Book of Revelation 2019 Programme

The Book of Revelation Chairs: Michelle Fletcher and Garrick Allen

Session One

Garrick V. Allen, Dublin City University, ‘Revelation, the Canon of the New Testament, and Greek Manuscripts’

The place of Revelation within the canon of the New Testament is a complex question, especially when we consider its mixed reception in eastern Christian traditions. In response to this situation, significant critical has been exerted in analysing ancient ‘canon lists’ and explicit discussions of Revelation’s ‘authenticity’ or ‘acceptability’ in ancient sources. Scholars have also analysed the bibliographic context of the earliest manuscripts, focusing on the early papyri and pandect codices to better understand the canonical rhetoric of these artefacts. However, the bibliographic context of Revelation’s medieval manuscripts—the period in which most of Revelation’s extant Greek were produced—has never been explored as a way to better understand Revelation’s place within the larger collections of the New Testament. When we extend our purview beyond the fifth century, we see that Revelation’s Greek manuscripts preserve two concurrent streams of transmission: one in which Revelation is transmitted alongside other ‘canonical’ works and another where Revelation is unbound from any concrete connection to the New Testament. This finding has consequences for how we conceive of the canon and Revelation’s place within it.

Martina Vercesi, University of St Andrews, ‘Revelation 19–21 in North African Authors before the Age of Constantine: A First Stage of Exegesis’

This paper will provide some new observations on the early church reception of Revelation 19–21. First of all, it should be noticed that the textual transmission of these chapters is very deficient; at the present, in fact, we do not possess any papyrus witness and the most ancient Greek manuscript that retains their text is Codex Sinaiticus (IV century). Moreover, also the Latin text transmission lacks important witnesses; Codex Bezae does not have Revelation, and the earliest manuscript that retains its Old Latin form, the Fleury Palimpsest, stops at Rev 16:5.

Significantly, an important tradition of exegesis of Revelation could be found in North African authors (T.W. Mackay, Early Christian Exegesis of the Apocalypse). In these Christian communities, in fact, the Book of Revelation played a crucial role not only as far as the interpretation is concerned, but also related to the consequences that its interpretation had in the ecclesial practice.

Through the analysis of the text and the reception of Revelation 19–21 in the first North African authors (Tertullianus, Cyprianus, Lactantius) and the accounts of martyrdom, this paper attempts to provide an account of the early Roman Africa Latin tradition of these three chapters of Revelation. Through this analysis it is also be possible to shed new light on the most ancient text of this section.

Finally, this paper could also give the chance to reflect on the significance of the eschatological theme in these communities by considering the changes of the interpretation which would occur later on with Augustine theology which would provide a radical change of perspectives of these chapters.

Ian Paul, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA, USA, ‘Writing a Commentary on Revelation’

Last year I had my commentary on Revelation published, a medium length (144,000 words!) non-specialist work. But it raised for me a range of academic, textual and personal questions. Where do commentaries sit in relation to academic study of the text? How does taking a broad approach to the whole book compare with specialist study of particular sections, themes or features? And what effect does it have on reading to have to form a view on every passage, and put all those views out to public scrutiny?

Session Two

W. Gordon Campbell, Union Theological College, ‘Spirit, Seven Spirits and Anti-spirits in the Apocalypse’

 This paper attempts to understand the Spirit, spirits and anti-spirits in Revelation in context of the book’s evolving narrative logic. In interaction with recent scholarly discussion of Revelation’s pneumatology, the relevant materials from Revelation are discussed and interpreted under four heads: ‘the seven spirits’ (Rev 1:4-5; 3:1; 4:5; 5.6); ‘in the Spirit’ (Rev 1:10-11; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10); ‘the Spirit of prophecy and eschatological Spirit’ (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 11:3, 6-7, 10; 14:13; 19:10; 22:17); and ‘Anti-spirit’/’demonic spirits’ (13:11-18; 16:13-14; 19:20; 20:10). In integrating these texts under the title rubric, an account is offered of the book’s particular (S/s)pirit-talk as constituting a significant element of its discourse, and—presupposing Revelation’s overall coherence—as one intelligible and impactful leitmotif (among others) that impinges on the audience’s appreciation of Revelation as a whole. Some consideration is also given to implications for everyday life and witness that the audience might have drawn from their exposure to Revelation (and especially its message concerning the Spirit, spirits and anti-spirits), in context of corporate worship.

Miles Tradewell, University of St Andrews, ‘Solomon’s Reign in 1 Kings 1–11 as a Contributing Source to John’s Babylon the Great’

John’s characterisation of Babylon the Great (18:2-20) is clearly the product of extensive scriptural reuse. Among a host of possible allusions, scholars have consistently recognised his use of Ezekiel 27, describing Tyre’s international trade in various commodities. Richard Bauckham’s influential study also demonstrates a correspondence between the cargos that John mentions and the trappings of imperial affluence, thereby advancing the claim that Revelation 18 is primarily an economic critique of Rome. However, much of the language of Revelation 17–18 indicates that the city of Jerusalem may somehow also be in view; John appears to echo numerous prophetic indictments of the people of God and the holy city. Nonetheless, this possibility has often been rejected, on account of the relative insignificance of first century Jerusalem, compared with the grandeur that John attributes to Babylon the Great. Ian Paul is surely right that Jerusalem in John’s day could hardly be described as ruler over the kings of the earth, a centre of luxury and wealth, or the head of a global sea trade (TNTC, 201). Yet, we should not overlook the possibility that John is alluding to a different era, as these very features are the distinctive characteristics of Jerusalem during Solomon’s reign. The book of Kings depicts numerous commodities listed by John (18:12-13) flowing in and out of Solomon’s Jerusalem, and the king is portrayed as the dominant monarch of the region. Aside from a few notable exceptions (e.g. Iain Provan; Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther), scholars of the Apocalypse have rarely proposed echoes of Kings in Revelation 17–18. I consider the ways in which John’s depiction of Babylon may intentionally echo the reign of Solomon. If so, this could bring greater nuance to the text, sharpening its rhetorical effect in line with the wider intentions of the book.

Charlotte Naylor Davis TBC, ‘“The Holy Whore”: The Efforts to Reclaim Babylon the Great in Modern Witchcraft and Subcultural Sexual Expression in Discussion with the Text Itself’

The ‘whore’ of Babylon has been used as an idol for many movements, but usually she stays as a negative representation of power that is corrupt, and must be torn down. However in Occult writings and she has become positive symbol (of a particular type of positive femininity). Peter Grey’s work in the realm of modern witchcraft leans heavily on the image of Babylon as goddess to be reclaimed; Camille Paglia, the controversial ‘feminist’ author has too cited Babylon as a ‘whore’ whose power should be reclaimed. There is also a leaning in heavy metal subculture to raise up the image of the ‘whore of babylon’ as a fetishized symbol to be praised. One of the most interesting issues in the language of such reclamation is that the patriarchal judgements of ‘whoredom’ and on ‘female sexuality’ remain. Any political meaning of Babylon and what she represents is edged out, but the sexual nature of her image is brought to the fore—penetration and power the language in which she is discussed. This paper will discuss the pervasive nature of patriarchal interpretation on the later reception and usage of Babylon as a symbol of subversion in subcultural expressions. I will discuss the language of the text of Revelation, recent scholarship, and its implications for (mis)interpretation in these subcultural spaces.

Session Three

Review Panel of Paul Middleton’s The Violence of the Lamb: Martyrs as Agents of Divine Judgement in the Book of Revelation

Alison Jack, University of Edinburgh; Simon Woodman, Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church; W. Gordon Campbell, Union Theological College; Meredith Warren, University of Sheffield; Paul Middleton, University of Chester