approached his Greek and Hebrew Vorlagen consistently in terms of techniques of reuse. The main outcome of this study is a brief catalogue of techniques of reuse that can readily be compared to similar instances of reuse in the literature of Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.

 

The Testimony of Jesus and the Spirit of Prophecy in the Apocalypse of John and in Early Christianity

Recurring discussions concerning the grammar of the final sentence of Apoc. 19.10, ‘... the testimony of/to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’, have created a false dichotomy in which one is pressed to decide whether Ἰησοῦ in the phrase ἡ μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ is to be taken as an objective or a subjective genitive. We should, rather, not force ourselves into a dilemma that excludes an identification of this testimony not only with Jesus, but also with prophets. That is, the ‘testimony borne by Jesus’ (subjective genitive) is equated with the ‘spirit of prophecy’, in the sense that Jesus is thought to witness through the spirit of prophecy, and therefore through those regarded as ‘prophets’, so that the words of the prophets can be identified as the words of Jesus.

That this concept is not merely a grammatically possible interpretation of the final sentence of 19.10, but reflects the very understanding of the author is reinforced by 22.9, a parallel passage in which ‘the words of this book’ correspond to ‘the testimony of Jesus’ in the antepenultimate sentence of 19.10. This parallel between the earlier sentences of 19.10, which also contain the phrase ‘the testimony of Jesus’, and 22.9, which refers to ‘the prophets’, is far too seldom taken into consideration when assessing the meaning of the final sentence of 19.10. This paper examines the concept alluded to in these passages, not only in the immediate context of the Apocalypse, but in the broader context of early Christianity.

This understanding of the passage in the Apocalypse has a fundamental bearing on how one conceives of the ancient perception of early Christian prophets and prophecy; the transmission, modification and creation of Jesus traditions in the early church; and the creation of early Christian literature - such as the Apocalypse, but not least gospel literature.

 

Session 3

Demonic Symposia in the Apocalypse of John

Eating and drinking appears throughout the Apocalypse of John.  Positive references to meals with Jesus Christ in Rev 3:20 and 19:9 bracket a number of negative uses applied to demonic or satanic opponents.  Wedding imagery is an important context for interpreting the use of δεϊπνον in Revelation 19.  The Apocalypse also draws on the Jewish apocalyptic tradition of the eschatological meal or banquet.  But the demonic references to food and drink suggest an additional field for interpretation, the symposium or cena.  This paper will explore how the two “divine” meals in the Apocalypse are intentionally contrasted with the demonic symposia in the text, drawing on the Greco-Roman tradition of the “anti-symposium,” which function as part of the polemical parallelism in Revelation and John’s rhetorical attack on his opponents.

 

Group Discussion: Future trends in apocalyptic studies