Timothy B. Sailors, University of Tübingen, ‘The Creation & Interpolation of a New Sentence in the Earliest Transmission of the Apocalypse’
The final sentence of Apocalypse 19:10, in the form of text most widely preserved, comprises the perplexing formula ἡ γὰρ μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ ἐστιν τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς προφητείας (“For the testimony of/to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”). Any attempt to understand how the statement fits into this section of the book of Revelation and relates to other ideas in the work, as well as what these words meant to the earliest audiences of the Apocalypse, requires an analysis of the place of this passage within the literary context of the writing as a whole. Fortunately, this verse in chapter 19 is paralleled by verses in chapter 22, allowing a side-by-side comparison that throws light on the redactional history of the Apocalypse. Indeed, such an investigation raises fundamental questions about this final sentence: Did it even appear in the most ancient, but now lost, forms of the book? Was the larger block of which it is a part merely added by a redactor? Or is the sentence itself simply an early gloss that has been interpolated into the text? These are demanding questions, easy answers to which are not forthcoming. This paper, however, systematically presents the extant evidence that may aid in resolving these issues, particularly the important and unique witness of the ancient Armenian translation of the Apocalypse. Together, these data suggest that the final sentence of Apocalypse 19:10 is the product of a comparison between two parallel passages in the Apocalypse, was only added at a somewhat later point in time during the transmission of the text, but can nevertheless be understood within the context of early Christianity.
Rubin McClain, University of Glasgow, ‘The New Jerusalem and Greco-Roman City Founding: Revelation 19–21′
The new Jerusalem in Revelation 21 utilizes Greco-Roman conceptions of city founding. This includes the references to flying birds overhead (Rev 19:17), the measurements of the city (Rev 21:15–21), and other key components of imagery within the city (Rev 21:22–22:5). The logic of founding myths operates as the framework for the description of the new Jerusalem that conveys a message of expectation for the future. This description also creates a contrast between the new heavenly city and Rome. For the author, the new Jerusalem in chapters 19 and 21 is a foundation myth that both asserts the superiority of the new city over against the most dominant empire in his day and illuminates hope for a future where peace, goodness, and justice reign. City founding is therefore a critical and widespread phenomenon that undergirds this interpretation.
Kristi Lee, University of Minnesota, ‘Traumatized Anger on the Woman’s Body: The Woman Babylon in the Revelation of John’
While the gendered body of the “Whore of Babylon” narrativized in Revelation 17 and 18 can be understood as a literary construct, it can also be understood as belonging to a “real” fleshly woman. The Woman Babylon is a symbol of empire at the same time as a woman with whom readers can identify and frame within their respective gendered cultural understandings. John uses the Woman as the conceptual background onto which he projects traumatized anger and amplifies Jewish masculine power. Engagement with postcolonial theory and trauma theory illuminates the dynamic presentation of feminine agency and passivity within the overtly masculine discourse of Revelation. In the face of the traumas of colonization and oppression from Rome and in the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, John envisions a renewal of Jewish identity through the violent destruction of its feminized enemies and through conceptualized control and annihilation of the Woman’s body and sexuality.
Olga Vasiloglou, University of Aberdeen, ‘Ambiguous voices in the Βook of Revelation’ The book of Revelation often depicts ambiguous voices that are not clearly attributed to a specific subject. For instance, in 19:6 John hears something that sounds both like a crowd, which earlier describes the people from every nation (Rev 7:9), and like rushing waters that, has earlier been used to describe the voice of the son of man (I:15). I will argue that this intermingling of the portrayal of voices indicates a process of theosis through unity with the divine. I will show how such ambiguous voices is the ground to understand the role of the human hymns and pleads in the book as a whole. This will be demonstrated, first, by examining the ways in which these descriptions of voices are the results of John’s recombination of sources; and second, by comparing Revelation to other texts, such as the Similitudes of Enoch that depicts earthly communities and their heavenly avatars (the son of man specifically).
Session 2: “Apocalypse & Environmentalism” and Invited Speaker (Friday Afternoon Time TBC)
Heather Macumber (Invited Speaker), Providence University College
Christian Sanchez, Baylor University, ‘Purifying Polluted Space: Rev 15–16’
For most persons in first-century Asia Minor, polluted spaces required a bloody response. This paper argues that Rev 15–16 depicts a cosmic blood purification ritual in response to the earth’s pollution. The argument proceeds in three stages. To begin, it will be shown that Revelation 15–16 portrays a kind of blood ritual, bringing blood and temple together through ekphrasis. Then, by comparing common Jewish, Greek, and Roman ritual uses of blood in sacred spaces, it will be argued that John’s ekphrasis closely resembles contemporary blood purification rituals for sacred space. Applying these findings to Revelation’s narrative, this paper will show that place-pollution presents a dire issue throughout Revelation, especially as it relates to God’s presence on the earth. It is only after the cosmic blood purification ritual of Rev 15–16 that the earth’s polluting entities are eradicated (Rev 17–20). To conclude, this paper will investigate the theological relationship between the presentation and response to pollution in Revelation to today’s environmental crisis.
Alan Garrow, University of Sheffield, ‘The Revelation Eruption’
A column of smoke that ascends more than twenty miles into the sky, circling electric storms, earthquakes, cascading torrents of super-heated ash, hails of pumice, deafening eruptive roars, the withdrawal of the sea prior to a tsunami, the stench of sulphur, the blotting out of the sun and, as time goes by, the colouring of the moon are all phenomena familiar to anyone who has studied a Plinian volcanic eruption – so called because this rare and deadly type was first described by Pliny the Elder after the eruption of Vesuvius on 24th August 79CE. This set of phenomena, albeit more colourfully described, will also be recognised by anyone familiar with the book of Revelation. In the light of these parallels, this paper argues that the imagery of Revelation is richly and directly informed by recent reports of the eruption of Vesuvius. This has consequences not only for our understanding of the relationship between the visions of Revelation and the events of history but also for our estimate of the date at which Revelation was composed
Session 3: Prize Session
Laura Smith, University of Birmingham, ‘”Searching the Hearts and Reins”: The Kidneys, Sexuality and Corporal Understanding in the Early Church’
In the modern western world, the kidneys are rarely discussed, unless we are aware of them in some pathological or medical sense, yet in ancient literature, depictions of the kidneys are frequent and infused with multi-layered and nuanced meanings. Whilst the Hebrew Bible has thirty references to the kidneys, there is only one in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, as part of a threat directed to the followers of the Jezebel. The specific reference to the kidneys as opposed to innards generally has been largely ignored in modern scholarship, this lack of interest is especially striking given the fact that later Christians make so much of them.
In this paper, I examine the reference to the kidneys in Revelation, tracing a motif of concern not only for the boundaries of the social body but also the internal body which employs language of extispicy and medical examination. In so doing, I elucidate not only the depiction of Jezebel, but also early Christian concepts of anthropology, corporeality, gender, and the eschatological body.