Session 1 is a joint with the New Testament: Use and Influence seminar.
“Every nation and tribe and language and people”: Revelation in UK perspective
Preface, pictures and printed text: reading Revelation with Martin Luther
Luther’s German translation of the New Testament was first printed and published in September 1522. The Reformer wrote a preface to the NT as a whole and others covering its constituent books; his short, dismissive Revelation preface was replaced by a substantially longer and more appreciative one by 1530. Finally, the September Testament also included a series of twenty-one woodcut engravings commissioned from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder; these, too, underwent subsequent modification, with minor changes for the second printing of December 1522 and more thorough revision later, especially for Luther’s whole German Bible from 1534 onwards.
At the interface between exegesis and impact history, this paper will reflect critically on two main issues: the interpretative guidance given to readers of the September Testament and its successors by a combination of text, illustration and commentary – a Reformation formula still current in today’s Study Bibles; and the accompanying evolution, from disparagement to a certain esteem, in Luther’s own attitude towards the Apocalypse – a controversial book that may nevertheless prove relevant, then as now.
Prince, the Book of Revelation, and the Erotic “End”
The popular musician Prince died on April 21st 2016. A talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, his lyrics address contemporary social injustices, sex, and religion. In particular, the Bible acts as a consistent source of lyrical inspiration for Prince across his career. In this paper, I want to especially explore the ways that Prince alludes to the Book of Revelation in his music. I suggest that Prince’s invocation of Revelation, and his broader interest in using biblical motifs, can be understood best when seen against the background of his upbringing in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. First, I will provide a brief biographical sketch of Prince’s early life, focussing particularly on his Seventh-Day Adventist faith and the use of the book of Revelation in that tradition. Second, I will focus on key songs where Prince alludes to the book of Revelation, in particular “1999” (1982), “Darling Nikki” (1984), “Positivity” (1988), and “7” (1992). In all of these instances, invocations of the book of Revelation are juxtaposed with erotic lyrics, closely tying the idea of the “End” with sexual fulfilment and climax. In the final section of this paper, I will thus explore how Prince’s sexualisation of Seventh-Day Adventist eschatology draws on and highlights the erotic nature of Revelation’s own imagery.
Rest from toil
Most commentators suggest that the “rest from toil” in Rev 14:13 refers to relief from the toil of enduring hardships of persecution. Based on the cultural and narrative contexts of the book of Revelation, this paper demonstrates that the “rest” in Rev 14:13 reflects both the two Jewish traditions of rest: (1) rest from work; and (2) rest from enemies, which took on eschatological overtones during the Second Temple period. Therefore, other than the common understanding above, this paper proposes that this “rest from toil” also carries a strong connotation of victory over their persecutors—a significant point that has been neglected. This reading has important implications for understanding John’s rhetorical strategy of multiplying the motivations needed to persuade his readers/hearers to remain faithful to Christ, even in the face of death.
“Sweet in the Mouth and Bitter in the Stomach”: The Book of Revelation and the Northern Ireland Troubles
In the history of Northern Ireland, the Book of Revelation has been decisively constitutive of evangelical identity, particularly during the ‘Troubles.’ The apocalyptic notion of a zero-sum conflict between Good and Evil carries a distinctive resonance with the way that many evangelicals interpreted the history of ‘Ulster.’ This article argues that end-times belief in Northern Ireland — like most other aspects of evangelical doctrine — was not solely a matter of pure theological conviction, but was mixed with an inchoate conglomeration of diverse, highly nuanced and occasionally contradictory religious, cultural and political presuppositions. By considering these diverse convictions through an analysis of evangelical interpretations of the Book of Revelation in light of the political context of the ‘Troubles,’ the aim is to yield important insights into how the interpretation of the Book of Revelation can affect the hermeneutical horizon of evangelical experience in a context of crisis and conflict.