Book of Revelation 2021 Programme

Chairs: Meredith Warren and Garrick Allen

Session 1

Timothy Tse, University of St Andrews, ‘The Great Tribulation as Space in Revelation’

Historically and in popular culture, Revelation has often been interpreted in light of eschatology and time, with the primary focus being on when the events depicted within them occur. While works like Christopher Rowland’s The Open Heaven have called the direct link between apocalyptic texts and eschatology into question, such insights have not been evenly applied to John’s Apocalypse. This paper will argue that John’s use of “great tribulation” in its various iterations (Rev 2:22, 7:14) depends far more on spatial categories than temporal ones. The verbs and prepositions1 applied to the “great tribulation” suggest spatial rather than temporal usage. The image of the saints standing in Rev 7:1-15 separates them from “everyone else” in 6:15, suggesting that the “great tribulation” they came out of was in some sense spatial. Spatial transition is moreover a common theme in Revelation: John consistently depicts the saints as being in a separate location from everyone else, such that “salvation” can be depicted as moving from one location to another (vis Rev 18:4). Consequently, in Revelation the “great tribulation” is another name for the narrative location of “everyone who is not a saint,” just like the “earth,” Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt.

Martina Vercesi, University of Glasgow, ‘“You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man”: The relationship between John’s Writings and the Jewish Apocalyptic Tradition’

While among the writings attributed to John, the book of Revelation presents a strong influence of the apocalyptic texts, the study of the relationship between Apocalyptic and the Gospel of John has gained much interest only recently (Frey, 2013). Following this direction, this paper will offer the opportunity to investigate how the themes of the Jewish apocalyptic world have been shared in the broad Johannine literature. Is there a particular theme/idea which is present in all five writings? What apocalyptic framework do they present? In order to attempt to answer these questions, the analysis will concentrate not as much on the text (that is verbatim agreements) but rather on the hermeneutic and the images which could be retrieved. This study provides the opportunity to reflect on the reception and interpretation of a selection of apocalyptic themes found in the Johannine corpus. Further, it might also lead to re-consider whether there could be any relationship between those five writings attributed to the same apostle.

Nathan Betz, KU Leuven, ‘Why did Origen spiritualize the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21–22), and what does this mean for us? An intertextual and historical-critical adventure’

Long before Revelation declined in the popularity polls among eastern Christian theologians, Origen engaged in a sustained spiritualizing and de-historicizing reading of one of its most recognizable and influential figures, the New Jerusalem (chs. 21–22). Many respected historians of early Christianity have argued—or even assumed—that Origen was the first to do this, and that by doing so he was thumbing his nose at a monolithic millenarian exegetical tradition vis-à-vis the New Jerusalem. In this paper, I challenge this point of view. Specifically, I look at the prior second-century Asian and Alexandrian traditions of interpreting the ancient Jewish prophecies of a restored city of Jerusalem and then build the case that Origen was in fact developing a rich and, more importantly, pre-Alexandrian spiritualizing exegetical tradition—a way of reading survives in the earliest preserved second-century Christian theological reflections on Revelation’s New Jerusalem (e.g.  Melito, Justin, Papias, and even Hermas). What is at stake? If Origen, by this revisionist reading, turns out to be preserving, sustaining, and developing a yet earlier Christian exegesis of this text, we now have a powerful new lens through which to look at these enigmatic last chapters of Revelation, and, perhaps more enticingly, a new perspective into what this re-contextualized text may tell us for our own times.

Cristian Cardozo, Adventist University of Colombia, Fabricating the Fall of Satan: Revelation 12:7-12 and its Interpretation in Early Christianity

Some interpreters understand Rev 12, 7-12 as a depiction of (1) a literal war between Michael and his army and Satan and his apostate angels that resulted in the subsequent expulsion of the latter from heaven prior to the creation of the world (2) Satan’s defeat (represented metaphorically as an expulsion) at Jesus’ death or (3) a combination of the previous options. Although this interpretation is common in contemporary exegetical works, early interpreters of Revelation explained these verses differently. This prompts the question of who were the innovative interpreters that articulated the contemporary explanation of the pericope? Accordingly, employing Wirkungsgeschichte as the methodology, in this paper I will argue that (1) Oecumenius was the first interpreter who understood Rev 12, 7-12 as a portrayal of a literal war between Michael and Satan which resulted in the expulsion of the devil from heaven due to his pride and apostasy (2) Oecumenius did not reach this conclusion by exegeting Rev 12, 7-12. Rather, he connected traditional patristic exegesis and reflection over Satan – condensed mainly on interpretations of texts like Ezek 28, 11-19; Isaiah 14, 12-17 and Luke 10, 18 – with Rev 12. (3) Andrew of Caesarea not only replicated Oecumenius’ exegesis of the pericope but argued that this passage also portrayed Satan’s defeat at the cross of Jesus due to the influence of the patristic exegesis of John 12, 31 (4) Given that Andrew’s commentary was widely copied and widespread (whereas Oecumenius’ wasn’t), He is ultimately accountable for the dissemination of Oecumenius’ exegesis of this pericope as well as his own. (5) Therefore the earliest Greek commentators of Revelation are the responsible for the common trend of interpretation of Rev 12, 7-12 found in many contemporary exegetical works