2015 Book of Revelation

Session 1

Revelation: a dangerous Book?

Margaret Mytton 

Manchester School of Art

The Book of Revelation has rightly been called ‘…the great epic poetic work of the New Testament’ (Willis Barnstone 1999), and its rich and powerful content and symbolism has consoled, challenged and inspired Christians through the centuries.

The vivid, enigmatic nature of the text has also been the subject of much literal interpretation relating directly to the era in which it is read, appealing especially to those of a fundamentalist mindset. The violent God described in Rev Ch5 v2-7 and Ch19 v11-21 is at odds with that of most of the rest of the NT, and in God and Empire, 2007, John Crossan raises the question:

Do you think that the scenario of the Jenkins-LaHaye’s Left Behind series could be derived as easily from the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount as from Jesus in the Revelation of John?

The Book has had a direct appeal to unstable but charismatic individuals who have acted out their understanding of Revelation, sometimes leading to mass bloodshed; for example David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in Uganda, the Order of the Solar Temple, and the Heaven’s Gate millenarian group. In addition, the text has been appropriated by individuals of other religions and cultures, such as Shoko Asahara’s Aum Shinriko group in Tokyo and Hong Xiuquan’s Heavenly Kingdom in China, the latter resulting in the deaths of at least twenty million people.

With China poised within 15 years to overtake the USA in having the largest population of Christians in the world, most belonging to the underground House Church movement which espouses a literal interpretation of Revelation, it is an opportune time to consider John Crossan’s question in relation to the Book’s wider use and influence, especially in relation to the USA and to China, and to question also how fundamentalist interpretations may be addressed by Biblical scholarship.

Unleashing the Whore and reading Revelation 17 affectively

Michelle Fletcher 

King's College London

The whore of Babylon has a troubling past, to say the least. Ever since her literary conception she has provoked her readers to see their enemies in her place and be affected by her gruesome destruction. Recent scholarly trends have sought to pinpoint her first century referent and  place appropriate "controls" on her  affective properties. This has been done with particular focus on her relationship with OT texts, and through arguing which should and should not be heard in the image. This paper examines the impact of these textual controls on her interpretation, and then moves on to re-examine how she can be read when they are removed. To do this it creates a dialogue with another affective text: Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West. Both of these texts are constructed from borrowed intonations, and offer their readers a textual fabric of imitation, combination and exaggeration. Both texts use the notion of trope and expectation to affect their audiences. Through exploring these similarities and tensions with past textual experiences this paper asks how the violence portrayed in these two texts impacts the audience. It then offers a way of re-reading the destruction of whore of Babylon which affirms the violence and its disturbing properties, whilst also allowing the audience to reflect on the textual experience in light of the past. Ultimately, it demonstrates how watching Henry Fonda kill a child can offer insights into what it is like to watch the whore be burnt, stripped, and devoured.

Session 2

The Greek Text of Revelation and the Editio Critical Maior

Garrick V. Allen 

University of St Andrews

The Institut für Septuaginta und biblische Textforschung at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel is currently in the process of constructing a new Greek critical edition of the book of Revelation, with the hope that the edition will be available in 2023. The main text of the new edition and a condensed version of its apparatus will eventually become the text printed in the Nestle-Aland edition. This paper serves as a progress report, describing the various stages of the project, demystifying the process of editing an edition, and presenting an overview of the manuscript tradition of Revelation and its various text types. Additionally, we highlight the importance of this long-term project for numerous areas of critical concern in Apocalypse studies, including textual history, exegesis and interpretation, reception history, Byzantine art history, and scribal practices. The Editio Critica Maior project is an almost exclusively German enterprise and we hope to raise awareness of continental Apocalypse research in the Anglophone world.

The literary function of the 'Open Heaven' Motif (with focus on Revelation)

Hallur Mortensen 

Durham University

While the 'open heaven' motif occurs in multiple biblical and para-biblical texts, there have been made surprisingly few attempts to analyse the typical function of this literary feature. This paper will seek to address this question by examining a number of representative examples, which are varied in terms of their date, provenance, and genre. These are: Ezekiel, 3 Maccabees, Joseph and Aseneth, and Revelation.

It will be argued that at its most basic level, the motif serves to introduce a 'revelation'. This can take a variety of forms, including that of 'vision', 'audition', or 'heavenly journey'. Furthermore, it will also be proposed that this motif usually functions strategically in the text in which it is found, whether in relation to divine intervention, calling, conversion, heavenly journeys, ascension/resurrection, or gnostic salvation. Since not all relevant texts can be examined in detail in this paper, a selection has been made with a particular focus on the book of Revelation. It will be shown that the motif has a two-fold function in this book, yet both are strategic in different ways: First as a literary motif that opens up the remainder of the book, and secondly as the climax of God's intervention in the world.

Session 3

The Chester Beatty Papyrus of Revelation and its Egyptian Friend: Preliminary Remarks on the Affinities of P47 and the Sahidic

Peter Malik 

University of Cambridge

In his seminal work on the textual history of Revelation, Josef Schmid focused primarily on the Greek witnesses, amongst which he identified four distinct textual groupings: A C, 

Group Discussion – ‘Show and Tell’

Group members are invited to offer short comment on recent scholarship on The Book of Revelation that they have engaged with in the course of their personal research. This might include books, articles, conference reports, or forthcoming publications from members of the group.