2018 Book of Revelation

Session 1

The Lamb and the Rider on the White Horse: Exploring the Paradox of Revelation 19 via Visual Interpretation

Natasha O’Hear 

University of St Andrews

The Rider on the White Horse narrative of Revelation 19. 11-21 is the second time within the text that we encounter Christ in personified form (rather than as the Lamb of Revelation 5, 7, 14 and 19.6-10). These two encounters with the personified Christ thus constitute something of a frame around the main narrative. The sharp sword protruding from the mouth of both figures serve as the linking motif. In Rev. 19.11-21 however this figure (the Rider) is presented as a Messianic warrior associated with judgement and war. How is this to be squared with the sacrificial, almost passive figure of the Lamb? Working from within the framework of visual reception history, this paper will explore the interpretative nuances and exegetical possibilities of this passage via a series of four carefully chosen images. The first image (from the 13th Century Lambeth Apocalypse) is a relatively straightforward depiction of the Rider as messianic warrior while the second, from The Flemish Apocalypse presents both the Lamb and the Rider within the same image, thus allowing the aforementioned interpretative juxtaposition to stand, but doing little to resolve it. The final two images by mid-twentieth-century artist Max Beckmann and contemporary tapestry designer, Irene Barberis prioritise different, sometimes surprising elements of the Rev. 19.11-21 sequence. When taken as a comparative group of images, the similarities and contrasts that arise help to shine new light back onto the ‘source text’ and its inherent interpretative challenges. 

This Is The End: Rape Jokes, Sexual Violence, and Empire in Revelation and Apocalyptic Film

Meredith Warren 

University of Sheffield

The Book of Revelation is one of the most borrowed-from texts of the New Testament when it comes to popular culture. Our ideas of an apocalypse in our time come straight from John's Apocalyptic visions. The apocalyptic comedy This Is The End (2013) not only invokes imagery from Revelation but also adapts portions of the text in its portrayal of the end times. However, it also replicates and expands upon the sexual violence found in Revelation as a means of punishment. This paper will examine the mechanisms of sexual violence in Revelation as they are interpreted in This Is The End. I will argue that in the same way that Revelation imagines itself as challenging the status quo that is the Roman Empire and yet reinforces violence against women as normative, the rape jokes in This Is The End (even ones that purport to invert narratives) prop up a system in which sexual violence is understood as deserved punishment. 

Vision and Audition in the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is routinely described as a ‘vision’ or vision report—but in fact nearly 45% of the text is actually a report of what John heard and not what he saw. In fact, the combination of what John ‘heard and saw’ (Rev 22.8) is characteristic of Johannine testimony language. The epexegetical nature of the interplay between what is heard and seen is often noted in relation to individual passages (such as at Rev 7.9), but what are the wider implications of the interrelationship between the vision reports and the audition reports? Why is the auditory material not often recognised as such? How does it compare with other apocalyptic literature? And what implications does it have for our understanding of the early reception of this text?

Session 2

Discerning the Plot of John’s Apocalypse: Revelation as a Five Act Drama

Helen Morris 

Moorlands College

The structure of Revelation has been much debated, with seemingly as many proposals as there are Revelation scholars. The recent emphasis, by those such as Barr and Resseguie, on Revelation’s narrative nature has proved profitable in establishing Revelation’s unity as a single drama, in turn shedding light on its message. This paper agrees that Revelation’s structure is best understood as a dramatic plot but disagrees as to this plot’s shape. In contrast to Barr’s ‘three interrelated tellings of the story of Jesus’, this paper argues that Revelation’s plot accords with Freytag’s Five Act schema. At the beginning, the main characters are introduced and the key question established: God’s plans will be accomplished; how these plans unfold is the subject of the book’s remainder (1-5). This is followed by rising tension (6-12). Partial judgements flow from the opening of the seals. The martyred believers’ dissatisfaction is evidenced by their ‘how long’ lament. Further tension is created by ambiguity regarding the effectiveness of these judgements. Those aligned against God do not repent, or do they? The true nature of evil is revealed, and defeated, but wages war against the lamb’s followers. How successful the dragon’s war will be is yet to be revealed. At the centre is the climax of this tension, and turning point of the book (13). The beast appears victorious. ‘All people worship the beast’ and those who refuse are excluded from economic transactions. This climax is followed by falling tension as evil, in all its different guises, is defeated (14-20). The end of Revelation contains the resolution; God’s plans are finalised and the lamb’s victory fully realised (21-22). John’s message? Though the beast appears to prosper, reading the narrative in light of this five-fold structure, emphasises that his downfall, and the vindication of the lamb’s followers, is assured.

The Common Authorship of Revelation and John

Christopher Shell 

The present paper brings several new reasons for affirming this minority position as well as seeking to address the counter-arguments more convincingly.

Author

The finest modern treatments of the gospel's authorship (Hengel and Bauckham) conclude for John the Elder; Gunther concludes the same for Revelation. It is not clear that positing a separate 'John the Prophet' (who has so much in common with the Elder) is neater. Also, both works could have a similar heading 'Testimony of John', should Jn 1.19 have a double-meaning.

Distinctiveness of Similarities

The two works overlap in at least four very distinctive ways: simplicity of Greek; conceptual world (Minear, 'The Lamb of John'); intricacy of structuring; abrupt transitions and non sequiturs caused by 'boxed' nature of structuring. I argue that the structuring is in each case too intricate not to be on the basis of a pre-planned grid. But if the two works have two tailor-made pre-planned grids engendered by two separate original unified conceptions (and suitable to two separate genres), those two grids are bound to generate different sorts of content (e.g., treatment of the Spirit; overall pace of narrative) to some extent. Hence the much-publicised differences between the two works. 

Macrostructural Features

(a) Farrer already saw one sole hand in the 'rhythm' (e.g., numerical/sevenfold structuring) of the two works.

(b) Both the Gospel and the trumpets/bowls have been viewed as being ordered according to the creation days.

(c) Both structures become more puzzling two-thirds of the way through - we explain this by a shared cruciformity.

(d) The two large-scale centrepieces (the woes; final day of Tabernacles) have, I propose, a similar structure.

(e) The threefold identity Lamb - Man - King is identically ordered in the Revelation appearances of Jesus and the Gospel's 'Behold' sayings (and the events of the Triduum also celebrate it).

(f) Finally, it's proposed that the same seven feasts or ceremonies are spread across the seven sections of each work.

Imaging the Divine Dwelling: Tent & Temple in the Apocalypse and the Venerable Bede

A number of metaphors evoking the sacred space of heaven shift and blend in the Apocalypse. Differing architectural models – of temple and tent (naos and skēnē) (Rev 3:12 & 15:5, respectively) – are alternately foregrounded as the thought-world varies in this visionary narrative between heaven envisaged as the definitive original of the Exodus tabernacle and heaven re-imagined as a vibrant alter-ego of the temple in Jerusalem. Interconnecting both of these models is the living, animate force of the divine dwelling: it is the worshippers in the heavenly sanctuary (angelic and righteous together) who constitute the sacred space of the divine. They do not worship in a temple so much as they are the temple (cf. Rev 13:6). At the close, in Rev 21-22, the text’s Christological emphasis underlines its definitive animated image of the divine: the Lord and the lamb together is the living naos of God, the locus of God’s own presence (Rev 21:22).

This paper will attempt to tease-out some of the multi-layered richness of the Apocalypse’s imagery of the divine dwelling, principally the architectural models of tent and temple, sensitive to the text’s own spiritual/prophetic hermeneutic (pneumatikōs) (cf. Rev 11:8). To aid in this exegetical task, the Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) will be called-upon as an esteemed dialogue partner given his unrivalled credentials as the most sustained, sensitive and original exegete of ‘tent’ and ‘temple’ amongst patristic/medieval commentators: St Bede, On the Tabernacle, On the Temple, On Ezra and Nehemiah, The Art of Poetry and Rhetoric and On the Apocalypse (cf. Conor O’Brien, Bede’s Temple: An Image and Its Interpretation, (Oxford, OUP, 2015)). To what extent might Bede’s nuanced allegorical, tropological and anagogical interpretations of ‘tent’ and ‘temple’ inform a sensitive pneumatikōs exegesis of these images of the divine dwelling in the Apocalypse?

Session 3

Epistolary Antecedents in the letter to the Seven Churches

Anthony Royle 

Dublin City University

The letter to the seven churches in Revelation is imbedded with numerous references to Israel’s Scripture. The author evokes characters, events, and themes in his use of rhetoric mainly through allusions and one informal citation (Psalm 2:8-9 in Rev 2:26-27). Some of the imagery and references are used throughout the Apocalypse providing a key component to interpreting the book of Revelation. An analysis of the antecedents in the letter to the seven churches displays variant textual forms (i.e. change of tense, verbal omissions, insertions), and diversity in meaning with other uses in the book (compare Psalm 2:8-9 in Rev 12:5 and 19:15). It is thought that some of these references rely on earlier Christian uses while serving as an intertextual link with early Christian literature and their interlocutors. Furthermore, scholars have also detected the use of Paulinisms in the Apocalypse which indicates an awareness of earlier Christian epistolography. This paper investigates the author of Revelation’s use of these antecedents and their compilation in light of citation practices in Greco-Roman epistolography by comparing the circular letter to the seven churches with various corpuses complied by Pliny the Younger, Cicero, and Seneca. This comparison will highlight the extent of the milieu of early Christian epistolography and the use of antecedents in the Apocalypse.

Wilson Bento 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The scene of the Rider in John of Patmos’ vision in chapter 19:11-21 has been the subject of

discussion in terms of its function in the overall structure of the book, being classified by some scholars as an interruption in the narrative. Although research has been done dealing with the relationship between the nuptial theme and the overall war theme, the role of the rider remains undefined in the overall plot. Ultimately, the attempts to understand the structure of the book leads us to question whether it is possible to see a coherent flow within the text in this section. The purpose of this paper is to fulfill this gap of research by analyzing, through the lens of literary criticism, the culminating aspect of the Rider through his characterization as well as his interaction with all the settings presented in the scene. This culminating aspect will be fundamental to understand the flow of the plot as the Rider becomes a crucial element for the resolution of the conflict as well as the inauguration of the wedding.

Interesting Margins

Garrick Allen 

Dublin City University

This paper comprehensively explores marginal comments on Rev 13:18 in its Greek manuscripts, analysing what these comments say about the potential functionalities of digital editions of the New Testament.