The Oxford Handbook of the Book of Revelation 0190655437, 9780190655433

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The Oxford Handbook of the Book of Revelation
 0190655437, 9780190655433

Table of contents :
The Oxford Handbook of The Book of Revelation
List of Contributors
Chapter 1: Introduction to Revelation’s Social Setting, Theological Perspective, and Literary Design
1. The Writer’s Identity and Social Setting
The Writer’s Social Setting and Time Frame
2. Social Patterns and the Readers of Revelation
Conflict with Those Outside the Community
Internal Disputes over Accommodation of Greco-Roman Religious Practices
Wealth and Complacency
3. Revelation’s Theological Perspectives and Imagery
God, the Lamb, the Witnesses, and New Jerusalem
Satan, the Beast, the False Prophet, and Babylon
4. The Literary Structure and Movement of Revelation
The First Three Cycles (Rev 1:9–11:18)
The Last Three Cycles (11:19–22:5)
5. Conclusion
Part I: Literary Features of the book of Revelation
Chapter 2: The Genre of the Book of Revelation
Revelation as an Apocalypse
Revelation as a Letter
Revelation as a Prophecy
Chapter 3: Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation
Revelation’s Masterplot
Characters and Characterization
Architectural and Topographical Settings
Numerical Symbolism
Chapter 4: Imagery in the Book of Revelation
Different Types of Figurative Speech
From Word Pictures to a Symphony of Images
The Multifaceted Background of the Images
Function and Effect of the Imagery
Impacts on the History of Reception
Chapter 5: Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation
Introduction: Revelation as a “Rhetorical” Text
John’s Principal Rhetorical Goals
John’s Construction of Authority (Ethos)
John’s Appeals to the Emotions (Pathos)
Appeals to Rational Argument (Logos) in Revelation
Chapter 6: The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation
The Language of John’s Allusions
John’s Use of Particular Old Testament Books
Ezekiel’s Throne Vision and Call Narrative
Lament over Tyre (Ezek 26–27)
Establishment of the New Jerusalem
Selected Passages
The Inaugural Vision (Rev 1:12–16)
The Lion and the Lamb (Rev 5:5–6)
War in Heaven (Rev 12:7–12)
The Song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev 15:3–5)
Common Themes
Worship God Alone
New Exodus
God’s Abiding Presence
Chapter 7: Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language
Revelation’s “Unique” Grammar
The Relationship of Revelation’s Greek to First-Century Culture
Revelation’s Grammatical Incongruities and Interpretation of Their Significance
Overview of Apparent Grammatical Incongruities
Theories about the Cultural Location of Revelation’s Greek
The Coherence of Revelation’s Greek
Developments in Method
From Grammatical Incongruities to Common Linguistic Forms
Revelation’s Language as Common First-Century Greek
Chapter 8: The Hymns in Revelation
Hymnic Genre
Connections with Hymnic Forms in Early Judaism/Christianity
Contents of Hymns
Functions of Hymns
Structural Value
Sovereignty of God
Vice-Regency of the Lamb
Anti-imperial Theology and Christology
Casting the Surrounding Visions into a Theological and/or Christological Context
Further Reading
Part II: Social Setting
Chapter 9: Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor
Approaches Focused on Emperors, Persecution, and Imperial Cult
Imperial Cult
Broadening the Focus to More Complex Modes of Interaction: Cultural Accommodation and Socioeconomic Participation
Gender Presentations: Imitating Rome to Condemn Rome
Ecological Readings
Chapter 10: Relationships among Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities in First-Century Asia Minor
Tensions and Conflicts between Jews and Christ-Believers in First-Century Asia Minor
Relationships among Jews and Christ-Believers in the Book of Revelation
Identity Formation in the Book of Revelation: Redefining the People of God
Chapter 11: Greco-Roman Religions and the Context of the Book of Revelation
Religio and the Ties That Bind
Cult, Commerce, and Culture in the Temple
Imperial Cult
Feasting, Fornicating, and Fighting
Chapter 12: John’s Apocalypse in Relation to Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity in Asia Minor
Christianity in Asia Minor
Revelation and the Seven Congregations
Differing Viewpoints within the Seven Congregations
The Nicolaitans
Pauline and Johannine Christianity
Pauline Churches in Asia Minor and Revelation
Johannine Christianity and Revelation
The Spectrum of Christian Readers Envisioned by Revelation
Acculturation, Assimilation, Accommodation
Disputed Questions
Whether It Was Acceptable to Eat Food Sacrificed to Idols
Attitudes toward Imperial Rule
Community Life
Material Possessions
Leadership and Authority
Part III: Theologt and Ethics
Chapter 13: God in the Book of Revelation
I. Who Is God? The Variety of Perspectives
II. The Name of God: Tetragrammaton and Kyrios
III. Designations of God: He who is, the Creator, Iaō and AŌ, Father, and Pantokratōr
IV. God in the Narrative: The Enthroned One, Unique Against the Foreign Gods, Saving and Judging
V. Conclusions
Chapter 14: Jesus in the Book of Revelation
Variety of Descriptors for Jesus
Anti-imperial Christology in Revelation
Jesus as Lamb (Arnion)
The Import of the Lamb’s Execution
Is the Characterization of Jesus as Lamb Ethical?
Chapter 15: The Spirit in the Book of Revelation
“The Seven Spirits” (of God)
The Seven Spirits as Angelic Beings
The Seven Spirits as the Singular Spirit of God
“I Was in the Spirit”
“In the Spirit” as a Literary/Structural Marker
“In the Spirit” and John’s Experience of the Spirit
“In the Spirit” and Writing in the Spirit: Literary Fiction or Expression of the Church’s Spiritual Experience
The Spirit of Prophecy
The “Spirit of Prophecy” and the Question of Genre
“The Witness of Jesus and the Spirit of Prophecy”
The “Spirit of Prophecy” and the Phenomenon of Prophecy in the Church
The “Spirit of Prophecy” and Pneumatic Witness
The “Spirit of Prophecy” and Pneumatic Discernment
The Spirit and Jesus
Chapter 16: Creation and New Creation in the Book of Revelation
New Creation in Jewish Context
Creation and New Creation in the Hebrew Bible
Creation and New Creation in Second Temple Apocalyptic Literature
Creation and New Creation in Rhetorical Context
Creation and New Creation in the Book of Revelation
The Language of Creation
Creation and New Creation in Chapters 1–20
Creation as a Testimony to the Glory of God
The Suffering of Creation
The Transference of Sovereignty over the Earth
New Creation in Chapters 21–22
The Initial Vision of the New Creation: Revelation 21:1–8
The New Jerusalem and the New Creation: Revelation 21:9–22:5
Chapter 17: Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation
The War of Good versus Evil in Revelation
Evil and the Social Context of Revelation
Clarifying Evil in Revelation
Blurring Evil in Revelation
Defeating Evil in Revelation
Concluding Reflections
Chapter 18: Violence in the Apocalypse of John
The Scope of Violence
The Kinds of Violence
The Subjects and Objects of Violence
The Ethics of Violence
Immoral Actions
The Explanations of Violence
Real Violence
Metaphoric Violence
Chapter 19: The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem in Revelation
Reading Revelation’s City-Women with Scholars
The Ancient Personification of Cities and Nations as Women
The City-Women of Revelation
Babylon, the Great Whore and City
New Jerusalem, the Wife and Bride
Chapter 20: The People of God in the Book of Revelation
Slaves of God
Those Clothed in White
Part IV: History of Reception and Influence
Chapter 21: The Greek Text of Revelation
The Extant Manuscript Tradition
Mapping the Textual Tradition
The Textus Receptus: A Late Text of Revelation
Karl Lachmann: A New Foundation for the Text of Revelation—Codex Alexandrinus
Constantin von Tischendorf: The Recovery of Key Manuscripts for the Text of Revelation
Westcott and Hort: The Original Text of Revelation
Bernhard Weiss: Mapping an Early and Late Textual Tradition for Revelation
Wilhelm Bousset: The Reconstruction of the Andreas Textual Tradition of Revelation
Hermann von Soden: A Theory of Three Recensions for the Text of Revelation
Herman C. Hoskier: Comprehensive Collations, a Polyglot Theory, and New Textual Groupings for Revelation
Josef Schmid: The Four Major Text Forms of Revelation
Twenty-First Century Developments
Text und Textwert: A Re-examination of the Textual Tradition of Revelation
TuT and Schmid’s Studien: A Comparison of Apples and Oranges?
Further Reading
Chapter 22: Revelation and the New Testament Canon
Revelation’s Way into the Canon
Different Paradigms of Understanding and Revelation’s Role within the Canon
Revelation’s Continuing Significance within the Canon
Chapter 23: Reception History and the Interpretation of Revelation
What Is Reception History?
Scope, Purpose, and Method
Describing the Big Picture
Textual Criticism and Materiality as Reception History
Revelation’s Visual Reception
Usefulness and Future Prospects
Chapter 24: The Interpretation of the Book of Revelation in Early Christianity
Revelation in the West before Tyconius
Revelation in the East
Clement of Alexandria
Concluding Remarks
Further Reading
Chapter 25: The Interpretation of John’s Apocalypse in the Medieval Period
The Foundations: The First Latin Commentaries on the Apocalypse and Their Reception
Revelation in the Early Middle Ages: Commentaries from the Edges to the Center of Latin Christianity
Ancient Tradition, New Methods: From the End of the Tyconian Tradition to the Glossa ordinaria
The “Historical Turn” of the Twelfth Century and the So-Called German Symbolism
Joachim of Fiore: The Abbot Who Saw Tomorrow
The Explosion of Apocalyptic Thought and Commentaries on Revelation in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
Chapter 26: The Book of Revelation in Music and Liturgy
The Book of Revelation and Its Soundscape
The Lamb of God
Hymnic Influences
Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du Temps
Chapter 27: Forms of Futuristic Interpretation of Revelation in the Modern Period
Introduction: Revelation and the Shaping of the Modern World
Revelation: A Bittersweet Commentary on the Future
Hermeneutical Horizons of Futuristic Interpretation
Premillennial Dispensationalism: Darby, Scofield, and Rapture Fiction
Futuristic Interpretations and Current Geopolitics: Revelation and Israel
Conclusion: The Future of Futurism
Part V: Currents in Interpretation
Chapter 28: Feminist Interpretation of Revelation
Major Passages and Interpretive Issues
A Central Question: Can Revelation Be Liberating for Women Readers?
Rhetorical Function of Images in Ancient versus Modern Contexts
Reimagining the Categories
Multiple Meanings
Destabilizing Gender
Chapter 29: Interpreting Revelation through African American Cultural Studies
Revelation in Congregational Life
The Influence of Black Liberation Theology
The Apocalypse and Civil Disobedience
Revelation as Subversive Literature
Revelation as Resistance Literature
The Impact of Womanist Perspectives
Revelation as Protest Literature
Postcolonial Hermeneutics and Womanist Critique
Postcolonial Theory and “Scripturalizing” Revelation
Responses to Oppression in Revelation and African American Experience
Chapter 30: Post-Colonial Interpretation of the Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation and Colonialism
Revelation’s Colonial Entanglements
Catachresis, Mimicry, and Hybridity

Citation preview

T h e Ox f o r d H a n d b o o k o f


The Oxford Handbook of




1 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America. © Oxford University Press 2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. Library of Congress Control Number: 2020943628 ISBN 978–0–19–065543–3 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Printed by Sheridan Books, Inc., United States of America.


Preface ix List of Contributors xi Abbreviations xvii

1. Introduction to Revelation’s Social Setting, Theological Perspective, and Literary Design Craig R. Koester


PA RT   I   L I T E R A RY F E AT U R E S OF T H E B O OK OF R E V E L AT ION 2. The Genre of the Book of Revelation Mitchell G. Reddish


3. Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation James L. Resseguie


4. Imagery in the Book of Revelation Konrad Huber


5. Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation David A. deSilva


6. The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation Steve Moyise


7. Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language David L. Mathewson


8. The Hymns in Revelation Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler


vi   contents


9. Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor Warren Carter 10. Relationships among Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities in First-Century Asia Minor Mikael Tellbe



11. Greco-Roman Religions and the Context of the Book of Revelation 169 Richard S. Ascough 12. John’s Apocalypse in Relation to Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity in Asia Minor Paul Trebilco



13. God in the Book of Revelation Martin Karrer


14. Jesus in the Book of Revelation Loren L. Johns


15. The Spirit in the Book of Revelation John Christopher Thomas


16. Creation and New Creation in the Book of Revelation Mark B. Stephens


17. Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation Gregory Stevenson


18. Violence in the Apocalypse of John David L. Barr


19. The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem in Revelation Lynn R. Huber


20. The People of God in the Book of Revelation Peter S. Perry


contents   vii


21. The Greek Text of Revelation Juan Hernández Jr.


22. Revelation and the New Testament Canon Tobias Nicklas


23. Reception History and the Interpretation of Revelation Ian Boxall


24. The Interpretation of the Book of Revelation in Early Christianity Charles E. Hill


25. The Interpretation of John’s Apocalypse in the Medieval Period Julia Eva Wannenmacher


26. The Book of Revelation in Music and Liturgy Paul Westermeyer


27. Forms of Futuristic Interpretation of Revelation in the Modern Period Joshua T. Searle with Kenneth G. C. Newport



28. Feminist Interpretation of Revelation Susan E. Hylen


29. Interpreting Revelation through African American Cultural Studies 483 Thomas B. Slater 30. Post-Colonial Interpretation of the Book of Revelation Harry O. Maier Index




The book of Revelation or Apocalypse of John has generated wide interest in the academy and popular culture. Its evocative imagery has engaged the imaginations of biblical interpreters, historians, and artists. The cultural impact of the book has been profound; it has inspired musical compositions such as Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus, and fueled sensationalistic theories about the imminent end of the world. Some are intrigued by Revelation’s kaleidoscopic visions, which culminate in a new heaven and a new earth; others are repelled by the violent scenes of cosmic conflict. The chapters of this volume reflect a wide spectrum of approaches that are used to interpret the book and assess its influence. Recent studies have considered Revelation’s literary qualities and rhetorical force, theological perspectives, and relationship to social patterns in early Christianity. Reception history, cultural studies, and feminist and postcolonial interpretation all play a role. The contributors orient readers to the many interpretive possibilities, and provide their own distinctive contributions to current research. I am grateful to Steve Wiggins of Oxford University Press for initiating development of this volume, and to the staff at the press for their careful work throughout the process. Craig R. Koester

List of Contributors

Richard S. Ascough is a Professor in the School of Religion at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. His research focuses on the formation early Christ groups and Greco-Roman religious culture, with particular attention to various types of associations. He is the author of Associations in the Greco-Roman World (with John Kloppenborg and Philip Harland, 2012) and 1 and 2 Thessalonians: Encountering the Christ Group at Thessalonike (2014). David L. Barr is Emeritus Professor of Religion and former chair of the Departments of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. His primary research areas include Jewish and Christian apocalypticism, the book of Revelation, and stories as told in the New Testament writings. He is author of Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation (2012) and New Testament Story: An Introduction (2009), and editor of Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students (2003) and The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation (2006). Ian Boxall is Associate Professor of New Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. His primary research areas are the Gospel of Matthew, the book of Revelation, and reception history. He is the author of Matthew through the Centuries in the Wiley Blackwell Bible Commentaries series (2019), Patmos in the Reception History of the Apocalypse (2013), and The Revelation of St. John in the Black’s New Testament Commentary series (2006). Warren Carter is LaDonna Kraemer Meinders Professor of New Testament at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and formerly Professor of New Testament at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. His primary research areas are the New Testament Gospels, how the early Jesus movement negotiated Roman power, and the book of Revelation. Major publications include Telling Tales about Jesus: An Introduction to the New Testament Gospels (2016), John and Empire (2008), and Matthew and the Margins (2000). David A. deSilva is Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary. His primary research areas are Second Temple Judaism, the Letter to the Hebrews, and the book of Revelation. He is the author of Galatians in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (2018), Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance, rev. ed. (2018), and Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation (2009).

xii   list of contributors Juan Hernández Jr. is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. His primary research areas are the textual history of the book of Revelation and New Testament textual criticism. He is author of Scribal Habits and Theological Influences in the Apocalypse (2006), co-editor of Studies on the Text of the New Testament and Early Christianity (2015), and lead translator of Josef Schmid’s landmark Studies in the History of the Greek Text of the Apocalypse (2018). Charles E. Hill is John R. Richardson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. His primary research areas are Johannine literature, the early Christian manuscript tradition, and early Christian eschatology. He is the author of Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in the Early Church (2001) and The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church (2004), and coeditor of The Early Text of the New Testament (2012). Konrad Huber is Professor of New Testament Studies at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. His primary research areas are the book of Revelation and its reception, narrative criticism, and apocryphal gospels. He is co-editor of Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt and author of Einer gleich einem Menschensohn. Die Christusvisionen in Offb 1,9–20 und Offb 14,14–20 und die Christologie der Johannesoffenbarung (2007). Lynn  R.  Huber is Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina. Her primary research area is the book of Revelation, especially its gendered imagery, ancient Mediterranean context, and history of reception by visionaries and visual artists. She employs metaphor theory along with feminist and queer critical lenses. She is the author of “Like a Bride Adorned”: Reading Metaphor in John’s Apocalypse (2007) and Thinking and Seeing with Women in Revelation (2013), and is currently writing a feminist commentary on Revelation for Liturgical Press. Susan E. Hylen is associate professor of New Testament at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Her research interests include Johannine literature and the social history of the early Roman period. Among her publications are A Modest Apostle: Thecla and the History of Women in the Early Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015) and Women in the New Testament World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018). Justin  P.  Jeffcoat Schedtler is Assistant Professor of Religion, Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. His research interests include the book of Revelation, apocalypticism, and messianic ideologies. He is author of A Heavenly Chorus: The Dramatic Function of Revelation’s Hymns (2014) and co-editor of Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents through History (2016). Loren L. Johns is Professor of New Testament at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. His primary research areas are the book of Revelation, canon criticism, and Anabaptist approaches to Scripture. He is author of The Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John: An Investigation into Its Origins and Rhetorical Force (2014).

list of contributors   xiii Martin Karrer is Professor of New Testament at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/ Bethel, Germany. His primary research areas are the book of Revelation, the Epistle to the Hebrews, Christology, and Septuagint. He is one of the editors of Septuaginta Deutsch (2009/2011) and author of Der Brief an die Hebräer in the Ökumenischer Taschenbuchkommentar series (2002/2008) and Johannesesoffenbarung in the Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar series (vol. 1, 2017). Craig R. Koester is Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a research associate at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. His primary research areas are the Gospel of John, the book of Revelation, and Epistle to the Hebrews. He is author of Revelation in the Anchor Yale Bible commentary series (2014), Revelation and the End of All Things (2018), and Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel: Meaning, Mystery, Community (2003). Harry O. Maier is Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies at Vancouver School of Theology and Fellow of the Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt. He works at the intersection of social history and emergent Christianity, with an interdisciplinary focus. His most recent books include, Picturing Paul in Empire: Imperial Image, Text, and Persuasion in Colossians, Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles (2013) and New Testament Christianity in the Roman World (2018). Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom (2002) is his chief contribution the study of the Apocalypse. David L. Mathewson is Associate Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado. His main areas of research interest are the book of Revelation and Greek and Linguistics. He has authored Intermediate Greek Grammar: A Syntax for Students of the New Testament (Baker, 2016), and Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor, 2016). Steve Moyise is Visiting Professor at Newman University at Birmingham, United Kingdom. His primary research areas are the book of Revelation and the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. He is author of Evoking Scripture: Seeing the Old Testament in the New (2008) and Was the Birth of Jesus According to Scripture? (2013). Kenneth  G.  C.  Newport is Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Theology at Liverpool Hope University. His research interests include apocalypticism and millennialism. He is the author of The Branch Davidians of Waco (2006) and has published extensively on the life and work of Charles Wesley. Tobias Nicklas is Professor of New Testament, Universität Regensburg in Germany, Adjunct Ordinary Professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and a research associate at the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. His main research interests are Johannine literature (including Revelation), Christian Apocrypha, and reception history of the New Testament. Recent publications include Jews and Christians? Second Century “Christian” Perspectives on the Parting of the Ways (2014) and Der zweite Thessalonicherbrief (2019).

xiv   list of contributors Peter  S.  Perry is Affiliate Associate Professor, New Testament, at Fuller Theological Seminary and Pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Glendale, Arizona. His primary research areas are the book of Revelation, biblical performance criticism, and relevance theory. He is the author of Insights from Performance Criticism (2016) and The Rhetoric of Digressions: Ancient Communication and Revelation 7:1–17 and 10:1–11:13 (2009). Mitchell G. Reddish is O. Lafayette Walker Professor of Christian Studies and Chair, Department of Religious Studies at Stetson University in Florida. His primary research interests are apocalyptic literature, the book of Revelation, and the Gospels. He is the author of Lost Treasures of the Bible (2008; coauthored with Clyde Fant), Revelation in the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series (2001), and Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader (1990). James  L.  Resseguie is Distinguished Professor of New Testament Emeritus as Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay, Ohio. His primary research areas are narrative criticism, the book of Revelation, and the Gospel of John. He is author of Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary (2009) and Narrative Criticism of the New Testament: An Introduction (2005), which has been translated into Italian (2008) and French (2009). Joshua T. Searle is Lecturer of Theology and Public Thought at Spurgeon’s College in London. His research areas are millennial studies and the social theology of evangelical Christians, especially in Eastern Europe. He is author of Theology after Christendom: Forming Prophets for a Post-Christian World (2018), The Scarlet Woman and the Red Hand: Apocalyptic Belief in the Northern Ireland Troubles (2014), and coauthor (with Mykhailo Cherenkov) of A Future and a Hope: Mission, Theological Education and the Transformation of Post-Soviet Society (2014). Thomas B. Slater is Professor of New Testament Studies Emeritus, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia. His primary research areas are Second Temple Judaism, the Captivity Letters (Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon) and the book of Revelation. He is the author of Christ and Community: A Sociohistorical Study of the Christology of Revelation in the Library of New Testament Studies series (1999), Ephesians in the Smyth & Helwys Commentary series (2012), and The Son of Man in Second Temple Judaism: Reviewing and Advancing the Scholarly Debate (2017). Mark B. Stephens is Director of Integrative Studies and Research at Excelsia College in New South Wales, Australia. His primary research areas are the book of Revelation, the practice of Christian higher education, and the intersection of theology and popular culture. He is the author of Annihilation and Renewal: The Meaning and Function of New Creation in the Book of Revelation (2011). Gregory Stevenson is Professor of New Testament at Rochester University in Rochester Hills, Michigan. His primary research areas are the book of Revelation, Greco-Roman culture, and religion and popular culture. He is author of A Slaughtered Lamb: Revelation

list of contributors   xv and the Apocalyptic Response to Evil and Suffering (2013), Power and Place: Temple and Identity in the Book of Revelation (2001), and editor of the forthcoming Theology and the Marvel Universe. Mikael Tellbe is Associate Professor of New Testament Exegesis at Lund University and Lecturer in New Testament Studies at Örebro School of Theology, Sweden. His primary research areas are the Pauline letters and theology, and issues relating to the formation of early Christian identity. He is author of Paul between Synagogue and State: Christians, Jews, and Civic Authorities in 1 Thessalonians, Romans, and Philippians (2001), ChristBelievers in Ephesus: A Textual Analysis of Early Christian Identity Formation in a Local Perspective (2009), and several books in Swedish. John Christopher Thomas is Clarence J. Abbott Professor of Biblical Studies at Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee, and Director of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at Bangor University, Wales. His primary research areas include Gospel according to John, the book of Revelation, Pentecostal theology, and the Book of Mormon. He is the author (with Frank D. Macchia) of Revelation in the Two Horizons Commentary series (2016), Footwashing in John 13 and the Johannine Community (1991, 2014), and A Pentecostal Reads the Book of Mormon (2016). Paul Trebilco is Professor of New Testament in the Theology Programme, University of Otago at Dunedin, New Zealand. His primary research interests are diaspora Judaism, early Christianity in Asia Minor, and the Johannine Epistles. He is the author of The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius (2004), Self-Designations and Group Identity in the New Testament (2011), and Outsider Designations and Boundary Construction in the New Testament (2017). Julia Eva Wannenmacher†, Dr. theol., worked at Humboldt University of Berlin, Friedrich Alexander University at Erlangen-Nürnberg, and the University of Berne. Her research interests included Joachim of Fiore and his reception by later interpreters, medieval exegesis, apocalyptic thought, and political prophecy from the twelfth to twentieth centuries. Her publications include Hermeneutik der Heilsgeschichte: De septem sigillis und das Motiv der Sieben Siegel im Werk Joachims von Fiore (2005), and “Das Geheimnis des roten Drachen: Weltliche Macht und apokalyptische Verfolger in der Exegese Joachims von Fiore,” in Geschichte vom Ende her denken: Endzeitentwürfe und ihre Historisierung im Mittelalter (2019). Dr. Wannenmacher died in 2019. Paul Westermeyer is Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he taught courses in church music and served as Cantor and Director of the Master of Sacred Music degree with St. Olaf College. His primary research area is at the intersections of music, theology, and worship. He has written The Church Musician (1997), Te Deum: The Church and Music (1998), and the Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2010).



American Academy of Religion Studies in Religion Anchor Bible Anchor Bible Dictionary Arbeiten zur Bibel und ihrer Geschichte Anchor Bible Reference Library Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament Arbeiten zur Geschichte des antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity American Journal of Theology Anglican Theological Review Aufsteig und Niedergang der römischen Welt Abingdon New Testament Commentaries Arbeiten zur neutestamentlichen Textforschung Andrews University Seminary Studies Anchor Yale Bible Bonner biblische Beiträge Blackwell Bible Commentaries Bulletin for Biblical Research Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Biblotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium Biblical Interpretation Biblica Biblical Interpretation Biblical Interpretation Series Brown Judaic Studies Black’s New Testament Commentaries Biblical Research Bible Translator Biblical Tools and Studies Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology Catholic Biblical Quarterly Conversations with the Biblical World


Continental Commentaries Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalia Corpus Christianorum Series Latina Coniectanea biblica: New Testament Series Classical Philology Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition Currents in Biblical Research Currents in Research: Biblical Studies Currents in Theology and Mission Classical World Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters Didaskalia Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar Studies in Christianity and Judaism / Études sur le christianisme et le judaïsm Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses Evangelical Quarterly Evangelische Theologie Expository Times Forschungen zum Alten Testament Fathers of the Church Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments Franciscan Studies Gnomon Horizons in Biblical Theology Harvard Dissertations in Religion Handbuch zum Neuen Testament Harper’s New Testament Commentaries Harvard Theological Review Harvard Theological Studies Interpreting Biblical Texts International Critical Commentary Interpretation Italian Texts and Studies on Religion and Society Journal of the American Academy of Religion Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie Journal of Biblical Literature Journal of Early Christian History Journal of Ecumenical Studies Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion


Journal of Jewish Studies Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality Journal of Pentecostal Theology Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series Journal of Religion Journal of Roman Studies Journal for the Study of Judaism Supplement Series Journal for the Study of the New Testament Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha: Supplement Series Journal of Theological Studies Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament Linguistic Biblical Studies Monumenta Germaniae Historica Moffatt New Testament Commentary New Century Bible New Cambridge Bible Commentary Neotestamentica New Interpreter’s Bible New International Biblical Commentary New International Commentary on the New Testament New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible New International Greek Testament Commentary New International Version Novum Testamentum Novum Testamentum Supplements Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen Das Neue Testament Deutsch New Testament Library Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus New Testament Studies New Testament Tools, Studies, and Documents Ökumenischer Taschenbuch-Kommentar Patrologia Latina, ed. Jean Paul Migne Perspectives in Religious Studies Pittsburgh Theological Monograph Series Protokolle zur Bibel Quaestiones Disputatae Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum. Revue biblique Resources for Biblical Study Revue des Etudes Augustiniennes


Review and Expositor Religions in the Graeco-Roman World Regensburger Neues Testament Revue theologique de Louvain Studies in American Biblical Hermeneutics Stuttgarter biblische Beiträge Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers Stuttgarter Bibelstudien Sources Chrétienne Semeia Semeia Studies Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary Studies in the History of Christian Thought Studies in the History of Religions Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity Scottish Journal of Theology Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series Studien zum Neuen Testament und seiner Umwelt Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum / Studies and Texts in Antiquity and Christianity Studien zum Neuen Testament Studies in Theology and Religion Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments Symposium Series Texte und Arbeiten zum neutestamentlichen Zeitalter Themes in Biblical Narrative Textual Criticism Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Theologische Forschung Theologsische Bibliothek Töpelmann Theology Today Trinity Press International New Testament Commentaries Theologische Rundschau Texte und Untersuchungen Theologische Zeitschrift Vigiliae christianae Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae Vetus Testamentum Vetus Testamentum Supplements Word Biblical Commentary Writings from the Greco-Roman World

abbreviations   xxi WMANT WUNT WW ZNW ZPE ZTK

Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament Word & World Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche

chapter 1

I n troduction to R ev el ation ’s Soci a l Set ti ng, Theol ogica l Perspecti v e , a n d Liter a ry Design Craig R. Koester

The book of Revelation depicts a cosmic drama in which the Creator, the Lamb, and their allies engage in conflict with the destroyers of the earth. There are scenes of heavenly splendor in which festive worshipers gather around God’s throne, along with visions of fire, hail, and demonic hordes set loose on the world. A seven-headed dragon and tyrannical beast persecute the faithful and oppress the nations, and their city is called “Babylon,” the center of a vast political and economic empire. Yet in the end the destroyers are vanquished, and God makes all things new. God’s city is new Jerusalem, which descends in the final vision, and there the redeemed see God’s face and the leaves on the tree of life offer healing to the nations. This drama is introduced with messages addressing readers in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Before depicting the cities of Babylon and new Jerusalem, the writer speaks of issues facing the readers in the cities where they live. Some are threatened by hostility from those outside their community; others deal with internal disputes over accommodating Greco-Roman religious practice; and still others are wealthy and complacent. These messages are the entry point into the cosmic drama, and they provide a sense of the social context that it addresses. Exploring the interplay between the settings reflected in the messages to readers in the opening chapters and the images of conflict later in the book provides a way to conceive of Revelation as a whole.

2   Craig R. Koester

1.  The Writer’s Identity and Social Setting “I John, your Brother” (Rev 1:9)

Revelation begins and ends by identifying the writer as “John” (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). From the second century onward, many interpreters thought he was John the apostle, the son of Zebedee (Justin Martyr, Dial. 81.4), and often assumed that he also wrote the Fourth Gospel and Johannine Epistles (Irenaeus, Haer. 3.11.1; 3.16.5; 5.30.3). Elements from all these texts were creatively woven into legendary accounts of the apostle’s life and career (Culpepper 2000). But the writer of Revelation never claims to be an apostle or to have accompanied Jesus during his ministry. John simply calls himself “brother” (Rev 1:9), and Revelation’s distinctive style and content make it highly unlikely that he composed John’s Gospel or Epistles (Koester 2014, 80–83). Some interpreters propose that “John” was a pseudonym or penname, since that was a common practice for apocalyptic writings (Frey 1993, 425–27; Witulski 2007, 344–45). If that were the case, however, we would expect Revelation to identify “John” as an apostle, in order to emphasize the book’s authority; but the book does not do so. John portrays himself as an early Christian prophet, who calls his book a “prophecy” and recounts his divine commission to “prophesy” (1:3; 10:11; 22:7, 10, 18, 19). Studies of prophecy in the early church indicate that a prophet was understood to deliver messages from God, the risen Jesus, or the Spirit (Boring 1991, 38). As a prophet, John is said to receive his message while “in the Spirit” (1:10), and he sometimes uses the first-person singular when speaking for God (1:8; 21:5), the risen Jesus, and the Spirit (2:1–3:22; 14:13; 22:17). Scenes in which he is commissioned to prophesy are patterned after visions in Dan 10 (Rev 1:9–20), Isa 6 (Rev 4:1–11), and Ezek 1–2 (Rev 10:1–11). Revelation locates John within a group of prophets, whom he calls “brothers” and who presumably share his views (22:9). Other sources indicate that there were prophets in various early Christian communities (Acts 13:1; 1 Cor 14:29; Aune 1983, 189–217), and in some cases there was rivalry between prophets. According to Revelation, John and the woman he calls “Jezebel” both claimed prophetic status, and the woman had her own circle of associates; yet John differed sharply with her over the extent to which Jesus’s followers could accommodate aspects of Greco-Roman religious practice (Rev 2:20–22; Duff 2001). Visions later in the book contrast the true prophets, who bear witness to the lordship of Israel’s God (11:3–10), and the false prophet or beast from the land, who promotes idolatry (13:11–18; 16:13; 19:10). Through such contrasts, the visionary images challenge readers to discern whether someone claiming to be a prophet in their contexts promotes or undermines what the writer understands to be true worship of God.

Introduction to Revelation   3

The Writer’s Social Setting and Time Frame The writer says, “I John, your brother and companion in the affliction and the kingdom and the endurance that we have in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the witness of Jesus” (1:9). These brief comments have generated various ways of filling in the details (Boxall 2013; Karrer 2017, 244–49). Some propose that John went to the island to preach there (Thompson 1990, 173) or perhaps to escape difficulty on the mainland (Horn 2005, 153), but the most common approach is to assume that the authorities banished him to the island because of his preaching. Forms of this view have been common since antiquity, often with the added assumption that John wrote around 95 ce, near the end of Domitian’s reign, and that it was a time when the threat of imperial persecution of the church was especially high (e.g., Mounce 1998, 15–21). Near the end of his reign Domitian apparently did initiate violence toward those he suspected of disloyalty, and Roman writers charged that he made excessive claims about his own divinity, demanding that people call him “lord and god” (Suetonius, Dom. 13). Many interpreters found it plausible to read Revelation against that background, since the book depicts a tyrannical beast, whose agent pressures people into participating in the ruler cult, or face execution if they refused (Rev 13:1–18). Nevertheless, this scenario has undergone major revision in recent decades. Historians have found little evidence of imperial persecution of Christians under Domitian or at other times in the late first century (Yarbro Collins  1984, 69–72; Thompson 1990, 95–115). When there was violence against Jesus’s followers, it was instigated locally. Nero did persecute Christians around 64 ce, but the threat was apparently confined to Rome and did not extend to the provinces (Tacitus, Ann. 15.44). We do well to posit a general time frame in the final decades of the first century rather than a specific date of composition, and to consider a more varied range of issues that were factors throughout that period (Friesen 2001, 150–51). The way John depicts his own situation may, in part, reflect conflict with authority. It seems likely that his prophetic activity led to his being banished to Patmos for a time. He says he was there “because of the word of God and the witness of Jesus,” the expression he uses for people who suffer for their faith, adding that his “affliction” required “endurance” (1:9; cf. 6:9; 20:4). In Roman practice, a sentence of relegation to an island (relegatio ad insulum) could be imposed on those who spread “superstition,” a term for religious beliefs and practices that the Romans considered threatening to the social order, including Christianity (Pliny the Younger, Ep. 10.96.8–9; Tacitus, Ann. 15.44; Suetonius, Nero 16.2; Justinian, Digest 48.19.30). Accordingly, what John regarded as “word of God” and his message of “the kingdom” (Rev 1:9) could be seen by others as pernicious “superstition” (Yarbro Collins 1984, 102). By depicting his situation as one of “affliction,” John positions himself as a figure with the moral authority to call others to endure challenges for the faith (deSilva 2009, 133).

4   Craig R. Koester At the same time, John’s situation on Patmos also had affinities with broader aspects of the reader’s contexts. Literary and archaeological sources indicate that Patmos had a typical community, where people lived by small-scale farming and herding, and catering to the needs of the ships that stopped there on the trade routes across the Aegean Sea. Local festivals honored Artemis and other deities, as they did in the cities of Asia Minor (Koester  2014, 239–42; Manganaro  1963–64). On Patmos John had to support himself in a social setting where most others did not share his religious views, and the same was true for the readers addressed in Rev 2–3.

2.  Social Patterns and the Readers of Revelation The seven churches or “assemblies” (ekklēsiai) addressed by Revelation are located in urban contexts in the Roman province of Asia Minor (1:4, 11). As noted, the issues facing the readers range from conflict with outsiders, to internal disputes over accommodating Greco-Roman religious practice, to wealth and complacency. By keeping that range of issues in mind, interpreters are positioned to ask how the visions in the rest of the book might address multiple situations, not just one, and how the same book can both challenge and encourage readers, depending on their situation.

Conflict with Those Outside the Community First, the readers at Smyrna and Philadelphia are pictured as being threatened by those outside the circle of the Jesus followers (2:8–11; 3:7–13). The messages to these assemblies show several levels of threat, which fit the patterns of local and sporadic persecution attested in other sources (e.g., Acts 14:19; 17:5–9; 1 Pet 4:4, 14, 16). The first level involved verbal harassment, in this case from local synagogues (Rev 2:9; 3:9). It is important to know that there were Jewish communities in at least six and perhaps all seven of the cities mentioned in Rev 2–3, but nothing is said about their being in conflict with Jesus’s followers in most places. Where there were conflicts, they were local. A source of tension might have been disputes over the status of Jesus. Revelation uses the terms “Alpha” and “Omega” for Jesus and for God, and pictures Jesus sharing God’s throne and being worshiped (1:8; 5:13–14; 22:3, 13). Moreover, the followers of Jesus probably claimed a Jewish identity for themselves, whereas others in the synagogue argued that it was illegitimate for them to do so while ascribing divine traits to Jesus, which seemed blasphemous. At Philadelphia there was apparently verbal pressure for Jesus’s followers to stop making such claims about Jesus or be socially shut out of the Jewish community. Accordingly, the message commends readers for not denying Jesus’s name, while assuring them that in Jesus they will not be shut out (3:7–9).

Introduction to Revelation   5 The message to Smyrna depicts a second level of conflict, involving the civic or provincial authorities, who could imprison the followers of Jesus and perhaps put them to death (2:10). The Romans typically did not initiate action against Christians in the first century, but they would take action when others denounced the followers of Jesus as a threat to the social order (Acts 16:16–24; 18:12–17; Pliny the Younger, Ep. 10.96.3–6). Specific charges could be that those who declared Jesus to be sovereign showed disloyalty to the emperor (Rev 1:5; 19:16; cf. Acts 17:7) or that they promoted “superstition,” the term discussed earlier (cf. Acts 16:21). The threat of imprisonment and perhaps death is included in only the message to Smyrna (2:10). Although the message to Pergamum recalls that a witness to Jesus had lost his life there in the past, the threat at Pergamum seems to have abated by the time Revelation was composed (2:13). Visions later in the book shape the readers’ perspectives by depicting violence against the church on a far more massive scale. There the faithful face pressure to worship the beastly head of state or be put to death (13:7–10, 15). The city that rules the world is drunk with the blood of the saints and witnesses to Jesus (17:6), and the martyrs cry out for justice (6:9–11). One way to relate the widespread violence in these scenes to the situations depicted in Rev 2–3, where the threats are localized, is to assume that the writer is predicting that a massive outbreak of state-sponsored persecution will soon occur (Mounce 1998, 17–18). But an alternative is that the visions magnify the threat of violence in order to portray the empire’s true character. Whereas some of the readers felt threatened, many others did not. From the writer’s perspective, they all too readily accommodated the economic and religious practices of an empire that was created through violent conquest and could use its violence against the followers of Jesus. By magnifying the threat, the writer challenges readers to see that imperial rule is not benign but brutal and inherently opposed to what John understands to be the kingdom of God.

Internal Disputes over Accommodation of Greco-Roman Religious Practices A second issue concerned differences among the Jesus followers over the extent to which they could accommodate Greco-Roman religious practice. The specific issue was whether they could eat food that had been offered to Greco-Roman deities, or eidōlothyta—that is, food offered to an idol. On the one hand, those who thought that Jesus followers could legitimately eat such food included the prophetess Jezebel and her adherents at Thyatira (2:21), and those associated with the teaching of “Balaam” at Pergamum (2:14), as well as those called Nicolaitans, whose views were accepted by some at Pergamum (2:15). On the other hand, John categorically rejected the practice, as did those at Ephesus, who opposed the Nicolaitans (2:6). The issue arose because public events in the cities of Asia Minor included festivals honoring traditional deities such as Artemis, Athena, Zeus, and Dionysus, as well as

6   Craig R. Koester festivals dedicated to the emperors. A typical scene was that animals to be offered were paraded through crowds of onlookers to the place of sacrifice. After the religious rites in which the animals were slaughtered, the wealthy patrons and officials who sponsored the festival hosted banquets and sometimes made public distributions of meat. Such occasions created complex social situations for Jesus’s followers. Since they did not worship Greco-Roman deities, they should presumably not take part in the festival banquets, yet their refusal would be seen as antisocial and offensive by family members, friends, and business associates in the wider society—and many Christians would not want to damage those relationships (Aune 1997–1998, 1:191–94; Trebilco 2004, 312–27). Similarly, private social gatherings could also include religious aspects. Greco-Roman temples sometimes had dining areas where people could share meals that included meat from sacrifices. Such spaces could be used for meals among friends and for family gatherings celebrating a child’s birth or coming of age (P. Oxy. 1484; 2791). People in the same trade or business often belonged to a professional association, such as those for textile workers, leather workers, bakers, and silversmiths (Harland 2003). The groups provided valuable opportunities for social networking, yet their meetings often included aspects showing devotion to a Greco-Roman deity or emperor. By attending such gatherings, the Jesus followers could give the impression that they honored gods in whom they did not believe; but by refusing to attend they would alienate people socially and endanger important business relationships. Finally, meat left over from sacrifices was often sold in the public market and eaten in people’s homes (1 Cor 10:25–28; Pliny the Younger, Ep. 10.96.10). When Christians were guests in the homes of non-Christians, they had to decide whether to simply eat the meat or refuse to do so and thereby offend the host. John consistently rejected religious accommodation, whereas others did not. Visions later in Revelation press the writer’s concern for exclusive loyalty to God and Jesus by focusing on one specific issue: the ruler cult. The vision of the beasts in Rev 13 depicts people making a statue of the ruler and worshiping it. Cults of the Roman emperors had been widely accepted in Asia Minor for generations. The cults were not imposed by the emperors from above but flourished through local and regional support. In 29 bce provincial authorities had asked Augustus for permission to dedicate sacred precincts to him, and then built an imperial temple at Pergamum. In 23 ce cities competed for the privilege of building a provincial temple to Tiberius, and the honor was given to Smyrna. A temple to the Flavian emperors was built at Ephesus in the 80s ce, and local cults flourished in many communities. Moreover, divine honors to the emperors were incorporated into the cults of various Greco-Roman deities, so that the imperial cults and traditional cults were intertwined (Friesen 2001; Price 1984). Through scathing satire, Revelation depicts the ruler cult as veneration of a sevenheaded monster. The iconography and rhetoric associated with the cults emphasized Rome’s invincible military power, but Revelation counters that the cults should be seen as an appalling celebration of tyrannical brutality (Rev 13). The vision also draws on Jewish traditions that lampooned the use of cultic statues as absurd (Isa 44:9–20; Bel 1–22). By using images aimed at subverting any accommodation of the ruler cult, Revelation also critiques the broader patterns of traditional polytheism that supported it.

Introduction to Revelation   7

Wealth and Complacency A third issue was that readers in two cities seemed self-satisfied and complacent. The messages to Sardis and Laodicea make no mention of any external threats or internal disputes. Instead, the writer charges that the congregation at Sardis has a reputation for being alive but is spiritually dead (3:1–6). The congregation at Laodicea is pictured as complacent because of its wealth. Its members may say, “I am rich and have become wealthy and do not need anything,” but the writer counters that they are actually “miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked” (3:16–17). The quest to obtain security and status through wealth was critiqued, not only by Revelation, but by other writers of the period. They note that wealth was displayed by the clothing one wore, by the servants who attended one’s family, and by the opulence of one’s home. Banquets were occasions at which the upper classes sought to impress their guests. Using tableware of gold, reclining on scarlet cushions, and serving many courses of fine food and wine were established marks of success in Rome and the provinces of its empire (Lewis and Reinhold 1990, 2.155–62; Perry 2007; Royalty 1998, 208–9). Visions later in the book critique wealth by depicting the city that rules the world as a whore, who revels in ostentation (17:1–6). The city’s commercial networks are vast, and it attracts support through dazzling promises of wealth (18:1–24). But the visions will also depict the relentless pursuit of wealth as degrading and destructive, challenging readers to follow a different path, centered on fidelity to God and Jesus (19:6–8). Taken together, the messages to the churches depict a range of issues facing the readers. At the same time, they assume that readers are alike in that factors in each situation work against their faith commitments and the cohesion of their communities. The visionary imagery is evocative and can engage readers in different ways, depending on their situations. Imagery can embolden those who are overtly threatened, but confront and challenge those who are accommodating and complacent. In each case, the book calls readers to exhibit a faith commitment that will set them at odds with dominant social, religious, and economic patterns (deSilva 2009, 14–27; Harland 2003, 353–56).

3.  Revelation’s Theological Perspectives and Imagery Revelation’s visionary world centers on the question, “Who is the true Lord of the world?” (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 58). The book presses the question of the readers’ ultimate loyalties, since those inform the way they respond to issues in their contexts. The writer shapes their perspectives by portraying the world as the scene of a cosmic struggle between God and his opponents. The main figures are pairs of opposites: God is the Creator, and Satan is the destroyer; Jesus is the Lamb, and his counterpart is the tyrannical beast. The faithful are prophetic witnesses, and the false prophet promotes

8   Craig R. Koester the ruler cult. God’s designs culminate in life in new Jerusalem, and the beast’s regime is as Babylon, characterized by brutality and obsession with wealth. Some readers would already see themselves in situations of sharp conflict, but others did not see things that way. For them, Revelation’s contrasting images are a visionary challenge to see issues the world through a different lens.

God, the Lamb, the Witnesses, and New Jerusalem God is the sovereign Creator, who “was and is and is to come” (1:4). God is the Alpha, who was present at the beginning and made all things (1:8; 4:11; 10:6; 14:7). He is also the Omega, who in the end makes all things new (1:8; 21:1–6). The vision of the heavenly throne hall in Rev 4 identifies God the Creator as the one who has a rightful claim to the throne. Elements from older prophetic texts enable readers to recognize that the one enthroned is Israel’s God (Ezek 1; Isa 6). His role as Creator is suggested by the rainbow and the crystalline sea. The four living beings around the throne have the faces of a lion, an ox, a human being, and an eagle. Although they resemble the figures who attend God in Ezek 1:10, the imagery is recontextualized in Rev 4, so that they serve as representatives of the created order (Bauckham 1993b, 32–33). In the Greco-Roman world, delegations (presbeiai) sometimes offered crowns to rulers, including the emperor, in recognition of his authority. Here, however, the twenty-four elders (presbyteroi) throw their crowns before the throne of God, who is uniquely worthy of honor, because God alone can claim to have made all things (4:10–11). Therefore, in a rightly ordered universe, all creation acknowledges God’s legitimate power (5:13; Aune 2008, 99–119). Jesus the Lamb enacts God’s reign through his faithful suffering and death (5:6). The aspect of power is apparent in passages that recall the heir to David’s throne as a lion-like figure, who could be called Son of God (2:18; 5:5; cf. Gen 49:9–10; 2 Sam 7:13b–14; Ps 2:7; Collins 1995, 154–72). In a social context in which the emperors, too, could be called “son of God” and exercise dominion over other vassal kings, Revelation depicts Jesus as Son of God, who shares God’s throne, is included in the true worship of God, and reigns as King of kings (Rev 3:21; 7:17; 19:16; 22:3, 13; Bauckham 1993b, 54–65; Koester 2014, 297–98). The startling shift is that Roman rulers were honored for having “conquered” in the usual military sense (Friesen 2001, 86, 204). But Jesus has “conquered” in the manner of a slaughtered Lamb, whose blood builds God’s kingdom by redeeming people from every nation (5:9–10; 7:9–14). The paradox is that Jesus is depicted as both Lion and Lamb. His power is expressed in self-sacrifice, and, conversely, his self-sacrifice is an act of love that is redemptive power (1:5–6; Johns 2003, 150–205; Slater 1999, 162–208). The community of faith is pictured in a prophetic role as two witnesses, who wear sackcloth as a visible call for repentance (11:3–13). The vision has a parabolic quality in which these figures encompass the traits of prophets from many times and places (Barr 1998, 91–92; Bauckham 1993a, 273–74). Like Elijah they can shut the heavens so that rain will not fall (1 Kgs 17:1), and like Moses they can turn water to blood and bring plagues (Exod 17:17–21). Like Jeremiah their witness is like fire from the mouth (Jer 5:14),

Introduction to Revelation   9 and like Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel the governor, who led Israel’s renewal under Persian domination, they are pictured as olive trees (Zech 3:1–4:14). Yet God’s witnesses are rejected and slain, like Jesus “the faithful witness” (Rev 1:5–6). The vision shows that Jesus was not exempted from unjust suffering, and neither are his followers. Rather, the path of witness moves through suffering with the prospect that, just as God raised Jesus, he will bring others into life through resurrection (2:7, 11, 17; 7:9–17; 11:3–12; 12:11; 15:2; 20:4). New Jerusalem is the city to which the faithful belong. It descends in the future, when the God who made all things finally makes all things new (21:1–6). The city’s personal quality is apparent in being called the bride of the Lamb. Its gold, jewels, and pearls are reminiscent of what a bride wears on her wedding day (Rev 21:18–21; Ezek 16:10–13; Jos. Asen. 3:6–4:1; 18:5–6; T. Jud. 13:5; Pliny the Younger, Ep. 5.16.7). From this perspective, the followers of Jesus are like those betrothed to him, who now live faithfully in anticipation of the day when they will live with him forever, resisting the social pressures to compromise or abandon their relationship to Christ, the bridegroom (Rev 19:7–8; Zimmermann 2003). Revelation begins by naming the cities of Asia Minor in which the readers lived. In their social context, urban development featured stone gates, paved streets, and aqueducts inscribed with the names of Roman emperors, administrators, and wealthy patrons. These urban structures showed the majesty of the ruling power (Suetonius, Aug. 28.3; Vitruvius, Arch. 1.pref.2). But the book ends with new Jerusalem, which presents an alternative vision, in which the throne of the Creator and the Lamb are central (22:3). The description of the city fulfills prophetic hopes for the restoration of Jerusalem and renewal of creation, for here the water of life and tree of life are found (Rev 22:1–2; cf. Gen 2:9–10; Ezek 47:1–12; Zech 14:8). Yet its immense size and gemlike appearance beggar the imagination (Rev 21:9–17). The vision shows that no earthly city can be equated with God’s city; no social or political order can claim to be the final one. God’s reign is of another order and claims the readers’ ultimate loyalty (Rossing 1999).

Satan, the Beast, the False Prophet, and Babylon Satan is the principal opponent of God. Where God is the Creator, Satan is the foremost of “those who destroy the earth” (11:18). He is pictured as a red serpentine dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and he wears seven diadems, which show his aspiration to rule (12:3). Dragon imagery was a traditional way to depict threatening powers (e.g., Ps 74:13–14; Isa 27:1; Hyginus, Fabulae 140; Aune 1997–98, 2:672–74; Yarbro Collins 1976, 63–67). In Revelation, Satan operates through deception and violence, which threaten those who are loyal to God, the wider society, and the created order itself. In the messages to the assemblies, Satan is said to work through those who wrongly accuse Jesus’s followers, threaten them with imprisonment or death, and promote the acceptance of idolatry (Rev 2:9–10, 13, 24). The destructive power of evil takes political form in the beast from the sea, who is the opposite of the Lamb (13:1). The beast’s features are those of a lion, leopard, bear, and

10   Craig R. Koester ten-horned monster, all of which represent empires in Dan 7:3–7. Where the Lamb “conquered” by enduring death, the beast conquers by inflicting death on others, and where the Lamb redeems people of every tribe and nation, the beast oppresses them (Rev 13:7). Revelation weaves traits of the emperor Nero into the portrait of the beast, depicting it as the persecutor of Jesus’s followers, and saying that, like the Lamb, the beast had been “slaughtered” and yet was alive (13:3, 12, 14; cf. 5:6). That detail probably likens the beast to Nero, who committed suicide in 68 ce but was thereafter sometimes reputed to be alive (Bauckham 1993b, 407–52). The imagery makes the point that many may consider imperial rule benign, but it is not; in the brutality of Nero the empire shows its true face (Boring 1989, 164). In the religious and economic spheres, the ally of the beast from the sea is the false prophet, depicted as a beast from the land (13:10–18; cf. 16:13; 19:20). Where true prophets call for worship of God, the false prophet uses deception and economic coercion to promote the ruler cult (11:4; 13:11–18). Where true prophets suffer death as part of their witness, the false prophet inflicts death on those who resist him (11:7–8; 13:15). Although some interpreters have tried to identify the false prophet with a specific group in Asia Minor, the image is evocative enough to encompass the varied social and economic pressures surrounding the imperial cults (Koester 2017a). To counter such pressures, the vision uses satire to make support for the cults seem as ludicrous as believing that a statue could breathe and even talk (13:15). Such a cult could be seen as bogus (Bel 1–26; Reddish 2001, 259) or as a form of sorcery (Thomas 2010, 68–81), but in either case, any notion of participation is to be rejected. Finally, the vision of Babylon the whore is the counterpart to new Jerusalem the bride, and it indicts a society driven by the quest for pleasure and profit (Rev 17–18). The portrayal of the city includes aspects of Rome, the city set on seven hills, which rules the world (17:9, 15, 18), yet it is called “Babylon,” recalling an empire that was economically powerful and ruthless in oppressing other nations, including Israel. The personified city might seem alluring, as she is clothed in opulent purple, scarlet, gold, and jewels. Those in the empire’s sprawling trade networks do brisk business in luxury goods and human trafficking, selling slaves to meet the city’s insatiable demand (Bauckham 1993a, 338–83; Koester 2014, 716–23). If readers at Laodicea found status in wealth (3:17), Revelation counters that obsession with wealth draws people into degrading moral compromise with systems that ravage the earth and its peoples (Kraybill 1996, 102–41; Rossing 1999).

4.  The Literary Structure and Movement of Revelation Revelation weaves the images described in section 3 into its overall literary design, which can be understood as a series of six vision cycles framed by an introduction and conclusion (Yarbro Collins  1976, 5–55; Murphy  1998, 47–56).1 The introduction and conclusion to the book include epistolary elements, like those found in other early

Introduction to Revelation   11 Christian letters. The opening identifies the sender and recipients, and gives the greeting, “Grace to you and peace” (1:4; cf. 1 Thess 1:1); the conclusion says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints” (22:21; cf. 1 Thess 5:28). These sections also make similar points by stating that the message comes from God and Jesus through an angel (Rev 1:1; 22:6, 16), that it is prophecy (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18–19), and that those who keep it are blessed (1:3; 22:7). The framing shows that the book in its final form is to be read as a whole.2 The body of the work has two main parts with three vision cycles in each part. Four of the cycles have explicitly numbered groups of scenes: seven messages, seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls of wrath. These sections are cyclical in that they begin in the presence of God or the risen Christ, then move through a series of threats, and return to the presence of God again. The remaining groups of unnumbered visions follow the same pattern, moving through scenes of conflict and into scenes of worship in God’s presence. The book of Revelation can be outlined as follows: Introduction (1:1–8) 1.  Christ and the Seven Assemblies (1:9–3:22) 2.  The Seven Seals (4:1–8:5) 3.  The Seven Trumpets (8:2–11:18) 4.  The Dragon, the Beasts, and the Faithful (11:19–15:4) 5.  The Seven Bowls and the Fall of Babylon (15:1–19:10) 6.  From the Beast’s Demise to New Jerusalem (19:11–22:5) Conclusion (22:6–21) This design can be described as a forward moving spiral that combines repetition with movement toward a final goal. The scenes of heavenly worship at the culmination of each cycle are defining elements (4:1–5:14; 7:1–8:5; 11:15–18; 15:2–4; 19:1–10; 22:1–5). By placing these scenes at transition points throughout the book, the writer repeatedly communicates that the action revolves around the lordship of God. The groups of threatening visions that unfold in between also have a repetitive quality. There are multiple visions of war and death, darkness, hail, and bloody water, which intensify from afflicting a quarter to a third and then all of the earth (8:2–9:21; 16:1–21; cf. 6:1–17). Yet the repetitions also create non-sequiturs, such as the sun becoming dark, the stars falling, and the sky vanishing in one cycle, yet reappearing in a later cycle, so that the heavens can become dark all over again (6:12–14; 8:12). Rhetorically, the cycles give repeated warnings of judgment, which culminate in visions of hope, but the non-sequiturs show that the advancing movement cannot be regarded as a linear outline of events that will unfold in the future.

The First Three Cycles (Rev 1:9–11:18) If the central question in Revelation is, “Who is the Lord of the world?” then the corollary is, “Why would the sovereign God allow injustice to occur?” The first three vision

12   Craig R. Koester cycles begin to address this issue. The introduction to the book states that God is the one who is and was and is to come (1:4, 8; 4:8). Since God’s existence spans all of time, the readers are to see their own present and future in relation to God. As the Alpha, God created all things, and as the Omega he will bring all things to completion in the new creation (1:8; 21:5–6). God is almighty, the sovereign ruler of the world, whose throne is the center of legitimate power. Since he created all things, he has a rightful claim over the world he has made (1:8). The problem is that if God is eternal, powerful, and just, then it seems inexplicable that those who profess faith in him should suffer harassment, poverty, and death, as is the case in some for the communities depicted in the series of seven messages (2:9–10, 13; 3:8–10). For readers who either prosper in the current order (3:17) or compromise with its beliefs and practices to maintain their social position (2:14, 20), there would seem to be little reason to show greater rigor in their commitment, since that would involve social risk. So the transition to the next series of visions occurs when readers are given a glimpse of God’s heavenly throne room and learn that God’s purposes are carried out through the slaughtered and now living Lamb (4:1–5:13). What follows is a series of seven visions, which appear when the Lamb opens the seven seals on God’s scroll. These scenes challenge the assumption that the current order can ultimately provide security. The images of four horsemen counter imperial claims to have provided peace, security, and prosperity, which were common themes in Roman oratory (Vellius Paterculus, Rom. Hist. 2.126.3). Visions of warriors, scenes of violence, food shortages, and death from various causes were vivid reminders of forces that threatened human wellbeing, imperial claims notwithstanding. Then the martyrs under the heavenly altar give voice to the victims of injustice, demanding to know how long God will allow the perpetrators to continue (Rev 6:9–11). It would seem that God takes action and that judgment will fall on the world when the sky becomes dark and the earth trembles, so that people cry out in fear, “Who is able to stand (stathēnai)” in the presence of divine wrath (6:12–17)? In response to that question, however, the movement toward judgment is interrupted, as angels restrain the destructive forces in order that people may be sealed and protected (7:1–3). Readers initially hear that the sealed come from twelve tribes of Israel, but what they finally see is a countless multitude from every tribe and nation, “standing” (estōtes) in the presence of God and the Lamb who save (7:9–10). The impression is that the will of God is for humanity’s salvation and not its destruction (Bauckham  1993b, 76–88; Perry 2009). The pattern of interrupted judgment is then repeated in the cycle of the seven trumpets (8:2–11:18). Initially the prayers of the saints rise from the altar, recalling their earlier demand that God bring justice against the unrepentant world (8:3–4; cf. 6:9–10). Yet the visions that follow raise an implicit question: What if God responds by sending wrath upon the world? What will that accomplish? Readers are shown the horror of pitiless wrath as disasters strike earth, sea, and sky, and demonic hordes of locusts and cavalry torment humanity. But wrath accomplishes nothing. People do not repent (9:20–21). Again readers might expect the catastrophic judgment to occur, but it does not.

Introduction to Revelation   13 As before, an angel interrupts the movement toward judgment and John is c­ ommissioned to prophesy yet again (10:1–11). His next vision is of the two prophetic figures, who represent the faithful as they bear witness to an unrepentant world (11:3–13). When read in context, the vision responds to the underlying question of divine justice by showing that God has delayed final judgment to allow more time for witness to be given (Bauckham 1993b, 80–83). Repentance, not destruction, is what God desires, and the faithful—including readers—are part of the community that is called to bear witness, even when it evokes opposition from the wider society. Eventually an earthquake does occur as a form of judgment, and a tenth of a city falls, but the rest of the people finally give glory to God, as the world is called to do (11:13; cf. 14:6–7; 15:3–4; 21:26). Only then does the seventh trumpet sound, and the cycle again culminates in a worship and celebration (11:15–18). Revelation’s response to injustice has been to show that wrath alone would not lead the world to repent. For change to occur, witness is needed. Now the concluding words of the cycle go a step further, indicating that God will not delay final judgment indefinitely. Justice will come, and knowing that is essential for readers remain loyal to God, the Lamb, and their community. The point is made by the heavenly chorus, which declares that the time has come “to destroy those who destroy the earth,” leading into a drama that unfolds in the second half of the book (11:18).

The Last Three Cycles (11:19–22:5) The vision cycles in chapters 12–22 follow the same basic pattern as those in those in chapters 1–11, with each cycle moving through threatening scenes and into celebration. But these chapters also move forward by successively introducing each of the major powers that destroy the earth and then showing each agent of destruction being overcome in reverse order. The progression is depicted in a highly stylized manner: Satan is thrown from heaven to earth (Rev 12)   Beast and false prophet conquer (Rev 13)    Harlot rides on the beast (Rev 17)    Harlot destroyed by the beast (Rev 17)   Beast and false prophet are conquered (Rev 19) Satan is thrown from earth into the abyss (Rev 20) The theological conviction that underlies this literary sequence is that God is the Creator (4:11; 10:6) and evil is a destructive power that works within God’s world as cancer does within a body. Cancer cells are malignant, and as they grow, they destroy the healthy tissue around them. As the disease spreads, life is diminished, and if the cancer is left unchecked, death results. Accordingly, treating the disease means destroying the malignant cells that destroy life—and the goal is that life might thrive. This pattern unfolds on

14   Craig R. Koester a cosmic scale in the last half of Revelation, where the Creator and his allies set out to “destroy those who destroy the earth,” so that victory will be life for the world (11:18). Revelation’s fourth vision cycle (11:19–15:4) begins when Satan and his allies threaten the Messiah and his followers, yet it concludes with a song of victory, sung by the faithful who “conquer” by faithful resistance. The vision of the woman and the dragon recalls how Satan’s plot to destroy the Messiah was foiled in the past when Jesus was delivered from death and exalted to God’s throne in heaven (12:1–6). Although tradition said that Satan once was able to enter into God’s presence to accuse people (Job 1–2; Zech 3:1), Jesus’s exaltation led to a war in heaven with the result that Satan was banished from heaven to earth, where he now rages like a wounded and caged animal, seeking to do as much damage as possible in the time that remains for him (Rev 12:7–17). The vision of the beasts from sea and land then shows Satan’s destructive power operating in the political, religious, and commercial spheres (13:1–18). Many hold the beast in awe because it seems invincible (13:4). Nevertheless, these scenes urge the readers not to be deceived. The writer previously depicted Satan working through those who threaten Jesus’s followers (2:9–10, 13) or try to deceive them into accommodating idolatry (2:20, 24). Now the vision of Satan’s expulsion from heaven insists that the devil works intensely on earth not because he is so powerful but because he is losing and desperate. Therefore, readers have good reason to resist opposition, knowing that the faithful share in the victory of the Lamb (15:2–4; Bauckham 1993b, 90; Koester 2018, 120–24). The fifth cycle (15:1–19:10) moves through further plague scenes into visions that portray both the height of Babylon’s power and its coming downfall. Initially, Babylon the whore sits on the imperial beast, showing how the city—with its wealth, cruelty, and moral corruption—depended on imperial power to support it (17:1–6). Yet here the force of destruction comes full circle, when the beast destroys Babylon. The city that relied on violence to subjugate others (17:6; 18:24) is finally destroyed by that violence (17:16a). The urban center that devoured the produce of the world finally suffers the fate of being devoured (17:16b). For readers who flourished in the imperial era economy, while turning a blind eye to its cruelty (3:17–19), the vision is a warning that they should distance themselves, because the system is destructive. Revelation challenges them to see the current order through the eyes of those who are oppressed by it, who will not grieve its downfall but celebrate the demise of its destructive power (19:1–10). The sixth and final cycle (19:11–22:5) shows the outworking of God’s justice through two overlapping themes: ridding the earth of its destroyers and bringing life through resurrection, making all things new. The defeat of the destroyers began when Babylon was destroyed by the beast in the previous cycle, and now continues as the beast and false prophet are overcome by the beast’s opposite, Christ the Lamb. Here Christ is portrayed as a warrior, yet he comes in a robe already covered with blood—recalling scenes in which the Lamb’s blood redeems people from every nation (19:13; cf. 5:9–10; 7:9–14).3 Christ’s only weapon is the sword in his mouth, an image for his word, showing that the system based on falsehood is ultimately defeated by the power of truth (19:15, 21). Finally, Satan is confined to the abyss for a thousand years and then relegated to the lake of fire, permanently removing his destructive influence from God’s world. The positive side of

Introduction to Revelation   15 the Creator’s justice emerges when those who have unjustly lost their lives because of their witness are resurrected to reign with Christ for a thousand years (20:4–6) and that trajectory continues when all people are raised for judgment, and death and Hades are relegated to the lake of fire. In God’s new creation death is gone, the water of life flows, and the tree of life brings healing (20:11–15; 21:1–5; 22:1–5).

5. Conclusion Revelation’s images of cosmic conflict are designed to shape the readers’ perspectives and manner of life in the contexts where they live. By depicting sharply contrasting figures, the writer challenges readers to see themselves in a world of contending powers, where no one has the luxury of neutral space. The central question is which forms of authority will most influence people and their responses to the issues before them. Will it be the claims of the Creator, who brings all things into being, or will it be the authority of a society that deifies its rulers? Will the image of the Lamb, who redeemed or “purchased” (ēgorasas) people through his blood (5:9), foster a willingness to resist commercial practices like those associated with “Babylon,” or will the drive to “purchase” (agorasai) in the market be the dominant value, even when it requires the surrender of moral and religious integrity (13:16–17)? Revelation does not offer a specific series of steps that readers are to follow when working out the implications of its visions. Instead, the evocative word pictures press the issue of what the readers’ most basic commitments will be, leaving them to discern what that will mean in practice (Koester 2017b). Since the readers depicted in the opening chapters face different issues, their responses to the later visions would also differ. Yet across the reading spectrum the overall direction is the same, namely, that readers live out their commitments to God, Christ, and their community of faith, and to resist the overt and subtle pressures to do otherwise.

Notes 1. For other proposals concerning the structure of Revelation, see Aune  1997–98, 1.xc–cv; Bauckham 1993a, 1–37; Giesen 1997, 48–53; Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 159–80. 2. Revelation could have been composed and revised over a period of time (Aune 1997–98, cx–cxxiv), but there is no consensus about what the stages of development might have been. Most current interpretation works with the text in its final form. 3. Some maintain that Christ’s robes are smeared with the blood of his enemies, anticipating the slaughter that is to come (e.g., Aune 1997–98, 3:1057; Mounce 1998, 354; cf, Isa 63:1–3). Others insist—rightly in my judgment—that just as Rev 5:5–6 shows the power of the messianic lion being exercised through slaughter of the Lamb, the bloodstained robe in 19:13 makes Christ’s prior self-sacrifice the hallmark of his identity (Giesen  1997, 422; Maier 2002, 189).

16   Craig R. Koester

References Aune, David E. 1983. Prophecy in Early Christianity and in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Aune, David E. 1997–98. Revelation. 3 vols. WBC 52. Dallas, TX: Word. Aune, David E. 2008. Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Barr, David L. 1998. Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge. Bauckham, Richard. 1993a. Climax of Prophecy: Studies in the Book of Revelation. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Bauckham, Richard. 1993b. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Boring, M. Eugene. 1989. Revelation. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: John Knox. Boring, M.  Eugene. 1991. The Continuing Voice of Jesus: Christian Prophecy and the Gospel Tradition. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Boxall, Ian. 2013. Patmos in the Reception History of the Apocalypse. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Collins, John J. 1995. The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature. New York: Doubleday. Culpepper, R. Alan. 2000. John, the Son of Zebedee: The Life of a Legend. Minneapolis: Fortress. deSilva, David  A. 2009. Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Duff, Paul B. 2001. Who Rides the Beast? Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Frey, Jörg. 1993. “Erwägungen zum Verhältnis der Johannesapokalypse zu den übrigen Schriften des Corpus Johanneum.” In Die johanneischen Frage: Ein Lösungsversuch, edited by Martin Hengel, pp. 326–429. WUNT 67. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Friesen, Steven J. 2001. Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Giesen, Heinz. 1997. Die Offenbarung des Johannes. RNT. Regensburg: Pustet. Harland, Philip  A. 2003. Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations: Claiming a Place in Ancient Mediterranean Society. Minneapolis: Fortress. Horn, Friedrich Wilhelm. 2005. “Johannes auf Patmos.” In Studien zur Johannesoffenbarung und ihrer Auslegung: Festschrift für Otto Böcher zum 70, Geburtstag. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener. Johns, Loren L. 2003. The Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John: An Investigation into Its Origins and Rhetorical Force. II/167. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Karrer, Martin. 2017. Johannesoffenbarung (Offb. 1,1–5,14). EKK XXIV/1. Ostfildern: Patmos and Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Koester, Craig R. 2017a. “The Image of the Beast from the Land (Rev 13:11–18): A Study in Incongruity.” In New Perspectives on the Book of Revelation, edited by Adela Yarbro Collins, pp. 333–52. BETL 291. Leuven: Peeters. Koester, Craig R. 2017b. “Babylon and New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation: Imagery and Ethical Discernment.” In New Testament Ethics and Application: Purview, Validity, and

Introduction to Revelation   17 Relevance of Biblical Texts in Ethical Discourse, edited by Ruben Zimmermann and Stephan Joubert, pp. 353–70. Contexts and Norms of New Testament Ethics. WUNT 384. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Koester, Craig  R. 2018. Revelation and the End of All Things. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids. MI: Eerdmans. Kraybill, J.  Nelson. 1996. Imperial Cult and Commerce in John’s Apocalypse. JSNTSup 132. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Lewis, Naphtali, and Meyer Reinhold, eds. 1990. Roman Civilization: Selected Readings. 2 vols. 3rd ed. New York: Columbia University Press. Maier, Harry  O. 2002. Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom. Minneapolis: Fortress. Manganaro, Giacomo. 1963–64. “Le iscrizioni delle isole Milesie.” Annuario della scuola archaolgica di Atene 46–47: 293–349. Mounce, Robert  H. 1998. The Book of Revelation. Rev. ed. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Murphy, Frederick J. 1998. Fallen Is Babylon: The Revelation to John. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. Perry, Peter S. 2007. “Critiquing the Excess of Empire: A Synkrisis of John of Patmos and Dio of Prusa.” JSNT 29: 473–96. Perry, Peter S. 2009. The Rhetoric of Digressions: Revelation 7:1–17 and 10:1–11:13 and Ancient Communication. WUNT II/268. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Price, Simon R. F. 1984. Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Reddish, Mitchell G. 2001. Revelation. SHBC. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys. Rossing, Barbara  R. 1999. The Choice between Two Cities: Whore, Bride, and Empire in the Apocalypse. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. Royalty, Robert M. 1998. The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis: Fortress. Slater, Thomas B. 1999. Christ and Community: A Socio-Historical Study of the Christology of Revelation. JSNTSup 178. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic. Thomas, Rodney Lawrence. 2010. Magical Motifs in the Book of Revelation. Library of New Testament Studies 416. London: Continuum. Thompson, Leonard  L. 1990. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. Trebilco, Paul. 2004. The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Witulski, Thomas. 2007. Die Offenbarung und Kaiser Hadrian: Studien zur Datierung der neutestamentlichen Apokalypse. FRLANT 221. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1976. The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation. HDR 9. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1984. Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Zimmermann, Ruben. 2003. “Nuptial Imagery in the Book of Revelation.” Bib 84: 153–83.

pa rt I


chapter 2

The Gen r e of th e Book of R ev el ation Mitchell G. Reddish

Attempting to ascertain the literary genre of a text is not merely an academic exercise. The recognition of the genre of a literary work contributes to a reader’s creating meaning from the text. One of the problems that readers often have in understanding the book of Revelation is discerning its genre. The three most frequently proposed genres for Revelation are an apocalypse, a letter, or a prophecy, although scholars have occasionally suggested other genres (For example, some scholars propose Greek drama as the appropriate genre. See Bowman 1955, 1962; and Blevins, 1980, 1984).

Revelation as an Apocalypse In 1979, John J. Collins and other members of the Genres Project of the Apocalypse Group of the Society of Biblical Literature defined an “apocalypse” as “a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality that is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world” (Collins, 1979, 9). One of the criticisms of this definition was that it failed to include a reference to the function of apocalypses (Aune 1986; Hartman 1983; Hellholm 1986). As a result, the Early Christian Apocalypse Group of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1986 expanded the definition by adding the following language: “intended to interpret present, earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to influence both the understanding and the behavior of the audience by means of divine authority” (Yarbro Collins 1986, 7). Although scholars have offered other definitions or descriptions of an apocalypse (Aune 1986, 86–87; Carmignac 1983, 165; Cook 1995, 20–25; Rowland 1982, 70–72; Sanders 1983, 458), this definition, in either its original or its expanded form, has become the standard definition and is the one followed here.

22   Mitchell G. Reddish Collins identified two types of apocalypses based on their contents: apocalypses without an otherworldly journey (sometimes called historical apocalypses) and apocalypses with an otherworldly journey (Collins 1979, 12–19). In apocalypses of the first type, the focus is more temporal than spatial, divulging eschatological events. Historical apocalypses often make use of ex eventu prophecy, or prophecy “after the fact.” By seeming to write from the distant past, the author “predicts” events yet to come. In apocalypses of the second type, the author describes an experience of being taken on a journey to otherworldly realms, such as to the throne room of God, to places for punishment or reward in the afterlife, or to other places outside the realm of usual human experiences. The opening words of Revelation state that the work is an apokalypsis, a “revelation.” Even though this statement eventually provided the name for the genre, the author of Revelation was probably using the term “apocalypse” to describe the contents of his writing as divine disclosure, not to designate a specific literary genre. In line with the standard definition in the previous section, Revelation is clearly a narrative, for John begins the story with a description of how this revelation came to him (“I was on the island called Patmos . . . on the Lord’s day”); he then proceeds to describe the content of the revelation in vivid detail and brings the story to its eschatological conclusion. Even though readers may have a hard time following the plot development in the book, the overall narrative moves in a nonlinear fashion from John’s present situation to a culmination of God’s purpose for the world in which evil is defeated and God reigns supreme. In terms of the form of the work, Revelation clearly belongs to the category of revelatory literature. Not only does the work assert that it is a revelation (1:1), but the message of the work purports to be heavenly visual and auditory information conveyed to John. The author claims that he was “in the spirit” when the message came to him, which indicates that “his normal sensory experience was replaced by visions and auditions given him by the Spirit” (Bauckham, 1993, 152). In a sense, the book is for the most part one large vision, from 1:9 to 22:5 or 22:9. (Scholars disagree over the ending of the vision.) This overarching vision, however, contains numerous shorter, often interlocking visions, many of which are introduced by the formulaic phrase “and I saw” (kai eidon). The first of these is of the Son of Man figure, who delivers messages to John that are directed to seven churches of Asia Minor. This vision is followed by John’s vision of the heavenly throne room, which becomes the setting for even more visions. Among these are visions of the Lamb, the one hundred forty-four thousand, the great multitude, the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven bowl plagues, the angel with the little scroll, the woman and the dragon, the two beasts, the great whore, and the new Jerusalem. The use of visions to convey the divine revelation is one of the dominant characteristics of John’s writing. Whether these visions were real events or only literary devices, though debated, is immaterial to discerning the genre. In addition to visions, auditory revelations are also common in Revelation. Not only does John see what is revealed, but he also hears the revelation, again often indicated by a set phrase, in this case “and I heard” (kai ēkousa). Boring notes that there are ninetyone occasions “in which John hears and reports the voice of Jesus or some other heavenly being as a member of the cast, a voice which remains contained in the vision and is

The Genre of the Book of Revelation   23 not directed immediately to the churches of Asia Minor” (Boring 1991, 337). He hears the one like the Son of Man, the voice of God, the living creatures and the twenty-four elders around the throne, and various angels speaking and singing, as well as unidentified heavenly voices. These characters are the otherworldly mediators who convey the heavenly revelation to John. The opening verse of the book delineates the mediated aspect of what John receives: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him . . . he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John” (1:1). Although there are a few occasions in the work where God or Christ speaks directly to John, most of the message is mediated by an otherworldly figure. In some places the audition is an angel’s voice interpreting what John has seen in his vision; in some places, what John hears is a part of what takes place in the vision itself; and in other places the audition does not appear to be connected to a visionary segment. In many apocalypses, otherworldly journeys are one of the major ways in which the revelation is transmitted to the recipient. In the Testament of Abraham, the archangel Michael takes Abraham to the first gate of heaven, where he watches the judgment of individuals after death. In the Book of the Watchers (1 En. 1–36), Enoch is transported to heaven to the throne room of God to intercede (unsuccessfully) on behalf of the evil Watchers. Later, he is taken on cosmic journeys to the outermost parts of the earth, where he sees the prison for the disobedient stars and angels, the storehouse of the winds, the Garden of Eden, and the place where the souls of the dead are kept until the day of judgment. The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (3 Baruch) describes Baruch’s journey through the five levels of heaven, where he views scenes of eschatological reward and punishment. Similarly, Revelation contains the beginning of an otherworldly journey in 4:1–2, which describes John’s seeing an open door in heaven and hearing a voice tell him, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” The implication is that John obeys the voice and goes to the heavenly realm, for he describes the scene of God seated on the throne surrounded by elders, beasts, and angels and, soon, the appearance of the Lamb. The journey motif is not followed through, however, for John never describes an earthly return. Even though elsewhere in the vision scenes he sometimes speaks of being carried or taken to other locations, these locations appear to be on earth, not in otherworldly regions (17:1–18 and 21:9–22:9). The human recipient in Revelation is clearly indicated in several places at the beginning and the ending of the book (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). The author describes himself as a serv­ ant, as “your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance.” He was on the island of Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” a description usually understood to mean that John had been banished or exiled to Patmos because of his Christian faith. Even though the identity of John is not known to modern readers, he was apparently well-known to his original audience in Asia Minor. He speaks to them with both authority and comradery, as a respected leader but also one of them. One of the ways that Revelation does not follow the pattern of Jewish apocalypses is in the identity of its author. All extant Jewish and Christian apocalypses (with the exception of Revelation and the Shepherd of Hermas) were written pseudonymously in the name of some important figure of the past, a

24   Mitchell G. Reddish practice that was likely intended to grant the works more authority and prestige. The author of Revelation is an otherwise unknown “John,” almost certainly not John the apostle (Reddish 2001, 17–19). Some scholars have argued that the lack of pseudonymity disqualifies Revelation from being an apocalypse (Mazzaferri  2010, 226–29, 377; Roloff 1993, 7). However, even though pseudonymous authorship was the standard way to create an apocalypse, it is not a necessary component of the genre. The preceding discussion has focused on elements of form, or the way the revelation is conveyed. In addition to its form, the content of Revelation also coheres with the definition of an apocalypse, for the work discloses “a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” Like other apocalyptic writers, John believed that there is more to this world than meets the eye. His intent was to disclose that other reality, not only to reveal the God who is Alpha and Omega but also to disclose God’s sovereignty over a world that at times seemed under the control of the powers of evil. The temporal aspect of transcendence in Revelation is seen in its eschatological elements. John pictures the ultimate defeat of evil, in all its manifestations, and the ultimate triumph of God: a new heaven and new earth, resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, punishment for the wicked, and rewards for the faithful. This focus on the ultimate future underlies John’s confidence and hope. Because God is not only the one who is and the one who was but is also the one who will come, John was certain that the political, social, and economic forces would not be the ultimate victors. Their power is limited. Viewing his world from that eschatological perspective, John was able to offer his readers/hearers a different way of understanding reality. John looked to the eschaton and saw not defeat or loss, but God’s completed kingdom. Whereas to the Christians in Asia Minor the powers of Rome and the larger forces of evil might have appeared dominant and superior, John presented them with an alternative worldview in which God and God’s way of justice and righteousness ultimately prevail; the eschatological judgment is proof of that reality. Apocalypses whose dominant emphasis is more temporal than spatial often contain a review of history, frequently with a periodization of it in which history is divided into a predetermined number of periods. The present age is usually located near the end of history, and the history of the world is about to draw to a close. This literary device imparted a sense of urgency to the message—the end is near—but it was also a way of fostering hope by suggesting that the current situation of the world would not last much longer. Ex eventu predictions were a frequent component of the review of history. The book of Revelation does not make use of this technique, but it, too, sees the eschatological events as occurring soon. The book opens with the declaration that the events revealed “must soon take place” (1:1) and then ends with Christ affirming (twice) “I am coming soon” (22:12, 20). The imminence of the eschaton was both good news and bad news—good news to those who would enjoy eschatological salvation and bad news to those who would receive eschatological punishment. Concerning the spatial dimension of apocalypses, Christopher Rowland states, “One of the most distinctive features of the apocalyptic literature is the conviction that the seer

The Genre of the Book of Revelation   25 could pierce the vault of heaven and look upon the glorious world of God and his angels” (Rowland 1982, 78). John’s entrée into the heavenly places was through an open door and a voice that invited him to come up. His heavenly vision includes the heavenly court, with God seated on the throne surrounded by a variety of otherworldly beings, as well as God’s temple in heaven and the golden altar upon which the prayers of the saints were offered. Whereas some Jewish and Christian apocalypses present a multitiered heaven containing numerous levels, and describe the contents of each of the levels, or heavens, John’s heaven is not multilayered. He describes the location only of God’s throne and the heavenly temple. In his final visions, in chapters 21 and 22, John sees “a new heaven and a new earth,” along with the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. In addition to the heavenly realm, John’s visions also mention or reveal places of torment and evil. Death and Hades, the abode of the dead under the earth, have no place in God’s ultimate kingdom, for “Death will be no more” (21:4). After giving up the dead that are in them, they meet their ultimate fate in the lake of fire (20:13–14). The bottomless pit, or the abyss (abyssos), is the place from which the beast who kills the two witnesses arises (11:7) and also the place from which the tormenting locust-demons swarm (9:1–11), as well as the place where Satan is bound for a thousand years (20:1–3). The lake of fire and sulfur is the final place of punishment for Satan, the beast, the false prophet, Death, Hades (20:10, 13), and “anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life” (20:15). Numerous otherworldly beings, both good and evil, populate apocalypses, and John’s apocalypse is no different. In addition to God, John sees the Lamb, the twenty-four elders, the four living creatures, and angels too many to count (“myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands”; 5:11). Angels in John’s visions play numerous roles: singing praises to God and the Lamb, holding back the four winds on the earth, initiating the series of plagues, holding the little scroll that John takes and eats, and proclaiming words of warning, judgment, and blessing. An angel also serves as a guide and interpreter for John in some of the scenes, and even corrects John when he attempts to worship the angel. The only named angel in Revelation is Michael, who along with his angelic force defeats Satan and casts him and his angels from heaven and onto the earth (12:7–9). Evil otherworldly figures in Revelation include Satan (the great red dragon); the locustdemons who arise from the bottomless pit to attack the earth; and Abaddon or Apollyon, the ruling angel of the bottomless pit. As noted, the original definition of an apocalypse was expanded to include elements of not just form and content but also function. Since the actual sociohistorical setting that prompted the writing of most apocalypses, including Revelation, cannot be precisely determined, one must use caution in describing the function of the works. Function must be described in broad terms that arise from a study of the works themselves. In the case of Revelation, the work has often been identified as crisis literature, specifically in reference to emperor worship and major persecution of Christians in Asia Minor by the Roman government. More recent studies, however, have challenged that understanding of the sociohistorical context of the book, pointing out that the evidence for widespread official persecution, as well as for enforced emperor worship, is minimal.

26   Mitchell G. Reddish What one can surmise from a reading of the text itself is that John was concerned about both internal and external pressures on the church (Koester 2014, 96–103). He was disturbed by some Christian leaders whom he viewed as false teachers and prophets (2:12–25), by complacency among some of the believers, and by dangers of acquiescence to the allure of wealth. In addition, he was concerned about accommodation by some Christians to unacceptable practices of Roman society, including eating meat sacrificed to idols and giving ultimate loyalty and worship to the dragon and his representatives, whether that involved actual participation in emperor worship or not. Conflict with outsiders was also an issue, conflict both from Jewish neighbors (2:9; 3:8–9) and from some of the Roman authorities (2:9–11). In light of John’s eschatological perspective and his view that God is the ultimate power in the universe, John wrote his apocalypse to present his readers with an alternate understanding of their world and to exhort them to faithfulness to God. Revelation attempts to give its readers a transcendent way to view the world, one that is viewed from above (spatially) and from the end (temporally). This alternate way of understanding reality could bring comfort to some readers who felt discouraged, oppressed, or overwhelmed and, at the same time, functioned as exhortation and confrontation to readers whose complacency and accommodation threatened to undermine their loyalty to God.

Revelation as a Letter One of the major literary genres in the New Testament is that of the letter. Of the twentyseven New Testament letters, all but the four Gospels, the book of Acts, and 1 John contain at least a typical epistolary opening and/or closing. The letter genre continued to be popular among early Christian writers, as evidenced by the array of letters that were produced (most notably, the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the letters of Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Ignatius). Stanley Stowers notes that “we possess more than nine thousand letters written by Christians in antiquity” (Stowers 1986, 15). The popularity of the letter genre among early Christian writers should be no surprise, for letters were widely used in antiquity by people of various social classes, backgrounds, and educational levels. Although different letter types exhibit certain variations, the usual form of GrecoRoman letters included (1) the opening, with the name of the sender listed first, followed by the name of the recipient, a brief greeting, and sometimes a wish for good health and/ or a word of thanksgiving to a god; (2) the body of the letter; and (3) the closing, which may include greetings to additional individuals other than the specific recipients of the letter, greetings from others besides the sender, and a farewell or closing wish for health. Early Christian writers adopted and adapted this literary form of communication, as is evident when one compares the letters of Paul to the traditional Greco-Roman letter. Whereas the opening section of ancient letters was often very succinct (A to B, greetings), Paul modified this opening formula in a variety of ways. Rather than a simple

The Genre of the Book of Revelation   27 listing of his name as the sender, Paul usually provided a fuller description of himself as an apostle, a servant, or a prisoner of Christ, the identifications in Romans and Galatians being even more expansive. Paul’s identification of himself as an apostle in the opening of his letters was a way of informing or reminding his readers (sometimes not subtly!) of his apostolic authority. Stating his apostolic credentials provided the rationale for Paul’s freedom to scold, exhort, encourage, and instruct his readers. It was a pre-emptive strike against any opponents who might challenge his right to correct or make demands of them or who would question the correctness of his teaching. Paul normally embellished the simple identification of the addressees, calling them saints (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1), dear friend and co-worker (Phlm 1:1), sister (Phlm 1:2), and fellow-soldier (Phlm 1:2); this is somewhat analogous to the indication of family relationships in Greek letters between family members and friends (White 1986, 200). Paul also modified the greeting from the typical chairein (greetings) to the more theologically rich charis (grace), expanding it even more by stating, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Instead of making a brief thanksgiving to a god, as was common in ancient letters, Paul’s thanksgivings were often lengthy, warm expressions of gratitude for specific characteristics or activities of his readers. Paul also used the thanksgiving to preview the themes or issues that he developed in the ensuing letter. Paul’s grace greeting, along with the thanksgiving, was the religious equivalent of the customary wish for health that is missing from Paul’s opening section (White 1988, 98). The closings of Paul’s letters also demonstrate the freedom with which he modified the traditional letter format. The Pauline letters often have lengthy greetings to or from third parties (especially Rom 16), a grace benediction (“Grace to you . . . ”), a wish for peace, and sometimes a doxology and/or a holy kiss. Third-party greetings were often a component of Greco-Roman family letters (especially from the time of Augustus; White 1986, 202), so this element in Paul’s letters should not be seen as a novel variation by him, although he certainly made extensive use of it. As was the case in the openings, Paul’s benedictions in the closings of the letters served as a replacement for the wish for health. The epistolary features of Revelation have frequently been overlooked or downplayed, which led Jürgen Roloff to exclaim, “The research of the last two hundred years has so one-sidedly focused on the relationships between Revelation and Jewish apocalypses that it completely neglected another aspect: the epistolary character of Revelation” (Roloff 1993, 7). The most extensive treatment of Revelation as a letter is that of Martin Karrer, who argues at length that Revelation belongs not to the apocalypse genre but to that of the letter (Karrer 1986). The book of Revelation does contain several features in common with Greco-Roman letters, including some modifications that are similar to those found in Paul’s letters. In Rev 1:4–5a the author states, “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of earth.” This statement bears obvious similarities to the letter form: identifications of sender and

28   Mitchell G. Reddish recipients and a greeting. The identification of the sender is not an expanded version, as is the case in Paul’s letters. However, a fuller identification is provided a few verses later: “I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance” (1:9). Likewise, the identification of the recipients is brief, although more details about the recipients are given in chapters 2 and 3. John intended this letter to be a public letter, carried from one congregation to the other and read aloud (1:3, 11). As such, all the congregations would hear the criticisms and praises of each individual congregation found in chapters 2 and 3. As in the letters of Paul, the salutation is different from what occurs in typical GrecoRoman letters. John uses the same combination of grace and peace that Paul does, along with a description of the sources of that grace and peace. Paul’s letters and the book of Revelation name God and Christ as the sources, although they describe them in different ways. Furthermore, in distinction to what is found in Paul’s letters, Revelation names a third source of grace and peace: “the seven spirits before the throne” (Rev 1:4). As in Gal 1:5, the opening in Revelation also includes a doxology, although in Revelation it is addressed to Christ rather than to God. Not only does Revelation contain an epistolary opening, but it also contains a brief letter closing, consisting of only a grace benediction (“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints”); and in some manuscripts, a final “Amen” (22:21). The benediction consists of three elements that are common to Paul’s benedictions: the word “grace” (charis), an identification of the source of that grace (“the Lord Jesus”), and the recipients of the word grace (“all the saints”). There are no personal greetings from John to any of the recipients of his writing, as are often found in Paul’s letters and other early Christian letters. The similarities between the epistolary openings and closings in the book of Revelation and the letters of Paul raise the question of whether Paul’s style influenced John. Because the openings and closings of ancient letters show little variation (Doty 1973, 29, 39–40; Stowers 1992, 291), and because Paul’s writings are the earliest examples we possess of ancient Christian letters, it is a reasonable assumption that Paul is likely the source for the creative variations in the openings and closings of letters within the Christian community. Paul’s influence is evident in the pseudo-Pauline New Testament writings, which were likely intentionally modeled after Paul’s letters. But Paul’s influence, whether direct or indirect, can also be seen in other early Christian writings, including the book of Revelation. The change in the greeting from chairein to charis, especially, argues for Pauline influence, as well as the addition of “peace” to the greeting. It is likely no coincidence that many of the early Christian letters that show Pauline influence originated in the areas of Asia Minor that had a connection to Paul or Pauline traditions. If Revelation is a letter, then the body of the letter is 1:9–22:20. This is where insisting on the epistolary character of Revelation becomes highly problematic. Whereas the body sections of other early Christian letters have some of the forms and contents of various ancient letter types (such as those found in family letters and letters of

The Genre of the Book of Revelation   29 instruction, exhortation, and recommendation), the contents of the main section of Revelation do not cohere well with the epistolary genre. As Schüssler Fiorenza states, Revelation “does not read like a letter” (1998, 166). The major part of Revelation is a sustained visionary report. Whereas Paul could include visions in his letters (see 2 Cor 12:1–10), visions do not constitute the primary form or content of the body of Paul’s writings. Another connection between Revelation and the epistolary genre is the way the book functions. As the benediction in Rev 1:3 makes clear, John intended the work to be read and heard in a communal setting. As such, John addressed the writing to specific recipients (the members of the seven churches mentioned in chapters 2 and 3) whom the author knows and who know him. Both John and his readers/hearers have a mental picture of each other (Boring 1992, 349). This function of Revelation is clearly analogous to the way the letters of Paul functioned. An individual, likely the messenger delivering the letter from Paul, would read the letter to the congregation as it gathered for worship. The letter, as read and perhaps elaborated upon by the reader, would serve as a substitute for Paul personally being present with the Christian community. The text of the letter became the voice of Paul speaking to the recipients. This is why the opening sections of Paul’s letters are so important. Through them Paul’s “epistolary presence” is conveyed in both authoritarian language (Paul as apostle) and in egalitarian/familial terms (“saints,” “friend,” “beloved,” “sister”). Paul writes both as their spiritual leader and as one who, like them, is a child of God (White 1988, 98; 1986, 219–220). Likewise, John’s epistolary presence also is twofold. Even though he does not identify himself by any authoritative title, his opening statement in 1:1–2 describes his message as a revelation that originated with God, which was a way of establishing his authority. Furthermore, his additional description of himself in 1:9 as “your brother who shares with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance” imbues his epistolary presence with an emotional warmth. As the preceding analysis has shown, any discussion of the genre of Revelation must take the epistolary characteristics of this work seriously. Revelation clearly contains the elements of Greco-Roman epistolary openings and closings. Recognition of the quasiletter form of Revelation is important for interpreting John’s writing. It is not a general treatise unconnected to any specific situation. The work was written to specific communities in Asia Minor, well-known to the author, and it addressed specific theological, historical, and sociological concerns. John could speak with an authoritative voice to them because the recipients already knew him and presumably in most cases respected him, in much the same way that Paul was able to use the letter as an authoritative substitute for his physical presence with the communities. Despite these similarities between Revelation and ancient letters, however, classifying the work as a letter is unsatisfactory. As Yarbro Collins notes, “Whoever tries to read it as a letter will be severely frustrated” (Yarbro Collins 1979a, x), and “it would be an error of misplaced emphasis to say that the book of Revelation is primarily a letter in form. The epistolary form is subordinated to and in service of the book’s revelatory character” (Yarbro Collins 1979b, 70).

30   Mitchell G. Reddish

Revelation as a Prophecy In the first and last chapters of Revelation, John claims that his message is a prophecy (1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19), and in one of his visions hears a heavenly command to prophesy (10:11). In 22:9, John’s angel guide seems to consider John one of the prophets when he says, “I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets.” Boring argues that in 11:18 and 22:9 “servant” and “prophet” are equated, which “means that ‘servant’ in 1:1 was probably understood by John to be the same as ‘prophet’ so that the revelation was given ‘to his servant John,’ precisely ‘to his prophet John’ ” (Boring 1991, 79–80). Furthermore, even if John does not explicitly appropriate the title prophet to himself, he implicitly associates himself with the Hebrew prophets. In 10:8–11, his taking the little scroll from the angel and eating it emulates the action of Ezekiel (Ezek 2:8–3:3). The scene serves as a second commissioning scene, following the first commissioning in Rev 1:9–20. Aune (1997, liv) describes these scenes as “functionally analogous to the prophetic call narratives in OT prophetic books and early Jewish apocalypses (Jer 1:4–10; Isa 6:1–13; Ezek 1:1–3:11; Isa 40:1–11; see 1 En. 14:8–25).” Various aspects of Revelation are similar to components in literary works associated with the Hebrew prophets. As already mentioned, Revelation describes in two scenes the call or commissioning of John as God’s mouthpiece, and this is similar to commission descriptions of the Hebrew prophets. The second of those scenes (10:8–10) describes John’s symbolic act of eating the scroll. A report of a symbolic act is a literary form that appears frequently in the works of the Hebrew prophets (Hos 1 and 3; Isa 7:3; 8:1–4; 20:1–6; Jer 13:1–11; 16:1–4, 5–7, 8–9; 32:1–15; March 1974, 172). Another type of material found in the prophetic literature that appears several times in Revelation is the vision report in which the prophet describes a revelatory vision, frequently including an audition. The book of Revelation also makes use of various oracles, or messages from God, that are similar in form to the oracles that characterize the speech of the Hebrew prophets (March  1974, 157–77; Tucker  1971, 61–65; 1978; Westermann  1967, 94–98). Revelation presents the oracles as words from God, from Jesus, or from angels. The seven messages in chapters 2 and 3 are often identified as oracles. Each of the messages claims divine origin using the formulaic expression, “thus says . . . ” (tade legei), which is the same expression used repeatedly by many of the prophets, especially in Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. The Greek words used by John (tade legei) are the same ones normally used in the Septuagint translation of these passages for this messenger-formula in the Hebrew Bible. Some scholars, however, argue that the tade legei formula derives from royal and imperial decrees of Persian kings and Roman magistrates and emperors. (See Aune 1997, 119–29, who identifies their primary literary form as royal or imperial edict and their secondary form as the parenetic salvation-judgment oracle of prophetic speech.) Among other passages that have been compared to the oracles of the prophets are Rev 1:7–8, 17–20; 13:9–10; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 21:3–4, 5–8; 22:7, 12–14, 18–20 (Aune 1983, 275–88). These oracles fit several of the forms of prophetic speech in

The Genre of the Book of Revelation   31 the Hebrew Bible, including announcement of judgment, announcement of salvation, and salvation-judgment oracle. In addition, Rev 8:13 and 12:12 are similar to prophetic woe-oracles. One of the problems in differentiating prophetic writings from apocalypses is that both are examples of revelatory literature. They divulge to their readers divine or heavenly information imparted to the prophet or apocalypticist. Furthermore, both types of writings make use of some of the same literary forms, especially visions, dialogues, divine oracles, announcements of salvation, and announcements of judgment (see the helpful discussion in Aune 1983, 114–21). However, even with the use of similar literary forms, the way in which these forms are used typically differs. In apocalypses, the mediated aspect of the message is dominant, whereas in Jewish prophetic writings direct address is the primary mode of communication of the message. God speaks directly to the prophet, “thus says the Lord” or “the word of the Lord came to me, saying.” In apocalypses an otherworldly mediator, often an angelic figure, mediates the message to the recipient. Apocalypses usually rely on an interpreting angel to explain the contents of visions that are given to the recipient, whereas interpreting angels are not characteristic of prophetic visions (although within some later prophetic writings the divine message is mediated or interpreted by an otherworldly being, such as sometimes in Ezekiel and in Zechariah). The content of the revealed message also differs between prophetic works and apocalypses. The prophetic message focuses on events of this age and this world. The message may be future-oriented, but the future is still within the bounds of ordinary history. God will bring judgment or salvation within history. Thus, one could describe the eschatology of the prophets as “historical” or this-worldly. Eventually, whether in the near or distant future, God will bring about a destruction of Israel’s enemies and a restoration of Israel (Collins 2003a, 76; Hanson 1979, 10–12). Apocalypses, on the other hand, exhibit a transcendent, otherworldly eschatology “that looks for retribution beyond the bounds of history” (Collins 1998, 11). As Stephen Cook states, “Whereas in prophetic texts the language of the march of the Divine Warrior is Semitic hyperbole, the writers of apocalyptic literature expected a concrete, physical undoing of earthly reality. They expected not merely the historical defeat of Israel’s enemies but earth’s literal, divine re-creation” (Cook 2003, 38). That does not mean that all apocalypses focus on cosmic eschatology— that is, on the end of the world—as do the “historical apocalypses.” In some works, the eschatological dimension is a personal eschatology, which “takes the form of judgment of individuals after death” (Collins 1998, 11). For example, in the Testament of Abraham, the major focus is on the heavenly judgment scene Abraham observes. In 3 Baruch, an angel guides Baruch through the five levels of heaven in which Baruch sees the places of punishment for the wicked and places of reward for the righteous. Collins goes so far as to argue that “the distinctive feature of apocalyptic eschatology over against that of the prophets is the expectation of the postmortem judgment of individuals” (Collins 2003b, 49–50). The content of the book of Revelation involves both cosmic eschatology and personal eschatology.

32   Mitchell G. Reddish Clearly, similarities exist between Revelation and prophetic literature. Furthermore, the boundary between certain prophetic writings (particularly later works such as Ezekiel and Zechariah) and apocalypses is somewhat blurry. However, when the book of Revelation is compared to Jewish prophetic literature and to Jewish and Christian apocalypses, Revelation more closely resembles the genre of an apocalypse than of Hebrew prophecy (contra Mazzaferri 2010). If Revelation does not belong to the genre of the Hebrew prophets, is it an example of Christian prophecy? Several studies have examined the phenomenon of prophecy in early Christianity (Aune 1983; Boring 1974, 1991, 1992; Hill 1979). The conclusion of all these studies is that John of Patmos is one of the major examples of an early Christian prophet. He spoke and wrote with a clear awareness of being an “immediately inspired spokesperson for the risen Jesus, who received intelligible messages that he felt impelled to deliver to the Christian community” (slightly modified definition from Boring 1991, 38). There is a difference, however, between identifying John as a Christian prophet and identifying his writing as belonging to the genre of prophetic writing (a prophet could use any of several literary genres). A major problem in identifying John’s work as an example of Christian prophecy is in defining the genre of Christian prophetic literature. Even though scholars such as Boring and Aune attempt to do so, one of the major sources for their studies is the book of Revelation itself. Granted, they have utilized evidence of prophetic speech forms gleaned from other works, such as the Gospels, the writings of Paul, the Didache, and the Shepherd of Hermas, but the only likely extant candidate for an entire work that could be considered Christian prophetic writing is the book of Revelation (and maybe the Shepherd of Hermas, but even Boring [1991, 84–85] admits that “we may expect to glean only a minimum of material for our purposes from Hermas”). Thus the claim that the genre of Revelation is Christian prophecy becomes a circular argument since Revelation provides the primary data for defining the genre.

Conclusion So, is Revelation an apocalypse, a letter, or a prophecy? One is tempted to answer simply, “yes.” Revelation certainly has affinities with each of these literary genres and contains elements that are found in these and other types of writings. Thus, scholars frequently identify the work as being a mixed genre, describing it by a combination of terms: a ­prophetic-apocalyptic writing, a prophetic letter, an apocalyptic letter, an apocalyptic prophecy, or a prophetic apocalypse. Clearly, the work begins and ends like a letter. John likely encased his message in an epistolary framework because he intended his work to be carried to each of the seven churches and read aloud to them, in much the same way that Paul’s letters would have been read to the churches to which they were addressed. On the other hand, Revelation contains many of the literary forms and terms used by the Hebrew prophets, and John spoke of his work as a prophecy. He was an inspired Christian prophet who had an apocalyptic message to share with the churches in Asia

The Genre of the Book of Revelation   33 Minor. Viewed in terms of form, content, and function, however, Revelation closely matches the widely used definition of an apocalypse given in the first section of this chapter. While it contains traits of several genres, Revelation bears a stronger resemblance to an apocalypse than to any other genre. Gregory Linton, after noting the way the book does not precisely fit within any genre, concludes, “Some surplus will always be unaccounted for by the generic choice, and the text will refuse to fit completely and neatly into any generic identification. This text constantly overruns any boundaries placed around it. It refuses to stay in bounds” (Linton 2006, 40). Perhaps the best that one can conclude is that Revelation is an apocalypse, written by a Christian prophet, sent as a quasi-letter to the churches of Asia Minor.

References Aune, David E. 1986. “The Apocalypse of John and the Problem of Genre.” In Early Christian Apocalypticism: Genre and Social Setting, edited by Adela Yarbro Collins, pp. 65–96. Semeia 36. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Aune, David  E. 1983. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Aune, David E. 1997. Revelation 1–5. WBC 52A. Dallas: Word. Bauckham, Richard. 1993. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Blevins, James L. 1980. “The Genre of Revelation.” RevExp 77: 393–408. Blevins, James L. 1984. Revelation as Drama. Nashville: Broadman. Boring, M. Eugene. 1974. “The Apocalypse as Christian Prophecy: A Discussion of the Issues Raised by the Book of Revelation for the Study of Early Christian Prophecy.” SBLSP 2: 43–62. Boring, M.  Eugene. 1991. The Continuing Voice of Jesus: Christian Prophecy and the Gospel Tradition. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox. Boring, M. Eugene. 1992. “The Voice of Jesus in the Apocalypse of John.” NovT 34: 334–59. Bowman, John Wick. 1955. The Drama of the Book of Revelation. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Bowman, John Wick. 1962. “Revelation, Book of.” In The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, edited by George A. Buttrick, vol. 4, pp. 58–71. Nashville: Abingdon. Carmignac, Jean. 1983. “Description du phénomène de l’Apocalyptique dans l’Ancien Testament.” In Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Uppsala, August 12–17, 1979, edited by David Hellholm, pp. 163–70. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Collins, John J. 1979. “Introduction: Towards the Morphology of a Genre.” In Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre, edited by John J. Collins, pp. 1–20. Semeia 14. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Collins, John  J. 1998. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Collins, John J. 2003a. “The Eschatology of Zechariah.” In Knowing the End from the Beginning: The Prophetic, the Apocalyptic and Their Relationships, edited by Lester  L.  Grabbe and Robert D. Haak, pp. 74–84. London: T & T Clark. Collins, John J. 2003b. “Prophecy, Apocalypse and Eschatology: Reflections on the Proposals of Lester Grabbe.” In Knowing the End from the Beginning: The Prophetic, the Apocalyptic

34   Mitchell G. Reddish and Their Relationships, edited by Lester L. Grabbe and Robert D. Haak, pp. 44–52. London: T & T Clark. Cook, Stephen L. 1995. Prophecy and Apocalypticism: The Postexilic Social Setting. Minneapolis: Fortress. Cook, Stephen L. 2003. The Apocalyptic Literature. IBT. Nashville: Abingdon. Doty, William G. 1973. Letters in Primitive Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress. Hanson, Paul  D. 1976. “Apocalypse, Genre.” In The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: Supplementary Volume, edited by Keith Crim, pp. 27–28. Nashville: Abingdon. Hanson, Paul D. 1979. The Dawn of Apocalyptic. Rev. ed. Philadelphia: Fortress. Hartman, Lars. 1983. “Survey of the Problem of Apocalyptic Genre.” In Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Uppsala, August 12–17, 1979, edited by David Hellholm, pp. 329–43. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Hellholm, David. 1986. “The Problem of Apocalyptic Genre and the Apocalypse of John.” In Early Christian Apocalypticism: Genre and Social Setting, edited by Adela Yarbro Collins, pp. 13–64. Semeia 36. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Hill, David. 1979. New Testament Prophecy. Atlanta, GA: John Knox. Karrer, Martin. 1986. Die Johannesoffenbarung als Brief: Studien zu ihrem literarischen historischen und theologischen Ort. FRLANT 140. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Linton, Gregory L. 2006. “Reading the Apocalypse as Apocalypse: The Limits of Genre.” In The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 9–41. SBLSymS 39. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. March, W. Eugene. 1974. “Prophecy.” In Old Testament Form Criticism, edited by John H. Hayes, pp. 141–77. San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press. Mazzaferri, Frederick David. 2010. The Genre of the Book of Revelation from a Source-Critical Perspective. Berlin: de Gruyter. Reddish, Mitchell G. 2001. Revelation. SHBC. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys. Roloff, Jürgen. 1993. The Revelation of John. Translated by John E. Alsup. Minneapolis: Fortress. Rowland, Christopher. 1982. The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity. New York: Crossroad. Sanders, E. P. 1983. “The Genre of Palestinian Jewish Apocalypses.” In Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East: Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Uppsala, August 12–17, 1979, edited by David Hellholm, pp. 447–59. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1998. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Fortress. Stowers, Stanley K. 1986. Letter Writing in Greco-Roman Antiquity. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Stowers, Stanley K. 1992. “Letters (Greek and Latin).” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, K–N, edited by David Noel Freedman, pp. 290–93. New York: Doubleday. Tucker, Gene M. 1971. Form Criticism of the Old Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress. Tucker, Gene M. 1978. “Prophetic Speech.” Int 32: 31–45. Westermann, Claus. 1967. Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech. Translated by Hugh Clayton White. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. White, John L. 1986. Light from Ancient Letters. Foundations and Facets. Philadelphia: Fortress.

The Genre of the Book of Revelation   35 White, John  L. 1988. “Ancient Greek Letters.” In Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament: Selected Forms and Genres, edited by David  E.  Aune, pp. 85–105. Society of Biblical Literature Resources for Biblical Study 21. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1979a. The Apocalypse. New Testament Message 22. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1979b. “The Early Christian Apocalypses.” In Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre, edited by John J. Collins, pp. 61–103. Semeia 14. Atlanta, GA. Society of Biblical Literature. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1986. Introduction to Early Christian Apocalypticism: Genre and Social Setting, edited by Adela Yarbro Collins, pp. 1–11. Semeia 36. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature.

chapter 3

Na r r ati v e Fe at u r e s of the Book of R ev el ation James L. Resseguie

A narrative analysis of the book of Revelation focuses on how the narrative constructs its meaning and the way diverse narrative features—such as masterplot, character, setting, and rhetoric—coalesce to form an indivisible whole. Some of the questions that amplify the literariness of Revelation are as follows: How does the older biblical masterplot of a people being enslaved in Egypt, pursued by a bloodthirsty pharaoh, wandering in the wilderness, and journeying to the new promised land, clarify Revelation’s plot? In what ways do John’s bizarre hybrid characters that merge traits from the world below and from this world, or the human with the inhuman, intensify plot conflicts and complicate the quest for the new Jerusalem? How do the fierce landscapes of desert and sea accent peril and solace on the journey to the new Jerusalem? In what ways is Babylon the archetypal city of oppression and captivity that the exodus-people—the followers of the Lamb—must flee to realize their quest for the new promised land? And how do symbolic threes, three-and-a-halves, sixes, sevens, and twelves serve as signs of solace and peril for the exodus-people? Four narrative features of Revelation are the focus of this chapter: (a) masterplot, (b) characters and characterization, (c) architectural and topographical settings, and (d) numerical symbolism.1

Revelation’s Masterplot Masterplots are “recurrent skeletal stories, belonging to cultures and individuals that play a powerful role in questions of identity, values, and the understanding of life” (Abbott 2008, 236). They explore the quest for life’s meaning or build upon questions of origins: the quest for identity (Who are we?); the quest for meaning (Where are we going?); the quest for reconciliation (How do we find our way back home?), and so on.

38   James L. Resseguie For example, the masterplot of Sophocles’s Oedipus narrative is a story of conflict between free will and fate’s subversion of the individual will. Oedipus seeks to find a future that is free from the constraints placed upon him by his heritage and environment. Can he escape his fate and determine his direction in life? Or is his life determined by events and circumstances beyond his control? Oedipus sought to avoid his fate of murdering his father, Laius, the king of Thebes, and marrying his mother, Jocasta. But his flight from Corinth fulfills his destiny. On the road he meets an unknown man whom he kills, and then he marries his widow, assuring that fate triumphs over individual will. The man he killed was his father and the widow he married turned out to be his mother (cf. Abbott 2008, 195–97; Resseguie 2005, 203–4). Revelation’s masterplot is a quest story of the people of God in search of the new promised land—a quest for a vanished Eden that the new Jerusalem, with its fecund tree of life, offers (Rev 22:2). Allusions to Israel’s exodus and exile provide the literary background for this quest (Deut 2:7; 8:15–16; 29:5; 32:10; Beale 1999, 643–45; Ulfgard 1989, 35–41). Just as the Israelites faced obstacles and received divine protection on the journey to the promised land, so, too, the exodus-people—the followers of the resurrected Lamb—face peril and receive divine solace on their journey to the new Jerusalem. The narrative features of Revelation—especially characters, settings, and numerical symbolism—­play a supporting role in the development and advancement of the masterplot. The characters, for instance, either aid or hinder the sojourners in their quest. The phar­aoh of Revelation—a bloodthirsty dragon with seven heads and ten horns—­pursues the woman clothed with the sun and attempts to destroy her with a flood from his mouth (Rev 12:3, 13, 15). But she is given two wings of a great eagle to escape to the wilderness, where the earth comes to her aid by swallowing the pharaoh’s torrent (12:14, 16). All this is reminiscent of Israel’s arduous trek in the wilderness on its way to the promised land: the Pharaoh who pursues the escaping Israelites to the Red Sea (Exod 14–15); eagles’ wings that carry a persecuted people to safety (Exod 19:4; cf. Deut 32:11–12); and the earth that swallows Pharaoh’s army (Exod 15:12). An important subplot supplements the masterplot of Revelation: the urgent need of a messianic repair of a broken world. The beasts and other evil characters of the Apocalypse have destroyed the earth, requiring a complete overhaul of the cosmos that will put everyone and everything into its proper place (cf. Rev 11:18). For example, the demonic locusts wander out of their proper place in the abyss below and wreak havoc on this world (Rev 9). Before the exodus-people arrive at the new promised land, these demonic locusts must be put in their proper place, along with the beast from the sea, the beast from the land, the dragon, death, and Hades.

Characters and Characterization Two important techniques of characterization are “showing,” or indirect presentation, and “telling,” or direct presentation. In showing, the narrator reveals traits through characters’ speech, actions, clothing, physical description, posture, affect, gender, and

Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation   39 socioeconomic status. What characters say, what they wear, what they do, how they relate to others, and how they appear, reveal defining traits (Resseguie 2009, 38–42; 2005, 121–30). What others say about them and how they respond enhance characterization. In telling, the narrator comments on characters or adds commentary for the benefit of the readers. Sobriquets, epithets, and narrative descriptions enlarge the traits of characters while proper names are “saturated with meaning” (Hochman 1985, 37). In Revelation, for example, Abaddon means “destruction,” Apollyon means “Destroyer,” and the beast’s name in 13:18 is a number “saturated with meaning.” In addition, literary foils amplify character traits and symbolic settings magnify characters’ speech and actions. Another aspect of telling occurs when omniscient/intrusive narrators peer inside characters’ minds and reveal their thinking, feelings, and motives (inside views). John usually prefers to show rather than tell. But as with all excellent writers, everything he shows, tells. John describes bizarre hybrids, which merge character traits from the world below with characteristics of this world, or the human with the inhuman, to accentuate the conflicted and divided nature of humanity. As the sphinx has the face of a human and the body of a lion, so do John’s hybrids combine the beast and the human to emphasize humanity’s divided and conflicted nature. John’s odd hybrids also clarify the deceptive nature of evil, its perversion of good, and its inversion of the created order. The beast/ human hybrids of the Apocalypse are (a) the locusts from the abyss (9:1–11), (b) the beast from the sea (13:1–10, 18), and (c) the beast from the land (13:11–17). In Rev 9, the locusts are released from their proper place in the world below to wreak havoc on this world. Their origin is the abyss, the demonic underworld, but they have human features, underscoring the collusion of this world with the world below. Although they come from another world, they are like something from this world. They are like horses equipped for battle with something akin to gold crowns on their heads and faces like humans (9:7). Their hair is like women’s hair; their teeth are like lions’ teeth; and their scales, like iron breastplates (9:8–9). Their wings make a sound like the sound of chariots charging into battle, and their tails have stingers that are like scorpion tails (9:9–10). These hybrids represent the world turned upside down and inside out. They are the reverse side of the world above and portray what the world would be like if God allowed demonic powers to have free, unrestrained reign in this world (Koester 2018, 102). Their bizarre appearance, unnatural actions, and demonic torment attest to the inversion of the created order. In the natural order, locusts eat grass and other kinds of vegetation; but these insects torture the earth’s inhabitants and leave the vegetation untouched (9:4–6). Locusts in nature have no leader (Prov 30:27), but this horde from the deep has a satanic leader in Abaddon or Apollyon (9:11). Locusts in nature use their voracious jaws to devour vegetation, but the hybrids from the abyss use scorpion-like tails to torture humans (9:5, 10). The hybrid locusts represent the collaboration of this world with the world below, a consortium of terror in which demonic/ human creatures upend the created order. The beast from the sea (11:7; 13:1–10, 18; 17:8) and the beast from the earth (13:11–17; 16:13; 19:20; 20:10) also combine human and inhuman traits. The ominous setting of the

40   James L. Resseguie first beast, which comes up from the sea (13:1), a realm identified with the abyss or the underworld in Rev 11:7, signals its destructive nature. The terrifying dragon Leviathan lives in the sea (Ps 74:13–14 [73:13–14 LXX]; Isa 27:1), and in the new order the sea is nowhere to be found (Rev 21:1). The beast’s appearance is likened to that of some of the most ferocious and frightening animals of this world—the leopard. bear, and lion—yet it has a human side that the grammar reveals. John generally uses the neuter gender to describe the beast and its actions; however, on one occasion, he uses the masculine gender to underscore the beast’s human side: “all the inhabitants of the earth will worship him” (13:8). (The NRSV obscures the beast’s human side when the translators use “it” instead of “him.”) However, the clearest expression of the beast’s human side is in 13:18: John uses a symbolic number, 666, to reveal the beast’s identity and to accent its perverse nature (see section 4). The third member of John’s evil hybrids is the beast from the earth (13:11–17). The land beast’s deceptive nature is seen in its lamblike appearance with two horns. Yet its voice is like the dragon’s (13:11). John uses a masculine participle for “beast” (not a neuter as expected) to underscore the monster’s humanity: “He told (legōn) them [the inhabitants of the earth] to make an image for the beast that had been wounded by the sword and it lived” (13:14b, my translation). Moreover, the narrator uses a rhetorical device to highlight the beast’s deceptive character. What John sees is contrasted with what he hears. Although there is no simple pattern to what the prophet sees, on the one hand, and what he hears, on the other (e.g., Rev 5:5–6; 7:4, 9), the hearing/seeing sequence can point to the disjunction between characters’ outward appearances and their inner natures (Sweet 1990, 125). This is the case in 13:11. John sees a beast with two horns like a lamb rise from the earth, but he hears the voice of a dragon. The land beast’s outward appearance is a mirage; its true nature is only revealed when it speaks—like a dragon. John’s hybrids are not all evil creatures that combine characteristics of the world below with this world. The four strange creatures of Rev 4: 6b–8 are good hybrids that merge characteristics of the world above (e.g., six wings, cf. Isa 6:2–3; eyes in front and behind and around and inside) with this world (e.g., lion, ox, human, eagle). They are the heavenly counterpart to the demonic locusts. The hybrids reveal what the cosmos is like when the Creator is at the center of creation. If the tormenting locusts represent the world below in collusion with this world, then the four living creatures represent the world above in perfect harmony with this world. And if the vision of the horde from the deep portrays a world without messianic repairs, then the vision of the four living creatures paints a picture of a world restored, with the Creator at the center. While the beasts from the sea and the earth hinder the progress of the exodus-people to the new promised land, other characters aid them in their quest. The mighty angel of Rev 10 has characteristics reminiscent of the mysterious cloud and pillar of fire that guided the Israelites on their journey to the promised land (Beale  1999, 524–25; Kiddle  1940, 169; Mazzaferri  1989, 265; Resseguie  2009, 152; Smalley  2005, 257–58; Sweet 1990, 177). As Yahweh or an angel guided the Israelites by night with a pillar of fire (cf. Exod 13:21–22), so the angel of the new exodus proffers a MacGuffin-scroll to orient the exodus-people on the next phase of their journey (Rev 10:2). A “MacGuffin,” a term

Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation   41 popularized by Alfred Hitchcock in 1939, is an object, event, or character that serves as a motivator for the plot (cf. Chatman 1978, 140). A MacGuffin may be arresting or simply puzzling, but it is important for the advancement of the plot. Although MacGuffins are frequently mysterious or unexplained, they are something the characters care about (e.g., the falcon in The Maltese Falcon). The significance of the angel’s MacGuffin-scroll is debated by critics, which is a measure of its intrinsic value as a plot device (see Koester 2014, 476–77, for suggestions). In Rev 10, John is the typical character in a suspense novel who pursues a MacGuffin: when given the MacGuffin-scroll, he eats it without demurring but then experiences unexplained, even mysterious results (cf. 10:9–10). Several commentators conclude that the MacGuffin-scroll is the subject of Rev 11, a parable-like story that clarifies the role of the Christian community during the ­in-­between times—the period between Christ’s ascension to heaven and his return to complete the messianic repairs of the cosmos (Charles 1920, 1:260; Koester 2014, 505; Mazzaferri 1989, 267–69; Mounce 1998, 210). The two witnesses of Rev 11, who represent the entire Christian community on their exodus journey to the new promised land, accomplish what the plagues could not do (Bauckham 1993b, 86). Despite the terror of the devastating trumpet plagues, “the rest” of humanity that remained untouched by the disasters continued in their insouciance and refused to repent of their idolatry and unjust acts (cf. 9:20–21). The exodus-people, however, move the plot forward through their witness, death, and vindication (11:7–13). After their opprobrium and suffering, the remainder of the stolid, the unrepentant who were spared the judgment of an earthquake, “were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” (11:13)—that is, they abandoned their disastrous ways (see Blount 2009, 218; Caird 1996, 140; Koester 2014, 507–12; Osborne 2002, 433–34; Resseguie 2009, 161–67; Smalley 2005, 286; Sweet 1990, 189). Thus, the MacGuffin—the sweet/bitter scroll—allows the stalled plot to advance to its denouement.

Architectural and Topographical Settings The settings of Revelation are more than colorful details used to support the narrative: They are spiritual and symbolic markers that recall important landmarks in Israel’s past. Mountain, wilderness, river, abyss, sea, and lake of fire are part of Revelation’s spiritual topography of peril and solace, and architectural settings, such as Babylon and the new Jerusalem, are symbolic cities that offer two distinct choices for the peoples of the earth (Rossing 1999). Will the people of the earth assimilate to the dominant culture and settle down in the city of this world that is doomed to destruction? Or will they follow the Lamb on a perilous journey to the new promised land (cf. Rossing 1999, 161–65)? Babylon is the archetypal city of this world that symbolizes humanity in complete rebellion against God. The city is first mentioned in Rev 11:8, where it is called “the great

42   James L. Resseguie city,” “Sodom,” “Egypt,” and the place “where also their Lord was crucified.” Although some argue that “the great city” must be Jerusalem, since Jesus was crucified there (Aune 1997–98, 619; Blount 2009, 214; Osborne 2002, 426; Swete 1911, 137–38; Thompson 1990, 127), the epithet is not to be taken literally. Just as “wilderness” (12:6, 14) and the “lake of fire and sulfur” (20:10) are spiritual places that cannot be found on a physical map, so, too, the place where the Lord was crucified is symbolic geography (Beale  1999, 592; Resseguie 2009, 164; Smalley 2005, 282). It is a spiritual reference to every and any place that denigrates the Lamb and uplifts the beast as a counterfeit surrogate. Babylon’s reputation as “the great city,” a euphemism for both its might and splendor, is repeatedly hammered into the reader’s head in 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21; cf. also 16:19; 17:18. Its identification with well-known places of infamy such as Sodom and Egypt solidify its reputation as a city of oppression and ill repute. If Sodom is a symbol of wickedness (Gen 19:1–25; Deut 29:22–23; Isa 1:9–15; 3:9; Jer 23:14–15), Egypt is a cipher for alienation and slavery (Exod 2:23; 5:1–21). Babylon and biblical Egypt are identical places of captivity and oppression in Revelation’s masterplot. Those who live in Babylon are like the Israelites who dwelled in the “house of slavery” in Egypt (Exod 20:2). Only by fleeing the city of oppression will the exodus-people enter the new promised land (“Come out of her, my people,” Rev 18:4). To underscore the peril of assimilation to Babylon’s evil ways, John uses the metaphor of sexual boundary-crossing. In contrast to the bridal imagery of the new Jerusalem (21:2), Babylon is a whore (17:1, 15, 16) and a consort of the scarlet beast from the sea (17:3). She fornicates with the kings of the earth and gets the “inhabitants of the earth” drunk on her fornication (17:2), while she herself is intoxicated with “the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus” (17:6). The stark sexual imagery intensifies the danger of crossing boundaries that are established through covenant relationships and applies not only to illicit sexual relations but also to all areas of life that are marred by desire, transgression, confused boundaries, and compromise. Prostitution and fornication are metaphors for economic exploitation, social tyranny, political compromise, and religious assimilation into the dominant culture (Koester  2014, 671–95; Resseguie 2009, 218). For example, harlotry is a metaphor for the idolatrous practices of Israel that violate the covenant between God and Israel in Hosea (2:5). Isaiah employs sexual relations to indict Tyre with unjust trade practices and economic exploitation (Isa 23:15–18). Nahum charges Nineveh with economic prostitution (Nah 3:4), and Ezekiel accuses Jerusalem of being an unfaithful wife in accommodating to the corrupt culture (Ezek 16). In Revelation, Jezebel is a religious prostitute who seduces some at Thyatira to practice idolatry (Rev 2:20). Thus, John stands in a long line of prophets who rely on illicit sexual congress to amplify the peril of compromise with the prevailing culture. Most commentators identify Babylon as first-century Rome (Aune 1997–98, 830–31; Barr 2012, 129; Beasley-Murray 1974, 225; Koester 2014, 675; Krodel 1989, 268; Kuhn 1964, 516; Osborne 2002, 538; Resseguie 2009, 221; Roloff 1993, 175; Witherington 2003, 191). Yet Babylon is more than ancient Rome (Johns  2003, 117; Koester  2014, 506, 684; Resseguie  2009, 221). She is the mother of whores or of all things ungodly (17:5;

Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation   43 Koester 2014, 675), a city representative of all cities and powers that lure people to participate in illicit relationships—whether economic tyranny, political injustice, social and racial repression, political compromise, or religious assimilation. Stephen Smalley goes so far to say that Babylon symbolizes “the secular and unjust spirit of humanity” (2005, 364) while Gregory Beale concludes that the city of Babylon is representative of “all wicked world systems” (1999, 755). In terms of Revelation’s masterplot, Babylon is the anticity to the new Jerusalem, a satanic parody of God’s perfect city and represents any place and every place that rises heavenward to deify itself. Babylon is the symbolic city of this world that replicates the primal act of human overreach in the building of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:4; cf. Rev 18:5, 7; Isa 14:13–14; Ezek 31:3, 10; Resseguie 2009, 199).2 Yet the people of the exodus must dwell in the city of captivity and oppression and endure its atrocities. Although God’s people are called to come out of “the great city” (Rev 18:4), their only recourse is to depart figuratively, for “the great city” is where God’s people are exiled in the in-between times. Departure from Babylon is a metaphor for separation from the city’s norms, values, and beliefs (Boxall 2006, 257; Boring 1998, 189; Koester 2014, 715–16; Resseguie 2009, 229; Smalley 2005, 446–47). The metaphor does not require a geographical relocation; it demands an “inner reorientation” (Boring 1998, 189). The trek to the new Jerusalem is a continuous journey of dissociation from the city of this world—a spiritual, political, and socioeconomic rebellion against the norms of unjust and corrupt cultures. If Babylon is the ill-fated city that all who follow the Lamb are to flee, then the new Jerusalem is everything that Babylon strives to be but fails to achieve. Like the Tower of Babel, Babylon strives heavenward. Yet its attempts at deification are doomed to failure (18:4–8). The distinguishing feature of the new Jerusalem, however, is that it does not rise heavenward but comes down from heaven, a gift from God (21:2, 10). Whereas Babylon is a whore (17:1–6), the new Jerusalem is a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (21:2). The imagery establishes the singular trait of the new promised land: It is pure and unblemished in character. Unlike Babylon’s streets that are strewn with blood and littered with all sorts of filth and abominations—fit only for demons and other foul creatures (17:5–6; 18:2)—the new Jerusalem has clean streets, unpolluted water, an Edenic garden, towering walls, a solid gold boulevard, bejeweled gates, and unlocked doors (21:9–22:5). Whereas disorder, death, and destruction characterize the old creation, purity characterizes the new creation. Repetition of the word “pure” or “clear” signifies the spotless, unblemished character of the new Jerusalem and is the primary metaphor for the city’s moral, spiritual, and ideological purity (Royalty  1998, 239). Jerusalem is pure gold, clear [or pure] as glass” (21:18) and the main street of the city is “pure gold, transparent as glass” (21:21). Other settings accentuate peril and solace on the exodus to the new promised land. In the Hebrew scriptures, wilderness is in-between space, the harsh landscape between the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt, on the one hand, and their freedom in the promised land, on the other (Cohn 1981, 14; Lane 1998). Wilderness space is neither here nor there, neither biblical Egypt nor the promised land. It is stark, barren landscape—life at the edges of society that are distant from the securities of human structures. Desert life is nomadic,

44   James L. Resseguie unsettled, and rootless. Yet it is where divine solace thrives on the Israelites’ journey to the promised land: the supernatural presence of a cloud to lead them by day, fire to guide them by night, and manna to sustain them daily. In Revelation, the word for wilderness or desert (erēmos) occurs three times (12:6, 14; 17:3). It is a place of divine rescue for the woman in Rev 12, an image of the people of God who are persecuted by the dragon (Resseguie 2009, 171; Roloff 1993, 145). Pursued and attacked by Revelation’s pharaoh, she receives asylum for the symbolic period of 1,260 days (12:6; cf. 12:14). As the Israelites lived in the wilderness on their sojourn to the promised land, so the followers of the Lamb live figuratively in wilderness/in-between space until they arrive at the new Jerusalem. The sea is fierce, terrifying landscape, where monsters of the deep such as Leviathan lurk (Ps 74:13–14 [73: 13–14 LXX]; Isa 27:1). G. B. Caird suggests that the sea is a metonym “for everything that is recalcitrant to the will of God” (Caird 1996, 197). Yet the sea is not always threatening landscape. A glassy sea mixed with fire is the setting for the most “complete and systematic” development of a persecuted people who are delivered from the pursuing pharaoh (Rev 15; Caird 1996, 197). The followers of the Lamb (i.e., the exodus-people) stand by a crystal sea, the heavenly analogue to the Red Sea, and sing a song of the Lamb’s victory, recalling the song of Moses and the Israelites’ deliverance from Pharaoh at the Red Sea (cf. Exod 15:1–18). Having conquered the beast, the people of the exodus cross to the other side, where God’s throne is, and sing a song of deliverance (15:3; Koester 2014, 633–35). The sea is thus an ambiguous landscape: threatening space but also a passageway to safety.

Numerical Symbolism Symbolic numbers orient the exodus-people and help them navigate the perilous terrain on their journey to the new Jerusalem. As stars guide sailors and help them negotiate the seas, so numbers help the sojourners navigate their journey. Numbers are diverse and important markers in Revelation. They serve as danger signs to warn the exoduspeople of poseurs with divine pretentions; they alert the travelers to the impending difficulties on this journey; and they reinforce the presence of divine protection. Numbers also define the character of the in-between times and elaborate the suffering vocation of the exodus-people. Finally, numbers, especially twelves, are a welcomed sign that the new promised land is at hand. Threes not only characterize the divine but also warn the sojourners of evil’s pretensions to divinity. A danger on the journey to the promised land is that some may mistake the counterfeit for the real and the fraudulent for the genuine. For instance, God is given the threefold title, the one “who is and who was and who is to come” (1:4, 8; cf. 4:8). But the beast from the earth is recognized as a potent poseur with claims to the divine prerogative; it is therefore given a threefold title to underscore its aspirations to divinity (who “was and is not and is to come”; 17:8c; cf. 17:8a, 11).

Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation   45 Three and a half is the most important temporal road sign for the people of God on the journey itself. Four versions of three and a half occur in Revelation: (a) a time, and times, and half a time (= three-and-a-half times or years, Rev 12:14); (b) one thousand two hundred and sixty days (= three-and-a-half years, Rev 11:3; 12:6); (c) forty-two months (= three-and-a-half years or forty-two months of thirty days, Rev 11:2; 13:5); and (d) three-and-a-half days (Rev 11:9, 11). Three and a half is the perfect number seven broken in half, representing a complete week “arrested midway in its normal course” (Ford [1975] 1995, 176). It is derived from Dan 7:25 and 12:7, where “a time, two times, and half a time” or “time, times, and a half ” designates a period of oppression and corresponds approximately to the temple’s desecration under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (167–64 bce). The broken seven not only represents a limited yet intense period of affliction for God’s people; it is a temporal marker to designate the period between Christ’s ascension to heaven and his return to complete the messianic repairs of the cosmos. The broken seven is thus symbolic of the in-between times: a fractured period that will be made whole when the messiah comes to repair the cosmos and put everyone and everything into the proper place (Koester 2014, 498; Resseguie 2009, 30). The broken seven is also a temporal guidepost that corresponds to the significance of wilderness landscape in Revelation. As wilderness is in-between space—oppression in Babylon, on the one hand, and freedom in the new promised land, on the other—so three-and-a-half times/years/ days represent in-between times that are marked by peril and solace for the sojourners. Time and times and half a time is the figurative time in which the woman clothed with celestial garments receives nourishment and asylum in the wilderness (Rev 12:1, 14). As the Israelites were nourished on their wilderness trek to the promised land, so the new Israel receives divine protection and succor on their journey. The period of divine protection is also represented by one thousand two hundred and sixty days (12:6). In 12:6, the woman with the sun flees to the wilderness for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, where “a place” is prepared for her by God. One thousand two hundred and sixty days not only represent a period of divine protection and solace; it develops and elaborates the role of the church’s vocation during the in-between times (11:3). In Rev 11, two witnesses, who represent the whole Christian community during the in-between times, endure suffering and opprobrium for their witness that ends in death—yet results in vindication (Bauckham 1993a, 274; Koester 2014, 497, 505; Resseguie 2009, 161–66). In Rev 11:2 and 13:5, forty-two months is a period of affliction and oppression for God’s people. In 11:2, nations trample the “holy city” for forty-two months. The affliction and protection the people of God experience during this period is illustrated with the im­agery of the outer court of the temple unmeasured and the enclosed temple measured. While the unmeasured court symbolizes the community of faith subject to physical harm, the measured temple is the same community spiritually protected (Koester 2014, 485; Resseguie 2009, 159–61). Forty-two months occurs a second time in 13:5, where it designates the period of the beast’s autarchy and its war upon those who resist its ways. Although forty-two months and one thousand two hundred and sixty days are identical periods, they serve an important function as numerical cordons that separate the

46   James L. Resseguie period of the beast’s tyranny, on the one hand, from the time of the church’s protection and vocation, on the other. Forty-two months represents the beast’s reign of terror; one thousand two hundred and sixty days is the period of the church’s protection and the time of its vocation. The two separate yet identical periods amplify the stringent limits placed upon the beast, who is powerless to overstep its boundaries and gain the upper hand on God’s people. The numerical cordons lay out distinct perimeters for the beast’s vocation: it cannot subvert, diminish, or nullify the role of God’s people as suffering witnesses, and indeed, the beast enables and advances the mission of the church. Three and a half days (11:9, 11) is an alternative expression for forty-two months, one thousand two hundred and sixty days, and time and times and half a time. The symbolism of times in Revelation does not lie in the unit of measurement (days, weeks, months, years, cubits, stadia, etc.), but in the numerical value attached to the measurement (onehalf, three and a half, seven, ten, twelve, one thousand, etc.; Lupieri 2006, 154). In 11:9, the beast makes war on the two witnesses who represent the church in its vocational role as suffering witness and kills them. As they lie exposed in the street of “the great city” of Babylon for three and a half days, the earth’s inhabitants “gloat over them and celebrate and exchange presents” (11:10). Then they are resurrected (11:11). Three-and-a-half days is not only a guidepost that warns of the dangers God’s people face on their journey; it is also a positive sign to describe the essential character of the Christian community in the in-between times. It is beaten down, trod upon, and killed, yet it is an authoritative and powerful voice within society that is unstoppable. Six is one step away from seven, the penultimate in a complete series of seven, where seven represents the ultimate or the end. The sixth seal, sixth trumpet, and sixth bowl are penultimate judgments that have the hallmarks of the end. Yet they are not the end. John and the church also stand in the penultimate space in Revelation, between the sixth and seventh trumpet. In this in-between space, John is commissioned to prophesy (10:1–10), and the church is called to witness with their words and deeds (11:3–13). John’s preference for symbolic numbers also suggests that there may be more to six hundred sixty-six than a coded message for the imperious ruler Nero (13:18). Even if the Greek name Neron Caesar is six hundred sixty-six in Hebrew (Koester 2014, 597–99, for arguments), the number is multivocal and has significance beyond identification with this Caesar. The number also characterizes humanity that was created on the sixth day (Gen  1:26–31), and “read this way, the number represents the humanity of the beast whose claim is divinity” (Barr 2012, 108). The call for wisdom in 13:18 is to understand the deceptive and beastly nature of evil that mimics seven but is six, that parodies the ultimate but is penultimate. The symbolic meaning of six hundred sixty-six is that it looks messianic; yet it is the penultimate in the guise of ultimacy. Thus, as one step removed from ultimacy, six has “most of the hallmarks of truth, and so it can easily deceive” (Rowland  1998, 659; see also Barr  2012, 108; Blount  2009, 262–63; Resseguie 2009, 31, 188–91; Smalley 2005, 352). And as a guidepost on the way to the promised land, six arms the exodus-people with the knowledge of the beast’s primary trait of deception. Although it appears ultimate, and therefore worthy of following, it is merely a poseur of the divine.3

Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation   47 The number seven, which occurs fifty-five times in Revelation out of the total of eighty-eight times it is used in the New Testament, symbolizes completeness, plenitude, or perfection (Rengstorf 1964, 2:627–35). The seven-day week and seven days of creation mark a complete period. There are seven letters to the seven churches (2:1–3:22), seven seals (6:1–8:1), seven trumpets (8:2–11:18), and seven bowls (15:5–16:21). Each series of sevens is a complete set. There are seven spirits (1:4; 5:6), seven stars (1:20), seven lampstands (1:20), and seven kings (17:9–10). The Lamb has seven eyes and seven horns in 5:6, representative of his complete vision and power. (Horns suggest power in Deut 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11; Pss 75:4–5; 89:17.) Seven is also the hallmark of the counterfeit divine. The dragon, for instance, has seven heads (Rev 12:3; 13:1; 17:3) and wears seven diadems on its head (12:3). Seven may also be symbolic in the description of the whore who sits on seven mountains (17:9), although most commentators see it as an unambiguous reference to Rome’s seven hills (Blount 2009, 319; Boring 1998, 183; Caird 1996, 218–19; Charles 1920, 2:69; Koester  2014, 677; Krodel  1989, 296; Swete  1911, 220; Talbert  1994, 77–78; Witherington 2003, 223). Yet seven is also multivocal in this instance. As Babylon is symbolic geography that is not limited to Rome, so the seven mountains have a meaning greater than a reference to the imperious city.4 “Seven” has its usual meaning of completeness, while “mountains” represent the meeting place between heaven and earth or the earth reaching toward the heavens (Malbon 1986, 84). For example, the symbolic meaning of mountain occurs in the eschatological battle between good and evil. It takes place on a mountain, Harmagedon (more familiarly, Armageddon), which is found only on John’s spiritual map, and, as symbolic space between heaven and earth, the mountain is an appropriate place for a battle between good and evil (16:16; Day 1994; Paulien 1992; Resseguie 2009, 213–14). Mountain symbolism also occurs in the reference to Mount Zion. Mount Zion is “nowhere and everywhere” at the same time (Boxall 2006, 200) and is the symbolic mountain-sanctuary of the one hundred forty-four thousand who have the name of the Lamb and the Father written on their foreheads (14:1). Similarly, the seven mountains of Rev 17 are not merely a signifier for the ancient city that sits on seven hills. Seven has its usual meaning of completeness while mountains signify the earth reaching heavenward. As the city built on seven mountains, Rome represents the earth striving heavenward. It is the symbolic city of this world that replicates the primal act of human overreach that occurs in the building of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1–9). Seven is thus an ambiguous road sign that requires keen discernment. On the one hand, it represents the divine as in the portrayal of the Lamb (Rev 5:6) or, on the other, it signifies the counterfeit divine as in the description of the dragon (12:3) and the beast from the earth (13:1; 17:3, 7). Seven also requires discernment to recognize the unrelenting ambition of human institutions to overreach their God-limited boundaries (cf. Rev 17:9). Twelve represents completeness—the fulfillment of all expectations. Of the seventyfive occurrences of twelve in the New Testament, twenty-three are found in Revelation. There are twelve months in a year, twelve signs of the zodiac, and twelve tribes of Israel. Like seven, twelve implies completeness or perfection. But unlike seven, which describes both the divine and the counterfeit divine, twelve is associated with the people of God.

48   James L. Resseguie Twelve is lengthened to one hundred forty-four thousand or twelve thousand sealed from each of the twelve tribes, which signifies the complete number of God’s Israel (7:4; 14:1, 3; Koester 2014, 417, 426–27; Smith 1990; Resseguie 2009, 137). The woman’s crown has twelve stars (12:1), and the new Jerusalem is an architectural marvel constructed with twelves. The multiple of three times four describes the twelve gates of the city (three on each of its four sides). There are twelve angels at the twelve gates, and the names of the twelve tribes are inscribed on its gates (21:12). The twelve foundations of the city wall have the twelve names of the twelve apostles (21:14). The wall is twelve squared, one hundred forty-four cubits (21:17), and the city measures twelve thousand stadia on each side, a perfect cube (21:16). Twelve jewels adorn the foundations; each of the twelve gates is made of a single pearl for a total of twelve pearls (21:19–21). At the city center is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit (22:2). The heaping up of twelves describes a perfect city, complete in every way, from top to bottom. Thus, twelve is the most assuring and welcoming road sign for God’s people. It signals that the long quest is completed, and they have now arrived at their destination, the new promised land.

Conclusion The narrative features of Revelation are not stand-alone components that can be analyzed separately—although character, plot, settings, and point of view are often evaluated individually. Rather, Revelation’s constitutive features are intertwined and reveal their complexity and nuance only when seen as integral parts of an indivisible, organic whole. Despite its role as the organizing principle in Revelation, masterplot, which explores the deep structures of a narrative and answers questions of identity, values, and understanding of life, remains an underdeveloped feature of narrative analysis. The masterplot of Revelation is a quest story about where we are going, and though it takes place in an ancient theater involving a bloodthirsty pharaoh, a well-known Roman ruler of the first century ce, it reveals more than this renowned period of infamy. It tells the story of the people of God’s quest to find a homeland that is free from all tyranny and from potent poseurs that offer the fraudulent for the genuine and the ephemeral for a vanished Eden. In sum, the masterplot of Revelation is the quest story of the people of God in search of a new promised land, the new Jerusalem. Narrative features such as hybrid characters, narrative settings, and numerical symbolism enlarge and expand Revelation’s masterplot. Hybrid characters—the Greek sphinx, centaur, and manticore, for example—play an important role in ancient masterplots (e.g., the Greek sphinx in Sophocles’s Oedipus narratives. This sphinx has the head of a woman, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle. Other mythological hybrids have the body of a horse and the head, arms, and trunk of a man (the centaur), or a human face with three rows of teeth, a lion’s body, and a scorpion-like tail (the manticore). Hybrids represent the divided and conflicted nature of humanity, capturing

Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation   49 humanity’s unbridled nature (centaur), its cunning/trickster personality (the Greek sphinx), and its beastly side (the manticore). Like these hybrids, Revelation’s hybrids— the locusts from the abyss, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the land—combine the human with the inhuman and the monstrous with human characteristics. Too often, however, the hybrids of the Apocalypse are interpreted only as bizarre representations of a first-century ruler (the beast from the sea) or as an avatar of the political, economic, and religious system of the Roman world (the beast from the land). But the important question in a narrative analysis of hybrids is not what they represent; rather, it is, “What is their narrative function that separates them from other non-hybrid characters?” The narrative setting of the desert or wilderness amplifies Revelation’s masterplot of an arduous journey to a new land. Wilderness is in-between space, the landscape between the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt and their freedom in the promised land. It is neither here nor there, neither biblical Egypt nor the promised land. In Revelation, wilderness is also in-between space, neither bondage in Babylon nor freedom in the new promised land, the new Jerusalem. It is liminal space where the followers of the Lamb escape the pharaoh of Revelation and receive asylum and divine succor on their journey to the new Jerusalem. Numerical symbols serve as signposts for the exodus-people on their journey to the new promised land. As stars guide sailors and help them negotiate the seas, so numbers help the people of God navigate the journey to the new Jerusalem. Numbers serve as danger signs to warn the exodus-people of poseurs with divine pretentions (threes, sixes, and sevens); they alert the travelers to the impending difficulties on this journey (forty-two months; three-and-a-half days); and they reinforce the presence of divine protection (time and times and half a time; one thousand two hundred and sixty days). Numbers also define the character of the in-between times and elaborate the suffering vocation of the exodus-people (three and a half days). A welcomed sign that the new promised land is at hand is signaled by an overabundance of twelves. If Revelation is seen only as a veiled account of past events, then its complexity and nuance are lost. It is foremost a narrative that embodies the universal story of peoples’ enslavement, their quest for freedom, and the peril and solace on a journey to a new land.

Notes 1. I have limited my discussion to four narrative features. Other aspects of a narrative, which are not developed here, include genre, implied reader, implied author, point of view or focalization, style, narrator, imagery, space, time, closure, and gender. For these see Estes and Sheridan (2016). See also the online resource by Peter Hühn et al., eds., The Living Handbook of Narratology (Hamburg: Hamburg University), 2. Frye (1990, 163) defines the Tower of Babel as “the demonic tower [that] signifies the aspect of human history known as imperialism, the human effort to unite human resources by force that organizes larger and larger social units, and eventually exalts some king into a world ruler, a parody representative of God.”

50   James L. Resseguie 3. Adela Yarbro Collins (1996, 118) argues that six does not represent imperfection or “evil because it persistently falls short of the perfect number seven.” Yarbro Collins, however, overlooks the role of six in the seals, trumpets, and bowls. More than once, six appears ultimate—that is, the end—yet it is not. 4. John uses oros, “mountain,” seven other times in Revelation. In the other occurrences, it is never translated as “hill” but always as “mountain.” John does not use the word for “hills” (lophoi) or the composite (heptalophos), although the words were available in Greek literature at the time and were the usual designations for Rome’s seven hills. See Lupieri (2006, 271); Thompson (1990, 161); Beale (1999, 868–69); Resseguie (2009, 220 n. 11).

References Abbott, H.  Porter. 2008. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. 2nd ed. Cambridge Introductions to Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Aune, David E. 1997–98. Revelation. 3 vols. WBC 52. Nashville: Nelson. Barr, David L. 2012. Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation. 2nd ed. Salem, OR: Polebridge. Bauckham, Richard. 1993a. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Bauckham, Richard. 1993b. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. New Testament Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Beale, Gregory K. 1999. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. NIGTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Beasley-Murray, G. R. 1974. The Book of Revelation. NCBC. London: Oliphants. Blount, Brian  K. 2009. Revelation: A Commentary. NTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Boring, M. Eugene. 1998. Revelation. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Boxall, Ian. 2006. The Revelation of Saint John. BNTC. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. Caird, G. B. 1996. A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine. HNTC. New York: Harper & Row. Charles, R. H. 1920. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John. 2 vols. ICC. New York: Scribner’s. Chatman, Seymour. 1978. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Cohn, Robert L. 1981. The Shape of Sacred Space: Four Biblical Studies. AARSR 23. Chico, CA: Scholars Press. Day, J. 1994. “The Origin of Armageddon: Revelation 16:16 as an Interpretation of Zechariah 12:11.” In Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour of Michael D. Goulder, edited by S. E. Porter, P. M. Joyce, and D. E. Orton, pp. 315–26. Leiden: Brill. Estes, Douglas, and Ruth Sheridan, eds. 2016. How John Works: Storytelling in the Fourth Gospel. RBS 86. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature Press. Ford, J. Massyngberde. [1975] 1995. Revelation. AYB 38. New York: Doubleday. Frye, Northrop. 1990. Words with Power: Being a Second Study of “The Bible and Literature.” New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Hochman, Baruch. 1985. Character in Literature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Narrative Features of the Book of Revelation   51 Hühn, Peter, et al. The Living Handbook of Narratology. Hamburg: Hamburg University, URL Johns, Loren L. 2003. The Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John: An Investigation into Its Origins and Rhetorical Force. WUNT 167. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Kiddle, Martin. 1940. The Revelation of St. John. MNTC. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Koester, Craig R. 2014. Revelation. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Koester, Craig  R. 2018. Revelation and the End of All Things. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Krodel, Gerhard A. 1989. Revelation. ACNT. Minneapolis: Augsburg. Kuhn, K. 1964. “Βαβυλών.” In TDNT, vol. 1, edited by Gerhard Kittel and Geoffrey Bromiley; translated by Geoffrey Bromiley, pp. 514–17. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Lane, Belden C. 1998. Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality. New York: Oxford University Press. Lupieri, Edmundo  F. 2006. A Commentary on the Apocalypse of John. Translated by Maria Poggi Johnson and Adam Kamesar. ITSRS. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. 1986. Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark. New Voices in Biblical Studies. San Francisco: Harper & Row. Mazzaferri, Frederick David. 1989. The Genre of the Book of Revelation from a Source-Critical Perspective. BZNW 54. Berlin: de Gruyter. Mounce, Robert  H. 1998. The Book of Revelation. Rev. ed. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Osborne, Grant R. 2002. Revelation. BECNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Paulien, Jon. 1992. “Armageddon.” In ABD, vol. 11, edited by D. N. Freedman, pp. 394–95. New York: Doubleday. Rengstorf, K. H. 1964. “ἑπτά.” In TDNT , vol. 2, edited by Gerhard Kittel and Geoffrey Bromiley, translated by Geoffrey Bromiley, pp. 627–35. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Resseguie, James L. 2005. Narrative Criticism of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Resseguie, James  L. 2009. Revelation: A Narrative Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Roloff, Jürgen. 1993. The Revelation of John. Translated by John E. Alsup. CC. Minneapolis: Fortress. Rossing, Barbara  R. 1999. The Choice between Two Cities: Whore, Bride, and Empire in the Apocalypse. HTS 48. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. Rowland, Christopher  C. 1998. “The Book of Revelation.” In NIDB, vol. 12, edited by Leander E. Keck, pp. 501–743. Nashville: Abingdon. Royalty, Robert M., Jr. 1998. The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Smalley, Stephen  S. 2005. The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Smith, Christopher R. 1990. “The Portrayal of the Church as the New Israel in the Names and Order of the Tribes in Revelation 7.5–8.” JSNT 39: 111–18. Sweet, John P. M. 1990. Revelation. TPINTC. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International. First publication in 1979. Swete, Henry Barclay. 1911. The Apocalypse of Saint John: The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes and Indexes. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan.

52   James L. Resseguie Talbert, Charles H. 1994. The Apocalypse: A Reading of the Revelation of John. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Thompson, Leonard  L. 1990. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. Ulfgard, Håkan. 1989. Feast and Future: Revelation 7:9–17 and the Feast of Tabernacles. ConBNT 22. Lund, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International. Witherington, Ben, III. 2003. Revelation. NCBC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1996. Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism. Leiden: Brill.

chapter 4

I m agery i n th e Book of R ev el ation Konrad Huber

The book of Revelation is a “picture book,” as Johann Gottfried Herder had already noticed in 1778 (cf. Wellhausen 1907, 3); moreover, it can be understood as a “symphony of images” (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 26–38). Nowhere else among the New Testament writings do pictures, symbols, and metaphors appear as frequently and extensively, and in Revelation they are not mere illustrations but essential means of conveying the theological message of the book. Nearly all the images appear within the interconnected sequence of narrated visions, which covers almost the whole book from 1:9 onward. The author, John, describes what he “has seen” (eiden; 1:2), and by doing so, he creates dense “word pictures” (Koester 2014, 138–39), which evoke corresponding images in the mind of the readers or hearers of the text. The theology of the book of Revelation, then, is basically an “eidetic theology” (Backhaus 2001, 37–43). For the most part, the text itself offers no explanation of the pictures, and even when an interpretation is provided by an angelus interpres (7:13–17; 17:7–18; cf. 1:20) or by a brief comment from the narrator (4:5; 5:6, 8) it often remains puzzling. Even though disclosure (apokalypsis; 1:1) is the main purpose of the text, wisdom (sophia) and understanding (nous) are required to unravel the secret of the pictures, symbols and numbers (13:18; 17:9). Nonetheless, their function as figurative speech is essential for the message of this book, and the intrinsic characteristics of images are directly relevant for its theological purpose. The imagery of Revelation is multicolored, diverse, and ambivalent: powerful, impressive, fascinating, and captivating on the one hand; opaque, bizarre, offensive, and threatening on the other. The pictures drawn in the narration elude full terminological or conceptual explication, and for the most part they encompass manifold senses. At the end of the fourth century, Jerome attests that Revelation includes as many mysteries as there are words (“Apocalypsis Johannis tot habet sacramenta quot verba,” Ep. 53). The inherent difficulties for understanding, especially with regard to central issues like Christology, contributed significantly to the restrained acceptance of the book during the process of canonization and throughout the history of interpretation. The ambiguity

54   Konrad Huber of its imagery does not allow one to derive clear assertions and instructions from it, which was one of the main reasons Martin Luther initially disparaged Revelation in his first preface to the book, from 1522 (cf. Schmidt 1947, 164–65). Accordingly, developing appropriate ways to interpret the imagery is important for understanding Revelation’s message and theology.

Different Types of Figurative Speech Using the term “imagery” for what we find in Revelation is generally accepted. The fact that John says he will report what he “saw” (1:2) points readers to expect word pictures. Seeing is the dominant mode of communication throughout the book. The frequent use of idou (see) as form of direct address (1:7; 4:1, 2, etc.) and that the purpose is “to show” (deiknymi) something (1:1; 22:6) underscore the importance of the visual aspect. When the term sēmeion (sign) is used to introduce the contents of a vision, as is in 12:1, 3 and 15:1, it becomes clear that the hermeneutical key is to approach the text as imagery (cf. homoiōma in 9:7). Moreover, the choice of sēmainō (signify) in 1:1 can be understood as intentionally referring to symbolic communication as the basic means of communication, indicating the predominantly symbolic genre of Revelation (Beale 1999, 50–52). At the same time, the imagery includes a broad spectrum of figurative speech, and some distinctions are needed to determine the extent and types of imagery that occur in the text and whether a figurative meaning is indicated by a particular term at all. It is useful to differentiate between three types of images or figurative speech: simile or metaphor, symbol, and narrative image (cf. Zimmermann 2006, 15–27). Many similes and single metaphors are found throughout Revelation, although in some cases it is not easy to decide whether something should or should not be identified as a metaphor. As is the case for similes, metaphors can be defined as expressions that transfer semantic aspects from one domain of meaning to another. Most clearly, metaphoric language is given when the text speaks in the mode of comparison, explicitly using the comparative particle hōs (total of 71 times; cf. Frey 1993, 351) or the adjective homoios (21 times). A voice that sounds like a trumpet (1:10; 4:1), a sound that is like many waters (1:15; 14:2; 19:6), hair that is white as wool and snow (1:14), feet like burnished bronze (1:15, 18), one like a Son of Man (1:13; 14:14), living creatures like a lion, an ox, or an eagle (4:7) are just a few examples that illustrate the pervasive use of metaphoric expressions in the form of similes. Many others function as real metaphors in the sense of abbreviated similes without the explicit comparative: In 3:12, those who conquer have the promise of being “a pillar in the temple of my God”; in 11:3–4, the two witnesses are called “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord,” etc. The particular textual element characterized in such a metaphorical way has prima facie no figurative meaning of its own: The voice is still meant to be a real voice, the living creatures, as well as the one like a Son of Man, are understood as real figures within the narrative framework. But many of these visionary elements gain a figurative

Imagery in the Book of Revelation   55 meaning as well, functioning then as a symbol—that is, as a signifier that stands for another item, whereby the relationship between both items is not necessarily as apparent as with a metaphor. Whether a symbol is actually given or not can only be clarified by considering the available traditional conventions and the plausibility within the textual and contextual evidence (cf. Beale  1999, 55–58; Paul  2001, 139–42, referring to Ricoeur’s “semantic impertinence” of metaphors). In this sense, the two-edged sword (1:16) or God’s throne (4:2) as well as the lamb (5:6), the dragon (12:3), and the two beasts (13:1, 11) can be understood as symbols. But contrary to the two-edged sword representing one’s speech (cf. Karrer 2003, 111–14), the lamb, for example, is not a priori to be considered a symbol for someone or something else. Certain aspects of its further description and actions, however, as well as specific correlations to Old Testament and Jewish traditions, lead the reader to realize that there must be more than the literal meaning, the vision of an animal, alone. Bizarre and absurd elements as part of the presentation of the image in particular support these processes for conveying meaning and thinking of symbolic representation. This leads to the third type of image, the narrative image. Speaking of narrative images refers to instances where the symbolic meaning is not restricted to a single term but also draws on various aspects of the surrounding narrative more broadly or the particular narrative sequence as a whole. This leads to an understanding of the vision report itself as a figurative item. Each vision within Revelation contains a variety of elements that contribute to the image as a whole and suggest multiple aspects of meaning (PezzoliOlgiati 1997, 190–201). These pictures emerge not only from the description of certain aspects of an image but also from the report of actions and interactions that take place within the vision-narrative and may even involve the seer himself (e.g., 1:17–20; 5:5; 7:13–17; 10:8–11). Dynamic pictures are portrayed, not static images. The one like a Son of Man is first depicted by his appearance (1:13–16), but then comes the action of putting his right hand upon the seer and addressing a lengthy speech to him (1:17–3:22). The description of the heavenly throne room includes not only the objects and figures around God’s throne and God sitting on it but also a dynamic scene in which there is motion and constant worship, and dramatic occurrences (4:1–5:14). The opening of the seven seals (6:1–8:1), the blowing of the seven trumpets (8:2–11:19), as well as the pouring out of the seven bowls (15:1–16:21) release a series of cosmic events, catastrophes, and plagues and a wide range of different reactions. Similarly, the description of the great red dragon (12:3–4) does not merely present him as a figure but aims at revealing the character of his present activities, interrelationships, and future fate (20:1–3, 7–10). This is also the case regarding the great whore Babylon (17:1–6) as the text pictures her total destruction by means of proclamation, lament, and exultation (18:1–19:8). When the text deals with the heavenly Jerusalem (21:2; 21:9–22:5), this is not exclusively confined to the description of the city and its extraordinary architectural features; it also includes statements about dynamic actions such as the nations’ walking by its light, the kings’ of the earth bringing their glory into it, and the servants’ worshiping God (21:23–27; 22:3, 5), thus qualifying the living conditions within this city in a particular way.

56   Konrad Huber

From Word Pictures to a Symphony of Images Every image in the book of Revelation is used to convey meaning, but it is not possible to know the correct or intended meaning in every case, nor is it necessary to limit an image to only one meaning. When God is introduced as sitting on the heavenly throne in 4:3, John describes the radiant aura of God’s presence by comparing it to the brightness of the gemstones jasper and carnelian, and through a rainbow that looks like an emerald. Here there is no need to identify every element or color as a symbol. The image as a whole, combined with the fact that the author avoids any direct description or anthropomorphic expression for God’s appearance, conveys the sense of God’s transcendence, his total otherness and unfathomable mysteriousness (cf. Giesen 1997, 149). Within the wider narrative, it is important to notice that the radiance of the heavenly Jerusalem, its wall, and its first foundation are also compared to jasper (21:11, 18, 19), which shows that the entire city shares in the character of God. It would be as needless to ascribe specific meaning to each of the building materials of the heavenly Jerusalem as it would be to interpret the individual aspects of the garments and ornamentation of the woman sitting on the beast in 17:3 in a symbolic way. Apart from the need, however, to consider the details as a whole, rather than ascribe special significance to each one separately, one should be aware that in some cases there might be more significance to them than we realize, because we lack full background information. We also find that some images in the text convey multiple meanings simultaneously. For example, Craig  R.  Koester mentions, among others, the image of the “whore” (pornē), which “signifies sexual immorality, but . . . could also portray commercial dealings as immoral” and “characterize . . . religious infidelity.” Similarly, the image of the “seal” (sphragis) that the redeemed receive on their foreheads “suggests both protection and belonging” (Koester 2014, 138–39). The list of such images could be extended, particularly when the sociocultural context, role of tradition, and religious-historical backgrounds are taken into consideration. When a visionary item is described in a detailed way that includes a number of figurative elements, the sense of meaning attributed to the item increases exponentially, and the characterization proves to be denser in the end. Tensions at the pictorial level frequently result, creating incongruous and ambiguous images, which encompass bizarre, unrealistic, and even contradictory elements. As a result, it is anything but easy to imagine the one like a Son of Man holding seven stars in his right hand as a two-edged sharp sword comes out from his mouth (1:16; cf. 19:15), yet the imagery of the hand symbolizes his extraordinary strength, authority, and protection, and the sword points to the power of his speech. Later, the heavenly city is presented as a gigantic cube, which is peculiar enough, and the low height of the wall (144 cubits, or less than 300 meters), which is out of all proportion to the city’s enormous height itself (12,000 stadia, or 2200 kilometers;

Imagery in the Book of Revelation   57 21:16–17), surpasses ordinary imagination. It also appears to be contradictory to envision a lamb that is standing as having been slaughtered (hestēkos hōs esphagmenon), both victim and conqueror at the same time (5:6), especially when immediately beforehand one of the elders introduced a lion, not a lamb (5:5). Nevertheless, the bizarre and challenging features of the images are essential for Revelation’s fundamental message. The abrupt paradoxical change from a symbol of strength and power (lion) to a symbol of powerlessness and defenselessness (lamb) can be understood as a corrective reinterpretation, a reassessment of values, and a clarification of content regarding the nature of power, just as the description of the lamb itself makes a clear and unambiguous reference to Jesus’s death and resurrection (cf. Huber  2012, 457–61). When interpreting ­symbols, then, “the ideas, not the individual pictures, can be put together into a conceptual, not visual, mosaic” (Beale 1999, 66). Finally, single images, visionary scene, and sequences of visions should not be taken on their own but interpreted through their interconnection within the literary context. They lead from the particular word pictures to what can be called the symphony of images as a whole. The impact and force of the visionary images in Revelation, like a musical composition, only unfold in a full sense on this level (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 26–38; Frey 2001, 177–82). What applies to the vision-narratives on their own applies all the more to their combination, sequence, and context within the entire book. Variations, modulations, extensions, extrapolations, dramatic intensifications, contrasts, and reinterpretations are to be found when the whole framework is taken into consideration. Details of the description of heaven as the sphere of God are added throughout the book (5:6, 11; 6:9; 7:9; 8:3, 5, etc.), and it gradually evolves from a throne room (4:2, 4) into a celestial temple (7:15; 11:19; 14:7; 15:5–8). Insight into the real significance of Babylon, the great whore (Rev 17–18), and the heavenly Jerusalem, the bride (21:9–22:5), is deepened when the two symbolic entities are considered as contrasting images. This helps readers to see more clearly the contrasting values associated with each image: the one as a cipher for imperial power and its seductive yet ruinous, arrogant, violent, and blasphemous nature, which is deeply related to evil, as it is realized in Rome in the readers’ time, but it actually extends far beyond Rome; the other as a cipher for the redeemed people of God in God-centered harmony and lively eschatological fulfillment (cf. Huber 2017, 119–30; Koester 2014, 682–84). Counterimagery in the sense of antithetic parallelization can also be attested to the vision of the beast rising out of the sea in 13:1–10 (cf. 17:1–18), since in many of its details the portrayal reveals the beast to be a poor imitation of Christ (cf. 5:6–14) (cf. Huber 2011, 60–62). In doing so, readers are again faced with values or forms of power that are different in kind, origin, and impact: the authority of the beast is characterized as demonic, coming not from God but from Satan; its social and political practices are perceived as leading not to life but to tyranny, destruction, and death. The arrangement of the visionary sequences generally runs toward the final vision and culminates in the image of the new heaven and the new earth and the new Jerusalem. However, when one is trying to put all the visions into a logical sequence, it is hard to see how the dragon can sweep down a third of the stars with its tail in 12:4, because all the stars have already fallen to

58   Konrad Huber the earth at the opening of the sixth seal in 6:13, or how the sky can exist anymore (cf. 8:10), since it has vanished like a scroll rolling itself up (6:14; cf. Biguzzi 2003). Within the visionary cycles, Jesus Christ is depicted in three different ways: as one like a Son of Man, in 1:9–20 and 14:14–20; as Lamb, in 5:6–14; and as a rider on a white horse, in 19:11–21. While the first and the last image predominantly convey aspects of power and majesty, the Lamb first and foremost indicates defenselessness and suffering through violent death. Power and majesty, however, are associated with the Lamb as well. The opposite is also true, since Revelation connects the powerful images of the one like a Son of Man and the rider with the suffering of death (cf. 1:18; 19:13). Though the images of the Son of Man, the Lamb, and the rider are closely connected by many structural and content-related features, which create an inner coherence and show their fundamental importance for the overall composition, it is only the figure of the lamb that appears frequently in other contexts throughout the book. The Lamb is mentioned a total of twenty-eight times; it is the central and most relevant image of Christ in the book of Revelation, and thus shapes the reader’s understanding of its Christological message. A similar variety of different images for the same entity only comes across in the portrayal of the people of God, whether pointing to their identity as heirs of the promises to Israel and yet consisting of people from every national background and language group, whether it points to its present situation as a persecuted church under the protection of God or to its eschatological determination and existence as a faithful Christian community in the final consummation. It is visualized as the one hundred forty-four thousand sealed out of every tribe of the people of Israel (7:1–8; cf. 14:1, 3) and as the great multitude of those who had conquered standing before the heavenly throne (7:9–17; cf. 15:2); by the great heavenly sign, the woman clothed with the sun (12:1–6, 13–18), which is threatened by Satan; as lampstands (1:20) and above all as the bride of the lamb (19:7; 21:2, 9) and the new Jerusalem in the end (21:9–22:5). Using a variety of images turns out to be the author’s principle of presenting his message, and one should not give too much weight to the logic, the consistency, and the progressive linearity of the portrayal throughout the book but rather pay attention to the level of meaning and its interrelations. What Ruben Zimmermann has said about the imagery in John’s Gospel also applies to the book of Revelation: The author “is less committed to the logic of discourse than the ‘logic of aesthetic’ ” (Zimmermann 2006, 34). In the end, the whole book is to be understood as one single symbolic narrative portraying the real forces at work in the world and the salvific purpose of God and Christ for their people.

The Multifaceted Background of the Images The pictorial motifs in the book of Revelation are drawn from different sources, traditions, and sociocultural backgrounds (Böcher 1998b, 611–27). Images of nature, animals,

Imagery in the Book of Revelation   59 and human life are most common (Böcher 1998a, 88–90); they engage the senses, from seeing and hearing to taste and smell (Backhaus 2004, 432–33). Apart from their semantic dimensions, many of them bear an archetypal aspect as well (Drewermann  1985, 436–591; cf. Raguse 1993), and some might even have been chosen because of or in reference to contemporary local and sociocultural circumstances (Worth 1999). However, it is the sources that are used that fundamentally enrich their specific meaning. The most important sources for the imagery in Revelation are the writings of the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic literature. Echoes, allusions, and more direct references are found throughout the text, although there are no verbatim quotations. The books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah are used most often, and motifs and phrases from the Psalms, Genesis, and Exodus are also common (cf. Moyise in this book). Before their inclusion in Revelation, many of these motifs were already shaped by their role in Jewish apocalyptic writings of the second temple period and its aftermath, such as 1 and 2 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch. This broader background and tradition-historical development must be taken into account in order to discern the nuances of meaning suggested by their use in Revelation. This is the case, for instance, when the risen Christ is introduced as “one like a Son of Man” (1:13; 14:14), recalling Dan 7:13, while including the horizon of understanding opened up through the traditions in 1 En. 37–71 or 4 Ezra 13. While Dan 7 leaves the identity of the figure receiving everlasting power somehow ambiguous and most probably speaks of a collective symbol representing God’s people, in these later apocalyptic traditions the Son of Man evolves into an individual messianic figure with divine traits, who was preexistent and acts as celestial ruler, who will one day defeat or judge the wicked and rescue the righteous (Huber 2007, 126–45; cf. Collins 1995, 210–12). The presentation of the new Jerusalem in Rev 21–22 draws from such Old Testament texts as Isa 60–62; 65:17–19; Ezek 40–48; and Exod 28:17–21, but when read against the background of later texts like 1 En. 90; 3 Bar. 4; 4 Ezra 9:26–10:59; Sib. Or. 5; and 4Q554, we can find elements from wider Jewish speculations about the hope that one day Jerusalem would be eschatologically renewed and about Jerusalem as a heavenly and preexistent city, transcendent in the present and appearing or coming down on earth in the end times (cf. Müller-Fieberg 2003; Söllner 1998). Although John uses motifs from these sources, the depiction presented in Rev 21–22, above all the unimaginable size of the city and the absence of the temple, also indicates how different this vision is from Jewish expectations of the period and it shows that his vision is not of the renewal of the earthly Jerusalem but of a city that is of another order. Revelation fashions new images from the earlier traditions by using a collage or patchwork technique (Pezzoli-Olgiati  1997, 188). For example, the author introduces Christ as one like a Son of Man in Rev 1:13 by drawing on Dan 7:13, yet the description that follows in Rev 1:13–16 is largely based on the angelophany in Dan 10:5–6, while the figure’s head and hair recall the vision of God in Dan 7:9; the voice that sounds like rushing water is reminiscent of God’s coming in Ezek 1:24; 43:2; and the sword from his mouth employs a metaphor from Isa 11:4; 29:2 (Frey 2001, 170–73; Huber 2007, 145–73). By transferring attributes that were originally predicated of God in Dan 7:9 to the figure

60   Konrad Huber of the Son of Man in Rev 1:14, the writer shows that the risen Christ is not to be understood merely as an angel but as the one who exercises the sovereignty of God. Another mosaic of motifs from an Old Testament text is the vision of the beast from the sea in Rev 13:1–2. The description brings together the key features of each of the four terrible beasts arising out of the sea in Dan 7:2–8. Since all these traits are now included in one beast, the vision shows the unsurpassable brutality of this single beast, thus revealing the tyrannical qualities of many empires as part of the same reality. Recasting his source in this way, the author discloses vividly the cruel, threatening, and even demonic character of Roman rule at work. Such deliberate modifications of older materials, as well as the creative and to some extent unconventional interrelationships formed between elements in the descriptions of the Son of Man and the beast, show that this collage technique fits the author’s theological intention. The full meaning and force of the new image arises from the entire combination, even as every single motif contributes essential aspects to the whole from its former context. From this perspective, it is essential to learn more about the context in which the motif was originally used, to ask about the extent to which alterations have taken place (McComiskey 1993), and to investigate how the use of significant attributes in the new context points to a new understanding of what the image means. Beyond the Old Testament and early Jewish writings, some of the pictures and narrated sequences of actions have affinities with ancient Near Eastern and Greek myths, with Greco-Roman practices and concepts, especially from the imperial cult, and with popular apocalyptic ideas of communal religious life. The vision in Rev 12 of the woman surrounded by cosmic elements and the dragon threatening her and her newborn child, together with the vision of the dragon’s combat and expulsion from heaven, is perhaps the most obvious example of Revelation’s use of ancient mythic and astral-mythological patterns. The text draws on mythic traditions as found in different forms in the Egyptian story of the pregnant goddess Isis being pursued by the serpent Seth in which her son Horus fights against Seth and beats him to death, as well as in the Greco-Roman version in which Leto flees from the dragon Python and her child Apollo kills Python four days after his birth. Combat myths telling the conflict between good and evil are also common in ancient traditions, for example in Babylonian texts about the fight of the god Marduk against the dragon Tiamat. Apart from the biblical evidence of individual components of the visionary narrative (cf. Gen 3:1–5, 15–16; Exod 19:4; Deut 8:3, etc.) one has to admit that there are some similarities to the story of Rev 12 in these pagan sources as well, even though the specifics may vary at many points. There are also certain elements like the child’s rapture to heaven, the woman’s refuge in the desert, and the pursuit of the rest of her children by the dragon that are entirely new and yet are particularly relevant for Revelation’s theological point concerning earthly conflict, the deliverance of God’s people, and God’s final victory over evil. The composition of Rev 12 can best be characterized as “the creative use of multiple traditions” (Koester  2014, 528, cf. 555–60). Debates about specific details regarding nature and extent of relationship is ongoing (Busch  1996; Halver  1964; Kalms  2001; cf. Malina  1995; Yarbro Collins  1976). But Revelation draws on multiple mythic traditions from Babylonian, Egyptian and

Imagery in the Book of Revelation   61 Greco-Roman sources in a flexible way, just as the imagery itself is fluid. “It is also important to note that the origins of mythic images do not determine their meanings. Authors could shape the mythic images to make different, even contradictory, points in different contexts” (Koester 2014, 528; cf. Giesen 1990, 266–76). With regard to the influence of rites and religious actions of the Roman imperial cult on Revelation’s imagery, the heavenly throne-room scene in Rev 4–5 can be named as an example. The liturgy of worship performed in heaven together with the figural constellation and the spatial accessories in Rev 4–5 show some striking analogies to the Roman imperial court ceremonial, which is known from ancient sources and was probably familiar to the recipients of the text (cf. Aune 1983; Ebner 2011). The throne, the attendants, acclamations such as “worthy,” and the gestures of falling down and throwing down the wreaths before God can be correlated with Greek and Roman patterns of publicly honoring the ruler. Yet the purpose is to build up an implicit contrast between the absolute sovereignty of the Creator and the earthly rulers who claim divine honors, and thus subtly contributes to John’s critique of imperial power by disclosing the Roman court ceremonial as an improper presumption of what happens in God’s realm. While God’s claims are true, the emperor’s claims are not true. Some pictorial elements in the vision of the two beasts that represent the Imperium Romanum and its social and religious claims as being condensed in the imperial cult and its propaganda in Rev 13 may serve as another vivid example. The request to worship the first beast and its performance, and the attempts to deceive and coerce people from all over the world into this worship by erecting, inter alia, a statue to the deified beast (13:4, 8, 12–14) point in precisely this direction. On a broader and more general level, a “mythology of imperial cults” (Friesen 2004, esp. 309–10), which includes motifs of military victory, peace, and plenty, is depicted in Roman iconography and (temple-)architecture. These elements can be identified in Rev 13 as a possible point of reference used by the author in order to rhetorically emphasize his evaluative intention. In addition, allusions to legends of Nero’s survival of death and possible return by depicting one of the heads of the first beast as mortally wounded, but healed (13:3, 12, 14), should also be mentioned here. Apart from some general influence on the imagery used in the text, the author’s particular aim is to develop so-called ironic or polemical parallelisms (cf.  Aune  1983; Barnett  1989), mirroring, satirizing, and unmasking imperial ideology, the ruling emperor, and the imperium as a whole. By arranging the visionary narrative this way, John makes the beast in Rev 13 a mirror image and demonic counterpart of the lamb (5:6–14), just as he uncovers the personified Rome seated on seven hills in a deterring and repelling way as a lush and drunken whore sitting on a seven-headed satanic monster (17:1–18). Revelation’s visual imagery comes to life with such antagonisms and thereby affects the reader’s perception of reality in a subtle, yet effective way. Overall, the multiple backgrounds of the images require a multifaceted approach, or rather, a synopsis and blending of different levels of access and meaning. Revelation’s imagery operates simultaneously on many different and overlapping levels of presentation in order to reveal its deep insight into the true nature of reality as impressively as possible. As far as it brings together ancient mythic, Greco-Roman, and Hebrew

62   Konrad Huber traditions, so that Revelation can be considered a “syncretic book” in a particular sense (Whitaker  2015b, 228). It should be noted, however, that tradition- and religious­historical investigations, whether on Old Testament, early Jewish, ancient oriental, or Greco-Roman backgrounds, must not confine themselves to the reconstruction of sources and traditions and the surveying of their origins and modifications. The quest for the meaning and rhetorical function of the newly created image and narration adapting those prior traditions within their own context and the inherent logic and theological intent of the book as a whole should receive the main emphasis in the end (cf. Frenschkowski 2015, 195–96).

Function and Effect of the Imagery Like the images themselves, their function within the book of Revelation has multiple dimensions. Recent studies have approached the visions by using the category of ekphrasis, which is the vivid portrayal of an object or a scene and as a technique used in Greco-Roman rhetoric (cf. Neumann 2015; Whitaker 2015a, 2015b; Weissenrieder 2015). The category is useful because of the imaginative nature of the apocalyptic language. The visions are understood to be literary devices that are integral to the author’s rhetorical strategy; in other words, they are an essential feature of John’s persuasive argument. Through the use of vivid description, words become iconographic, and something visual is conveyed through words. When a speaker uses the descriptive language associated with ekphrasis, the effect is to transform the hearers into spectators. Moreover, the rhetorical force does not simply lie in presenting realities to the mind but to touch readers or hearers emotionally and to involve them in the epiphanic experience. When they are “moved” by the evocative language they come to see and accept the author’s alternative point of view and question the common way of seeing the world. Whether or not one considers ekphrasis to be an appropriate rhetorical tool for Revelation, it seems clear that the visionary imagery in Revelation is designed to be evocative and to have a persuasive function. Attention to the rhetorical dimension is helpful when considering individual images in the text, although the argumentative force of the vision becomes even clearer when it is placed in the context of the wider narrative. Rhetorical analysis recognizes that the readers’ thoughts, attitudes, and feelings are skillfully directed “by the use of effective symbols and a narrative plot that invites imaginative participation” (Yarbro Collins 1984, 145, cf. 141–63; cf. Ulland 1997, 9–12). One may speak of the author’s intention to create and even heighten the tension between what is and what ought to be, and then to overcome the tension through an act of imagination that has a cathartic effect. The text becomes particularly effective by using a wealth of images, so that its message is not only depicted on a cognitive level, but it is reinforced on the emotional level (Glonner 1999; Koester 2014, 134–36). Just as the vision of the two beasts (Rev 13) evokes fear, the image of the whore (Rev 17) not only gives insight but evokes revulsion.

Imagery in the Book of Revelation   63 Conversely, the images of the one hundred forty-four thousand sealed and the great multitude in heaven (Rev 7) evoke hope and confidence, just as the images of the slaughtered lamb (Rev 5) and the threatened woman (Rev 12) are expected to provide not only understanding but a response of sympathy. It is the emotions affected that shape people’s commitments and actions and encourage faithfulness to God, Christ, and the Christian community. Together with its rhetorical and emotional qualities, then, Revelation’s imagery has a strong parenetic and comforting function. Presenting God, the heavenly realm, or the risen Christ so vividly, repeatedly placing prospects of the eschatological completion of God’s people throughout the narrative, especially in the midst of plagues and catastrophes (cf. Rev 7; 14:1–5; 15:2–4), or portraying the opposing powers in such a repulsive way and thus revealing their true nature is meant to give courage and comfort to the readers and to motivate them to stay steadfast in their faith and to endure in spite of their current besetting situation. Contrary to the apparent impression, so goes the message, the oppressing ungodly powers are already definitively doomed and God together with Christ will be victorious in the end, while all the Christians who conquer in the way Christ himself has conquered (cf. 5:5; 21:7, etc.) will participate in this ultimate victory. This is to transform the perspective of the readers in order to elicit resistance against the tyranny of the factual by creativity and imagination (cf. Trummer  1997, 385) and to change not only the perception of the world by passing through the sequence of images, but also to initiate a transformation of the world in a symbolic way (Barr  1984; cf. Backhaus 2004, 433–35). Moreover, the use of narrative pictures, symbols, metaphors, and comparative phrases convey meaning and yet retain a persistent sense of mystery. When the author attempts to describe the indescribable, he uses images that are familiar, and yet he shows his awareness of the limitations of descriptions. This is particularly true whenever he expresses himself using “like” or “as.” The images give an impression of the meaning, yet they do not provide full disclosure. In the end, they can provide only an approximation. Frequently, more than one picture is needed to communicate ideas about transcendent truth, as is the case with the heavenly realm, life in the completion, or God and Christ themselves. The evocative quality of Revelation’s images enables them to address a specific situation and yet convey something generally valid at the same time. The use of symbolic names like Babylon (14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21) highlights this intention. These names are not actually understood as a code designed to hide the author’s intention from all but a few selected insiders in order to protect them from persecution. The comment that the great whore Babylon sits on seven hills (17:9), for instance, is all too clearly a link to Rome, which would be apparent to most ancient readers. Instead of naming Rome directly, using the biblical Babylon invites the readers first to think of more than Rome, of something that goes beyond the immediate imperial context and conveys a general truth about empires. Second, using a name from the biblical past recommends them to discover analogies between classic situations in Israel’s history and their own situation, and it calls upon thinking in a typological way about its meaning for the present and the

64   Konrad Huber future (cf. Yarbro Collins 1984, 146–47). Like an attempted “view of the essence” (cf. Trummer 1997, 385), the mythopoetic use of symbolic names can be classified as an indication that what is meant to be the true nature of reality cannot be limited to a particular contemporary entity or situation, but is to designate and denounce characteristics and negative degeneracy of imperial powers in a prophetic perspective. As Ian Paul states, the apocalyptic image is “the product of the fusion of an adapted image from the traditional ‘storehouse’ of imagery with a simplified and stereotyped version of social and political realities” (Paul 2001, 144). However, symbols have a timeless meaning of their own. John uses “true symbols meant to evoke complex intellectual and psychological responses” (Barr 1984, 41).

Impacts on the History of Reception Imagery from Revelation has had a profound impact on Christian art, church architecture, piety, and liturgy, as well as on modern literature and film. The generative power of the images is also apparent in the way various religious groups have equated the images in Revelation with figures or events of their own time. Probably no other biblical book has exerted this kind of influence through the use of such colorful and powerful images (Böcher 1998a, esp. 90–105; 2010; Schiller 1990–91). The broad reception history vividly shows the evocative power of these images and the way they stimulate people’s imagination. While initially being a way of describing Roman imperialism or excessive imperial claims as a whole, in the Middle Ages the whore of Babylon (Rev 17), for instance, was pictured as an example of vice as opposed to virtue, and during the Reformation illustrations equated the whore—and also the dragon itself (Rev 12)—with the Roman papacy, thus placing the papal tiara on her head. Likewise, beginning in the Middle Ages artistic portrayals of the woman clothed with the sun (12:1–6) strongly supported the identification of the woman and her newborn child with Mary and Christ. Furthermore, depicting the first horseman (6:2) as a threatening warrior within Albrecht Dürer’s cycle of woodcuts (1498) has influenced the exegesis of this vision until today. Generally speaking, numerous pictures from the book of Revelation have long become an integral part and common property of today’s cultural repertoire of images, and this not only in distinctive apocalyptic discourses.

Conclusion To explore the meaning and the theological message of the book of Revelation means to deal with its fascinating, challenging, and often unsettling yet omnipresent imagery. In order to approach this task appropriately, it is necessary to take into consideration the

Imagery in the Book of Revelation   65 nature and kind of the metaphoric language used in the text, its interplay within the narrow and wider context, and the literary techniques of its creative application. The analysis of the multiple background and sources of the images depicted especially contributes to reveal their deeper sense and common understanding. Furthermore, it is in­dis­pen­sa­ble to examine the rhetorical function and intended effect of their specific use. Finally, reception history can also provide insights not only into potential dimensions of its meaning but also into how Revelation’s imagery shapes people’s conduct, commitments, and Christian faith.

References Aune, David E. 1983. “The Influence of Roman Imperial Court Ceremonial on the Apocalypse of John.” BR 28: 5–26. Backhaus, Knut. 2001. “Die Vision vom ganz Anderen: Geschichtlicher Ort und theologische Mitte der Johannes-Offenbarung.” In Theologie als Vision: Studien zur Johannes-Offenbarung, edited by Knut Backhaus, pp. 10–53. SBS 191. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk. Backhaus, Knut. 2004. “Apokalyptische Bilder? Die Vernunft der Vision in der JohannesOffenbarung.” EvT 64: 421–37. Barnett, Paul W. 1989. “Polemical Parallelism: Some Further Reflections on the Apocalypse.” JSNT 35: 111–20. Barr, David L. 1984. “The Apocalypse as a Symbolic Transformation of the World: A Literary Analysis.” Int 38: 39–50. Beale, Gregory K. 1999. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. NIGTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Biguzzi, Giancarlo. 2003. “A Figurative and Narrative Language Grammar of Revelation.” NovT 45: 382–402. Böcher, Otto. 1998a. “Die Bildwelt der Apokalypse des Johannes.” JBT 13: 77–105. Böcher, Otto. 1998b. “Johannes-Apokalypse.” RAC 18: 595–646. Böcher, Otto. 2010. Johannesoffenbarung und Kirchenbau: Das Gotteshaus als Himmelsstadt. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener/Ostfildern: Patmos. Busch, Peter. 1996. Der gefallene Drache: Mythenexegese am Beispiel von Apokalypse 12. TANZ 19. Tübingen: Francke. Collins, John J. 1995. The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literature. ABRL. New York, NY: Doubleday. Drewermann, Eugen. 1985. Tiefenpsychologie und Exegese. Band II: Die Wahrheit der Werke und der Worte. Wunder, Vision, Weissagung, Apokalypse, Geschichte, Gleichnis. Olten: Walter Verlag. Ebner, Martin. 2011. “Spiegelungen: Himmlischer Thronsaal und himmlische Stadt. Theologie und Politik in Offb 4f. und 21f.” In Mächtige Bilder: Zeit- und Wirkungsgeschichte der Johannesoffenbarung, edited by Bernhard Heininger, pp. 100–131. SBS 225. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk. Frenschkowski, Marco. 2015. “Apokalyptik und Phantastik: Kann die Johannesoffenbarung als Text phantastischer Literatur verstanden werden?” In Poetik und Intertextualität der Johannesapokalypse, edited by Stefan Alkier, Thomas Hieke, and Tobias Nicklas, pp. 177–205. WUNT 346. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Frey, Jörg. 1993. “Erwägungen zum Verhältnis der Johannesapokalypse zu den übrigen Schriften des Corpus Johanneum.” In Die johanneische Frage: Ein Lösungsversuch, by Martin Hengel, pp. 326–429. WUNT 67. Tübingen: Mohr.

66   Konrad Huber Frey, Jörg. 2001. “Die Bildersprache der Johannesapokalypse.” ZTK 98: 161–85. Friesen, Steven J. 2004. “Myth and Symbolic Resistance in Revelation 13.” JBL 123: 281–313. Giesen, Heinz. 1990. “Symbole und mythische Aussagen in der Johannesapokalypse und ihre theologische Bedeutung.” In Metaphorik und Mythos im Neuen Testament, edited by Karl Kertelge, pp. 255–77. QD 126. Freiburg: Herder. Giesen, Heinz. 1997. Die Offenbarung des Johannes. RNT. Regensburg: Pustet. Glonner, Georg. 1999. Zur Bildersprache des Johannes von Patmos: Untersuchung der Johannesapokalypse anhand einer um Elemente der Bildinterpretation erweiterten historischkritischen Methode. NTAbh 34. Münster: Aschendorff. Halver, Rudolf. 1964. Der Mythos im letzten Buch der Bibel: Eine Untersuchung der Bildersprache der Johannes-Apokalypse. TF 32. Hamburg: Reich. Huber, Konrad. 2007. Einer gleich einem Menschensohn: Die Christusvisionen in Offb 1,9–20 und Offb 14,14–20 und die Christologie der Johannesoffenbarung. NTAbh 51. Münster: Aschendorff. Huber, Konrad. 2011. “In der Vollmacht des Satans: Antirömische Herrschaftskritik in der Vision des ‘Tieres aus dem Meer’ in Offb 13, 1–10.” In Kult und Macht: Religion und Herrschaft im syro-palästinischen Raum: Studien zu ihrer Wechselbeziehung in hellenistischrömischer Zeit, edited by Anne Lykke and Friedrich T. Schipper, pp. 49–68. WUNT II/319. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Huber, Konrad. 2012. “Jesus Christus—der Erste und der Letzte: Zur Christologie der Johannesapokalypse.” In Die Johannesapokalypse: Kontexte—Konzepte—Rezeption, edited by Jörg Frey, James A. Kelhoffer, and Franz Tóth, pp. 435–72. WUNT 287. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Huber, Konrad. 2017. “Kontrastierung und Überblendung: Strategien der Rauminszenierung in der Narration der Johannesoffenbarung.” PzB 26: 115–35. Kalms, Jürgen U. 2001. Der Sturz des Gottesfeindes: Traditionsgeschichtliche Studien zu Apokalypse 12. WMANT 93. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener. Karrer, Martin. 2003. “Sprechende Bilder: Zur Christologie der Johannesapokalypse.” In Metaphorik und Christologie, edited by Jörg Frey, Jan Rohls, and Ruben Zimmermann, pp. 111–29. ThBT 120. Berlin: de Gruyter. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Malina, Bruce J. 1995. On the Genre and Message of Revelation: Star Visions and Sky Journeys. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. McComiskey, Thomas Edward. 1993. “Alteration of OT Imagery in the Book of Revelation: Its Hermeneutical and Theological Significance.” JETS 36: 307–16. Müller-Fieberg, Rita. 2003. Das “neue Jerusalem”—Vision für alle Herzen und Zeiten? Eine Auslegung von Offb 21,1–22,5 im Kontext von alttestamentlich-frühjüdischer Tradition und literarischer Rezeption. BBB 144. Berlin: Philo. Neumann, Nils. 2015. Hören und Sehen: Die Rhetorik der Anschaulichkeit in den GottesthronSzenen der Johannesoffenbarung. ABG 49. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Paul, Ian. 2001. “The Book of Revelation: Image, Symbol and Metaphor.” In Studies in the Book of Revelation, edited by Steve Moyise, pp. 131–47. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Pezzoli-Olgiati, Daria. 1997. Täuschung und Klarheit: Zur Wechselwirkung zwischen Vision und Geschichte in der Johannesoffenbarung. FRLANT 175. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Raguse, Hartmut. 1993. Psychoanalyse und biblische Interpretation: Eine Auseinandersetzung mit Eugen Drewermanns Auslegung der Johannes-Apokalypse. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.

Imagery in the Book of Revelation   67 Schiller, Gertrud. 1990–91. Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst. Band 5: Die Apokalypse des Johannes. 2 vols. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn. Schmidt, Karl Ludwig. 1947. “Die Bildersprache in der Johannes-Apokalypse.” TZ 3: 161–77. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress. Söllner, Peter. 1998. Jerusalem, die hochgebaute Stadt: Eschatologisches und Himmlisches Jerusalem im Frühjudentum und im frühen Christentum. TANZ 25. Tübingen: Francke. Trummer, Peter. 1997. “Offenbarung in Bildern—Die Bilder der Offenbarung.” In Gott-Bild: Gebrochen durch die Moderne?, edited by Gerhard Larcher, pp. 384–93. Graz: Styria. Ulland, Harald. 1997. Die Vision als Radikalisierung der Wirklichkeit in der Apokalypse des Johannes: Das Verhältnis der sieben Sendschreiben zu Apokalypse 12–13. TANZ 21. Tübingen: Francke. Weissenrieder, Annette. 2015. “Bilder zum Sehen—Bilder zum Hören? Über die Grenzen von visuellem Bild und Sprache als Ekphrasis in Apk  17.” In Poetik und Intertextualität der Johannesapokalypse, edited by Stefan Alkier, Thomas Hieke, and Tobias Nicklas, pp. 241–68. WUNT 346. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Wellhausen, Julius. 1907. Analyse der Offenbarung Johannis. Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Philologisch-historische Klasse IX/4. Berlin: Weidmann. Whitaker, Robyn J. 2015a. Ekphrasis, Vision, and Persuasion in the Book of Revelation. WUNT II/410. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Whitaker, Robyn J. 2015b. “The Poetics of Ekphrasis: Vivid Description and Rhetoric in the Apocalypse.” In Poetik und Intertextualität der Johannesapokalypse, edited by Stefan Alkier, Thomas Hieke, and Tobias Nicklas, pp. 227–40. WUNT 346. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Worth, Roland H. 1999. The Seven Cities of the Apocalypse and Greco-Asian Culture. New York, NY: Paulist Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1976. The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation. HDR 9. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1984. Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press. Zimmermann, Ruben. 2006. “Imagery in John: Opening up Paths into the Tangled Thicket of John’s Figurative World.” In Imagery in the Gospel of John: Terms, Forms, Themes, and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language, edited by Jörg Frey, Jan G. Van der Watt, and Ruben Zimmermann, with Gabi Kern, pp. 1–43. WUNT 200. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

chapter 5

R hetor ica l Fe at u r e s of the Book of R ev el ation David A. deSilva

Introduction: Revelation as a “Rhetorical” Text The premise behind this chapter is that John is writing not to entertain, but to persuade. He wants to see a number of things happen among the congregations to which he sends his text, and the book of Revelation is the primary means by which he hopes to promote those outcomes. The seven oracles that confront the hearers in Rev 2–3 appear to bear out this premise as the glorified Christ identifies allegiances, outlooks, and practices that must change (or must continue) if the congregations are to enjoy his unmitigated approval and its healthful consequences. The visions that follow depict a number of behaviors in such a way as to promote some and repress others. The first and last pronouncements about “the lucky ones” (those who are makarioi, who are privileged and blessed in God’s sight) identify them as those who “keep the things written in” or “keep the words of ” Revelation, that is, align their lives with those commitments and practices that this text promotes (Rev 1:3; 22:7). There is thus every indication in the text itself that John is trying to win audiences over to particular perspectives, to particular allegiances, to particular actions and avoidances of actions—and that he is doing so in a setting of competing voices vying for these audiences’ assent and allegiance. The rhetorical features of Revelation can be explored from a variety of approaches. A number of scholars continue to look for guidance to the handbooks on rhetorical practice that were written during the Greco-Roman period. Classical rhetorical theory provides a vocabulary for talking about John’s persuasive strategies that corresponds to the contemporary analysis of public discourse in John’s own time (Royalty 1997, 601). While the distance between Revelation and a speech by Dio Chrysostom is vast, classical

70   David A. deSilva rhetorical theory nevertheless still raises the incisive, guiding questions and offers the “tools for analyzing the persuasive power” of the former text, in terms of both John’s desired outcomes for his discourse and the “literary means by which they are achieved” (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 22; see also deSilva 2009, 25–27). Others look instead to, or combine the insights of classical rhetoric with, narrative theory or modern theories of rhetoric to achieve the same ends. Whatever one’s methodological bases, it is widely recognized that the genre of “apocalypse” itself offers its own distinctive strategies for persuasion. Writings in this genre typically open broad vistas that lie outside normal, lived experience—the spaces and activities around God’s throne in heaven and other realms beyond the visible sky, infernal regions and their inhabitants and works, and the like. They also create a timeline that extends well beyond normal, lived history, often both in the direction of a mythic prehistory and eschatological expectation (Aune 1998, lxxvii–xc). The “bigger picture” that an apocalypse paints in terms of both space and time sets the hearers’ own space and time within a broader interpretative frame, changing or confirming their perspectives on their own situations and their inclinations in regard to responding to the challenges of their situations. The word “apocalypse” means “an unveiling,” and a great deal of the rhetorical force of an apocalypse like Revelation comes from its power to interpret facets of the lived experience of its audiences, “revealing” the spiritual dimensions of, the “true” nature of, and the consequences of alignment with those facets of their situation. Any assessment of the rhetorical features of Revelation needs to explore how the visions of chapters 4–22 construct an interpretative framework for the everyday situations—as well as an interpretation of specific features of the lived landscape—encountered by John’s audiences that will support the rhetorical goals of the seven oracles, as well as other implicit and explicit exhortations throughout the text (deSilva  2009, 12–14, 93–116).

John’s Principal Rhetorical Goals Classical rhetorical theory focused on oral discourses that had one or more of three primary goals. In deliberative speeches, a speaker primarily sought to persuade the audience to take or avoid a course of action in the immediate future. In forensic or judicial speeches, a speaker primarily sought from the hearers a verdict of condemnation or acquittal. In epideictic speeches, a speaker sought primarily to win assent to a proposition, a celebration of some virtue, or a denunciation of vice. Although there were and are myriad other possible goals for oral discourse, such that the analysis of an author’s or speaker’s potential goals ought not to be limited to these three options, Revelation’s topics and goals do appear to fall largely within the realms of deliberative and epideictic rhetoric (deSilva 2009, 9–11, 82–83; Koester 2014, 135; Yarbro Collins 1984, 144). Deliberative elements emerge throughout the seven oracles, which seek to drive the congregations addressed to particular courses of action in their immediate or

Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation   71 near-immediate futures (Kirby 1988, 200), among them: remember how “love” formerly characterized your community and get back on track (Rev 2:4–5); despite an imminent increase in hostile opposition, remain steadfast in your witness even to the point of death (2:10); stop giving a platform to the speakers who want to move your congregation in the direction of greater concessions to the idolatrous practices around you (2:14–16, 20–23), and so forth. The glorified Christ “advises” the Christians in Laodicea (symbouleuō soi, 3:18), using the verb that gave deliberative rhetoric its name (symbouleutikon, Aristotle, Rhet. 1.3.3). In support of these calls to action, moreover, John offers “considerations of the consequences,” which is a common deliberative topic (Rhet. Her. 3.17.4), in the form both of warnings concerning the negative consequences of failure to act as the glorified Christ advises (Rev 2:5b, 16, 22–23; 3:3b, 16b, 18b) and of promises of the positive consequences that will come from embracing the recommended course of action (2:7b, 10b, 11b, 17b, 26–28; 3:4b–5, 9b, 12, 18a, 18c, 20–21). Explicit calls to action and supportive appeals occur throughout the visions of chapters 4 to 22 (e.g., 14:7, 9–11; 18:4–8), though a great deal more attention is given to tracing out in narrative form the consequences of competing courses of action, with a view to engaging the hearers’ internal deliberations about the wisest courses of action to take in their own situations. John’s degree of success in this regard will depend largely on the degree to which he succeeds in making his narrative of these future consequences forceful and, above all, plausible (deSilva 2009, 82–85). Revelation also displays significant affinities with epideictic rhetoric. The seven oracles include the glorified Christ’s praise for and blame of each community as the starting point for his advice (Royalty 1997, 611). John also holds up positive models of praiseworthy action for his hearers to emulate (e.g., the two witnesses, 11:3–13; the one hundred forty-four thousand standing beside the Lamb, 14:1–5; those whose loyalty in the face of death wins them a place in the first resurrection, 20:4–6), as well as censurable models whose actions lead to disgrace, stimulating his hearers’ aversion to following suit (21:8; 22:15; deSilva  1998, 79). Seven macarisms further elevate particular alignments and actions as praiseworthy and, thus, engender the hearers’ commitment to the same (deSilva  2009, 274–84). John creates portraits of cities, such as the commendatory description of new Jerusalem and the censure of Babylon, which utilize recognizable epideictic topics and forms such as the monody (Royalty 1997, 615–16), as well as the devices of amplification (ergasia), vivid description (ekphrasis), and comparison (synkrisis), which are frequently woven into the fabric of epideictic speeches (Royalty 1997, 601; Witherington 2003, 216–17). John’s praise of God and the Lamb (4:11; 5:9–10, 12; 15:3–4; 16:5–7; 19:2, 6–8) and his invectives against rival teachers (2:14–15, 20–21) and hostile powers (13:1–18; 17:1–18:24) are also examples of epideictic discourse. These epideictic elements are woven together with the deliberative elements throughout Revelation, the former portraying the ideal, the latter steering the audience more directly to choose (or to persevere in) the path that leads to the ideal (deSilva 1998, 108–9). John also employs forensic topics, though it is unlikely that he is pursuing forensic goals (contra Schüssler Fiorenza  1991, 26; Witherington  2003, 15). John’s interest in

72   David A. deSilva divine judgment throughout reflects, not his desire to win a verdict, but instead to shape his hearers’ practices based on the projected consequences. John’s indictment of “Babylon” establishes the certainty of God’s judgments against Rome and thus the domination system’s future demise. This serves John’s goals for how his audience will discern advantage in the present, moving them to align with the courses of action John promotes as the most reasonable and advantageous (e.g., divesting themselves of involvement in the oppressive Roman imperial economy, 18:4)—a deliberative goal (deSilva 1998, 99–101). John does not indict his audiences in the seven oracles because he is pursuing forensic goals (contra Witherington 2003, 15), but because the indictments show his congregations where they have hitherto participated in an unjust course of action, specifically so that they may “repent” (2:5, 15, 22; 3:3, 19) and adopt some particular (different) course of action for the future.

John’s Construction of Authority (Ethos) Classical rhetorical theorists laid particular emphasis on the importance of a speaker’s establishing his or her credibility in the eyes of the audience, typically by communicating expertise in the subject under discussion, good will toward the audience, and good moral character. The goal was to render each audience member attentive and receptive to his or her discourse. A major element in John’s construction of authority for his message is his presentation of it as an “apocalypse” or “revelation,” from a divine source, and as a word of “prophecy,” again, an utterance whose origins are to be found in the divine. Aristotle had advised that a speaker might sometimes find it strategic to “make another speak in our place” (Rhet. 3.17.16). John takes this advice to the extreme: his primary strategy for investing his word with authority is to present it as, essentially, not his word at all, but a divinely revealed word from God. John’s own voice is submerged as his audiences hear the voices of the glorified Christ, angels, the Spirit, other supernatural beings, and even God’s own self—for whom John is merely the mouthpiece and scribe— addressing them whether directly or indirectly.1 John sustains this strategy from beginning to end, reinforcing it with every “I saw” or “I heard.” To the extent that John is accepted as a genuine prophet, his word will be accepted as authoritative at a level that can hardly be challenged. By largely avoiding addressing his audiences directly, John also avoids confronting and challenging them directly, leaving this to the more authoritative, superhuman characters to do, thus diminishing his own risk of alienating them (Carey 1998, 758–59). Since Jesus’s voice principally confronts the congregations, John gives attention to establishing Jesus’s ethos in the opening paragraphs of the discourse. Jesus’s good will toward the hearers is evident: he is identified as the one “who loved us and released us from our sins by his blood” (Rev 1:5–6). The superhuman majesty and power of the glorified Jesus is displayed for the congregations as John describes his own encounter with

Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation   73 him on Patmos (1:12–16). It is this Jesus whose authority and power stand behind the words to the congregations, both to shore them up in the face of hostility and to take them down should they prove disloyal and ungrateful. The voices of the authors of the Hebrew Scriptures and other authoritative traditions (deSilva 2009, 148–53; Royalty 1997, 605) could be added as an additional chorus that John draws in as a harmonious witness to, and legitimating foundation for, his own word. Revelation is perhaps the New Testament text with the thickest weave of ­intertexture—that is, the most concentrated incorporation of material from older, authoritative prophetic books, from the liturgical texts of the Psalms, and from other recognizable resources from the Scriptures. John incorporates many of these at such length and with such transparency that one can readily imagine that many among his hearers would have recognized the source texts, whose authoritative support John claims for his own discourse even as he allows those older voices to speak afresh into his hearers’ situations (deSilva 2009, 148–53). John does not, however, fail to attend to his own authority. Not one, but two commissioning scenes present John as the duly authorized spokesperson of this message and of the Lord whose message it is. The first of these comes in conjunction with his encounter with the glorified Christ in Rev 1:11–20, in which Christ commissions John to write down the present vision, the forthcoming oracles, and the visions to follow for the benefit of the seven congregations he will address. The second falls just before the midpoint of the book, when an awe-inspiring angel descends to the earth to renew John’s commission in a manner that is sufficiently reminiscent of Ezekiel’s commissioning to appear familiar and authentic (i.e., this is the way prophets get commissioned), but is not so similar as to appear derivative (10:1–11; cf. Ezek 2:8–3:6). John may subtly remind his hearers of his indispensable status as the mediator of divine revelation when he admits that he heard things that, though his first inclination was to write them down so that he could share them, he was forbidden to communicate (Rev 10:4). His frequent use of “as” and “like” as he attempts to put into words what he saw or heard also reminds the hearers, subtly, that even though John’s words allow them to imagine what his experience was, it remains his experience, and its substance is not perfectly communicable. He will always know more than his congregations (deSilva 2009, 133–34). Among the things John communicates are some stellar endorsements by superhuman figures of what he writes. The assertion and macarism of 22:6–7 is a case in point: “[H]e said to me, ‘These words are reliable and true, and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his slaves what must soon come to pass. And look! I am coming soon! Favored (makarios) is the one who lives out the words of the prophecy of his scroll.” John’s angelic guide endorses John’s words, which have become the written representation of the “reliable and true” things the angel has shown John in the vision of 21:1–22:5 and of things related throughout Revelation from beginning to end, given the resonances here with 1:3 (deSilva 2009, 134–37). Jesus’s voice clearly cuts in with the “I” of “I am coming soon,” and he pronounces the person who “keeps” what John has written—that is, who moves forward now in line with what John’s discourse has recommended — to be privileged and honored. Without sacrificing his authority as

74   David A. deSilva a genuine prophet, John also establishes connections with his hearers by speaking of himself as a fellow slave, brother, and partner (1:9; Royalty  1998, 144; Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 196) and by admitting occasional weakness, errors, and confusion (1:17; 5:4–5; 7:13–17; 17:7–8; 19:10; 22:8). The other side of appeals to ethos, or establishing one’s own credibility, is undermining the credibility of opposing voices that seek to sway the same audience in contrary directions (Schüssler Fiorenza  1991, 137; see esp. Carey  1999, 137–63). The Christian prophetess whom John labels “Jezebel” is one such voice, but it is equally important that John neutralize the voices of the Christians’ idolatrous neighbors and fellow citizens (deSilva 1998, 94–97) and of representatives of Roman power (Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 192) to keep his congregations, or get them back, on track with where he believes they need to be. John rarely denounces these opposing speakers in his own voice; rather, he brings other authoritative voices to bear against his rivals. We hear the glorified Christ denounce the rival Christian prophets (2:14–15, 20–23). Christ’s murdered witnesses cry out for justice against Rome and its enforcers (6:9–11; 16:5–7). Voices from heaven accuse and sentence “Babylon,” undermining the credibility of the spokespersons for the public discourse about Roman rule and its benefits (18:1–8, 21–24). John thus distances himself from appearing self-serving or hateful; those whose ethos is above suspicion undermine the rival speakers to whom John’s congregations are, in varying degrees, tempted to give a hearing. The case of John’s rival Christian prophets commands particular interest among rhetorical critics. John (or, as John would prefer, the glorified Christ) associates his opponents with negative characters from the scriptural tradition—Jezebel and Balaam—whose status as notorious false prophets will adversely color the congregations’ perception of their living counterparts. Jezebel is further “debased” by the application of the language of sexual misconduct and wantonness to her activity as a leader and teacher (Carey 1999, 157–58), though such metaphorical language applied to deviations from covenant loyalty has a long her­it­age in the Jewish tradition. John’s deployment of the stereotype of the “out-of-control female” arouses revulsion and undermines her authority in the Thyatiran congregation (Duff 2001, 98–111). His depiction of Jezebel, the beast from the land, and Babylon using similar language links the acceptance of Jezebel’s teaching with deception by Satan and his lackeys and with the crimes of the Roman order (Duff 2001, 75). It seems unlikely, however, that John was categorically opposed to any other prophet having influence among these congregations in the interest of establishing his unique and exclusive authority (contra Duff 2001, 49), or that John regarded his message as the “only revelation of Jesus Christ” (Carey 1999, 133); John presents his work simply as “a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:1). The same angel who affirms John’s work also affirms the voices and activity of other prophets (22:9, 16). Since the “testing” of prophets was a wellestablished, even expected, practice within Christian culture (1 Thess 5:20; 1 John 4:3; Did. 11–13), particularly the testing of a prophet’s word by other prophets (1 Cor 14:29), John could be seen here to act in an anti-authoritarian manner, submitting his word to those other prophets for their confirmation of his message. Indeed, John commends the Christians in Ephesus for attending to this practice (Rev 2:2).

Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation   75 One important but often overlooked element of John’s construction of his authority is the degree to which he has presented his word as congruent with the scriptural heritage and the Jesus tradition that he and his congregations regard as the ultimate measure of authority, and by which they have committed themselves to be guided (deSilva 2009, 158–74). His faithfulness to this heritage, his speaking quite fully in alignment with it, would be one important indication to his addressees that he was a genuine prophet and that his word was therefore to be heeded, as it spoke from and for that heritage, giving new life to the ancient revelations of the One God and that God’s values in the face of new challenges to faithful obedience.

John’s Appeals to the Emotions (Pathos) Revelation has consistently evoked strong emotional responses from its readers in every generation, and some of this, at least, is by John’s design. While it is indeed difficult to assess how an ancient text would have affected its ancient audiences (Carey 2008, 175)— let alone which of those emotional evocations were in line with the author’s hopes for his or her discourse—several classical rhetorical handbooks do give us an insider’s perspective on how to provoke the desired emotions in the Greco-Roman world. Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric is especially helpful in this regard, as Aristotle provides a taxonomy of eleven emotional responses together with a wide sampling of situations, conditions, and persons that typically elicit each response (Rhet. 2.1–11). Two important emotional responses that John appears to seek to elicit throughout Revelation are fear and confidence. The former tends to be evoked in connection with whatever course of action from which John would dissuade his hearers—most notably, any course of action that falls in line with the culturally promoted practices of idolatrous cult and emperor worship and thus fails to give God and the Lamb the honor that is uniquely their due. The latter, conversely, tends to be evoked in connection with the path of faithful obedience to the One God’s commandments, and bold witness to the same and to the Lamb. Foundational to evoking either emotion is impressing upon the hearers the threat of some imminent harm (fear; Aristotle, Rhet. 2.5.1) or the assurance of imminent help and deliverance (confidence; Rhet. 2.5.16). John’s sustained emphasis on the imminence or suddenness of the intervention of God and God’s Messiah in human affairs (Rev 1:1, 3, 4, 7, 8; 2:1, 16; 3:11; 16:15; 22:6, 7, 10, 12, 20) provides this necessary precondition for these emotional appeals. Although Aristotle did not discuss the formulae for arousing awe in the ancient world, since awe is not an emotion commonly called for in effective deliberative, forensic, or epideictic oratory, evocations of awe were certainly a desired goal in many cultic settings in Roman Asia Minor. The colossal cultic representations of the gods—­ including the emperors, whether dead and deified or still living—in their towering

76   David A. deSilva temples, the carefully choreographed ceremonies in those sacred spaces, and the attention to special effects, from lighting to ventriloquism, were all calculated to induce in the worshipers feelings of awe toward their gods and rulers. John does no less with his Revelation, crafting literary liturgies and carving verbal images of the One God and his Christ with a view to allowing his audiences to enter into those inaccessible worship spaces of heaven through their imaginations and to experience the exponentially greater awe that their God and the Lamb inspire (see esp. 1:12–20 and 4:1–5:14).2 John already capitalizes on these initial investments throughout the seven oracles, and the awesomeness of this Christ and the imminence of his interventions in the lives of his congregations undergird appeals to both fear (2:5, 12, 16, 18, 22–23; 3:3, 16) and confidence (2:10–11, 24–25; 3:4, 8–10, 19–20; deSilva 2009, 182–85). At the same time, Christ’s words of commendation for the churches (2:2, 3, 9, 13, 19; 3:8) are likely to evoke feelings of friendship, as people are well disposed toward those “who praise our good qualities, especially those which we ourselves are afraid we do not possess” (Aristotle, Rhet. 2.4.14), whereas his words of censure are not likely to arouse the opposite feelings, for a number of reasons. First, the hearers are mindful of how much Christ has invested in them (1:5–6), establishing an overarching framework of friendship. Second, Christ enacts a well-established pattern in prophetic utterances, diagnosing what needs to be set right among the people of God, and he does so in such a way as suggests his confidence that the hearers can rise to the challenge, even promising generous benefits to all who do (2:7, 11, 17, 26–28; 3:5, 12, 21). John also nurtures feelings of enmity throughout the oracles, especially toward the prophets who would lead their congregations in directions that John does not recognize as faithful (2:14–15, 20, 24–25) and toward other social bodies, such as the synagogues in Smyrna and Philadelphia and the general population of Pergamum, which are associated with Satan, the primeval enemy of God (2:9, 13; 3:9). John potentially arouses the emotion of shame (see Aristotle, Rhet. 2.6) as well throughout the oracles. What is said to each congregation is said in front of all the congregations: the circle of churches is made witness to the achievements and to the failures of each, and the various audiences are made to imagine the supralocal Christian community bearing witness to the glorified Christ’s praise and censure, and continuing to bear witness to each church’s response after hearing this word delivered, whether or not each would repair its reputation, to the extent that it was impugned. Thus the Laodicean Christians’ general failure to discern their actual spiritual state is laid bare not only to their eyes but to all the churches’ gaze, allowing their “nakedness” indeed to become visible (3:18). If they have not become shameless in this regard, these awkward feelings will drive them to reform and, thus, to the rehabilitation of their reputation, and the same applies to the Christians at Sardis, whose reputation does not reflect their reality (3:1b). The visionary material of Revelation is even more overt in its appeals to the emotions of the audiences. The visions of the heavenly worship that occupies the concentric spheres of angelic orders around the throne of God and the Lamb both arouses awe, as stated above, and feelings of gratitude as the causes for worship are explicated—God’s creation of all that is (and all who are) for God’s own pleasure, the Lamb’s ransoming

Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation   77 back for God with his life blood those who had alienated themselves from God, ennobling them to become a priestly kingdom for God (4:11; 5:9–10; deSilva 2009, 196–98). These scenes prepare the hearers, in turn, to encounter their emperors and imperial cult—a locally sponsored attempt to evoke awe and gratitude toward the emperors among the residents of the cities there—in a very different light and guise (13:1–18). As Whitaker (2015, 168) rightly discerns, “Rhetoric that moves hearers to worship . . . functions specifically as a form of argumentation about who rightly deserves worship . . . and who holds true power over humanity’s fate.” John seeks to arouse indignation against the emperors and their local cult organizers as figures who steal from the One God the worship and adulation due God alone (deSilva 2009, 198–203). As Greg Carey (1999, 154) insightfully observes, “John uses parody to unmask imperial hybris,” parody being a particularly useful tool “where appearances are deceptive . . . for revealing imperial pretensions.” The arousal of indignation, now, at this counterfeit deity and cult supports John’s call for critical distance from and witness against the mechanisms of imperial legitimation. John also rouses indignation extensively against the figure of “Babylon,” a transparent refiguration of the goddess Roma Aeterna, the hypostatization of the city of Rome and its ascendancy over the circum-Mediterranean region. Redressing the goddess as a prostitute and presenting her wealth as the ill-gotten gains of economic rapine—the wealth and resources leached from the known world by violent conquest, suppression of dissent, and organized piracy, all to satisfy the insatiable cravings of the debauched imperial center and its inhabitants—John has crafted one of the most memorable and provocative images of Roman power. All that she has she does not deserve; what she truly deserves she has not yet received (i.e., God’s punishment for her violence, economic oppression, and self-glorification), the easy-bake recipe for indignation (deSilva 2009, 203–15; see also Yarbro Collins 1984, 152–53). Again, feelings of indignation would facilitate the socioeconomic detachment that John counsels. Particularly in regard to John’s portrait of Babylon and her fate, it is appropriate to acknowledge that a major source of Revelation’s rhetorical force—and especially its evocative power where the hearers’/readers’ emotions are concerned—resides in John’s ability to bring scenes vividly before the mental eyes of his audiences. The use of “vivid description” (ekphrasis) to this end, stimulating emotion by enhancing visualization (phantasia) and turning “hearers into spectators” (Nicolaus, Progymnasmata 68), was well-established in classical rhetorical theory (Koester  2014, 135; Rossing  1999, 24–25; Stewart  2017, 229; Whitaker 2015, 58–59). As in the seven oracles so also in the visions, evocations of fear and confidence play a large role. As but one example we may consider John’s description of the consequences of the Lamb’s opening of the sixth seal. The arrival of the Day of the wrath of God and of the Lamb, with its cosmological prodigies, evokes abject terror not only from “the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful” but from “everyone, slave and free” (6:15). The fear is so unbearable that the people call for landslides and sinkholes to remove them from the terrible spectacle. John has universalized this experience such that his own hearers must imagine themselves in the scene and

78   David A. deSilva allow the terror to penetrate their own souls. However, the rhetorical question with which this tableau ends—“Who is able to stand?” (6:17, borrowed from Mal 3:2)—is answered in a subsequent scene, wherein the “innumerable crowd from every nation” that had successfully met the challenges to faithful obedience and witness in their circumstances (i.e., “conquered”) now “stand before the throne and the Lamb” as celebrated and celebrating victors (Rev 7:9–17). The prospect of standing confidently before God (and the assurance of the feasibility, indeed, of remaining faithful through to the other side of “great tribulation,” 7:14)—and the desirability of experiencing this feeling as opposed to the feeling of terror—once again supports John’s pastoral agenda for his congregations.3 John also appears to seek to arouse feelings of “emulation,” the desire to obtain the honor and other goods obtained by others like oneself, such that enjoying the same rewards for the same virtues and pursuits is an attainable goal (Aristotle, Rhet. 2.11.1). In the honor-sensitive and honor-acquisitive culture of the first-century Roman world, hearing another acclaimed might quite naturally prompt feelings of emulation as something of a knee-jerk reaction, though of course, it would remain for the individual to sort out his or her degree of commitment to such emulation. This emotion is potentially aroused by the seven macarisms that punctuate the book (1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14; deSilva 2009, 274–84), by the narrative of the career of the two witnesses, and by the martyrs of Rev 20:4–6, who are declared “privileged” or “blessed” (makarios) on account of participating in the first resurrection and, thus, are free from the power of the second death (Carey  2008, 167–73; deSilva  2009, 222–27; Perry  2009, 226–30; Yarbro Collins 1984, 151). The arousal of emulation helps to position John’s hearers to consider, as the path to ultimate honor and advantage, a course of action that would entail obloquy and marginalization in the “short run” of this life.

Appeals to Rational Argument (Logos) in Revelation Although John’s Revelation is clearly not as dependent upon sustained argumentation as are other New Testament texts, especially the epistolary literature, the book is hardly devoid of rational argumentation. There is explicit argumentation throughout the oracles and the visions, though the preponderance of the argument is carried by implicit argumentation as the narrative develops and runs its course. The seven oracles are punctuated with inferential particles such as hoti (Rev 2:14; 3:8, 10, 16) and gar (3:2), which introduce rationales in support of a premise, and oun (2:5, 16; 3:19), which draws an inference from one or more explicated premises. These are explicit signals of deductive reasoning (Kirby 1988, 202–3) drawing upon the most basic strategies known from classical rhetorical handbooks and the more rudimentary progymnasmata. The glorified Christ sometimes makes bald assertions, particularly in identifying

Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation   79 what is amiss in a congregation (2:4; 3:1), but more usually supplies supporting argumentation for both his diagnosis and prognosis. One encounters arguments from analogy (3:15–16), from the consequences (2:10; 3:18), from the contrary (normally also involving the topic of the consequences; 2:5b, 16b, 22–23; 3:3b), from historical example (2:14–15), and from exposing contradictions (2:13, 15; 2:20). Rationales for advice, projected consequences, and the like are grounded in topics of courage (2:10), the just (particularly in terms of reciprocity; 3:8–10), the feasible (3:8, 11), the expedient or inexpedient (2:5, 16, 22–23; 3:11), and relative expediency (2:11). The oracles also provide positive examples for imitation, elaborating the course of action that leads to advantage (2:13, 24–25; 3:4; deSilva 2009, 229–55). The argumentation of the oracles, and indeed, all of Revelation, depends upon the hearers’ prior acceptance of certain premises derived from the distinctive cultural knowledge of the Christian group, sometimes shared with the Jewish subculture; for example, that Jesus is available to intervene personally in the congregation’s future, that the words spoken reflect the glorified Christ’s intentions in this regard, that love is a primary value to be pursued, and that Christ’s story provides a paradigm for the ante- and postmortem lives of his followers. These appeals to reason would thus only work within Christian culture and would be likely to be dismissed, even ridiculed, outside early Christian congregations. Explicit argumentation emerges throughout John’s visions as well, though in lower concentrations. The hymns and acclamations embedded in the scenes of worship that appear throughout the visions typically exhibit basic enthymematic structure, with rationales for the praise being supplied (4:11; 5:9–10; 7:15–17; 11:15–18; 12:10-12; 15:2–4; 19:1–8; see deSilva 1998, 90; Humphrey 2007, 164–69, 186–87). Where angelic figures call for action or pronounce indictments, they provide rationales, cite evidence, or project consequences (14:6–11; 18:2–8, 21–24).4 The first angel’s summons in 14:6–7 provides a good example: “Revere God and give God honor, because the hour of God’s judgment came, and worship the One who made heaven and earth and sea and springs of water.” The course of honoring the One God and showing reverence—which would manifest itself in observing God’s commandments, since these are consistently linked in the Hebrew Scriptures—is recommended here on the basis of two rationales. The first is explicit: “because the hour of God’s judgment came.” The rationale invokes a topic of “safety” or “security” (Rhet. Her. 3.2.3): God’s commitment to hold human beings accountable in judgment poses potentially grave danger to all, and acting in a way that shows reverence for God is a path to survival through that crisis. The second rationale is presented indirectly in an elaboration of the identity of this God who is to be feared, invoking the topic of the “just” (Rhet. Her. 3.2.3): as the Creator of the cosmos, God— and God alone—merits the honor and obedience of all who have received the gift of life and enjoy the bounty of creation (deSilva 1998, 90). By means of the surrounding narrative, however, John is able to push his argument in favor of this course of action considerably further in a more implicit mode. In Rev 13:11–18, John announced the admittedly grievous consequences of refusing to “worship the beast” and its image, so as to reserve for God the distinctive honor of worship; in 14:9–11,

80   David A. deSilva another angel will announce the even more dreadful consequences of refusing to reserve for God that distinctive honor and yielding to the pressures or enticements to “worship the beast and its image”—consequences that one will see played out in the apocalyptic landscape (19:17–21). The narrative invites John’s hearers into a deliberative arena in which they are led to see and to weigh the relative advantages and disadvantages of the courses of action before them, with John aggressively promoting the course of exclusive worship (deSilva 1998, 89, 101–3). The nature of John’s narrative is quite unlike anything Aristotle had envisaged for persuasive discourse. As a Christian prophet who believes himself to enjoy access to divinely revealed information, John stunningly attempts to “narrate” the future (1:1, 19; 4:1; 22:6), which Aristotle did not regard as a viable possibility, and therefore gave narration little place in deliberative oratory “since no one can narrate the future” (Rhet. 3.16.11; deSilva 2009, 286). By narrating the future, John is able to trace out and graphically depict the consequences of future courses of action and also display the resulting ascriptions of honor and disgrace upon those who pursue those courses (Stewart 2017, 238; Witherington 2003, 15, 69). The challenge becomes, then, to frame a narrative of the future that is sufficiently plausible to make hearers accept the consequences displayed as reliable projections on the basis of which to make decisions in the present (deSilva 2009, 296–97). John’s engagement with intertexture goes a long way toward helping him meet this challenge. First, his saturation of the narrative with details from the texts that he and his hearers regard as authoritative makes his narrative more plausible, because the events and figures he describes are seen to align with what is already known and valued as reliable information about God, about the forces that conspire against God’s realization of God’s vision for the human sphere, and about God’s future intervention to overcome the conspiracy. Because the depiction resonates with older authoritative pictures of God’s judgment, the detailed images are also rendered plausible rather than fantastic. Second, he reaches into the authoritative tradition to find those shared premises about God’s actions in God’s cosmos that John will go on to narrate. The assertions made in the Psalms and prophets about God’s character and commitments—for example, that God is just and intervenes to bring justice to the human sphere—are adopted and recited as foundational premises that render the narrativization of the working out of those premises more plausible (deSilva 2009, 300–305). Third, John weaves in material from the Hebrew Scriptures as a means of implicitly recalling historical examples and precedents, which classical rhetorical theorists elevated as the primary means by which an orator might render plausible the consequences he or she alleged to follow upon a course of action. John’s extensive recollections of the Exodus invoke that narrative as a historical precedent. Since God had worked terrible and innovative plagues once before to deliver God’s people, God could plausibly do so again on a much grander scale. Referring to Rome as “Babylon” serves to recall a historical precedent that will achieve several rhetorical goals. The fate of historical Babylon functions as a legal precedent (Aristotle, Rhet. 2.23.12), a reliable predictor of God’s forthcoming verdict on Babylon’s newest

Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation   81 manifestation, guilty of the same crimes. It also serves as an historical example that promotes the future John portrays for Rome as more plausible, since “similar results naturally rise from similar causes” (Aristotle, Rhet. 1.4.9). As John, or, rather the otherworldly beings whose speech John channels, discovers the same acts of injustice and oppression being committed under Roman rule as characterized the rule of historic Babylon, Tyre, and other seats of empire at one time condemned and overthrown by God, he can plausibly predict the same results for Rome (deSilva 2009, 305–12). John’s re-presentation of otherwise identifiable figures from the sociopolitical landscape of Roman Asia Minor—the sometimes extreme makeovers of the same vis-à-vis the public discourse about those figures, such as Roma, the goddess who is now figured as a prostitute, and the emperors, deified heads of state who are now the heads of a monstrous beast—is another form of implicit argumentation (see Koester 2014, 138). John’s hearers must juxtapose his characterizations of these figures with the representations of the same figures in the civic ceremonies and religious discourse of their city, and become John’s argumentative partners in connecting the dots behind his refutation of the public discourse. It has also been suggested that John’s creation and disruption of narrative patterns serves a discursive purpose. Koester (2014, 141) observes “patterns of regularity and disruption,” particularly in the delay of the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet in the otherwise inexorable progress of those judgments of God. The delays are created by the introduction of “digressions”—a technical rhetorical term that seems to belie the central importance of the material in those “digressions” for the message and impact of the work.5 The pattern itself communicates a message, giving John’s audiences “a way to manage the chaos in their own lives by reinterpreting delay in justice as a time for protection, worship, prophecy [qua proclamation], and witness” (Perry 2009, 239). Another highly significant contribution to the analysis of Revelation’s implicit argumentation is Barbara Rossing’s study of John’s use of the “two women” topos, a rhetorical commonplace found in literature from both the historic Jewish milieu (e.g., the options of Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly in Prov 1–8) and the contemporary Greco-Roman milieu (especially in the story of the choice of Herakles). The topos involves (1) the personification (prosopopoiia) of the options in some either/or choice (whether to pursue virtue or vice, whether to pursue one career or another, and the like) as two female figures; (2) an elaboration of the physical appearance and bearing of these figures (ekphrasis and syncrisis) designed to steer the audience’s assessment of the options; and (3) an ethical appeal to choose one and reject the other (Rossing  1999, 18–25; see also Aune 1998, 923–28). In and of itself, the topos implicitly evokes a framework of decision and the preferential weighting of one choice (Rossing 1999, 39). For John, this topos allows him to hold before his hearers a choice between two cities—­two seats of empire—and the webs of allegiances and the practices that characterize each one. The tendency in the ancient world to personify cities as women or goddesses sets him up well to take advantage of this topos. Here, of course, Babylon is the vice-ridden female and new Jerusalem the virtuous potential consort. The topos itself communicates the need to make a choice (and, notably, asserts an “either/or”

82   David A. deSilva framework that is itself a point of dispute between John and other Christian prophets among the churches), here between participation in the Roman imperial economy and in the counter-community called into being around the commandments of God and testimony of Jesus.

Conclusion More could be said about the rhetorical features of John’s language, his use of “peculiar grammatical forms for emphasis” (Koester 2014, 140), and subversion of the normal rules of Greek as a linguistic reflection of his nonconformist message (Callahan 1995; Koester 2014, 141). That John’s language is a result of rhetorical practice and not grammatical deficiency is further suggested by his mastery of a wide array of figures of speech and figures of thought, including hyperbole (Rev 1:16; 5:11, 13; 9:6, 16; 20:8), oxymoron (1:18; 2:9; 3:1; 10:9), paradox (2:7, 8; 7:14; see also Kirby 1988, 208, on paradox in 2:9, 10; 3:9, 17); rhetorical questions (5:2; 6:17; 13:4; 15:4; 18;18), irony (16:6; 22:11), antistrophe (2:26), chiasmus (3:7), and paronomasia (11:18; 14:2; 22:18). These rhetorical figures are, moreover, used to emphasize contents carefully and strategically, not accidentally or gratuitously (Nikolakopoulos 2001, 178; see also Koester 2014, 141–43). The foregoing, however, will hopefully be a sufficient orientation to John’s principal persuasive goals and strategies. Collectively, our observations concerning the pervasiveness of appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos throughout Revelation—all within the framework of primarily deliberative discourse aimed to affect choices immediately ahead of an audience—suggest that Revelation is not primarily an informational prognostication concerning a distant future, but a text whose author was deeply concerned to shape his hearers’ perception of and responses within their present moment, directing them to challenge key aspects of Roman imperialism from the perspective of the core convictions of a subaltern culture and, more particularly, of the sect that had been born thereof.

Notes 1. So, e.g., Yarbro Collins (1984, 145); (Kirby (1988, 199); Schüssler Fiorenza (1991, 115, 137–38); Royalty (1997, 607–10); Carey (1999, 99–132); deSilva (2009, 124–29). 2. On Rev 1:9–20, see Whitaker (2015, 71–103), though she treats this vision more as a straightforward evocation of “fear.” On Rev 4:1–5:14, see deSilva (2009, 194–96); Whitaker (2015, 105–68). 3. Scenes evocative of fear and confidence are indeed too plentiful to explore here. See, further, deSilva (2009, 215–222); Whitaker (2015, 71–103); Stewart (2017). 4. On Rev 5:9–10, see Schüssler Fiorenza (1991, 61–62); more fully on enthymematic argument throughout John’s visions, see deSilva (2009, 257–84). 5. The digression is “both unessential to the narrative logic and yet essential to the rhetorical effect” (Perry 2009, 211).

Rhetorical Features of the Book of Revelation   83

References Aune, David E. 1998. Revelation. 3 vols. WBC 52. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Callahan, Allan D. 1995. “The Language of the Apocalypse.” HTR 88: 453–70. Carey, Greg. 2008. “Moving an Audience: One Aspect of Pathos in the Book of Revelation.” In Words Well Spoken: George Kennedy’s Rhetoric of the New Testament, edited by C. Clifton Black and Duane F. Watson, pp. 163–78. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. Carey, Greg. 1999. Elusive Apocalypse: Reading Authority in the Revelation to John. SABH 15. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Carey, Greg. 1998. “Apocalyptic Ethos.” In SBLSP Seminar Papers 1998, vol. 2, pp. 731–61. SBL Seminar Papers 37; Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. deSilva, David  A. 2009. Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. deSilva, David A. 2008a. “What Has Athens to Do with Patmos? Rhetorical Criticism of the Revelation of John (1980–2005).” CurBR 6: 256–289. deSilva, David  A. 2008b. “X Marks the Spot? A Critique of the Use of Chiasm in MacroStructural Analyses of Revelation to John.” JSNT 30: 343–71. deSilva, David A. 1998. “Honor Discourse and the Rhetorical Strategy of the Apocalypse of John.” JSNT 71: 79–110. Duff, Paul B. 2001. Who Rides the Beast? Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse. New York: Oxford University Press. Humphrey, Edith M. 2007. And I Turned to See the Voice: The Rhetoric of Vision in the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Kirby, John T. 1988. “The Rhetorical Situations of Revelation 1–3.” NTS 34: 197–207. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Nikolakopoulos, Constantin. 2001. “Rhetorische Auslegungsaspekte der Theologie in der Johannesoffenbarung.” In “. . . Was ihr auf dem Weg verhandelt haben”: Beiträge zur Exegese und Theologie des Neuen Testaments, edited by C.  Gerber, T.  Knoppler, and P.  Muller, pp. 166–80. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag. Perry, Peter S. 2009. The Rhetoric of Digressions: Revelation 7:1–17 and 10:1–11:13 and Ancient Communications. WUNT II/268. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck. Rossing, Barbara  R. 1999. The Choice between Two Cities: Whore, Bride, and Empire in the Apocalypse. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. Royalty, Robert. 1998. The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Royalty, Robert. 1997. “The Rhetoric of Revelation.” In SBL Seminar Papers 36, pp. 596–617. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elizabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis: Fortress. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elizabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Stewart, Alexander E. 2017. “Ekphrasis, Fear, and Motivation in the Apocalypse of John.” BBR 27: 227–40. Whitaker, Robyn J. 2015. Ekphrasis, Vision, and Persuasion in the Book of Revelation. WUNT II/410. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck. Witherington, Ben, III. 2003. Revelation. NCBC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1984. Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

chapter 6

The Old Te sta m en t i n the Book of R ev el ation Steve Moyise

Although there are no formal quotations from the Old Testament in the book of Revelation, there are more allusions and echoes to it than in any other New Testament book. The actual number depends on the criteria used to establish them, but estimates range from several hundred to over a thousand. One is constantly being reminded of previous biblical visions (God, angels, beasts), events (exodus plagues, fall of Babylon), places (Egypt, Sodom), and institutions (temple, priesthood). In terms of the number of allusions, John’s favorite books are the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, along with the Psalms. The sheer density of allusions and echoes has led some scholars to call it a “midrash” (Beale 1984), though others do not think this does justice to the originality of John’s composition (Ruiz 1989). We will begin with the question of the language of the allusions and echoes and then move on to John’s use of particular books (Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah), his fusion of allusions and echoes in particular passages (Rev 1:12–16; 5:5–6; 12:1–18; 15:3–5), and his use of common Old Testament themes.

The Language of John’s Allusions Since they were writing in Greek, the New Testament authors generally made use of a Greek translation when quoting the Old Testament. However, what used to be called the Septuagint (LXX) is now known to have been subject to a number of revisions, as evidenced by the Minor Prophets scroll discovered at Naḥal Ḥ ever and various fragments found at Qumran. Thus the question of the language of the quotations is more

86   Steve Moyise complicated than was once thought, though a Greek text is still the most likely source of the majority of OT quotations in the NT as a whole (though see Matt 8:17; John 19:37; Rom 12:19; 1 Cor 3:19). The book of Revelation is generally thought to be an exception to this. For example, it contains a number of allusions that can be detected by comparing Revelation to a Hebrew OT passage and discerning the similarities; whereas in the LXX some key words are missing or are quite different. For example, the reference to David in Rev 3:7, along with the phrase, “who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” makes it virtually certain that the writer alludes to Isa 22:22. Indeed, the majority of LXX manuscripts have something similar, but the evidence of manuscript Q suggests that the reference to opening and closing was only added later, so that the LXX could not, therefore, be the source of John’s allusion. Similarly, the vision of the tree of life producing leaves for the “healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2) obviously draws on Ezek 47:12, but most LXX manuscripts have anabasis (ascent) rather than the “leaves” of the Hebrew text. There are also a few cases where an allusion agrees with an Aramaic targum against both the Hebrew and Greek traditions. For example, Rev 18:22 (“the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists and trumpeters will be heard in you no more”) alludes to Ezek 26:13, but the Hebrew and Greek both refer to the instrument (“harps”) rather than those who play them (“harpists”), as the targum does. Second, John’s peculiar Greek has been a matter of debate ever since Dionysius of Alexandria (c. 250 ce) called it barbaric and full of solecisms (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7.25.26). R. H. Charles, however, argued that the solecisms become understandable if the author was a native Semitic speaker, who thought in Hebrew but wrote in Greek (1920, 1:cxliii). He also noted a number of examples where John appears to assume that a particular Greek word has the same range of meanings as a particular Hebrew word. For example, the angel in Rev 10:1 is said to have “legs like pillars of fire,” but this translation disguises the fact that John uses the word podes (feet), making the comparison of feet to pillars somewhat odd. The answer, Charles says, is that the Hebrew word regel can refer to both “feet” and “legs” and that John has (wrongly) assumed that the same is true of the Greek word pous (foot). On the other hand, John’s allusion to 2 Kgs 1:10 (“Then fire came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty”) in Rev 20:9 (“And fire came down from heaven and consumed them”) agrees exactly with the first eight words of the majority of LXX manuscripts, and the allusion to Ps 2:9 (“You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel”) in Rev 2:27 (“to rule them with an iron rod, as when clay pots are shattered”) agrees in the first six words of the LXX. Of course, this could be coincidence but John’s use of the Greek poimainō (“to shepherd/lead,” as in Rev 7:17) to render the Hebrew c (to break/smash) would be unlikely apart from ­knowledge of the LXX, as Charles himself acknowledges (1920, 1:76). The same could be said of certain distinctive phrases, such as ha dei genesthai (the things which must happen) in Rev 1:1 (cf., Dan 2:28, 45) and paradeisos (paradise) in Rev 2:7 for the garden of Eden in Gen 2:9.

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation   87 It would appear then that John made use of both Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic texts, perhaps with a preference for the latter. However, the more significant conclusion from even this small sample of texts is that John’s visionary approach is not bound by the wording of particular OT texts. Daniel’s “what will happen at the end of days” (Dan 2:28) has become “what must soon take place” (Rev 1:1), and Ezekiel’s plural “trees” on either side of the river (Ezek 47:12) has become the singular “tree of life” (cf. Gen 2:9), paradoxically, also said to be on “either side of the river” (Rev 22:2). Two points can be inferred from this. First, we have in the book of Revelation more than just descriptions of what John saw. The use of “soon” in Rev 1:1 is clearly theologically motivated. Daniel is told to “seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now” (8:26), but John is claiming that the time of fulfillment is at hand, as in other NT texts (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:17; 1 Thess 4:15). Similarly, the change from multiple trees in Ezekiel’s vision to the singular “tree of life” is part of a “return to Eden” theology, as found in such texts as 1 En 24:3–12 and 4 Ezra 8:51–52. Even if he was in a trance-like state (Rev 1:10), it is hard to imagine John seeing a single tree on both sides of a river! Second, even though much of Revelation is written in scriptural language, this does not mean that John is bound by the meaning of the original texts. Isaiah’s words about opening and closing refer to the calling of the royal steward Eliakim (Isa 22:20), whereas in Rev 3:7–8, the “open door” is the pathway or opportunity that the risen Christ is making possible to the Christians in Philadelphia (for a possible typological link, see Beale 1998, 116–22).

John’s Use of Particular Old Testament Books Ezekiel According to The Greek New Testament (UBS5), there are allusions to one hundred of Ezekiel’s verses in the New Testament and fifty-seven of them come from the book of Revelation. It is the only New Testament writing that shows a significant interest in this great prophet. Of these fifty-seven allusions, sixteen are taken from Ezekiel’s inaugural vision and call narrative (Ezek 1–3), ten from the lament over Tyre (Ezek 26–27) and ten from the restoration of the dry bones and battle with Gog and Magog (Ezek 37–39). There are a further ten from the New Jerusalem chapters (Ezek 40–48), including three from its final chapter (see Kowalski 2004).

Ezekiel’s Throne Vision and Call Narrative What is of particular interest in John’s use of Ezekiel’s throne vision and call narrative (Ezek 1–3) is the way the material is divided between Rev 4–5 and Rev 10. In the

88   Steve Moyise throne vision of Rev 4, there are general similarities to Ezek 1, such as the imagery of precious stones, a rainbow, and a crystal sea (Ezek 1:22, 26, 28 / Rev 4:3, 6), but John also refers specifically to four living creatures with the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (Ezek 1:10 / Rev 4:7), and he uses the curious expression, “full of eyes” (Ezek 1:18 / Rev 4:6). John continues in Rev 5:1 to describe a scroll “written on the inside and on the back,” as in Ezek 2:9–10 (“a hand was stretched out to me, and a written scroll was in it . . . it had writing on the front and on the back”). But it is not until Rev 10 that John is commanded to eat the scroll that will be as sweet as honey in his mouth, as in Ezek 3:3. A case could be made that John is no longer following Ezekiel, since the book is in the hands of an angel (Rev 10:1) rather than the one seated on the throne (5:1), and it is called a biblaridion (“little scroll,” 10:2), rather than a biblion, as in 5:1 (so Charles 1920; Mounce 1997). However, Bauckham (1993, 257–66) has argued strongly that the two scrolls are identical, and it is probable that we should think of John’s creative adaptation of Ezekiel rather than dependence on a different tradition. Other differences point in the same direction. For example, each of Ezekiel’s ­creatures had four faces (human, lion, ox, eagle), but John’s creatures have one face, either lion, ox, human, or eagle (note also the different order). Further, the expression “full of eyes” refers to the creatures in John (Rev 4:6), but in Ezekiel, it refers to the wheels of what appears to be a heavenly chariot (Ezek 1:15–18). This sense of motion (“when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose,” Ezek 1:19), which was subject to much speculation at Qumran (4Q400–4Q407; 11Q17) has been eliminated by John. It should also be noted that the main point about the scroll that John sees in Rev 5:1 is that it is sealed with seven seals, which will be removed one by one in the chapters that follow. This is not a feature of Ezekiel’s scroll and may be an allusion to the sealed document in Isa 29:11, which cannot be read, or perhaps Dan 8:26, where Daniel is told to seal up the vision because it pertains to “many days from now”.

Lament over Tyre (Ezek 26–27) In contrast to John’s use of Ezek 1–3, all ten allusions to Ezek 26–27 occur in the lament over Babylon in Rev 18. Verbal parallels include people weeping and throwing dust on their heads (Ezek 27:30 / Rev 18:19), the end of music and dancing (Ezek 26:13 / Rev 18:22) and the cry of amazement: “Who was ever destroyed like Tyre” (Ezek 27:32); “What city was like the great city?” (Rev 18:18). But the major parallel is that each contains a trading list of luxury goods, and it is this that is being condemned. Among the goods mentioned (gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, ivory, wine, and oil), both speak of psychas anthrōpōn (souls of human beings), in other words, “slaves”. Bauckham (1993, 350–71) argues that the two lists are different because John has updated it to refer to the imports of contemporary Rome.

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation   89

Establishment of the New Jerusalem The account of the New Jerusalem involves a complex network of allusions, but many commentators have been impressed by the way it corresponds to the broad sequence of visions in Ezek 37–48: Ezekiel


Revival of dry bones (37:10) Reunited kingdom (37:21) Gog of Magog battle (38:2) Gorging of the birds (39:4) Taken to high mountain (40:2) Temple is measured (40:5) Temple full of God’s glory (43:2) River flowing from temple (47:1) Trees with leaves for healing (47:12)

First resurrection (20:5) Saints rule for 1,000 years (20:4) Gog and Magog battle (20:8) Gorging of the birds (19:21) Taken to high mountain (21:10) City is measured (21:15) City full of God’s glory (21:23) River flowing from throne (22:1) Tree with leaves for healing (22:2)

In addition to these parallels, one of the main arguments for John’s use of Ezekiel here is that it explains why John envisages a resurgence of evil after the millennial kingdom. Other New Testament writers expect a final battle with evil (Mark 13:14–19; 2 Thess 2:3–8) but not the defeat of evil, followed by its resurgence and then a further battle. This has been a controversial feature of Revelation right from the start. Justin Martyr (c. 150 ce) was one of many who took it literally: “I and others, who are right-minded Christians at all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built and adorned and enlarged as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare” (Dial. 80). However, what is just as surprising is that having borrowed so much from Ezek 37–48, John denies the very thing that these chapters are all about: “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev 21:22). Here John is more influenced by traditions like Isa 60:20 (“Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light”), but his adaptation of Ezekiel seems theologically motivated. Thus when Ezekiel speaks of measuring the temple (Ezek 40:5), John speaks of measuring the city (Rev 21:15), and when Ezekiel speaks of God’s glory filling the temple (Ezek 43:2), John speaks of it filling the city (Rev 21:23). The city, with its colossal dimensions (Rev 21:16), is clearly intended to be a more inclusive image for God’s presence than a temple. Interestingly, John earlier spoke of measuring the temple (Rev 11:1–2), as Ezekiel did, but John’s point concerns the protection of the true worshipping community, not the anticipation of a restored temple (even if the language is taken in a symbolic fashion). Two further episodes are probably to be traced to Ezekiel, though they depend on only a couple of allusions. Before the demonic beasts are allowed to deceive the world

90   Steve Moyise into false worship (Rev 13), the one hundred forty-four thousand (12 × 12 × 1000, probably a symbol for the whole church) receive a seal on their foreheads (Rev 7:3). This is reminiscent of the blood on the doorposts on the night of the Passover but since the sealing is followed by the hurling of fire onto the earth (Rev 8:5), Ezek 9–10 is the more likely influence since it also has such a sequence. Ezekiel is told that because the “land is full of bloodshed and the city full of perversity” (Ezek 9:9), God will send judgement in the form of six agents of destruction, but not before he has given the command: “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it” (Ezek 9:4). There then follows another vision in which the command is given: “[F]ill your hands with burning coals from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city” (Ezek 10:2). Second, the description of the “great whore who is seated on many waters” (Rev 17:1) is based on a number of passages (Jer 51:7; Isa 23:17), but the words of destruction in Rev 17:16 (hated, stripped naked, flesh devoured, burnt by fire) draw on Ezek 23:25–29, where hated, stripped naked, and burnt by fire occur (flesh devoured most likely comes from Isa 49:26). The context in Ezekiel is apostate Jerusalem and some have argued from this that the city being condemned in Rev 18 is not Rome but Jerusalem (Gentry  1989). However, the majority of scholars think the list of imports is much too grandiose for Jerusalem and that Rome or Roman power is John’s target.

Daniel Greg Beale makes the point that relative to its size, there are more allusions to the book of Revelation than to any other portion of scripture. Since nearly half these allusions come from Daniel’s seventh chapter, a good case can be made for regarding this as one of John’s most important influences. This is signaled at the very beginning of the book, where after the greeting, John says, “Look! He is coming with the clouds” (Rev 1:7 / Dan 7:13). He then describes his vision of “one like a son of man” (ESV), whose hair was “as white wool, white as snow” (a description of God in Dan 7:9). The chapter has also contributed to John’s description of the throne scene, particularly in Rev 5, with its mention of the scroll, the saints reigning in an everlasting kingdom, and the myriads of worshipping angels. Correspondingly, the throne scene at the end of Revelation has books being opened and judgment pronounced in favor of the saints (Rev 20:12), a parallel to Dan 7:10. In addition to the use of throne imagery, John models his description of the beast from the sea (Rev 13:1–8) on the four beasts in Dan 7. Verbal parallels include their rising from the sea, their appearance, making war with the saints, speaking haughty words, and the time of their reign (variously given as three-and-a-half years, forty-two months, or 1260 days). The major difference is that instead of having a succession of beasts coming from the sea (lion, bear, leopard, beast with ten horns) representing a succession of empires, John combines all these features into a single beast. The result is an intensification (“the mother of all evils”), perhaps as a way of emphasizing the evil of Rome or

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation   91 perhaps as way of speaking about the presence of evil throughout time. It is interesting that combining the four beasts is the opposite of what he did with Ezekiel’s four-faced creatures, where John kept the same four faces but pictured each creature with only one face (lion, ox, human, eagle; Ezek 1:5–25; Rev 4:7). This shows how difficult it is to discern a single pattern to explain John’s use of scripture. Also important to John is the Nebuchadnezzar material in Dan 2–4. In Dan 2, the king has a dream that no one can interpret. Daniel is therefore brought in and declares that God has revealed to Nebuchadnezzar “what will happen at the end of days”. As we have already noted, the phrase ha dei genesthai (what must happen) is used in John’s opening sentence with the addition “soon,” as well as in Rev 4:1 and 22:6 (the similar ha mellei genesthai occurs in Rev 1:19). Beale argues that this expression divides the book into four sections and that John’s replacement of “end of days” with “soon” means that “what Daniel expected to occur in the distant future, the defeat of cosmic evil and ushering in of the kingdom, John expects to begin in his own generation, and perhaps has already been inaugurated” (1998, 115).

Isaiah The highest number of allusions in total come from Isaiah, though they have attracted less attention than John’s use of Ezekiel and Daniel. This is perhaps because they are often combined with other texts. Thus in the visionary descriptions of Christ in Rev 1:12–16 and 19:11–16, the sharp sword that comes from his mouth is almost certainly an allusion to Isa 49:2 (“He made my mouth like a sharp sword”), but there is no suggestion that John’s descriptions are based primarily on that passage. Similarly, the four living creatures in Rev 4:8 have six wings and sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” a clear reference to Isa 6:2–3, but the vision as a whole (Rev 4–5) is based on Ezek 1 and Dan 7. John’s description of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:1–22:5 draws on Isaiah more than any other source. The passage opens with the statement, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” a reference to Isa 65:17. It is described as “the holy city” (Isa 52:1). It is a place where there will be no more tears (Isa 25:8). The thirsty will be invited to drink from the water of life (Isa 55:1). It is adorned with every precious jewel (Isa 54:11–12), its gates are left open (Isa 60:11), and the nations will bring their glory/wealth into it (Isa 60:3, 5, 11). Indeed, the one who sits on the throne says, “See, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5), a parallel to Isa 43:19 (“I am about to do a new thing”). The parallel with Isa 60:19 is particularly interesting:

Isa 60:19

Rev 21:23

The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

92   Steve Moyise The first two clauses about sun and moon are summarized, but instead of the parallelism between “the LORD” and “your God” being “light” and “glory,” John speaks of “God” and the “Lamb” being “light” and “lamp”. David Mathewson (2003, 159–60) suggests that “lamp” might have been suggested by Ps 132:17b (“I have prepared a lamp for my anointed one”), but the introduction of a “second luminary” alongside God/LORD is clearly motivated by the author’s Christology, where the Lamb is consistently portrayed as sharing in God’s authority (cf. Rev 5:13; 6:16; 7:10; 22:1, 3). Jan Fekkes claims that John’s use of Isaiah shows considerable contextual awareness and that he “expected his readers to appreciate the exegetical foundation of his visions” (1994: 290). To my mind, this says too much and risks turning John into a scribe rather than a visionary prophet. As Michelle Fletcher (2017, 75–98) observes, studies on the use of particular books in Revelation are naturally disposed to find coherence, but when we look at individual passages, a rather different picture emerges, and to this we now turn.

Selected Passages The Inaugural Vision (Rev 1:12–16) Matthew, Luke, and John all record appearances of the risen Christ, but they are nothing like John’s description in Rev 1:12–16. Whatever it was that John saw, what he has written down is an amalgam of Old Testament phrases, taken from descriptions of angels (Dan 10:5–6), the one like a son of man (Dan 7:13), the branch of Jesse (Isa 11:4), God (Dan 7:9), and the brilliance of the sun (Judg 5:31). Several explanations have been offered to account for this: (1) John’s mind was so full of scripture that his vision naturally took its form in scriptural imagery; (2) John is trying to give the reader an impression of his vision by referring to other well-known visions; (3) John’s vision was actually the result of a scriptural meditation; (4) The inaugural vision is a literary composition and an expression of John’s Christology: Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force. (Rev 1:12–16)

If we are looking for a dominant biblical influence for this passage, Dan 10:5–6 is the most likely candidate, with its description of the angel’s face (like lightening), eyes (like flaming torches), arms and legs (like the gleam of burnished bronze), and voice (like the

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation   93 roar of a multitude). It is not difficult to imagine how this vision might have been linked in John’s mind with Dan 7, which appears to have provided the image of “wool / snow” for his hair and “flames of fire” for his eyes. Thus an attractive theory is that when portraying Christ in Rev 1:12–16, John began with Dan 10:5–6 and augmented it with other texts through common wording or associations. However, as Fletcher notes, this might be imposing harmony and coherence on what is supposed to be a series of discordant images. Thus it is interesting that none of the comparisons found in Dan 10:5–6 (lightening, flaming torches, burnished bronze, the roar of a multitude) are reproduced exactly. John’s vision of Christ is both like and unlike Dan 10:5–6, and the same is true of the other texts he uses. Thus the description of his hair as “white as white wool, white as snow” (Rev 1:14) would appear to come from Dan 7:9 or texts based on it, such as Apoc. Abr. 11:1–3, but Dan 7:9 is referring to the clothing of the Ancient of Days and makes no mention of hair. The term “rainbow” is often used to describe the multilayered nature of John’s visions but we should beware of allowing this to unduly “color” what we find in Revelation. Fletcher (2017, 96) prefers to talk of John’s visions as a “pastiche” of earlier visions, drawing attention to the differences as well as the similarities. Whether the differences are more striking than the similarities is perhaps a personal judgment, but she is surely correct that we must account for both. John’s vision of the risen Christ is both like and unlike previous visions, presumably to account for his “uniqueness,” as well as his similarity to past figures.

The Lion and the Lamb (Rev 5:5–6) This has been a key passage for the interpretation of Revelation. In Rev 4, John has a vision of God on his throne, which he describes in language drawn from Ezek 1, Dan 7, and Isa 6. In Rev 5, he sees a scroll written on both sides (Ezek 2:10), and the question is asked, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” (Rev 5:2). He is then told: “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. (Rev 5:5–7)

In this extraordinary passage, we are first told that the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” can open the scroll. This is most likely an allusion to Gen 49:10, where Jacob prophesies a ruling dynasty for his son Judah (“The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and the obedience of the peoples is his”). There then follows a description of a “Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered,” who takes the scroll from the “right hand of the one who was seated on the throne” (Rev 5:6–7). There is debate as to whether this is an allusion to the Passover lamb

94   Steve Moyise (Exod 12:5–6) or to Isaiah’s “lamb led to the slaughter” (Isa 53:7), but what is noteworthy is that it is the lamb rather than the lion who takes the scroll (Rev 5:7) and opens its seals (6:1). The lion is not mentioned again, and this has suggested to many scholars that what we have here is a deliberate hermeneutical principle: “[T]he Lion of Judah, the traditional messianic expectation, is reinterpreted by the slain Lamb: God’s power and victory lie in self-sacrifice” (Sweet 1990, 125). This is an attractive position as it allows the violence of Revelation to be reinterpreted as symbolic of Christ’s self-sacrifice. However, it may be more complicated than that. The Lamb of Revelation is not a gentle figure. Even in this passage, the Lamb has seven horns, a symbol of power, and seven eyes, a symbol of omniscience (see Zech 4:10). In the following chapter, the destruction brought about by opening the seals causes the people to seek death rather than face the “wrath of the Lamb” (Rev 6:16). In Rev 17:14, the kings of the earth make war on the Lamb, but he conquers them, for he is “Lord of lords and King of kings”. It would appear that as well as the Lion undergoing reinterpretation by being juxtaposed with a Lamb, the Lamb has also picked up characteristics of the powerful Lion (Moyise 2008, 96–110). As James Resseguie says: “The Lion of the tribe of Judah interprets what John sees: death on the cross (the Lamb) is not defeat but is the way to power and victory (the Lion) . . . the Lamb, though not in nature a strong animal, is a being of incontrovertible might in this book” (1998, 34, 129).

War in Heaven (Rev 12:7–12) Although Gen 3 lays the blame for the first temptation on the serpent, there is very little in the rest of the Old Testament to suggest that human sin is incited by external forces. However, by the time we get to the New Testament period there is a considerable literature on the influence of angels and demons on human affairs. Indeed, in the Gospels, the devil or Satan is seen as the force behind temptation (Matt 4:1–11), demon possession (Mark 3:20–30), certain types of illness (Luke 13:16), unbelief (Luke 8:12), and betrayal (John 13:2). John offers an explanation for it: And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient ­serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev 12:7–9)

There are two main interpretations of this difficult text. The first emerged in antiquity and was popularized in Milton’s Paradise Lost. It suggests that John is offering an explanation for the presence of evil in the garden of Eden. Prior to creation, there was a “fall from heaven,” which is alluded to in texts such as Isa 14:12 (“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!”) and Ezek 28:16 (“you were filled with violence, and

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation   95 you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God”). Historically, these texts are referring to the kings of Babylon and Tyre respectively, but the extreme language could suggest that they are modeled on a far greater “fall from grace”. Grant Osborne (2002, 468–73) is a modern advocate of this position, and he cites a number of parallel texts (1 En. 1–6; 2 En. 29:4–5 (J); Sib. Or. 5:528–29) to support his position. On this view, John is offering an explanation not only of the serpent in the garden of Eden but also of the presence of evil throughout world history. On the other hand, the literary context of the episode makes the dragon’s fall appear to be the result of Christ’s victory (Rev 12:5–6), so that its purpose in the narrative is to explain how it is that the church is being persecuted in this time after Christ’s death and exaltation. This is first expressed by saying that having been expelled from heaven, the dragon goes in pursuit of the “woman who had given birth to the male child” (Rev 12:13) and then that it “went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17). The latter phrase is almost certainly a reference to the church at large and not simply to Jesus’s siblings. Thus on this interpretation, John’s point is not to provide an explanation for the presence of evil in the Garden of Eden but to explain the persecution of Christians that resulted from Christ’s death and exaltation. Of course, if Christ’s death is understood as affecting the whole of history and not just what historically followed, then it may be that both interpretations are true.

The Song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev 15:3–5) Before John begins three chapters of judgment in Rev 16 (seven bowls), Rev 17 (destruction of the harlot and the beast), and Rev 18 (fall of Babylon), he narrates a vision of the saints in heaven singing “the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev 15:3). What is puzzling about the song that follows is that it bears no similarity to the song of Moses in Exod 15 but, in the words of David Aune (1998, 874), is a “pastiche of stereotypical hymnic phrases gathered primarily from the Psalms”: Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed. (Rev 15:3–4)

Other scholars, however, are unhappy with the word “pastiche” and try to offer a ration­ ale for the hymn’s composition. Thus Bauckham thinks that John did have Exod 15 in mind

96   Steve Moyise but was led by verbal association from Exod 15:11 (“who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?”) to three other texts, namely, Ps 86:8–10, Ps 98:1–2, and Jer 10:7. From these three texts, by the “skilful use of recognized exegetical methods” (1993: 306), John has discerned the content of the song to be sung in the new age. On the other hand, Beale (1999: 792–800) thinks that more emphasis should be placed on the song of Moses found in Deut 32, especially because Deut 32:4 (“his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he”) has close verbal links to the song in Rev 15:3–4 (alēthina, hodoi, dikaios, hosios). A third suggestion is that John began with Ps 86, which proclaims the incomparability of God (“There is none like you among the gods . . . you alone are God”), the greatness of his works (“For you are great and do wondrous things”), and the universality of his salvation (“All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name”). The advantage of this suggestion is that it contains the words that form the climax of the song (Moyise 2008, 111–24).

Common Themes Worship God Alone The demand for covenant loyalty and the consequent denunciation of idols is a regular feature of the Old Testament and enshrined in the Ten Commandments (“I am the LORD your God . . . you shall have no other gods before me,” Exod 20:2–3). It is also a regular feature of Revelation (Rev 2:14, 20; 9:20; 14:6–7) and is highlighted in two incidents when John attempts to worship his angelic interpreter and is roundly rebuffed: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you . . . Worship God!” (Rev 19:10; 22:9). It is thus all the more startling that John envisages Jesus sharing God’s throne and receiving universal worship and adoration (5:13; 7:10). He may have been aided in this transformation by texts like Ps 2:2 (“The kings of the earth . . . and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed”) and the subsequent promise that this “anointed one” will “break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps 2:9). This latter text is alluded to on no fewer than three occasions in Revelation (2:26–27; 12:5; 19:15).

New Exodus God’s rescue of Israel from Egypt was celebrated throughout the Old Testament (Exod 15:1–18; Pss 78, 105, 106; Ezek 20:3–26), and it became the pattern for future deliverances (Isa 40:3–5; 43:16–19; 52:1–6). John follows this pilgrimage theme, calling God’s people to leave “Babylon” (“Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues,” Rev 18:4) and enter the New Jerusalem

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation   97 (21:24–26). The startling thing here is that John says that the “nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (21:24; cf. Isa 60:3, 5), though he does add the proviso that “nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood” (Rev 21:27). The sequence of disasters associated with the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls are largely modeled on the Egyptian plagues and have the same result: “The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands” (Rev 9:20; cf. Exod 8:15, 19, 32). Salvation in Revelation follows a “New Exodus” pattern (deSilva 2009, 162–64).

God’s Abiding Presence After John sees the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, he hears a voice saying: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them” (Rev 21:3). Many Old Testament passages are alluded to here, the most prominent being Lev 26:12 (“And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people”), Ezek 37:27 (“My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”), and Zech 2:11 (“Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst”). This is followed in Rev 21:7 by the words: “I will be their God (kai esomai autō theos) and they will be my children (kai autos estai moi huios)”. The Greek phraseology makes it clear that 2 Sam 7:14 is in mind: “I will be a father to him (esomai autō eis patera), and he shall be a son to me (estai moi eis huion)”. Here the dynastic promise to David is extended to all God’s people.

Conclusion The use of the Old Testament in Revelation has many unique features. It is the only book in the New Testament to incorporate numerous allusions, while never explicitly quoting scripture. It is the only book to make significant use of Ezekiel and, indeed, to draw on the Prophets more than the Torah (Moyise 1995, 15–16). Its picture of Jesus seems to owe more to Old Testament theophanies (appearances of God) and angelophanies (appearances of angels) than the resurrection stories in the Gospels. There are some parallels with the so-called apocalyptic discourse in Mark 13, and it may be that both draw on a common source (perhaps a midrash on Dan 7). It also shares characteristics with Jude and 2 Peter, such as in its focus on angels and demons. Richard Bauckham calls his collection of studies on Revelation The Climax of Prophecy (1993). As the last book of the Bible, Revelation certainly calls to mind the rich heritage of Israel’s scriptures, but others would suggest that this emphasis on fulfillment does not do justice to the discontinuities between the language and imagery of the older texts and John’s recasting of biblical language in the visions in Revelation (e.g., Fletcher).

98   Steve Moyise Did John have a vision of the future (and present) and use scripture to describe it (a rhetorical model), or did his vision come from scripture, either by exegesis (a scribal model) or meditation (a mystical model)? Those who are impressed by the similarities between Revelation and particular OT texts opt for a scribal/exegetical model, concluding that John’s careful study of scripture has enabled him to offer a theological synthesis that captures the true intent of the biblical authors (Bauckham, Fekkes, Beale). From John’s close reading of the prophets, David deSilva says, “John has discerned what the response of the God of the prophets would be to a new, grander, more overtly self-deifying, and more violently expansive domination system” (2009, 161; ­cf. Kraybill 1996). On the other hand, those who are more struck by the differences between Revelation and particular texts opt for either a rhetorical or mystical model. The former begins with an analysis of John’s rhetorical purposes and seeks to show how he uses scripture to support his case (Hemer 1986). This applies both to his choice of scripture—he only alludes to those texts that support the point he is trying to make—and what he does with them. George Caird offers a good example of this approach, where the fact of Christ’s death and resurrection causes John to reinterpret the biblical texts: “Wherever the Old Testament speaks of the victory of the Messiah or the overthrow of the enemies of God, we are to remember that the gospel recognizes no other way of achieving these ends than the way of the Cross” (1984, 75). Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza is also an advocate of a “rhetorical” model; she writes that John “does not interpret the OT but uses its words, images, phrases, and patterns as a language arsenal in order to make his own theological statement or express his own prophetic vision” (1985, 135). An important advocate of the “mystical” model is Christopher Rowland (1993). He recognizes that a degree of planning has gone into the structure of the book and that John is certainly harnessing key images from the scriptures to make his point. But Rowland wants to do justice to John’s claim to be “in the spirit” (Rev 1:10; 4:2) and a receiver of visions. Texts and images have come together in John’s mind but not through exegesis or attention to original context. They are more like dreams, which jump about without any apparent logic, and yet reveal some of our most basic hopes and fears. Before he comments on the text of Revelation in his commentary (Rowland 1993), he invites us to contemplate some contemporary pictures to prepare us for what we will face. As with Revelation, modern art only works if one has some familiarity with the images (as in political cartoons) but such contexts do not determine the meaning for each and every viewer. Indeed, Rowland questions whether pursuing authorial intention is the appropriate goal for a work like Revelation. If he had been asked why he has combined images from Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel in his inaugural vision, John would most likely have replied, “I was in the spirit”. My own view lies somewhere between the rhetorical and mystical. John clearly has an overall purpose for writing down his visions in the order and manner that he did, but I do not think this has much to do with exegesis. His choice of scripture is governed by the rhetorical needs of his recipients (Rev 1:4—it is a letter), but those scriptures had already exerted a spiritual/mystical influence on his psyche. I have elsewhere referred to this as a

The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation   99 “dialogical” relationship (Moyise  2008, 96–141), as in the juxtaposition of Lion and Lamb in Rev 5. Although the tendency has been to allow the Lamb imagery to absorb and transform the Lion imagery, the Lamb also has gained some Lion-like qualities. A dialogical approach resists the temptation to resolve this tension and seeks to do justice to both voices. The Old Testament still speaks through Revelation but in a transformed way.

References Aune, David. 1998. WBC 52B. Revelation 6–16. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Bauckham, Richard. 1993. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Beale, Gregory K. 1984. The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St John. Lanham MD: University Press of America. Beale, Gregory K. 1998. John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Beale, Gregory K. 1999. The Book of Revelation. NIGTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Caird, George B. 1984. The Revelation of St. John the Divine. 2nd ed. BNTC. London: Black. Charles, R. H. 1920. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John. 2 vols. ICC. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. deSilva, David  A. 2009. Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Fekkes, Jan III. 1994. Isaiah and Prophetic Traditions in the Book of Revelation. JSNTSup 93. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Fletcher, Michelle. 2017. Reading Revelation as Pastiche: Imitating the Past. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Gentry, Kenneth  L. 1989. Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. Hemer, Colin J. 1986. The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Kowalski, Beate. 2004. Die Rezeption des Propheten Ezechiel in der Offenbarung des Johannes. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwek. Kraybill, Nelson. 1996. Imperial Cult and Commerce in John’s Apocalypse. JSNTSup 132. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Mathewson, David. 2003. A New Heaven and a New Earth: The Meaning and Function of the Old Testament in Revelation 21.1–22.5. JSNTSup 238. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Mounce, Robert H. 1997. The Book of Revelation. 2nd ed. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Moyise, Steve. 1995. The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation. JSNTSup 115. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Moyise, Steve. 2008. Evoking Scripture: Seeing the Old Testament in the New. London: T & T Clark. Osborne, Grant R. 2002. Revelation. BECNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Resseguie, James  L. 1998. Revelation Unsealed: A Narrative Critical Approach to John’s Apocalypse. BIS 32. Leiden: Brill. Rowland, Christopher. 1993. Revelation. London: Epworth.

100   Steve Moyise Ruiz, Jean-Pierre. 1989. Ezekiel in the Apocalypse: The Transformation of Prophetic Language in Revelation 16.17–19.10. European University Studies. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Sweet, John. 1990. Revelation. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International.

chapter 7

R ev el ation ’s Use of the Gr eek L a nguage David L. Mathewson

Introduction Revelation’s “Unique” Grammar One of the more perplexing features of the book of Revelation is the author’s use of the Greek language. Scholars have consistently drawn attention to John’s “strange Greek” in comparison to what they often deem a more standardized form of the language in the New Testament and elsewhere. This observation reflects two important issues that have occupied scholarly attention regarding Revelation’s use of the Greek language: the issue of Revelation’s grammatical irregularities and the issue of the nature of Revelation’s Greek. First, scholars have long noted and provided various explanations for the book of Revelation’s so-called grammatical solecisms—grammatical incongruities of various types that depart from “acceptable” grammatical rules and usage of the language. The observation goes back at least as far as the third century, when Dionysius of Alexandria, in comparing Revelation’s Greek with that of the Fourth Gospel and 1 John, observed the misuse of Greek in Revelation: I do not deny that the other writer saw a revelation and received knowledge and prophecy. I perceive, however, that his dialect and language are not accurate Greek, but that he uses barbarous idioms, and, in some places, solecisms. (cited in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7.25.26)

To give an example, the most famous solecism confronts the attentive reader immediately, only a few verses into the book. In the epistolary introduction, Rev 1:4 issues a

102   David L. Mathewson grace and peace wish from ho ōn kai ho ēn kai ho erchomenos (the one who is and who was and who is coming). The difficulty is that though the expression is in the nominative case in Greek, it follows the preposition apo (from), which normally takes a genitive case, not the nominative. How do we explain such incongruities? And how extensive are the grammatical irregularities in Revelation?

The Relationship of Revelation’s Greek to First-Century Culture This leads to a second, closely related issue, the relationship of the Greek of Revelation to its first-century cultural context. What do the numerous grammatical incongruities say about the kind of Greek that John was writing? How does Revelation’s language relate to the Greek of the first century? Was it a unique language, or did it fall within the registers of first-century Koine Greek? Many scholars are convinced that Revelation’s Greek is anomalous. R. H. Charles described John’s Greek as “absolutely unique” (Charles 1913, 81). Some think that Revelation’s Greek is sloppy and substandard in comparison with Classical Greek standards. This has led to what is by far the most common approach to explaining Revelation’s so-called deviant Greek, which is to see its language as constituting some degree of Semitized Greek. David Aune summarizes this persistent approach: “The Greek of Revelation is the most peculiar Greek in the NT, in part because it exhibits interference from Semitic languages, perhaps both Hebrew and Aramaic” (Aune 1997, clxii). Some go as far as to posit a hybrid “Jewish Greek” to account for Revelation’s Greek (Thompson 1985, 108; Turner 1963, 9). This chapter addresses these two related issues. It argues that the grammatical irregularities in Revelation are not as extensive as usually thought, that most of them have plausible explanations, and that Revelation’s Greek fits into the language of the first-century Greek culture.

Revelation’s Grammatical Incongruities and Interpretation of Their Significance Overview of Apparent Grammatical Incongruities We have already noted a grammatical incongruity related to case usage in Rev 1:4. In the very next verse (1:5) we encounter another incongruity in case usage—another series of expressions in the nominative case, ho martys, ho pistos, ho prōtotokos (the witness, the faithful, the firstborn). This threefold expression stands in apposition to Iēsou Christou

Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language   103 (Jesus Christ). However, the name Iēsou Christou is, again, in the genitive case. Normally, we would expect two nouns in apposition to be in the same case; that is, the we would expect the expression “the witness, the faithful one, the firstborn” to be in the genitive case as is “Jesus Christ,” with which it stands in apposition, and not in the nominative case. This is the most common irregularity in Revelation’s case usage, to find nominatives modifying oblique case forms. In addition to case mismatches, Laurentiu Florentin Mot highlighted five categories of syntactical and morphological irregularities: (1) disagreements in case, gender, and number; (2) incongruities involving tense, voice, and mood; (3) prepositional irregularities; (4) omissions; (5) redundancies, such as redundant pronouns (Florentin Mot 2015, 107). 1. Disagreements in Case, Gender, and Number. In this first category, in addition to case discrepancies, subjects frequently do not agree with their verb in number. Beyond the common use of singular verbs with a neuter plural noun, there are numerous examples of mismatches with number. For example, in Rev 8:7 two nouns, chalaza kai pyr (hail and fire) are preceded and followed by singular verbs, egeneto (was) and eblēthē (was thrown), where we would expect plural verbs. A more common incongruity is to find disagreement in gender between a word and the noun it modifies, or between two nouns that stand in apposition or refer to the same thing. In 4:1, the feminine phōnē (voice) is modified by the masculine participle legōn (saying). 2. Incongruities in Tense, Voice, and Mood. One ostensible, conspicuous incongruity many scholars have noted is the use of Greek verb tenses outside their “normal” temporal spheres of expression. Some visions shift between all the major Greek tense forms (aorist, imperfect, present, perfect, future) without an apparent corresponding shift in temporal references (all describe a past vision that John had). In 19:11–21 John shifts between all the major tense forms in the indicative. Frequently, one finds the participle being used where one would expect to find a finite verb, and vice versa. In 1:16, the present participle echōn (having) is apparently used in place of a finite verb. In 1:5–6, two participle forms agapōnti . . . lysanti (loved . . . released) are resolved into a finite verb epoiēsen (made). 3. Prepositional Incongruities. Florentin Mot notes three prepositional usages that stand out in Revelation as peculiar. First, the preposition meta is used with the sense of “against” rather than “with” or “after.” Second, en can behave like eis. And third, is the preposition ek after the verb conquer or overcome (Florentin Mot 2015, 201–5). 4. Omissions and Redundancies. Finally, Revelation exhibits a number of redundancies in its use of pronouns. Most of these occur in relative clauses. In 3:8 John mentions a “door . . . which (hēn) no one is able to shut it (autēn).” It would appear that the pronoun autēn is redundant and unnecessary following the relative pronoun hēn.

104   David L. Mathewson

Theories about the Cultural Location of Revelation’s Greek There has been no shortage of explanations for John’s grammatical solecisms. This section summarizes some of the more important explanations for the incongruities and cultural significance of Revelation’s Greek. These explanations are not mutually exclusive. 1. Semitic Influence on John’s Greek. By far the most common explanation is that the solecisms in Revelation can be accounted for by some degree of Semitic influence or interference. The roots of this view go back to at least the eighteenth century. But the approach persists to the present day and has gained considerable popularity. Entire monographs have argued that significant Semitic influence explains John’s so-called grammatical atrocities. G. Mussies argued for Semitic influence, but from Mishnaic Hebrew or Aramaic (Mussies 1971). One of the most significant monographs is that of S. Thompson, who sees interference from the Hebrew language as the explanation for John’s irregular grammar at every turn (Thompson 1985). Hence, underlying John’s use of the Greek language semantically is the Hebrew language. A long line of commentaries has reiterated some form of this perspective. R. H. Charles draws attention to the Hebraic style of the Apocalypse. Though the statement probably goes back much farther (to the eighteenth-century German textual critic Johann Albrecht Bengel), Charles is well-known for the famous dictum “[W]hile he writes in Greek, he thinks in Hebrew” (Charles  1913, 82). H. B. Swete notes the more striking examples of solecisms, which he attributes to “the habit which he may have retained from early years of thinking in a Semitic language,” though he thinks there were other causes as well (Swete  1911, cxxv). Mussies has argued that the influence comes more from Mishnaic Hebrew or Aramaic (Mussies 1971). More recently, Aune has stated that Revelation’s Greek is most peculiar, and he attributes this state of affairs to Semitic influence (Aune 1997, clxii). Grant Osborne concludes that the solecisms in Revelation are due more to Septuagintal influence, and sometimes also betray Semitic influence (Osborne 2002, 24–25). Thus the overwhelming conclusion is that John’s grammatical aberrations are the result of Semitic interference to some degree. Thompson reiterated this perspective when he concluded that “at least in the Apc., the Greek language was little more than a membrane, stretched tightly over a Semitic framework, showing many essential contours beneath” (Thompson 1985, 108). Jürgen Roloff used a different metaphor in his commentary, concluding: “Nowhere is the Greek ‘ground cover’ over Semitic ‘subsoil’ as thin as it is here” (Roloff  1993, 12). Or, if we can use John’s own hear/see dialectic, the reader of Revelation “sees” Greek, but should “hear” Hebrew (Mathewson  2010, 177). Brian K. Blount likewise surmised that John “writes in a kind of Semitized Greek” (Blount 2009, 8).

Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language   105 Thompson and others have gone so far as to hypothesize the presence of an extant Jewish Greek that John wrote in: “The Apc. can accurately be described . . . and with no hesitancy be categorised as ‘Jewish Greek’, to the fullest extent of the term” (Thompson 1985, 108). According to Turner, during the time of the New Testament, “there was a distinguishable dialect of spoken and written Jewish Greek” (Turner 1965, 183). Similar assessments are fairly widespread in the literature on the book of Revelation, so that the perspective persists that John’s use of Greek exhibits some level of Semitic interference, and even is evidence of a kind of extant Jewish Greek. What this theory argues is that there was a dialect, or subdialect, of Greek in the first century that John (and presumably his readers) were familiar with. This Greek can only be understood accurately in light of the underlying Hebrew language system. However, G. H. R. Horsley has argued that the notion of an extant “Jewish Greek” is a fiction that (1) relies on overly vague terminology and (2) is inconsistent with linguistic research, particularly in the area of bilingualism (Horsley 1989, 5–40). As will be shown, the Semitic approach to Revelation’s Greek has come under significant criticism in light of recent linguistic insights. 2. Signals for Old Testament Allusions. Perhaps to be seen as a further category of Semitic influence, Gregory K. Beale has argued that the grammatical solecisms were deliberate attempts on John’s part to draw attention to OT allusions (Beale 1998, 318–55). The grammatical solecisms in most cases create a “grammatical dissonance” and signal to the reader the presence of an OT allusion (in the absence of quotation formulae), since the grammatical form of the OT allusion has been carried over into Revelation without grammatical alteration. For example, Beale argues that in 1:5, the syntactical dissonance created by the nominative ho martys, ho pistos, ho prōtotokos in apposition to the genitive Iēsou Christou is due to John’s desire to signal an allusion to Psalm 89:27–37 (88:27–37 LXX; Beale 1998, 329–30). Yet one could ask whether this accounts for all of the grammatical irregularities in Revelation. 3. Countercultural Language. Others think that John’s liberty with Greek is a deliberate attempt to flaunt grammatical convention as a means of protest against the Roman Empire. A. D. Callahan saw the departures from standard grammar as a deliberate transgression of grammar as part of John’s anti-imperial stance (Callahan 1995; see also Koester 2014, 141). A. Yarbro Collins concluded that John’s Greek constituted a “protest against the higher forms of Hellenistic culture” (Yarbro Collins 1984, 47). However, if this were the case, one might expect the grammatical departures to be far more extensive than they are and to be more widespread in the types of violations of correct grammar. 4. Careless Use of Greek. Finally, some have argued that John’s so-called deviant Greek is the result of John’s incompetence with the Greek language, which results in bad, sloppy Greek, especially in comparison with classical standards or even other NT authors (e.g., Dionysius of Alexandria, just quoted). However, many of the grammatical departures fall into distinct patterns or reflect intentional changes, making it unlikely that all the incongruities can be explained as bad or sloppy Greek.

106   David L. Mathewson

The Coherence of Revelation’s Greek In response to these theories for explaining Revelation’s Greek, some significant work has been done, primarily based on recent linguistic research, that has pushed the discussion forward. This work provides new avenues for exploring the issue, calling into question some of the previous explanations for the grammatical “irregularities”.

Developments in Method 1. Stanley E. Porter: Three significant works have challenged these perspectives by providing needed developments in methodology. In one of the most important challenges to the Semitic perspective, Stanley E. Porter examines the language of the Apocalypse in light of a number of important linguistic issues (Porter 1989a), and makes a number of important observations. According to him, the burden of proof lies with those who argue for appreciable Semitic influence, since Revelation is a Greek document produced in a Greek milieu (Porter 1989a, 587). Further, it must be shown that grammatical constructions in Revelation could not be paralleled in secular Greek literature; Porter finds many of the constructions that are often used to argue for Semitic influence to have examples, however uncommon, in secular Greek. Porter therefore distinguishes three kinds of influence: (1) translation, from Hebrew (or Aramaic); (2) interference, where a Hebrew grammatical construction has intruded into the Greek language; (3) enhancement, where the frequency of a construction that is rare in Greek has been enhanced by its presence in Hebrew. According to him, only the second can be considered a true Semitism, of which he finds few or no examples in Revelation. Rather, examples of Semitic influence fall under the third category, enhancement. Porter further argues that we cannot hold up the classical period as more normative for grammar than any other period, so that Revelation’s Greek is seen as sloppy and hence Semitically influenced. Influences on a language take place at the level of style, not code. The code of a language refers to its essential meaning and structure, whereas style refers to individual variations and the range of the ways that the code is manifested. Finally, he demonstrates that any interference between two languages has no lasting effect on either the native language or the acquired language. Porter concludes that “the language of the Apocalypse can be understood as falling within the range of possible registers of Greek usage in the 1st century” (Porter 1989a, 603). 2. Iwan Whitely: In another important article, Iwan Whitely challenged the prevailing Semitic-influence hypothesis and suggested that John’s use of language should be seen from a pragmatic perspective, that is, according to what language is attempting to accomplish or its effect (Whiteley 2007). Whiteley prefers the term “anacolutha” to “solecism,” since the latter designation suggests that John’s gram-

Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language   107 matical “deviations” are unintentional and incorrect. According to him, John uses anacolutha (what others calls solecisms) to introduce concepts and then extrapolate on them later in the broader context. “The primary strategy of that John employs that leads to the presence of anacolutha is that he highlights a section of text that is manipulated later in the work” (Whiteley  2007, 50). Whiteley also notes that John’s grammatical constructions appear consistently and repetitively throughout the work, implying that they are deliberate. The point is that John’s grammar and its irregularities can be accounted for within the Greek language itself, not from an outside force, such as Semitic language. 3. Laurentiu Florentin Mot: Most recently and most importantly, in a significant monograph, Laurentiu Florentin Mot has argued that the irregularities in the syntax of Revelation must be understood from the perspective of the Greek language itself rather than from a Semitic perspective (Florentin Mot 2015). He argues that grammar should be understood from a functional, descriptive approach rather than a prescriptive approach that emphasizes correct grammar and rules. John’s grammatical deviations are not to be seen as “bad grammar that breaks the rules,” but as expressing freedom in the pragmatic use of language, which may at times be intentional on John’s part. Recent research into error analysis and second language acquisition shows that not all grammatical irregularities go back to the mother tongue. There is not a one-to-one correspondence between the influence of the native language on the acquired language. There are different causes for grammatical errors, many of them intralingual. Furthermore, most morphsyntactical errors are not generated by the mother tongue, but rather by phonology and vocabulary. Florentin Mot then analyzes the grammatical irregularities in Revelation and provides reasonable explanations for them. For example, he counts twenty-seven examples of the nominative case in nouns and participles modifying an oblique case. Some of these may be due to the author’s desire to draw attention to a particular construction, to highlight an OT allusion; or they may be due to the titular function of a word or phrase. But he observes that John follows the “correct” construction (nominative modifying a nominate) much more frequently that he departs from it. Florentin Mot draws a number of important conclusions from his analysis. First, he observes that there are 221 solecisms in Revelation, which can be divided into three types: alleged, explicable, and actual. Only forty-five of the 221 fit that last category; these have no apparent explanation, according to him, and thus are true solecisms. Furthermore, John’s grammatical irregularities exhibit clear patterns and consistencies. For example, it is common to find the nominative case used where one would expect another case form. At least three important conclusions result from this. First, it is inaccurate to conclude that Revelation is full of grammatical mistakes and errors. This is surely an overstatement. Second, it is no longer acceptable to attribute most of John’s solecisms to Semitic influence. Third, like Porter, Florentin Mot concludes that John’s Greek falls well within the range of acceptable Koine Greek. John writes “in a Greek that

108   David L. Mathewson made sense to non-Hebrew speaking Jews and Gentile Christians alike” (Florentin Mot 2015, 230).

From Grammatical Incongruities to Common Linguistic Forms This is not the place to give an exhaustive account of all the solecisms (see Florentin Mot 2015, 95–216). However, many of the so-called solecisms in Revelation are explicable by various means within John’s use of the Greek language. At times, John may alter the grammar to highlight the titular nature of a word or phrase. This is probably the best explanation for the use of the nominative case in 1:4–5, where one would expect the genitive following apo in verse 4, and the nominatives in apposition to the genitive Iēsou Christou in verse 5. That John is intentional here seems to be suggested by the fact that he does know how to use the genitive in verse 5 (Iēsou Christou). It is also possible that Beale is correct that the grammatical irregularity causes some dissonance and signals the presence of an OT allusion (Exod 3:14; Beale 1998, 329–30). Something similar could be said about the nominative ho ophis ho archaios (the ancient serpent) in apposition to the accusative ton drakonta (dragon) in Rev 20:2. In 10:2 the nominative participle echōn (having) modifies the accusative angelon (angel) from verse 1. It is likely that here, however, the participle is functioning as a finite verb (the angel . . . had . . . ), indicated by placing it in the nominative case. One particularly problematic use of the nominative case where one would expect another case is in 12:7: ho Michaēl kai hoi angeloi autou tou polemēsai. The phrase ho Michaēl kai hoi angeloi (Michael and his angels) is in the nominative, but could be expected to be in the accusative case since it is the subject of the following infinitive polemēsai (to make war). Although most posit influence from a Hebrew idiom (subject + le with the infinitive; Thompson 1985, 62–63), this is not the most likely explanation. It is possible that a verb such as egeneto has been elided, so that the sense is “Michael and his angels came to make war.” Another option is that the articular infinitive tou polemēsai is epexegetical to the noun polemos (war), and that the nominative ho Michaēl kai hoi angeloi names and draws attention to those who will defeat Satan. Most of the incongruities surrounding gender in Revelation can be explained as constructions according to sense or perhaps as drawing attention to the construction. In 4:1 John hears “a voice speaking to him,” phōnē (voice), a feminine noun, which is modified by a masculine participle legōn. What is interesting is that before using the masculine participle legōn, the author uses the expected feminine participle lalousēs (speaking) in a relative clause to modify phōnē. Part of the explanation may be that the voice here is identified as “the first voice which I heard as a trumpet speaking with me.” This phrase points back to the voice in 1:17, introduced by legōn, which is Jesus speaking (Florentin Mot 2015, 161). The masculine participle, then, may function to link 4:1 to 1:17, and recall that it is Jesus who is speaking in 4:1. Masculine modifiers are used in a number of

Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language   109 instances where the reader would expect a neuter. In 5:6 the neuter arnion (lamb) is modified by a masculine participle echōn (having). It is also nominative, whereas arnion is accusative. This should probably not be seen as a construction according to sense, since the first two participles that modify arnion are neuter—hestēkos (standing) and esphagmenon (slaughtered). The nominative masculine echōn may function to draw attention to an important descriptive feature of the Lamb: his seven horns and eyes! (Mathewson 2016, 74). The masculine participle echōn in 4:7 is probably also a construction according to sense; the neuter to triton zōon (the third living creature) most likely refers to a human being, as the following hōs anthrōpou may suggest. Another example is the neuter noun therion (beast), which is sometimes modified by masculine words. In 13:14 both the masculine participle legōn and the masculine relative pronoun hos modify the neuter therion. This may be an example of construction according to sense, where the beast symbolizes a human ruler. In 17:3 the masculine participle echōn (having) modifies the neuter therion again. This could be a grammatical slip, but more likely, it draws attention to these features of the beast (its heads and horns) to link it back to the beast’s same description in 13:1. Lack of agreement in number is frequently found in the Apocalypse. In 8:7 two nouns, chalaza kai pyr occur with two singular verbs, egeneto . . . eblēthē (was . . . was thrown), where we would expect to find plural verbs. Yet grammars frequently note that when the verb comes before more than one subject it is common for a verb to agree in number with the first subject (Turner 1963, 313). Hence the singular egeneto agrees in number with the first subject chalaza. But the verb that follows, eblēthē, requires a different explanation. It is possible that the author simply continued the pattern of the singular egeneto, or perhaps treated both chalaza (feminine) and pyr (neuter) as neuter plural, which in Greek frequently takes singular verbs. It is also possible that John simply treated both as a single entity (Mathewson 2016, 110). Another feature that appears anomalous, which Florentin Mot thinks is one of the only two grammatical features that exhibit Semitic interference (Florentin Mot 2015, 222), is the redundant use of the pronoun in relative clauses. The reader is confronted with an example in 3:8: thyran ēneōgmenēn, hēn oudeis dunatai kleisai autēn (an open door, which no one is able to shut it). The pronoun autēn at the end of the relative clause appears redundant or superfluous after the relative pronoun hēn. This construction could be attributed to Semitic influence, since it is rare outside of Revelation and abundant in the LXX, translating the Hebrew indeclinable relative asher, which is followed by a pronoun for clarity, though examples of the construction can be found in Hellenistic Greek (Robertson 1934, 722). In any case, John may deliberately utilize this construction in order to place further emphasis on the antecedent: in 3:9, the open door. This construction occurs also in 7:2, 9; 13:8, 12; 17:9; 20:8. When it comes to modal forms, Revelation reveals a number of interesting participle usages. Though the typical adverbial and attributive participles appear regularly in Revelation (Mathewson 2016, xxviii–xxix), to be noticed is not only the usage of the participle as a main verb, but also the occurrence of a main verb where one would expect to

110   David L. Mathewson see a participle. Although the use of a participle for a main verb is sometimes attributed to Semitic influence (Thompson  1985, 68), examples in extrabiblical Greek make a Semitic explanation unnecessary and unlikely (Moulton  1908, 222–24). The first instance that confronts the reader is 1:16. Here the echōn (having) seems to function as a finite verb. This would explain its appearance in the nominative case. There are other examples of participles that may function as finite verbs in the text of Revelation, usually with echōn (4:8; 10:2; 21:14). The reverse is also found in Revelation, the occurrence of a finite verb where one would expect a participle. Again, this feature is often attributed to Semitic influence, where one finds the resolution of a participle into a finite verb (Charles 1920, cxliv–cxlvi; Thompson 1985, 66–67). However, as Florentin Mot shows, Semitic influence on this construction in Revelation is unlikely, since there were at least three ways this construction was translated into the LXX: literally, as two participles, and as two finite verbs (Florentin Mot 2015, 195). Furthermore, Porter shows that this construction has ample precedence in extrabiblical Greek (Porter 1989b, 140). The clearest example is found in 1:5–6, where the two participles agapōnti (loved) and lysanti (released) are continued with a finite verb epoiēsen (made). It is possible that this is a parenthetical construction, or is meant to draw attention to the description of the people of God and an OT allusion (Exod 19:6). To be excluded from treatment as a solecism or grammatical irregularity is Revelation’s use of Greek tenses. It is probably incorrect to treat the verb-tense usages in Revelation as an example of “Verbal Incongruities” (Florentin Mot 2015, 191). Revelation is well-known for using Greek verb-tense forms that are out of concord with their assumed temporal values in the author’s narration of his vision. At times, John shifts between all the major tense forms in his vision, without making any apparent switch in temporal orientation (a record of a past vision). John’s “deviant” use of tenses outside their normal temporal values is often attributed to Semitic influence (Charles  1920, cxxiii–v; Mussies 1971, 330–49; Thompson 1985, 29–53). For example, in Rev 11:1–13 the author shifts between aorist-, present-, and future-tense forms, which Charles called “confused” (Charles 1920, cxxiii n. 1). However, recent research into the linguistic concept of verbal aspect calls this into serious question (Porter 1989b). Verbal aspect indicates the author’s perspective on the action, not the time (or kind) of action it is. That is, it concerns how the author chooses to view the action, rather than when the action took place. If this is the case, then John’s use of verb tenses in different temporal contexts cannot be attributed to Semitic influence or to a misuse of Greek tenses, but it is consistent with the semantics of the verb tense forms themselves, which communicate verbal aspect, and not absolute temporal reference (Mathewson 2010). Often the tense shifts function to indicate how the author chooses to structure the discourse, or, to indicate discourse prominence (Mathewson 2010; 2016, xxv–xxviii). Hence it is clear that John uses verb tenses consistently with their semantic value, once we understand that aspect rather than temporal reference is the semantic property communicated by Greek verbtense forms. We should look to John’s use of the Greek language itself for our primary source of explanation for John’s grammatical irregularities. It is difficult to determine whether all

Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language   111 of John’s grammatical solecisms are intentional or unintentional. But the fact that many of them follow consistent patterns in his work suggests that many are intentional (Whiteley  2007), and not the result of bad Greek or underlying Semitic influence. Florentin Mot has concluded that of the different kinds of irregularities making up the forty-five actual departures from correct grammar, “4 [kinds of departures] are systematic and occur often” (Florentin Mot 2015, 233). These four patterns are the nominative case in place of oblique cases, gender disagreements, participles in place of finite verbs, and resumptive pronouns. This makes it more likely that John’s grammatical departures are sometimes, or often, intentional. Many solecisms have plausible explanations within their context, as we have seen. It appears that John may at times deliberately alter the syntax in order to highlight a construction by departing from the “normal” grammar. At other times (see Beale 1998), the grammatical solecisms may function to signal an OT allusion. John may also create cohesion between different parts of his text using the same kinds of grammatical departure in different contexts. John’s grammar often reflects the sense of the construction rather than strict adherence to grammatical rules. At other times, a construction may be enhanced by Semitic influence, though it is still an attested Greek construction. An example of this may be the use of the participle legön/legontes (saying) to introduce quotations in the text (e.g., 4:10–11). It is probably wise to examine each of the grammatical solecisms individually, on their own terms and in their own contexts, to determine an explanation for each one. Overall, it is helpful to take a pragmatic rather than a rule-based approach to John’s grammar, asking what purpose it is accomplishing.

Revelation’s Language as Common First-Century Greek Based on the discussion here; the strength of the alternative approach argued for by Porter, Whiteley, and Florentin Mot; and recent insights from linguistics, such as bilingualism and second-language acquisition, it is time to rethink how we approach the Greek of the book of Revelation. This discussion argues for the view that John’s Greek falls within the range of acceptable first-century Greek. First, most of the grammatical anomalies, or solecisms, have explanations outside of Semitic influence; they are often intralingual and can be explained by other means. That is, there is seldom a need to look outside John’s use of Greek itself to explain the grammatical irregularities (Florentin Mot 2015, 85–89; Porter 1989a, 602; see also Horsley 1989, 5–40). Second, it is important to keep in mind an essential distinction that Porter made. He argued for the need to distinguish three levels when it comes to thinking about Semitic influence on Revelation: (1) direct translation, (2) direct intervention, and (3) enhancement (Porter 1989a, 587). According to Porter, only number 2 can legitimately be considered a Semitism, since only here has the Hebrew language intruded into Greek, so that a linguistic

112   David L. Mathewson phenomenon cannot be accounted for within the Greek language itself (Porter 1989a, 587). Porter concludes that in Revelation, “The most that can be argued for is Semitic enhancement at points” (Porter 1989a, 599). Third, this raises the issue of the distinction between code (the essential meaning and structure of a language) and style (individual variation; Porter 1989a; Silva 1980). Any influence on the Greek language from outside forces would likely have affected it at the level of style, rather than at the level of the very code of the language. That is, any influence from Hebrew might have affected the style, but would not have interfered with or had a lasting impact on the language system itself. This is consistent with some of the insights noted by Florentin Mot on error analysis and second-language acquisition, which have questioned to what extent grammatical categories or errors transfer from one language to another (e.g., from the native language to the acquired language). This does not mean that there has been no outside influence at all on Revelation’s Greek, but that any influence will be at the level of style or enhancement, not at the level of grammar or code. Fourth, it is important to examine John’s grammar in light of recent emphasis on descriptive and functional approaches to grammar. Such approaches are more concerned with describing how an author uses language and grammar and what they do, than with whether they conform to a “correct” grammar. This makes it difficult to conclude that John’s Greek was sloppy, careless, or bad, especially in comparison with some other time period (classical, Attic). Thus, “the Greek of Revelation is not inferior to any of the other NT books [or I would add, classical or Attic Greek]. It is only different.” (Florentin Mot 2015, 234). It is important, therefore, to consider the communicative function of John’s language. Fifth, if we can assume that John was at least bilingual, then the interpreter must finally come to grips with the fact that he chose to write in Greek, the dominant language of the empire. Hence, “since the NT documents are extant Greek documents in a Greek linguistic milieu . . . the burden of proof must lie with those who argue for Semitic influence” (Porter 1989a, 587). Even if a Semitic Greek did exist, Thompson and others would presumably have to argue that the readers of John’s Apocalypse were privy to this specialized Greek language. If this was not the case, one must wonder why John bothered to write in Greek at all and how he could have written in such a Jewish Greek without confusing or even misleading his Greek speaking/reading readers. As the messages to the seven church in Rev 2–3 clearly demonstrate, John’s text was produced in a thoroughly Greco-Roman milieu in the heart of imperial Roman domination. In other words, the author’s “text came to life in a Greco-Roman context. John chose to write in Greek, idiosyncratic as his may be, because it was the language of the eastern empire and of the early Christian communities” (Royalty 1998, 81). Finally, Greek can be divided into a broad spectrum of various levels according to style. Porter mentions vulgar, nonliterary, literary, and Atticistic (Porter  1989a, 598). Where does the Greek of Revelation fit in? Porter concludes that there is “no compelling reason to see the language of the Apocalypse as anything other than in many places vulgar Greek of the 1st century” (Porter 1989a, 600). Florentin Mot also seems to place the Greek of Revelation into vernacular or vulgar Greek (Florentin Mot 2015, 230–33).

Revelation’s Use of the Greek Language   113 In other words, Revelation falls within the range of registers of first-century Greek. Given modern advances in linguistic analysis as summarized by Porter, Whitely, and Florentin Mot, and given the fact that John chose to write in the language of GrecoRoman world of which he and his churches were a part, there is no reason to conclude that John thought he was writing in, and his readers thought they were reading, anything other than standard first-century Greek. As different as his Greek may be in comparison to other registers, or at whatever skill level the author has achieved in Greek, Revelation’s Greek needs to be treated as an example of common first-century Greek. Or, to conclude with the words of Porter, “there is little chance anyone thought he [John] was using anything other than the Hellenistic Greek of the day” (Porter 1989a, 603).

References Aune, David E. 1997. Revelation 1–5. WBC 52A. Dallas: Word. Beale, Gregory K. 1998. John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation. JSNTSup 166. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Blount, Brian K. 2009. Revelation. NTL. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press. Callahan, A. D. 1995. “The Language of the Apocalypse.” HTR 88: 453–70. Charles, R. H. 1913. Studies in the Apocalypse. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Charles, R. H. 1920. The Revelation of St. John. Vol. 1. ICC. New York: Scribner’s. Florentin Mot, Laurentiu. 2015. Morphological and Syntactical Irregularities in the Book of Revelation: A Greek Hypothesis. LBS 11. Leiden: Brill. Horsley, G. H. R., ed. 1989. New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. Vol. 5. Marrickville, AUS: Macquarie University. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Mathewson, David L. 2010. Verbal Aspect in the Book of Revelation: The Function of Greek Verb Tenses in John’s Apocalypse. LBS 4. Leiden: Brill. Mathewson, David  L. 2016. Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. Moulton, James H. 1908. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. Vol. 1: Prolegomena. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Mussies, G. 1971. The Morphology of Koine Greek as Used in the Apocalypse of John: A Study in Bilingualism. NovTSup 27. Leiden: Brill. Osborne, Grant R. 2002. Revelation. BECNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Porter, Stanley E. 1989a. “The Language of the Apocalypse in Recent Discussion.” NT Studies 35: 582–603. Porter, Stanley E. 1989b. Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood. SBG 1. New York: Peter Lang. Robertson, A.  T. 1934. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Nashville: Broadman Press. Roloff, Jürgen. 1993. The Revelation of John. Translated by John E. Alsop. CC. Minneapolis: Fortress. Royalty, Robert W., Jr. 1998. The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

114   David L. Mathewson Silva, Moises. 1980. “Bilingualism and the Character of Palestinian Greek.” Bib 61: 198–219. Swete, H. B. 1911. The Apocalypse of St. John. London: Macmillan. Thompson, Stephen. 1985. The Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax. SNTSMS 52. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Turner, Nigel. 1963. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. Vol. 3: Syntax. Edited by J. H. Moulton. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Turner, Nigel. 1965. Grammatical Insights into the New Testament. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Whiteley, Iwan  M. 2007. “An Explanation for the Anacolutha in the Book of Revelation.” Filologia Neotestmentaria 20: 33–50. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1984. Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

chapter 8

The H ym ns i n R ev el ation Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler

Revelation’s hymns have not always been thought to contribute meaningfully to the Apocalypse, and accordingly, they are often given scant treatment in the history of scholarship on the book.1 Yet hymns are one of the primary vehicles through which the author of the Apocalypse makes theological, Christological, and soteriological claims. This ought not to come as a surprise given the extent to which hymns elsewhere in the New Testament—especially in the Pauline corpus—function in this regard, and in light of the prevalence of hymns and hymn-singing in worship contexts in early Judaism and Christianity. This essay explores generic elements of hymnody in antiquity, as well as various aspects of hymnic form and performance in early Judaism and Christianity, as a means of situating the particular forms of Revelation’s hymns, as well as their essential function, within the Apocalypse as a whole.

Hymnic Genre Notions of what constituted a “hymn” varied in antiquity. In its earliest attestations, hymnos sometimes implies general singing or song, whereas in other contexts it more specifically denotes praise of gods and/or human beings.2 Plato defined hymns as praise of gods—distinct from praise of men (Grk: encomia)—a definition that has been operative ever since.3 So pervasive was the definition that, a millennium later, Augustine would similarly claim of Christian hymns: Hymns are praises of God accompanied with singing: hymns are songs containing the praise of God. If there be praise, and it be not of God, it is no hymn. (Expositions on Psalm 73 1).

116   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler While praise of the divine is the sine qua non of ancient hymnody, certain formal features are often associated with the genre, including (1) invocation of the deity in the second or third person, often including divine epithets, genealogies, and/or places of worship of the deity, and an exhortation to sing the hymn; (2) praise of the deity, including accounts of past exploits, as well as essential traits, powers, or privileges; and (3) closing prayer consisting of an appeal for help, a wish for well-being, or a summons, or all three, for the deity to appear at a particular place and time (Furley and Bremer 2001, 1:52–63). On these formal and functional grounds, several hymnic units can be identified in Revelation: 4:9–11; 5:9–13; 7:10–13; 11:15–18; 12:10–12; 15:3–4; 16:5–7; 19:1–8.4 Moreover, many of the attending performative features of the hymns as they are presented in Revelation reflect conventions of hymnody in the ancient world. The hymns were sung, as indicated by various introductory formulae (e.g., 5:9, 12; 7:10; 11:15; 15:3), and accompanied by a kithara (5:8; 15:2). Moreover, with the exception of the hymn in 15:3–4, each of the hymns is antiphonal. Finally, the context of their performance in a cultic setting—that is, in the heavenly throne room of God and the Lamb—makes sense in light of the presumed cultic contexts of many hymns in the ancient Mediterranean world.

Connections with Hymnic Forms in Early Judaism/Christianity Institutions from the wider Greek and Roman world may have provided conceptual resources for the context(s) of performance, contents, and formal elements of Revelation’s hymns, including especially the Roman Imperial court (Aune 1983, 5–26; Nelson Kraybill 2010, 82–107) and the choruses of Greek and Roman tragedy (Jeffcoat Schedtler 2014, 1–2, 14–21). The setting of the hymns in the heavenly temple, as well as a number of seemingly liturgical elements in the hymns themselves, suggest that liturgical contexts may have provided conceptual resources for the presentation of the hymns in Revelation (Smith 2011, 61–165). The breaking of the seals and opening the scroll may represent reading from the Torah in the synagogue (Mowry 1952, 79–83), while the order of events in the daily Minchah service in the Jerusalem temple may provide a blueprint for the depiction of the Christological hymn in Revelation 5 (Thompson 1990, 75–77). The hymns also may have derived language and imagery from the Passover liturgy (O’Rourke 1968, 399–409, 75–97). Comparisons with antecedent Jewish liturgical contexts and liturgies leads naturally to the question of whether or not Revelation’s hymns, and the attending depictions of heavenly worship, reflect the liturgical practices of the communities among whom Revelation first circulated. The claim that Revelation’s visions were revealed to John “on the Lord’s day” (1:10) may suggest as much. Based on form-critical assessments, some

The Hymns in Revelation   117 have supposed that the hymns themselves echo nascent Christian hymnic forms, and that Revelation’s hymns can be profitably compared with hymns woven into the narrative structure of other New Testament texts.5 However, while certain formulaic elements, for example, “Amen” (5:14; 7:12; 19:4), or “We gave thanks to you because . . . ” (11:17), reflect known hymnic forms from later Christian texts, it is much more difficult to identify further resonances. It seems just as likely that Revelation’s hymns were original creations of the author (Hurtado 1985, 105–24). The prevalence of hymns in Revelation (and in the New Testament generally) appears to reflect the popularity of hymn-singing in early Christian worship, a practice attested with both passing and specific references in the New Testament (Acts 16:25; 1 Cor 14:15, 26; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Jas 5:13). References to singing in the Odes of Solomon (7:22–23; 16:1–2; 36:2; 41:1–2), along with figurative language in the letters of Ignatius (Mag. 1:2; Eph. 4:1–2; 5:1; 19:2; Rom. 2:2), testify to the continuing prevalence of singing in the second century (Smith 2011, 176–77).6 The practice of singing among early Christians was conspicuous enough that Pliny included its description in his brief characterization of Christians in Bithynia, who “were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god” (Ep. 10.96). Little more can be said about the specific forms and contents of early Christian hymns on account of the use of relatively generic terms to denote the contents of hymnic singing (e.g., Gk: psalmos, hymnos, ōdē; Lat.: carmen), along with a dearth of contextual information about the singing and the contents of the songs. It is a matter of debate as to whether or not extant hymnic material tells us much about the practice of hymn-singing in the early church. The prevalence of hymns in the New Testament and evidence of hymn-singing belies strong resistance to the practice of hymn singing (or particular aspects of hymn singing) by some in the early church. John Chrysostom was wary of the supreme power of music to engender both good and evil in humankind, such that he characterized “non-spiritual” (i.e., nonbiblical) hymns, as well as the instrumentation and dancing that often accompanied them, as the “devil’s garbage” (John Chrysostom, Exposition of Psalm 41). Many others highlight what they perceive to be the detrimental influence of “Greek” elements in early Christian hymnody (McKinnon 1987; Smith 2011, 178–82).

Contents of Hymns Each hymn issues from the heavenly throne room, the setting for much of what transpires in Revelation. The throne itself stands at the geographic and conceptual center of the room, and it is surrounded by an assortment of heavenly creatures, all of which variously offer hymns of praise to God and the Lamb throughout the vision sequences in Revelation. The four “living creatures” (4:4–6), who recall the heavenly entities described in the throne visions of Isa 6 and Ezek 1, offer endless praise to God (4:8), often along with other heavenly entities (4:8; 5:9–13; 11:15; 12:10–12; 19:1–8; Hall 1990,

118   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler 609–13). So, too, the primary function of the twenty-four elders depicted in a circle around the throne seems to consist of their heavenly praise of God and the Lamb, because it is explicitly stated that the elders worship whenever the living creatures “give glory, honor, and thanks” (4:9–10; Aune 1997, 1:287–92). Mention of “many angels . . . number[ing] myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (5:11) rounds out the description of those who occupy the throne room. Recalling images of angels surrounding the throne of God in antecedent Jewish literature, especially those in apocalyptic texts, the angels offer hymns of praise specifically to the Lamb (5:12; 7:11).7 As are the descriptions of those who sing the hymns, the hymns themselves are replete with echoes of its language, imagery, and symbolism, though they rarely include explicit citations from the Hebrew Bible or other antecedent Jewish literature. In one instance, Rev 4:8, a hymnic allusion to an antecedent text can be determined with certainty, where the appearance of the Trisagion (“Holy, holy, holy”) signals dependence on Isa 6:3. Even in this case, however, the acclamation in Revelation clearly differs from Isaiah’s: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts (kurios sabaoth); the whole earth is full of his glory (Isa. 6:3). Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty (kyrios ho theos ho pantokratōr), who was and is and is to come (Rev 4:8).

The author of Revelation seems to have adapted traditional material by replacing the static description of God with an apocalyptic image of a God who is “coming.” This betrays the broader tendency of the author of Revelation to adapt traditional material to suit his own exigencies, which most often occurs in highly allusive ways (Moyise 1995, 13–23). This is evident in the description of the hymn to the Lamb as the “new song” (5:9), which recalls the song sung by Moses and the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea (Exod 15:1–18), and which likewise revolves around the redemptive power of God. In the very same hymn, the claim that Jesus’s death will create a “kingdom and priests” (5:10) would likely have evoked God’s promise to Moses that the children of Israel would become a “kingdom of priests” (Exod 19:6). Such imagery (e.g., “nations raging” in Rev 11:18 [Pss 2:1–5; 99:1], the “marriage of the Lamb” in Rev 19:7 [Isa 54:6; Hos 2; Ezek 16:8–14]) is only loosely connected, but clearly dependent upon, figurative language and imagery in the Hebrew Bible. The language, imagery, and settings of the hymns in Revelation can also be traced to broader conventions in the non-Jewish worlds of Greek and Roman antiquity. For example, the description of the twenty-four elders casting down their crowns before the throne of God (Rev 4:10) may reflect the practice of Roman subjects presenting golden crowns to emperors at their adventus (Aune 1997, 1:172–75, 308–9; Stevenson 1995, 257–72). The claims that God and the Lamb were “worthy” to receive various prerogatives (4:11; 5:9, 11) may derive from acclamations for Roman emperors. Josephus recorded the shouts of the crowds to Vespasian upon his ascension to the throne in 70 ce: “Benefactor, savior, and only worthy ruler of Rome” (Jewish War 7.71).

The Hymns in Revelation   119 Insofar as much of the contents of Revelation’s hymns are drawn from various texts in the Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Judaism, and broader currents in the ancient Mediterranean world, there exist many planes of intertextuality between these antecedent contexts and Revelation’s hymns. Although these contexts provide valuable lenses through which to begin to understand the theological, Christological, and soteriological claims being made in the hymns, it is important to appreciate the extent to which the author of Revelation has reshaped source material to fit his own exigencies. That is, conceptual resources from various antecedent and contemporaneous contexts become the raw material with which the author of Revelation paints his own unique picture of the sovereignty of God, the vicegerency of the Lamb, the salvation of the people of God, and the total conquest of every adversary in the coming eschatological age.

Functions of Hymns In modern scholarship, Revelation’s hymns have often been subordinated to other elements in the text, either explicitly insofar as they are characterized as “interludes” or “interruptions” vis-à-vis the surrounding vision sequences, or implicitly inasmuch as their contents are given minimal attention relative to other elements in the text. At other times, they are ignored altogether, a regrettable phenomenon in the history of scholarship on the Apocalypse given the sheer number of hymns in the text and their prominence therein. Increasingly, however, scholars have come to recognize the value of the hymns insofar as they provide structural landmarks in the text, and insofar as they help to convey central theological, Christological, and soteriological tenets in the Apocalypse.

Structural Value At a structural level, the hymns sometimes appear to delineate vision sequences—or elements within vision sequences—from one another. For example, the hymns at the end of chapter 4 function as a transition from the vision of the one seated upon the throne to the vision of the slaughtered Lamb in chapter 5. Likewise, the hymns to the Lamb at the end of chapter 5 function as a transition from the descriptions of God and the Lamb to the visions of destruction heralded by the opening of the seven seals in the chapters that immediately follow. Of course, the way that one conceives of the structure of the text as a whole determines in large part one’s sense of the structural function(s) and value(s) of the hymns (Carnegie 1982, 250–54; Jörns 1971, 167–70). Recognition of the structural value of the hymns is precisely what has led to their characterization as “interludes” between other elements thought to be more critical to the text. At the same time, some have recognized their value as a theological and/or Christological “climax” to a vision (Thompson  1990, 66–68). The recognition of the

120   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler value of the hymns vis-à-vis surrounding elements has had the positive effect of sparking a much more robust exploration of the value of the hymns themselves in conveying principal themes in the Apocalypse.

Sovereignty of God The hymns to the “one seated upon throne” convey primarily the notion of the sovereignty of God. This is demonstrated both by the contents of the hymns and the context of their performance. In the first hymn (4:8), God is designated Lord (kyrios) and Almighty (pantokratōr). The primacy of this designation can be inferred from its prevalence in the text, but confirmed based on their use as part of hymnic acclamations. That is, ancient rhetoricians claim that hymns functioned at their core to extol the essential nature of the gods to whom they are sung (Quintilian, Inst. 3.7.7; Alexander Numenius; Gordley 2007, 112–24). Thus, the designation of the one seated upon the throne as “Lord God Almighty” is an indication of what is believed to be an essential aspect of God’s nature. This theme continues in the following antiphonal hymn (Rev 4:11), and in every subsequent hymn, in which various epithets denoting sovereignty (e.g., “glory,” “honor,” “power,” etc.) are ascribed to God. In addition to designations and epithets in the hymns that connote as much (e.g., “King of the nations” [15:3], “kingdom/reign” of God [11:15, 17; 12:10; 19:6]), the sovereignty of God is conveyed by various contexts of hymnic performance throughout the text. For example, the hymns to God in chapter 4 take place in the context of the twentyfour elders falling down before the throne of God while worshipping and laying down their crowns (4:10). The act of prostration signals the subordination of those who perform the act (Matt 2:11; cf. 4:9), as does the offering of crowns, which conjures up scenes of subjugated kings presenting their crowns to their conquerors (2 Sam 1:10; 12:30; 1 Chr 20:2; Tacitus, Ann. 15.29). Several prominent hymnic themes serve to convey the sovereignty of God, including especially notions that God “judges” and destroys God’s enemies in order to inaugurate the reign of God on earth.8 Others push back on the notion that sovereignty constitutes the primary theological theme in the Apocalypse (Schüssler-Fiorenza 1985, 35–67; Yarbro Collins 1993, 20–33).

Vice-Regency of the Lamb The fact that the Lamb is praised with hymns at all (i.e., in terms usually reserved for gods) can be understood in terms of the widespread practice of assimilating renowned individuals with gods in the Hellenistic and Roman world. The practice of hymning individuals “as to a god” was part and parcel of the conferral of other divine honors (sacrifices, processionals, offerings, etc.), which functioned to confer a kind of divine status (if not divinity in ontological terms) upon the individual. For example, Appian claims that Marc Antony composed a eulogy to Julius Caesar, whom he hymned “as a god in

The Hymns in Revelation   121 heaven,” while Antony himself is said to have been the recipient of similar hymnic praise (Appian, Bell.- civ. 146; Plutarch, Ant. 24). In the imperial period, conferral of divine honors became the sole prerogative of the emperor and his family, and the practice of hymning emperors appears to have taken place with greater frequency and on a much larger scale. For example, professional singers may have accompanied the emperor and his family regularly in public in order to sing hymns of praise to them. Tacitus suggests as much in his report of five thousand equestrian men who constantly shadowed Nero in order to offer hymnic praise (Tacitus, Ann. 14.15). Hymnic praise also likely occurred in more spontaneous settings, as Suetonius suggests in his account of the crew of an Alexandrian ship who “sang praises” to Augustus when his ship passed (Suetonius, Aug. 98). Although they were much less prevalent than in the wider Mediterranean world, similar hymnic acclamations for humans are attested in the Hebrew Bible and in various early Jewish texts (Jipp 2015, 93–99). The Psalms often include praise of the king in terms that recall praise for God, and King David and Solomon are depicted receiving divine praise in Chronicles (Lynch 2014, 209–43). Divine honors for mortals are even more conspicuous in noncanonical literature. Artapanus tells of the Egyptian priests who conferred “god-like honors” upon Moses (Eusebius, Praep. ev. 9.27.4–6), while Josephus interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s praise of Daniel to be worship “as to a god” (Josephus, Ant. 10.211–12). Even Philo, who vigorously rejected the conferral of god-like honors upon Caligula, seems to accept that such honors could be granted to exceptional mortals such as Moses (Philo, Legat. 81–86; Mos. 158). This broad pattern of praise of mortals “as to a god” in the ancient Mediterranean world provides a general context for interpreting praise of Jesus throughout Revelation, while hymnic praise of Jesus alongside God and in terms otherwise used for God further reflect more specific patterns of divine praise modeled primarily on Greek and Roman antecedents. To wit, the crucified and exalted Jesus receives obeisance from the selfsame heavenly creatures who praise God, and the Lamb, together with God, is addressed as the c­ o-recipient of hymnic praise in several hymns (Rev 5:13; 7:10; 12:10). Moreover, the hymns to the Lamb closely resemble the hymns to God, both in formal terms and in terms of specific contents. Most conspicuous in this regard are divine prerogatives accorded to the Lamb—that is, prerogatives that are elsewhere accorded to God, such as “glory” and “honor.” Insofar as the hymns to the crucified Jesus follow these patterns of divine praise, they project the image of Jesus as the Messiah, the anointed vicegerent of God, an image that is reflected variously throughout the text insofar as the Lamb acts on God’s behalf to enact punishment upon God’s enemies and to grant salvation for God’s elect (Jeffcoat Schedtler 2018, 162–82).

Anti-imperial Theology and Christology While hymnic praise of God and the Lamb throughout Revelation functions to proclaim the sovereignty of God and the vicegerency of the Lamb, it functions simultaneously to

122   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler delegitimize worship of various elements of the Roman imperial apparatus, especially the emperor himself. On one hand, appropriating for God (and the Lamb) honorifics that signaled the sovereignty of Roman emperors constitutes an implicit rejection of any competing claims of the emperor(s). The designation of the one seated upon the throne as “Lord and Our God” (4:11) is a conspicuous example of this. Suetonius claims that Domitian appropriated this very title for himself (Suetonius, Dom. 13.2), and this claim is repeated by subsequent authors (Dio Cassius, Rom. Hist. 67.5.7; 67.13.4; Dio Chrysostom, Or. 45.1). While Domitian may or may not have actually appropriated this title for himself, it is clear that emperors before and after him received similar divine honorifics in a way that signaled and legitimated their own sovereignty (Thompson 1990, 95–115). Appropriating for God (and the Lamb) the vocabulary and symbolism that functioned to legitimate the worship of the emperor may have functioned to persuade those who heard (and sung) the hymns to conclude that it is the ones who sit on the heavenly throne who are the rightful sovereigns, not the one who sits on the throne in Rome (Charles 1993, 85–97). On the other hand, various contexts of the performance of the heavenly hymns further direct the reader (or hearer) of Revelation’s hymns to reconsider the legitimacy of the worship of the Roman emperor and other elements of the Roman imperial ap­pa­ratus. The obeisance represented in the twenty-four elders’ act of throwing down their crowns before the heavenly throne, and the very act of hymning God and the Lamb, further reflects the belief that this constitutes true worship over and against any earthly counterparts. This sentiment is conveyed explicitly insofar as worship of the Roman imperial apparatus is depicted and presented in wholly negative terms as the unholy antithesis of praise of God and the Lamb. For example, Rev 13 depicts a beast “from the sea,” who is under the control of Satan (12:9; 13:4), blasphemes God (13:5–6), wages war against “God’s holy people” (13:7), and is worshiped by “all the inhabitants of the earth—all whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (13:8). Here the hymns for the beast are imagined: “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” (13:4). Considered alongside visions of God and the Lamb in which they are deemed “worthy” to receive acclamations of divine praise (4:11; 5:12), this caricature of worship functions ultimately to delegitimize worship of the Roman emperor and the Roman imperial apparatus. What Schüssler-Fiorenza concludes about the rhetoric of Revelation generally is certainly reflected in the depiction of contrasting depictions of hymnic worship in particular: “Revelation’s symbolic rhetoric is absolute: one decides either for God or Satan, for the Lamb or the monster, for Christ or Antichrist. No compromise is possible” (Schüssler-Fiorenza 1991, 84).

Casting the Surrounding Visions into a Theological and/or Christological Context Having now examined the extent to which the hymns convey Revelation’s central theological, Christological, and soteriological themes, it remains to explore the relationship

The Hymns in Revelation   123 between the hymns and the surrounding contents of the vision sequences. A brief survey of each of the hymns in relation to this material will demonstrate that the hymns interact purposefully and dynamically in relation to the surrounding action, by explicitly framing the allusive vision sequences in precise theological and/or Christological terms. Recalling depictions of God from the LXX and other early Jewish literature (e.g., Isa 6; Ezek 1–3; Dan 7; T. Levi 5:1), chapter 4 depicts the sovereign majesty of God: seated upon the heavenly throne, with a sea of glass in front of it and a rainbow encircling it, with thunder and lightning indicating divine heavenly presence (Rev 4:1–11). If this vision provides a graphic depiction of the cosmic sovereignty of God, the antiphonal hymns offer an explicit theological framework for justifying it. The terms used to characterize God (“holy,” “Lord,” and “Almighty”) confirm God’s status as sovereign, while the end of the clause proclaims God’s eternal nature (“the one who was, is, and is to come”). The hymn then confirms that it is appropriate to accord to God (“You are worthy to receive”) three prerogatives (“glory, honor, and power”), each of which connote the superior status of God as divine sovereign based on the fact that God has “created all things.” Thus, the hymn sets the visual representation of God as the eternal, cosmic sovereign into a precise theological context: it is forever justified on the basis that God has created the world. The hymns in chapter 5 perform a similar function with respect to the vision of the Lamb ascending to the role of God’s chosen vicegerent. That is, Revelation 5 depicts the slaughtered Lamb taking a “scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals” from the one seated on the throne (5:1–7). The significance of the scroll lies in the fact that the opening of its seals unleashes the destructive power of God upon God’s enemies. For example, the opening of the first seal corresponds with the unleashing of the rider on the white horse (6:1–2), while the opening of the second seal corresponds with the coming of the rider on the red horse with a great sword 6:2). Ultimately, the depiction of the Lamb receiving the scroll represents the notion that the Lamb has been granted the authority of God to act uniquely on God’s behalf—that is, to become God’s vicegerent. The hymns that follow this scene provide an explicit justification of this event. The Lamb is said to be “worthy to take the scroll” because the Lamb was “slaughtered” so as to redeem people from “every tribe, tongue, people and nation” thereby making them a “kingdom and priests” who will “rule upon the earth” (5:9–10). Thus, the Christological hymn concludes that Jesus’s death on the cross has legitimated his reception of the authority to rule on God’s behalf as God’s chosen vicegerent. Accordingly, the hymn concludes with the claim that Jesus is legitimately accorded the prerogatives of someone of high standing: power, wealth, wisdom, etc. As noted earlier, insofar as some of these prerogatives (i.e., “glory,” “honor,” and “power”) are precisely those associated with God in chapter  4 and elsewhere in Revelation, this hymnic acclamation reconfirms that Jesus has received divine status as God’s chosen vicegerent. Following the Lamb’s opening of six of the seven seals (6:1–17), and the sealing of the one hundred forty-four thousand (7:1–8), the vision of the Great Multitude (7:9–17) provides the context for the soteriological hymns in 7:10–12. The identity of the Great

124   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler Multitude, and their situation “before the throne,” is critical to an understanding of the soteriological value of the hymns. Identified as those “who have come out of the great tribulation” (7:14), the Great Multitude appears to consist of those who have died during a great eschatological war. So much can be concluded based on their association with “tribulation,” a term that denotes eschatological conflict in apocalyptic literature (Aune 1997, 2:474).9 It can reasonably be inferred that those who have died in the conflict were killed as martyrs on account of their testimony of Jesus, especially in light of the fact that “great multitude” denotes Christian martyrs in Tacitus (Ann. 15.44) and in 1 Clem. 6:11 (Bauckham 1993a, 210–37). This depiction of martyrs in heaven provides the context for their hymnic claim that “salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev 7:10). Insofar as “salvation” denotes rescue from a perilous situation in Christian literature, especially in situations of eschatological conflict (e.g., 1 Cor 3:15; 5:5; Rom 10:9, 13; 11:11, 26), the hymnic claim can be understood to represent an appraisal of the current predicament of the martyrs. That is, the hymn constitutes a soteriological claim that God and the Lamb have delivered them from death—and ultimately, through their death—to everlasting life before the heavenly throne. Though the specific mechanism by which salvation is achieved is not explicitly stated here, it would seem to depend upon the earlier hymnic claim that Jesus’s death “redeemed” people for God (Rev 5:9–10). As such, the hymn provides a soteriological commentary on the vision of the Great Multitude, as well as a concluding acclamation to God for achieving this (7:12). The vision of the Great Multitude is followed by the opening of the seventh seal (8:1–5) and the sounding of the seven trumpets, which inaugurates further destruction upon the earth and its inhabitants (8:7–9:21; 11:15). Visions of the Little Scroll (10:1–11) and the Two Witnesses (11:1–14) occur just before the seventh trumpet blast, which immediately precedes the hymn “sung by loud voices in heaven”: The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever (11:15).

As in previous hymnic acclamations, this hymn provides a theological and Christological framework for considering the events narrated in the preceding vision sequences. The key to this understanding rests in an understanding of the “kingdom of the world” as referring to those entities which stand in opposition to God and God’s kingdom. So much might be inferred from a comparison with Matt 4:8, in which Satan refers to the land under his control as the “kingdom of the world.” At any rate, the destruction unleashed upon the earth is clearly directed at those (mortal and mythic) entities who stand in opposition to God and the Lamb, and who are imagined to have thrived under the authority of Satan (Rev 12:9), whereas those who have been “sealed” (7:1–8) and “purchased” (5:9–10; cf. 7:9–17) are spared. Thus, if the preceding visions depict the destruction leveled by God and God’s Messiah upon their enemies as part of an eschatological war, the hymn makes clear that the enemies are being defeated, and that their kingdom is coming under the control of God and God’s chosen vicegerent. Moreover, unlike the rule of their adversaries, which is temporal, the rule of God and God’s

The Hymns in Revelation   125 anointed king will be eternal. As has been noted, these earthly adversaries very often represent elements of the Roman imperial apparatus, and this identification provides critical context for understanding the antiphonal hymnic response of the twenty-four elders that “you [Lord God Almighty] have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath has come” (11:17–18). The first claim derives from investiture scenes in the Hebrew Bible, wherein an earthly king is enthroned by God’s authority, or in which God is pronounced king.10 The claim that “nations” have “raged” can be understood in light of apocalyptic characterizations of the earthly enemies of God whose actions warrant God’s wrathful judgment.11 Thus, the antiphonal hymn ­provides an additional framework for considering the destruction unleashed upon God’s adversaries in the form of the trumpet blasts: the elimination of the God’s earthly enemies—that is, the Roman imperial apparatus—can be understood in terms of a long history of God’s righteous judgment upon unholy nations that inaugurates the rule of God on earth. The hymn in chapter 12 functions similarly to the hymns in chapter 11 inasmuch as it confirms the rule of God and the vicegerency of his anointed king: “Now has come the salvation and the authority of his Messiah” (12:10). However, in the context of the events that transpire in chapter 12, the hymnic claim takes on cosmic implications. Whereas the events preceding the hymns in chapter 11 concerned the earthly opposition to God and God’s people on earth (e.g., the “inhabitants of the earth” [8:13], “those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads [9:4], and the two witnesses [11:1–10], etc.), and ultimately their destruction, the conflict in chapter 12 involves mythic adversaries, the “woman clothed with the sun” and the dragon (12:1–9, 13–17). Drawn from a mythic sequence well-attested in Ancient Near Eastern, Greek, and Roman literature, the scene depicts a goddess who gives birth to a male child, who is immediately pursued by a mythical adversary, and who ultimately evades danger to assume his position as  rightful heir (Yarbro Collins  1976). In this iteration, the mythic structure is ­re-­appropriated so as to portray the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God, and the plight of his followers, as part and parcel of an age-old cosmic drama. Just as the reign of Jesus is threatened by the ultimate adversary, “the great dragon . . . that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan” (12:9), so, too, the people of God (i.e., “those who maintain the testimony of Jesus” [12:17]) find themselves in peril. What is revealed through this mythic re-enactment of the “Combat Myth” is made explicit in the hymn: as in times past, the salvation of God and the rule of God’s Messiah has overcome these threats, while the remaining part of the hymn summarizes specific mechanism by which this occurs, namely, through the “blood of the Lamb” and the “word of the testimony” of those who “did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (12:11). Thus, here again the hymn puts into specific Christological and martyrological contexts the events described in the prior vision sequence(s). In the following chapter, the reader is formally introduced to Satan’s earthly entourage, the beast from the sea (13:1–10) and the beast from the land (13:11–18). Caricatured as wholly corrupt and ravenous entities, the beasts depict Roman imperial authority in no uncertain terms, in complete opposition to God and the Lamb (Carey 2008, 157–76;

126   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler Yarbro Collins 1977, 241–56). Chapter 14 provides the author’s view of the consequences for those who participate in imperial systems, as well as the benefits conferred upon those who resist them. On one hand are visions of angels forecasting the demise of “Babylon” (read: Rome) and gruesome depictions of the calamities that befall those who “worship the beast” (14:6–11, 14–20). On the other hand is a vision of those who have been marked with the names of the Lamb and the Father (14:1), who represent the antithesis of those who have received the “mark of the beast” (13:16), and who, “blameless and undefiled” stand in heaven singing hymns of praise (14:4–5). It is these rewarded martyrs who sing the hymn in chapter 15: Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty; righteous and true are your ways, O King of the Nations. Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are just, and all nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous judgments have been revealed. (Rev 15:3–4)

The hymn frames the accomplishments of the sovereign God to eliminate all oppositional forces, including especially here the unnamed “beasts” who represent Roman imperial authority and those who worship them, and God’s reward for those who have resisted the beasts—even to the point of death—as “great and marvelous works” and “righteous and true ways.” This functions not only to characterize the events depicted in the previous chapters in wholly positive terms, but to associate these acts of God within a much larger trajectory of history of God’s punishments and salvific work characterized in similar terms.12 The identification of this hymn as a “song of Moses” (15:3) links it more specifically with those events following the Exodus as summarized in Exod 15:1–21 and Deut 32:1–43: salvation for God’s people in the form of escape from the Pharaoh and arrival in the promised land, as well as vengeance for any who oppose God and God’s people. Here, again, the hymn functions not as a general reflection on the nature of God; rather, it contextualizes the events narrated in the vision sequences in very specific theological and soteriological terms. The penultimate series of hymns occurs in the midst of the pouring of the “seven bowls of God’s wrath” (Rev 16:1–21), which coincides with still further destruction upon the earth of those (Roman imperial entities) who stand in opposition to God and God’s Messiah (e.g., those who worship the image of the beast [16:2], the throne of the beast and its kingdom [16:10], and the “kings of the world” [16:14]). As in chapter 15, the hymns function to characterize this destruction in wholly positive terms as the deeds of the “righteous” and “Just One” (16:5). The hymn offers an additional reflection on these actions as “true and just . . . judgments” (16:7; cf. 16:5). The hymn thus affirms that the sovereign God is indeed responsible for the destruction of God’s adversaries, while legitimating it on the basis of the notion of lex talionis: “because they shed the blood of saints and prophets, you have given them blood to drink. They deserve it!” (16:6). Drawing upon euphemistic notions of “shedding blood” as unrighteous killing,13 the hymn presents an impression of the community suffering at the hands of Roman forces, and a judgment that is “just” insofar as it

The Hymns in Revelation   127 equals the crime. Such an explanation can be understood as a response to the earlier cry of the martyrs under the altar: “How long, sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (6:10). The last hymns follow the judgment of the “whore of Babylon,” which represents Rome generally, as well as specific aspects of Roman religiopolitics (Jeffcoat Schedtler 2017, 52–70). Insofar as Babylon is said to have been “repaid double for her deeds” (18:6), the punishment depicted represents an enactment of the judgment proclaimed in the previous hymn. In the final hymns in chapter 19, this act is again confirmed to be the “true and righteous” judgments of a sovereign God who ultimately avenges those who have been harmed by unrighteous forces upon the earth (19:1–2). In this way, the hymn captures one of the most prominent theological themes of apocalyptic literature generally, and in Revelation particularly: the present suffering of God’s people on earth, imagined to be result of gross misdeeds of earthly and cosmic enemies, will be avenged by God in an eschatological age. After a hymnic celebration of the vision of smoke rising from the ashes of the destroyed city, and praise to God for it (19:3–5), the hymn looks forward to the denouement of the Apocalypse itself, the beginning of the rule of God and the “marriage” of the Lamb (19:6–8). Here, the patronal gift to God’s people, New Jerusalem, is imagined to be a bride (cf. 21:2, 9; 22:17), presented to the exalted Christ, the Lamb, the bridegroom.14 The hymnic description of the “bright and pure” linens worn by the bride (19:8) confirms the purity of the inhabitants of the new city, who are none other than those who have resisted temptations to participate in Roman imperial religiopolitical-economic systems (e.g., to “worship the beast” [13:8] or to “have become drunk” on the wine of fornication of the Whore of Babylon” [17:2]). In this way, the hymnic proclamation of the impending marriage looks forward to the final acts of God to establish God’s kingdom upon the renewed earth (Rev 20–22), and offers a glimpse of the promises granted to the faithful of God through Jesus’s salvific death on the cross at the dawn of the eschatological age. Revelation’s hymns reveal themselves to be essential elements of the apocalyptic imagination of John of Patmos. The hymns are not only integrally connected to the surrounding visions but also provide them with more precise theological and Christological dimensions. If the action sequences depict the eschatological conquest of God and the Lamb over their heavenly and earthly adversaries, the hymns give explicit expression to these events, connecting the present circumstances of those to whom the Apocalypse was directed to those of generations past, and the acts of God in the audience’s own time with those of the God of Israel’s past. In these ways, the value of the hymns within the text and as early Christian expression can hardly be overestimated.

Notes 1. Many commentaries on Revelation say next to nothing about the hymns, e.g., Boring (1989) and Beasley-Murray (1974). Likewise, general treatments of hymnody often neglect to say anything substantive about the hymns in Revelation, e.g., Gloer (1984), Deichgräber (1967), Sanders (1971).

128   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler 2. Singing: Pindar, Pyth. 6.7; Nem. 8.50; Homer, Od. 8.429; Hesiod, [Scut.] 205. Praise of gods and/or men: Pindar, Ol. 1.8; 2.1; 7.14; Pyth. 10.53; Hymn. Hom. 9.9; 5.293; 18.11. 3. E.g., Progymnasmata of Theon; Alexander son of Numenius; Hermogenes; Aphthonius; Menander Rhetor. See Furley and Bremer (2001, 1:1–4). 4. The same formal criteria exclude other material that is sometimes identified as hymnic, including Rev 1:5–6, 8; 13:4; 21:3–4. 5. E.g., Luke 1:46–55, 67–79; 2:29–32; Phil 2:5–11; Col 1:15–20; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 1:1–3; 1 Pet 2:21–25. 6. See also the Acts of Paul, which refers to “the singing of psalms of David” (Acts Paul 9), and Tertullian’s reports of congregations “sing[ing] to God, either from the sacred scriptures or from his own invention” (Apol. 39:19) and “psalms being sung” (On the Soul 9:4; cf. Apos. Trad. 25). 7. Cf. Dan 7:10; 1 En. 14:22; 40:1; 60:1; 71:8; Apoc. Zeph. 4:1; 8:1; 2 Bar. 48:10. 8. The destruction of God’s adversaries to inaugurate God’s reign on earth is linked with antecedent Israelite and Jewish traditions in which God is imagined as a king. See esp. Exod 15:1–18; 1 Sam 12:12; Pss 145:11; 146:10; Isa 24:21–23; 33:22; Mic 4:6–8; Zeph 3:15; Pss. Sol. 17:2. See Jörns (1971, 93–94). 9. 1QM 1:11–12; 15:1; Mark 13:19, 24; Matt 24:21, 29, etc. 10. In the LXX: 2 Sam 5:10; 2 Kgs 9:6, 13; Pss 46:9; 47:8; 92:1; 95:10; 96:1; 98:1. 11. Psalms 2; 46:6; 65:7; 1 En. 55:5–6; 99:4; Sib. Or. 3.660–8; 4 Ezra 13:30–39; Jub. 23. 12. Pss 92:5; 111:2; 139:14; [LXX] 144:17; Tob 12:22; Job 42:3. 13. Gen 9:6; Deut 19:10; Jer 7:6; 1 En. 9:1; T. Levi 16:3; T. Zeb. 2:2; Pss. Sol. 14. This draws upon widespread notions that the relationship between God and God’s people constitutes a marriage: Hos 2:14–20; Isa 49:18; 54:1–6; 62:5; Jer 2:2; 3:20; Ezek 16:8–14; Mark 2:19–20; Matt 25:1–13; John 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2, etc.

References Aune, David. 1983. “The Influence of Roman Court Ceremonial on the Apocalypse of John.” BR 29: 5–26. Aune, David. 1997. Revelation. 3 vols. WBC 52. Dallas: Word. Bauckham, Richard. 1993a. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies in the Book of Revelation. London: T & T Clark. Beasley-Murray, George R. 1974. The Book of Revelation. NCBC. New York: Harper Collins. Boring, M. Eugene. 1989. Revelation. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Carey, Greg. 2008. “The Book of Revelation as Counter-Imperial Script.” In In the Shadow of Empire, edited by Richard Horsley, pp. 157–76. London: Westminster. Carnegie, David R. 1982. “Worthy Is the Lamb: The Hymns in Revelation.” In Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology Presented to Donald Guthrie, edited by Harold H. Rowdon, pp. 243–56. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Charles, J. Daryl. 1993. “Imperial Pretensions and the Throne-Vision of the Lamb: Observations on the Function of Revelation 5.” CTR 7: 85–97. Deichgräber, Reinhard. 1967. Gotteshymnus und Christushymnus in der frühen Christenheit: Untersuchungen zu Form, Sprache und Stil der frühchristlichen Hymnen. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Furley, William  D., and Jan  M.  Bremer, 2001. Greek Hymns: Selected Cult Songs from the Archaic to the Hellenistic Period. 2 vols. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

The Hymns in Revelation   129 Gloer, Hulitt  W. 1984, Summer. “Homologies and Hymns in the New Testament: Form, Content and Criteria for Identification.” PRST 11: 115–32. Gordley, Matthew E. 2007. The Colossian Hymn in Context. WUNT II/228. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Hall, Robert G. 1990. “Living Creatures in the Midst of the Throne.” NTS 36: 609–13. Hurtado, Larry. 1985. “Revelation 4–5 in the Light of Jewish Apocalyptic Analogies.” JSNT 25: 105–24. Jeffcoat Schedtler, Justin. 2014. A Heavenly Chorus: The Dramatic Function of Revelation’s Hymns. WUNT II/381. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Jeffcoat Schedtler, Justin. 2017. “Mother of Gods, Mother of Harlots: The Image of the Mother Goddess behind the Depiction of the ‘Whore of Babylon’ in Rev 17.” NovT 59: 52–70. Jeffcoat Schedtler, Justin. 2018. “Praising Christ the King: Royal Discourse and Ideology in Rev 5.” NovT 60: 162–82. Jipp, Joshua W. 2015. Christ Is King: Paul’s Royal Ideology. Minneapolis: Fortress. Jörns, Klaus-Peter. 1971. Das hymnische Evangelium: Untersuchungen zu Aufbau, Funktion und Herkunft der hymnischen Stücke in der Johannesoffenbarung. SNT 5. Gütersloh: Mohn. Kraybill, Nelson. 2010. Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos. Lynch, Matthew. 2014. Monotheism and Institutions in the Book of Chronicles: Temple, Priesthood, and Kingship in Post-Exilic Perspective. FAT II/64. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. McKinnon, James  W. 1987. Music in Early Christian Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mowry, Lucetta. 1952. “Revelation 4–5 and Early Christian Liturgical Usage.” JBL 71: 75–84. Moyise, Steve. 1995. The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation. JSNTSup 115. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic. O’Rourke, John J. 1968. “The Hymns of the Apocalypse.” CBQ 30: 399–409. Sanders, Jack  T. 1971. The New Testament Christological Hymns: Their Historical Religious Background. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Schüssler-Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Schüssler-Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis: Fortress. Smith, John Arthur. 2011. Music in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Burlington, VT: Ashgate. Stevenson, Gregory M. 1995. “Conceptual Background to the Golden Crown Imagery in the Apocalypse of John.” JBL 114: 257–72. Thompson, Leonard. 1990. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1976. The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation. HDR 9. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1977. “The Political Perspective of the Revelation to John.” JBL 96: 241–56. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1993. “Feminine Symbolism in the Book of Revelation.” Bib Int 1: 20–33.

Further Reading Grabiner, Steven. 2015. Revelation’s Hymns: Commentary on the Cosmic Conflict. London: T & T Clark.

130   Justin P. Jeffcoat Schedtler Hengel, Martin. 2006. “Hymnus und Christologie.” In Studien zur Christologie. Kleine Schriften IV, edited by Claus-Jürgen Thornton, pp. 185–204. WUNT 201. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Massyngbaerde Ford, Josephine. 1998. “The Christological Function of the Hymns in the Apocalypse of John.” AUSS 36: 207–29. Ruiz, Jean-Pierre. 1995. “Revelation 4:8–11; 5:9–14: Hymns of the Heavenly Liturgy.” In SBL Seminar Papers 34, 216–20. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Schimanowski, Gottfried. 2002. Die himmlische Liturgie in der Apokalypse der Johannes. WUNT II/154. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Thompson, Leonard. 1968. “The Form and Function of Hymns in the New Testament: A Study in Cultic History.” PhD diss. University of Chicago. Valentine, Kendra Haloviak. 2015. Worlds at War, Nations in Song: Dialogic Imagination and Moral Vision in the Hymns of the Book of Revelation. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

Pa rt I I


chapter 9

R ev el ation a n d Rom a n Ru l e i n First- Cen tu ry Asi a Mi nor Warren Carter

Scholarly constructions of the interactions between Revelation and Roman rule in first-century Asia Minor have often focused on the former’s date and location of composition (provenance), supposed contexts of persecution, and imagined mandatory participation in the imperial cult. Yet as I will show in the first section, these approaches have proven unsatisfactory owing to a lack of evidence and too restricted a focus. In the second section, I expand the discussion of interactions to argue that attention to cultural accommodation, socioeconomic participation, gender presentations, and environmental discussions identify more multifaceted and convincing ways to identify Revelation’s interactions with its imperial world. My argument is that the work’s author seeks to disrupt what she or he claims to be unacceptable levels of cultural and economic accommodation among (many) Jesus followers. In so doing she or he imitates or mimics imperial gender constructs and reinscribes its destructive impact on the environment (Wood 2016, 1–27).

Approaches Focused on Emperors, Persecution, and Imperial Cult Attempts to establish connections with particular Roman emperors, especially Nero and Domitian, have been central in efforts to establish the provenance for Revelation’s writing.

134   Warren Carter Most nineteenth-century interpreters “favored a pre-70 dating . . . shortly after Nero’s death during the half year reign of Galba” (J. Wilson 1993, 587; Wood 2016, 110–85). The early twentieth-century English commentaries of Charles, Swete, and Beckwith, along with some German scholarship, challenged this consensus by proposing a scenario of persecution under Domitian. Although dating Revelation’s authorship to the time of Domitian’s rule is the current dominant scholarly position (Koester 2014, 78–79), this is not without vulnerabilities, especially since support for Domitianic persecution is lacking. Accordingly, support for a link between Revelation and Nero’s reign has grown (Bell 1979; Slater 2003; van Kooten 2007; J. Wilson 1993; Mark Wilson 2005). The debates involve extra- and intratextual factors. Extratextual factors concern assessments of early church claims linking Revelation and Domitian (e.g., Irenaeus, Haer. 5.30.3), debates about the existence of Domitianic persecution, expectations of Nero redivivus, and the nature of Nero’s attacks on Christians after the fire in Rome of 64 ce. Intratextual factors have focused on the Babylon/Rome references (Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21) and on three significant passages: 1. Chapter 11:1–2 are commonly read in reference to the pre-70 Jerusalem temple. Advocates of authorship during Nero’s reign argue that it is a genuine prophecy rather than a vaticinium ex eventu because its details—only the outer court destroyed and a forty-two months’ time period—do not match the events of 70 ce. Those who advocate authorship during Domitian’s rule appeal to the use of earlier traditions. 2. In 13:1–10, 18, the first beast is commonly identified as Nero, and verses 3 and 8 refer to Nero’s suicide and the myth of Nero redivivus (Bauckham 1993a, 384–452; Frenschkowski  2015). The number of the beast (six hundred sixty-six; 13:18) is widely understood to be a gematria on the Hebrew letters of the name “Neron Kaisar.” The focus on Nero is interpreted to reflect the time of authorship. Advocates for Domitian’s reign identify Domitian as Nero redivivus (van Kooten 2007, 208; Marcus Wilson 2003, 598–99). 3. Interpreters have debated the references to seven kings/emperors in 7:9 and ten kings in 17:12. Does one begin counting with Julius Caesar (Suetonius), or Augustus (Tacitus; Bell 1979, 98)? To begin with Julius Caesar means the five fallen kings end with Claudius, making Nero the emperor who “is” in 17:10 when Revelation was written. Counting from Augustus means Revelation is written during the reigns of Galba (Bell 1979, 100; J. Wilson 1993) or of Vitellius (June 68–Jan 69; Slater 2003, 258); Nero still “is” with rumors he is still alive. Verses 11–12 focus on the eighth of ten emperors. Scholars resort to various strategies to identify this eighth and tenth emperor. Some arrive at Domitian as the eighth by beginning with Augustus and omitting the short reigns of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Marcus Wilson (2003, 603–4), arguing for authorship under Nero, and van Kooten (2007, 209–15), arguing for authorship during Galba-Otho-Vitellius, insist on their inclusion and propose that verses 11–12 be read as “genuine prophecies” that do not correspond to historical events.

Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor   135 None of these interpretive options can claim to have made a compelling case, and it is not evident as to what difference one date or another (60s or 80s–90s ce) might make for reading Revelation. Discussions of the possible location of Revelation’s writing have also involved factors related to Roman power. Revelation’s author claims that he writes on the island of Patmos off the coast of the province of Asia (1:9). Across two millennia, interpreters have constructed the significance of Patmos along two dominant lines: a place of revelation from the heavenly world and, more commonly, a place of exile and persecution (Boxall 2013, 31–49). Boxall argues that patristic scholars perceived parallels between John’s circumstances under the “persecuting emperor” Domitian and “their own experience of dislocation and persecution” (2013, 4, 31–45). This interpretation dominated medieval Latin traditions (2013, 58–62, 76–104) as well as post-1517 western interpreters who used the exiled/ martyred/mine-working John to interpret their own persecution, flight, and exile by papal leaders (2013, 135–38, 152–56). Claims that Patmos was a place of exile countered Catholic appeals to Patmos’s isolation to justify monasteries. Claims about the significance of Patmos said more about the circumstances of the interpreters than the author of Revelation. Boxall’s discussion of twentieth- and twenty-first-century scholarship shows that the political-persecutory, rather than revelatory or kerygmatic, construction of Patmos continues to dominate. If Boxall’s link between persecuted interpreters and interpretations of persecutions stands, one wonders why this claim of John’s exile and construction of Christianity against the empire continues to endure when many contemporary interpreters do not experience persecution. Certainly, the construction’s continuing power attests the constraints of scholarly traditions and “acceptable readings” among scholarly interpreters. For instance, William Ramsay declared that (a) John’s banishment was a (b) common harsh penalty for (c) “the crime of Christianity” under (d) Domitian, where (e) John suffered “scourging . . . perpetual fetters, scanty clothing, insufficient food, sleep on the bare ground in a dark prison, and work under the lash of military overseer” (1905, 82–92). For these five claims there is not a shred of evidence, though some interpreters have continued to repeat them. Some contemporary interpreters construct Patmos as a site of oppression analogous to the contemporary struggles that contextualize their readings (Rhoads 2005). Boesak’s reading emerges from the South African struggle against white apartheid policies and structures (1987, 36–39, 48–50). Schüssler Fiorenza’s feminist reading evokes oppressive experiences for women (1991, 50). The Chilean priest Pablo Richard argues for Revelation’s significance for Latin-American base communities and for “movements . . . among the poor, the oppressed, and the excluded (both women and men)” (1995, 173). Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther align with other “first world political readings” that particularly unveil American empire and call for “a more human way of life” (1999, 43–45). Brian Blount reads “through African American culture” shaped by and resistant to racism and committed “to social and political

136   Warren Carter l­iberation” (2005, 41–45). In these approaches, constructing Patmos in terms of ­suffering and oppression functions to connect Revelation with the struggles of contemporary audiences. Yet while this connection facilitates communication, it is not to be misinterpreted as a historically sustainable claim concerning Revelation’s interaction with Roman power.

Persecution A second factor in attempts to understand the interaction between Revelation and Roman power has claimed persecution of Christians by Nero or Domitian (1:9; D. Jones 1980, 1033; Hemer 1986, 9; Ramsay 1905, 93–113; Stauffer 1955, 175). Intratextually, appeals are made to references such as imprisonment (2:10), the martyred Antipas (2:13), an hour of trial (3:10), “the great ordeal” (7:14), the slaughtered martyrs under the altar (6:9; 18:24), the killed witness-prophets (11:3–10), the dragon who attacks the mother and son (chap. 12), more martyrs (17:6), those beheaded in 20:4. Contextually, the appeal is to traditions that present Domitian as persecutor (Keresztes 1973, 23–28). The influential Ramsay constructs Flavian persecutory efforts “to exterminate the Christians” with tests of loyalty (1905, 108). McFayden, relying on Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 3.17–18), Suetonius (Dom. 15.1), and Dio Cassius (Rom. Hist. 67.14.1–2), sees empire-wide persecution emerging in 95 ce when Christians refuse to participate in the Domitian-promoted “observance of the imperial cult” (1920, 46, 57–58, 65; Keresztes 1973, 23–24). Smallwood argues that while claims of Domitianic persecution might be “exaggerated, [they are] probably founded on fact” (1956, 1–2). D. Jones appeals to 1 Clem 1:1; 59.4–60, and several chapters in Revelation (4:11; 13; 17) and an antithesis of “Kyrios Caesar and Kyrios Christos” to posit Domitianic persecution and Christian protest against emperor worship (1980, 1033–35). In the second half of the twentieth-century, however, claims of Domitianic persecution and apparent Christian refusal to worship the emperor have been rightly deconstructed in the face of a lack of evidence. Sweet, for example, finds no reliable evidence for Domitian’s persecution of those not honoring the emperor (1979, 24–26). Barnes finds no “mention of any legal ordinance against the Christians” (1968, 36). Others challenge the picture of Domitian as a persecuting tyrant (Canfield 1913, 74–76, 162; B. Jones 1992, 114–17; Pleket 1961; Thompson 1990, 95–115; Urban 1971; Water 1964; J. Wilson 1993, 587–97; Yarbro Collins 1984, 71–73). Southern concludes that “the tales [about persecuting Domitian] can be dismissed as inventions of Christian martyrdom,” and that claims of Domitian’s degeneration into extreme cruelty after 89 or 93 are unsupported (1997, 114–17; Moss 2013). Negative presentations of Domitian’s reign in Tacitus, Suetonius, Juvenal, Pliny, and Dio have shaped this persecution scenario. Thompson has demonstrated that these sources are not disinterested and historically accurate but rely on rhetoric that denigrates the deceased Domitian to elevate the new emperor Trajan and gain influence with him (1990, 95–115; Ramage 1983). Pliny in his Panegyricus; Tacitus in his biography of his

Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor   137 father-in-law, Agricola; Suetonius in his biography Domitian; and Juvenal in the Satires employ the same “kind of denigration” against Domitian (Ramage  1989, 641). They present Domitian as evil, cruel, mad, tyrannical in killing opponents, suspicious, and greedy, with unbridled passions, and demanding honor. Terror, disorder, economic overspending, and repression mark his reign. This harsh picture differs from the positive flattering depictions by writers during Domitian’s reign (Martial, Statius, Silius Italicus). One disputed item concerns whether Domitian demanded to be addressed as “our lord and god” (dominus et deus; Stauffer  1955, 149). The matter is significant since Revelation uses similar terminology (in Greek) for God (Rev 1:8; 4:8, 11), suggesting to some that this conflict reflects persecution as Revelation counters Domitian’s claim for divinity by attributing the terms exclusively to God. Are claims of Domitian’s demand historically sustainable and of relevance for Revelation’s interaction with Roman power? Griffin recognizes in the sources both invective and panegyric but argues that Martial, Suetonius, Pliny, and Dio reveal something of “the imperial image that Domitian wished to project” (2000, 55–56). She accepts the essential reliability of their testimony to argue that Domitian asserted his pre-eminence over senators by accepting the title “Dominus,” but increased both his standing and offensiveness by adding “Deus” (2000, 80–83). M. Wilson takes a similar approach (2003). Others argue, more convincingly, that it is unlikely Domitian made such demands. While Suetonius claims that Domitian referred to himself as “Our Master and our God” (Dom. 13.2) and Pliny claims that Domitian asserted his divinity (Pan. 33.4; 49.1; 52), coins and writers from Domitian’s reign (Statius, Quintilian) do not attest these demands (Thompson 1990, 95–115). One exception that in fact seems to confirm the point, involves Martial, who, seeking Domitian’s favor to advance his own prestige, refers to Domitian by these terms (Epig. 5.8.1; 7.34.8; 8.2.6; 9.66.3), but subsequently disavows the flattery by declaring Trajan to be “most just of all” (iustissimus omnium; Epig 10.72; Nauta 2002, 382–87). Nauta doubts that Domitian demanded the address but claims he may have “allowed it” (2002, 383). Thompson likewise argues that the sources do not provide reliable evidence that Domitian demanded divine titles, sought divinization, or ruled as a savage tyrant. This does not mean that Domitian’s rule was always benign. He was regarded as being aloof, lacking civilitas, interested in asserting his superiority, and able to remove those he perceived to be enemies—as did other emperors. The hierarchical imperial system was dominated by a small ruling elite who competed for and benefited from imperial alliances and benefactions, power, wealth, and status, while most of the empire’s inhabitants lived in varying degrees of poverty and hardship (Friesen 2004; Longenecker 2009). But this situation was not particular to Domitian’s reign; it resulted from imperial structures that preceded and followed his reign, and no evidence establishes an empire-wide demand for such honoring of the emperor. If there is no credible historical support for persecution as the primary dynamic for the interaction of Revelation and the Roman Empire, what are we to make of the repeated references to martyrdom in Revelation and the focus on persecution in scholarship? Two approaches can be noted.

138   Warren Carter Without much success, some have attempted to reconcile Revelation, martyrdom, and persecution by positing future persecution. Yarbro Collins positions Christians under threat from Jewish neighbors as well as Gentiles who despised them and Roman magistrates who viewed them with disfavor (1984, 98–99). Yeatts also asserts persecution as imminent because of “the fundamental opposition between the [ecclesial] community and Rome and between Christ and the emperor” (2003, 22). Much more insightful are approaches that attend to the perspectival nature of Revelation’s rhetoric and that trouble an easy one-on-one correlation between text and historical situation (see the discussion of Imperial Cult Observances below). Some scholarship argues that Revelation inscribes and/or parodies imperial cult practices, notably chapters 4–5 (Aune 1983) and 13 (Scherrer 1984). More fundamental is the issue of whether Revelation’s language is referential or evocative in function. Is it transparent of an extratextual situation or constructive of an alternative world? Does it mirror historical realities or imagine possible experiences? Yarbro Collins argues persuasively that visionary rhetoric does not correlate with actual historical events (1984, 70–71). Rather, Revelation constructs a binary between worlds of threat and evil, and divine reign and justice. Yarbro Collins argues that though apocalyptic literature is frequently associated with crisis, crisis is a matter of perception. What is determinative is “not so much whether one is actually oppressed as whether one feels oppressed” (1984, 84). Revelation’s author, then, is the one experiencing a crisis, and he attempts to create a crisis among his audience. Yarbro Collins locates Revelation’s apocalyptic rhetoric in tensions between this perceived oppressive experience of powerlessness and fear under Roman rule on one hand, and hopes and expectations for God’s rule to change this imperial world order on the other (1984, 84–107). Revelation’s rhetoric intensifies fears in its presentation of Roman power, yet provides catharsis through condemning it, envisioning its demise, anticipating an inevitable divine victory over suffering and Roman rule, and envisioning new life under God’s cosmic control. This expectation relieves the tensions between expectations and the perceived social reality (Yarbro Collins 1984, 141–61). How, then, might we interpret the references to persecution and martyrs in Revelation? Claims that they mirror historical experiences of persecution associated with demands of honoring emperors lack historical evidence. More convincing is to understand their rhetorical function as part of the author’s perceptions of a crisis of overaccommodation and his attempts to disturb his audience by constructing or revealing a world of threat and evil that they must resist faithfully. I will return to this scenario.

Imperial Cult While many scholars reject Domitianic-initiated persecution, some have located Revelation in relation to obligatory participation in the imperial cult (Beale 1999, 5–16; Naylor 2010; Osborne 2002, 7–9; Witherington 2003, 5–8). Older scholarship framed the cult largely as a political phenomenon intent on increasing provincial loyalties to

Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor   139 Rome. It was “practical politics . . . [not] religion” (Taylor 1931, 35, 237–38), “fundamentally a secular institution” marked by insincerity (Liebeschuetz  1979, 75–78, 89), flattery (Tacitus, Ann 6.18), and impiety (Suetonius, Vesp. 23.4; Seneca [?], Apol.; Scott, 1932; 1936, 1–39). It was not “genuine” religion because it lacked (Christian!) religious features such as answered prayer and appropriate religious emotions (Bowersock 1982, 172–73, 180–82). Both claims about the imperial cult, that it required participation and that it was not “genuine” religion, are erroneous. Simon Price’s (1984) influential work on the imperial cult in Asia rejected these approaches and offered a new perspective. Rome did not impose the cult on provincials and demand its observance. It was a system of honors in which provincials positioned the ruler “within the framework of traditional cults of the gods” and represented “to themselves the ruling power” (1984, 1, 8). The cult comprised public rituals that constituted a web of power of religion and politics, a “cognitive system” that constituted “a way of conceptualizing the world” and defined “the position of the emperor” in it (1984, 7–8). Imperial temples, images and rituals/sacrifices created “a relationship of power between subject and ruler,” addressed the tension between local emphases on civic autonomy and foreign Roman authority, and positioned the emperor in relation to the divine and the human (1984, 247–48). While Price’s work on the imperial cult was groundbreaking, he unsuccessfully rehearses attempts to link Revelation with the imperial cult. He argues that “the visual representation of the emperor provided the crucial focus for the expression of attitudes to the imperial cult and to the emperor” (Price 1984, 198–99). In view is the late firstcentury ce “establishment of the provincial cult of Domitian at Ephesus, with its colossal cult statue” in the temple of the Sebastoi (the Flavians; Friesen 1993, 35–36). Ephesus’s prestige among the cities of Asia was announced with the term “neokoros” (“warden of a provincial imperial temple”; Burrell  2004; Friesen  1993, 29–75; 1995, 229–50; 2001, 43–55). The second beast of 13:11–18 that advocates worship of the image of the first beast, says Price, represents the provincial cult priesthood. This cult establishment “led to unusually great pressure on the Christians for conformity. John might well be worried about his flock” (1984, 198; Biguzzi 1998). In drawing connections with Rev 13, Price reiterates a century of scholarship that sees Domitian’s advocacy of the imperial cult as central for Revelation. Claims about the intensity, imposition, observance, and punishments for not meeting the cult’s demands, however, have varied considerably. Attending to literary interactions, for example, Deissmann posited Revelation’s “strongly pronounced tone of protest against the worship of the Caesar” (1923, 338). He does not claim Christians borrowed divine predicates (“Lord,” “son of God”) from the imperial cult, but says that cult practice established “polemical parallelism” and intensified conflict with this language (1923, 343–44, 349; Barnett 1989; Stauffer 1955, 169–91). Cuss argued that Christian refusal to worship the emperor in the imperial cult expressed the understanding that there “was no compromise between Christ and Caesar” and was viewed as disloyalty by persecuting “imperial authorities” (1974, 50–95, 145–18; Roloff 1993, 9–11; Scott 1936, 130–32).

140   Warren Carter Although Schüssler Fiorenza recognizes no “legally sanctioned persecution,” she nevertheless insists that with Domitian’s promotion of the cult, “persecution and harassment” existed and that John anticipates increased persecution (1991, 55–56). She employs rhetorical criticism to articulate John’s “fitting” response to the increased pressures and threat of death in the context of ecclesial disagreements over appropriate responses. She elaborates these disagreements; while some acquiesced to political demands (presumably participating in imperial honoring), John’s rhetoric “advocates an uncompromising theological stance,” building a symbolic cosmic universe that mitigates the terror of death by asserting God’s just and powerful rule over the world, Satan and Rome (1985, 192–99). Pliny’s correspondence with Trajan is often evoked to support the claim of punishment for nonparticipation in the cult (Ep. 10.96–97). Pliny, however, was governor of Pontus, not Asia Minor, post-dates Revelation by several decades, and there was no uniform practice across the empire. Slater claims that “many Christians lived in an environment that was generally unfriendly, where the very names ‘Christ’ or ‘Christian’ aroused ill feelings among their neighbors” (1999, 18). Drawing on 1 Peter because it originates “in the same general area of the Roman Empire,” he argues that Revelation similarly addressed spasmodic “harassment by local Asian community leaders” associated with the imperial cult in which they “experienced ridicule, harassment, and opposition” (1999, 18–22, 26–46, 239–45). Slater argues that Revelation’s Christological images (“one like a son of man,” “the Lamb,” “the Divine Warrior”) comforted, protected, corrected, and vindicated afflicted Christian communities (1999, 236–45). Slater does not, however, specify the processes of this local or regional harassment nor allow for 1 Peter’s often accommodationist ethic, which encourages honoring the emperor (1 Peter 2:17; Carter 2004). There is no evidence for a policy or practice of enforced participation in the imperial cult in Asia, or of punishment for those who refused to participate. In addition to the lack of evidence, advocates of this unsupported scenario fail to elucidate its mechanics of enforcement and persecution. Were there officials checking names for mandatory sacrifices? Were there sufficient numbers of imperial agents available to do so? How did residents identify themselves? Was there a sliding scale of punishments (of what sort?) or a “one strike” policy of instant martyrdom for those who failed to comply? Why are there no surviving records of such practices if they existed? And the pervasive assumption that the imperial cult involved only or focused particularly on sacrifices to imperial images at a fixed time and place is quite erroneous. Recent work has shown that there is no evidence to support these common assertions (Friesen 1993). Classical scholarship has noted that there was “no such thing as the imperial cult” (Beard, North, and Smith, 1998, 1.348; 2.252–59; Galinsky 2011, 3). Some prefer the plural “imperial cults” (Friesen 2011, 24). Galinsky emphasizes that it was not a centrally driven phenomenon but was locally constituted and often intertwined with voluntary observances of other divinities (Galinsky 2011, 4–9; Price 1984,146–56; Rives 2007, 148–56). Friesen observes that the Ephesian temple of the Sebastoi included some ­thirty-five to forty “gods and goddesses from east and west” (1993, 72–75). Price observes that in Asia Minor imperial cult observances were “widespread but not ubiquitous” and largely absent from rural areas (1984, 78–100). Participation was not enforced; politics

Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor   141 and religion were intertwined in everyday life and constituted a “vast panorama of variegated local practices” (Galinsky  2011, 3–5). This panorama included sacrifices, offerings, altars, temples, images, and statues in various locations (gymnasia, baths, porticoes, theaters); garlanded statues, processions, festivals, games and spectacles (gladiatorial displays, horse racing, athletic contests); oaths for the emperor’s well-­being, dedications, inscriptions, prayers, hymns, and feasts, whose participants ranged from elites (functioning as patronal priests and priestesses) to non-elites, both women and men (Carter  2004, 16–23; Friesen  1993, 50–141; Frilingos  2004; Price  1984, 78–23). Practice was not confined to sacrifice and idols. Nor is the common assumption that Christians universally rejected participation in imperial cult activities sustainable: “Emperor worship by Christians continued” (Bauckham  1993b, 14–17; Carter  2004, 23–33; Galinsky 2011, 15). The harsh attack on “Jezebel” of Thyatira in Rev 2:18–29, for example, suggests that this leader and her followers participated in some of these honoring activities and imperial structures (Carter 2009).

Broadening the Focus to More Complex Modes of Interaction: Cultural Accommodation and Socioeconomic Participation Given a lack of evidence for oppositional interactions between Revelation and Rome that centered on persecution and mandatory observance of imperial cults, a more sustainable line of interpretation has posited diverse and multivalent interactions between the seven churches and the empire, along with internal disputes involving the author and other Jesus followers over ways of negotiating imperial society and practices (Aune 1997, 1.lxvii–lxx, 183, 191–195; Carter 2009; Darden 2015; Koester 2014, 85–103; van Kooten 2007, 231–42). Fundamental to this approach is attention to Revelation’s rhetoric and a recognition that the author of Revelation constructs and advocates an analysis of the evil of Roman power that is significantly at odds with the participationist daily experiences of many in the seven churches. Sweet, for example, rejected scenarios of persecution and elite-focused imperial cult observances to argue that the author of Revelation opposed complacency and compromise among Christ believers (1979, 21–35). Sweet identified disputes over participation in idolatry and meals involving meat from temple sacrifices, and challenges for members of trade guilds, whose regular meetings involved some expression of imperial honoring. The author John regards these situations as luring some or many into a compromised participation in imperial society that threatens their loyalty to God and Jesus. John demands separation and distance (Rev 2–3). Sweet sees the central concerns as the complex and divisive question of the relations of church and imperial world.

142   Warren Carter Thompson similarly argues that John is the one having the crisis, over what he perceives to be compromised sociocultural participation. Thompson does not think Domitian demanded anything more from imperial religion than did his predecessors. Christians were not compelled to participate, and had been successfully negotiating imperial observances in their cities for decades (Thompson 1990, 116–32, 156–67). Revelation’s language reflects not coerced observances and persecution by imperial forces, but the author John’s view “that church and world belong to antithetical forces” and that “John encourages his audience to see themselves in conflict with society.” Crisis and conflict “derive from John’s perspective on Roman society rather than from significant hostilities in the social environment” (1990, 174–75). Thompson sees John constructing an oppositional stance toward Roman power in an attempt to disrupt comfortable Christian involvement in what he considers to be a devil-controlled world (1990, 74, 184–85). This approach convincingly moves attention beyond a narrow focus on religious matters (the imperial cult) and persecution to daily participation in the much broader societal structures of the imperial world. Accordingly, some scholarship has foregrounded John’s harsh denunciation of the economic structures and practices of the empire in which, much to John’s abhorrence, members of the churches participated to earn their daily living. Bauckham argues that chapter 18 condemns “Rome’s economic exploitation of her empire” in that “Pax Romana is really a system of economic exploitation” (1993a, 338, 346). Bauckham examines the nearly thirty luxury trade items—including slaves— catalogued in 18:12–13 as an attack on the “concrete political and economic realities of the empire” (1993a, 351). His discussion shows the extensive commercial networks whereby Rome enacted its tributary economy and power in securing resources for its wealthy elites from its provinces (1993a, 350–71). Royalty emphasizes the contrasts and similarities between this critique of imperial wealth and the depiction of the bejeweled new Jerusalem. He observes that Revelation/ John’s opposition to Roman imperial/economic culture does not seek its redemption but its replacement with “a Christianized version of the same thing . . . [it] mimics the dominant ideology; only the names and labels have changed” (Royalty  1998, 246). Callahan also highlights the rhetorical strategies that “reveal the relation of Roman wealth to Roman rule,” condemn the imperial-political economy, and seek the intervention of divine justice and sovereignty (1999, 50, 61–65; Darden 2015; Macaskill 2009, 243–52). Kraybill examines the personnel involved in commercial and cultural imperial structures, especially attending to the laments of merchants, shipmasters, and sailors concerning Babylon/Rome’s downfall (Rev 18). He establishes Christian involvement in commercial networks as traders, entrepreneurs, and business people and emphasizes John’s opposition to economic and, particularly, cultic participation. Highlighting the call in 18:4 to “Come out of her, my people,” Kraybill argues that John urges “Christians to sever or to avoid economic and political ties with Rome because institutions and structures of the Roman Empire were saturated with unholy (idolatrous) allegiance to an Emperor who claimed to be divine (or was treated as such)” (1996, 17).

Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor   143 Several studies have, then, recognized that Christians participated in and benefited from the economic injustices that Revelation’s author reveals and resists by calling his readers to dissociate from Rome’s practices (Bauckham, 1993a, 376–77; Callahan 1999, 57–58; Kraybill, 1996, 100–101). Foregrounding an extensive Ephesian marble economy, Bowden (2019) highlights the impracticality and life-threatening consequences of the call in Rev 18:4 for any Ephesian, Christian, marble workers to withdraw from this imperially related economic activity. Other workers involved in economic and commercial activity would face the same impractical and life-threatening circumstances from nonparticipation since John offers no alternative program. Howard-Brook and Gwyther recognize that some/many Christians were accommodated and assimilated in imperial society, which John (and his supporters) viewed as complacent and unacceptable compromise and sought to overturn. “Revelation casts a critical eye on Rome’s economic exploitation, its politics of seduction, its violence, and its imperial hubris” (Howard-Brook and Gwyther 1999, 116). John resists the “web of myths” that legitimized Roman power: the myth of Rome’s empire countered by the myth of “the empire of our God”; “Victoria” countered by “The Victory of the Lamb and His Followers;”; “Faith” countered by “Keeping the Faith of Jesus”; “Eternity” countered by God’s forever reign (1999, 223–35). Howard-Brook and Gwyther argue that John’s rejection of Roman power and opposition to imperial society, if adopted and followed, would lead to both serious socioeconomic repercussions (ostracism, boycotts, hostility etc.) and local harassments (1999, 117–18). Philip Harland foregrounds another arena of societal participation, namely memberships of occupational associations. While John (and his supporters) “disapproves of Christians participating in social, religious, and economic practices . . . a significant number of Christians . . . were more open towards participating in some aspects of the polis including . . . honours for the emperors and affiliations with fellow-workers in occupational associations” (Harland  2000, 101, 113). John’s advocacy of distance and anti-imperial stance is a minority sectarian position directed against those actively participating in civic imperial society including eating sacrificial meat in “market-places, temple dining-halls, private dinners, and . . . associations or guilds” (Carter,  2009; Harland 2000,119; 2003). Frey builds on Harland’s work, particularly identifying the temptations of eating meat in the context of association meetings of craftsmen and merchants. Revelation’s author wants his audience to “leave those guilds, limit their social and business contacts or even abandon their professional and economic status in order to avoid being ‘polluted’ or fornicated by ‘Babylon’ and its idolatry” (Frey 2006, 254). Recent works, both the scholarly (Koester 2014) and thoughtful, more ecclesial discussions (Carter 2009; Gorman 2011, 31–60; Koester 2009; Kraybill 2010), recognize John’s opposition to various expressions of and participations in imperial cultural­economic structures. It has also recognized that John’s opposition and call for distance “to come out from her” (18:4) is made precisely because it is not the stance and practice of many societally, culturally and economically-embedded Jesus-believers in the seven cities Revelation addresses. While Revelation’s author advocates opposition toward the

144   Warren Carter empire, the document also attests more complex and multivalent interactions including participation in imperial systems, along with distance from yet mimicry and cooption of imperial practices and ideology in constructing God as the one who out-powers Roman power (Carter  2011; Darden  2015). Some discussions also draw connections between Revelation’s critique of the Roman Empire and contemporary questions about empires, particularly the claims and roles of the United States in the contemporary world (Carter 2011, 119–31; Gorman 2011, 44–56; Howard-Brooks and Gwyther 1999, 236–77; Kraybill 2010).

Gender Presentations: Imitating Rome to Condemn Rome As part of the recognition that Revelation’s engagement with Roman power is broad in its focus, scholars have examined the integral role that gender constructions, both male and female, play in Revelation’s negotiation of Roman power. Perceptive analyses have argued that Revelation opposes and shames Roman power even as it imitates and reinscribes imperial gender paradigms to do so. Tina Pippin’s pioneering gender exploration of Revelation employed “general ideological/­political readings” along with “Marxist-feminist reading” and “studies in the fantastic” (1992, 23). Her “gynocritical” discussion exposes Revelation’s patriarchal systems, its use of female archetypes of whore and virgin, and the displacement of women in Revelation’s ideology of death; “Jezebel” and her followers will die (2:22–23). The whore of Rev 17 has seductive power, yet this object of male desire—whore/­goddess/ queen/Babylon—is murdered (1992, 57–68). The heroine-mother-woman clothed with the sun is banished (12:14). In 14:4, women are displaced by defining faithful men as those who “have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins” (1992, 70). These constructions indicate that Revelation imitates and reinscribes Roman patriarchal structures which devalue women. Barbara Rossing examines the gendered choice Revelation offers between Babylon/ Rome and (new) Jerusalem in Rev 17–22. She names the gender-imperial representations of the two cities as “whore and bride . . . the decay of empire and the ultimate blessing of God’s people” (Rossing 1999, 1). She particularly attends to Revelation’s rhetorical strategy of employing an ethical topos of the evil-woman and good-woman to script the evil city-empire of Babylon/Rome and the good city Jerusalem/God’s empire. In using these female figures to contrast the two cities-empires, the text creates political critique of Rome as the evil woman (chaps. 17–18). It accordingly exhorts the (male) audience to reject Rome’s empire and participate in God’s alternative rule (chaps. 19–22). Stephen Moore and Jennifer Knust develop the gender analyses by recognizing complex multivalent strategies at work. In one article, they examine Revelation’s polemical presentation of Babylon/Rome as a low-level brothel-slave in chapter 17 (Moore and Knust 2014). They argue that Rome’s representation “as a prostitute mimics a pattern of gender-based derision characteristic of coeval Roman writings . . . [that] . . . characterize imperial figures as pimps and whores” (Moore and Knust 2014, 104). They set aside pre-

Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor   145 vious appeals to the literary figures of hetaira/courtesans associated with celebrated men, and to Septuagint depictions of harlots to focus on brothel-slaves who had multiple sexual partners (17:2), flashy clothing (17:4), tattooed heads (17:5), and were associated with drunkenness and taverns (17:4b). Moore and Knust emphasize the discourse of contempt that attacked imperial women such as Augustus’ daughter Julia, and Claudius’ wife Messalina (“the whore-empress”) as symbols of uncontrolled and excessive female sexuality, or the emperor Caligula as a sexually depraved pimp. Such “sexual invective was standard fare in Roman political discourse” (2014, 116). Revelation 17 employs similar political critique, coding Rome’s dominating, masculine, destructive excess as feminine: “absolute imperial power—which is hyperbolic masculine power—is represented as a promiscuous, voracious and violent feminine desire. The monstrous spectacle of a sexualized woman utterly out of control serves as a trope for imperial autocracy—absolute power exercised to excess, entirely without restraint” (2014, 120). And her self-magnification and luxurious living leads to violent destruction (17:16). Revelation reinscribes imperial modes of discourse to condemn Rome. In another insightful essay, Moore (2014c) observes that before chapter 17’s woman was a brothel-slave, she was the goddess Roma. He argues that chapter  17 parodies Rome’s hypermasculine military identity and might that exhibit manly virtues of domination and strength. The “goddess Roma is Roman imperial patriarchy paradoxically embodied as a woman in the trappings of an invincible warrior . . . hegemonic Roman manhood encased in female flesh that is clad in hypermasculine garb . . . Babylon would be Rome in triple drag” (2014c, 144). The chapter presents the masculine dress of the warrior Rome as a woman humiliated as a drunken prostitute who exhibits feminine vices of sexual excess and a weakness for appearance—who is then destroyed. This figure emphasizes not military might but Rome’s seductive culture from which Revelation’s readers must, in John’s view, disengage. Jesus conquers this empire by an act of sexual violence, but he troubles the gender binary as an androgyne. He is the superwarrior son of man (1:12–16) yet with breasts (1:13), thereby eliding the masculine and feminine, and subsequently, in becoming a quadraped/lamb (5:6), he elides the human and the animal. The result is a vicious, derisive mocking of a dangerous and seductive Roman power from which, according to John, faithful Christians must withdraw. A further essay employs masculinity studies to examine Revelation’s construction of the hypermasculine deity who outpowers Roman rule (Moore 2014b). In her masculinity approach, Colleen Conway examines images of Jesus as a complex gendered figure who participates in the text’s tension “between the imitation of ideal imperial masculinity and the mirroring of Roman imperial violence” (2008, 159). God and Christ are ruling powerful figures, worthy of honor and worship as ideal Roman figures. Yet they are marked by unmanly conduct of excessive uncontrolled emotions— rage, vengeance, and imperial violence. They are successful in war—classic displays of hegemonic masculine power that dominates others—yet without the mercy or pardon exhibited by imperial rulers like Augustus. So as a powerful, angelic Son of man, Jesus threatens (imperially imitative) violent judgment (1:13–16; 2:1–3:22). As a violent warrior on a white horse (19:11–21), he tramples God’s enemies “with the fury of the wrath of

146   Warren Carter God the Almighty” (19:15), splashing their blood on his robe, wielding a sharp sword, ruling the nations with an iron rod, and providing carrion for “the great supper of God” (19:17) in a display of imperially imitative divine violence (2008, 165). Conway rejects analyses of the Lamb “standing as if it had been slaughtered” (5:6) as a “broken/effeminate lamb” that subverts violence. She finds a “manly lamb” marked by wrath (6:15–17), torture (14:10) and conquest (17:14). Revelation’s opposition to Roman power, she concludes, imitates and magnifies imperial practice with God and allies ruling over all the nations with an iron rod. Discussions of the ways in which Revelation employs gender constructions highlight multivalent dynamics at work in the document’s negotiation of Roman power. Imperial gender constructions are used to oppose and mock effeminate and emasculated Rome, but the gender constructions are borrowed from and imitate imperial constructions of dominant, violent, manly power that subordinate women. God and Jesus emerge as the most powerful rulers who imitate and exceed condemned Roman power.

Ecological Readings Ecological readings focus on the interaction between Rome and the earth in Revelation. Classical scholars have investigated the environmental impacts of Roman rule (Harris  2013; Horden and Purcell  2000; Hughes  1994; Shipley and Salmon  1996); Revelation participates in this discourse, depicting and condemning Roman violence against the earth. Space permits brief attention to two contrasting ecological evaluations of Revelation’s participation in this discourse. Barbara Rossing argues that Revelation speaks to the contemporary “global environmental justice crisis” (2005, 165), whereby violence against both the poor and ecosystems sustains the growing gap between the poor and the rich. Linking the environment and human justice, she sees Revelation, especially the depiction of Babylon/Rome in chapters 17 and 18, as revealing and attacking the practices, structures, and appetites of the Roman empire “that led to injustices against humans and to devastations of the earth” (2005, 166). Yet she argues that vision of the new Jerusalem in chapters 21 and 22 as a “renewed urban paradise” with life-giving water, perpetually fruit-bearing tree, and a God who “dwells in and with creation and desires to wipe away its tears” renders Revelation a “profoundly hopeful and earth-healing book” (2005, 165–66). She understands the “woe” statements over the earth (8:13; 12:12) not as curses but as God’s pained laments for “the devastating conquest of earth by the unjust Roman empire” (2005, 168). Revelation does not anticipate the earth’s destruction but the end of the earth’s exploiters (11:18), namely, Roman military, political, economic and ideological domination of the inhabited earth (Rossing 2008, 28, 33–34). In the final contrasting visions of the two cities in chapters 17–22, Revelation envisions not escape but healing, justice and renewal for the earth. Stephen Moore also recognizes Rome’s threat to the environment but is not positive in evaluating Revelation’s ecological footprint and especially its vision of a future world. Moore discusses Revelation’s array of unusual animals including the two paradoxical protagonists, the multi-horned lamb and the beast (2014a). He describes the lamb’s hab-

Revelation and Roman Rule in First-Century Asia Minor   147 itation from which the beast is excluded, the massive new Jerusalem, as a shopping malllike megalopolis that dominates landscape and people including the tribute-bearing kings of the earth. Moore is not persuaded by Rossing’s attempts to “extract positive ecological visions from the blighted landscape of this disaster-ridden book” (2014a, 235). The new Jerusalem is an outsized city of wrong proportions “but uncannily right if a dystopian vision” of contemporary urban hyper-development is in view (2014a, 237), inhabited by one named animal, one stream, one tree, and no dogs—hardly in Moore’s view an ecological paradise. These two examples highlight differing evaluations of Revelation’s presentation of the created order and the need for further exploration of this dimension of Roman power. These issues, together with those considered earlier, make it evident that discussion of Revelation and Rome has moved from a restricted, monolithic dynamic of opposition and hostility, to a recognition of multivalent, simultaneous negotiations of various complex imperial structures and multiple local issues.

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chapter 10

R el ationships a mong Chr ist-Believ ers a n d J ew ish Com m u n itie s i n First- Cen t u ry Asi a Mi nor Mikael Tellbe

Introduction The book of Revelation raises several intriguing questions concerning the relationship among Christ-believers and local Jewish communities. In particular, in both the letter to the church in Smyrna and the letter to the church in Philadelphia, we are told that there were “those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev 2:9; cf. 3:9, NRSV). Furthermore, in 7:4–8 the author hears about “every tribe of the people of Israel,” and in 21:9 he sees “the holy city Jerusalem” with “the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites” inscribed on its gates. Who and what do these sayings refer to? What can be said about interactions between Christ-believers and Jewish communities in Asia Minor in the first century ce? There is a relative abundance of material—textual, archaeological, and inscriptional— that gives evidence of strong local Jewish communities in first-century Asia Minor (Barclay 1996, 259–81; Blanchetière  1974; Gruen  2002, 84–104; Horst  2014; Kraabel 1968; Harland 2000, 107–10; Stebnicka 2015, 109–57; Trebilco 1991). Concerning the seven cities of the book of Revelation, we know of local Jewish communities in each city and, in particular, of the influential Jewish communities in Ephesus, Smyrna, and Sardis. Our primary source for this knowledge is the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in particular, the documentary material in the Antiquities that relates to Roman decrees

154   Mikael Tellbe and edicts concerning Jewish rights and privileges. This material provides a wide and representative collection of decrees of the senate and of emperors, rescripts of provincial governors, and resolutions of cities—all dating from the time of Julius Caesar to that of Claudius. The endeavor to defend the Jewish traditions before the imperial courts and Greco-Roman society constantly gave him reason to articulate and reinforce Jewish self-understanding (e.g., Josephus, Ant. 14.186–88; 16.174–75). Josephus used his material primarily for the sake of historical and apologetic effect, evidently colored by his own objectives. Despite these flaws, contemporary scholars of the last twenty years or so have generally argued for the authenticity of both the genre and the period of these documents (cf. Barclay 1996, 262–64; Pucci Ben Zeev 1998, 6–11, 357–73, 405–8; Tellbe 2001, 24–25, 38–39). The overall impression we get from the sources is that the Jewish communities in Asia Minor in the first century ce were influential, that many of the members of these communities interacted regularly with gentiles and were involved to a significant degree in city life, being part of the social networks of the city and sharing in many of the aspects of everyday life: “[I]t is as business-partners, litigants, market users, even potential ‘liturgists’ that the Jews are noticed, and their peculiarities resented” (Barclay 1996, 277; Harland 2000, 107–10; cf. Trebilco 1991, 186–90; Williams 2013, 209–88, 363–88). This is also confirmed by indications from later centuries, where we can picture members of strong and respected Jewish communities in Asia Minor, who made significant social contributions without compromising their Jewish identity (Barclay 1996, 281). Josephus’s documents also show that Jews locally, for example in Ephesus, possessed Roman citizenship (Ant. 14.228, 234, 240). In Asia Minor, the Jews comprised between 5 and 10 percent of the total population (Ameling 1993, 30; Trebilco 2018, 101–2). The common pattern during the Hellenistic period, which also became the rule under the Romans, was that the Jewish communities in the Greek cities continued to function rather autonomously, both socially and religiously, and managed their own judicial and religious affairs in order to keep their own identity distinct (Ep. Arist. 35–38, 44–45). Through efficient diplomacy during the period of early emperors, Jewish leaders had managed to establish several vital privileges for the diaspora Jews (Tellbe 2001, 46–62). These privileges included permission to assemble (Josephus, Ant. 14.260 [Sardis ca. 47 bce]; cf. 14.257, 235), permission to observe the Sabbath and Jewish festivals (Ant. 14.226 [Ephesus]; 14.242 [Laodicea]; 14.261 [Sardis]; 14.263–64 [Ephesus]; 16.163, 168 [Asia Minor]), permission to collect and send the temple tax (Ant. 14.227 [Ephesus]; 16.163–65 [Asia Minor]), permission to observe dietary laws (Ant. 14.226 [Ephesus 43 bce]; 14.261 [Sardis ca. 47 bce]), exemption from military service for Jews who were Roman citizens (Ant. 14.226 [Ephesus 43 bce]; cf. 14.223–40), and exemption from participation in the imperial cult (Ant. 19.280–85; cf. 19.304–6). Tacitly included in the right to assemble was the right to form autonomous administrative organizations, including the Jewish right to manage their own finances and, locally and in specific cases, the privilege of exercising civil and criminal jurisdiction over the members of their own community (14.235 [Sardis ca. 49 bce]; cf. 14.260)—as long as it did not infringe on Roman law and interests.

Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities   155 The Jews never claimed that there was any general Roman law granting them Jewish rights and privileges, but they appealed to their ancient traditions and the protection that they had previously enjoyed under Greek and Roman rule (Josephus, Ant. 16.58–60). While not all Jewish rights were explicitly articulated or legally definable (Rajak 1984), the Jewish rights and privileges repeatedly affirmed by the Roman authorities throughout the Empire were not without legal force (cf. Claudius’s edict “to the rest of the world,” Ant. 19.287–291). As a matter of fact, the Roman measures contributed to the creation of a sort of “official” Judaism that was generally recognized throughout the empire (Linder 2006; Pucci Ben Zeev 1995, 31–37; 1998, 412–429; 439–50; Tellbe 2001, 62–67). Our first-century evidence of Christ-believing communities in Asia Minor outside the book of Revelation comes primarily from Luke’s account in the book of Acts and from Paul’s letters (Johnson 1958, 1975; Mitchell 1993; Schnabel 2008). In particular, we know of Christ-believing communities in and around Ephesus, which by the end of the first century consisted of several well-established communities in the leading center of the emerging Christ-believing movement (Harrison and Welborn 2018; Witetschek 2008; Tellbe 2009; Trebilco 2004). Christ-believing communities in Laodicea and Smyrna are also attested (Col 2:1; 4:13, 15; Ign. Smyr. pref.; Ign. Pol. pref.). It is important to keep in mind that many of the early Christ-believers in these communities were ethnically Jewish. All the evidence we have for relationships among Christ-believers and Jewish communities in first-century Asia Minor comes from Christian sources. In fact, interactions between Christ-believers and local Jewish communities are only mentioned when Jewish opposition is involved, for example, in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14–51), Iconium (14:1–6), Lystra (14:8–20), Ephesus (19:1–20:1), Smyrna (Rev 2:8–11), and Philadelphia (3:7–13), the three latter cities playing a role in the book of Revelation. Luke also mentions that opposition from “Jews from Asia” caused the arrest of Paul in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27–28, ca. 57 ce). This generally hostile Jewish attitude toward Christ-believers is also depicted in early patristic sources. At the same time, these sources demonstrate that Judaism had a significant influence on non-Jewish Christ-believers (Ign. Phld. 6.1–2; Ign. Mag. 8.1; 9.1–2; 10.1, 3; Mart. Pol. 12.2; 13.2; 17.2–18.1). It is important to point out that for several cities where we know of the presence of local Jewish communities, as well as of Christ-believers, there is no textual evidence of Jewish opposition against Christ-believers, for example, in Derbe (Acts 14:20–21), Perge (Acts 14:25), Troas (2 Cor 2:12, Acts 20:6–12), Laodicea (Col 2:1; 4:13, 15; Rev 3:14–22), Hierapolis (Col 4:12–13), Colossae (Col 1:1, 7; 4:12–13), Sardis (Rev 3:1–6), Pergamum (Rev 2:12–17), and Thyatira (Rev 2:18–29). This does not mean that there were no conflicts, although in Revelation it would have been natural to mention them along with the opposition at Smyrna and Philadelphia. Here we have to acknowledge the diversity of both Judaism and the early Christ-believing movement; there were likely different levels of interaction where some Christ-believing groups had little or no interaction with Jewish communities, while other groups had a more significant interaction, as was the case in Ephesus (Tellbe 2009, 57–136; Trebilco 2018, 102–21).

156   Mikael Tellbe We must, of course, consider the possibility that the New Testament writers stylized their accounts, so that they do not reflect the actual relations between Christ-believers and Jews (e.g., Duff 2001, 50). There is also a continuing debate concerning the historical reliability of Luke’s depiction of Jews in Acts (e.g., Slingerland 1986), although on a general level, it can be argued that Luke gives a reliable portrayal that matches the historiographical standards of the Greco-Roman period (e.g., Byrskog  1999; Hemer  1989; Riesner 1997). We must also keep in mind that all the available texts reflect a Christian perspective. What does seem clear is that early Christ-believers perceived and presented themselves as opposed or persecuted by Jews (Lieu 1998, 279–80). I will present some of the most likely reasons for tensions between Jews and Christbelievers in Asia Minor in the first century ce. I will then turn to the conflicts depicted in the letters to the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia (Rev 2:8–11; 3:7–13). Finally, I will relate these tensions to the process of identity formation, focusing on the definition and redefinition of the people of God in the book of Revelation.

Tensions and Conflicts between Jews and Christ-Believers in First-Century Asia Minor The reasons for Jewish opposition to early Christ-believers in Asia Minor were a complex mix of various factors, and among the most important were theological, sociopolitical, and financial factors. Theological factors. The most apparent reasons for Jewish opposition to early Christbelievers were theological. The first recorded martyr, Stephen, was accused before the Sanhedrin for speaking “blasphemous words against Moses and against God . . . saying things against this holy place and the law” (Acts 6:11, 13). This critique of the law and the temple is also picked up in Acts 21:27–28, when Luke recounts the accusation against Paul by “the Jews from Asia” as Paul enters the temple area in the company of some presumed gentiles: “This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” According to Luke, the explicit reason for the opposition among the local Jews to the apostles Paul and Barnabas in Pisidian Antioch is “jealousy” or “zeal” (zēlos): “[W]hen the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy” (Acts 13:45). The Greek word zēlos has been variously interpreted by commentators, but most interpret the word in connection to Jewish “zeal” for the law, circumcision, and cultic commandments or/and in connection to Jewish “jealousy” over the missionary success of Paul and Barnabas, drawing the attention of gentile sympathizers to the message of the apostles away from the synagogue (Schnabel 2008, 240–42). The explicit reason for the Jewish hostility toward early Christ-believers in the Pauline letters was the proclamation that a crucified Messiah was “a stumbling block

Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities   157 (skandalon) to Jews” (1 Cor. 1:23). In light of Deut 21:23, a belief in and commitment to a crucified Messiah, who had been opposed by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, was likely regarded as unacceptable by most diaspora Jews. Christian worship of a crucified criminal as the godlike Messiah was most likely considered blasphemy (cf. Acts 26:9–11). Whether the issue of early Christ-devotion was also involved in Jewish antagonism to early Christ-believers is debated (Hurtado 1999, 50–57). It was clearly involved in late first-century and second-century controversies (e.g., Justin, Dial. 48; 64; 87), but explicit evidence of such involvement earlier in the first century is rather scarce. Rabbinic texts mentioning Jesus primarily accuse him of practicing magic and leading people astray (b. San. 43a; 107b; b. Shabb. 104b). This is most likely the reason behind the strong negative Jewish reactions to Christ-believers expressed in the so-called Birkat haMinim, the twelfth of the Eighteen Benedictions (Shemoneh ‘Esreh), which, according to the Babylonian Talmud (b. Ber. 28b–29a) was formulated by Samuel the Small under Rabbi Gamaliel II at Yavneh at ca. 90 ce. This saying functioned as a curse against Jewish heretics: “And may the notsrim [i.e., Nazarenes or Christ-believers] and the minim [i.e., the heretics] perish quickly; and may they be erased from the Book of Life and may they not be inscribed with the righteous” (Palestinian recension, taken from Horst 1994, 99). There is an extensive discussion concerning the origin and meaning of this curse (e.g., Horbury 1982; Horst 1994; Langer 2011; Mayo 2006; Teppler 2007). While the Birkat haMinim may not originally have been constructed as an anti-Christian benediction, it must have had repercussions for Christ-believers in the synagogue, who were perceived as minim. The retrospective mentioning of the Birkat haMinim suggests that it may have locally been in use already in the 80s—that is, in the period following the turbulent aftermaths of the destruction of the temple, when the rabbis began to urge greater unity among the Jews (Katz 1984; Olsson 2005, 216–17). As a result, some Christ-believing Jews returned to Judaism while others, who confessed Jesus as the Messiah, were forced to leave the synagogue community—at least locally (Justin, Dial. 96.2; cf. 16.4; 47.4; 93.4; 95.4; 108.3; 123.6; 133.6). Sociopolitical factors. The ancient texts demonstrate that Jews of Asia Minor were concerned about preserving the social and political rights and privileges that they had enjoyed since Julius Caesar, which had come under pressure in different places at different times. The privileges diaspora Jews enjoyed through Roman protection became a recurring source of irritation to their gentile neighbors, who contested Jewish social and religious rights. There is evidence that Greeks tried to prevent the Jews from living according to their traditional laws in Asia Minor, for example, in Sardis (Josephus, Ant. 14.235), Laodicea (Ant. 14.241–43), and Ephesus (Ant. 14.252–54, 262–64). The Greeks seem to have frequently reacted when Jewish communities, being both wealthy and influential, failed to contribute enough to the welfare of the city (e.g., Ant. 16.41, 45). In Sardis (49 bce) the Greeks disputed the Jewish entitlement to have their own “association” and place where “they decide their affairs and controversies with one another” (Ant. 14.235). On some occasions, issues relating to the privileges of possessing Roman citizenship and exemption from military service appear to have contributed to the problem (e.g., in Ephesus and Sardis; Ant. 14.228–40). In addition, the Jews sent significant amounts of money out from the Greek cities and regions at times of local ­economic hardships.

158   Mikael Tellbe Under the surface, the civic pride of the Greeks had been wounded by the political, social, and economic circumstances of Roman rule. The fact that a foreign ethnic group, whom the Greeks disdained as “barbarians,” was granted favored status by Roman intervention within the Greek cities, served as a reminder of the subjection of the Greeks to Rome. In certain aspects this status was superior even to that of the Greek citizens themselves. The frequent appeals by the Jews, for example in Ephesus and Smyrna, indicate that their privileges were not routinely upheld and that they had to be regularly confirmed by the officials. Josephus speaks of several occasions when the Jews in Ephesus were granted their rights because of their “friendship with the Romans” (Ant. 14.262–67). When their status and privileges were threatened, the Jews did not hesitate to engage the Roman authorities at the highest level. With respect to the tensions relating to the sociopolitical privileges of Jewish diaspora communities, Schnabel (2008, 259) concludes: “[I]t is to be expected that local Jewish communities, eager to at least maintain the political and social status quo, would be willing to move against anyone who threatened to endanger the existing rights and privileges in their city.” There are therefore reasons to believe that Jewish opposition to early Christ-believers was also caused by the concern of the Jewish communities to maintain their religious and ethnic identity, including their privileges. On several occasions, Luke reports about Jews’ accusations against Christ-believers for upsetting the peace of the status quo (Acts 17:5–7; 18:12–17; 25:1–8). Their missionary activities among the Godfearers may easily have diminished the Jewish standing and protection within the Greek communities. In turn, this led to local disturbances that potentially jeopardized the Jewish legal status and thus became a critical factor to Jewish antagonism against Christbelievers (Dunn 1996, 183; Rapske 1998, 247 n. 2; Schnabel 2008, 270). Financial factors. Disputes about the temple tax, which dominate in Josephus’s documents, became “the chief bone of contention” between the Jews and the Greek civic authorities in the East (Linder 2006, 137; Smallwood 1981, 143; cf. Tellbe 2005, 20–25). The amounts collected for the temple tax were of such considerable size that the collections caused strong reactions from the Greeks. Josephus reports that they seized this money on several occasions and that the Roman authorities answered by repeatedly reasserting the Jewish rights (Josephus, Ant. 16.28, 45, 160–68). As a result, the temple tax was on occasion classified as “sacred money” (16.169–70; cf. 163–64), and the Romans protected the transport of it, for example, from Ephesus to Jerusalem (16.172; ca. 4 bce). Anyone who stole the tax was declared “sacrilegious” (16.164) and became subject to Roman or even Jewish criminal jurisdiction (16.164–65, 168). For example, the city of Ephesus was directed by the governor of the province of Asia to allow the Jewish community “to make offerings for their sacrifices” (14.227; cf. Philo, Legat. 315). In a similar way, the proconsul of the province of Asia directed the city of Sardis in 12 bce to permit the Jews to send their sacred monies to Jerusalem, implementing the order of Augustus (Josephus, Ant. 16.171). From this we may deduce that Jewish privilege concerning the temple tax was another potential factor causing tensions and conflicts between Christ-believers and Jewish communities in first-century Asia Minor. Christian missionary activities and the conversion of Jews, proselytes, and God-fearers could easily have caused fear of the loss of

Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities   159 financial contributions. Hence, motivated by concerns regarding the financial strength of their community, diaspora Jews may have considered that a rival “Jewish” group would eventually upset their right to send the temple tax to Jerusalem (Schnabel 2008, 267, 270). Besides this, early Jewish Christ-believers started their own collections that potentially threatened loyal participation in one of the most important Jewish identity markers in the diaspora (Tellbe 2005, 42–44). Another financial factor that was causing distress in the relationships between Christbelievers and Jewish communities by the end of the first century was the so-called “Jewish tax,” the fiscus Iudaicus. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 ce, the Jews reacted strongly when the half-shekel temple tax was turned into a Roman tax of two denarii (didrachmon) and handed over for the rebuilding of the temple to Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome (Josephus, J. W. 7.218; Cassius Dio, Rom. Hist. 66.7). However, since the temple tax enabled Jews to continue their distinctive religious practices, most Jews accepted it. Yet the tax created a social stigma, especially because it defined the Jews as a defeated and punished ethnic minority and because it associated all Jews with the rebellion in Judaea and distinguished them from their Roman and Greek neighbors as a group of people who owed extra dues to Rome, it reminded them of Roman political, economic, and religious sovereignty (Barclay 1996, 76). Since paying or not paying the temple tax distinguished the Jew from the non-Jew, the fiscus Iudaicus came to function as a distinct identity marker. According to Cassius Dio (Rom. Hist. 66.7.2), this tax was only required of those who followed the ancestral customs of the Jews. So to avoid the tax, some Jews sought to keep their Jewish identity a secret. Suetonius (Dom. 12.2) reports that Domitian’s agents collected the tax “with the utmost rigor,” especially as they acted against, not only Jews by birth who kept their Jewish identity secret (lit. “those who concealed their origin”), but also against non-Jews who lived a Judaizing lifestyle (who “lived as Jews”) without professing Judaism (Hemstra 2010; Keresztes 1973, 2–15; Smallwood 1981, 371–85; Stebnicka 2015, 129–31; Williams 1990). Since this tax was required of those who bore the mark of circumcision, regardless of their religious loyalties, it put uncircumcised Christ-believers, who sought protection under Jewish identity and sought to enjoy the social and political advantages of the Jews, in a precarious position: “Any Christian incidentally denounced to the fiscus for ‘living Jewish life’ or concealing their Jewish origin could confess their Christian religion or chose to pay for ‘tax-evasion’ ” (Keresztes 1973, 9). This may also have been the chief point of contention between Jews and Christ-believers in two of the cities in the book of Revelation: Smyrna and Philadelphia.

Relationships among Jews and Christ-Believers in the Book of Revelation When it comes to interactions between Jews and Christ-believers in the letters to the seven churches, there is little to be said about the letters to the churches in Ephesus,

160   Mikael Tellbe Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea. For example, the letter to the church in Ephesus (Rev 2:1–7) reveals very little about the author’s relationship to Judaism, although we know of the existence of a strong local Jewish community in Ephesus toward the end of the first century ce (Tellbe 2009, 65–75; Trebilco 2018, 93–102). The warning that the lampstand or menorah could be removed from Ephesus (2:5), may support the conclusion that the Christ-believing community in Ephesus was of Jewish origin (Strelan 1996, 194). Although this conclusion is probably generally correct, at least according to evidence drawn from Acts 18–19, it is not prompted by the text itself. A minority of scholars argue that “the Nicolaitans” (Rev 2:6, 15) were Jewish in origin. For example, Helmut Koester (1965, 310) suggests that this group was the same as “those who say that they are Jews” in Smyrna and Philadelphia (2:9; 3:9), suggesting that the Nicolaitans were “a hostile Judaizing group” with a developed Docetic Christology. In the letters to the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia we are informed about those “who say that they are Jews and are not.” The author condemns them with the strong derogatory phrase “a synagogue of Satan” (2:9; 3:9). There are three main suggestions about the identity of this group. First, as has been mentioned, some scholars (e.g., H. Koester 1965, 310; Kraft 1974, 60–61) connect this group to the Nicolaitans, suggesting that they were syncretistic Jewish Christ-believers who compromised with the state and the pagan cults. However, there is nothing to suggest that the group of “Jews” in Smyrna and Philadelphia should be connected with the Nicolaitans. “Those who say that they are Jews” were apparently not members of the Christ-believing communities but were endangering them from the outside, which makes it unlikely that they were Christbelieving Jews. According to 2:14–15, the Nicolaitans, who as a group also operated within the believing community in Pergamum, promoted “eating food sacrificed to idols and committing immorality.” This description is hardly typical for people who are “Judaizing.” Thus, the conflict with the Nicolaitans was not only about eating meat and indulging in (spiritual) fornication, but was also about the general response to cultural and religious accommodations these practices symbolized. Finally, the fact that the Nicolaitans are identified with “the teaching of Balaam” (2:14) is not sufficient proof for the claim that they were of Jewish origin or that they were Judaizers, especially since the author of Revelation regularly applies Old Testament epithets and titles without necessarily claiming anything Jewish in an ethnic sense. Second, other scholars argue that the phrase “those who say that they are Jews and are not” should be interpreted literally as a reference to a group who claimed a Jewish identity without actually being of Jewish origin (e.g., Cohen  1993, 3; Gager  1983, 132; Johnson 1975, 111; Wilson 1995, 163; Zetterholm 2003, 206). Hence, it is suggested that they were gentile Christian Judaizers similar to those whom Ignatius opposed (Phld. 6.1; Magn. 8.1; 9.1; 10.3), who identified themselves with the Jewish community in order to claim Jewish rights and privileges, and to avoid any official harassment and persecution. Ignatius evidently says that “it is better to hear Christianity from the circumcised than Judaism from the uncircumcised” (Phld. 6.1), which must be a reference to gentile Judaizers. Although it is possible that one group of Christ-believers could have caused serious problems for another such group in Greco-Roman society, it is improbable that

Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities   161 they would have sought to “slander” and resolve their differences by seeking recourse from the civic authorities. Furthermore, the designation “synagogue” for this group is odd. As pointed out by Craig Koester (2014, 275), “[I]ndividuals might affiliate with a synagogue, but they would not constitute a synagogue” (original italics). Third, “those who say that they are Jews and are not” may be interpreted as a reference to a group of non-Christian ethnic Jews who opposed the Christ-believers. There are several arguments in favor of this more traditional reading. First, “a synagogue of Satan” is a curious nomenclature for any group other than Jews. Further, we hear of several occasions when Jews were causing explicit problems for Christ-believers in GrecoRoman society by engaging in “slander” or “blasphemy” (Rev 2:9); or more specifically, we hear of denunciation of Christ-believers before the Roman or other civic authorities, as suggested by 2:10 and other sources from the period (e.g., John 9:22; Acts 13:50; 14:2; 17:5; 18:12–13; 25:7; 1 Thess. 2:14–16; Justin, Dial. 47.4; 93.4; 96.2; Mart. Pol. 12.2; 13.1; 17.2). Moreover, the author reacts strongly against these Jewish opponents and says polemically that those who claim “we are Jews” are not, implying that the Ioudaios (“a Jew” or “Judean”) should not be defined in terms of ethnicity but as a reference to the true or faithful believer—that is, to the Christ-believer. According to Yarbro Collins (1986, 314), Jews and early Christ-believers in the communities of western Asia Minor were engaged in a struggle over values: “They shared a common Scripture and messianic tradition, but disagreed over their interpretation and application . . . the two groups competed for status in the eyes of the authorities as the legitimate heirs to the heritage of Israel.” Therefore, the vilification in Rev 2:9 and 3:9 has a social function—casting doubt on the legitimacy of the rival group and demarcating and defining the group of “insiders.” The author of Revelation assumes that the real Ioudaioi are those who believe in Jesus Christ. He views belief in Jesus Christ as the true kind of Judaism, and Judaism without belief in Jesus Christ as a false kind. This radical redefinition of the people of God is clearly in line with what is taking place elsewhere in Revelation (see below Identity Formation in the Book of Revelation). Hence, together with the majority of commentators (e.g., Aune 1997, 162–63; Beale  1999, 240–41; Hemer 1986, 7–9; C. Koester 2014, 275–76; Trebilco 2018, 112–13), I find it most likely that “the Jews” in 2:9 and 3:9 refers to ethnic Jews who caused problems for Christ-believers by officially slandering or denouncing them. The reason for Jewish opposition to Christ-believers in Smyrna and Philadelphia is not explicitly stated. However, two issues that have been mentioned here may partly account for John’s harsh stance toward Jews who “slander” Christ-believers. As was pointed out, the curse Birkat haMinim against the heretics (the minim) in the Eighteen Benedictions may have contributed to the exclusion of Jewish Christ-believers and of gentile Christ-believers who had sought protection in the synagogues. This exclusion would have left them in a precarious sociopolitical position in the Roman society. Another factor behind the Jewish reaction to Christ-believing gentiles who “lived like Jews” could have been strained relations between Jews and civic authorities in connection with the collection of the fiscus Iudaicus under Domitian. The background to the strong phrase “a synagogue of Satan” could have been conflicts between ethnic Jews and

162   Mikael Tellbe Christ-believers that resulted in official actions against Christ-believers who, under the Jewish umbrella, payed the tax and sought protection from participation in the civic cults. The fiscus Iudaicus thus added to the tensions, not only between Jews and Christbelievers in general, but also between Jewish and gentile Christ-believers, on whom the situation impinged in a different way. As for the situation of the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia, the author of Revelation refuses to acknowledge Jews who oppose or even persecute Christ-believers as true Jews, and, accordingly, to regard non-Christian-opposing Judaism as true Judaism. It is not so clear, however, what the author thinks about non-Christian Judaism as a whole. Would the author totally reject any use of the term “Jew” for the Jewish groups in the other cities, and would he say that they all belong to “a synagogue of Satan,” even if they are not openly hostile to Christ-believers? As has been pointed out, there were Jewish communities in all of the seven cities—including rather large Jewish groups in Ephesus, Smyrna, and Sardis. Since nothing is said about Jews besides those who are mentioned in the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia, this may indicate that the author is not speaking about non-Christian Jews in general as false Jews but is specifically referring to non-Christian Jews who opposed Christ-believers and cooperated with Roman authorities (cf. C. Koester 2014, 330). We should also keep in mind that we are dealing with a conflict that was in part still an intra-Jewish dispute: Jews who did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah were slandering Christ-believing Jews and gentiles. It is unlikely that a definite separation between them had yet taken place, and we may suspect that the Christ-believers—at least, the Jewish ones and the former God-fearers—lived socially close to the synagogues. In this process, the designation of “those who call themselves Jews” ultimately served to form the readers’ self-identity, drawing boundaries between the in-group and the out-group. Of course, we have to consider that this kind of labeling may have been part of the author’s deliberate polemical strategy to sharpen the distinction between Christ-believers and Jews (Malina and Pilch 2000, 54; Thompson 1990, 125–27). In any case, we see here something that is continually going on in the book of Revelation—namely, the process of defining and redefining the true people of God (Tellbe 2009, 100–101).

Identity Formation in the Book of Revelation: Redefining the People of God The author of the book of Revelation was most likely of Jewish origin. His language and imagery continuously draw from Old Testament prophecies and Jewish apocalyptic literature, and his self-understanding is that of a prophet of the Lord (Beale 1999, 76–99; C.  Koester  2014, 68–69; Yarbro Collins  1984, 34–50). However, there is a complete

Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities   163 absence of controversial Jewish issues and terms in his writing, such as the law, the covenant, circumcision, the Sabbath, the festival observances, fasting, and the legitimacy of sacrifices. Although the Feast of Tabernacles plays a crucial role in his imagery (Ulfgard 1989), it is primarily a symbolic and theological motif, not a festival that the readers are expected to celebrate. None of these issues is discussed, which suggests that the author operated outside the synagogue setting and without the typical framework of Jewish boundary markers. This impression is strengthened by the observation that the author frequently redefines the people of God. For example, in the letter to the church in Philadelphia, “those who claim to be Jews though they are not” (3:9) are defined as false Jews, which implies that the Christ-believers are the true bearers of this title. This is also highlighted in the description of Jesus Christ in the address of the letter: Christ is presented to the Philadelphians as the one “who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (3:7). The “key of David” refers to the story of Eliakim, who controlled the entry to the house of David in Jerusalem (Isa 22:22). Christ is thus presented as the one who holds the key to the new Jerusalem, the city of the true people of God (Rev 21:9–22:5). Such an assurance would be profoundly relevant to Christbelievers who were faced with hostility and expulsion from the synagogue: Christ’s opening involves admission of the gentiles, despite Jewish resistance, and his closing would be the exclusion of the church’s opponents, despite their Jewish parentage and privileges. In 7:1–8, the author hears about a multitude on earth that is marked with “the seal of the living God.” This multitude consists of “one hundred forty-four thousand from all the tribes of Israel,” who are described as prepared for war. In the next sequence (7:9–17), the vision is expanded, and the prophet sees “a great multitude that no one can count” in heaven. This is most probably a reference to the same multitude, but it is now expanded to consist of people “from every nation, tribe, people and language.” Ethnic Israel has now been redefined in universal terms as the people of God, which no longer consists of one single nation but of many different nations. Furthermore, the literal city of Jerusalem, the city in which “their Lord was crucified,” is renamed for the apostate locations of “Sodom and Egypt” (11:8), and the coming “new Jerusalem” implies that the old Jerusalem no longer exists (21:9–22:5). The new Jerusalem is defined as the city of the nations (21:24–26), made up of the peoples of the twelve tribes of Israel and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (21:12–14). Hence, ethnic Israel will no longer be the only people with whom God dwells (21:3). The book of Revelation is full of universalistic language. The true people of God are portrayed as multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual, and they are made up of all the different peoples of the earth. Bauckham, in particular, has demonstrated that the theme of the conversion of the nations—the transfer of the sovereignty of the whole world from the dragon and the beast to God the Almighty—stands “at the center of the prophetic message of Revelation” (1993, 238). This theme is first introduced in 1:7 by the phrase “all the peoples of the earth,” which literally picks up the promise made to Abraham in Gen 12:3 (LXX). The immediate effect of the Lamb’s victory in Rev 5:1–10 is

164   Mikael Tellbe the redemption by his bloody sacrifice of a universal people for God, a people made up from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9). This fourfold formula occurs throughout Revelation a total of seven times (5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15), stressing the ethnic and cultural diversity of the people gathered around the throne of God. The song of Moses and the image of the new exodus in 15:2–4, should also be interpreted in line with the most universalistic strains of the Old Testament hope: all the nations will come to acknowledge the God of Israel and to worship him (e.g., Exod 15:11; Jer 10:6–7; Pss 86:8–10; 98:1–2). The redefinition of the people of God is also elaborated in the titles and designations used to address and to describe the community of believers in Revelation. The prophet addresses the true people of God primarily in two terms, “the saints” and “the servants,” and both terms relate to the vertical dimension of the relationship of the readers to God. The typical designation of Israel, “the saints” (hoi hagioi; Rev 5:8; 8:3, 4; 11:18; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:8; 20:9), is used as an inclusive term for all Christ-believers. By addressing his readers as the saints or “holy ones” the author underlines the continuity between the people of God in the Old Testament and the new people of God redeemed by the Lamb. Moreover, the author addresses his readers as “slaves” or “servants” (douloi), a term that is used at least seven times for the Christbelievers (2:20; 7:3; 10:7; 19:5; 22:3–4, 9). The slave-master relationship was an exclusive one that implied ownership; like the people of God in the Old Testament, the true people of God in Revelation are called God’s own people, his “servants” (Trebilco 2004, 579, 581–82). The overall purpose of Revelation is to shape a new and different imaginative world of the addressees in order to give meaning to their prevailing conflicts and hardships. Within this context, Yarbro Collins (1986, 319–20) properly notes: “John’s polemic was part of the struggle of Christians in western Asia Minor to survive physically and to establish an identity as legitimate heirs to the heritage of Israel.” Being cut off from the Jewish community with its long-standing religious traditions and sociopolitical privileges and gradually being more marginalized in the wider society, John’s readers needed an understanding of their role within the plan of God, as well as in society at large. The overall message of Revelation demonstrates that the author wants to warn hostile ethnic Jews and encourage Christ-believers—whether of Jewish or gentile o ­ rigin—to stand firmly in their faith by redefining the basic meaning of Judaism and of being a “Jew.” This fundamental redefinition of the people of God in Revelation, which consists of both Old Testament believers (the tribes) and New Testament believers (the apostles) brought together in one (Rev 21:12–14), serves to create and portray a different worldview and to articulate a new identity for the readers. The Christ-believers stand in continuity with the people of God and should understand themselves as genuine Jews and as the new Jerusalem—that is, as a people made up of all the nations of the world. Hostile ethnic Jews, who cause affliction to the Christ-believers, no longer belong to the true community of God, the in-group, but to the “synagogue of Satan,” the out-group. Thus, the true people of God are no longer “those who say that they are Jews” but those who worship the almighty God as revealed in the Lamb that was slain.

Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities   165

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166   Mikael Tellbe Johnson, Sherman E. 1975. “Asia Minor and Early Christianity.” In Christianity, Judaism, and Other Greco-Roman Cults: Studies for Morton Smith at Sixty, edited by Jacob Neusner, pp. 77–145. SJLA 122. Leiden: Brill. Katz, Steven  T. 1984. “Issues in the Separation of Judaism and Christianity after 70 ce: A Reconsideration.” JBL 103: 43–76. Keresztes, Paul. 1973. “The Jews, the Christians, and Emperor Domitian.” VC 27: 1–28. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Koester, Helmut. 1965. “gnomai diaphoroi: The Origin and Nature of Diversification in the History of Early Christianity.” HTR 58: 279–318. Kraabel, A.  T. 1968. “Judaism in Western Asia Minor under the Roman Empire with a Preliminary Study of the Jewish Community at Sardis.” PhD diss. Harvard University. Kraft, Heinrich. 1974. Die Offenbarung des Johannes. HNT 16a. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Langer, Ruth. 2011. Cursing Christians? A History of the Birkat HaMinim. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lieu, Judith  M. 1998. “Accusations of Jewish Persecution in Early Christian Sources, with Particular Reference to Justin Martyr and the Martyrdom of Polycarp.” In Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity, edited by Graham  N.  Stanton and G. G. Stroumsa, pp. 279–95. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Linder, Amnon. 2006. “The Legal Status of the Jews in the Roman Empire.” In The Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 4: The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, edited by Steven  T.  Katz, pp. 128–73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Malina, Bruce J., and John J. Pilch. 2000. Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Revelation. Minneapolis: Fortress. Mayo, Philip L. 2006. “The Role of the Birkath Haminim in Early Jewish-Christian Relations: A Reexamination of the Evidence.” BBR 16: 325–44. Mitchell, Stephen. 1993. Anatolia: Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Olsson, Birger. 2005. “ ‘All My Teaching Was Done in Synagogues’ (John 18, 20).” In Theology and Christology in the Fourth Gospel: Essays by the Members of the SNTS Johannine Writings Seminar, edited by Gilbert van Belle, Jan G. van der Watt, and P. Maritz, pp. 203–24. BETL 184. Leuven: Leuven University Press. Pucci Ben Zeev, Miriam. 1998. Jewish Rights in the Roman World: The Greek and Roman Documents Quoted by Josephus Flavius. TSAJ 74. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Pucci Ben Zeev, Miriam. 1995. “Caesar and Jewish Law.” RB 102: 28–37. Rajak, Tessa. 1984. “Was There a Roman Charter for the Jews?” JRS 74: 107–23. Rapske, Brian. 1998. “Opposition to the Plan of God and Persecution.” In Witness to the Gospel: The Theology of Acts, edited by I.  Howard Marshall and D.  Peterson, pp. 235–56. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Riesner, Rainer. 1997. “Lukas (1. Jh. n.Chr.).” In Hauptwerke der Geschichtsschreibung, edited by Volker Reinhardt, pp. 391–94. Stuttgart: Kröner. Schnabel, Eckhard  J. 2008. “Jewish Opposition to Christians in Asia Minor in the First Century.” BBR 18: 233−70. Slingerland, H. Dixon. 1986. “ ‘The Jews’ in the Pauline Portion of Acts.” JAAR 54: 305–21. Smallwood, E. Mary. 1981. The Jews under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian, a Study in Political Relations. 2nd ed. SJLA 20. Leiden: Brill. First edition published in 1976. Stebnicka, Krystyna. 2015. Identity of the Diaspora: Jews in Asia Minor in the Imperial Period. Journal of Juristic Papyrology Supplement 26. Warsaw: University of Warsaw.

Christ-Believers and Jewish Communities   167 Strelan, Rick. 1996. Paul, Artemis and the Jews in Ephesus. BZNW 80. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. Tellbe, Mikael. 2009. Christ-Believers in Ephesus: A Textual Analysis of Early Christian Identity Formation in a Local Perspective. WUNT 242. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Tellbe, Mikael. 2005. “The Temple Tax as a Pre-70 ce Identity Marker.” In The Formation of the Early Church, edited by Jostein Ådna, pp. 19–44. WUNT 183. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Tellbe, Mikael. 2001. Paul between Synagogue and State: Christians, Jews, and Civic Authorities in 1 Thessalonians, Romans and Philippians. ConBNT 34. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. Teppler, Yakoov Yanki. 2007. Birkat haMinim: Jews and Christians in Conflict in the Ancient World. TSAJ 120. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Thompson, Leonard L. 1990. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Trebilco, Paul. 2018. “The Jewish Community in Ephesus and Its Interaction with ChristBelievers in the First Century ce and Beyond.” In The First Urban Churches, vol. 3: Ephesus, edited by James R. Harrison and L. L. Welborn, pp. 93–126. WGRW 9. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press. Trebilco, Paul. 2004. The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius. WUNT 166. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Trebilco, Paul. 1991. Jewish Communities in Asia Minor. SNTSMS 69. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ulfgard, Håkan. 1989. Feast and Future: Revelation 7:9–17 and the Feast of Tabernacles, ConBNT 22. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. Williams, Margaret  H. 2013. Jews in a Graeco-Roman Environment. WUNT 312. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Williams, Margaret  H. 1990. “Domitian, the Jews and the ‘Judaizers’: A Simple Matter of Cupiditas and Maiestas.” Historia 39: 196–211. Wilson, Stephen G. 1995. Related Strangers: Jews and Christians 70–170 ce. Minneapolis: Fortress. Witetschek, Stephan. 2008. Ephesische Enthüllungen 1: Frühe Christen in einer antiken Großstadt zugleich ein Beitrag zur Frage nach den Kontexten der Johannesapokalypse. BTS 6. Leuven: Peeters. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1984. Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia: Fortress. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1986. “Vilification and Self-Definition in the Book of Revelation.” HTR 79: 308–20. Zetterholm, Magnus. 2003. The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation between Judaism and Christianity. London: Routledge.

chapter 11

Gr eco -Rom a n R eligions a n d th e Con text of th e Book of R ev el ation Richard S. Ascough

Religio and the Ties That Bind Defining “religion” in the Greek and Roman periods is no easier than defining what it is today. As Jonathan Z. Smith rightly notes, it is a “scholarly category,” a heuristic that scholars use as a way to talk about a constellation of phenomena within human behavior that can be observed and categorized together under a particular taxon (Smith 1998, 281–82). It seems, then, not profitable to talk generally about Greek and Roman “religion(s)” as the context for the book of Revelation, because we would spend much of our time trying to define or defend particular categorizations of religion (Nongbri 2015). An alternative approach would be to describe the backgrounds of various gods that have already been identified as part of the constellation of the ancient world, but this would simply redo much good work that has already been done in the vein of “background” to the development of early Christ groups (e.g., Ferguson 1987). What is of more interest is to examine how the writer of the book of Revelation conceives and constructs what scholars might construe as the religious context in which the early Christ adherents found themselves. Framed this way, a fascinating picture emerges, one in which the writer sees Christ adherents assailed on every side by threats that come from groups who advocate cult practices and beliefs different from their own. For the writer, these groups are the consummate “other.” They are not defined the way we might define them—by their participation in cult activities focused on a deity such as Artemis or the Great Mother—but are presented as contrary to what he thinks the Christ groups should hold to. As we shall see, there are instances in which it may be possible to identify

170   Richard S. Ascough particular deities, practices, or beliefs in the writer’s rhetoric, but doing so should not cause us to lose sight of his overall characterization of all those he deems “other.” Feasting and fornicating—these are the main characteristics of those in Asia Minor whose cult practices focus on any deity except the God of the risen Jesus—at least, according to the writer of the Revelation. They are considered idolaters who have aligned themselves with the devil and Satan; they use magic and will even resort to murder to perpetuate their ways. Thus, the writer paints a bleak picture in which Christ adherents residing in the seven cities to which Revelation is addressed are threatened and tempted on all sides. In stark contrast, there is a utopian polis—a heavenly Jerusalem—that awaits those who endure to the end, who remain faithful to God even as those around them succumb to the enticements of their surroundings: “Outside [the gates] are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15). This uninviting and disturbing picture of the religious context of Revelation is one factor that has contributed to the historical development of the pejorative use of “paganism” as the contrast to the purity of what will come to be called Christianity. That is, when one sees “pagan” used by later Christians, the frame of reference is most likely idolatry, with its attendant feasting, drinking, and fornication. Yet even within Revelation, no one particular religion is singled out; no deities are named directly in the book, save for Death and Hades (6:8), although others, such as Zeus and the emperor, are certainly implicated. Instead, the writer of Revelation pulls together distinct, and at times quite disparate, cult practices of a variety of groups into one amorphous whole in order to easily and readily contrast them with his vision of true worship. Thus, Revelation’s characterization of what might precariously be termed “religion” is a factor contributing to the vilification of any practice that was deemed aberrant as Christ adherents gained ascendency in the Roman Empire. In this chapter, we examine cult practices in the region of western Asia Minor, the locale of the seven assemblies addressed in Revelation, in order to examine how it is that the writer of Revelation might have been able to misrepresent them with such vehemence. We begin with a brief description of the geographical setting and then discuss the dominant deities in each of the seven cities, drawing attention to their cult practices. In the final section, we examine how the writer uses the metaphoric frame of feasting and fornication in Revelation as a means to characterize these cult practices and the conflicts they engender for the Christ adherents in Asia Minor.

Cult, Commerce, and Culture in the Temple The book of Revelation is written in the context of Asia Minor, and Christ groups located in seven urban centers are singled out, not only as the recipients of the book as a whole,

Greco-Roman Religions   171 but each also receives a personalized message (1:4). The imagined audience is larger than this this—“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (2:7, 29; 3:6, 22)—but at the very least, the immediate context for understanding the writer’s message remains focused on these seven cities. The messages appear in an order that follows the Roman roads, which are the likely route as John’s writing was carried to each group: proceeding north along the coast from Ephesus through Smyrna to Pergamum, then turning east to Thyatira, before moving southeast toward Laodicea after passing through Sardis and Philadelphia. In attempting to interpret Revelation’s messages to the seven cities, commentators tend to draw heavily on the work of two particularly influential biblical scholars, William Ramsay (1994) and Colin Hemer (1986). Steve Friesen (1995), however, has demonstrated that their correlation of literary, numismatic, and archaeological sources with the text is highly flawed and largely implausible. The realia must be interpreted on its own, without being filtered through the text of Revelation. Although religion is difficult to define conceptually, the location of behaviors that would be categorized as religious is easier to identify in the cities, as it involved “the proper performance of the rites in veneration of the gods” (Ando 2008, 126). Rituals are thus repetitive acts that bind (legio) participants to the divine objects of their cults. In the cities of the Greek and Roman periods, temples were the clearest and most obvious place for such religious activity. In the larger civic temples, appointed priests carried out daily rituals on behalf of the well-being of the city, and smaller temples provided cult activity for individuals and various groups. At the same time, gods and goddesses are everywhere, as Friesen notes, “painted on walls and carved into furniture,” adorning private and public buildings, guiding the cycle of festivals, and basically overseeing “gov­ ern­ance, education, family life, commerce, and worship” (Friesen 1995, 345). Each of the seven cities named in Revelation officially recognized a constellation of deities, although the predominance of one god or another varied among them. For example, at Ephesus, the temple of Artemis played a dominant role. Begun sometime in the fourth century bce, by the time of the writing of Revelation, the fifth rebuilding on the sacred site was the largest religious building of the time. Artemis—or in her Roman form, Diana—was generally affiliated with the hunt, often depicted holding a bow and arrow and accompanied by hunting dogs. At Ephesus she took on other characteristics that also brought her into affiliation with the Anatolian Mother Goddess (who herself came to be affiliated with Cybele; see Thomas 2004, 249). Many statues have been found that depict her with what seem to be rows of breasts, or perhaps bull testes, either one of which might suggest a strong link to a fertility cult. Such statues, at least in miniature form, might have been the purview of the silversmiths who protested that Paul’s preaching impinged on their economic livelihood (Acts 19:23–41). The cult of the Mother Goddess, Cybele, dominated the religious landscape of Smyrna from its founding, and she functioned as the patron and guardian of the city (Cadoux 1938, 215–16). Although she took on many forms in her long history, by the Roman period, the erection of a temple to her in Rome in the early second century bce eventually brought respectability to her cult. By the imperial period, she was seen as an

172   Richard S. Ascough idealization of feminine virtue. At the same time, the frenzied devotion of some of her adherents and the self-castration of those who became her priests (the Galli) aroused suspicion or caution for many. The temple of Cybele in Smyrna was situated adjacent to the forum on which there was also a temple dedicated to Zeus, who went by a number of names in the city (Cadoux 1938, 202–4), including “protector” (Aelius Aristides, Oration 20.20) and “savior” (I.Smyrna 680). Pergamum was well-known for a healing center dedicated to the healing god Asclepius, built around a temple at the base of the acropolis on which the city itself was constructed, whose fame was second only to that of Epidaurus in Greece (cf. Hoffmann 1998; Radt 1999, 220–42 on the second-century remodeling of the site initiated under Hadrian after reputed miraculous cures took place there). The Asklepion itself was connected to the lower city by a one-kilometer-long sacred way. Asclepius was one of four patron deities recognized by the city, the others being Dionysus, Zeus, and Athena. Of these, Athena stood out in her form as Nikephoros or “Victory-Bearer,” both for her antiquity, since her temple was the oldest in the city, and for her presumed role in helping Eumenes II defeat his enemies in the second century bce. However, it was the great altar of Zeus that dominated the upper city. Also built by Eumenes II, this massive marble altar was covered with a frieze depicting the struggle between gods and giants, and smoke from its sacrifices billowed into the air daily. In the message of Revelation addressed to the Christ adherents of Pergamum, the writer locates them as “where Satan’s throne is” (2:12), likely a reference to this throne-shaped great altar (Kästner 1998, 143), although the imperial cult may be likewise implicated in the reference (but see Friesen 2005, 356–67). Continuing along the geographic arc of Revelation’s messages brings us to Thyatira, a city founded under the Attalid dynasty that ruled much of Asia Minor through the third and second centuries bce. A pair of inscriptions from the city attest to an official cult of Dionysos Kathegemon, an epithet that the god received in Pergamum as a dynastic deity, suggesting that the Attalids introduced this deity to Thyatira (Hoz 1999, 66 and nos. 15.2 and 15.3). The weather god Zeus Keraunios is attested in Thyatira, at times depicted with lightning bolts, and was likely introduced to the city from Pergamum (Hoz 1999, 62, and nos. 61.34 and 61.36), as may also be the case for Asclepius Soter and the cult of Heracles (Hoz 1999, 68, 70). The patron deity of Thyatira, however, was Apollo Tyrimnos (TAM 5/2 nos. 882–83; 946; 956; 960), although his sister, in the form Artemis Boreitene, was also recognized as protector of the city (TAM 5/2 nos. 995–96; see Hoz 1999, 34, 53). Mention should also be made of the many occupational associations attested in Thyatira from the first through third centuries ce, particularly dyers guilds, each of which had their own patron deities, most often linking themselves to the civic elite (Harland 2014, 226–27). Artemis played an important role in Sardis. She was considered the primary protector of the city and inhabited a massive temple (Hanfmann 1983, 129), where she was joined by Zeus Polieus, his epithet also indicating that he too is a “protector of the city,” with the erection of a colossal statue of him, likely balancing an equally large statue of Artemis herself (cf. Hanfmann  1983, 131; Ramage  1987, 31). An earthquake in 17 ce

Greco-Roman Religions   173 destroyed a major part of the city and seemed to shift the attention away from these two gods for the remainder of the first century ce, when the temple lay in ruins, likely since they were no longer considered able to protect the city (Hanfmann 1983, 135). “Not unnaturally,” Hanfmann notes, “from gods that had failed them, they turned to the praesens divus, the ‘present god,’ the emperor who was the first to help them in their dire plight. And they waivered in their allegiance, shifting from Artemis to Demeter, Kore, and the ‘Lydian Zeus’ ” (1983, 135). This latter figure is somewhat enigmatic, though reflective of a broader revival of local Lydian, along with Persian, deities that extended into the second century (Hanfmann 1983, 135). Nevertheless, even with this it seems that Artemis remained the primary deity at Sardis through into the second century ce (see Hoz 2016). Evidence from coins and inscriptions indicate that the patron deity of Philadelphia was Anaitis, whose Persian roots seem mostly to be mooted, and who at times seems to be blended with Artemis or the Great Mother (Hoz 1999, 74–75). Other deities in the city include Mēn, Zeus Helios (Hoz 1999, 69), and Dionysus Kathegemon, who took on an increasingly important role in the city in the second and third centuries ce, although it remains unclear whether his mysteries “were performed within a more official civic cult, within associations, or perhaps in both settings” (Harland 2014, 183). As was the case with Thyatira, Dionysus Kathegemon was likely introduced to the city from Pergamum under the Attalids (Hoz  1999, 66 and nos. 15.26 and 15.27). Of particular note from Philadelphia is an inscription, from around 100 bce, set up by the founder of a household association devoted to Dionysus (Ascough, Harland, and Kloppenborg 2012, no. 121), which mentions the presence of altars to at least ten deities along with “the other savior gods.” Instructions for cult activities such as purifications and the mysteries were provided both by Dionysus and by Zeus, although “in accordance with ancestral custom,” and were “stored” before the household guardian Agdistis, a Phrygian form of the Great Mother. What is particularly illustrative about this inscription—although it is dated some two hundred years before the writing of Revelation—is the high degree of moral discourse it contains that pertains to magic and sexual intercourse (Batten 2007). This is a contrast to the negative judgmental rhetoric the writer of Revelation has concerning behaviors outside the Christ cult, as we shall see. The final city directly addressed in Revelation is Laodicea, in the Lycus Valley. Laodicea’s primary deity was Zeus, who is attested in the region from even before the founding of the city (Corsten 1997, no. 1; Huttner 2013, 42). In the imperial period he was prominent on coins and inscriptions, and the city held an eight-day annual festival in his honor (Huttner 2013, 43). An honorific late first-century dedicatory inscription above the city gate ascribes to Zeus the title “Savior” and places him alongside Domitian, the emperor at the time: For Zeus the greatest savior and Imperator Domitianus Caesar Augustus Germanicus, pontifex maximus, invested for the fourth time with the tribunician authority, consul for the twelfth time, father of the fatherland, Tiberius Claudius Tryphon, the freedman of the emperor, built the towers and the triple-arched

174   Richard S. Ascough gateway; Sextus Iulius Frontinus, the proconsul, dedicated the entire structure. (Corsten 1997, no. 24b; trans. in Huttner 2013, 161)

Zeus also seems to have been worshipped with local epithets, particularly “Zeus Aseis” (Huttner 2013, 44), although there was a consistency in the overall presentation of the god; “The Zeus of Laodicea always remained the same; his rigid attitude, visible on innumerable coins, was a guarantee of reliability” (Huttner 2013, 66). Other deities are evidenced at Laodicea, such as Hestia, Dionysus, Herakles, and Artemis (Corsten 1997, nos. 65, 65A, 66; Huttner 2013, 55), and the cult of Apollo seems to have gained increasing attention toward the end of the first century and beyond, when the city was sending annual embassies to his oracle at Clarus in Ionia (Huttner 2013, 45). And not far to the west of Laodicea was the sanctuary of the Phrygian god Men Karou, which seems to have served also as a healing center and perhaps even a medical school (Huttner 2013, 52, 171; Strabo, Geography, 12.8.20). In all the civic temples of these cities, but particularly in the larger civic temples, daily rituals were important, and periodic festivals required full civic participation, and processions, music, sacrifices, feasts, and athletic contests dominated the days of celebration. Yet cult activities were not the sole activity of temples. They were also sites of much more than what we might refer to as religion or spirituality. The temples functioned as financial institutions (e.g., making loans and mortgages to individuals, but also serving as civic treasuries), marketplaces (which included the selling of meat), and meeting places (Howard-Brook and Gwyther  1999, 103). In fact, the Artemesion at Ephesus served as the financial center for the entire Roman province of Asia Minor. Many temples opened onto the central gathering space in the city, the agora or forum, where merchants would set up stalls to hawk their wares. After the temple priests had made ritual sacrifices, particularly of swine, sheep, or, in some cases, cattle, the meat that remained after the requisite portions had been offered to the god(s) through full burning or ritual consumption would be sold to the general public in the marketplace. Although this meat was too expensive for many inhabitants of the city, those who could afford it enjoyed some choice cuts. However, this “meat sacrificed to idols” did present challenges for early Christ followers, as we can see from some of the letters of Paul, the book of Acts, and Revelation. While cult practices abounded in the city and the household, the other primary sites where acts of veneration could take place on a regular basis were at the meetings of various associations such as trade guilds, neighborhood organizations, immigrant groups, and groups that were formed for specific purposes, such as social interaction or devotion to a god or gods. All these groups were generally small, ranging from ten to thirty members, usually of lower socioeconomic status. Although members might pay dues, these groups relied heavily on elite patronage to fund their activities. All such groups had one or more deity that they honored, although equally important were the social dimension of their regular meetings and, in some cases, the guarantee of a decent burial. As noted earlier, occupational associations are well attested at Thyatira, where inscriptions were set up by businessmen, bakers, wool-workers, and dyers (Ascough, Harland,

Greco-Roman Religions   175 and Kloppenborg 2012, nos. 128–44). Evidence is prevalent for a range of associations in the other six cities of Revelation as well, and it is difficult to imagine that members of Christ groups were not in regular daily contact with these groups and even had been, or in some cases still were, members of them (Ascough 2016). Of particular note are the meal practices of the groups, which are well-attested in inscriptions that delineate when, how, and why banquets might take place, which were usually held in honor of a god or patron. Some groups were even formed for the specific purpose of banqueting or drinking or both, as can be seen in the “hall of benches” found at Pergamum, which belonged to a group who members called themselves “cowherds” dedicated to Dionysus (Ascough, Harland, and Kloppenborg 2012, no. B6). The hall was first constructed in the early first century ce, at the latest, as a stone triclinium that could accommodate seventeen to twenty reclining banqueters, a strong indication that banqueting was the association’s primary activity. Given the social and political capital that was gained through membership and by networking in the associations, particularly at meal times, it would be difficult for Christ adherents to avoid the eating of sacrificial meat and liberal drinking that accompanied the gatherings. Yet, as we shall see, avoidance is what the author of Revelation advocates.

Imperial Cult Although we have only been able to touch on a few of the major deities present in the seven cities addressed in Revelation, there was one cult that took on an increasingly important role under Roman rule: the imperial cult. Some form of worship of the emperor, along with the cult of Roma (the deified personification of Rome), figures prominently in Revelation, albeit often in somewhat veiled references. Established under Augustus in the late first century bce, recognition of the divine sanction for a ruling emperor developed into the granting of divine status to the emperor, and sometimes to members of his family, in death and even in life (Friesen 2001; Price 1984). Early on Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Sardis took turns in hosting an annual spring festival honoring the deified Augustus. By the end of the first century, cities vied to gain the Roman Senate’s approval to build temples to the emperor or his family, and thus be granted the title neokoros, or “temple warden of the imperial cult (Tacitus, Annals 4.15, 55–56). Ephesus was the first city to be granted the title when the city dedicated the Temple of Sebastoi around 89/90 ce during the reign of Domitian; Pergamum followed a decade or so later (Friesen 2001, 43–53, esp. 46, 53). To that point, however, in the many temples that were spread throughout the empire, but particularly in the region of Asia Minor, “the emperor was regularly associated with the gods and sometimes presented as a god himself,” and “many of the coins in use carried the portrait of the emperor, often depicted as Zeus, Apollo, or Hercules” (Yarbro Collins 2000, 396; cf. Huttner 2013, 60). By the end of the first century, the imperial cult was present in each of the seven cities addressed in Revelation, either as a temple or an altar (de Jonge 2002, 132; Price 1984, 250–65).

176   Richard S. Ascough As were other temples, “imperial cult temples and their precincts were strategically located in the public domain in or near the agora, the place where inhabitants engaged . . . in commercial, cultural, judicial, administrative activities” (Winter 2015, 11). This prominence reinforced the importance of not only the temple itself but also the rule of Rome over the city, and inscriptions spelled out the divine honors granted to the emperors, alongside “an ideological and political message to be absorbed by the city’s inhabitants” (Winter 2015, 11). That said, there was no monolithic imperial cult but a range of activities that varied across location and time. Nevertheless, as Winter adroitly demonstrates, there was “a trilogy of imperial cultic acts”: prayers to the emperor, sacrifices for him, and a response by him to intercede with the gods on behalf of the empire (2015, 49). The significance of the imperial cult in a civic center is nicely illustrated in a first-century ce inscription from Thyatira in which the city’s citizen body (dēmos) dedicates a hero shrine to a benefactor who was a high priest of Augustus and Roma and had an association of devotees: The People (dēmos) dedicated the sanctuary for Xenon and the hewn stone to Gaius Julius Xenon son of Apollonides, hero and benefactor, who had become high-priest of Caesar Augustus and goddess Roma and who had made the greatest benefactions for all of Asia. He was a savior, benefactor and founder in relation to all and became father of the fatherland, foremost among the Greeks. The Julius-devotees (Iouliastai) prepared this monument. (Harland 2014, no. 124)

Participation in the imperial cults was not required, but significant social pressure to do so would be felt: “[S]ince the imperial cult was a significant part of civic life in Asia Minor, it would have been difficult to resist joining in” (Yarbro Collins  2000, 397). Failure to participate could be perceived by others as a lack of commitment, not only to the empire but also to the protective powers of the imperial leader (Howard-Brook and Gwyther 1999, 103). The writer of Revelation, however, recasts the experience of social pressure in the image of a beast forcing people to give divine honors to the emperor to be able to buy and sell at the daily markets. The beast places a mark on a person’s right hand or forehead to identify those who have complied (Rev 13:16–17; Winter 2015, 286–87). The writer, however, urges resistance, a functional denial not only of the emperor’s divine status but also of the gods of Rome. Beale (1999, 276) suggests that Christ adherents were maintaining a low profile in the cities and even “paying token acknowledgement to the pagan gods (whether to Caesar or the patron gods of the guilds)” out of fear of “persecution, particularly economic ostracism.” The writer of Revelation has little tolerance for this and wants both bold proclamation and active resistance. Revelation’s stance, then, with regard to Christian participation in the regular civic life of Roman Asia—exemplified by participation in the many cultic and semi-cultic meals that constituted an important ingredient of the “social glue” of the province— is strenuously anti-assimilationist. (Moore 2006, 116)

Greco-Roman Religions   177 This, in turn, likely resulted in resisters’ prosecution as social malcontents, “who threatened the pax deorum” (Stephens 2011, 151; cf. Winter 2015, 306), and in the case of at least one person at Pergamum, death: “you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you” (2:13). For the writer of Revelation there is to be no compromise. The Christ cult exclusively is the proper bond among the people, one to another and to God. All other manifestations of religion are false and must be resisted.

Feasting, Fornicating, and Fighting As we have seen, the Roman period reflects a rich and diverse religious culture, with its local manifestations and empire-wide connections, but none of this is reflected in the book of Revelation, which presents a rather one-dimensional view of religious life outside the Christ groups, one that vilifies all other practices as aberrant. The writer of Revelation seems particularly concerned with the consumption of “food sacrificed to idols” (often linked to “fornication”), although he only mentions it directly twice. He uses the term eidōlothyta, which literally means “idol offerings,” and it occurs only within the messages at 2:14 (Pergamum) and 2:20 (Thyatira), in both cases prefaced with phagein (“to eat”). Such food was common in the Roman world and could include bread, oil, wine, and vegetables, although it is most often thought to indicate meat, since much of the meat sold in the marketplaces had its origins on the altars of the various temples in any given city or would be fresh, having been sacrificed before the meal at an association meeting (see Faas 1994, 244–51). For Judeans, and for some Christ adherents, restrictions were placed on eating any such food (Acts 15:29; 21:25), and yet there are indications in early Christian texts that at various times and places, some members of the Christ groups were not willing to give up meat, even that originating from sacrifices (1 Cor 8:1–8; 10:19–21), albeit likely for a variety of social, political, and/or theological reasons. Thus, what is of interest is the manner of theological framing by our writer when he invokes such restrictions. For example, although the Christ group at Pergamum is on the whole faithful to God, the writer identifies some among them who “hold to the teachings of the Nicolaitans” (Rev 2:15), as did some in Ephesus (2:6). Little is known about this particular teaching, which has led to much speculation, although Stephen Moore is able to conclude: The Nicolaitans are best seen as Christian “assimilationists,” who . . . took a relaxed or pragmatic view of Christian accommodation to certain cultural norms, specifically (to cite the practice that elicits the seer’s censure), eating meat in assorted socio-religious settings, whether public settings, such as regular calendric festivals, including those of the imperial cult; or (semi-)private settings, such as banquets or other meals hosted by trade guilds or other voluntary associations or social clubs; or

178   Richard S. Ascough simply eating temple “leftovers”—meat that has been sold in the marketplace after having been sacrificed and partially consumed in the temple cults. (2006, 115–16)

For the writer, the teaching of the Nicolaitans at Pergamum is similar to that of “Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel” (2:14). In that antecedent story, found in Num 22–24, Balaam is contracted by the Moabite king Balak to curse the people of Israel, but Balaam resists and only blesses the people. So it is unclear how Balaam himself is responsible for the ensuing apostasy of the Israelites when they yoked themselves to “Baal of Peor” (Num 25:1–3). Nonetheless, later in the text he is indicted for leading the women astray (31:16), an indictment the writer of Revelation follows in accusing the Nicolaitans at Pergamum of advocating religious apostacy and infidelity. To the Christ group at Thyatira, the words of the risen Christ are at first affirming, until he points to their tolerance of “that woman Jezebel,” whose prophetic teachings are “beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Rev 2:20). In this case, however, there is perhaps more scriptural warrant for the analogy. In the earlier tradition in Kings, Jezebel, a non-Israelite, is the catalyst that causes King Ahab to worship the Semitic deity Baal (1 Kgs 16:31). She murders God’s prophets (1 Kgs 18:4, 13), along with Naboth in order to seize his vineyard (1 Kgs 21:1–14). While it is well within the imagination to think that consumption of meat sacrificed to idols took place as part of Baal worship, this is not explicitly stated in Jezebel’s story. In fact, it is Jezebel herself who is threatened with such by God: “The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel” (1 Kgs 21:23; 2 Kgs 9:10, 36), which comes to pass at Jezreel (2 Kgs 9:33–36). Although food plays an important part in any banquet, equally important is the wine, and thus we need to also examine how the writer evokes drink and drinking elsewhere in Revelation. Probably the best known reference occurs in the message to the Christ adherents at Laodicea, who are chided for their lukewarmness and are to be spit or vomited (emeō) out of the risen Jesus’s mouth (Rev 3:15–16). This critique is aimed directly at the rich and their failure to provide for those of low socioeconomic status (“the wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”; 3:17) and suggests a critique of the banqueting practices in the Roman period, which were the purview of the wealthy elite. Such banquets often included ostentatious displays of exotic foods, drinking games that involved the spilling of wine, and provision of sexual favors by the hired entertainers, which gave them a reputation for drunkenness and excess (Ascough 2018, 213–14). The negative image of drink is intensified later, when God’s wrath is likened to the unmixed wine that is to be drunk by those who worship the beast and receive his mark on their foreheads or hands (14:9–10), a stark contrast to the positive image of banqueting with the risen Christ in the message to the group at Laodicea (3:20). The cautions around feasting and fornication given to the seven assemblies seem to come to a head in the final fight narrated later in Revelation, when the angel shows the author the judgment upon “Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations” (17:5), clearly a cipher for Rome, albeit with links to the Great Mother, whose cult was flourishing in the city at the time (Jeffcoat Schedtler 2017, 66–67). The city itself

Greco-Roman Religions   179 is depicted as “the great whore” who has committed “fornication” “with the inhabitants of the earth” (17:1–2). The negative sexual connotations could not be clearer, but lest the point is missed, she is further depicted as wearing “purple and scarlet,” symbolizing luxury and sexual license, and the cup in her hand, golden, of course, as a sign of excess, is “full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication” (17:4). Her drunkenness is apparent, though it is not caused by alcohol per se but by the “blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus” (17:6). Yet she is not alone in her debauchery; the inhabitants of earth are themselves drunk with the wine of her “fornication” (17:2). The impact of Rome’s libidinous proclivities and intoxicated state are encapsulated by the next angel, who proclaims, “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury” (18:3). And like some of the seven assemblies themselves who are fighting with their enemies, God is taking on and will defeat Rome: “And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, ‘Alas, alas, the great city, Babylon, the mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come’ ” (18:9–10). Feasting and fornication result in this case in the consummate fight, which Rome herself loses to the righteous powers of God. Food and drink are not always bad in the book of Revelation, although their positive properties go beyond mere nutrition. A vision might come through ingestion, as with the case of the “little scroll” that is sweet in the mouth but bitter to the stomach when eaten by the Seer (10:9–11), the juxtaposition signaling the combination of rewards and judgments that are laid out in the succeeding section on the Jerusalem temple and the two witnesses (Rev 11). Nevertheless, as Ulfgard points out, in Revelation food and drink are presented in contrasting imagery (2017, 690–92). While the meals of the righteous are inviting and sumptuous, the unrighteous eat food “sacrificed to idols” or are themselves consumed as part of the meal in which the birds of heaven eat the flesh of the elite, in grotesque imitation of the wedding supper of the Lamb in 19:17–18. And whereas the unrighteous get drunk on wine and fall into fornication, the righteous consume the pure “water of life,” and abstain completely, it seems, from wine. “The absence of any mention of wine in a positive context in Revelation—and even more: the preponderant negative connotations in every instance where wine is mentioned—is noteworthy, even when the blessed and joyful eschatological future is depicted” (2017, 692). Ulfgard suggests that this might reflect a disassociation from the usual patterns of drinking at cultic banquets, or even a move toward early Jewish-Christian asceticism. Perhaps more importantly, those in the city who properly welcome the risen Jesus through correct cult practice and right belief are rewarded with a place beside Christ and shared banqueting fellowship. Thus, there is no need for the Christ adherents in any of the seven cities addressed in the messages, or elsewhere in the book for that matter, to be swayed by aberrant teachers or tempted by somatic experiences of food and drink, for faithfulness will bring about its own banquet (3:20). This is extended toward the end of the book with the beatitude “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of

180   Richard S. Ascough the Lamb” (19:9). In contrast to the feasting, often involving idol-meat, which takes place in the outsider groups, the writer of Revelation holds up the promise to the faithful of partaking in the “tree of life that is in the paradise of God” (2:7), which is later described as spanning both sides of a river and producing twelve kinds of fruit alongside leaves with healing powers for the nations (22:2). Although overindulgence in food and drink is a clear concern, particularly when it involves “idol-meat,” as we have seen, the writer sometimes pairs such excess with sexual license. The connection between polluted meat and fornication is made early in the book, by Balaam in the message to Pergamum and by Jezebel in the message immediately following, addressed to Thyatira. In the latter, the fornication is emphasized, drawing upon the reputation of Jezebel as a “beguiling” (planaō, lit. “deceiving,” Rev 2:20) seductress, whose reputation for “whoredoms and sorceries” did not serve her well when she “painted her eyes and adorned her head” in an attempt to seduce Jehu but ended up being thrown from a window to her death (2 Kgs 9:22, 30). Jezebel’s reincarnation as a prophetess at Thyatira is cause both for temptation and damnation. She has been given time to repent, but she refuses, and in a curious twist, it is Jesus who, pimp-like, makes Jezebel sexually available, declaring, “I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings” (Rev 2:22). The sexual imagery is stark and striking, yet clearly metaphoric, standing in for the worship of deities other than the God of Israel. Thus, for the writer, participation in cult acts in honor of any deity other than the one true God is akin to the social stigma of sexual pollution, though, most egregiously, it is experienced by those initiated into “the deep things of Satan” (2:24). Such teachings are seductive, like Jezebel herself, drawing the participants toward their own damnation, which the faithful not only resist but must actively “conquer” (2:26, 28). In contrast to those who fall prey to fornication with foreign deities, the image of sexual, and thus cultic, purity in Revelation is borne by the one hundred and forty-four thousand who stand before God on Mount Zion to sing a song of worship known only to them: “It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins” (14:4). This figurative number is explicated earlier as coming from the twelve tribes of Israel (7:4–8), but reflects “the totality of God’s people throughout the ages, viewed as true Israelites” (Beale 1999, 733). In a previous study on Greek and Roman religions in the cities of Sardis and Smyrna, I concluded that among the broad range of religious groups there that were typical of most urban centers in antiquity, there was little antagonism between them (Ascough 2005). Coexistence and even some cooperation seem to have been the norm, although competition and conflict could arise, albeit often internally in a group or at least between like groups (e.g., rivalry between different Zeus associations). This makes it all the more striking, then, that the tone of at least five of the seven messages in Revelation reflects language of competition and conflict (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, and Philadelphia). That said, closer examination demonstrates that those who stand in the way of the writer’s perception of true commitment to God are not other religions but, in fact, other types of Christ adherents, as we saw earlier.

Greco-Roman Religions   181 This does not, however, extend to the remainder of the book, where other gods are seen as rivals and competitors, and worthy of God’s ire and ultimately God’s wrath. In particular, the writer imagines Roma and the deified emperor as opponents, although other deities seem also to play their part. For example, behind the images of beasts and monsters and harlots in Rev 12–13 is an amalgam of “Babylonian or Greco-Roman myths about chaos monsters and the divine warrior who destroyed them” that the writer has “adapted and incorporated” (Henten 2006, 182). In the time in which Revelation was composed, this myth was circulating widely in Asia Minor in two primary forms: (1) Apollo, as the one who slays the dragon Python, and (2) the Egyptian deity Seth, who murdered Isis’s husband Osiris and whom the Greek tradition associated with the monster Typhon. Adela Yarbro Collins argues that the visions of chapter  12, in which a mother and her newly born son are given divine aid to save them from the threat of a great monster, bear similarities to other ancient stories, but particularly to that of Leto giving birth to Apollo while being pursued by the monstrous Python (Yarbro Collins 2000, 394). That this myth was well known in the region is seen in “coins depicting Leto fleeing from Python while her children Artemis and Apollo shoot their arrows” (Henten 2006, 186). Such coins were minted at Ephesus and nearby Magnesia on the Meander during the time of Hadrian (117–138 ce), and thus are both geographically and temporally proximate to Revelation. In light of such evidence, Yarbro Collins concludes, “Roman rule was likened to the golden age of Apollo, and various emperors were identified as Apollo manifest or incarnate,” an image John has co-opted for his own argument that Christ will bring about the true golden age (2000, 394; cf. Henten 2006, 201).

Conclusion From cult practices and “food sacrificed to idols” to cosmic combat myths, the book of Revelation contains both clear and oblique references to the deities and the religious practices of the broader sociocultural context in which its readers are embedded. Some of these deities can be identified from the Greek and Roman pantheon, albeit often with local epithets, when we examine how the writer of Revelation imagines Christ adherents engaging with them. Yet the writer of Revelation does not much delineate between Judeans, “pagans,” and Christians when it comes to describing aberrant cult practices and beliefs that he thinks do not cohere with what God wants. Everyone with whom the writer disagrees—individually and collectively—is placed by him into the category of “other” and thus lies outside those who are, in his view, authentically aligned with God through Christ. The faithful Christ adherents are assailed on all sides. Thus, it is difficult to separate out the Greco-Roman religious context of the book of Revelation from the constructed context of the writer himself. There are no hard and fast distinctions in the mind of the author that allow for it within the text. Rather, the hard and fast distinction is between insiders and outsiders, the latter including any and all who participate in cult acts in honor of any other deities, particularly through eating. Such acts are presented as

182   Richard S. Ascough fornication, a betrayal of the true God, yet they are caricatures of the rich and diverse practices of the various cult groups extant in Asia Minor at that time.

References Ando, Clifford. 2008. The Matter of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ascough, Richard  S. 2005. “Greco-Roman Religions in Sardis and Smyrna.” In Religious Rivalries and the Struggle for Success in Sardis and Smyrna, edited by Richard S. Ascough, pp. 25–39. ESCJ 14. Waterloo, CAN: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Ascough, Richard S. (2016). “Paul and Associations.” In Paul in the Greco-Roman World: A Handbook, edited by J. Paul Sampley, vol. 1, pp. 68–89. London: Bloomsbury. Ascough, Richard S. (2018). “Communal Meals.” In The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Ritual, ed. Risto Uro, Juliette Day, Rikard Roitto, and Richard DeMaris, 204–219. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ascough, Richard S., Philip A. Harland, and John S. Kloppenborg. 2012. Associations in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook. Waco TX: Baylor University Press. Batten, Alicia. 2007. “The Moral World of Greco-Roman Associations.” SR 36: 135–51. Beale, G. K. 1999. The Book of Revelation. NIGTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Cadoux, Cecil J. 1938. Ancient Smyrna: A History of the City from the Earliest Times to 324 ad. Oxford: Blackwell. Corsten, Thomas, ed. 1997. Die Inscriften von Laodikeia am Lykos. Inschriften grieschischer Städte aus Kleinasien 49. Bonn: Habelt. de Jonge, Henk Jan. 2002. “The Apocalypse of John and the Imperial Cult.” In Kykeon: Studies in Honour of H. S. Versnell, edited by H. F. J. Horstmanshoff, H. W. Singor, F. T. van Straten, and J. H. M. Strubbe, pp. 127–41. RGRW 142. Leiden: Brill. Faas, Patrick. 1994. Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ferguson, Everett. 1987. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Friesen, Steven J. 1995. “Revelation, Realia, and Religion.” HTR 88: 291–314. Friesen, Steven J. 2001. Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Friesen, Steven J. (2005). “Satan’s Throne, Imperial Cults, and the Social Settings of Revelation.” JSNT 27: 351–73. Hanfmann, G. M. A. 1983. Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times: Results of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis 1958–1975. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Harland, Philip  A. 2014. Greco-Roman Associations: Texts, Translations and Commentary. Vol. 2: North Coast of the Black Sea, Asia Minor. BZNW 204. Berlin: de Gruyter. Hemer, Colin J. 1986. The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Henten, Jan Willem van. 2006. “Dragon Myth and Imperial Ideology in Revelation 12–13.” In The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 181–203. SymS 39. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Hoffmann, Adolf. 1998. “The Roman Remodeling of the Asklepieion.” InPergamon: Citadel of the Gods, edited by Helmut Koester, pp. 41–59. HTS 46. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Greco-Roman Religions   183 Hoz, María-Paz de. 2016. “The Goddess of Sardis: Artemis, Demeter or Kore?” In Between Tarhuntas and Zeus Polieus: Cultural Crossroads in the Temples and Cults of Graeco-Roman Anatolia, edited by María-Paz de Hoz, Juan Pablo Sánchez Hernández, and Carlos Molina Valero, pp. 185–224. Colloquia Antiqua 17. Leiden: Peeters. Hoz, María-Paz de. 1999. Die lydischen Kulte im Lichte der griechischen Inschriften. Asia Minor Studien 36. Bonn: Habelt. Howard-Brook, Wes and Anthony Gwyther. 1999. Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now. Bible and Liberation Series. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis. Huttner, Ulrich. 2013. Early Christians in the Lycus Valley. Early Christianity in Asia Minor 1/AJEC 85. Leiden: Brill. Jeffcoat Schedtler, Justin. 2017. “Mother of Gods, Mother of Harlots: The Image of the Mother Goddess Behind the Description of the ‘Whore of Babylon’ in Revelation 17.” NovT 59: 52–70. Kästner, Volker. 1998. “The Architecture of the Great Altar of Pergamon.” In Pergamon: Citadel of the Gods, edited by Helmut Koester, pp. 137–61. HTS 46. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Moore, Stephen  D. 2006. Empire and Apocalypse: Postcolonialism and the New Testament. Bible in the Modern World 12. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix Press. Nongbri, Brent. 2015. Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Price, Simon R. F. 1984. Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Radt, Wolfgang. 1999. Pergamon: Geschichte und Bauten einer antiken Metropole. Darmstadt, Germany: Primus. Ramage, Nancy  H. 1987. “The Arts at Sardis.” In Sardis: Twenty-Seven Years of Discovery, edited by Eleanor Guralnick, pp. 26–35. Chicago: Chicago Society of the Archaeological Institute of America. Ramsay, William  M. 1994. The Letters to the Seven Churches. Edited by Mark  W.  Wilson. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. Smith, Jonathan  Z. 1998. “Religion, Religions, Religious.” In Critical Terms for Religious Studies, edited by Mark C. Taylor, pp. 269–84. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Stephens, Mark B. 2011. Annihilation or Renewal? The Meaning and Function of New Creation in the Book of Revelation. WUNT II/307. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Thomas, Christine  M. 2004. “The ‘Mountain Mother’: The Other Anatolian Goddess at Ephesos.” In Les cultes locaux dans les mondes grec et romain, edited by Guy Labarre, pp. 249–62. Paris: de Boccard. Ulfgard, Håkan. 2017. “Sharing with the Divine in the Apocalypse: Meals as Metaphors— Concepts and Contexts.” In The Eucharist: Its Origins and Contexts, vol. 1, edited by David Hellholm and Dieter Sänger, pp. 673–95. WUNT 376. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Winter, Bruce W. 2015. Divine Honours for the Caesars: The First Christians’ Responses. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 2000. “The Book of Revelation.” In The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism, vol. 1: The Origins of Apocalypticism in Judaism and Christianity, edited by John J. Collins, 384–414. New York: Continuum.

chapter 12

John’s Apocalypse in Relation to Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity in Asia Minor Paul Trebilco

Christianity in Asia Minor Revelation was written to Christians in seven churches in western Asia Minor (Rev 1:11; 2:1–3:22) toward the end of the first century (C. Koester 2014, 71–79) and reveals a good deal about the life of the Christians in those cities, including some details about a group that John calls the Nicolaitans. By the end of the first century, western Asia Minor was one of the most significant regions for the development of the early Christ-believing movement. Paul had founded churches there, and it seems likely that John’s Gospel and 1–2–3 John were written in Ephesus (Trebilco 2004, 241–63). A number of Christian communities quickly became established and flourished in the region. Does Revelation show any knowledge of or relationship with these other writings and movements? What is the relationship between the author of Revelation and these other forms of Christianity in the wider region?

Revelation and the Seven Congregations From the way John writes in Rev 2–3, it is clear that he was aware of the situation of each of the seven churches. It seems likely that John was an itinerant prophet who traveled around a number of Christian assemblies (1:3; 22:7, 9; Müller 1993, 318).

186   Paul Trebilco

Differing Viewpoints within the Seven Congregations In what he writes, John shows that there are differing viewpoints within the seven congregations. There are some Christians in the seven churches who agree with John theologically. These are readers whom he commends in various ways in Ephesus (2:2–3, 6), Smyrna (about whom John is entirely positive; 2:8–11), Pergamum (2:13), Thyatira (2:19, 24–25), Sardis (3:4), and Philadelphia (about whom John is again entirely positive; 3:7–13). There are other readers with whom John disagrees. This includes the Nicolaitans, but he is opposed to other readers as well. This is seen in the tone of the seven proclamations. John often states: “But I have this against you” (2:4, 14, 20), or “Remember then from what you have fallen” (2:5), or “Remember then what you received and heard” (3:3), or he writes some form of accusation against the community (3:1, 15). This is followed up by a call to “Repent” (2:5, 16, 21–22; 3:3, 19) and then the threat:, “If not, I will come to you” in an act of judgment (2:5, 16, 22–23; 3:3, 16). Notably, John is entirely negative in what he writes to the church in Laodicea (3:14–22). Clearly, much is happening in the life of the seven churches with which John does not agree (Friesen 2005, 353–56). It is very unlikely then that John is writing to “John the Seer groups” of like-minded Christ-believers in each of the seven cities or to some small “prophetic conventicles” that were separate from other Christian groups in their cities, as has been suggested (H. Koester 1971, 155; 1995, 133; Satake 1966, 193; cf. Witetschek 2008, 309–10, 411–14). Rather, he is writing to a whole range of readers in the churches and is aware of the ex­ist­ ence of widely diverse perspectives (Roloff 1993, 8–9; Tellbe 2009, 42; Trebilco 2004, 335–42). There are also those whom John regards as “false apostles” in Ephesus (2:2). It seems likely that they were itinerants, since John’s language suggests that they arrived in Ephesus and were then tested (Aune 1997, 144; Müller 1984, 101–2). We do not know the criteria that John and the Ephesians used to determine that, in their view, they were not apostles. While some scholars have connected these apostles with the Nicolaitans of 2:6 (e.g., Thompson 1990, 123), this is unlikely since John makes no connection between the apostles and the Nicolaitans, and he writes of the testing of apostles being in the past, while the Nicolaitans are presented as an ongoing threat (Aune 1997, 143).

The Nicolaitans John singles out the Nicolaitans as one group with whom he is in particular disagreement. He mentions the Nicolaitans in 2:6 in his letter to Ephesus. In writing to Pergamum, he speaks of “the teaching of Balaam” regarding eating food sacrificed to idols and practicing fornication, and ends by saying, “So you also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (2:14–15). In the writing to the church in Thyatira, we again hear of “practicing fornication” and “eating food sacrificed to idols,” this time in connection with the teaching of Jezebel, “who calls herself a prophet” (2:20–23).

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   187 John closely associates these teachers or sets of teaching: Nicolaitans are mentioned in relation to Ephesus and Pergamum, and food sacrificed to idols and practicing fornication are mentioned in relation to Pergamum and Thyatira. This suggests that one movement is being spoken of here and that Balaam and Jezebel were leaders within the one Nicolaitan group (Blount 2009, 59, 63; Räisänen 1995, 1606–7, 1632; Trebilco 2004, 308–11; cf.; Royalty 1998, 28–34; who thinks different groups are involved). It seems clear that “Balaam” and “Jezebel” are not the real names of the people involved, but are nicknames John uses for them (Räisänen  1995, 1608). A feature of John’s polemic is renaming these opponents with nicknames that allude to Old Testament traditions about figures who are judged by God. In Num 25:1–9, Balaam is linked with idolatry in connection with Baal of Peor and with Israelite men marrying Midianite women (cf. Num 24:14; 31:16; Henten 2008, 247–64). Jezebel is associated with idolatry and with false prophets (1 Kgs 16:31–34; 18:4, 13; 19:1–3; 21:23–25; 2 Kgs 9:22, 30–37). This renaming presents these opponents as condemned by God for their actions and beliefs (Carter 2009, 33–34). It seems likely that the Nicolaitans have not gained a following among the Christians addressed in Ephesus, since the Ephesian Church is said to share in John’s hatred of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6). However, at Pergamum some “hold to the teaching of Balaam” (2:14), while in Thyatira the church is said to “tolerate that woman Jezebel” (2:20), and “those who commit adultery with her” will be judged (2:22). However, “the rest of you” in Thyatira are said not to hold to her teaching (2:24). Clearly, some Nicolaitans are within rather than outside the assembly of the addressees in both Pergamum and Thyatira. Although John regards Balaam and Jezebel as entirely wrong, he does call the Nicolaitans in Pergamum to repent (2:15–16), and in the past, he has given Jezebel time to repent but she has refused to do so (2:21). This shows that John regards them as erring Christians who can repent, and not Christians who are entirely beyond hope. As far as John is concerned, the Nicolaitans are a rival Christian group (Thimmes  2009, 72–82). They have at least one teacher (Balaam) and one prophet (Jezebel), and they probably justify their teaching through prophecy (MüllerFieberg 2009, 92–93). They have followers (2:15, 22–23), who are described as Jezebel’s “children” (2:22–23). They have been active (but rejected) in one church (Ephesus) and are represented within two other churches (Pergamum and Thyatira), which suggests that they are itinerant, or at least mobile. John clearly regards them as a rival group that poses a very serious threat. John’s charge against the Nicolaitans was that they ate food sacrificed to idols and practiced fornication (2:14, 20), both actions with which John totally disagrees. “Fornication” in Revelation is almost always to be understood metaphorically as a reference to idolatry (e.g., 17:2, 4; 18:3), which is its most likely meaning here (Boxall 1998, 207–8; Müller-Fieberg 2009, 91–92). The Nicolaitans probably participated in some way in the actual worship of idols. This could have been during meetings of associations or trade guilds. Or they may have participated in cultic meals in pagan temples; or perhaps they took part in festivals for various deities, as well as in the imperial cult (Friesen 2001,

188   Paul Trebilco 157). The charge that in addition to this they were eating food sacrificed to idols suggests that they were also involved in consuming idol-meat in one or more of these contexts, or in their own homes. Why would the Nicolaitans have been involved in situations that John regarded as idolatrous, and why would they have eaten idol-meat? In the context of the all-pervasive cultic worship of the Greco-Roman city, in which dimensions of religion permeated all aspects of social and cultural life, the Nicolaitans could no doubt point to many advantages that accrued to Christians who participated in pagan worship and in festivities in their cities. They could then advocate full involvement in social, political, economic, and religious life, with positive consequences for the church’s reputation and for evangelism. By contrast, non-participation would certainly lead to severe economic, social, and political disadvantages (Boxall 2004, 147–51). In response, John rules against idolatry and eating idol-meat in any situation and so argues for no accommodation with the life of the Greco-Roman city (Barr 2011, 3–4; cf. Carter 2009, 34–39). The call in 18:4 in relation to Babylon, which is Rome, to “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins” is also John’s call to his readers to separate from idolatry and hence to distance themselves, in ways that are not made explicit, from the life of the Greco-Roman city. Further, the polemic in Rev 4–22 against idolatry and the imperial cult can be seen as John’s continued argument against the Nicolaitans.

Pauline and Johannine Christianity Both Pauline and Johannine Christian communities became established in western Asia Minor prior to Revelation being written. We will discuss this evidence in turn.

Pauline Churches in Asia Minor and Revelation Paul founded churches in Asia Minor, and Pauline texts and Acts give evidence for the activities of Paul and his associates in Ephesus, Colossae, Hierapolis, Laodicea, Troas, and elsewhere in western Asia Minor (1 Cor 15:32; 16:8–9, 19–20; 2 Cor 1:8–10; 2:12; Col 2:1; 4:13–16; Phlm 1–25; Acts 13:13–14:25; 16:1–10; 18:24–20:38; cf. Ephesians). It is almost certain that 1–2 Timothy were written to readers in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3; 2 Tim 1:18; 4:12), probably by a Pauline disciple, between 80–100 ce (Trebilco 2004, 197–209). They show that the Pauline tradition continued to have an impact in the area. Ignatius writes to Ephesian Christians around 110–115 ce and in Eph. 12:2 he states that the members of the community to which he wrote in Ephesus were “fellow initiates of Paul,” making it clear that the memory of Paul and his ministry remained alive in the area (cf. Ign. Rom. 4:3 and the Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, which almost certainly

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   189 originated in Asia Minor; Barrier 2009, 21–22). This leads us to ask whether there is any discernible relationship between Revelation and Paul’s letters. There are possible connections between Revelation and Pauline tradition. The epistolary introduction in Revelation resembles the introductions to Paul’s letters; the exact wording of Rev 1:4 (charis hymin kai eirēnē apo; “grace to you and peace from . . . ”), for example, is found in Paul (Rom 1:7b; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2b; 2 Thess 1:2; Phlm 3). Similarly, the concluding greeting of “grace” in Rev 22:21 resembles formulas in Paul’s writings (1 Cor 16:21–24; Gal 6:18; cf. 2 John 13; 3 John 15). In both cases, Revelation may be reflecting standard practice among Christian letter writers (which may go back to Paul as the originator of the now-customary formulae), and so John may be dependent on Christian tradition or contemporary practice rather than influenced by Paul himself. There are a number of other similarities of thought or expression between Revelation and Paul, such as the phrase “in the Lord (en kyriō),” found in Rev 14:13 and forty-seven times in the Pauline corpus (e.g., Rom 14:14; 16:2; 1 Cor 4:17), but never elsewhere in the New Testament. An important difference between Paul and Revelation is that, whereas Paul saw himself as an apostle (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 9:1–2), John wrote of “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14), clearly referring to the twelve as a closed circle (cf. Rev 18:20; Lohse 1991, 360; Taeger 1998, 188; Tellbe 2009, 195). Given the lack of any direct quotation of or allusion to Paul’s letters we cannot argue for direct dependence of John on Paul or that John was consciously influenced by Paul (Goulder 1994, 89–90; Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 122–25, argues that Revelation is within the Pauline stream, but this is highly unlikely; see Boxall 1998, 198–205). But the similarities do suggest that John may well have been familiar with the Pauline tradition, which was clearly influential in Asia Minor (C. Koester 2014, 83; Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 94–95, 114–56). There is a possible connection between the Nicolaitans and Pauline tradition. The issue of food offered to idols emerges in 1 Corinthians. This has led to the suggestion that the Nicolaitans may have had some connection to Pauline Christianity, perhaps as those who were similar to the Corinthian “strong,” who seem to have regarded eating idolmeat as acceptable in most circumstances, and with whom Paul reasons in 1 Cor 8 and 10 (e.g., Müller-Fieberg 2009, 93–95; Räisänen 1995, 1627–31). Paul argues that Christians can eat idol-meat provided they do not offend weaker brothers and sisters (8:7–13). Further, he argues that if the meat is not clearly linked with idolatry, it is acceptable to eat it, unless it offends someone’s conscience (10:23–30), and that, although the gods represented by idols do not exist, idolatry is demonic and eating meat in a Greco-Roman temple would therefore condone the worship of demons (10:14–22). It is possible, then, that the Nicolaitans might have had some connection with Pauline tradition, and perhaps distorted or radicalized Paul’s teaching. If the Nicolaitans did have some connection with Paul, and if their involvement in “idolatry” included some form of participation in the imperial cult (as well as other Greco-Roman cults), then we also note that in Rom 13:1–7, Paul states that Christians

190   Paul Trebilco should be subject to governing authorities because these were established by God, and that 1 Tim 2:1–2 calls for prayer for the emperor. Written to readers across western Asia Minor, 1 Pet 2:13–17 also exhorts them to accept the emperor’s authority (Carter 2009, 37–39). Perhaps arguments similar to those presented by these texts were used by the Nicolaitans to justify their involvement in “idolatry.” This leads me to suggest a tentative answer to the question of why Paul’s theology and Pauline tradition are not more evident in Revelation. If John’s opponents, the Nicolaitans, saw themselves as heirs of Pauline theology or were an offshoot of Pauline Christianity (Boxall 1998, 215–18), and if they perhaps used Paul’s writing to support and justify their accommodationist stance in the Greco-Roman city, then we can understand why John does not more clearly allude to Pauline tradition. To do so would be to play into the hands of John’s opponents, who could well use such allusions to argue that their approach to idolatry and idol-food had Paul’s support. It seems reasonable to suggest then that John avoided referring to Paul because Paul was influential among John’s opponents (Trebilco 2004, 621–25). John’s general reserve about the Pauline tradition would then be entirely understandable (Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 122; Taeger 1998, 195–98). This suggestion is also in keeping with the continuing influence of Paul in Asia Minor.

Johannine Christianity and Revelation A strong case can be made that John’s Gospel and the Johannine letters were written in Ephesus. The external evidence from Papias, Irenaeus, Polycrates, The Acts of John, and Montanism favors Ephesus as the place where John’s Gospel was written (Trebilco 2004, 241–63). Given the very strong connections between the Gospel and the Johannine letters, it seems most likely that 1–2–3 John were also written in Ephesus to Christians in the area. Further, in his Epistle to the Philippians 7:1–2, probably written around 115–120 (Trebilco 2004, 263–71), Polycarp of Smyrna shows his knowledge of 1 John 4:2–3 and 2 John 7. This is the oldest clear allusion to 1–2 John for which we have evidence and shows that before 115–120, the Johannine letters are known near Ephesus, which supports an Ephesian provenance. There are a number of similarities and differences between Revelation and John’s Gospel and letters and the relationship between these documents has been much debated (Frey in Hengel 1993, 326–429; C. Koester 2014, 80–83; Prigent 2001, 36–50). For example, Jesus is called the Logos in John 1:1, 14; 1 John 1:1; and Rev 19:13, and John’s Gospel and Revelation share particular phraseology such as to “prepare a place” (John 14:2–3; Rev 12:6). However, there are also significant differences, such as the use of the verb “to believe” (pisteuein) over one hundred times in John’s Gospel but no occurrences in Revelation, whereas Revelation has four occurrences of “faith” (pistis), which the Gospel never uses. Given this situation, it seems most likely that there is no direct or special relationship between the Gospel and 1–2–3 John on the one hand, and Revelation on the other. Craig Koester (2014, 81) argues that these “different authors developed biblical and early

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   191 Christian traditions independently of one another,” and that we should think of “independent developments of traditional motifs.” But equally, given the similarities between the Gospel and Revelation, it is unlikely that John the author of Revelation was totally unaware of John’s Gospel or, given the probable dating of the different documents, at least of the Johannine tradition that became part of the Gospel and Letters. While there is no direct “family” relationship between Revelation and the Gospel, and John in writing Revelation was not directly influenced by the Gospel, this does not mean the author of Revelation was totally ignorant of the content of Johannine Gospel tradition. That he had some familiarity with it seems most likely.

The Spectrum of Christian Readers Envisioned by Revelation I have noted that it is clear from Rev 2–3 that John knows there are differing viewpoints within the seven congregations. He is not simply writing to like-minded Christians. Now I will develop this argument and will show that as he writes the whole of the book of Revelation, John is aware of some readers who will agree and some who will disagree with his theological stance. This is compatible with the view that John is aware that there is a broad range of perspectives among his readers, and that he is familiar with a wide range of Christian traditions. In particular, I suggest that in Revelation, John is addressing all Christians in western Asia Minor, including those in both the Pauline and Johannine traditions (see the section Acculturation, Assimilation, Accommodation). Further evidence of John’s attitude to his readers is found in Rev 4–22 when what John says is occasionally addressed directly to his readers in the seven churches (13:9–10; 14:12; 16:15; 18:4). In these passages, John calls for his readers to “listen,” “endure,” and “hold fast”; he thinks some are in danger of going to sleep, or going about naked, and that they need to “[c]ome out of her,” with reference to Rome. John also stresses that his book is a prophecy (prophēteia) in 1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19. Although he does not explicitly claim to be a prophet, he does so implicitly when he calls other prophets his “brothers” (22:9) and in the very fact that he writes a “prophecy.” In addition, through the two call narratives included in the book (1:9–20; 10:8–11:2), John claims to mediate divine revelation from Jesus Christ to the seven churches. These narratives legitimate John as the receiver of revelation and show that he wanted his readers to accept his book as a revelation from Jesus Christ. In view here is probably the fact that one of his key opponents, Jezebel, calls herself a prophetess (2:20). Further, John regularly refers to what he sees or hears in visions and auditions from various heavenly sources (e.g., 1:1, 10–13; 4:1), and John’s message contains the words of Christ (Rev 2–3; 22:16) and is declared to be reliable by God (21:5; 22:6; Müller 1993, 313–14; Nicklas 2010, 309–26). This emphasis on mediating divine authority (cf. 22:18–19) and on legitimating his message can be seen to counter opponents and to be designed to convince a variety of readers of the veracity of what John says (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 138). To quite some extent then, John stands over against a whole group of his readers, as did the prophets of Israel, although he does so not on his own authority but as the bearer

192   Paul Trebilco of divine revelation. He has known opposition in the past (2:14–15, 20–23), and he does not now anticipate an easy hearing. Ongoing conflict is clearly apparent (Aune 2006, 187). In conjunction with our discussion of Pauline and Johannine traditions, this evidence supports the view that John addresses a whole range of Christians who belong to differing traditions.

Acculturation, Assimilation, Accommodation As I have noted, Revelation was written to churches in western Asia Minor toward the end of the first century, a time when 1–2 Timothy, representing Pauline tradition, and 1–2–3 John, representing Johannine tradition, were also written to Christians in the same geographical area. Accordingly, Revelation, 1–2 Timothy, and 1–2–3 John can be usefully compared on a range of topics. This will help us to understand how Revelation stands in relation to Pauline and Johannine forms of Christianity in the area. Building on what I have already said, I will argue that Revelation expresses different attitudes to both the Pauline and Johannine traditions on a number of matters, and that Revelation can be seen to be addressed to all Christians in the areas to which it is sent. This also explains why John can be seen to write to readers having a range of views, and why he anticipates that many readers will disagree with him on a variety of topics, and hence emphasizes so strongly that he mediates divine revelation. Comparisons between Revelation, 1–2 Timothy, and 1–2–3 John can be made with regard to the issues of acculturation, assimilation, and accommodation. Acculturation refers to “the linguistic, educational and ideological aspects of a given cultural matrix” (Barclay 1996, 92). This includes matters of language, values, intellectual traditions, and cultural ideals. Assimilation refers to the level of social integration, and it includes social interactions and practices and points to the degree to which a group is integrated into, or holds apart from, its wider context. Accommodation refers to the use a group makes of “cultural tools,” such as language and frameworks of thought, and relates to whether a group seeks to build bridges with the wider culture or defensive walls against that culture (Trebilco 2004, 351–53). I will draw on 1–2–3 John here rather than John’s Gospel, since I do not think features of the life of a particular community can be read from the Gospel, which I take to be written to all Christians, and not just to one community (Bauckham 1998).

Disputed Questions In order to compare 1–2 Timothy, 1–2–3 John and Revelation with regard to the issues of acculturation, assimilation, and accommodation, two disputed issues will be con-

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   193 sidered here: the attitude to food that had been offered to idols, and the attitude to imperial rule.

Whether It Was Acceptable to Eat Food Sacrificed to Idols In 1–2 Timothy, the Pastor (as I will call the author of these letters) says nothing directly about the issue of idolatry or eating idol-meat, which do not seem to be matters of concern. The Pastor is, however, quite acculturated, to the extent that he uses language that is very much at home in the wider world, such as eusebeia (“godliness, piety”; cf. Hoklotubbe 2017) and epiphany language, which is used to express his Christology, and he emphasizes some of the same virtues (such as the sōphrōn, “self-control,” word group) and leadership qualities as the wider culture (Goodrich 2013, 77–97). The Pastor is also involved in the wider society to the extent that he is concerned about what outsiders think of the group, and he is anxious not to cause offense (1 Tim 3:7; 6:1). He seems predominantly, though not exclusively, to use acculturation in integrative ways (cf. Maier 2013, 143–95; Trebilco 2004, 354–84). With regard to 1–2–3 John, although 2–3 John closely follow the form of the Hellenistic private letter, the communities seem quite cut off from the world and use their own inhouse language. The very last sentence in 1 John (5:21), may be a reference to real idols, which may suggest that at least some of the readers were currently involved in such idolatry or that the author thought they might be tempted to revert to paganism. This could suggest a degree of assimilation on the part of the addressees, but it would be the only indication of such assimilation. In Revelation, John accepts no participation in idolatry, nor any eating of meat that has been offered to idols. John does demonstrate some acculturation, in that he knows some of the wider cultural myths, such as the combat myth, used in Rev 12. However, he argues for no involvement in Greco-Roman paganism and so shows a very low level of assimilation; he uses acculturation to build defensive walls. As has been noted, the Nicolaitans regarded it as acceptable to eat idol-meat. They are both acculturated and assimilated to quite an extent, since they are involved in actual pagan worship, and they have been using their acculturation to build bridges with the wider society. With regard to attitudes to the wider society, we can see from Revelation that many of the communities appear, from John’s perspective, to be made up of two or three “tendencies.” Behind the issues of eating idol-meat and “practicing immorality” is the wider issue of the attitude toward cultural and religious accommodation. John represents a “non-accommodationist stance” while the Nicolaitans represent the opposite attitude. Where do the communities addressed in Revelation stand on this issue? The Nicolaitans have their strongest influence in Pergamum and Thyatira but have been much less successful in Ephesus, where the Nicolaitans may have existed as a separate group. Judging by the tone of the proclamations, and as noted previously, John has allies

194   Paul Trebilco in Ephesus (2–3, 6), Smyrna (2:8–11), and Philadelphia (3:7–13); some in Thyatira (2:19, 24–25); a few in Pergamum (2:13) and Sardis (3:4), and none in Laodicea (3:14–20). This spectrum, which consists of active opponents of John, active supporters and those in between, is highly revealing. In light of this, Aune (2006, 188) writes with regard to “those in between”: The majority of Christians, however, seem to belong to a centrist tendency or party, which has not yet moved into the camp of the Nicolaitans, but which (from John’s perspective) has departed from the works done at first (2:5), or whose works are imperfect in God’s sight (3:2), or who are neither cold nor hot (3:15f.). If this centrist party dominated most of the churches of Asia Minor, these congregations would clearly have provided a battleground for the divinely-legitimated movements led by John on the one hand and “Jezebel” and the Nicolaitans on the other.

This “centrist tendency,” which espouses neither cultural accommodation nor strict nonconformist behavior, is probably in the majority, or at the least, is a very significant presence, in most of the churches. What this means is that John has a battle on his hands as he tries to convince his readers about issues like not eating idol-meat. This situation makes sense of the fact that John cannot presume that he will receive a positive hearing, but rather presents his message so carefully as having divine authority. It also means that we cannot equate John’s attitudes on a whole range of matters with the attitudes to these matters to be found among his readers. In fact, John’s attitudes are likely to be quite different from the attitudes of some of his readers (Harland 2000, 116–20; Friedrich 2002, 189). All this again suggests that John addresses a wide spectrum of Christian readers in western Asia Minor. He is in a deeply conflictual situation with the rival group of Nicolaitans, but among his readers are also a very significant number of Christians who disagree with him or do not see things as he does, as well as some whom he can wholeheartedly commend. This evidence of a spectrum of responses from strong disagreement to strong agreement, with a number of readers in-between these extremes, can be seen to testify to a diversity of Christian groups in western Asia Minor, including, we may suggest, those in both the Pauline and Johannine traditions, who can be seen to have some attitudes that are different to John’s, as I have argued here. John writes to readers of different persuasions because he wants to convince them about idolatry, about his view of the wider culture and about the dangers that culture poses.

Attitudes toward Imperial Rule Another disputed question concerns attitudes toward imperial rule. What attitudes to imperial rule do we see in 1–2 Timothy, 1–2–3 John, and Revelation? In 1–2 Timothy, we hear nothing directly about the imperial cult. However, in 2 Tim 2:1–4, the Pastor calls for prayers to be made for “everyone,” but then calls for prayer especially “for kings and all who are in high positions” (Hoklotubbe 2017, 68–79). Clearly, prayers are

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   195 to be offered to God for the emperor, particularly that he may have an impact for peace, not for unrest or worse. By contrast, there is no mention of the empire or of kings in 1–2–3 John, and nothing in the three letters gives us any hint of the attitude of the author to imperial rule. In Revelation, John is strongly opposed to imperial rule and to the imperial cult (e.g., Barr 2009, 20–30; Frey 2006, 231–55; Friesen 2005, 367–73). In Rev 9:20–21 judgment is pronounced on idolatry and “fornication,” and the beast who is said to be worshipped in 13:4, 8, 12, and who represents imperial power, is later judged (19:19–20). In 14:9–11, judgment is announced on those involved in the imperial cult, and one reason for the judgment of Babylon/Rome in Rev 17–18 is her idolatry. It is also said that behind the first beast stands the great dragon or serpent, who is Satan (12:9; 13:2; 20:2). So when people worship the beast they are, in reality, worshipping Satan. This makes another connection with Jezebel, who is said to teach “the deep things of Satan” in Thyatira (2:24). Clearly then, John is implacably opposed to the imperial cult, and can rightly be seen as anti-empire. Accordingly, there is a strong contrast between the attitude to imperial rule shown in 1–2 Timothy and Revelation. As with eating meat offered to idols, there is a spectrum of attitudes, and the Pastor and John the Seer represent quite different views. This again suggests that John addresses a wide spectrum of Christian readers in western Asia Minor.

Community Life There are contrasting attitudes to a range of features of community life in 1–2 Timothy, 1–2–3 John, and Revelation. I have argued that John anticipates that a number of his readers will disagree with him. The evidence of a range of views on the features of community life discussed here further substantiates the suggestion that John’s addressees include readers in the Pauline and Johannine traditions as they are represented by 1–2 Timothy and 1–2–3 John respectively, as well as other readers. In addition, these discussions seek to outline what we can say about some of the features of community life of these different stands of early Christianity in western Asia Minor.

Material Possessions Significant stratification with regard to wealth is clear in 1–2 Timothy (Hoag 2015; Malherbe 2014, 507–57; Trebilco 2004, 404–45;). Some among the addressees are rich (1 Tim 2:9; 6:17–19); a few are potentially destitute (“real widows”; 1 Tim 5:3, 5 16); and some are in-between, such as those who can support family members (1 Tim 5:4), heads of households (1 Tim 3:4–5, 12), and those who want to be rich (1 Tim 6:9–10). The community also has some funds for the support of widows and elders (1 Tim 5:9–13, 17–18). This would have had the effect of increasing the solidarity of the group, since the community could make a real difference for some of its members through its financial resources. If it had been unable to support widows in particular, a situation that the Pastor was

196   Paul Trebilco concerned about, then this would have been an embarrassment for the group and would have undermined its self-confidence. Wealth functioned positively in the group to enhance the sense of belonging and of group identity and to reinforce the boundaries of the group. When in 1 Tim 6:18 the Pastor instructed the wealthy to do “good works,” it is likely that this included financial help for people outside the group, since the community is very open to outsiders and to what outsiders think (1 Tim 3:7; 5:7, 14; 6:1), and the Pastor speaks in very general terms of “good works” (2 Tim 2:21; 3:17). This would have had the effect of opening the group to the interests and needs of those on the outside. While the communal fund enhanced the group’s solidarity, wealth was not only used to reinforce group boundaries then. In some ways, wealth reinforced the boundaries of the group; in other ways, its use countered internal boundaries by opening the group up to the needs of outsiders. We cannot say much about the stratification of the community addressed in the Johannine Letters, apart from the fact that some in this community were in need and others were able to supply that need (1 John 3:16–18), and some could also provide hospitality (2 John 10–11; 3 John 5–8). In these cases, people need be neither wealthy nor actually destitute. The author also advocates detachment from possessions (1 John 2:15–17). Material possessions seem to be used within the community, and so for boundary reinforcement (3:16–18) and in-group boundary definition (2 John 10–11; 3 John 5–8). This contrasts with the wealth we see among the readers of 1–2 Timothy and the use of material possession beyond the group in those letters. There are indications that some of the readers of Revelation were economically wealthy (Rev 3:17–18, Laodicea), while others were poor (2:9, Smyrna; Mathews 2013). Revelation 18, with its pronouncement of judgment on Rome, suggests that some Christians among the addressees may have been involved in trade with Rome, and so Rev 18 is a call for them to sever all economic and political ties with the empire (Kraybill 1996, 14, 23). John himself sees an unavoidable connection between economic activity and idolatry (Rev 13:16–17). John’s fervent condemnation of wealth (13:16–17; 18:1–24) and his call to withdraw from the present economic system (18:4) suggests that many of his readers did not see wealth or the economy as linked directly to idolatry and empire, and John wants to convince readers that wealth and involvement in the economy is an issue, and thus change their views (Frey 2006, 253–55). If John is writing to all the Christians in western Asia Minor, as I have suggested, and is aware of Christians in the Pauline and Johannine traditions and other Christians too, some of whom have some wealth, then we can understand why John would so vehemently address the issue of wealth and its link with idolatry.

Leadership and Authority Another issue on which we can compare 1–2 Timothy, 1–2–3 John, and Revelation is the leadership structure of the addressees, and how they understood the locus of authority (Trebilco 2004, 446–506).

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   197 In 1–2 Timothy, we see established church offices of presbyter-overseers (which is probably one office rather than two; see 1 Tim 3:1–7; 4:14; 5:17–25; Tit 1:5–9), and of deacons (1 Tim 3:8–13). There is a significant degree of institutionalization in the community, in that there are established and formal leadership positions and office holders who fulfill particular functions by virtue of being in an office (5:17). Further, someone can “aspire to the office of overseer” (3:1); there are lists of qualifications for those who would hold a particular office (3:1–13); a potential office holder is tested prior to taking office (3:10; 5:22); and there is a form of ordination (4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). The locus of authority among the addressees resides primarily in “sound” or “healthy teaching” (1 Tim 1:9–11; 4:6; 2 Tim 1:13), which is itself connected to Paul (1 Tim 1:12–13; 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11), and it is envisaged that this teaching is passed on from one authoritative tradition-bearer to another (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:13; 2:2; cf. 2:24; 3:14). These authoritative teachers have been carefully selected, taught, and commissioned; they have a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the community (Stepp 2005, 111–207; Zamfir 2013, 138–51). In 1 John, no leadership position of any form is mentioned. In 1 John 2:26 we read that “the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you,” which dovetails well with the fact that there is no evidence in 1 John for anyone holding the position of “teacher.” The locus of authority in 1 John is, first of all, in God and the Christ-event (1:1–4). There is some sense of the authority of the author, who calls his readers “little children” (2:1, 12) and “children” (2:14, 18), but often the author places himself within the community by writing about “we” and “us” (e.g., 2:1, 7–8, 12–14; 4:7). The author does not stand above the community but sees his place as alongside other members. The primary locus of authority is the community, as is made clear in what the author writes about witness, generally borne not by a group but by the whole community (4:14, 16; the only exception is 1:1–5), about the anointing (2:20–21, 26–27), and about knowledge of what was “from the beginning,” which is shared by all in the community, who are all tradition bearers (2:7; 3:11). The predominant sense of the locus of authority that we gain from 1 John is thus of the collective authority of the community, with the individual authority of the author of 1 John being very much a subsidiary factor. In 2–3 John, “the elder” has a sense of his own authority and has authority in some spheres (e.g., with Gaius; 3 John 1), but it is not an authority based in an institution or appointed office. This is demonstrated by the dispute between the elder and Diotrephes in 3 John, a dispute in which the elder clearly lacks institutional authority, even though Diotrephes is in some sense within the elder’s personal sphere of influence, or at least so the Elder hopes (3 John 10). This is probably because the form of personal authority on which the elder relies—tradition-bearing, and thus something relating to him ­personally—is easily disregarded. The locus of authority in 2–3 John is in the “tradition” (2 John 5–6, 9–10; 3 John 1, 3–4, 8, 12), and although the elder seems to have significant responsibility for the tradition, the community also has some responsibility for its maintenance and so to some extent continues to be a locus of authority, as was the case in 1 John.

198   Paul Trebilco In Revelation, John the seer does not refer to any local and resident office holders, such as bishops or deacons, and the “elders” (presbyters) who are mentioned are heavenly beings, who seem to have no relationship to leadership structures in the churches (Rev 4:4, 10; 5:5–8). The apostles who are mentioned are not residential leaders of churches in Asia Minor, while prophets seem to be active in the seven churches (11:18; 16:6). It seems most likely that John intentionally did not mention local, residential church officials, since his role as a prophet transcended local community concerns and his message was directed to the whole church and not just to its leaders. John tells us very little about local church structures, not because these were not present, but because he emphasized the supralocal character of saints, apostles, and prophets and chose not to articulates with whatever form of leadership existed among his addressees (Witulski 2015, 55–86). The locus of authority in Revelation is focused on the divine revelation that the book presents, described as the revelation that God gave to Jesus Christ (1:1–2), or the words of the risen Christ (e.g., 2:1, 8, 12), as well as the communication of the Spirit (1:10; 4:2) and what John sees and hears (1:19; 21:5). As I have noted, the strong emphasis on the divine authority of the book (1:3; 22:18; Nicklas  2010, 309–26) suggests that some of John’s readers may have rejected its authority, probably because they valued some other form of authority, such as that of office, community, or tradition. Overall, then, we see very significant differences in both the form of leadership and the locus of authority in 1–2 Timothy and 1–2–3 John; we cannot discern details of actual leaders “on the ground” in Revelation, and so the book may well be addressing a range of different leadership structures. That the locus of authority in Revelation is found in divine revelation also does not mean this is the only form of authority found among readers, particularly since the way John emphasizes the divine authority of his work suggests that precisely this form of authority will be contested by some readers. Again, then, it is quite likely that some of the readers of Revelation valued other forms of authority and included readers in both the Pauline and Johannine traditions.

Conclusions I have suggested that, as he writes, John is aware of Christians from the Pauline and Johannine traditions, as well as other Christians, such as the Nicolaitans. We cannot say that John is directly influenced by Pauline and Johannine traditions, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest that John was aware of and familiar with these varied traditions. In Revelation, John does not directly quote such traditions, but it seems likely that he adapts them in his own distinctive way. While it is possible that John in Revelation wrote to “John-the-Seer-communities,” the evidence that John knows that many of his readers will disagree with him, and his call for many to “repent,” and so on, strongly suggests that John is writing to all Christians in western Asia Minor. Some readers will agree with him, while others,

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   199 including the Nicolaitans, will definitely not agree, and there are still others whom he is seeking to persuade. This view is reinforced by our discussion of features of early Christian life evident in 1–2 Timothy, 1–2–3 John, and Revelation: the attitudes to idolatry and imperial rule, material possessions, leadership, and the locus of authority. In all these areas, the evidence available to us is compatible with the view that John writes to people who either have a range of views on these matters or to people who see things differently from himself. Hence, we can suggest that John writes to some readers who are in the Pauline tradition, as it is represented by 1–2 Timothy, and others who are in the Johannine tradition as it is represented by 1–2–3 John, as well as writing to others, such as the Nicolaitans, who have different views again. The way in which John underlines the source of his revelation in God, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit and the way in which he emphasizes the importance of heeding what is written in the book can be understood against this background.

References Aune, David. E. 1997. Revelation 1–5. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word. Aune, David. E. 2006. “The Social Matrix of the Apocalypse of John.” In Apocalypticism, Prophecy and Magic in Early Christianity: Collected Essays, edited by David Aune, pp. 175–89. WUNT 199. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Barclay, John M. G. 1996. Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 Bce–117 ce). Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Barr, David. 2009. “John’s Ironic Empire.” Int 63: 20–30. Barr, David. 2011. “Idol Meat and Satanic Synagogues: From Imagery to History in John’s Apocalypse.” In Imagery in the Book of Revelation, edited by Michael Labahn and Outi Lehtipuu, pp. 1–10. CBET 60. Leuven: Peeters. Barrier, Jeremy W. 2009. The Acts of Paul and Thecla: A Critical Introduction and Commentary. WUNT II/270. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Bauckham, Richard, ed. 1998. The Gospels for All Christians: Rethinking the Gospel Audiences. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Blount, Brian K. 2009. Revelation: A Commentary. NTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Boxall, Ian. 1998. “ ‘For Paul’ or ‘For Cephas’? The Book of Revelation and Early Asian Christianity.” In Understanding, Studying and Reading. New Testament Essays in Honour of John Ashton, edited by Christopher Rowland and Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, pp. 198–218. JSNTSup 153 Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Boxall, Ian. 2004. “ ‘Jezebel’ of Thyatira to John of Patmos.” In Yours Faithfully: Virtual Letters from the Bible, edited by Philip R. Davies, pp. 147–51. London: Equinox. Carter, Warren. 2009. “Accommodating ‘Jezebel’ and Withdrawing John: Negotiating Empire in Revelation Then and Now.” Int 63: 32–47. Frey, Jörg. 2006. “The Relevance of the Roman Imperial Cult for the Book of Revelation: Exegetical and Hermeneutical Reflections on the Relation between the Seven Letters and the Visionary Main Part of the Book.” In The New Testament and Early Christian Literature in the Greco-Roman Context: Studies in Honor of David E Aune, edited by John Fotopoulos, pp. 231–55. NovTSup 122. Leiden: Brill.

200   Paul Trebilco Friedrich, Nestor P. 2002. “Adapt or Resist? A Socio-Political Reading of Revelation 2.18–29.” JSNT 25: 185–211. Friesen, Steven J. 2001. Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins. New York: Oxford University Press. Friesen, Steven J. 2005. “Satan’s Throne, Imperial Cults and the Social Settings of Revelation.” JSNT 27: 351–73. Goodrich, John K. 2013. “Overseers as Stewards and the Qualifications for Leadership in the Pastoral Epistles.” ZNW 104: 77–97. Goulder, Michael. 1994. A Tale of Two Missions. London: SCM Press. Harland, Philip  A. 2000. “Honouring the Emperor or Assailing the Beast: Participation in Civic Life among Associations (Jewish, Christian and Other) in Asia Minor and the Apocalypse of John.” JSNT 77: 99–121. Hengel, Martin. 1993. Die johanneische Frage: Ein Lösungversuch mit einem Beitrag zur Apokalypse von Jörg Frey. WUNT 67. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Henten, Jan Willem van. 2008. “Balaam in Revelation 2:14.” In The Prestige of the Pagan Prophet Balaam in Judaism, Early Christianity and Islam, edited by George H. van Kooten and Jacques van Ruiten, pp. 247–63. TBN 11. Leiden: Brill. Hoag Gary G. 2015. Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy: Fresh Insights from “Ephesiaca” by Xenophon of Ephesus. BBR Supplements 11. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns. Hoklotubbe, T.  Christopher. 2017. Civilized Piety: The Rhetoric of “Pietas” in the Pastoral Epistles and the Roman Empire. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Koester, Helmut. 1971. “gnomai diaphora: The Origin and Nature of Diversification in the History of Early Christianity.” In Trajectories through Early Christianity, edited by Helmut Koester and James M. Robinson, pp. 114–57. Philadelphia: Fortress. Koester, Helmut. 1995. “Ephesos in Early Christian Literature.” In Ephesos: Metropolis of Asia: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Its Archaeology, Religion, and Culture, edited by Helmut Koester, pp. 119–40. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International. Kraybill, J.  Nelson. 1996. Imperial Cult and Commerce in John’s Apocalypse. JSNTSup 132. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. Lohse, Eduard. 1991. “The Revelation of John and Pauline Theology.” In The Future of Early Christianity: Essays in Honor of Helmut Koester, edited by B. A. Pearson in collaboration with A. Thomas Kraabel, George W. E. Nickelsburg, and Norman R. Petersen, pp. 358–66. Minneapolis: Fortress. Maier, Harry  O. 2013. Picturing Paul in Empire: Imperial Image, Text and Persuasion in Colossians, Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Malherbe, Abraham. J. 2014. Light from the Gentiles: Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity. Collected Essays, 1959–2012. 2 vols. Edited by C. R. Holladay, J. T. Fitzgerald, and J. W. Thompson, and G. E. Sterling. NovTSup 150. Leiden: Brill. Mathews, Mark D. 2013. Riches, Poverty and the Faithful: Perspectives on Wealth in the Second Temple Period and the Apocalypse of John. SNTSMS 154; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Müller, Ulrich B. 1984. Die Offenbarung des Johannes. ÖTK 19. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn and Würzburg: Echter, 1984.

Johannine, Pauline, and Other Forms of Christianity   201 Müller, Ulrich B. 1993. “Apocalyptic Currents.” In Christian Beginnings: Word and Community from Jesus to Post-Apostolic Times, edited by Jürgen Becker, pp. 281–329. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Müller-Fieberg, Rita. 2009. “Paulusrezeption in der Johannesoffenbarung? Auf der Suche nach dem Erbe des Apostels im letzten Buch des biblischen Kanons,” NTS 55: 83–103. Nicklas, Tobias. 2010. “ ‘The Words of the Prophecy of This Book’: Playing with Scriptural Authority in the Book of Revelation.” In Authoritative Scriptures in Ancient Judaism, edited by Mladen Popovic, pp. 309–26. JSJSup 141. Leiden: Brill. Prigent, Pierre. 2001. Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Räisänen, Heikki. 1995. “The Nicolaitans: Apoc. 2; Acta 6.” In ANRW II/26.2: 1602–44. Roloff, Jürgen. 1993. The Revelation of John. CC. Minneapolis: Fortress. Royalty, Robert M. 1998. The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998. Satake, Akira. 1966. Die Gemeindeordnung in der Johannesapokalypse. WMANT 21. Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany: Neukirchener. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress. Stepp, Perry L. 2005. Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle. New Testament Monographs 5. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix. Taeger, Jens-W. 1998. “Begründetes Schweigen: Paulus und paulinische Tradition in der Johannesapokalypse.” In Paulus: Apostel Jesu Christi, Festschrift für Günter Klein, edited by Michael Trowitzsch, pp. 187–204. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Tellbe, Mikael. 2009. Christ-Believers in Ephesus. A Textual Analysis of Early Christian Identity Formation in a Local Perspective. WUNT 242. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Thimmes, Pamela. 2009. “ ‘Teaching and Beguiling My Servants’: The Letter to Thyatira (Rev. 2.18–29).” In A Feminist Companion to the Apocalypse of John, edited by Amy-Jill Levine, pp.  68–87. Feminist Companion to the New Testament and Early Christian Writings 13. London: T & T Clark International Thompson, Leonard  L. 1990. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. Trebilco, Paul  R. 2004. The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius. WUNT 166. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Witetschek, Stephan. 2008. Ephesische Enthüllungen 1: Frühe Christen in einer antiken Grosstadt Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Frage nach den Kontexten der Johannesapokalypse. BTS 6. Leuven: Peeters. Witulski, Thomas. 2015. “Bishof contra Prophet: Das kleinasiatische Christentum des 2. Jahrhunderts zwischen lokaler Verfaßtheit und universaler Freiheit.” ETL 91: 55–86. Zamfir, Korinna. 2013. Men and Women in the Household of God: A Contextual Approach to Roles and Ministries in the Pastoral Epistles. NTOA 103. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Pa rt I I I


chapter 13

G od i n th e Book of R ev el ation Martin Karrer

I.  Who Is God? The Variety of Perspectives Who is God? The illustrious early Byzantine dictionary Suda, in the entry for theos, differentiates between Jewish-Christian tradition and Greek tradition (Adler 1931, 698–699 nr. Theta 178). It quotes Philo of Alexandria as an exponent of Jewish tradition. Philo, who lived some decades before the book of Revelation was composed, writes, “God is one” (heis esti ho theos; Philo, Spec. leg. 1.30; cf. Deut 6:4 LXX). According to the Suda, his theology allows tying up Christological and Trinitarian reflections. The Greeks, on the other hand, reflect upon their religious cults in terms of philosophical doctrine, according to the Suda. The Suda quotes an old Stoic summary as their position (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 7.147): “The Greeks think that God is an immortal living being, rational (zōion athanaton logikon) . . . the creator (dēmiourgos) of everything and like a father to all (patēr pantōôn) . . . he is called by many names (pollai prosēgoriai) according to his powers (dynameis).” Whoever utilizes the distinctions made in the Suda will locate Revelation’s understanding of God within the Jewish context (Bauckham 2003; Holtz 1980; McDonough 1999; Söding 2001; Stowasser 2015a; Vögtle 1976; Wengst 2010, 95–104). There are good reasons to do so: Revelation is deeply rooted in Jewish traditions. The writer argues theocentrically (Murphy 1994, 202–3) and introduces God explicitly as he “who is,” the God of Exod 3:14 (Rev 1:4). Revelation takes up images and visionary scenes from Jewish prophetic and apocalyptic traditions (Rösel 2017) and uses a variant of the ancient combat myth (Rev 12; Yarbro Collins 1976). It provides a contrast to Greco-Roman life and religion, and praises God for his acts of judgment against the whore of Babylon (e.g., Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 181).

206   Martin Karrer Yet Revelation’s interaction with its religious and social context is complex. The author is responding more to a perceived crisis than to an objective, external crisis of Christianity (Yarbro Collins 1984; 1986, 239–41). He picks up various forms of religious interactions, and even his opposition against Greco-Roman conceptions presupposes contact. Hence, Revelation participates in the complex religious, cultural, and social history of the early imperial Roman period. It must be read in the context of its time, correlated with monotheistic and polytheistic developments (Mitchell and van Nuffelen 2010; Rüpke 2012), and related to the religious life of the era. The famous formula “he (God) is one” (heis esti), quoted by the Suda, may serve as an example. In general, Judaism and early Christianity use the formula as a distinctive concept. The New Testament scriptures, apart from Revelation, assume that the formula can be predicated of the one God of Israel and no one else: “He is one” (Mark 12:29, 32; Gal 3:20: Jas 2:19; 4:12). Revelation, however, does not use the formula in its description of God, and the author may react to Greek thought by that peculiarity, since the Greeks knew an equivalent to that confession. For centuries, they had handed down the formula, “one god, greatest among gods and human beings” (heis theos . . . megistos, Xenophanes frag. B 23). In imperial Roman times, pagan worshippers used the acclamation heis theos for the “one god” whom they revered in an actual situation (sources in the Addenda to Peterson by Markschies et al. 2012, 367–580). This god was their unique god in that situation; the goddess possessed individuality and imparted individuality to the worshippers in their prayer (e.g., Aelius Aristides, Hieroi Logoi 4.50–51). Many Christians will clear up the matter in the second and third centuries by adding a Christological formula to the acclamation heis theos (Staudt  2011, 304–6). They will reclaim “the one” as a monotheistic and Christian creed. Revelation, however, develops a special sense of religious competition. It uses the idiom ho heis estin (the one who is) in a critical way in the seventeenth chapter, where a beast with seven heads appears. The seven heads are seven kings; five have fallen, “the one is” (ho heis estin, 17:10). In our author’s view, the sixth king—probably the Roman emperor of his time—claims to be “the one,” which makes him analogous to figures of cultic veneration. He claims power and requires reverence similar to the gods of the Greeks. All in all, a classical formula describing God (ho heis, “the one”) proves to be part of wider patterns of religious and sociopolitical rivalries. These contexts shape the task of the present chapter: The book of Revelation expresses its thoughts about God in a way that is not only oriented internally to the community. It transfers the Jewish-Christian understanding of God from inner-Jewish and innerChristian use into a much wider interreligious struggle over meaning. Therefore, the following discussions will trace Revelation’s perspective on God in Jewish traditions and against the background of Greco-Roman life and religions. The author of Revelation is convinced that the Jewish-Christian God is distinctive by his names and his power (Tetragrammaton/IAO, Kyrios, Pantokratôr, the Enthroned One), even if aspects of his names (see sections II and III) and motifs of his narrative description (section IV) are familiar to other religions too.

God in the Book of Revelation   207

II.  The Name of God: Tetragrammaton and Kyrios Who is God? As we saw, the formula “he is the one” is not sufficient in the interreligious struggle over meaning. There is no doubt that in Revelation the one God of Israel demands an awe that is sui generis. His name in Hebrew and in Greek shows his uniqueness from the outset. That name is non-interchangeable and makes the highest claims to divine existence, creativity, and power: 1.  The name of God has four Hebrew letters: YHWH. Some Greek scribes wrote that Tetragrammaton in Hebrew letters even in Greek manuscripts of the sacred texts (8HevXII; P.Oxy L 3522; McDonough 1999, 58–122; cf. Wevers 2001). The early Christians knew of this convention up to the time of Origen (Comm. Psalms 2.2) and Jerome (Prol. Galeatus), but they themselves did not spell the name. They preserved the Hebrew sound only by the short form “Yah” (the theophoric element) in proper names and idioms. We find both aspects, the theophoric element in a proper name and a loanword, in Revelation. The importance of the theophoric name is debatable: The seer calls himself Joḥannēs (1:1.4.9; 22:8), that is, “Yah(we) is full of grace”, and discloses God’s grace up to the wish of 22:21 (grace may be to all humanity). Yet, he does not translate his name himself. It would be wrong to stress it. The loanword is the more important: The book of Revelation offers the earliest written documentation for the use of the “Hallelujah” in Christianity and it is the only source to do so in the New Testament. Rev 19:1–6 introduces this Hebraism after the fall of Babylon the Great (chap. 18). The author transliterates the Hebrew expression “HalleluJah,” “praise Yah(we).” Readers unacquainted with Semitic languages need help for understanding the word. Our author provides it by replacing the transliteration with the Greek imperative “praise (aineite) our God” in 19:5, which follows a precedent in the LXX (Jer 20:13 LXX). A marginal gloss in minuscule 2814 (the codex used by Erasmus for the first printing of the New Testament) shows the relevance of the impulse. In the Greek transmission of Revelation, the Hallelujah becomes an exclamation consisting of three terms. The glossator, therefore, writes the idiom “al ēlē ouia,” differing form the Hebrew root. But he adds that God speaks the Hallelujah parallel to the community in Hebrew language (fol 71r ad Rev 19:3; urn:nbn:de:bvb:384-uba003076-0143-3, used 2018/09/17). The remembrance of the Hebrew language preserves the old sense (“divine praise,” noted in the line of the manuscript besides the gloss). That means that the author of Revelation wrote in Greek for Greco-Roman readers, and yet he implicitly reminds them that through the centuries the God, whom they revere, has a Semitic name: Yah(we) is the God mighty in wrath and grace, deserving respect and praise.

208   Martin Karrer 2.  Greek-speaking Jews generally did not use the Semitic form of the name. They preferred a Greek equivalent, Kyrios (“Lord”), which corresponds to the word Adonai in the Hebrew Scriptures (Rösel 2000). The Greek Scriptures of Israel often combined this name and the designation “God” (theos, Hebrew ’elohim). Where Kyrios represented the Tetragrammaton, they wrote it without the definite article. The author of Revelation likes the resulting idiom. He writes Kyrios ho theos in 1:8; 4:8; 18:8; 19:6; 21:22; and 22:5. Most English translations transpose the article and render it as “the Lord God.” This is misleading, since “the Lord” becomes an apposition instead of a name. The phrase “Kyrios, the God” may sound strange but it is more correct. A paraphrase makes good sense: Revelation discloses that “Kyrios, the God,” whom we venerate, “speaks” (1:8), “is holy” (4:8), etc. At the same time, our author knows the semantics. He includes the definite article with Kyrios in 22:6, emphasizing that God is “the Lord” in a full sense, speaking through the prophets. Kyrios, the God is mighty and effective. 3.  The semantics of “Kyrios, the God” culminate in Rev 4:11. There, the twenty-four elders expand our phrase for the sake of rhythmic acclamation. They add the article to Kyrios, along with a connecting kai and a pronoun: “Worthy are you, the Lord and the God of us” (ho kyrios kai ho theos hēmōn; I imitate the Greek word order in the translation). That expanded text recalls the rhetorical question of Ps 18:32: “who is God, but the Lord (YHWH), and who a rock, except our God?” The author of Revelation, however, does not refer to the Hebrew Psalm text. He uses the old Greek translation (the Septuagint) of the Psalm, since he writes in Greek for Greek-speaking addressees. The translation avoids the image of the “rock” and reads “who is God, but the Lord (kyrios), / and who is God, except the God of us” (Ps 17:32 LXX)? The decisive elements of the Greek psalm (kyrios and theos hēmōn) and the word order (hēmōn after theos) have counterparts in the acclamation of Rev 4:11. A reader will conclude: Our God, Kyrios, alone is worthy; there is no other lord, and no other god. A reader born outside of Christianity and Judaism will have additional connotations when going on to line four of the acclamation. The line says that all is created “through” (dia) God’s will. Dia is a name of Zeus. That allowed for religious contacts; centuries earlier, the letter of Aristeas had already paralleled God “the creator”—the God of the Jews—and Zeus/Dia of the Greeks from a Jewish perspective (Zēna kai Dia; Ep. Arist. 16). But how should the connection and competition be construed? At the time of Revelation’s composition, the Roman writer Cornutus makes a word play in his compendium on the Greek gods using the name and the preposition dia: “We call him Dia (Zeus) since through (dia) him everything comes into being and is preserved (sozetai)” (Nat. d. 2.2). The author of Revelation presents a counter. He is convinced that Kyrios, the God of Israel and early Christianity, outcompetes Zeus by his creative will and power (Karrer  2015, 60). Later on, in the beginning of the great Hallelujah, he adds the motif of preservation (cf. sozein in Cornutus) and writes: “Hallelujah! The salvation / preservation (sōtēria) and the glory and the power (dynamis) belong to our God.” The Jewish-Christian God, Kyrios, is a God of power and universal importance, whose claims surpass those of Zeus. The correlation between name

God in the Book of Revelation   209 and power, articulated by the Suda for the Greek understanding of God (see § I), fits the comprehension of God in Revelation as well. 4.  A second contrast in the acclamation, “Worthy are you, the Lord and the God of us,” in 4:11 is more widely known. Greek documents used the widespread title “lord” for Roman emperors (e.g., documents of the “Fiscus Judaicus”: Vespasian CPJ 160; Titus CPJ 181; Domitian CPJ 189, 193). People acclaimed the emperors “worthy” (cf. Josephus, J. W. 7.71; Koester 2014, 371). The Romans honored them like gods after their death and apotheosis; and most of the provinces called them “god” even during their lifetimes. Hence, the socio-religious point of our verse engages imperial ideology. This contrast is secondary to the contrast with the Olympic Zeus in 4:11, but it is of considerable interest. Ancient authors criticized Domitian, who probably reigned at the time Revelation was composed, for his exaggerated imperial ambitions. The sources culminate in Suetonius, Dom. 13:2. There Suetonius charges that Domitian dictated a letter and sent it in the name of his procurators using the formula: “Our lord and god (i.e., Domitian) bids” (dominus et deus noster . . . iubet; Mucha 2015, 186–89; cf. Witulski 2010, 68–72 who dates Revelation later, under Hadrian). One may doubt the historicity of this letter and similar reports (Cassius Dio, Rom. Hist. 64, 4:7; Dio Chrysostom, Or. 45:1). The sources are somewhat later than Revelation and scholars have improved the image of Domitian in recent years. Yet the literary analogy cannot be ignored. Suetonius uses the phrase dominus et deus noster for his criticism of Domitian, corresponding exactly to the Greek text of “our Lord and God” in Rev 4:11. For a long time that observation was combined with the idea that John was an outlaw, who was stigmatized and persecuted. That opinion, however, can be challenged. John could have been on Patmos as a witness for the word without being persecuted (Rev 1: 9; cf. Karrer 2017, 243–47). If so, then, the literary observation is sociologically even more interesting: The author of Revelation writes his work at the margins of society but not outside of it. He is part of the complex anti-imperial opposition that existed in Rome and the provinces up to the second century. 5.  The connection of kyrios and motifs of kingly reign is widespread in antiquity; Cornutus uses it in his description of Zeus, who is said to reign/basileuein (Nat. d. 2.1). Philo elucidates “Lord” (kyrios) by “govern” (kratein) and “royal power” (basilikē dynamis) for the God of Israel (Abr. 121). Rev 15:3–4 underscores the motif by using language from Jer 10:7. The passage is missing in the Old Greek (LXX) of Jeremiah, but it appears in Hebrew and the Greek version of Theodotion, which is from about the time of Revelation: “Who will not fear (you), king of the peoples?” Theodotion goes on, “where is there anyone like you, Kyrios, among all the wise men and all the kings of the peoples?” This rhetorical question praises the God of Israel as the God who reigns universally and is important for all people in the world. Such universalism has a place in apocalyptic expectations, embedded in the question: what happens if the people in the world reject God’s reign? The usual apocalyptic response is to anticipate a turning point in time and hope for a new world. The author of Revelation transfers that idea into a Greek context. He frames a hymn that combines the

210   Martin Karrer quoted prophetic reminiscence and a psalm in the Greek language. A song he ascribes to Moses and Christ the Lamb (15:3a) confirms that “Kyrios, the God” is “the king of the peoples,” which includes the non-Jewish population in Asia Minor, where the addressees live, as well as “the nations” everywhere (15:3). When asking who will not fear him and praise his name (15:4), the details depend upon the Greek texts of Jer 10:7 and Ps 85:9 LXX (de Vries 2010; Hernández 2012, 95–98). Greek communication has prominence in Rev 15:3–4. As a consequence, the text sounds optimistic (“all the nations will come and worship,” 15:4). 6.  God is and will be the universal king. That counters everybody thinking that Zeus reigns (see Cornutus in the beginning of point 5). Indeed, Zeus sometimes bore the attribute “king” in the Greek world, as in the cult of Lebadeia. Besides, local cults revered indigenous “kingly” gods in many places. Thus, some inscriptions in Asia Minor are dedicated to a god called “king” (e.g., Inscr. Priene 186). It is not clear whether these gods were always identified with Zeus at the time Revelation was composed. A mythical local king might also be deified (e.g., Strabo, Geogr. 14.1.26; Inscr. Miletus 1384; Graf 2010, 74–77). When we consider the Roman Empire, there too people are familiar with kings in heaven and kings on earth. Even the Roman emperor is called “king” in Greek. But Revelation rejects venerating any of them by a religious cult. Instead, people are to praise “Kyrios, the God,” as King of the nations all over the world. 1–6 (Summary). The author of Revelation contours the profile of the Jewish-Christian God by the dint of his name: God’s name proofs that he is awful, mighty, and gracious. He is greater than the Greco-Roman gods, Zeus-Jupiter, and all heroic and political kings. This negates any claims about a human apotheosis.

III.  Designations of God: He who is, the Creator, Iaō and AŌ, Father, and Pantokratōr God has one name (YHWH, Kyrios), and yet, many designations. These designations (the Suda would say prosēgoriai; cf. § I) are elaborated in translations and transliterations of the name, in predicates and paraphrases: 1. The consonants of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) recall the Hebrew verb hāyah, “to be”; God uses that verb when Moses asks him for his name (Exod 3:13). The Greek translation uses the corresponding verb (einai). The rendering of the name in Exod 3:14 was difficult, nevertheless, since the Hebrew form hāyah could be rendered as present or future tense: “I am who I am” or “I will be the one I will be.” Hellenistic Jews usually favored one interpretation or the other. The Old Greek translator chose the present tense with a durative aspect: “I am he who is” (egō eimi ho ōn) and the

God in the Book of Revelation   211 shorter form “he who is” (ho ōn) for the name of God (Exod 3:14 LXX). Later translations of Exodus, dating from about the time of Revelation, preferred the future tense: “I will be (the one) I will be” (esomai [hos] esomai; Aquila and Theodotion; ms. 64 Ra.). Both possibilities existed at the time of the first Christians. But neither Paul nor other authors before Revelation referred to them. Therefore, Revelation becomes very important for the Greek tradition of the name of God in Christianity. It holds the first occurrence of the solemn quotation in extant early Christian literature. Our author decides against the Aquila-Theodotion version of Exod 3:14 and opens with an allusion to the Old Greek version in order to name God programmatically as “He who is” (ho ōn) in Rev 1:4. Moreover, our author writes ho ōn in the nominative, as opposed to the normal Greek syntax, where the preposition apo (“from”) would demand the genitive case in 1:4. He uses the name indeclinably; that is comparable to the Hebrew use of names. The Greek name of God holds a Semitic background. Some exegetes imagine a dialogue in Rev 1:4–5 (cf. Vanni 1976). Then it conveys additional connotations. The reader of Revelation (anaginōskōn 1:3) says, “Grace and peace be with you from,” and the community answers, “He who is.” The community which lives in a Greek context (the Asia) is allowed to articulate a Greek understanding of God. Nevertheless, the present durative verb tense refers more to history than to ontology; it shows that the name is continuously relevant: God “is” now and always. 2.  The Greek participle ōn (“the one who is”/“he who is”) of Exod 3:14 LXX and Rev 1:4 is a personal predication written in the masculine. This gives a personal quality to the communication, which is important. Plato had made the neuter participle to on (“the being”), which is abstract and nonpersonal, a fundamental category in Greek philosophy. It is uncertain but possible that the Septuagint translator was acquainted with that philosophical tradition. Consciously or unconsciously, he deviated in favor of the personal sense. His version, the masculine ho ōn, shaped statements about the uniqueness of Israel’s God in the following centuries. The preference for the masculine continued indicating that Israel’s God is definitive for all that is and has “being” in the ontological sense, though, he himself is neither abstract nor neuter. He communicates personally, unlike the philosophical on (cf. Caquot 1978, 19–20; Rösel 1998, 55–56; McDonough 1999, 131–37). Philosophers of the first century ce were aware of the difference. Philo of Alexandria, as a Jew, preferred the masculine ho ōn (Abr. 121; Mos. 1.75), whereas the Roman philosopher Seneca used the neuter; he explained the meaning by referring to the Latin paraphrase “that which is” (quod est; Ep. 58,11–12.16–22). The author of Revelation follows the Jewish approach. He distances himself from an abstract ontology while keeping in contact with philosophical reflections. 3.  The author’s complex interaction with his environment continues as he expands the temporal aspect of the idiom ho ōn (“he who is”/“the one being”): The Greeks liked tripartite statements. They developed a “Drei-Zeiten-Formel,” since time embraces past, present, and future (McDonough 1999: 41–57). Our author conveys a significant variant of the formula in Rev 1:4: God is “He who is” (present participle) “and was” (ēn, imperfect finite verb), “and is coming” (erchomenos,

212   Martin Karrer present participle); there is nothing in the present or the past without him (“he was,” ēn; 1:4.8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5). The structure of the formula is comparable to ontological reflections from Plato (Tim. 37e–38a) to Plutarch (E Delph. 19). At first glance, we are close to philosophical perspectives. On the other hand, our author knows of the biblical interest in God the creator (cf. Koester 2014: 116–17, 367–71). He quotes a great praise of the God who has created all what is in 4:11 (ektisas) and expands that idea Christologically (3:14; 5:13). One may note the difference of the verb used by him (ktizein) to Gen 1:1 (epoiēsen) and to Greek philosophy (cf. dēmiourgos in the Suda, § I). Read in Biblical contexts, his verb accentuates that God is “the creating founder of heaven and earth” (thus the first reference of ktizein [Hebrew qānah] in Israel’s scriptures, Gen. 14:19, 22, picked up in Rev 10:6). Compared to the Greek use of the verb, God lays the basis for life in past and present (ktizein e.g., means founding a city). He who was and is can go on to a new creation. 4.  The most interesting, however, is the third term of the formula in 1:4. Anyone knowing the translations of Exod 3:14 from about the time of Revelation would expect the future indicative “he will be” (esetai) or the future participle “the one who will be” (ho esomenos). The author of Revelation, however, avoids the future tense and thus differs from the most common form of the “Drei-Zeiten-Formel.” There may be religious competition in the background. Pausanias, Descr. 10.12.10 refers to the exclamation “Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus will be, oh great Zeus” (Zeus ēn, Zeus estin, Zeus esetai, ō megale Zeus). The sense is that the highest god of the Greeks embraces the modes of being throughout all times. He, Zeus, will be. He will exist forever. In the formula the god’s “being” is not related to anyone else. Revelation differs: The personal God constitutes and dominates all times. But he does not persist in himself. He is “coming” personally and to others. Nonetheless, the wording in Revelation has philosophical implications: Aristotle used the tenses of the verb “to come” (hēkein) in his famous deliberations concerning time (Phys. 4.10–14, esp. § 222a). If we follow this line of thought, a real future must be expressed by the grammatical future: “he will come.” But Revelation does not use the future tense. Its use of the grammatical present highlights another aspect of the event. It presupposes that “the one who is coming” has departed. He is already on the way. In Revelation God is now coming to the addressees (1:4) and to the entire world (cf. 1:8; 4:8). This understanding of God touches the apocalyptic horizon of Revelation. The new heaven and the new earth are nearby in space and time (21:1–22:5). The coming break in time is so close that we can almost speak of a present eschatology in Revelation (Karrer 2015, 78–79; Karrer 2017, 198–99, 214–15). This has surprised commentators since the sixteenth century. Theodore Beza, therefore, proposed altering the text in his famous edition. He inserted the future “he who will be” (esomenos) into the text of Rev 16:5 to fit the “Drei-Zeiten-Formel.” Although lacking support from a manuscript of Revelation (but cf. Exod 3:14 Aquila/Theodotion), his text found its way into the King James Version, which reads, “O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be”—a charming expression of the temporal aspects of Exod 3:14 that is unique in the Bible, but is contrary to the original intention of Revelation.

God in the Book of Revelation   213 5.  Greek philosophers were not interested in the Semitic sound of the name YHWH, but some people liked it in kinds of popular religious life . The name spread from Judaism to non-Jewish contexts in the form that was spoken, that is, as a name consisting of vowels. Iaō, became the most common form. Jews utilized this spelling sometimes, as can be seen in the Greek Leviticus scroll found near Qumran (Lev 4:27 LXX in 4Q120, frg. 20; cf. Lev 3:12 in frg. 6 of the scroll = 4QLXXLevb; first cent. bce, fragmentary). Greeks were acquainted with the pronunciation and spelling from the first century bce onwards (Diodorus Siculus, Library 1.94.2). Romans knew it as well and related it to “Chaldean mysteries” from about the same time (Varro according to Johannes Lydus, Mens. 4.53.40). A name consisting only of vowels fascinated people. It looked very powerful. Hence, it was often used in magical incantations (PGrM IV, 593; XXXVI, 35–36; CVI,1–10 etc.; Fauth 2014: 5–36; McDonough 1999, 58–122). There is good evidence that the author of Revelation was aware of these practices. He himself associated the name, perhaps, with the seal that bears God’s name, of 7:2 (cf. 14:1; Aune 1998a, 452–54; 1996). Yet his interest was to ensure that Greeks would not incorporate Iaō into their magic and the pantheon of polytheism (IŌ evoked Seth; cf. Merkelbach 1996: 320–21). Rev 1:8 elucidates that matter. There God presents himself by saying “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Given the way the vowels of God’s name are embedded in a sentence, speaking them in an incantation is not allowed. But the name is visible: see the three vowels of Iaō in italics. The initial iota is reflected in the “I am” (egō eimi), which is followed by the alpha and omega. That means that God alone “is” in the strict sense; every rival god and goddess is irrelevant. 6.  The letters Alpha and Omega are the beginning and end of the Greek alphabet and an abbreviation for all vowels (cf. Aune 1997, 57). By using them to identify God in 1:8, the writer emphasizes the breadth of God’s power. He brings to mind that the alphabet was used for writing, speaking, and counting in antiquity. Since the letters were used to form words and numerals, his implication is that every human thought, every communication, every reflection, and every numeric calculation involves God’s presence. God is the beginning and the end of human life, and he is equally the beginning and the end of wisdom and logic. The author of Revelation emphasizes that breadth of God’s influence by using the formula “Alpha and Omega” as a literary frame for the book around the visions. God presents himself as the Alpha and the Omega at the beginning in 1:8, where the formula follows the first visionary image (1:7). At the end of the book, God again calls himself the Alpha and Omega in 21:6, adding that he is “the beginning and the end” (Aune 1998b, 1126–1127). This verse then leads to the last vision, the heavenly Jerusalem (21:9–22:5). Thus, God covers the revelation reported in John’s book as well as all human comprehension. The name Iaō and the formula “Alpha and Omega” relate to one another. The name of God expresses his universality. The first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph and taw) would also fit this interpretation, but that is of less importance (cf. du Rand 2009). 7.  The attribute “father” was widespread in ancient reflections on the highest god (cf. the Suda in I, Zeus as father, Dīs-pater etc.). The Greco-Roman culture might even have

214   Martin Karrer used it in a wordplay together with the “A and Ō.” A palindrome was excavated in Pompeii-Herculaneum speaking of Sator (Saturn?). This non-Christian “Sator-RotasSquare” can be read as “pater noster” (“our father”)/“A Ō” if one transposes the letters (Ernst 1991, 429–49). Revelation does not presuppose this palindrome (for recent examples, see the Internet s.v.). Nevertheless, a typological comparison to the palindrome and to the attribute of Zeus is worthwhile: Rev 1:6 remarks (two verses before the A and Ō) that God is the “father” (patēr) of Christ (cf. 2:28; 3:5, 21; 14:1; Huber 2015, 144–45.), and 22:13 (the end of the text) transfers the A and Ō to Christ. At the same time, Revelation avoids the expression “our father” throughout. Hence, Revelation combines the “A and Ō” with Christology rivalling ancient religions (Karrer 2015, 70–72). It reinforces the distinctiveness of the Jewish-Christian tradition Christologically, not via the famous prayer “Our Father.” 8.  The Hebrew Scriptures expanded the name of God to “Yahwe (Lord) Sabaoth” about 285 times. Some Jewish translators rendered the phrase as “Lord of the (heavenly) hosts” (Kyrios tōn dynameōn, 2 Kgdms [2 Sam] 6:18). Others combined Greek and Hebrew, creating Kyrios Sabaoth (Isa 45:13, 14 LXX). Still others preferred to paraphrase the idiom as Lord, the almighty God (Amos 3:13 and often in the Minor Prophets) or Lord Almighty (Kyrios pantokratōr, Hab 2:13). Some early Christians adopted the archaizing form Kyrios Sabaoth (Rom 9:29, Jas 5:4). The author of Revelation, however, favors the expression pantokratōr (cf. 2 Cor 6:18), enabling him to assert God’s uniqueness and power in Greek contexts: The Greeks had used the attribute pankratēs (“almighty”) for Zeus since Aeschylus (Eum. 918). Even the noun pantokratōr, “the Almighty,” was not totally strange to them, as some scholars thought earlier. The feminine form of the noun was used for Isis before the time Revelation was composed (SEG VIII 548,1–3), and the masculine form was later used for Zeus (I. Nikaia 1121; 1512). Thus, the author of Revelation competes with Greco-Roman cults by calling God “the Almighty one” (nine times). He is sure that Israel’s God alone has the powerful government. Moreover, he implicitly counters the Roman emperors; for they were called by a similar composite noun: autokratōr was the Greek equivalent for the Latin imperator (“emperor”; Plutarch, Galba 1–2), literally meaning that the emperor reigns “by himself ” (Greek autos). By way of contrast, the God of Israel and the early Christians reigns over “all” (Greek panta); the universal aspect of the title pantokratōr elevates him over the autokratōr (Zimmermann  2007, 238–40, 266–67; more cautiously Stowasser  2015b, 151–53). 9.  The attribute “Pantokratōr” (God the “Almighty”) is normally derived from kratein with a genitive object and designates the Almighty in a strong sense (omnipotens) that includes God’s ability to destroy (cf. the wrath of God in 16:14; 19:15). On the other hand, kratein can be constructed with an accusative object; that construction expresses also the power for conservation and giving good things (omnitenens). The latter sense is actualized in Ep. Aristeas 185, where a Jewish priest wishes that God the Almighty (pantokratōr) might bless someone with the good things he has created (ektisen). Revelation also includes those connotations (cf. Bauke-Ruegg 1998, 369–72), since 4:8

God in the Book of Revelation   215 designates God as “Almighty” and 4:11 praises him as creator (cf. § 3); no verse of the throne vision mentions God’s ability to destroy. However, our author does not fully integrate both meanings and constructions of kratein (with. gen. or acc.). He does not resolve the tension in his visions between God’s creative and destructive capacities, God’s graciousness and judgment. Rev 21:22, the last reference to pantokratōr, leads to a contradiction; 21:24–25 speak of open doors and invite to the heavenly Jerusalem, 21:27 however excludes everybody who is unclean. It seems that our author is torn between his hope for all humanity (cf. § II 1 concerning 22:21) and the shock that many people and powerful humans reject the God of Israel and his Christ. The pantokratōr is in his view, therefore, a warrior (cf. the tradition of Sabaoth/hosts) as well as a savior. The violent images serve the goal of removing all evil from the world (Bauckham/Hart 1999, 140; cf. Spilsbury 2007, 143). We can understand them against the background of the Greco-Roman interest in the powers of a great God (cf. the dynameis in the Suda § I); but for God the creator and preserver, the line of grace must win the priority, sometimes against our author (Bachmann 2002, 19–21, 182–92; cf. Karrer 2015, 73–75). 1–9 (Summary). The author of Revelation construes the name of God (IAŌ) and ­central predications (creator, father, almighty) in response to the challenges of his time. Some of his motives, the ho ōn as well as the IAŌ and AŌ are singular in the New Testament. Thus, our author’s idioms and images have an outstanding quality. In remembering the Suda (cf. I), we can say: he declares and clarifies the Jewish understanding of God within a Greco-Roman context.

IV.  God in the Narrative: The Enthroned One, Unique Against the Foreign Gods, Saving and Judging The book of Revelation narrates visions and auditions in a very complex way. The author combines the tradition of the vision report with the form of vivid image description, the ekphrasis (cf. Whitaker 2015). The first idou, “see” (1:7), of the ekphrasis even foregoes the first eidon, “I saw” (1:12), and the last idou, “see,” is spoken by Christ after all the visions (22:12; the last eidon, “I saw,” is found ex ante, in 21:22). As a result, a sequence of heavenly signs forms the body of the work in Rev 4–22. Such signs call for interpretation and reaction. Some aspects complete Revelation’s understanding of God: 1.  A thoroughgoing element of the narrative is the image of God’s throne. The author of Revelation draws on the motif from 1:4 onwards and discloses it in chapter 4. That chapter is built like a vision (eidon 4:1), but the sketch of the throne is formed as an ekphrasis (idou, see 4:2). The next eidon, “I saw,” does not follow until 5:1, the section of the  text speaking of the heavenly Christ. Theologically, the author of Revelation

216   Martin Karrer differentiates between the explication of God’s presence and Christology. Christ can be seen (chap. 5); God must be described in a vivid and yet abstract imagery, since he is personally invisible. That peculiarity in the descriptions allows for building up a soteriological suspense lasting to the last vision: The saved ones will see God personally, face to face; that is to be found in the sketch of the heavenly Jerusalem (22:4). Thus, the saved ones will see more than John on Patmos. They will encounter God on his throne and the lamb (arnion) immediately in a holy worship (image of the throne in 22:1.3). They will belong to God and Christ unreservedly, as shown by God’s name on their foreheads (22:4). The understanding of God has a soteriological aim and is joined by Christology. 2.  The description of chapter 4 (Gallusz 2014, 21–76, 95–141; Schimanowski 2002; Tóth 2006, 196–218) refers to the first chapter of Ezekiel (merkabah), that had influenced apocalyptic and mystical texts before (1 En. 14:18–23; QShirShabb). Therefore, Revelation is a part of that strand of Jewish literature. Our author combines other scriptural elements with that tradition. God’s designation as “the one sitting on the throne” (ho kathēmenos, 4:2–3, cf. 1 En. 14:20) opens a broad horizon for his power. In the prayer of Hezekiah, the enthroned one alone is God (theos monos) over the kingdoms of the world, since he created heaven and earth (4 Kgdms 19:15 LXX [2 Kgs 19:15 MT]); he is the “Almighty” (pantokratōr, 4Kgdms 19:15, Antiochian text, perhaps the oldest form of the Greek translation of 2 Kings.). And the Trisagion of Isa 6:3 (combined with Amos 3:13 LXX in Rev 4:8) evokes God’s holiness. As a result, God resides in heaven, possessing cultic holiness and power. 3.  Revelation develops the idea of the enthroned God against that background in the visionary corpus. Chapter  4 includes the topics of God’s overwhelming power (pantokratōr, 4:8) and God as creator (4:11). Rev 7:15 accentuates the veneration of the holy God; the “enthroned one” is revered in heaven day and night (that prepares for the image of salvation in chaps. 21–22). Rev 15:3–4 praises the Almighty, the Lord, who is king over the people of the world and “alone is holy” (monos hosios). Rev 21:5 refers to the creative power of God sitting on his throne; in his authority, he makes all things new. Earlier we noted the difficulties of Revelation calling God heis, “one,” within a GrecoRoman religious context (§ I). Now, we see a necessary complement: the attribute monos (“the only one”) characterizes God correctly. The God of Israel and early Christianity “alone is holy” (15:4). None of his rivals in heaven and on earth deserves awe as he does. 4.  Psalms and prophetic texts explained that “the enthroned one” sits “above the cherubim” (Ps 98:1 LXX; Od 4:54 = Dan 3:55 Θ; Isa 37:16). Ezekiel elaborated the picture and described “living beings” (zōa) surrounding and carrying the throne (Ezek 1:5–24). Drawing on the merkabah tradition of Ezek 1, the author of Revelation avoids the term “cherubim” throughout his work. Instead, he introduces the famous image of the four living beings or living creatures into Christianity. Rev 4 changes the order of the living creatures and other details that are found in Ezek 1. Yet taken as a whole, the scene of the zōa forms a Jewish-Christian counterpart to the Greek understanding of “God” as “living being” (zōon; see the Suda in § I): The God who alone is holy is invisible and therefore is not called a “living being” himself. As an

God in the Book of Revelation   217 alternative, he is accompanied by “living beings” and elevated above them; he is greater than any “living god” of the Greco-Roman world. 5.  This clarification is important since many elements in the description in Rev 4 have parallels in Greco-Roman religion. Throughout the Mediterranean region, people honor Zeus/Jupiter as the enthroned god par excellence. Pausanias, Descr. 5.11.1 describes the statue of Zeus at Olympia: Zeus sits on the throne; he can be seen, contrary to the God of Rev 4 but—but if we follow Revelation—inferior to Rev 22:3–4. Zeus wears a reposing eagle on his scepter; in Revelation the eagle of the heavenly God is flying (4:7). Zeus holds the figure of Victory in his right hand, whereas Revelation attributes all victory to its God, who achieves it through Christ (5:5–6; Karrer 2015, 58–59). Other elements augment the cultural parallels. The hymnic praises in Rev 4:11 and other passages evoke the hymns of the Greek chorus (Schedtler  2014). The precious stones mentioned in Rev 4:3 recall the view on earth in Plato’s Phaedo (sardis, jasper and emerald are highlighted there in 110d). The parallels are too extensive to be incidental. Revelation draws on the merkabah and Israel’s prophetic traditions in order to develop a view of worship supplanting the Greco-Roman devotion to the gods, including Zeus/Jupiter, the highest god of the Romans and Greeks. 6.  The same contrast holds true with regard to all Greco-Roman gods. People in antiquity differentiated between the gods of Olympus like Apollo and the gods of the Underworld like Hades. Revelation assumes that these gods are active in some way; our author argues from a monotheistic perspective without denying the existence of other transcendent beings. However, the foreign gods bring death. Revelation insists, in effect, that an Olympic god is no less dangerous than death—personified as Thanatos—and the god of the Underworld, Hades. Conversely, Death and Hades (cf. 6:8) are overwhelmed by the resurrection of Christ (1:17–18), and the Olympic gods are devalued through the narrative of Revelation. As an example, the Destroyer and angel of the abyss in Rev 9:11 is called Apollyon. That designation alludes to Apollo. He, the god preferred by Augustus and the god of the oracles from Delphi, Klaros, and Didyma, is the most confrontational of the Olympic gods in Revelation. Today Apollo is known as the god of the arts, but beginning with Homer (Il. 1.10), Apollo was also known for his power to destroy. A popular etymology connected his name and the verb apollynai (“destroy”; Archilochos, frag. 26.5–6; cf. Aeschylus, Ag. 1081–82; Macrobius, Sat. 1.17:9–10). Hence, Rev 9:11 poses a sharp challenge: Apollo is depicted as “Apollyon,” a destroyer, and the implication is that he cannot prevail against God and Christ (Karrer 2012, 228–30). 7.  The narrative makes a critical point. Revelation marks a great line to salvation, as we saw, and yet the narrative urges its readers to heed the warning signs that are sketched out in the visionary corpus. These signs are patterned after the Exodus tradition and prophetic predictions (Sommer 2015; Gallusz 2008). Moses warned the pharaoh once, and now God warns people again through the visions of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls in Revelation. Whoever does not heed the warning will meet with the wrath and

218   Martin Karrer judgment of God (Rev 15–20). God does not hesitate in his righteousness (15:3–4). His wrath is coming (16:19; 19:15; cf. 11:18; 14:10). He will judge Babylon (18:10; 19:2) and his throne will be established for the judgment of all human beings according to their deeds (20:11–13). God, the judge, dominates parts of Revelation. This tendency influences even the depiction of the actions in the heavenly cult. Cultic bowls are in use there (e.g., for offering prayers; 5:8). But if the world refuses to join in worshiping God, the cultic bowls become a means of judgment (Aune 1998a, 879–80; Gallusz 2008, 29). The bowls are used, then, to pour plagues of God’s wrath on those who oppose him (15:7–16:21). One must ask if the author of Revelation succeeds in counterbalancing this line of God’s wrath and judgment with the line of his grace. The reception history was sometimes more fascinated by the dark motives. Against that, the grace of God must be given priority theologically and hermeneutically (cf. the hints of a wish for universal grace in 22:21 § II 1, the salvific perspective of the heavenly Jerusalem § IV 1 etc.). 1–7 (Summary). The author of Revelation actualizes Jewish traditions and rivals with ideas regarding the gods in the Greco-Roman religions throughout the visionary corpus of Revelation. One may ask if he thoroughly succeeds in balancing judgment and grace. But in his way, he shows the power, uniqueness, acts, and judgments of God impressively. His presentation of the heavenly God, enthroned and acting full of salvific as well as judging power strikes the nerve of his time.

V. Conclusions Older concepts of religious history strictly separated Jewish apocalypticism and Greek reflection. The book of Revelation was understood to be a witness to apocalyptic thought and Jewish-Christian theology, foreign to the environment of its addressees in the early Roman Empire. Matters have been considerably changed by new data: The Jewish-Christian character of Revelation is undoubted; its notion of God definitely draws on Jewish traditions, beginning with the name of God (§ II) and going on to his designations (§ III) and the development of the Merkabah tradition (§ IV). The author of Revelation, however, also engages the multifaceted society of the early Roman Empire and its variegated religious views. He combines the reception of Israel’s scriptures and apocalyptic ideas with a feeling for the actual questions, language, and interests of the world surrounding his addressees. That way, the author of Revelation is the first to give the understanding of God as “the one who is” (ho ōn) a place in Christianity (1:4). He actualizes the Greek Dreizeitenformel and dares to formulate the succinct paraphrase of God’s name that results in the famous “Alpha and Omega” (1:8; § III). He contrasts God, the “one who alone is holy” (monos hosios; 15:4), with the foreign gods of his time, the Olympic Zeus (cf. chap. 4) and Apollo (9:11), as well as the chthonic Hades and Thanatos (in 1:18). He narrates that God is father

God in the Book of Revelation   219 and creator (§ III), sitting on this throne, saving, and judging, in elaborate images (§ IV), deeply embedded into the Mediterranean world. The combination of reflections and visionary images looks strange to the modern reader. Our author builds a fascinating bridge between biblical and Greek traditions, e.g., from the name of God (ho ōn) to Greek thoughts and corrects an abstract ontology in favor of a personal theology. He is thus a great theologian. On the other hand, he narrates God in bold and sometimes ambiguous signs. He plays up the omnipotence of the almighty God and stresses his wrath besides his grace. Hermeneutics must take into consideration these theological tensions and look for a balance in the understanding of God by using the impulses of the book of Revelation beyond its ambiguities.1

Note 1. I thank Benjamin Blum, Maximilian Dietrich, Marybeth Hauffe, Patrick Krumm, and Solveig Reller for their help in the correction and translation of the manuscript.

References Adler, Ada ed., Sudae lexicon. 5 vols. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner 1928–1938 (and reprints); Vol. 2, 1931; cf. Suda On Line, Accessed September 17, 2018. Aune, David. E. 1996. “Iao” AO RAC 17: 1–12. Aune, David. E. 1997. Revelation 1–5. WBC 52A. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Aune, David. E. 1998a. Revelation 6–16. WBC 52B. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Aune, David. E. 1998b. Revelation 17–22. WBC 52C. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Bachmann, Michael. 2002. Göttliche Allmacht und theologische Vorsicht: Zu Rezeption, Funktion und Konnotation des biblisch-frühchristlichen Gottesepithetons pantokrator. SBS 188. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk. Bauckham, Richard. 2003. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bauckham, Richard, and Trevor A. Hart. 1999. Hope against Hope: Christian Eschatology at the Turn of the Millennium. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Bauke-Ruegg, Jan. 1998. Die Allmacht Gottes: Systematisch-theologische Erwägungen zwischen Metaphysik. Postmoderne und Poesie. ThBT 96. Berlin: de Gruyter Boring, M.  Eugene. 1986. “The Theology of Revelation: The Lord Our God the Almighty Reigns.” Int 40: 257–69. Caquot, André. 1978. “Les énigmes d'un hémistische biblique.” In Dieu et l’ētre: Exégèses d’Exode 3,14 et de Coran 20,11–24, pp. 17–26. Études Augustienennes. Paris: Centre d’Etudes des Religions du Livre. Ernst, Ulrich. 1991. Carmen figuratum: Geschichte des Figurengedichts von den antiken Ursprüngen bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters. Köln: Böhlau. Fauth, Wolfgang. 2014. Jao-Jahwe und seine Engel: Jahwe-Appellationen und zugehörige Engelnamen in griechischen und koptischen Zaubertexten. STAC 74. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Gallusz, Laszlo. 2008. “The Exodus Motif in Revelation 15–16: Its Background and Nature.” AUSS 46: 21–43.

220   Martin Karrer Gallusz, Laszlo. 2014. The Throne Motif in the Book of Revelation. LNTS 487. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Graf, Fritz. 2010. “Gods in Greek Inscriptions: Some Methodological Questions.” In The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations, edited by Jan  M.  Bremmer and Andrew Erskine, pp. 55–80. Edinburgh Leventis Studies 5. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Hernández, Juan. 2012. “Recensional Activity and the Transmission of the Septuagint in John’s Apocalypse: Codex Sinaiticus and Other Witnesses.” In Die Johannesoffenbarung: Ihr Text und ihre Auslegung, edited by Michael Labahn and Martin Karrer, pp. 83–98. ABG 38. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Holtz, Traugott. 1980. “Gott in der Apokalypse.” In L’Apocalypse Johannique et l’Apocalyptique dans le Nouveau Testament, edited by Jan Lambrecht, pp. 247–65. BETL 53. Leuven: Leuven University Press. Huber, Konrad. 2015. “Gott bete an! Christusbild und Gottesbild der Johannesoffenbarung im Spannungsfeld von wesensmäßiger und funktionaler Einheit und Differenz.” In Das Gottesbild in der Offenbarung des Johannes, edited by Martin Stowasser, pp. 129–47. WUNT II/397. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Karrer, Martin. 2012. “Apoll und die apokalyptischen Reiter.” In Die Johannesoffenbarung: Ihr Text und ihre Auslegung, edited by Michael Labahn and Martin Karrer, pp. 223–51. ABG 38. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Karrer, Martin. 2015. “Das Gottesbild der Offenbarung vor hellenistisch-frühkaiserzeitlichem Hintergrund.” In Das Gottesbild in der Offenbarung des Johannes, edited by Martin Stowasser, pp. 53–81. WUNT II/397. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Karrer, Martin. 2017. Johannesoffenbarung Part 1 Offb 1,1–5,14. EKK 24. Ostfildern: Patmos Verlag and Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Koester, Craig. 2014. Revelation. AYB 38A. New York: Doubleday. McDonough, Sean  M. 1999. YHWH at Patmos. WUNT II/107. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock (2011). Merkelbach, Reinhold. 1996. Hestia und Erigone. Vorträge und Aufsätze. Edited by Wolfgang Blümel et al. Leipzig: Teubner. Repr., Berlin: de Gruyter (2012). Mucha, Robert. 2015. Der apokalyptische Kaiser. Die Wahrnehmung Domitians in der apokalyptischen Literatur des Frühjudentums und Urchristentums. Frankfurt: PL Academic Research. Mitchell, Stephen, and Peter van Nuffelen, eds. 2010. One God: Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Murphy, Frederick J. 1994. “The Book of Revelation.” CRBS 2: 181–225. Peterson, Erik. 2012. Heis Theos: Epigraphische, formgeschichtliche und religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur antiken “Ein-Gott”-Akklamation (1926). Addenda by Christoph Markschies, Barbara Nichtweiss, Henrik Hildebrandt, et al., Christoph Markschies, ed. Würzburg: Echter. Rand, Jan A. Du. 2009. “Alpha and Omega. I. New Testament.” In Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception, vol. 1, pp. 850–52. Berlin: de Gruyter. Rösel, Martin. 1998. “Theo-Logie der griechischen Bibel: Zur Wiedergabe der Gottesaussagen im LXX-Pentateuch.” VT 48: 49–62. Rösel, Martin. 2000. Adonaj—warum Gott “Herr” genannt wird. FAT 29. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Rösel, Martin. 2017. “Gott in anderem Licht: Das Gottesbild der apokalyptischen Literatur im 3. und 2. Jahrhundert.” In Congress Volume Stellenbosch 2016, edited by Louis Jonker, Gideon Kotzé, and Christl M. Maier, pp. 345–77. VTSup 177. Leiden: Brill.

God in the Book of Revelation   221 Rüpke, Jörg. 2012. “Polytheismus und Monotheismus als Perspektiven auf die antike Religionsgeschichte.” In Gott–Götter–Götzen: XIV: Europäischer Kongress für Theologie, edited by Christoph Schwöbel, pp. 58–68. Veröffentlichungen der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft für Theologie 38. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Schedtler, Justin Jeffcoat. 2014. A Heavenly Chorus: The Dramatic Function of Revelation’s Hymns. WUNT II/381. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Schimanowski, Gottfried. 2002. Die himmlische Liturgie in der Apokalypse des Johannes: die frühjüdischen Traditionen in Offenbarung 4–5 unter Einschluss der Hekhalotliteratur. WUNT II/154. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Söding, Thomas. 2001. “Gott und das Lamm: Theozentrik und Christologie in der Johannesapokalypse.” In Theologie als Vision, edited by Byes, Backhaus, pp. 77–120. SBS 191. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk. Sommer, Michael. 2015. Der Tag der Plagen: Studien zur Verbindung der Rezeption von Exod 7–11 in den Posaunen- und Shalenvisionen in der Johannesoffenbarung und der Tag des Herrn-Tradition. WUNT II/387. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Spilsbury, Paul. 2007. “The Apocalypse.” In Redemption and Resistance: The Messianic Hopes of Jews and Christians in Antiquity, (2nd ed. 2008), edited by Markus Bockmuehl and James Carleton, pp. 136–46. London: T & T Clark. Staudt, Darina. 2011. Der eine und einzige Gott: Monotheistische Formeln im Urchristentum und ihre Vorgeschichte bei Griechen und Juden. NTOA 80. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Stowasser, Martin, ed. 2015a. Das Gottesbild in der Offenbarung des Johannes. WUNT II/397. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Stowasser, Martin. 2015b. “Gottesepitheta als Christusepitheta. Überlegungen zur Gottheit Gottes in der Offenbarung des Johannes.” In Das Gottesbild in der Offenbarung des Johannes, edited by Martin Stowasser, pp. 149–75. WUNT II/397. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Tóth, Franz. 2006. Der himmlische Kult. Wirklichkeitskonstruktion und Sinnbildung in der Johannesoffenbarung. ABG 22. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt. Vanni, Ugo. 1976. “Un Esempio di Dialogo liturgico in Ap 1,4–8.” Bib 57: 453–67. Vögtle, Anton. 1976. “Der Gott der Apokalypse.” In La notion biblique de Dieu: Le Dieu de la bible et le Dieu des philosophes, edited by Joseph Coppens, pp. 377–98. BETL 41. Gembloux: Duculot. Vries, Johannes de. 2010. “Ps 86MT / Ps 85LXX in Apk 15,4bß. Anmerkungen zum Text von Psalter und Johannesoffenbarung.” In Von der Septuaginta zum Neuen Testament: Textgeschichtliche Erörterungen, edited by Martin Karrer, Siegfried Kreuzer, and Marcus Sigismund, pp. 417–23. ANTF 43. Berlin: de Gruyter. Wengst, Klaus. 2010. “Wie lange noch?” Schreien nach Recht und Gerechtigkeit—eine Deutung der Apokalypse des Johannes. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer. Wevers, J.  W. 2001. “The Rendering of the Tetragram in the Psalter and Pentateuch: A Comparative Study.” In The Old Greek Psalter: Studies in Honour of Albert Pietersma, edited by Robert J. V. Hiebert, Claude E. Cox, and Peter J. Gentry, pp. 21–35. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic. Whitaker, Robyn J. 2015. Ekphrasis, Vision, and Persuasion in the Book of Revelation. WUNT II/410. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Witulski, Thomas. 2010. Kaiserkult in Kleinasien: Die Entwicklung der kultisch-religiösen Kaiserverehrung in der römischen Provinz Asia von Augustus bis Antonius Pius. 2nd ed. NTOA 63. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

222   Martin Karrer Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1986. “Reading the Book of Revelation in the Twentieth Century.” Int 40: 229–42. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1984. Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1976. The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation. HDR 9. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Zimmermann, Christiane. 2007. Die Namen des Vaters: Studien zu ausgewählten neutestamentlichen Gottesbezeichnungen. AGJU 69. Leiden: Brill.

chapter 14

J esus i n th e Book of R ev el ation Loren L. Johns

Many assume that the book of Revelation is, first and foremost, about the end of the world. But that is not the case; the book is primarily about Jesus. It is a revelation of Jesus . . . as lamb (Prévost  1993). The import of the book’s opening three words (apokalypsis Iēsou Christou) is debated. Is this an objective genitive (Jesus Christ is the object of the revelation; the revelation is about Jesus)? Or is it a subjective genitive (Jesus Christ is the mediator of the revelation from God)? The next six words in both Greek and English (“which God gave him to show”) make clear that it is at least in part a subjective genitive. However, numerous commentators rightly insist that sometimes both senses of the genitive are at play, and that this instance is one such example. Thus, whatever else we imagine this revelatory book to be revealing, the center of that revelation, both as subject and as object, is Jesus. Although Revelation shares with other New Testament writings the various Christological elements with which New Testament readers have become familiar, the figure of Jesus is distinctive in Revelation in several ways. First, Revelation is by far the richest New Testament book in terms of the sheer variety of descriptions and descriptors for Jesus. Second, Revelation is strongly anti-imperial in its Christology. Third, it is unique in the New Testament in applying the word arnion (lamb) to Jesus, using it as the controlling metaphor for the majority of the book. Fourth, Revelation’s understanding of Jesus’s death puts it at the exemplary end of the continuum that extends from exemplary to vicarious as ways of understanding Jesus’s death and its significance. Finally, the lamb Christology is what ultimately provides coherence for what many see as disparate, even clashing images of violence and power in Revelation.

Variety of Descriptors for Jesus Characterizations of Jesus through titles, names, and participial descriptors abound in the book of Revelation. The sheer variety of such descriptors in this “revelation of Jesus

224   Loren L. Johns Christ” makes this book by far the richest source of images for Jesus in the New Testament. Forty-some different words or participial descriptors appear in the book (Johns 2014, 217–21).1 Some Christological studies of the New Testament focus on “titles.” These studies can be reductionistic if they assume that the weight of an author’s Christology is carried by the titles an author uses. The Christology of Revelation is extensive and weighty. Although the lamb symbolism is the key to the Christology of Revelation,2 lamb is not really a title. It is a symbol, a controlling metaphor for Jesus. Traditionally weighty titles, such as “Son of God” or “Son of Man,” are used so infrequently and inconsequentially as to suggest their relative unimportance (Yarbro Collins 1992b, 568).3 Jesus (Iēsous) occurs twelve times (with christos in 1:1, 2, and 5); 1:9 [bis]; 12:17; 14:12; 17:6; 19:10 [bis]; 20:4; and 22:16. He is called “the faithful witness” (ho martys ho pistos) in 1:5.4 Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (1:5), the ruler of the kings of the earth (1:5), the one who loves us (1:5; cf. 3:9), and the one who has freed us from our sins with his blood (1:5). The full list of descriptions and descriptors of Jesus in Revelation is long (Johns 2014, 217–21). The use of many names and epithets in Revelation is part of the author’s rhetorical strategy to craft a vivid and convincing universe. Both heroes and villains are named, usually with symbolic names. The only true names in the book appear to be Jesus, John (the author), and Antipas.5 But dozens of characters, from the symbolic “woman clothed with the sun” (12:1) to the author’s prophetic rival “Jezebel” (2:20) to “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation” (3:14), “the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars” (3:1), “the great dragon, the ancient serpent, the one called Devil and Satan” (12:10)—all the author’s epithets form the rhetorical supports for the universe the author is crafting,6 even when it is not always clear whether a given substantive is simply descriptive or represents a more formal title.7 Revelation was written by a certain “John,” possibly from the island of Patmos (1:9). John had probably been banished to the island, perhaps for publicly condemning the emperor cult in Ephesus, where a massive new temple built in honor of the Roman emperors had been dedicated in 89 or 90 ce (Friesen 1993). Although Irenaeus’s claim that Revelation was written near the end of the reign of Domitian, around 95 ce, is contested, many current scholars continue to find it acceptable. A previous generation of Revelation scholars held that Domitian had launched an empire-wide persecution of Christians and that this was the most likely historical context for Revelation. However, it is more likely historically that Christians barely registered on the radar of the Roman Empire in the first century. Certainly leading families in some localities pressured nonconforming citizens to participate in the emperor cult as a civic duty. As Steve Friesen (1993 and 2001) has shown, this was true particularly in Asia (cf. Kraybill 1996). Unlike the author of Revelation, however, not all Christians in the Roman province of Asia thought such participation was a problem. The two primary crises behind the letters to the seven churches in Rev 2–3 are quite different from one another: (1) the author’s prophetic concern with what he perceives as an unfaithful accommodationism to the imperial cult; and (2) the pressures and persecutions directed toward those who were

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   225 resisting the imperial cult. Some of the pressures and persecutions were in the past; some are expected in the near future. Neither concern—one essentially internal, a prophetic crisis largely in the mind and spirit of the author, and the other essentially external—adequately accounts for the content of these chapters without the other. However banal or inconsequential the cult itself may have seemed to the average Roman, our author, a Jewish-Christian prophet, saw the question of who is worthy of worship as intensely important—a matter of life and death. Worthiness of worship is an important inclusio in Revelation. It is central to the opening scene in Rev 4–5, with God as the focus of worship in Rev 4 and Jesus as the focus of worship in Rev 5. Worthiness of worship is addressed specifically again in the last chapter of Revelation (22:8–9; cf. 13:8, 12, 15; 14:3, 7, 11; 15:3–4; 19:10). Furthermore, the many scenes and songs of worship are not peripheral to the book’s argumentation. Revelation enacts, illustrates, and performs what it argues through its songs and its scenes of worship. God and the lamb are repeatedly worshiped in this narrative.

Anti-imperial Christology in Revelation Jewish and/or Christian prophetic denunciation of the emperor cult forms an important part of the historical context for Revelation and informs Revelation’s Christology itself. Interestingly, there is little actual debate within the New Testament itself about what the term “messiah” (christos) means. The literature of late Second Temple Judaism reflects little consensus about the messiah. Expectations differed. Some expected a messiah; some did not. The Life of Adam and Eve, usually dated to the first century ce, includes a vision of a restored Israel in which the messiah does not play a role, or even make an appearance. Some expected a priestly messiah and a kingly messiah (1QS IX, 11). That the author intends a royal/political meaning in using the word christos (Christ or messiah) is not immediately clear in Rev 1:1, 2, and 5, where it is paired with Jesus and seems to function as a name. However, each of the other four uses of the term, in 11:15; 12:10; 20:4, 6, appears with explicit references to a kingdom or reigning, or both.8 Thus, when the author applies the word “messiah” to Jesus in the first verse of the book, we should understand him to be sparking the flames of anti-Roman sentiment for the average Jew, for whatever allegiance the messiah might demand would have been seen as a direct challenge to the Roman emperor. Here the author is drawing on traditional Jewish convictions that God is the true king and that God’s messiah is the one who will restore the fortunes of God’s people. The kingdom belongs to God and his messiah, not to the emperor (11:15). Salvation, power, and the kingdom belong to God and come from the authority of God’s messiah, not of the emperor (12:10). The martyrs (those who had been beheaded on account of the testimony [martyria] of Jesus [20:4]), not the emperor, are the ones who will reign for a thousand years with God’s messiah (20:4–6)!

226   Loren L. Johns The testimony (martyria) of Jesus is referred to already in Rev 1:2, where he is called “the faithful witness (martys)” in 1:5. The correspondence of Pliny the Younger with Emperor Trajan in 112 ce plausibly also constitutes a window on the historical context of Revelation, written to believers in the neighboring province some seventeen years earlier. If so, the word “witness” conjures up scenes of being called before the provincial governor on charges of being a Christian. Doing obeisance before a bust of the emperor could get you out of trouble with the governor; conversely, refusing to do obeisance to the emperor could get you killed. But Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (1:5), suggesting that even Rome’s executions are weak and powerless! If none of these descriptions of Jesus is sufficiently explicit, John makes things clear when he calls Jesus “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5). Domitian may claim to be the emperor; he may be a king. But if so, he is no more than a vassal king to Jesus! The death of Jesus plays a distinctive role in the Apocalypse. Most scholars have rightly accepted the judgment of Trites that the word martys in Revelation means “witness,” as it does in classical Greek, not “martyr.” However, he understands Revelation as a significant landmark in the evolution of the word, which clearly has overtones of martyrdom by the time the Martyrdom of Polycarp was written (1973, 80). In Revelation, the word martys (witness) stands in a significant relationship with Jesus and with Jesus’s death, or execution. John writes to encourage faithful witness. The expression “faithful witness” refers to someone who has consistently borne faithful witness to God all the way up to and through his or her execution. Death is associated with witness each time it appears. Jesus is first introduced as the faithful witness in 1:5. Antipas, the one martyr we know about in Revelation, is called “my faithful witness” in 2:13. Jesus is portrayed as the “faithful and true witness” in 3:14. The two “witnesses” in Rev 11 bear witness and are killed. Finally, the woman Rome is portrayed in 17:6 as drunk from the blood of the saints and the blood of witnesses to Jesus. As Mark Bredin puts it, “Faithful witnesses are servants of God who suffer and die as a result of delivering God’s message” (2003, 170). Although “Son of God” appears only in 2:18, in the context of Roman Asia, soaked as it was in the Roman emperor cult, it constitutes a challenge to the emperor. Since Vespasian was deified by the Senate, the current emperor, Domitian, would have been a “son of god.” With some notable exceptions (Thompson 1990, 105–7; Yarbro Collins 1984, 71–72), most Revelation scholars are inclined to accept as historical Suetonius’s claim that Domitian demanded to be called “our Lord and our God” (Suetonius, Domitian 13.2). There is no reason to think that such exalted claims were unique to Domitian. Rather, they were part of a general pattern in the first-century emperor cult.9 In the words of Craig Koester (2014, 298), “Revelation critiques the ruler cult and assumes [or declares] that the true Son of God is Jesus. His followers will also be called ‘sons’ of God and inherit life in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:7).” As Trites has observed, the phrase “testimony of Jesus” is likely intended to recall for the Asian Christians Jesus’s own faithful witness when he was summoned before Pilate (1973, 76), and thus encourage them to their own faithful anti-imperial witness if and when they are called before the governor. Many other passages in Revelation support this anti-imperial reading of the Christology of Revelation. In the flurry of recent attempts to read anti-imperial rhetoric

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   227 into almost every book of the New Testament, those on Revelation have the best support in the text itself. The “idea that Revelation is not merely an anti-imperial text but one that posits non-violent resistance to empire is gaining increasing currency” (Megoran 2013, 143). It is no coincidence that John repeatedly refers to God as “he who sits on the throne” in light of Domitian’s propensity for minting coins with him sitting on a throne (Abaecherli 1935). Even the many descriptions of Jesus as the one who overcomes death are primarily political in force if the author’s point is that Jesus’s authority and power supersedes that of the governor, whose hands seem to hold the power of death. Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead” (1:5), the first and the last (1:17; 2:8; 22:13); the living one (despite his execution; 1:18); the once-dead one who lives forever (1:18; cf. 2:8); the one who has the keys of Death and Hades (1:18), the “king of kings and lord of lords” (17:14).

Jesus as Lamb (Arnion) The most important designation for Jesus in Revelation is lamb. Jesus is consistently portrayed as a “lamb” in an extended metaphor. The symbol dominates the book. Jesus is called lamb twenty-eight times in Revelation—more than anything else. The word occurs in half the chapters. And although Jesus is called or compared to a lamb in several New Testament writings (John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1 Cor 5:7; 1 Pet 1:19), Revelation’s portrayal of Jesus as lamb differs in several ways. First, the image of Jesus as lamb in Revelation is not a passing comparison or simile. Once he has introduced it, the author sustains the metaphor throughout the book. As important as the image is, the author does not use it or even hint at it until the lamb’s dramatic entrance on the scene in 5:6. By then, the majority of the different titles or terms (including substantive participles) that appear in the book have already been used of Jesus. However, from 5:6 on, Jesus participates in the narrative primarily as lamb. The author carefully crafts the pivotal scene in which the lamb is revealed. The great drama in heaven is full of angst because no one has been found worthy of opening the scroll or looking inside it. However, the angel announces that one has been found worthy and announces the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David (5:5). These two titles are rich in their allusion to royalty, specifically to Israel’s royal messianic expectations. On his deathbed, Jacob had called Judah “a lion’s whelp” with a royal future (Gen 49:9–10). Judas Maccabeus was portrayed as a lion (1 Macc 3:4; 2 Macc 11:11). The “root of David” characterizes the royal figure more specifically as in the dynasty of David. In late Second Temple Judaism, the lion became the prime symbol of the messiah (see esp. 2 Esdras 12:31–32). Thus, the Worthy One is introduced in terms that have long been associated with the hoped-for messianic redeemer of Israel. But what John sees is a lamb (arnion), standing as though executed (Rev 5:6). To call this a surprise would be an understatement. Of this surprising revelation David Barr (1984, 41) says, “A more complete reversal of value would be hard to imagine.” Donald

228   Loren L. Johns Guthrie (1987, 64) says, “There could hardly be a more striking or unexpected contrast,” while Eugene Boring (1992, 708) calls it “one of the most mind-wrenching and theologically pregnant transformations of imagery in literature.” This unexpected revelation of the lamb is the central unveiling of the book of Revelation. Revelation is filled with temple imagery. Right in front of the throne on which God sits is a golden altar (8:3; 9:13; cf. 6:9; 8:5; 11:1; 14:18; 16:7). Certainly, both Jews and GrecoRomans were familiar with the sacrificial slaughter of animals. Sacrifice was multifaceted in the ancient world. Expiation for sin was only one of its numerous functions. In the temple in Jerusalem, a lamb was slaughtered on the altar every morning and every evening (Num 28:9–10). Besides the fact that the word arnion is never used for a sacrificed lamb in the Septuagint, the verb used for the killing of the lamb in Revelation (sphazō) is the terminology of the slaughterhouse or of murder (Laws 1988, 30). Jesus was not “sacrificed” in the book of Revelation; he was executed or murdered (sphazō). In Rev 6:4, the same verb is used for the murder of others. Once it is used for one of the heads of the beast (13:3). Twice it refers to the execution of the elect in martyrdom (6:9; 18:24). So Jesus’s death in Revelation is more political than expiatory (Blount 2009, 115). Second, in contrast to other allusions or symbolic portrayals of Jesus as a “lamb” in the New Testament, Revelation is unique in applying the word arnion to Jesus. When John the Baptizer twice refers to Jesus with the words, “Behold the lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36), he uses the word amnos, which is the normal Septuagintal word for lamb used in the Pentateuch’s instructions for the sacrificial system. When the eunuch from Ethiopia reads the Suffering Servant hymn from Isa 53:7–8 in Acts 8:32, the author uses the word that appears in the Septuagint of Isaiah—namely, amnos. The author of 1 Pet 1:19 also uses amnos, the Pentateuch’s typical term for sacrificial lamb. When Paul refers to Jesus in 1 Cor 5:7 as “our Passover lamb,” he naturally uses pascha, which technically means a Passover victim and could be either a lamb or a kid (i.e., young goat). Only the Apocalypse applies arnion to Jesus, and it does so, as noted, twenty-eight times. Spitta (1907) famously suggested that arnion should be translated Widder (ram), since the arnion in the Apocalypse does not seem to act much like a lamb. However, Spitta’s speculation is weakened by the fact that no example of this phenomenon exists in the corpus of Greek literature (Hofius 1998; cf. Jeremias 1964). In the Septuagint, arnion never applies to real-life lambs, only to metaphorical ones. Furthermore, it seems to suggest vulnerability in the presence of a superior power. Although this semantic value for arnion does not hold in Josephus’s writings, the experts in Greek grammar that Josephus admits using were probably not well-attuned to the nuances of Hebrew thought, since fewer than 15% of the times that Josephus refers to lambs with a biblical parallel does he use the same word for lamb that appears in the Septuagint texts that we have today (Johns 2014, 34). Third, Revelation exhibits a high Christology. The relationship between Jesus, or the lamb, with God is intriguing. The author does not describe it in precise terms. Although Revelation’s Christology is among the highest in the New Testament, it is not Christomonist. God is the one who sits on the throne, though the lamb occasionally seems to share it (3:21; 5:6, 13; 7:9–10, 17; 22:1, 3). Revelation is distinctive for attributing

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   229 to Jesus certain descriptors traditionally applied to God. The Christophany in 1:9–20 famously attributes to the “one like a Son of Man” characteristics that adhere to the Ancient of Days in Dan 7. Furthermore, in Rev 3:14, Jesus is called the “Amen,” a title used only of God elsewhere in the Bible (Isa 65:16). Whereas God is the Alpha and the Omega in Rev 1:8 and 21:6, Jesus is the Alpha and Omega in 22:13. God is the one who is and who was and who is to come 1:8; Jesus is the coming one in 22:20. God is the beginning and the end in 21:6; Jesus is the beginning and the end in 22:13, the first and the last in 1:17; 2:8; and 22:13. Although 3:21 seems to imply that God and Jesus each has his own throne, the word thronos (throne) never appears in the plural in the dozens of times it appears in Revelation, while 22:1–3 implies that they share just the one throne. Finally, if Jesus is the key to understanding Revelation, and if the lamb symbolism the key to understanding Jesus, then Jesus’s faithful witness and conquering death may be the key to understanding the author’s purposes in consistently portraying Jesus and his significance through the lamb symbolism in the Apocalypse. After the dramatic introduction of the lamb in Rev 5, the lamb is worshiped as worthy to take the scroll specifically because he was executed. By means of that execution, he formed a kingdom, and priests, to serve God, drawn from every tribe, language, people, and nation on earth. The inaugural scene introduces the lamb as “standing as though executed” (5:6; hestēkos hōs esphagmenon), a rather odd image that is probably designed to keep Jesus’s execution and his resurrection together as one image. That is, Revelation treats the significance of Jesus’s death as inseparable from the significance of his resurrection, and vice versa, in a way that is reminiscent of Paul.

The Import of the Lamb’s Execution The central and pervasive symbol of the lamb signifies the crucified and resurrected Jesus in the book of Revelation, but to what end? What is the rhetorical force of the image of Christ’s death? What “work” does Jesus’s death do in this book? The evidence shows that in keeping with the anti-imperial Christology explored above, Jesus’s death is portrayed primarily in political rather than expiatory terms. If John had intended Jesus’s death to be understood as expiatory, he would have used other terminology. No arnion is sacrificed in the Old Testament. Furthermore, Jesus is not “sacrificed” in Revelation. Rather, he is executed, or murdered (sphazō). In Revelation, sphazō signifies murder or assassination (6:4, 9; 13:3; 18:24). While the author seems to accept Jesus’s death as expiatory (cf. 1:5), the numerous occurrences of the word blood in Revelation occur in contexts that suggests that the blood spilled in Revelation is the “result of combat, suffering, or both” (Blount 2009, 115 n. 114). Familiarity with other parts of the New Testament (or with the history of Christian theology) might cause some to think of the “atoning” power of Jesus’s death.10 Indeed, at least one passage seems to imply the author’s familiarity with and approval of traditional understandings of Jesus’s death as atoning for sin (e.g., 1:5b; less clearly, 5:9). Interestingly,

230   Loren L. Johns Carnegie (1982, 244–45) sees 1:5–6 as the only hymn the author has drawn from existing liturgical material, the other hymns having been written by the author himself (cf. Grabiner  2015, 3–4). In 5:9, the newly revealed lamb is praised as worthy precisely because he was slain, and because he “purchased” for God with his blood, persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. Although this sounds a little like penal substitutionary atonement language, it is not. After considering the possible implications of the lamb’s use of blood to “purchase” saints from every tribe and language and people and nation, Blount rightly concludes that this purchase is primarily political in force, rather than expiatory (2009, 115). Most of the references to the lamb in Revelation occur in life-threatening contexts that reflect conflict over allegiances (Kraybill 2010). Furthermore, as the firstborn from the dead, the lamb’s consistent resistance in his faithful witness energizes the readers of Revelation to emulate him in offering their own consistent resistance through faithful witness (cf. 3:21; 14:4). Conquering is both significant and significantly redefined in Revelation. To conquer is to maintain a faithful witness in resistance to forces and entities that pressure ­con­form­ity—especially when that witness is sealed in death. Conquering, whether an expression of staying the course or changing course, is the goal toward which Christ (and the author) urge each of the seven churches. Resistance to the forces of compromise is one of the key themes in the letters of the seven churches. However, comfort and encouragement form the other key theme in those letters, leading to the conclusion of some that both resistance and comfort are central to both the seven letters and the book as a whole (Boesak 1987; Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 23; Stevenson 2013). Overcoming, or conquering, is what happens when one successfully resists those compromising forces to the end through faithful witness. So the one who conquers is the one who bears faithful witness to the end, who maintains that witness until one’s death. Thus, conquering— both for Jesus and for the followers of the lamb—is closely related to the death of a faithful witness. It is in the matrix of victory (conquering), faithful witness, and death that the Christology of Revelation intersects most directly with the ethics of Revelation. We have already seen that just as Jesus is a faithful witness (1:5), so is Antipas (2:13). Both sealed that witness through their deaths by execution. Just as Jesus “overcame” through his “consistent resistance” (Schüssler Fiorenza’s apt translation of hypomonē [1985: 182; cf.  Johns  2007]), just as Jesus maintained his faithful witness unto death, so the Laodiceans are encouraged to “overcome” in the same way (3:21). Revelation is resistance literature. It is a prophetic book advocating religious-political resistance to compromise of all sorts, including compromise with regard to the emperor cult. Its hero leader, Jesus, the executed lamb, leads the way for his followers. As they follow Jesus in their own consistent resistance, which is manifested as faithful testimony that could well result in their own executions, they will reap the same reward as the lamb they are following reaped. That is, they also will have a place with Jesus on his throne, just as Jesus’s own conquering resulted in his being given a place with the Father on the Father’s throne (3:21). The theology and Christology of Revelation thus undergird and cohere with the ethical message of the book.

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   231 This matrix of conquering, faithful witness, and death by execution unites Revelation’s Christology with its ethics. To be more precise, the lamb Christology of Revelation is developed specifically to support its ethical message: the hearers of this Revelation are being called to resist forces of compromise that are calling the people of the province of Asia to worship alternative gods. Revelation encourages them to do so by refusing false worship and bearing consistent testimony to the one true God of Israel, and Jesus, his emissary, even if that witness results in the execution of the faithful—and it probably will. The tale Revelation tells is a battle of allegiances (Kraybill 2010).

Is the Characterization of Jesus as Lamb Ethical? One problem with the book of Revelation is that there is at the heart of its rhetoric a “symbolic transformation of the world” (Barr 1984, 206). That is not in itself a problem. However, the redefinitions and reversals that make up the symbolic transformation of the world so central to the rhetoric of Revelation make it difficult to determine where or in what sense a traditional association is to be assumed and when something is being radically redefined. More specifically, does the apocalyptic violence of Rev 6–20 control, suppress, or redefine Revelation’s symbolism of the victorious executed lamb, as Crossan (2007, 218), Yarbro Collins (1992a), and others have argued, or does the symbolism of the victorious executed lamb control, suppress, or ultimately redefine the violence portrayed in Rev 6–20? What role should the central scene in chapter 5 and the presence of the lamb in Rev 6–20 play in interpreting Rev 6–20, and/or vice versa? Obviously, not everything can be redefined in a symbolic transformation of the world; otherwise, the reader would be completely disoriented in conceptual chaos. However, if a redefinition of power or violence is at the heart of that symbolic transformation, then the author of Revelation is making significant demands on the part of his readers/hearers to recognize and understand exactly what is being redefined, and how. Interestingly, Yarbro Collins herself apparently changed her mind on this matter between the time of her dissertation (1976) and her 1992 article on Revelation in the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (Yabro Collins 1992a). In her dissertation she had argued that the lamb Christology effectively subverted the combat myth in Revelation, but in the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, she says it is the other way around. For Matthew Streett (2012), the matter is clear: the Jesus of Revelation is a violent avenger. The images of ­violence in the book control, suppress, or redefine the symbolism of the victorious ­executed lamb. David Neville (2013, 228) has said that “an interpretation of Revelation that does not place at its core John’s peculiar exposition of the identity and significance of Jesus can hardly comprise a faithful interpretation of Revelation.” The problem is all the more serious if that exposition is ambiguous. How are we to adjudicate competing readings of

232   Loren L. Johns that exposition? Barr (2003a, 165) suggests that “better readings are those that many different readers find convincing. . . . When a reading fails to convince a significant number of other readers of its worth it is at least a weak, and probably a wrong, reading.” Thus, if readers of Revelation today cannot agree on what is arguably the most important issue in the book, what are we to conclude? If the key to the book is an ambiguous Christology, does that ambiguity lie in the book itself, or in our own reading strategies? If it is the ­former, a flaw in the book itself, as Steve Moyise thinks and Greg Carey fears (cf. Carey 1999 and Carey 2006), we must conclude that the author of Revelation was conflicted, incoherent, schizophrenic, passive aggressive, or simply ineffective in his use of rhetoric. If it is the latter, if the problem lies more in how we are reading and what we are bringing from our own social locations, a more careful probing of that ambiguity could be fruitful. In 2001, Steve Moyise helped to clarify the issues in his provocative article “Does the Lion Lie Down with the Lamb?” Moyise notes that one entire school of interpretation has understood the lamb Christology to be determinative with regard to Revelation’s understanding of power. He credits G. B. Caird with being the first to articulate this perspective in a compelling way. Caird interpreted the introduction of the Lion of Judah in the form of an executed lamb in Rev 5:5–6 as “the key to all of John’s use of the Old Testament” (Moyise 2001a, 181). Thus, “Wherever the Old Testament says ‘Lion,’ read ‘Lamb.’ Wherever the Old Testament speaks of the victory of the Messiah or the overthrow of the enemies of God, we are to remember that the gospel recognizes no other way of achieving these ends than the way of the Cross” (Caird 1984, 75). Moyise cites J. P. M. Sweet (cf. Sweet 1990), M. Eugene Boring (cf. Boring 1989a and 1989b), Richard Bauckham (cf. Bauckham 1993), and G. K. Beale (cf. Beale 1999) as essentially following Caird in this reading of Revelation. Many others could be added to that list. For instance, Gregory Stevenson (2013, 101) has recently argued that the key to interpreting the ambiguities in the book is recognizing that Revelation redefines “victory not in terms of violence against one’s enemies but in terms of suffering witness that holds faithfully to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus.” Mitchell Reddish (2001, 25) argues that Revelation’s militaristic, even violent imagery can be misleading. “One must distinguish between texts that use language and imagery to encourage or endorse violence and those that use traditional imagery to subvert violence. The Apocalypse belongs in the latter category.” Moyise appreciatively quotes Harold Bloom’s dismissive assessment of Revelation as lurid, inhumane, pernicious, and barbaric (Moyise 2001a, 183; cf. Bloom 1988, 4–5). In the words of John Dominic Crossan (2007, 218), “the Slaughtered becomes the Slaughterer.” Moyise accepts the judgments of C. H. Dodd (1953, 232), Raymond E. Brown (1981, 60), and Josephine Massyngberde Ford that the tradition of a militant apocalyptic lamb in late Second Temple Judaism ultimately makes the most sense of the lamb Christology, with all its violent, militaristic deeds of judgment, although Ford adds that the militant aspect “receded as the early Church fused the Lamb with the idea of the Passover, the Suffering Servant, and the Eucharist” (Ford 1975, 89). Unfortunately, the existence of a militant lamb tradition does not hold up to scrutiny (Johns 2014, 76–107).

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   233 Moyise had made the same claim in his earlier monograph, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation (1995, 129–32). For Moyise, the book of Revelation simply cannot support any consistent interpretation with regard to Christology and ethics. He says that in the face of Revelation’s own ambiguities, deconstruction itself has taught us that consistency is attainable only by eliminating alternative readings and forcing one’s own interpretation (Moyise 2001a, 185–94). I agree with David Barr when he says, “In my view there are a great many and differing valid readings of a text like Revelation, but there are also misreadings, weak readings, and false readings” (Barr  2003a, 164). In support of that conclusion, Barr depends on the work of Paul B. Armstrong (1990) for help in thinking about how to legitimately adjudicate conflicting readings. Moyise (2001b, 129–32; 2001a, 194) has made much of the argument that the lamb does not “simply replace” the lion in the book of Revelation. He is right that Revelation’s lamb is not meek and mild. Some hope the mountains and rocks will fall on them to hide them from the wrath of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the lamb (6:16). Revelation’s lamb clearly does not simply lie down with its enemies in support of some idyllic picture in which eschatological peace is portrayed as ignorant bliss. Nevertheless, on the narrative level, the lamb does indeed “replace” the lion. The lion appears once and only once as a symbol for Jesus, in 5:5. Lions were a favorite symbol of royalty throughout the ancient Near East. Literarily, the shocking appearance of the lamb in 5:6 should be seen as the rhetorical fulcrum in the book. Significantly, the lion never again appears as a symbol for Jesus. The lamb has replaced the Lion. Moyise sees the lamb and the Lion as an ongoing juxtaposition in the book, but in terms of literary characters, no such juxtaposition exists. After 5:5, the victorious lamb serves out the rest of the book, out-appearing the Lion 28–0. As the last sentence in his essay in Studies in the Book of Revelation reveals, the real issue here may be theological: Moyise (2001b, 194) cannot accept Revelation’s redefinition of power: “Evil is much more complex than that.” As David Barr (2006, 209) puts it, “It is poor reading to overlook this inversion and to read as if the lamb has not replaced the Lion in this story.” Richard Bauckham (1993, 210–37) has treated as directly as anyone the question of what kind of battle believers are encouraged to take up in his essay, “The Apocalypse as a Christian War Scroll.” David Barr (1997, 2003b; cf. Boring 1989b, 112–19) has treated well the question about the ethics of violence in Revelation more broadly. Although several problems inhere in Bauckham’s characterization of Revelation as “a Christian war scroll” (Johns 2007, 268–76), Bauckham convincingly argues that Revelation reinterprets traditional expectations of messianic war, “substituting faithful witness to the point of martyrdom for armed violence as the means of victory” (Bauckham  1993, xv). So if the hypomonē enjoined upon believers can be thought of as “consistent resistance,” it might more precisely be thought of as “consistent nonviolent resistance.” Although a significant debate raged in the literature of Second Temple Judaism over the ethical propriety of human participation in violent conflict—especially eschatological conflict—the two canonical apocalypses of Daniel and Revelation both articulate a clear call to nonviolent resistance.

234   Loren L. Johns The book of Revelation is by no means an exercise in second-order discourse about the ethics of human violence. If Revelation is unambiguous about the impropriety of human violence, it is so in its own social and historical context, potentially limited by the realistic chances a small group of believers in the province of Asia might have had in rebelling against Rome. Just how broadly John’s understanding of human consistent nonviolent resistance might apply to life in the world of the twenty-first century is an interesting issue worthy of debate—one filled with its own ambiguities—but one that differs from the discourse about what John meant to say to his people in the first century. Simply pitting Rev 4–5 against Rev 6–20 will not do. If there is to be further genuine progress on the significance of the lamb Christology for the book as a whole, it will need to happen through the disciplined investigation of five interrelated issues: 1. Do the actions of the lamb in Rev 6–20 conform more to the logic of traditional retributive violence or the logic of a redefinition of victory? 2. What are the ethics of eschatological judgment itself? 3. Does the so-called matrix of victory (conquering), faithful witness, and death really exist in some meaningful interrelation in the book, or are they actually disparate themes? 4. Might further insight into the political and social realities of John’s first-century context shed further light on the symbols and rhetoric of Revelation? 5. Do other descriptors or titles of Jesus (other than lamb) suggest how we should interpret the central descriptor of Jesus as lamb (arnion)? Each of these questions is complicated. For instance, one of the goriest and most distasteful scenes of bloody judgment in which the lamb participates comes in Rev 14:14–20, with its scene of reaping the earth’s harvest. In dealing with this scene, G. B. Caird argued that the harvest described there is the harvest of faithful martyrs and that the only blood flowing in the deep and long rivers of blood was the blood of those very martyrs. This is an awful vision of the horror of martyrdom, not an awful (or wonderful) vision of God’s judgment on unbelievers at the hand of the lamb! Few commentators have followed Caird in this interpretation, however intriguing or attractive it might be for those who otherwise see the lamb Christology as crucial. Rev 14:14–20 is most likely a hopeful vision of bloody judgment on the powerful, a vision that comes from the underside of history, the underside of power, someone perhaps writing from a cave on Patmos. On the other hand, Rev 6–20 continues to make sense of the lamb Christology introduced in chapter 5. As David Barr puts it, “The violence attributed to the lamb is always equivocal. He slays all the wicked, but by the sword of his mouth (not his hand). He gathers an army but never leads a charge (Barr 2006, 208). If Rev 6–20 really does cohere with the revelation of the nonviolent conquering lamb in Rev 5, one would expect some kind of transformation of that violence, some reversal, some mitigation or cautionary nuance in the scenes of violence themselves in those later chapters. And this is indeed

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   235 what we have. Jesus shows up at the final eschatological battle in Rev 19 with robes already dipped in blood—his own. No actual battle is narrated because the decisive victory has already been won in his own death. It is over before it starts. “Careful reading will show that at every point where John introduces images of violence and conquest, he undermines the symbols with images of suffering and conquering testimony” (Barr 2006, 210). David J. Neville addresses the ethics of eschatological judgment itself in his book, A Peaceable Hope: Contesting Violent Eschatology in New Testament Narratives. Treating the New Testament as a whole, in chapter 7 Neville turns to the problem of the book of Revelation. Neville sees the lamb Christology as determinative with regard to the ethics of eschatological judgment. In his words, “the Christology of Revelation is in step with the peaceable mission of Jesus, despite John’s use of violent imagery . . . The means by which the crucified Jesus ‘conquered’ are the means by which God ‘conquers,’ without remainder” (Neville 2013, 241; emphasis original). In David Barr’s words (2006, 209), “I take it as absolutely fundamental to the Apocalypse that the violence through which Jesus is said to conquer evil is the violence done to him.” Ultimately, Neville (2013, 240) encourages us to imagine the possibility that God may be big enough and powerful enough to judge the earth in ways that are more restorative than retributive.

Conclusion In conclusion, no one challenges the distinctiveness or the pervasiveness of the lamb Christology in the book of Revelation. It is one of the most unusual and unexpected literary features in the book. The question, as Moyise helpfully clarified in 2001, has to do with the import of that Christology in the book and whether it serves as an organizing principle that is strong enough to direct how we read the book. In other words, does the lamb Christology ultimately provide clues about how to read the book that can provide a coherence to what otherwise looks incoherent? My argument here is that the pervasiveness of the symbol, the literarily strategic and dramatic unveiling of the lamb in Rev 5, along with the lamb Christology’s relationship with other significant themes in the book (e.g., Revelation’s redefinition of conquering and its focus on faithful witness in the context of mortal conflict), suggests that the lamb Christology should serve as the prism through which we read the rest of the narrative.

Notes 1. Words used of Jesus in some parts of the New Testament that are not so used in Revelation include savior (sōtēr), teacher (didaskalos), prophet (prophētēs), master (despotēs), servant (pais), and God (theos). 2. Revelation uses the word “lamb” twenty-eight times of Jesus—more than any other word, title, or descriptor for Jesus.

236   Loren L. Johns 3. The decision of the NRSV translators to add the article and capitalize Son of Man in Rev 1:13 as if it were a title is questionable. 4. Cf. Rev 3:14. The editorial decision to add a comma in 1:5 to demarcate two appositional substantives in Nestle-Aland is questionable given the author’s propensity for triadic formulas in Rev 1 (Minear 1968, 9–10). 5. One distinctive version of the listing of the twelve tribes includes Joseph’s son Manasseh, Joseph himself, and landless Levi, while omitting Dan and Joseph’s son Ephraim. Various attempts have been made to explain this odd listing. In any case, we do have twelve historical names here, though they function more as eponyms than personal names. 6. For more on naming as a rhetorical strategy, comparing the rhetoric of Revelation with those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, see Johns 2006, 271–4. 7. For instance, is “the voice” (hē phōnē) in 1:9 simply a descriptor, or is it a title, referring to a hypostatic being (Charlesworth 1986)? 8. The noun for kingdom (basileia) occurs twice in 11:15, as does the verb basileuō (to reign). “Kingdom” (basileia) also occurs in 12:10, as does authority (exousia). The verb reign (basileuō) occurs in 20:4 and 20:6, while the word throne (thronos) occurs in 20:4. Clearly Revelation’s messiah sits on the throne and has authority to reign and to judge—a direct challenge to the Roman emperor. 9. The historical record of the first century shows, however, that emperors who showed appropriate restraint and reluctance to be worship were divinized at death by the Senate, but those who too readily embraced or demanded worship had their memory officially damned. 10. The slippery ambiguity of seemingly straightforward words like atonement and sacrifice is part of the problem here (Johns 2008).

References Abaecherli, A. 1935. “Imperial Symbols on Certain Flavian Coins.” CP 30: 131–40. Armstrong, Paul B. 1990. Conflicting Readings: Variety and Validity in Interpretation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Barr, David L. 1984. “The Apocalypse as a Symbolic Transformation of the World: A Literary Analysis.” Int 38: 39–50. Barr, David L. 1997. “Towards an Ethical Reading of the Apocalypse: Reflections on John’s Use of Power, Violence, and Misogyny.” In SBL Seminar Papers 36, pp. 358–73. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. Barr, David L. 2003a. “Conclusion: Choosing between Readings: Questions and Criteria.” In Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 163–72. RBS 44. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Barr, David L. 2003b. “Doing Violence: Moral Issues in Reading John’s Apocalypse.” In Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 97–108. RBS 44. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Barr, David L. 2006. “The Lamb Who Looks like a Dragon? Characterizing Jesus in John’s Apocalypse.” In The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 205–20. SymS 39. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Bauckham, Richard. 1993. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   237 Beale, G. K. 1999. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. NIGTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Bloom, Harold, ed. 1988. The Revelation of St. John the Divine. Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea House. Blount, Brian  K. 2009. Revelation: A Commentary. NTL. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Boesak, Allan A. 1987. Comfort and Protest: Reflections on the Apocalypse of John of Patmos. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Boring, M. Eugene. 1989a. “Reflection: Interpreting Revelation’s Violent Imagery.” Excursus in Revelation, pp. 112–19. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: John Knox. Boring, M. Eugene. 1989b. Revelation. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox. Boring, M. Eugene. 1992. “Narrative Christology in the Apocalypse.” CBQ 54: 702–23. Bredin, Mark R. 2003. Jesus, Revolutionary of Peace: A Nonviolent Christology in the Book of Revelation. Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs. Carlisle, PA: Paternoster. Brown, Raymond  E. 1981. The Gospel According to John, I–XII: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. 2nd ed. AYB 29. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Caird, George B. 1984. The Revelation of St. John the Divine. 2nd ed. BNTC. London: Black. Carey, Greg. 1999. Elusive Apocalypse: Reading Authority in the Revelation to John. Studies in American Biblical Hermeneutics. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Carey, Greg. 2006. “Symptoms of Resistance in the Book of Revelation.” In The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 169–80. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Carnegie, David R. 1982. “Worthy Is the Lamb: The Hymns in Revelation.” In Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology Presented to Donald Guthrie, edited by Harold H. Rowdon, pp. 243–56. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Charlesworth, James  H. 1986. “The Jewish Roots of Christology: The Discovery of the Hypostatic Voice.” SJT 39: 19–41. Crossan, John Dominic. 2007. God and Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. Dodd, C. H. 1953. The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ford, J. Massyngberde. 1975. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Friesen, Steven  J. 1993. Twice Neokoros: Ephesus, Asia and the Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family. RGRW 116. Leiden: Brill. Friesen, Steven J. 2001. Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Grabiner, Steven. 2015. Revelation’s Hymns: Commentary on the Cosmic Conflict. Library of New Testament Studies. London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark. Guthrie, Donald. 1987. “The Lamb in the Structure of the Book of Revelation.” Vox Evangelica 12: 64–71. Hofius, Otfried. 1998. “Ἀρνίον—Widder oder Lamm? Erwägungen zur Bedeutung des Wortes in der Johannesapokalypse.” ZNW 89: 272–81. Jeremias, Joachim. 1964. “ἀμνός, ἀρήν, ἀρνίον.” In TDNT, vol. 1, pp. 338–41. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Johns, Loren L. 2006. “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Apocalypse of John.” In The Scrolls and Christian Origins, vol. 3 of The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by James H. Charlesworth, pp. 255–79. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.

238   Loren L. Johns Johns, Loren L. 2007. “Identity and Resistance: The Varieties of Competing Models in Early Judaism.” In Qumran Studies: New Approaches, New Questions, edited by Michael Thomas Davis and Brent A. Strawn, pp. 254–77. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Johns, Loren L. 2008. “Atonement and Sacrifice in the Book of Revelation.” In The Work of Jesus Christ in Anabaptist Perspective: Essays in Honor of J. Denny Weaver, edited by Alain Epp Weaver and Gerald J. Mast, pp. 124–46. Telford, PA: Cascadia. Johns, Loren L. 2014. The Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John: An Investigation into Its Origins and Rhetorical Force. 2003. WUNT II/167. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Kraybill, J.  Nelson. 1996. Imperial Cult and Commerce in John’s Apocalypse. JSNTSup 132. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic. Kraybill, J.  Nelson. 2010. Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos. Laws, Sophie. 1988. In the Light of the Lamb: Imagery, Parody, and Theology in the Apocalypse of John. Wilmington, DE: Glazier. Megoran, Nick. 2013. “Radical Politics and the Apocalypse: Activist Readings of Revelation.” Area 45: 141–47. Minear, Paul  S. 1968. I Saw a New Earth: An Introduction to the Visions of the Apocalypse. Washington, DC: Corpus Books. Moyise, Steve. 1995. The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. Moyise, Steve. 2001a. “Does the Lion Lie Down with the Lamb?” In Studies in the Book of Revelation, edited by Steve Moyise, pp. 181–94. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Moyise, Steve. 2001b. The Old Testament in the New: An Introduction. Continuum Biblical Studies. New York: Continuum. Neville, David  J. 2013. A Peaceable Hope: Contesting Violent Eschatology in New Testament Narratives. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Prévost, Jean-Pierre. 1993. How to Read the Apocalypse. Translated by John Bowden and Margaret Lydamore. New York: Crossroad. Reddish, Mitchell G. 2001. Revelation. SHBC. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Spitta, Friedrich. 1907. “Christus das Lamm.” In Streitfragen der Geschichte Jesu, edited by Friedrich Spitta, pp. 172–224. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Stevenson, Gregory. 2013. A Slaughtered Lamb: Revelation and the Apocalyptic Response to Evil and Suffering. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press. Streett, Matthew  J. 2012. Here Comes the Judge: Violent Pacifism in the Book of Revelation. LNTS. London: T & T Clark. Sweet, John. 1990. Revelation. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International. Thompson, Leonard  L. 1990. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. Trites, Allison A. 1973. “Martys and Martyrdom in the Apocalypse: A Semantic Study.” NovT 15: 80. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1976. The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation. HDR 9. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press.

Jesus in the Book of Revelation   239 Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1984. Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse. Philadelphia: Westminster. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1992a. “Book of Revelation.” In ABD, vol. 5, pp. 694–708. New York: Doubleday. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1992b. “The ‘Son of Man’ Tradition and the Book of Revelation.” In The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity, edited by James H. Charlesworth, pp. 536–68. Minneapolis: Fortress.

chapter 15

The Spir it i n th e Book of R ev el ation John Christopher Thomas

The role of the Spirit in the book of Revelation has not received the same level of scholarly attention as other areas of New Testament pneumatology; nonetheless, it has generated a significant amount of research. The major research foci have been the topics of “the seven spirits,” the phrases “in the Spirit” and the “Spirit of prophecy,” and the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit. Whether viewed in isolation from each other or as part of a synthetic whole, each of these topics contributes to an understanding of the role of the Spirit in the Apocalypse. This chapter examines each of these component elements within Revelation’s pneumatology.

“The Seven Spirits” (of God) On four occasions the book of Revelation refers to “the seven spirits” (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; and 5:6). In its inaugural mention (1:4) the seven spirits are described as being located before “his” throne, referring to “the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming,” while in the remaining three occurrences they are identified as “the seven spirits of God” (3:1; 4:5; and 5:6). Though at one level the identity of the seven spirits appears to be rather straightforward, scholars have been divided over the exact background and meaning of this phrase (Waddell 2006, 9–21).

The Seven Spirits as Angelic Beings One of the ways in which the seven spirits have been identified is as actually seven angelic beings, an interpretation that can be traced back at least to the time of Oecumenius (sixth century ce), who states directly that the seven spirits are the seven

242   John Christopher Thomas angels. He quickly adds that these angels are not co-equal to, nor co-eternal with the other members of the Trinity, but are rather true assistants and faithful servants of God (Commentary on the Apocalypse 1:4). A number of arguments in modern scholarship have been put forward in support of the interpretation that the seven spirits are to be identified as the seven angels, arguments that draw on various forms of external and internal evidence. R. H. Charles argued that the seven spirits refer to the seven archangels, which were well-known in Jewish tradition. He considered the inclusion of these angels in the greeting to be an interpolation based on the erroneous idea that they represented the seven energies ascribed to the Messiah in Isa 11:2–3 (Charles 1920, 11–12). Though Eduard Schweizer was not persuaded that the phrase in Rev 1:4 originated as an interpolation, he, too, concluded that the seven spirits have reference to the seven archangels found within the history of religions background of Judaism and ancient Christianity (Schweizer 1968, 450). Similarly, David Aune mines the religious and historical background of the Apocalypse for clues to the meaning of the seven spirits and comes to the conclusion that they are indeed to be understood as the seven principal angels of God. Aune rejects the interpretation that the seven spirits have reference to the Spirit of God as artificial and unconvincing, in part because it reflects the later conceptualization of God along Trinitarian lines. Instead, Aune traces the background of this phrase in Judaism of the period. He acknowledges that “spirits of God” appears nowhere in the Old Testament, that the plural “spirits” is never used for angels in the Hebrew Bible, and that in much of the literature of the era, the term “spirits” only rarely functions as a synonym for “angels”—it normally is used for malevolent spirits. He therefore grounds his interpretation primarily in parallels from the Qumran literature, where he argues that the term “spirits” does in fact function as a synonym for “angels.” On this view, Aune contends that “the seven spirits” must be identified with “the seven angels who stand before God” in 8:2. He seeks to strengthen this interpretation by surveying various groups of seven entities in contemporary literature as a backdrop to this text in Revelation (Aune 1997, 1.33–35). Craig Koester has presented the most nuanced rationale for this understanding by seeking to integrate both the external and internal evidence for this interpretation. Connecting the seven spirits (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6) with the seven angels (8:2), which are both described as being before the throne, Koester points out that the seven stars in the hands of Christ (4:5) are referred to as both angels (1:20) and spirits (3:1). Further, he observes that the seven spirits are described as seven flaming torches (4:5), an idea found in the Hebrew Bible (Ps 104:4 [103:4 LXX]) as well as the New Testament (Heb 1:7, 14). After grounding his interpretation in the world of the text, Koester then draws on the relevant evidence from the Qumran literature (4Q405 23 I, 8–10; 1QM XII, 8–9), and suggests how such an understanding might be analogous in some ways to other royal depictions scattered through earlier and contemporaneous literature (Esth 1:14; Ezra 7:14; 1 En. 20:1–7; 37:2, 4; Tob 12:15; Koester 2014, 216). While Aune concludes that the interpretive option that sees the seven spirits in Revelation as the seven principal angels of Judaism is “very certainly the correct one,” Koester’s assessment leads to a more guarded

The Spirit in the Book of Revelation   243 conclusion, for he will later observe that the seven spirits before the throne are “probably” angelic spirits (Koester 2014, 226).

The Seven Spirits as the Singular Spirit of God Another major interpretive option, which appears to be even more ancient in its origins than the previous one—with adherents going back at least to the time of Victorinus of Pettau (died 304)—identifies the seven spirits before the throne as the singular Spirit of God. For Victorinus, who writes the earliest extant commentary on Revelation, the ground for this identification is the list of traits in Isa 11:2–3. Following the LXX version of the text, Victorinus identifies this sevenfold spirit as “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, of knowledge and of piety, and the spirit of the fear of God” (Victorinus, Commentary on the Apocalypse 1:4). This line of interpretation would prove attractive to some interpreters who view it as providing a partial explanation for the meaning and origin of seven spirits, though not necessarily the origin of the number seven, in Rev 1:4 (Bruce 1973, 333; Hemer 1986, 142). However, the equation between the seven spirits and the sevenfold spirit of Isa 11:2 would be challenged on the basis that the Hebrew text contains only six clauses rather than the requisite seven, which seems to indicate that such an explanation falters at this point (Fekkes, 1994, 109). Yet newer methods of identifying and understanding intertextual connections maintain that an image in Revelation may draw associations from a variety of older texts, so that one need not assume that it is based on a single older source (Moyise, 1995, 18). For example, other scholars have identified Zech 4:4–14 as the interpretive key for understanding the identity of the seven spirits—especially their appearances, in Rev 4:5 and 5:6, with flaming lamps of fire (Zech 4:2) and the seven horns and seven eyes (Zech 4:10), respectively (Bauckham  1993b, 109–15; Bruce  1973, 333–44; Sorke  2009, 215–18; Thomas 2012, 329–31; Waddell 2006, 172–78). In addition to identifying intertexts that reveal something of the identity of the seven spirits, appeal has been made to literary contexts within Revelation where the seven spirits seem to function as the singular Spirit of God. First, the initial reference to the seven spirits comes in the book’s prologue, where it is part of the author’s greeting to the recipients, in which the blessings of grace and peace are extended from “the one who is and was and is coming and from the seven spirits that are before his throne and from Jesus Christ.” (1:4). Located in-between the references to God as “the one who is and was and is coming” and to “Jesus Christ,” the seven spirits appear by association to be part of this holy community, which suggests their divine identity (Contreras Molina 1987, 19). This identity is further informed by the order of this listing, since the seven spirits are mentioned after the reference to the “the one who is and was and is coming” but before the reference to “Jesus Christ,” indicating that the mention of the seven spirits is anything but perfunctory and that it prepares the hearers for the seven spirits’ divine activity as the narrative unfolds. The seven spirits’ location is “in the closest interactive working relationships” with the one who sits on the throne and Jesus Christ

244   John Christopher Thomas (Smidt 1999, 42). The attribution of grace and peace to the seven spirits is striking in that nowhere else in the NT are these qualities attributed to an apostle or angel; they appear instead to be divine prerogatives of God and Jesus (Schreiner 2010, 502). Moreover, relationships indicated by the greeting in 1:4 continue as the seven spirits are again linked to Jesus (3:1; 5:6) and to “the one who sits on the throne” (4:5), and calling them the seven spirits “of God” fits their divine identity (4:5; Bauckham 1993a, 109–15). The final reference is in Rev 5:6, where the seven eyes of the Lamb are “the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” In this passage the connection is made in the following ways: (a) The context connects the seven spirits both to the one who sits on the throne (God) and to the Lamb (Jesus) in ways reminiscent of 1:4, which again suggests a divine identity. (b) In 5:6 the seven spirits are the eyes of the Lamb, so that they are effectively “embedded” in the Lamb, which gives the intimate relationship between the seven spirits and the Lamb in 1:4 and 3:1 a more concrete expression. This intimacy parallels the intimacy between Jesus and the Spirit in the seven prophetic messages (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:1, 6, 13, 22). (c) The seven spirits seem to have a divine function in 5:6, since they are “sent into all the earth,” a mission that appears to include divine knowledge. (d) Since the seven spirits of God are embedded as the seven eyes of the Lamb in 5:6, it would seem that they are an implied recipient when universal worship is rendered to the Lamb in 5:8–14, which again shows a divine identity and makes it plausible to interpret the seven spirits as a way to speak of God’s Spirit. If this is correct, then Rev 5:6 is perhaps the  only place in the NT where worship is rendered to the Spirit (Thomas and Macchia 2016, 492).

“I Was in the Spirit” The phrase “in the Spirit” occurs four times in the Apocalypse (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:10), and its function and meaning have received a fair amount of scholarly attention.

“In the Spirit” as a Literary/Structural Marker While a variety of proposals have been offered with regard to the structure of Revelation, a growing number of scholars have concluded that whatever its other dimensions of meaning, the phrase “in the Spirit” plays a crucial role in the overall structure of the Apocalypse. Located between the book’s prologue (1:1–8) and its epilogue (22:6–21), the four “in the Spirit” phrases serve as literary and structural markers, assisting the hearers as they make their way through the narrative. Each occurrence of the phrase locates John in a different place—on Patmos, in heaven, in a wilderness, and on a great ­mountain—and these phrases also appear in two sets of pairs, in which there are similarities and contrasts. The first two occurrences are introduced by “a great voice” and the second pair is introduced by “one of the seven angels having the seven bowls.” Further,

The Spirit in the Book of Revelation   245 in the first pair there is a contrast between John’s physical location on Patmos and his visionary location in heaven, and in the second pair a contrast is offered between the cities of Babylon and the New Jerusalem—situated in the wilderness and on the mountain, respectively. Using these phrases in such a manner can hardly be accidental but forms the broad structure of the book (Tenney 1957, 33). The distribution of the phrase throughout the entire document testifies to its function as a major literary marker; each occurrence both indicates a distinct change of scene and is followed by a section that holds together in terms of thematic unity (Kempson 1982, 85–86). The phrase has even been identified as “a typical apocalyptic structural convention,” owing to the similarities of its function to other formulae found in contemporary apocalyptic works (Smith 1994, 385). Since the Apocalypse is to be heard (1:3), this thematic structure would convey to the hearer that the whole of the book is one singular visionary experience given “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day on Patmos (1:10). Subsequent appearances of the phrase (4:2; 17:3; 21:10) indicate transitions within the vision (Bauckham 1993a, 1–7), but they do not necessarily indicate additional visions, because throughout the book John is “in the Spirit.” This interpretation of the literary function of the “in the Spirit” phrases results in the following narrative structure: The Prologue (1:1–8) “In the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day (1:9–3:22) “In the Spirit” in Heaven (4:1–16:21) “In the Spirit” in the Wilderness (17:1–21:8) “In the Spirit” on a Great Mountain (21:9–22:5) Epilogue (22:6–21)

“In the Spirit” and John’s Experience of the Spirit This literary function does not exhaust the meaning of this phrase, however. Specifically, scholars have sought to understand what the phrase might reveal about John’s experience of the Spirit. “In the Spirit” as Ecstatic or Trance-like Experience. It is not uncommon for interpreters to take the phrase “in the Spirit” as a description of an ecstatic experience. For some, John’s experience is best understood as “falling into a trance,” not unlike what is described in other places in the NT (Acts 11:5; 22:17), since it was only after John was initially “in the Spirit” that he was addressed by Christ—though the use of the phrase later may imply something more than falling into a trance (Charles 1920, 1.22, 110). On this view, the phrase is an idiom indicating that John’s revelatory experience occurs in the Spirit, not in the body, and it is a vision trance (Aune 1997, 82–83). Others have used the term “ecstatic” to describe John’s experience without offering much by way of definition or meaning for the term. Significantly, the Greek word from which the English word “ecstatic” is translated never appears in Revelation, as it does in Acts. It seems likely that there is more to the phrase “in the Spirit” than the signaling of an ecstatic or trance-like experience on John’s part.

246   John Christopher Thomas “In the Spirit” as Spirit Possession. The phrase “in the Spirit” has also been understood to indicate a form of spirit possession, similar to other types of spirit possession in antiquity. On this view, in the setting of worship on the Lord’s Day, John was possessed by the Spirit. When compared with other forms of religious experience, John’s seems to be more like that of a shaman than a medium, since he did not lose control of his own thoughts or awareness. In this state of Spirit possession, it was not that John received revelatory information from the divine world above to be channeled through him, but that the Spirit opened up John’s perspective on the human world below, making his context a part of the revelatory experience which was then seen and experienced in a different light (Thompson  2003, 140–41). However, the application of such anachronistic categories to John’s Spirit experience and the way in which the conclusions offered run counter to the understanding offered at the text’s narrative level suggest that other ways of understanding what it means to be “in the Spirit” may merit more attention. “In the Spirit” and the Prophetic Revelatory Experience. Instead of seeking to understand the phrase in light of categories external to the text, other interpreters have sought to allow the text to define the meaning of “in the Spirit” in Revelation. In such explanations the phrase is often understood to describe John as in the sphere or under the power of the Spirit, enabling him, or at least his consciousness, to be transported to new scenes of action where he receives a variety of revelatory disclosures (Hill  1979, 90–91; Tenney 1957, 32–33). As the phrase stands near the beginning of the four major sections of the book, introducing a transition in the visionary experience, it follows that the Spirit is a constant agent of revelation (Mazzaferri 1989, 300–303). On this view, the phrase functions as a technical term for John’s experience of rapture by the Spirit. During this time, he appears to experience a suspension of his normal consciousness as “his normal sensory experience” is “replaced by visions and auditions given him by the Spirit.” While “in the Spirit,” and despite his extraordinary revelatory experiences, he retains his ability to think, since he does not lose his faculties in the process. Thus, the Spirit inspires both John’s prophetic experience and the medium by which it is shared with his hearers (Bauckham 1993a, 159). John’s experience parallels that of Ezekiel, especially the visionary transportation by the Spirit, further underscoring the connection between the activity of the Spirit and John’s prophetic task (Mazzaferri 1989, 377–83). “In the Spirit” and the Context of Worship. A connection between the experience of being “in the Spirit” and the act of worship seems to be implied by the fact that so much liturgical language occurs in the book’s prologue, which immediately precedes the first “in the Spirit” phrase. Aspects suggesting a liturgical context include: the first of seven beatitudes (i.e., words of blessing), which helps introduce a book described as “words of prophecy” (1:3); the fact that Revelation is to be heard in a communal context and is addressed to a cluster of churches (1:4); the coupling of words about Jesus Christ with a doxology; and a prologue that concludes with two prophetic words, one attributed to Jesus (1:7) and the other to God (1:8). John’s reference to being “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” is understood by many to refer to Sunday as a regular day of worship. On this view, the implied regularity of John’s practice and that of the community with whom he is united “in the Spirit,” though geographically separated from, would make more explicit

The Spirit in the Book of Revelation   247 the tie between John’s being “in the Spirit” and worship as the context in which such a phenomenon is an expected part. The angelic command to worship God in 19:10 “for the witness of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy” would seem to confirm the connection between worship and the activity of the Spirit (Koester 2014, 739–40). This understanding should not be taken to imply that John worshipped “in the Spirit” in order to receive an apocalypse, but rather, that he worshipped “in the Spirit” because that is how worship took place. As such, it is in a state of worship that John receives the apocalypse (Archer 2015, 130–31). Worship is thought to have included at least music and singing (Thompson 2003, 142–45), owing in part to the number of hymns and musical instruments mentioned in the book, as well as prayers, kinesthetic movement, words of worship, silence, repentance, perhaps even the Eucharist, and witness as an act of worship (Archer 2015, 312–28).

“In the Spirit” and Writing in the Spirit: Literary Fiction or Expression of the Church’s Spiritual Experience Although one earlier interpreter took the position that John essentially transcribed the vision using the words of Jesus rather than his own (Lenski 1943, 15–16), modern scholars have been divided over the issue of whether the claims of the book about John’s Spirit experience are a literary fiction that owes its origin to apocalyptic literary conventions, or whether they attest John’s actual experience of the Spirit. On the one hand, the text shows signs of literary and theological development and sophistication consistent with a long period of reflection and thought. This fact, combined with some overlap with the characteristics of the apocalyptic genre have led to the conclusion that the writer was following literary convention when referring to his call and experience of the Spirit (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 51). On the other hand, the text claims that John was “in the Spirit” when he experienced the revelation and was instructed to write down what he saw and heard. One of the problems in attempting to prove that John’s claims of being “in the Spirit” are a literary fiction is that “the phenomenology of revelatory experience conforms to stereotypical behavioral and literary conventions and expectations,” indicating that reaching a definitive decision on this issue is an almost insoluble problem (Aune 1997, 82). This situation, along with the role which visionary experience appears to have played in various early Christian circles, suggests that John’s claims to such Spirit experience cannot be easily discarded, but must be taken seriously. A mediating approach would allow for a visionary experience as perhaps the catalyst for the work, while taking into account the “conscious literary shaping” of various features within the text, acknowledging that John often followed literary convention, while at the same time reckoning with the fact that he departed from such convention at any number of points (Koester 2014, 251–52).

248   John Christopher Thomas My own view is that the role of the Spirit in the composition of the book was even greater than simply being a catalyst for the work. Instead, I propose that it helps to account for the literary and theological complexity of the work, taking seriously the book’s attribution that “in the Spirit” John writes all that he sees and hears in his extended visionary experience. On this view, the book of Revelation is the result of the “dynamic convergence and intersection of all that is John’s life,” experienced when he is “in the Spirit.” Specifically, all that John is, his knowledge of the OT, the apocalyptic traditions, the Johannine Jesus tradition, his worshipping community, and the experience of revelation itself converges before his eyes and ears “in the Spirit” to produce the text of the Revelation. Such an understanding suggests that instead of seeing Revelation as the product of a long period of reflection and thought, one can view John’s “in the Spirit” experience as resulting concretely in the production of an extraordinarily complex and unique prophetic text, an understanding that would seem to be very much at home in the narrative of the Apocalypse (Thomas 2012, 44–47).

The Spirit of Prophecy The phrase “the Spirit of prophecy” occurs one time in the book of Revelation (19:10), in the statement, “For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” Despite its uniqueness, a number of scholars consider the “Spirit of prophecy” to be the dominant or central pneumatic theme in the book, one that is closely associated with the “in the Spirit” phrases (Bauckham, 1993a; Bruce 1973, 337–40; Schweizer 1968, 449). The phrase is even sometimes used by scholars as shorthand to refer to the pneumatology of the Apocalypse. However, a number of interpretive issues surround the meaning of this phrase.

The “Spirit of Prophecy” and the Question of Genre An investigation of the book’s genre may go some way toward informing the meaning of the phrase the “Spirit of prophecy.” It is not uncommon for discussions of the genre of the book of Revelation to begin with a comparison of its characteristics with those of the literary genre identified as the apocalyptic tradition, a category that, ironically, receives its name from the Apocalypse of John. The similarities between Revelation and the apocalyptic tradition are striking at some points, but at other points, significant differences are evident. The similarities include the use of fantastic imagery, a transcendent perspective that gives its hearers the opportunity to view this world and its history from the perspective of heaven, the question “Who is L/lord over this world,” and a decidedly eschatological orientation. The differences between Revelation and the apocalyptic tradition include the fact that Revelation is not pseudonymous, because John writes in his own name; a more extensive use of visual symbolism than is found in other documents labeled apocalyptic; and the

The Spirit in the Book of Revelation   249 way in which the book is an unsealed—that is, open—book designed to reveal its contents rather than a sealed book designed to conceal its contents (Thomas 2012, 13–16). Owing to such mixed results in comparing Revelation with other apocalyptic texts, several scholars have identified the Apocalypse as a book of prophecy (Mazzaferri 1989). Internal evidence for this identification is plentiful. First, the volume begins (1:3) and ends (22:8) by referring to the book as “the words of this prophecy,” enfolding the entire contents of Revelation with prophetic claims. This identification is supported by the angel’s words of instruction to John in 22:10, “Do not seal up the words of this prophecy,” and John’s words about “the words of this prophecy” and “the book of this prophecy” near Revelation’s conclusion (22:18–19). Second, a number of passages in Revelation appear to be individual prophetic utterances (1:7, 8; 2:1–3:22; 14:13; 16:15; 22:7–20). Third, there are a number of affinities between Revelation and OT prophetic literature, including John’s call narrative and his reinterpretation of the words of the OT prophets. On this last point, it is significant that in the prophecy concerning Babylon, in 18:1–19:8, there are echoes of every message spoken against Babylon in the OT (Bauckham 1993b, 5). Accordingly, the phrase “the Spirit of prophecy” is situated in a document that presents itself as prophetic, making it likely that the phrase should be understood as having reference to prophetic activity generated by the power of the Spirit (Thomas 2012, 572–73).

“The Witness of Jesus and the Spirit of Prophecy” The expression “Spirit of prophecy” is connected to “the testimony of Jesus” in 19:10. One of the interpretive challenges is whether the grammatical construction “the testimony of Jesus” is a subjective genitive or an objective genitive. If the former, the phrase describes Jesus’s witness; if the latter, the phrase describes the witness about Jesus. Though the different interpretive options have a variety of defenders, it seems unlikely that the hearers would have felt compelled to choose between the options, because by this point in the narrative, both dimensions of Jesus’s witness have been described. The witness about Jesus is indeed a message from Jesus (Michaels 1997, 213). Moreover, the witness of Jesus is intimately connected with his identity as “the faithful witness” (1:5) who himself has been faithful unto death as “the firstborn of the dead.” In 19:10, the ­witness of Jesus can best be understood as the theological point at which the teaching of and about Jesus and the words of the resurrected Jesus, as well as the witness of Jesus conveyed by the Spirit to the church, converge (Koester 2014, 740).

The “Spirit of Prophecy” and the Phenomenon of Prophecy in the Church The expression “Spirit of prophecy” may include bold preaching, as some have suggested, but that interpretation does not exhaust the phrase’s meaning in the Apocalypse.

250   John Christopher Thomas A number of scholars are convinced that the phrase points to, and must be understood in the light of, the phenomenon of prophecy in the life and experience of the church. Evidence for such an interpretation includes the book’s affinities with prophetic literature, as well as the complex view of the extent of prophecy in the community implied by the text. First, although John is nowhere explicitly referred to as a prophet, it is clear from the text that he functions in a prophetic role. John describes his work as words of prophecy. He is four times described as being “in the Spirit,” which makes his revelatory experiences possible. On two occasions John recounts his prophetic call and commission to write what he sees (1:11; 10:8–11). His engagement with the resurrected Jesus, angelic figures, and the elders, as well as his transportation by the Spirit on two occasions, are reminiscent of the experiences of OT prophetic figures. By recounting his revelatory experiences in Revelation, he makes them available to his hearers. Clearly, John functions as a prophet, which makes it likely that the community itself was a context in which prophetic activity occurred. The book also reveals the existence of at least one rival prophetic figure, a woman whom Jesus calls Jezebel, whose teachings and practices he condemns (2:20). Significantly, while John nowhere explicitly refers to himself as a prophet, this prophetic rival is described as “one who calls herself a prophet,” perhaps suggesting that prophets in this community do not so much claim the title of prophet for themselves as have the title affirmed about them by others. Her deceptive teaching leads “my servants” to commit sexual immorality and eat food sacrificed to idols. The association of her teaching with “the deep things of Satan” suggests that the source of her prophetic work is not the Spirit, in contrast to that of John’s prophetic work. Jesus instructs the community not to tolerate this activity but to repent. The clear implication is that just as those who claimed to be apostles—but are not—were tested, so this false prophetic figure and her teaching should have been tested. The existence of this rival “prophet” signals that the community was familiar with more prophetic figures than John and is additional evidence for understanding the community envisioned by the Apocalypse as a prophetic one. John does not function alone in his prophetic task, but is joined by others referred to explicitly as “your brothers the prophets” (22:9) and implicitly in the phrase “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets” (22:6). Although their role and function are not described, they would seem to be similar to those of John. Several additional references appear to be made to such prophets in Revelation (11:18; 16:6; 18:20, 24; cf. also 10:7; 11:10). The cumulative weight of such evidence suggests that the community is one in which the idea of “the prophethood of all believers” was a significant part of the community’s self-understanding (Waddell 2006, 193).

The “Spirit of Prophecy” and Pneumatic Witness The witness of Jesus is closely connected to the “Spirit of prophecy,” for Jesus is the faithful witness par excellence in Revelation (1:5). Significantly, such faithful witness is shared or emulated by numerous individuals in the book. They include Antipas, who is

The Spirit in the Book of Revelation   251 explicitly called “my faithful witness” by Jesus (2:13), and other figures who were faithful unto death, such as the souls under the altar (6:9–11), the great crowd or innumerable multitude (7:9–17), the two prophetic witnesses (11:3, 7), and believers in general (12:11, 17; 17:6), as well as the one hundred forty-four thousand (14:4). The story of the two prophetic witnesses, which stands near the center of the Apocalypse (11:1–13), shows how the relationship between the faithful witness (of Jesus) and the “Spirit of prophecy” extends to those within the prophetic community implied by the book. These individuals are identified as “my [God’s] two witnesses,” who will (divinely) be given the ability to prophesy, suggesting that here the activities of witnessing and prophesying are synonymous. In the description of the two witnesses that follows, a variety of prophetic characteristics converge in ways not unlike the description of the inaugural vision of the resurrected Jesus in 1:9–20. The two witnesses are identified as the two olive trees and the two lampstands, reminiscent of Zech 4 (Bauckham 1993a, 273–83). They can bring forth fire and close the heavens like Elijah. They have the ability to turn water into blood and bring other plagues like Moses. But perhaps most significantly, they experience a death, resurrection, and ascension like that of Jesus. Their prophetic powers appear to be the accumulation of all the prophets who preceded them; their anointing by the Spirit seems to be complete as they stand before the Lord of all the earth, a position not unlike that of the seven spirits of God. In the two witnesses there seems to be a convergence of the activity of Jesus, the prophetic ministry of the Spirit, and the ongoing witness of the church. When their witness was complete they became vulnerable to the beast who rises from the abyss and is victorious over them, killing them and humiliating them in the global city by denying them burial. But their prophetic Spirit activity was not confined to their lifetime, for “the Spirit of life from God” entered into them and stood them on their feet. Then they, in language reminiscent of the prophetic word of Jesus in Rev 1:7, were taken up into the clouds before the eyes of their enemies. These prophetic events would result in the conversion of the vast majority of the inhabitants of the great city (Thomas 2012, 341–42). For the community, participation in the faithful witness of Jesus appears to be fueled by the Spirit of prophecy. It is a witness very much at home in a prophetic community. This reality can be observed near the book’s end, where the Spirit and the bride speak the same words of invitation for any to “come” (22:17) and drink from the river of the water of life that brings salvation and healing to the nations who respond to such faithful witness by believing in the Lamb (22:1–2). Such a result, the conversion of the nations, is the ultimate goal of such Spirit-inspired faithful prophetic witness.

The “Spirit of Prophecy” and Pneumatic Discernment Discernment plays a major role in the narrative of Revelation. Throughout the book John and his hearers are called to and aided in the process of discerning what obedience to God and Christ entails. On occasion, such assistance is offered from the resurrected Jesus himself (1:20), one of the elders (7:13–14), and/or angelic beings (14:6–13). There

252   John Christopher Thomas are also a number of literary markers that call the hearers to discern. One of the most significant is the specific call to pneumatic discernment near the conclusion of each of the seven prophetic messages, “The one who has an ear let that one hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Ruiz  1989, 195–200). This sevenfold call reinforces John’s blessing, spoken to the hearers in 1:3, with regard to hearing and keeping the words of this prophecy, suggesting that these calls are invitations to discern what obedience means. This hearing is a pneumatic activity that stands in solidarity with John, who is “in the Spirit” when he receives and writes these words, with the prophetically spoken words of Jesus, and with the Spirit who calls for and enables discerning obedience (Thomas 2012, 121–23). At some points, the text implicitly calls for pneumatologically conditioned discernment, as in the need for wisdom and understanding, which may be understood as divine gifts (13:18; 17:9), and in the challenge of interpreting a title like Babylon the Great, which involves mystery. The story of the two prophetic witnesses, however, explicitly calls for pneumatic discernment (Johnson 2018, 266–72). The Greek term pneumatikos (11:8) has variously been translated as “spiritually,” “allegorically,” “figuratively,” and “symbolically.” But these translations fail to capture the relationship of the term to the Greek word for Spirit that lies at its root. The translation “pneumatically” conveys the sense that pneumatic discernment is a Spirit-given perception (Bauckham 1993a, 169). Specifically, in this text “the Great City” pneumatically means “Sodom and Egypt, the place where their Lord was crucified.” This interpretive assistance offered by the Spirit stands in continuity with the interpretive assistance offered by Jesus earlier in the narrative (1:20). It is significant that this term stands at the center of a passage that stands at the center of a book in which pneumatic discernment plays a major role. As Waddell notes, “In the center of the Apocalypse, John places the story of the two witnesses, and in the center of this brief narrative, John describes the spiritual insight of the church discerning the reality of the great city” (Waddell 2006, 183). The entire process of pneumatic interpretation presented in the Apocalypse can be described by this term (Herms 2015). In a comprehensive study of pneumatic discernment, David  R.  Johnson argues that in the Apocalypse discernment begins with Jesus, the seven Spirits, and the one who sits on the throne, for truth and discernment are Christologically, pneumatically, and theologically conditioned. He proposes that the means of pneumatic discernment include pneumatic experience, communal worship, stories and hymns (including lament), and even the narrative of the Apocalypse itself, so that discernment is perhaps the most essential aspect of the church’s existence (Johnson 2018, 348–92). In a prophetic community like the one presupposed by Revelation, there would be a need for a way to discern between true and false prophecy. The fact that John and his “brothers the prophets” have at least one rival prophet, the woman Jesus calls Jezebel— who is condemned for her teachings and practices, not her gender—confirms this need. At the cosmic level, this tension is captured by the way the seven spirits go out from the eyes of the Lamb, while the evil spirits go out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (Thomas and Macchia 2016, 487). How would the community discern the difference between such true and false claims and what inspires them?

The Spirit in the Book of Revelation   253 There may be traces of such a process of discernment in 2:2, where the church in Ephesus is praised for the fact that they have “tested” the claims of those who said of themselves to be apostles but were found to be liars. Such testing may be in keeping with the words about testing the spirits in 1 John 4:1–6, where the entire community (“you,” plural) is called to discern by testing. In 1 John the confession of faith fostered through the Spirit is expected to be in conformity to the whole complex of the Johannine Jesus tradition, summarized in the words “Jesus Christ coming in the flesh” (Thomas 2012, 111–15). Similarly, the close connection between the command to worship and the statement “For the witness of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy” in Rev 19:10 might suggest that prophetic pronouncements were also assessed based on whether or not they encouraged members of the community to participate in the worship of God or in the false worship of his rivals (Koester 2014, 740).

The Spirit and Jesus A final major aspect of the pneumatology of the Apocalypse is the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit. First, the extremely close nature of their relationship is apparent from the beginning of Revelation, where, in conveying grace and peace, the seven spirits are mentioned in between God and Jesus Christ, with the seven spirits actually preceding the mention of Jesus. As noted earlier, this triadic greeting suggests that God, the seven spirits, and Jesus Christ are part of a divine community—underscoring an extraordinarily tight relationship between the three, including Jesus and the Spirit. Second, the closeness of their relationship is informed by a phrase that stands near the end of each of the seven prophetic messages (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22), “The one who has an ear let that one hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” While this refrain indicates that the words to be heard—and thus obeyed—are the words of the Spirit, they are also the words of Jesus, since each message begins as direct address from the resurrected Jesus. Thus, the words Jesus speaks, without interruption, from 1:17 to 3:22 are also the words of the Spirit, and the words the Spirit is saying in this context are coterminous with the words spoken prophetically by Jesus. The fact that Jesus and the Spirit speak with one voice reveals that their relationship is even closer than their appearance together in the prologue initially suggests (1:4–5). Third, at the beginning of the prophetic message to the church in Sardis, Jesus claims to be “the one who has the seven spirits of God and seven stars,” making his intimate connection with the Spirit even clearer (3:1)—and since “the seven spirits” are “of God” this statement may also reveal the intimate relationship he shares with God. Later the seven spirits of God are identified with the eyes of the Lamb (5:6), an image that so emphasizes the closeness of the Spirit’s relationship to Jesus that it might well leave the impression that one is wholly subsumed in the other and that there is no longer any differentiation between the two. Finally, 19:10 testifies to the inseparable connection between the witness of Jesus and the Spirit of prophecy.

254   John Christopher Thomas Despite the extraordinarily intimate nature of their relationship, Jesus and the Spirit do not lose their distinct identities. The Spirit is differentiated from Jesus in contexts where the seven spirits are before the throne, where John experiences the revelation of Jesus Christ “in the Spirit,” as the seven spirits go out into all the earth, and as the Spirit anoints the prophetic witness of the prophetic community to a hostile world (11.3–13). Later, the personal character of the Spirit is underscored when the Spirit can speak on the Spirit’s own terms (14:13) and in connection with the Bride (22:17), leading one scholar to conclude that in this one respect the pneumatology of Revelation may be even more sophisticated than that of the Gospel according to John (Smalley 1996, 293). As the survey of the scholarship devoted to the seven Spirits, the “in the Spirit” phrases, the Spirit of prophecy, and the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit reveals, the role the Spirit plays within the Apocalypse is a pervasive one and its pneumatology robust. Although it is not as well-known as that found in other New Testament writings, the pneumatology of the Apocalypse stands equal in importance alongside the other major pneumatological voices found within the New Testament, in particular that of Luke-Acts, Paul, and the Gospel and Epistles of John. The fruit yielded to this point by investigations suggests that future explorations of the role of the Spirit in the book of Revelation should be richly rewarded.

References Archer, Melissa L. 2015. “I Was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day”: A Pentecostal Engagement with Worship in the Apocalypse. Cleveland, TN: CPT Press. Aune, David E. 1997. Revelation 1–5. WBC 52A. Dallas: Word. Bauckham, Richard. 1993a. The Climax of Prophecy. New York: T & T Clark. Bauckham, Richard. 1993b. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bruce, F. F. 1973. “The Spirit in the Apocalypse.” In Christ and Spirit in the New Testament: Studies in Honour of Charles Francis Digby Moule, edited by Barnabas Lindars and Stephen S. Smalley, pp. 333–44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Charles, R. H. 1920. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Revelation of St. John. Vol. 1. ICC. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Contreras Molina, Francisco. 1987. El Espíritu en el libro del Apocalipsis. Koinonia 28. Salamanca, Spain: Secretariado Trinitario. Fekkes, Jan, III. 1994. Isaiah and Prophetic Tradition in the Book of Revelation: Visionary Antecedents and Their Development. JSNTSup 93. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic. Hemer, Colin J. 1986. The Letters to the Seven Churches. JSNTSup 11. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press. Herms, Ronald. 2015. “πνευματικω~ ς and Antagonists in Revelation 11 Reconsidered.” In The Book of Revelation: Currents in British Research on the Apocalypse, edited by Garrick V. Allen, Ian Paul, and Simon P. Woodman, pp. 133–46. WUNT II/411. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Hill, David. 1979. New Testament Prophecy. Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press. Johnson, David  R. 2018. Pneumatic Discernment in the Apocalypse: An Intertextual and Pentecostal Exploration. Cleveland, TN: CPT Press. Kempson, Wayne Richard. 1982. “Theology in the Revelation of John.” PhD diss. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The Spirit in the Book of Revelation   255 Koester, Craig R. 2014. Revelation. AYB 38A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Lenski, R. C. H. 1943. The Interpretation of St. John’s Revelation. Minneapolis: Augsburg. Mazzaferri, Frederick David. 1989. The Genre of the Book of Revelation from a Source-Critical Perspective. BZNW 54. Berlin: de Gruyter. Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1997. Revelation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Moyise, Steve. 1995. The Old Testament and the Book of Revelation. JSNTSup 115. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic. Ruiz, Jean-Pierre. 1989. Ezekiel in the Apocalypse: The Transformation of Prophetic Language in Revelation 16, 17–19, 10. Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Smidt, Kobus de. 1999. “Hermeneutical Perspectives on the Spirit in the Book of Revelation.” JPT 14: 27–47. Schreiner, Thomas R. 2010. Magnifying God in Christ: A Summary of New Testament Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis: Fortress. Schweizer, Eduard. 1968. “πνεῦμα.” TDNT 6: 332–455. Smalley, Stephen  S. 1996. “The Paraclete: Pneumatology in the Johannine Gospel and Apocalypse.” In Exploring the Gospel of John, edited by R. Alan Culpepper and C. Clifton Black, pp. 289–300. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. Smith, Christopher R. 1994. “The Structure of the Book of Revelation in Light of Apocalyptic Literary Convention.” NovT 36: 373–93. Sorke, Ingo Willy. 2009. The Identity and Function of the Seven Spirits in the Book of Revelation. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest LCC. Tenney, Merrill C. 1957. Interpreting Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Thomas, John Christopher. 2012. The Apocalypse: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Cleveland, TN: CPT Press. Thomas, John Christopher, and Frank  D.  Macchia. 2016. Revelation. Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Thompson, Leonard L. 2003. “Spirit Possession: Revelation in Religious Studies.” In Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 137–50. RBS 44. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Waddell, Robby C. 2006. The Spirit of the Book of Revelation. JPTSup 30; Blandford Forum, UK: Deo.

chapter 16

Cr eation a n d N ew Cr eation i n th e Book of R ev el ation Mark B. Stephens

The idea of new creation is a regular feature of eschatological scenarios narrated in Jewish and Christian prophetic and apocalyptic literature. As a conceptual label, “new creation” functions as a rubric for collating a broad range of images pertaining to cosmic eschatology (Stephens 2011, 1). Although new creation discourse can be deployed with a more anthropological focus (Hubbard 2002), when we speak of Revelation’s vision of new creation, we are intentionally referring to the way it portrays the cosmic dimensions of eschatological salvation, in particular, the participation of the nonhuman material order in the end times. In order to appreciate Revelation’s perspective on creation and new creation, we must begin by situating the text within two broader contexts. First, we must consider Revelation’s Jewish context by examining how creation and new creation functioned within both the Hebrew Bible and the apocalyptic literature of Second Temple Judaism. Second, we must attend to Revelation’s rhetorical context, so as to situate John’s cosmological discourse within the rhetorical situation occasioned by the Christian experience of Roman hegemony in first-century Asia. Having surveyed these matters of context, we can then turn to the text of Revelation itself. Many studies on the topic of creation and new creation can place undue emphasis on the concluding vision of Rev 21:1–22:5. But discourse concerning both creation and new creation is threaded throughout the entirety of the text, and it is only by appreciating the way creation has already been spoken about in the first twenty chapters that one can fully understand what John intends in chapters 21 and 22. As J. Webb Mealy has stated: “Context in Revelation consists of a system of references that progressively build up hermeneutical precedents in the text, precedents that precondition the meaning of each new passage in highly significant ways” (Mealy 1992, 13).

258   Mark B. Stephens Consequently, our analysis of Revelation will be broken into two discrete subsections. The first will discuss how creation and new creation are portrayed in passages prior to the final chapters, in which it will be demonstrated that Revelation evinces a strong hope for the transference of sovereignty over the earth. These insights will then frame our second subsection, where Rev 21 and 22 will be examined as a strategic final word, which brings fulfilment and closure to the expectant hopes that have already been generated. Within the rhetorical situation of Roman Asia, such hopes for creation played a crucial function in enabling John’s fitting response to the exigencies of the seven churches.

New Creation in Jewish Context We begin by considering John’s thought in light of Jewish antecedents. Specifically, this involves attending to the way the Hebrew Bible, and the broader traditions of Jewish apocalyptic, may have influenced his understanding of these topics.

Creation and New Creation in the Hebrew Bible Among the surer findings of Revelation scholarship is John’s manifest indebtedness to  the theological and imaginative resources of the Hebrew Bible (Beale and McDonough 2007, 1081; Koester 2014, 123–25). While substantial debate remains surrounding the hermeneutics of John’s creative appropriation (Mathewson 2003, 311–25; Moyise 2002, 3–21), the purpose here is to offer our own summary interpretation of how creation and new creation function within this diverse body of literature. Within twentieth-century interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, it was commonplace to relegate the doctrine of creation to a subordinate position, in preference for a prioritization of redemption (Fretheim 2005, ix). Yet if one reads the texts of the Hebrew Bible in terms of their final composition and eventual canonical ordering, it becomes clear that creation has been positioned as the broad horizon within which Israel’s redemption is to be understood (Tucker 1993, 110). Framed by this context, God’s redemptive activity is often construed as restorative, as he seeks to overcome “the anticreational forces which threaten life and creation” (Och 1995, 229). This insight helps explain why key redemptive events in the Hebrew Bible, such as the Noahic Flood (Gen 6–9) and the Exodus (Exod 1–15), are so shot through with creational motifs and themes, indicating that the larger goal of such events is the renewal of creation, and the restoration of God’s imagebearers to their original mandate (Watts 2002). In light of these patterns of redemption, it should be unsurprising that when the Hebrew Bible eventually considers the eschatological future, we find the motif of new creation featuring prominently. In a range of passages (Isa 11:1–9; 65:17–25; Ezek 34:25–30; 47:1–12; Hos 2:14–23; Amos 9:13–15), we encounter a constellation of images that

Creation and New Creation   259 together indicate the participation of the nonhuman material order in the blessings of the eschaton (Stephens 2011, 19–45). Among these various images, one can discern two prominent clusters: first, the involvement of animals in the eschaton (albeit with a profound transformation of hostilities; cf. Isa 11:1–9; Hos 2:18); second, the renewal of agricultural fertility (Ezek 36:1–15; Hos 2:21–22; Amos 9:13–15), realizing the Edenic paradigm of a fecund land susceptible to delightful cultivation. Perhaps the classic instance of a new creation text in the Hebrew Bible is Isa 65:17–25, a text that has clearly influenced John’s own understanding. There we see the end goal envisaged is of “humanity being restored to the soil, tilling the land in ease, where the work exerted is commensurate with its reward, with human beings at peace with the animals, all in the midst of the favour and presence of God” (Stephens 2011, 44). In other words, the envisaged “end” is the end of evil, rather than the end of the present cosmos (Gowan 2000, xi). The rhetorical function of visions like Isa 65 is to convince the faithful to place their hope in God’s power to bring about an eschatological reversal, through which he will bring vindication for his servants, and the fulfillment of his creation project (Blenkinsopp 2003, 285–86; cf. Gowan 2000, 122). Nevertheless, despite the dominant current of renewal and restoration in the eschatological traditions of the Hebrew Bible, one must also acknowledge the presence of episodes and scenarios in which cosmic catastrophe is either threatened or depicted (Isa 13:1–22; 24–27; Jer 4:23–28; Joel 2:30–31; 3:14–16; Zeph 1:2–3). These episodes are notable for their violent imagery in which creation appears to be “ruined beyond recognition” (Chester 2014, 335). To be sure, the imagery deployed draws heavily upon the “curselanguage” conventions of Ancient Near Eastern covenants, which were known to deliberately amplify the adverse consequences of covenant-breaking as a rhetorical technique for garnering attention (Sandy 2002, 83–84). Nevertheless, such language serves to reaffirm that there is nothing inherent in creation to guarantee its continuance, and that the possibility of Yahweh destroying the earth can at least be countenanced (see Gen 8:22; Pss 46:1–3; 102:25–27; Isa 51:6; cf. Adams 2007, 25–51).

Creation and New Creation in Second Temple Apocalyptic Literature Unlike the clear presence of allusions to the Hebrew Bible, it is always a more difficult task to demonstrate that early Christian authors specifically appropriated noncanonical writings from the Second Temple period (Bauckham 2010, 70). Nevertheless, in the case of an apocalyptic text like Revelation, we can confidently discern numerous instances of shared language and imagery (Bauckham 1993a, 38–91). For much of the twentieth century, the study of Second Temple apocalyptic literature was undergirded by assumptions that it was irretrievably pessimistic toward all aspects of the present age, including the present created order (Charles 1920, 2:193; Morris 1972, 50). But more recent scholarship has unveiled a far more nuanced portrait of both ­creation and new creation in these texts (Argall  1995, 101–7; Gowan  1985, 99–102;

260   Mark B. Stephens Russell 1996, 80–133). For example, creation often functions as source of wonder and as an exemplar of obedience to the will of God (1 En. 2–5; 36:4; 72–82; 100:10–11; 2 Bar. 21:4–8; 48:1–10; cf. Stone 1987, 298–308). Indeed, even in those apocalypses that seem to envisage a final dissolution of the world, such as the First Dream-Vision in 1 Enoch, we still find a positive appreciation for how the present creation testifies to the goodness and majesty of its Creator (1 En. 83:10–11). When it comes to eschatological scenarios, we find a diversity of traditions among the apocalypses. It is true that the apocalyptic imagination often expresses its eschatology in language and imagery that is more dualistic, transcendent, even other-worldly, as compared with the classical prophetic tradition in the Hebrew Bible (Collins 1974, 21–43; Russell 1964, 267–69). Yet such disjunctions between prophecy and apocalypse can be overplayed, ignoring the significant commonalities between the two forms of literature (Grabbe 2003, 23). With regard to the future of creation, Second Temple apocalyptic does furnish examples that stress profound discontinuity between the present and the future, including the portrayal of cosmic catastrophe (Adams 2007, 52–100; cf. 1 En. 83:3–5; 102:1–3; 4 Ezra 7:30–31; Apoc. Zeph. 12.5–8). Yet this is by no means the only, nor even the dominant, form of expectation. A number of apocalyptic texts articulate a clear hope for the renewal, purification, and transformation of the present cosmos (1 En. 5:9; 10:1–11:2; 25:1–7; 45:4–5; de Boer 1988, 53; cf. Nickelsburg 1991, 56). Such depictions of a renewed creation can serve a variety of rhetorical functions, not the least of which is the way they nourish hope for the vindication of the righteous faithful (1 En. 45:4–6). However, perhaps the primary function for traditions of creational renewal is to announce that God’s beneficent sovereignty will one day be (re)manifested over the entire cosmos. Having suffered under the influence of evil forces, be they angelic or human, the renewal of creation constitutes the termination of all alternative claims to sovereignty (de Boer 1988, 39). As we shall soon see, this configuration of new creation as “transferred sovereignty” features prominently within Revelation’s account of the future of creation.

Creation and New Creation in Rhetorical Context Having surveyed something of the Jewish background, we now turn to considering how John’s rhetorical context may have influenced his presentation. Reading Revelation rhetorically means attending to the text as a piece of persuasive discourse (Koester 2014, 132), which was designed to intervene in a situation and to effect change in the audience’s beliefs, emotions, dispositions, and behavior (Carey 1999, 11; Yarbro Collins 1984, 144). As opposed to reading the language and imagery of Revelation as a coded piece of armchair theology, rhetorical approaches stress how John’s symbols can only be understood in light of their persuasive function.

Creation and New Creation   261 The rhetorical context of Revelation emerges out of its social and historical location within Roman Asia in the late first century. Traditional portraits of this setting have tended to stress a context of persecution, officially mandated by Roman authorities, using the instrumentality of the imperial cult (Metzger 1993, 16; Mounce 1998, 15–21). But more recent scholarship has substantially revised our understanding of how the imperial cult was promoted, by turning our attention to the way the cities of Asia were actively supporting the cult as a means of signifying provincial loyalty and demonstrating pietas (deSilva 1999, 100). In simple terms, the pressure placed upon Christians to venerate the emperor came also from the provincial context, as local elites and even near neighbors demanded Christians perform appropriate acts of cult or risk being branded as a social deviant (Friesen 2003, 58). Of crucial importance for discerning Revelation’s rhetorical situation is the place of cosmology in imperial ideology (Friesen 2001, 124–27). As many studies have shown, Roman political hegemony was explicitly grounded in the cosmological claim that “heaven and earth were harmoniously united under Roman rule” (Yeates  2017, 43). Within such a framework, acts of cultic veneration served to “cosmicize” the centrality of the emperor, in effect declaring that “the way things really are” is a world where imperial rule sits at the center of the universe (Thompson 1990, 181). Thus, “Roman imperial cult worship employed a discourse that constructed a cosmos” (Hansen 2014, 49). This means that in the context of first-century Roman Asia, cosmological discourse was inevitably rhetorical, because cosmologies functioned to guide and persuade as to who was the rightful sovereign over the earth (Yeates 2017, 41). At this juncture, we must remember that the rhetoric of Revelation is not aimed at convincing or persuading the imperial authorities, but rather addressing the exigencies present among the seven churches of Asia, as they configured their participation in the wider culture. Contrary to the stereotype that the churches of Asia were united by an experience of common suffering, it is clear that John faced a diverse set of responses to Roman rule (Maier 2002, 30–39). Some congregations, such as Smyrna and Pergamum, were experiencing a measure of suffering for their faithfulness to Christ (Rev 2:9–10, 13), while other churches, such as Sardis and Laodicea, appear to be experiencing little to no hostility (Rev 3:1–2, 15–17). Instead of a simple situation of oppression and persecution, necessitating a “rhetoric of comfort” addressed to the despairing, John’s larger challenge appears to have been an intramural debate among the churches concerning the question of cultural accommodation and authentic Christian praxis (deSilva 1992, 384). Most likely, a rival circle of prophets was urging a stance of peaceful accommodation with Asian culture, including its religious rituals (Rev 2:1–7, 12–29; cf. Duff 2001, 71). In view of this internal debate, one can discern the strategic power of John’s apocalyptic vision. The genre of apocalypse offers a “very serviceable vehicle for deconstructing and reconstructing views of reality” (deSilva 1999, 67), because it harnesses the power of the religious imagination to construct an alternative world that can displace the cosmological claims of Rome (Yeates 2017, 51). Through its visionary construction of a countercosmos, Revelation refurbishes the audience’s imagination with a completely different

262   Mark B. Stephens take on how things are and how things will be (Bauckham 1993b, 17; deSilva 1993, 54–55). Lying at the center of Revelation’s alternative map of the world is the divine throne (1:4; 3:21; 4:2; 7:9; 11:16; 12:5; 14:3; 19:4; 20:11; 21:3; 22:1), the true center upon which all of creation rests (Bauckham 1993b, 31–34). John’s counter-cosmic vision is, therefore, an essential tool for achieving his overarching rhetorical goal: to foster a discipleship of “critical distance” from Roman culture, so as to enable a prophetic witness to the nations (Rev 11:3–13, cf. deSilva 2009, 71).

Creation and New Creation in the Book of Revelation Our focus now moves from background context to examining the foregrounded text. Beginning with a survey summarizing the diverse ways John labels the created order, we then consider how creation and new creation are portrayed across the entirety of the work.

The Language of Creation Before we embark on an examination of creation and new creation in Revelation, it is worth pausing to note the language that John uses to describe the created order. These include ktisis (“creation”; 3:14), ta panta (“all things”; 4:11; 22:1); kosmos (11:15; 13:8; 17:8), and oikoumenē (3:10; 12:9; 16:14). In addition to this, we have numerous instances where individual elements of creation are referred to, both natural (stars, grass, clouds, stones, mountains, rivers, and the sea; cf. McDonough 2000, 228) and supernatural (angels and demons; cf. Koester 2014, 119–20). Yet the predominant terminology employed throughout the text is the language of “heaven” and “earth.” On some occasions, this terminology simply echoes the conventional merism first encountered in Genesis, in which heaven is the visible sky above and earth represents the land below (see Rev 14:7; 21:1). But John’s usage of “heaven” and “earth” often encodes a theological meaning pertaining to the duality of the present created order. Hence, heaven frequently denotes the spir­it­ ual realm to which John ascends, the transcendent place from which a true perspective can be seen and a world where the divine will is honored (Bauckham  1993b, 31; McDonough 2008, 181–82). At the opposite pole of the duality, the earth is rarely construed as a neutral place; rather, it is the arena in which the suffering faithful must contend with an array of forces that actively resist the sovereignty of God (Bauckham 1993b, 40, 46; McDonough 2008, 183; Murphy 1999, 185). Yet for all that Revelation testifies to a present opposition between the two realms, the ultimate hope of this text is for this dualism to collapse by means of an eschatological merger of heaven and earth ­ (Schellenberg 2006, 471).

Creation and New Creation   263

Creation and New Creation in Chapters 1–20 Creation discourse recurs throughout the entirety of Revelation, such that the eschatological denouement depicted in chapters 21–22 is deliberately shaped by themes and expectations generated by chapters 1–20. Here we will examine creation discourse under three broad rubrics: Creation as a Testimony to the Glory of God, the Suffering of Creation, and the Transference of Sovereignty over the Earth.

Creation as a Testimony to the Glory of God At two key points in the vision narrative, John explicitly points to creation’s purpose in glorifying God. This is most to the fore in Rev 4, where the inaugural vision of the heavenly throne room climaxes with a hymnic acclamation of God’s glory and power. According to the song of the twenty-four elders, what grounds and legitimates their worship is God’s unique actions in creation: You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Rev 4:11; NRSV)

In addition to the explicitly creational language of the hymn, we can also discern a number of creational motifs present throughout the throne room (Kiddle 1940, 93). The rainbow encircling the throne may well allude to the Noahic covenant with creation (Boxall 2006, 84; Giesen 1997, 149), and the four living creatures likely represent the totality of creation (Beale  1999, 332). Together, these images and auditions present heaven as the archetype of what creation should be: a theocentric cosmos rightly oriented in worship to its Maker (Roloff 1993, 72). A similar focus on how creation legitimates God’s claim to honor is found in 14:6–7. There an angel exhorts all the earth to “Fear God and give him glory” precisely because he is the one who made “heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” In simple terms, the question, Who is the Creator? also answers the question, Who is worthy of honor and worship? Understood within the broader rhetorical strategy of Revelation, creation’s testimony to the honor of God serves a profoundly important function. In the rhetorical cosmology constructed by Roman hegemony (Hansen 2014, 2–3), Asian Christians were positioned as a minority movement sitting at the periphery of power. But within the counter-cosmos of Rev 4, the true and real center of creation is unveiled and praised (deSilva 1993, 51). This kind of creation discourse is therefore hortatory in its intent, for it encourages the implied audience to swap the false idols of imperial power for the true worship of the heavenly throne room (Schimanowski 2004, 82).

The Suffering of Creation While the archetypal and idealized pictures of Revelation 4 testify to the way creation is meant to be, far more space is given over to portrayals of creation being destabilized,

264   Mark B. Stephens corrupted, and dismantled (e.g., Rev 6:12–17; 16:1–21; Chester  2014, 336; cf. McDonough 2000, 235). These representations of the “suffering” of creation are multifaceted in their significance. At one level, they reaffirm a tradition that recurs throughout Jewish and Christian thought in which the nonhuman creation participates in the consequences of divine judgment against human wickedness (Gen 3:17–18; Hos 4:1; 2 Bar. 48:42; Rom 8:20; cf. Hahne 2006). But a separate and distinct facet of creation’s suffering is the way that cosmic turmoil also testifies to the disordering effects of corrupted rule. Creation suffers because Rome is a “destroyer” (11:18), and her influence corrupts the earth through fornication (19:2; cf. Resseguie 2005, 226). This construction reflects a similar pattern to that found in the story of the exodus. There the motif of “creation run amok” (Exod 7:14–12:32) is both a testimony to the sovereign power of God over nature, and the logical outworking of Pharaoh’s distorted rule (Fretheim 1991, 385). Consequently, Revelation’s repeated portrayal of cosmic turmoil is intentional and strategic. Given that Roman ideology was grounded in a rhetorical cosmology that promised stability, the depiction of cosmic elements in turmoil is a rhetorical ploy, because it undercuts the pretentious claims of Rome to secure existence and guarantee prosperity (Rev 18:7; cf. Hansen 2014, 94; Koester 2001, 81–85). Here again, Revelation’s rhetorical situation must always be kept front and center. These grand visions of judgment ultimately serve John’s pastoral task of persuading his Christian audience to abandon cultural accommodation with Rome, including its religious rituals. Put another way, the language and imagery of chaos and deconstruction seeks to undermine counterfeit hope in the sovereignty of Rome (Bauckham 2004, 14).

The Transference of Sovereignty over the Earth As has already been suggested by our previous two points, Revelation’s theology of creation is inextricably intertwined with God’s sovereignty in all things. As Mitchell Reddish succinctly states: “God is sovereign over the world because this is God’s world” (Reddish 2001, 101). Within the narrative world of Revelation, creation is not merely his impressive achievement; rather, it belongs to him as his treasured possession. On one level, Revelation affirms that God is eternally sovereign over the world, as the hymn of 4:11 announces. But at another level, Revelation unveils that the eschatological future will bring the full implementation of God’s sovereignty over his creation (Caird 1966, 141). For example, included within the hymns of chapter 4 is the song of the four living creatures (4:8), who modify Isaiah’s Trisagion by acclaiming God as the one who was, who is, and who is to come. Here, the concluding reference to God’s “coming” (erchomenos) is not so much an affirmation of ongoing existence, as it is a declaration of God’s intention to come to the earth in judgment and salvation (Pss 96:13; 98:9; Isa 40:10; 66:15; Zech 14:5; cf. Bauckham, 1993b, 29). Thus, the unveiling of heaven as an idealized picture of creation also carries with it the eschatological promise that what is true in heaven will become true on earth (Bauckham 1993b, 31; McDonough 2008, 182). The central agent who brings God’s eschatological reign is Christ. Already in 3:14, the exalted Christ has described himself as the “beginning of God’s creation” (hē archē tēs ktiseōs tou theou), a self-predication that likely refers to his role in inaugurating and

Creation and New Creation   265 ruling over the new creation (Beale 1999, 298). But it is in chapter 5, where Christ is unveiled as the Lamb who takes the scroll, that we see a symbolic action that indicates his investiture as the unique sovereign who can implement the reign of God over creation (Aune 1997, 336). What is most important for our study is to note how the second half of chapter 5 is given over to portraying the consequences that result from the Lamb’s taking the scroll. Two of these items gesture toward the idea of the Lamb’s work enabling the renewal of creation. First, there is a resumption of praise in the new song of 5:9–10, where we hear the promise that the ransomed saints will eventually “reign on earth,” a statement that constitutes an eschatological reversal of their present marginal position. But of even more importance is what transpires in vv.11–14. There John sees that the worship inaugurated in the heavenly court spills over into a cascading sequence, so that the gulf between heaven and earth is bridged, as the praise of God moves from the heavenly realm to ultimately be embraced by “every creature” (5:13; pan ktisma; cf. Stephens 2011, 183). This climactic picture of a creation united in acclamation of God is not to be construed as a vision of present reality, but rather as a proleptic adumbration of God’s eschatological goal for creation (Bauckham 1993b, 33). Simply put, at the end of chapter 5 we experience a brief flashforward, so as to apprehend the goal toward which the ensuing vision will be tracking. Together, chapters 4 and 5 function programmatically, defining the end from the very outset, which is that the God of Revelation intends the liberation of creation by restoring it to a theocentric orientation. The dynamic promise that God will liberate his creation through implementing his reign upon the earth necessarily entails the dismantling of Rome’s counterfeit sovereignty. This logic explains why Revelation often portrays the future of creation in terms of a transference of sovereignty over the earth. In chapters 1–20 the most important text for this notion is Rev 11:15–19, where we encounter a two-part hymn that functions as a “hinge” within the whole apocalyptic drama (Humphrey 2007, 158). On the one hand, this literary unit concludes the action of chapters 4–11. On the other hand, this passage also points forward to the events narrated in chapters 12–22. With regards to its being a conclusion, 11:15–19 serves to complete the judgments of the seven trumpets (Murphy 1999, 273–74). In response to the blowing of the final trumpet (11:15), we hear the announcement that the kingdom has arrived. Here the language of transferred sovereignty is at its most apparent: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah.” A range of intratextual echoes intentionally link this passage to the earlier throne-room vision of chapters 4 and 5. These include an overlap in the setting (Rev 4:2, 11:19), the atmospheric presence of lightning and thunder (4:5; 11:19), the participation of carried-over characters (4:4; 11:16), as well as the recurrence of similar language concerning God’s power and reign (4:11; 11:17). Together, these linkages suggest that 11:15–19 announces the accomplishment of the program announced in chapters 4 and 5. What was true in heaven has now become true on earth, because the sovereignty of the world has passed from the hands of Rome to the rule of God and his Christ (Giesen 1997, 262; Roloff 1993, 136). Yet for all that this unit constitutes a conclusion, it also functions as a preview of chapters 12–22, where the essential themes concern the destruction of God’s enemies and the

266   Mark B. Stephens rewarding of his saints (Murphy 1999, 270). So in 11:18, we are given a summary articulation of how earthly sovereignty will be transferred–namely, that the time has come for “destroying those who destroy the earth.” By framing the matter in these terms, God’s eschatological program for creation is defined as the elimination of those evil forces that threaten God’s good world (Stephens 2011, 196). Indeed, what is announced in 11:15–19 is not the replacement of one world with another, but rather regime change over the selfsame world (Guttesen 2009, 128). It is not God who is a destroyer of the earth; on the contrary, God’s purpose and plan is to remove the destroyers (Koester 2001, 112–13). This same logic of transferred sovereignty also undergirds the “gospel” (euangelion) announcement in Rev 14:6–7. The literary positioning of this passage places it in close proximity to visions relating to the emergence and enforcement of imperial cult (13:4, 8, 11–18; cf. deSilva 1998, 94; Friesen 2001, 146). Within this context the call for true worship of the Creator is deliberately contrasted with false worship of the beast (14:9–11). In a manner reminiscent of Isa 52:7, the underlying message is that the Creator intends to take possession of his world by bringing his reign upon the earth (Roloff 1993, 174–75). Moreover, when one factors in the way “gospel” language was frequently employed in relation to imperial accomplishments, we can discern the full polemical intent (Murphy 1999, 321).

Conclusion In view of the preceding discussion, we can see that even before chapters 21 and 22 Revelation has already established several important ideas in its theology of creation, as well as framing expectations with regard to the new creation. The cosmos exists for the glory of God, but it is presently corrupted (McDonough 2008, 187). At the center of Revelation’s hopes for the future is that the eschatological coming of God will bring a transference of sovereignty over the earth. Creation will ultimately be liberated because of the prior actions of the Lamb, who will restore the created order to its intended theocentric orientation. In light of these preceding texts we would expect to find that the concluding chapters of Revelation offer a fitting closure to these ideas and hopes. To a consideration of these we now turn.

New Creation in Chapters 21–22 The locus classicus for Revelation’s perspective on new creation is 22:1–22:5. Yet it is often ignored that these final chapters do not constitute a single textual unit, but rather involve the combined contribution of two different sections (Deutsch 1987, 109). The first is 21:1–8, which is the final panel in a series of visions beginning in 19:11 that transitions the narrative from the fall of Babylon to the arrival of the New Jerusalem (Giblin 1974, 490–91). The second is 21:9–22:5, which is a separate description of the godly polis of the New Jerusalem, deliberately placed in a polemical parallelism to the prior depiction of Babylon in 17:1–19:10 (Barnett 1989, 112). Accordingly, we will examine each of these ­literary subunits in turn, before considering their insights together.

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The Initial Vision of the New Creation: Revelation 21:1–8 As the concluding panel of a major transitional section, these eight verses provide a summary introduction to the new creation, before the topic is further expatiated upon in 21:9–22:5. Here we shall limit our focus to four salient points that emerge from this initial account. First, 21:1 opens with a vision-report in which John sees “a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and first earth had passed away.” This language of heaven and earth “passing away” (apēlthan) is often construed as evidence that Revelation envisages a complete termination of the present cosmos and its replacement with a creatio de novo. (Vögtle 1985, 305). Despite the valiant attempts of some to construe this language as merely phenomenological (Heide 1997, 43), it seems likely that John is communicating that the first heaven and earth has ended in some sense. This interpretation comports well with the preceding co-text in 20:11, where earth and heaven flee from the great white throne of judgment, and no place is found for them (Stephens 2011, 229–32). Second, the specific detail that “the sea was no more” (21:1c) is another significant marker of discontinuity, at least on a qualitative level. Within Revelation, the sea is often symbolically associated with both evil and death (13:1; 17:1–2; 20:13) neither of which will be present in the new creation (Keener 2000, 491). Moreover, John is also likely drawing on the traditional Ancient Near Eastern conception that the sea was associated with the forces of chaos (cf. Isa 27:1; Beagley 1997, 127–29). The eschatological vanishing of the sea coheres therefore with the broader notion that the new creation will involve the final elimination of all evil powers (11:18; Bauckham 1993b, 53; cf. Mounce 1998, 381). Third, in 21:2 John sees the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven toward the earth. This picture of the descent of the eschatological city, a detail that is somewhat unique in the apocalyptic tradition (Sweet 1979, 303), functions as a symbol of integration, insofar as it gestures toward the collapse of the previous dualism between heaven and earth (Schellenberg 2006, 471). Moreover, given the prominence of “transferred sovereignty” as a theme throughout chapters 1–20, the descent of the New Jerusalem may rightly be regarded as a visualization of divine rule being implemented through God’s dwelling upon the earth (vv. 3–4; Dunham 2003, 107). Fourth, we have the crucial audition in 21:5, in which God himself speaks directly for the first time since chapter 4 (Royalty 1998, 220). From the divine perspective, the essential significance of 21:1–4 can be summarized in one economical phrase: “See, I am making all things new” (Idou kaina poiō panta). The reference here to “all things” (panta) is highly significant, for it consciously recalls the earlier reference to “all things” (ta panta) in the creation-themed canticle of 4:11. The stress is therefore placed upon the newness that is being imparted to God’s original creation, a fact that is only further strengthened by the fact that adjective “new” has been placed early for emphasis (Beasley-Murray 1974, 312).

The New Jerusalem and the New Creation: Revelation 21:9–22:5 Although here we are isolating this literary unit for our study of creation and new creation, we must begin by acknowledging that within the larger context of Revelation, this

268   Mark B. Stephens passage functions as a structural pair with the earlier vision of Babylon (17:1–19:10). Indeed, Revelation is deliberately designed to conclude with a rhetorical comparison between the two cities, a strategy that implicitly calls upon the audience to decide in which city they seek to find their belonging (deSilva 2009, 293). This large and detailed passage is filled with a rich collection of images communicating the glory and wonder of the New Jerusalem. As with 21:1–8, our aim here is not to mine all the exegetical details, but instead to offer a summary account of its major themes, which we again will restrict to four basic points. First, the language and imagery associated with the New Jerusalem indicate that the city represents the full realization of God’s presence upon the earth (cf. 21:3). So its cubic shape gestures to the Holy of Holies (21:16; cf. 1 Kgs 6:20; 2 Chr 3:8–9); its precious stones recall the high priestly breastplate (Rev 21:19–20; cf. Exod 28:7–10; 39:8–14); and its radiance owes to the glory of God (Rev 21:11). Indeed, so complete is the manifestation of God’s presence that the city has no temple within it, because the entire city is a temple (21:22; cf. Caird 1966, 279). Second, this eschatological city-temple is not merely a part of the new creation; rather, it is coextensive with the new heaven and new earth (Beale 1999, 1109–11). This helps explain why in 21:2 the vision-report could move easily from a description of the new earth to a description of the New Jerusalem. Accordingly, the foursquare shape of the city (21:16) creates a symbolic association between the city and the new earth, for throughout the narrative of Revelation, the number four is frequently employed in relationship to the earth (7:1; 20:8; cf. Resseguie 1998, 54). Third, the New Jerusalem is portrayed as a garden-city, fulfilling the hope that the sacred space of Eden would be not only restored, but eschatologically extended to encompass the whole earth. The work of Gregory Beale has cogently demonstrated that in a range of Jewish traditions, including creation accounts and temple iconography, there is an embedded hope that the promise of Eden will one day be fulfilled in an escalated form (Beale 2004, 123–67). In John’s portrayal of the New Jerusalem, we see that escalated fulfillment, where “the boundaries of Eden have escalated to encompass the whole earth, the population of Eden has escalated to include representatives from all peoples, and the garden itself has escalated into a garden city” (Stephens 2011, 252). Finally, the New Jerusalem reiterates the central theme of transferred sovereignty. Here we must begin by recalling the pairing of this vision with the earlier account of Babylon’s demise (17:1–19:10). Seen within that macrostructural framework, this scene overtly visualizes the displacement of Roman power. As John Sweet so eloquently puts it: “Here now is the glorious new city for which that slum-clearance made room” (Sweet 1979, 301). In addition to this structural insight, two images from 21:9–22:5 further embellish the theme of transferred sovereignty. First, in 21:24–26, we witness the kings of the earth bringing their glory into the New Jerusalem (21:24). Within the narrative world of Revelation, the kings of the earth have previously been portrayed as standing in solidarity with Babylon (17:2; 18; 18:3, 9: 19:19). Their presence here in the eschatological city functions as a picture of switched allegiance from the failed rule of Babylon to the eternal rule of God and the Lamb (Mathewson 2002, 136). But perhaps

Creation and New Creation   269 the supreme image of transferred sovereignty comes in 22:1, where the throne of God, which was previously located in heaven (4:2), has now been permanently installed on the earth. To recall again the language of Bauckham, what was true in heaven has now become true on earth.

Conclusion The closing chapters of Revelation provide the reader with a fitting conclusion to its entire discourse concerning creation and new creation. Stated simply, Revelation proclaims that the eschatological future will bring a termination to the corrupted cosmos under Roman rule and succeed it with the perfected reality of a new cosmos, symbolized by the New Jerusalem. This radical transformation necessitates the use of many images of cosmic discontinuity, because the destruction of the destroyers of the earth means a comprehensive end for the old order of things (21:4). Indeed, a world without Babylon, the dragon, the sea, and death is in many respects no longer the same world. Moreover, given the way Roman imperial ideology was grounded in a cosmology, the coming of the new creation demands images in which the present cosmic order is destabilized and deconstructed (Hansen 2014, 8). Nevertheless, Revelation’s larger framework is one of cosmic renewal, which is achieved by the work of the Lamb effecting a transfer of sovereignty over the earth. Instead of longing for the abandonment of the created order, Revelation regards creation as rightfully belonging to God, and meant to bring him glory. Thus, in the face of creation gone awry, the God of Revelation is defined as the one who comes in judgment and salvation, in order to bring his throne from heaven above to the earth below. Thus, the new creation is in some sense the old creation now filled with the presence of God, but without the presence of all forces that would bring corruption, pain, chaos, and death (Stephens 2011, 256–57). For the original audience in Roman Asia, John’s creation discourse centrally underpins his rhetorical goals. Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza captures well the central questions that drive the persuasive strategy of this text: To whom does the earth belong? Who is the ruler of this world? The book’s central theological symbol is therefore the throne, signifying either divine and liberating power or demonic and death-dealing power. (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 120)

In answer to these urgent questions, Revelation’s apocalyptic drama constructs a ­“counter-cosmos” in order to undermine any thought of idolatrous participation in Roman culture. Rome is unveiled as an agent of cosmic destruction, who herself will be eventually destroyed. On the flip side, God is portrayed as the faithful Creator, who intends for “all things” to reach their eschatological goal. Thus, within Revelation, God’s sovereignty as king, and his credibility as an object of exclusive worship, is intimately

270   Mark B. Stephens bound up with his actions as the Creator and renewer of all things. Only on the basis of this theology of creation can John effectively persuade his audience to cultivate critical distance from their idolatrous social context, a distance that is necessary if they are to perform their role of being prophetic witnesses to the nations.

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chapter 17

Perspecti v e s on Ev il i n the Book of R ev el ation Gregory Stevenson

The book of Revelation and the concept of evil have a long and firmly entrenched association in the popular imagination. Fueled by fever-dream presentations in film, television, and literature, and buoyed by the doomsday proclamations of fringe preachers (and some mainstream ones), many people have come to equate Revelation with rampaging demonic hordes, the Antichrist, and widespread death and destruction. These interpretations often fixate on the identification of evil in current social patterns and political figures as a prelude to the eschatological showdown between God and Satan. In contrast, many theological studies of theodicy, which attempt to explain God’s ex­ist­ ence, nature, and activity in the face of evil, typically ignore Revelation.1 Whereas the first approach offers sensationalist speculation that divorces Revelation’s message on evil from its historical and contextual moorings, the second approach devalues Revelation’s contributions to the study of evil through lack of attention. Revelation, however, offers a very important perspective on evil for Christian communities, but it is a perspective that is governed by two factors. First, Revelation’s perspective on evil is contextual, grounded in the sociohistorical experiences of the seven churches of Asia during the latter half of the first century. Unlike theodicies, which tend to focus on abstract, theoretical, and universal explanations of evil, Revelation’s focus is on specific, personal, and contextual experiences of evil. Revelation’s concern, therefore, is showing its audience how to live faithfully in the midst of such experiences. Second, the book’s perspective on evil grows primarily out of its use of imagery, mythic patterns, and literary structures. Whereas Revelation, as representative of apocalyptic literature, addresses the concept of evil with a measure of depth and seriousness that exceeds any other genre in the Bible (Cook 2003, 72), it is surprising how infrequently the terminology of “evil” occurs in the book. The two Greek terms most often translated as “evil” (kakos, ponēros) appear a total of three times, and in two of those

276   Gregory Stevenson occurrences they are used figuratively to describe the foulness of sores that afflict followers of the beast (16:2). In the only other occurrence, John uses kakos to identify false teachers at Ephesus as “wicked” people (2:2). Similarly, John avoids using any of the common terminology for “goodness” (agathos, kalos) in Revelation. Given the paucity of such terminology, one might question whether the categories of “good” and “evil” are the best way to characterize John’s vision. However, though the terminology is not pervasive, the concepts of good and evil are interwoven into the very fabric of Revelation’s narrative, impacting and being impacted by virtually all aspects of the text. The book’s evocative imagery, mythic patterns, and literary structures present a vision of good and evil that is tailored to a specific sociohistorical context, yet is defined by a broader tran­ scend­ent conflict. This analysis of Revelation’s perspective on evil will thus examine the dominant metaphor used to structure Revelation’s narrative world, how that narrative world addresses the social context of its audience, and how specific elements of that narrative world, including the use of dualistic language and imagery, attempt to shape the audience’s response to their social situation in order to promote faithfulness to God.

The War of Good versus Evil in Revelation Revelation is a war story. Warfare functions as a governing metaphor that structures the book’s narrative world. The language of warfare permeates the book: “make war/battle” (2:16; 9:7; 11:7; 12:7, 17; 13:4, 7; 16:14; 17:14; 19:11, 19; 20:8), “victory/conquer/conquest” (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 6:2; 11:7; 12:11; 15:2; 17:14), “kill/slaughter” (5:6, 9; 6:8–9, 11; 9:15, 18, 20; 11:7; 13:8, 10; 18:24; 19:21), “sword” (1:16; 2:12, 16; 6:8; 13:10, 15; 19:15, 21), “army” (9:16; 19:14, 19). War is inherently dualistic, dividing forces into opposing camps, and the two primary forces in Revelation are two warring kingdoms: the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of the world. By using the metaphor of warfare, Revelation defines good and evil in terms of allegiance. “Good” is that which aligns with the reign of God, while “evil” is that which opposes the reign of God. Revelation then develops this dualistic structure throughout by creating sets of opposition that define the sides in this war and reinforce the differences between them. John presents the main figures in this war as opposing entities. The first pair is the leaders of the respective sides: God versus the dragon/Satan. God, by virtue of his role as creator, is at the center of all things and the only one worthy of glory, honor, and power (4:11). Satan, whose name means “adversary,” suggesting that “his primary role is that of opposition” (Aune 1998, 668), represents authority that is counterfeit to that of God. That God alone is worthy of glory, honor, and power reveals that the dragon’s claim to a throne (13:2), his granting of authority to the beast (13:2, 7), and his reception of worship is based in deception (12:9; 20:3, 7–8, 10). Whereas God creates, the dragon destroys.

Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation   277 The dragon initiates the war against the saints (12:17; 13:7), battles the angels in heaven (12:7), and gathers the enemy forces for battle (20:7–9). A second pairing is that of Christ versus the beasts from the sea and land. Although several symbols represent Christ in Revelation, the animal symbol of the lamb is the dominant one for Christ and stands over against the animal symbol of the beast. The beast from the sea is commonly held to be a symbol for the Roman Emperor, with the beast from the land likely denoting some kind of provincial authority. As such, these two figures embody the power of the Roman Empire in its opposition to the kingdom of God. The central element of conflict between the Christ/Lamb and the beasts is that of dominion. The beast, as an agent of the dragon, has been granted power, a throne, and authority “over every tribe and people and language and nation” (13:2, 7). Yet Revelation asserts that Christ is the one who “will rule all the nations” (12:5) and is the “King of kings” (19:15–16). Consequently, the beasts resist the authority of Christ by engaging in blasphemy and slander (13:5–6) and making war against and killing the saints (11:7; 13:7, 15). A third pairing sets two female figures in opposition: the bride and the whore. The narrative aligns these characters in that both are associated with cities (the bride as new Jerusalem, 21:2, the whore as Babylon, 17:5), are dressed in fine linen (18:16; 19:8), wear gold and precious stones (18:16; 21:18–19), and are aligned with inscribed names (17:3, 5; 21:12,14). However, the bride stands as a symbol of purity; her “bright and pure” linen represents “the righteous deeds of the saints” (19:8), while the whore symbolizes promiscuity (17:2; 18:3). In contrast to the names of saints and apostles that the bride/new Jerusalem bears, the whore/Babylon bears blasphemous names (17:3). As with the dragon and beasts, the whore/Babylon is also held guilty of shedding the blood of the saints (17:6; 18:24). Spatial dualism in Revelation also helps delineate the lines between good and evil by marking off the symbolic territory of the respective groups. Leonard Thompson emphasizes the three-tiered universe of Revelation, in which divine forces are located in heaven, “evil forces” are assigned to the abyss, and the earth is the “place of conflict between the two” where the battle for allegiance plays out (Thompson 1990, 76–77). However, a couple of observations regarding this structure are necessary. First, the association of enemy forces with the earth, the abyss, or “the kingdom of the world” is not an indictment of God’s sovereignty, as though he has somehow lost his authority over creation. God remains “the Lord of the earth” (11:4) and his sovereignty over all creation is never questioned in Revelation (Thompson 1990, 91; Thomas and Macchia 2016, 411). Even the abyss as the location of “evil forces” is ultimately under God’s control. The demonic locusts that are released from the abyss in 9:1–11 do so at the behest of the fifth angel (9:1), and they do God’s will by harming only those who do not bear God’s seal (9:4). Likewise, in 20:1–3, an angel seizes the dragon and locks him in the abyss by God’s authority. Second, the primary symbolic contrast in Revelation is not heaven versus the abyss, but heaven versus earth. On one level, the earth functions as the battlefield in this war. It is where the members of the seven churches reside, and where they are called to stand in faithfulness. However, the earth is not a neutral battlefield in this war because

278   Gregory Stevenson the powers of evil have corrupted the earth (11:18; Bauckham  1993, 52). Throughout Revelation, therefore, those aligned with the kingdom of God are consistently associated with heaven (6:9; 7:9; 14:1–3), while those aligned with the kingdom of the world are described as “the inhabitants of the earth” (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8) and “the kings of the earth” (18:3, 18; 19:19). In this sense, the terms “heaven” and “earth” function in Revelation as a representation of allegiance, and “earth” is frequently associated with an oppositional orientation to the kingdom of God.

Evil and the Social Context of Revelation Because Revelation is a contextualized response to the experiences of its audience, its perspective on evil is intricately enmeshed with the identification of that social experience. In other words, what is the context for the war that Revelation envisions? The traditional understanding of the book of Revelation is that it was written in response to Roman persecution of Christians (Mounce 1998, 16–19; Swete 1906, lxxiv, xcii). This view depicts the war in Revelation as an existing war in which Christians are faithfully resisting the Roman Empire and are, therefore, innocent victims suffering under Roman attack. Consequently, the rhetorical function of Revelation is to comfort this Christian community and to encourage its members to endure their suffering in faithfulness. In this viewpoint, evil is something that is external to the Christian community. It is a violent, oppressive force “out there” that threatens the faithful. The interpretive landscape has more recently shifted toward a rejection of persecution as the generative force behind the writing of Revelation, which has resulted in a comparable shift in evaluations of the book’s perspective on evil. Following Leonard Thompson’s work calling into question the historical evidence for widespread and systematic Roman persecution of Christians in the first century (Thompson 1990), many scholars have downplayed the role of persecution in favor of accommodation. Christians are too comfortable within Roman society and have compromised their faith by embracing the benefits and value system of Roman culture (Maier  2002, xii–xiii; Thompson 1990, 91). Rather than innocent victims, Christians have become collaborators with the enemy. The focus thus shifts from Rome as persecutor to Rome as seducer. Within this view, the rhetorical function of Revelation is to expose the evil nature of Roman society, to indict Christians for their complicity in that evil, and to call them to repent and resist Roman culture. Consequently, the war in Revelation is more of a potential war that will break out if Christians heed the call to repent and resist. So Maier can claim that the “problem the Apocalypse addresses is not too much persecution but too little” (Maier 2002, xiii). In this view, evil is no longer strictly “out there” but is also “in here.” Evil becomes the threat of seduction through the lure of the comfort, security, and status that the Roman system offers.

Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation   279 What both interpretations have in common is the tendency to read Revelation through the narrow lens of their reconstructed social situations while devaluing the valid contributions of the other perspective. It sets up a false either/or scenario that leads to prioritizing one set of evidence over another. Two factors should lead us to be cautious about embracing a strict choice between persecution and accommodation. First, the term “persecution” is vague and can encompass many different forms of oppression, both physical and mental. Thompson argues against persecution by stating that the situation underlying Revelation must be sought “within normal, not abnormal times, in established policies of the empire toward Christianity, not in eccentricities of a particular emperor” (Thompson 2003, 36). However, one must account for the fact that “normal” times within the early Roman Empire and “established policies” are not necessarily conducive to a comfortable Christian existence. Normal imperial policies, for instance, fostered idolatry with respect to both the Greco-Roman deities and the imperial cult, economic oppression of certain groups, and the interrogation of groups that did not meet Roman legal restrictions. All of this could place faithful Christians in an ideological conflict between the demands of their faith and the demands of Roman society. Second, the evidence from Revelation itself resists such bifurcation. Churches are not monolithic entities that embody a single social experience, but instead represent a wide variety of experiences and religious viewpoints that vary not only from church to church, but also within congregations. Any attempt to read Revelation as a response to a singular (or even dominant) social setting is strongly resisted by the seven churches themselves, which resist such easy categorization (Charry 1999, 163). It is axiomatic that faithfulness leads to suffering in Revelation. Those who hold to the traditional social setting view the churches as primarily faithful and suffering as a result, whereas those who argue for accommodation view the churches as primarily unfaithful. The letters to the seven churches, however, contain a mixture of both faithfulness and unfaithfulness in almost equal measure. John describes only one church (Laodicea) as being wholly compromised in their faith, but he depicts two churches (Smyrna and Philadelphia) as completely faithful because only these two letters lack any command to repent. The remaining churches embody a mixture of the faithful and the unfaithful. Although Sardis is spiritually “dead,” there are “a few people” who have “not soiled their clothes” (3:1, 4). The church at Pergamum has remained “true” to the name of Christ even in the midst of a hostile environment that has resulted in the death of one of their own (2:13). Yet some in the church have acquiesced to a false teaching that promotes accommodation to Roman culture (eating meat sacrificed to idols and practicing sexual immorality), which John associates with Balaam and the Nicolaitans (2:14–15). The church at Thyatira is guilty of tolerating a woman who teaches a similar doctrine and who has presumably won some converts from the congregation (2:20–23); yet others in the church have rejected that teaching (2:24), and the church as a whole is praised for its love, faith, and perseverance (2:19). Although Ephesus is a church that has forsaken its “first love” (2:4), it appears to be particularly resistant to accommodation and false teaching since John praises them for not tolerating wicked individuals (in contrast to Thyatira), for rejecting false apostles, and for hating the practices of the Nicolaitans (2:2–3, 6).

280   Gregory Stevenson Reading Revelation as a book addressed to complex, multifaceted churches made up both of Christians who resist the values of Roman culture and suffer as a result and Christians who avoid suffering by accommodating to those same Roman values means that the rhetoric of Revelation functions both to comfort the oppressed and to challenge the compromised. John’s choice of apocalyptic rhetoric as the means of addressing these churches is instructive because the flexible and polyvalent symbolism of apocalyptic is uniquely suited for engaging varied types of readers simultaneously and for fostering faithfulness to God in these multiple settings. Since John’s depiction of evil in Revelation is a contextualized one, reading the book as a response to social situations that encompass both faithful resistance and faithless compromise has profound implications for the book’s perspective on evil.

Clarifying Evil in Revelation Within the context of the warfare metaphor, Revelation employs several rhetorical methods to clarify the nature of the evil facing its audience. One such method is the use of dualistic sets of opposition that grow out of the overarching conflict of the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of the world. Several of these sets of oppositions were introduced earlier, and demonstrate the battle lines in this war. Here we examine how these oppositions further clarify the issue of allegiance that faces John’s audience. The fundamental identifier of the adherents of these two kingdoms (and thus the dividing line between “good” and “evil”) is faithfulness, defined by descriptors and actions that demonstrate allegiance to one kingdom or another. Those aligned with the kingdom of God are “faithful” (pistos; 2:10, 13; 17:14); those aligned with the kingdom of the world are “unfaithful” (apistos; 21:8). The faithful prophesy and witness (6:9; 10:11; 11:3, 7, 18; 19:10), while the unfaithful utter blasphemy (2:9; 13:1, 5–6; 16:11, 21; 17:3). The unfaithful are the perpetrators of violent acts—they do harm (11:5; 22:11), murder (11:7), make war (11:7; 12:17; 13:7), destroy (11:18), and get drunk on the blood of the saints (17:6). The faithful are the victims of such acts—they are killed (2:13; 6:9, 11; 13:10, 15), suffer (1:9; 2:9–10), and their blood is shed (17:6; 18:24). Revelation characterizes the faithful with terminology of moral purity (white, virgin, blameless, holy, pure, washed), while characterizing the unfaithful with terminology of immorality (fornication, adultery, defilement, theft, uncleanness, abomination, impurity). The kingdom of God is true, just, and righteous (14:5; 15:3–4; 16:5–6; 19:1–2, 8), while the kingdom of the world is defined by lies, deception, and falsehood (2:2, 20; 3:9; 12:9; 13:14; 16:13; 19:20; 20:3, 7–8, 10; 21:8, 27; 22:15). Whereas the faithful engage in true worship (7:15; 11:10), the unfaithful engage in idolatry and magic arts (9:20–21; 13:4–5, 8, 12, 14; 14:9, 11; 16:2; 21:8; 22:15). Another rhetorical method Revelation employs, particularly to situate social/political manifestations of evil within a broader context, are mythic patterns of conflict. These mythic patterns shape much of the presentation in Rev 12. The chapter retells the

Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation   281 Christian story, with its depiction of the birth of Christ (12:1–6), the cross (12:10–11), and the nature of Christian existence in the late first century (12:11–12, 17). The combat myth, which finds various forms of expression in many ancient cultures, depicts a tran­scend­ ent struggle between divine beings that represent order and chaos, which often involves a dragon seeking to kill an unborn child to keep that child from later defeating the dragon. By presenting a dragon attempting to devour a pregnant woman who will give birth to the Messiah, Rev 12:1–6 uses the combat myth to set up the conflict between Satan and the Messiah. This conflict finds further expression in 12:7–11, where a war in heaven between the dragon and Michael evokes the gigantomachy (a heavenly war between the gods and the giants), which is an extension of the combat myth. The result of this war is the dragon’s defeat, rendered dramatically when he is hurled to the earth, a defeat that is then clarified as having occurred “by the blood of the Lamb” (12:11), suggesting that the heavenly war represents a symbolic description of the cross. The dragon’s defeat at the cross, however, does not mark the end of conflict, and he goes down to the earth filled with fury (12:12). Here John turns to the mythic pattern in Gen 3. Having already identified the dragon as “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan” (Rev 12:9), Revelation applies the enmity between the serpent and the offspring of Eve (Gen 3:15) to the dragon/serpent, who declares war on the offspring of the woman (Rev 12:17), defined as “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (12:17). John thus clarifies the nature of Christian existence as a time of warfare in which Satan has directed his long-standing enmity with God toward those who align with God’s kingdom. It is often noted that apocalyptic texts take these and other primordial myths and recast them as eschatological narratives (Bauckham 1993, 89–90; Collins 1995, 25–38); however, it is equally important not to forget that they are also primordial myths. As primordial myths, they situate the experiences of John’s audience within a transcendent context and depict their current conflict as one expression of an enduring war with Satan as the ultimate cosmic adversary of the kingdom of God (Aune  1998, 668; Bauckham 1993, 89; Beale 1999, 633–34). This understanding of evil as a transcendent reality that undergirds all forms of opposition to God (imperial or otherwise) is a fundamental component of apocalyptic literature. To read Revelation in a way that denies or ignores this transcendent dimension of evil is to read Revelation as something other than apocalyptic (Cook 2003, 72, 194; Faricy 1979, 189). Yet these mythic patterns are just that: patterns. They are designed to be repeatable. Consequently, Revelation employs the paradigmatic character of these mythic patterns by applying them to the historical enemies of Israel’s past (Aune 1998, 668). The book’s frequent use of traditions and imagery associated with Egypt, Babylon, and Antiochus Epiphanes demonstrates that the primordial conflict of chaos and order, good and evil, faithfulness and unfaithfulness repeats itself throughout history in the form of imperial entities. By taking the four beasts of Daniel (each representing kingdoms) and combining them in the beast of Rev 13, John presents Rome as the current embodiment of this recurring pattern. Rome does not hold the patent on opposition to the kingdom of God

282   Gregory Stevenson and the institutionalizing of unfaithfulness. In fact, the interplay of Rev 12 and 13 clarifies the position of the Roman Empire in John’s schema. Before depicting Rome as a monstrous beast (Rev 13), John introduces the dragon as the real enemy (Rev 12). By only then moving on to the beast and stating that the beast receives his power, throne, and authority from the dragon (13:2) does Revelation make it clear that Rome is merely one weapon among many that the dragon utilizes to wage its war on the followers of God. The dualistic warfare rhetoric of Revelation has come under attack for its interpretive legacy, particularly the demonization of perceived enemies, the embracing of Christian triumphalism, and the representation of women in categories of good and evil (Carey 1999, 137, 176–77; Friesen 2006; Schüssler Fiorenza 1985, 199). Addressing these objections to the rhetoric of Revelation within our contemporary context is an important avenue of inquiry (though beyond the scope of this chapter), yet it is equally important to appreciate the functions of that rhetoric for John’s original audience. Ellen Charry employs the “two-edged sword” from Revelation as an effective analogy for the function of John’s rhetoric (Charry 1999). John simultaneously comforts and critiques the members of his churches, and the dualistic warfare rhetoric provides one example of this. For those members who are faithful to the kingdom of God and who resist Roman imperial culture, the dualistic rhetoric of Revelation provides them clarity and hope. It makes sense of their suffering by situating it within a long tradition of opposition between God and Satan that repeatedly manifests in social conflict. By viewing their struggle within this larger context, it emboldens them to stand firm and endure in faithfulness, for they stand in solidarity with all the oppressed faithful who have come before. Furthermore, their struggle is not just a social or political battle against a first-century empire; it is one manifestation of a transcendent battle against Satan that has been raging since the beginning of time. Revelation’s assurance of God’s ultimate victory spurs them on to greater endurance and continued faithfulness, as Revelation exhorts, “Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (13:10; 14:12). Social scientist Roy Baumeister argues that victims naturally conceive of their experiences in dualistic categories of good and evil, right and wrong, whereas the perpetrators of evil “see a large gray area” (Baumeister 1997, 40). This suggests that dualism helps victims cope by assuring them that their experiences were undeserved and unjust. It also suggests that for the perpetrators of evil and all those aligned with them—which in the context of Revelation would include those who have accommodated to Roman culture—dualism is just as important for its clarifying function. Viewing their actions in the context of a “gray area” allows perpetrators to justify their behavior and choices, whereas dualism forces them to confront their complicity by placing them firmly on the side of evil. For those who have compromised their faith, Revelation’s dualistic rhetoric informs them that there is no neutral ground in this war and compels them to decide for or against the kingdom of God (Thomas and Macchia 2016, 411). For all the members of the seven churches, Revelation’s language offers a clarion call to faithfulness. It accomplishes this by establishing dualistic categories of good and evil and then undercutting those same categories.

Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation   283

Blurring Evil in Revelation The dualistic warfare language of Revelation establishes clear battle lines in which “good” and “evil” are neatly defined, assuring the faithful that they stand on the side of the Lamb. The problem, however, is that many members of the churches believe they are on the side of the Lamb even as they cavort with the beast. Two fundamental characteristics of evil in Revelation are deception and seduction (Boxall 2006, 179; 12:9; 13:14; 17:1, 2, 4, 5; 18:3, 9; 19:2, 20; 20:3, 8, 10; De Villiers 2000, 65). Many members of John’s churches have succumbed to the seductive charm of the enemy because they have been deceived into viewing Rome as a benign and even benevolent force in their lives, one that provides security, peace, and prosperity to the empire. Revelation’s dualistic rhetoric unmasks “the demonic potency” of such power (Meeks 2000, 467), indicts unfaithful Christians for their complicity in this demonic system, and forces them to make a choice. One strategy Revelation employs to indict these compromised Christians is to deliberately undercut the very dualism it established by blurring the lines between opposing entities. Two studies illustrate this feature. Preferring the term “boundary” for the division between opposing forces, Leonard Thompson states that the boundaries Revelation employs to create categories of good and evil are soft and blurred (Thompson 1990, 75). Both evil and good forces share characteristics that cause them to become “blended together” (Thompson 1990, 77–80). The Lamb and the beast are both “slain” (5:6; 13:3) and wear diadems (13:1; 19:12); Babylon and Jerusalem are both decked out in fine linen, gold, jewels, and pearls (18:16; 19:8; 21:18–19, 21), and “both function as sexual partners in their respective systems” (18:3; 19:7–8); God and Satan are both enthroned (2:13; 4:2); and God and the great whore both offer a drink of wine to others (14:8, 10; 16:19; 18:3; Thompson 1990, 81–82). The point, for Thompson, is that the dualism of Revelation, which seems to describe conflict between the church and Roman society as a battle between good and evil, actually does the opposite by presenting good and evil in a way that shows them not to be fundamentally different (Thompson 1990, 81). Although Thompson acknowledges that Revelation symbolically constructs “a world of conflict and opposition,” he argues that these symbolic constructs do not mirror actual social conflicts and opposition among John’s churches with the result that “terms such as conflict, tension, and crisis do not characterize his vision” (Thompson 1990, 75, 91). The second study comes from Paul Duff, who explores the literary links between the female characters in Revelation, identifying two who are “good” (the woman of Rev 12 and the bride/new Jerusalem) and two who are “evil” (Jezebel and the whore/Babylon) characterizations. He demonstrates numerous literary similarities between these characters (Duff 2003, 70–75), but then argues that, despite the similarities, the figures are supposed to be contrasted, and that the evil characterizations function as “an intentionally distorted reflection of the other” (Duff 2003, 71). These literary links between good

284   Gregory Stevenson and evil characterizations highlight the deceptive nature of the opposition, in which “evil forces and individuals look surprisingly like their benign opposites,” which allows them to “disguise themselves as godly characters so as to dupe humanity into siding with Satan” (Duff 2003, 78–79). Duff ’s approach is similar to Thompson’s in that he sees John arguing against a prevalent view in the churches that Roman society is essentially benign. Duff focuses on the internal tension in the churches over the leadership struggle between John and certain false teachers, such as “Jezebel,” who promote openness to Greco-Roman society (Duff 2003, 65, 68, 79). Duff, however, draws a sharper line between good and evil in Revelation than does Thompson, with the contrasts between characters functioning as a warning against deception. Although both of these studies are instructive on the nuances of John’s imagery, I disagree with Thompson’s conclusion that the blurring of lines suggests that there is no social conflict represented in Revelation, and would disagree with an interpretation that restricts the issues in Revelation simply to leadership struggles within the church (though Duff himself does not assert this). Rather, I argue that when John establishes sets of opposition and then blurs the lines between them, he is addressing differing factions within the churches, by drawing clear battle lines between good and evil and then showing how easily those lines can be crossed. This blurring is essential because a stark dualism of good and evil can lead to a form of self-deception in which people see a hard line between themselves and evil that inoculates them against responsibility. Evil becomes something that is done to them rather than something they perpetuate. By blurring the lines, Revelation argues that the identification of “good” and “evil” in this war is not as clear-cut as one might suppose and that boundaries can be crossed, and allegiances can shift. Evil masquerades as good, and good people may be deceived into complicity with evil systems and beliefs. Outsiders can come inside, and insiders may in fact be outsiders. So Jezebel can be a member of the church of Thyatira and yet linked with Satan (2:20, 24). The blurring of boundaries thus serves as a warning both for the faithful to stay vigilant and for the compromised and deceived to repent. Revelation’s frequent references to repentance (2:5, 16, 21–22; 3:3, 19; 9:20–21; 16:9, 11), including John’s plea to come out of Babylon (18:4), indicate that the book’s perspective on evil is intertwined with the concept of choice. Revelation structures the battle less as an absolute, metaphysical dualism of good versus evil and more as an orientation of faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the kingdom of God. John’s audience must decide with which camp to align. For those who align themselves with the enemy, whether through deliberate choice or through deception and seduction, the calls to repentance suggest that the lines they have crossed into enemy territory can be crossed back over. The dualistic structure of Revelation counters compromise and accommodation by exposing the deceptive nature of the enemy and forcing a choice of allegiance. Just as dualism provides an antidote to the poison of despair that afflicts faithful Christians who are being victimized within a society that is antagonistic to the kingdom of God, so, also, dualism provides an antidote to the temptation to compromise one’s faith in the pursuit of comfort, security, and prosperity.

Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation   285

Defeating Evil in Revelation The ultimate goal in any war is victory. How the victory over evil comes about in Revelation involves the activity of three participants: Christ, the saints, and God. Rev 1:5 introduces Christ as “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” This threefold designation establishes a pattern that is essential for understanding Revelation’s concept of victory over evil: faithful witness leads to suffering and death, but such death is merely a prelude to resurrection/exaltation (Stevenson 2013, 111–13). Three texts in particular shape the vision of Christ’s victory in Revelation through their employment of the themes of faithful witness and death. In Rev 19:11–16 Christ appears as a warrior on a white horse going out to wage war. That his name is identified as “the Word of God” and he strikes down the nations with a sword that comes out of his mouth indicates that this warrior wages war with the weapons of truth and witness. Rev 5 connects Christ’s victory with death by first introducing a powerful lion who has “conquered” (5:5), and then defining the nature of that conquest by transforming the image of the lion into that of a slaughtered lamb (5:6). Through this transformation of images, Revelation argues that victory is not attained by impressive displays of strength but by wielding a power different than that of the enemy. Whereas the enemy’s primary weapon is deception and falsehood, the slaughtered Lamb counters it with the power of truth and faithful witness that does not bend even in the face of death (Bauckham 1993, 91). Rev 12:9–11 further combines witness and death in its depiction of the dragon being cast down from heaven, a defeat that occurs “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (12:11). Rev 12 depicts the cross of Christ as a vital turning point in the war against evil, for it reveals the pattern for victory. As David Barr notes, “At every juncture in this story where good triumphs over evil a close examination will show that the victory is finally attributed to the death of Jesus” (Barr 2006, 214; see also Aune 1998, 669). This victory comes about because faithful witness that doesn’t flinch even in the face of death exposes the deceptions of Satan and of the Roman Empire that earthly power, security, and wealth are the ultimate values in this world. The exaltation of the Lamb at the right hand of God (3:21) affirms the truth of this witness. This pattern of the Christ (faithful witness, suffering/death, exaltation) undergirds the entire narrative of Revelation and provides a paradigm of victory for both the saints and creation itself. The saints achieve victory in Revelation through faithfulness expressed in three ways: repentance, witness, and endurance. That each of the seven letters ends with a promise to the “one who conquers” indicates that such victory stems both from continuing to do the things that are praised in the letters and from repenting of the things that are warned against. Faithful witness in Revelation involves both prophetic speech and enduring suffering (1,9; 2:2–3; 2:19; 3:10; 7:14; 13:10; 14:12). These two elements of active witness and endurance are the means by which the saints take a stand against evil and conquer it (Barr 2003, 101, 106, 108). In particular, Revelation presents the victory of the saints as an

286   Gregory Stevenson extension of the victory of Christ. In Rev 3:21 Christ promises that “the one who conquers” will sit on his throne “just as I conquered and sat down.” The saints therefore conquer by embodying the pattern of the Christ. The three elements of this pattern are on display in Rev 2:10, where the saints in Smyrna are called upon to be faithful to the point of death in order to receive the crown of life. Likewise, in 20:4 the saints have been beheaded for their faithful witness but then experience resurrection leading to reigning with Christ. This pattern is most clearly represented in chapter 11, where the story of the two witnesses deliberately mirrors the story of Christ: they witness faithfully (11:3–6), are then killed in the city “where also their Lord was crucified” (11:8), are resurrected after three-and-a-half days (11:11), and then ascend up to heaven in a cloud (11:12). By this, Rev 11 reveals that Christian witness is to be in imitation of Christ. When the church witnesses to the world as Christ did by speaking truth in the face of opposition, it is this witness that exposes the lies of the enemy and achieves victory. At the close of the story of the two witnesses, the seventh trumpet sounds and it is revealed that “[t]he kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah” (11:15). By immediately following the story of the two witnesses with this proclamation, John asserts that the conquering of the kingdom of the world and its reconciliation with the kingdom of God comes about by the saints witnessing faithfully, in imitation of their Lord. So, also, Rev 12:11 states that it is both the blood of the Lamb and the faithful witness of his followers “even in the face of death” that has defeated Satan. The final defeat of evil, however, falls under the sovereignty of God, who ensures victory through judgment and creation. Evil, in Revelation, is recalcitrant. The opposing forces and their allies refuse to repent (9:20–21; 16:9, 11). Though the dragon is cast down, he continues to oppose God and declares war on the saints (12:9–17). Despite the fall of Babylon, the beast likewise continues to wage war (19:19). This unrepentant, entrenched opposition necessitates God’s divine response of judgment. Two components make God’s judgment of evil “true and just” (15:3; 16:5–7; 19:2). First, the judgment executed is in direct relation to the crime that was committed. They murdered the saints and so receive wrath (6:9–17; 18:20); they shed blood and so are given blood to drink (16:6); they destroy the earth and so are destroyed (11:18). David Barr expresses dismay at the violent judgments in Revelation, questioning whether they amount to an abuse of divine power. He distances God, however, from these violent judgments by suggesting that the seeds of judgment grow out of the evil actions themselves (Barr 2006, 211–12, 219). Richard Bauckham, though, argues that one cannot separate evil actions that generate their own punishment from God’s acting in judgment (Bauckham  2004, 3). Rev 11:18 declares that the time has come for destroying the destroyers of the earth. Bauckham points out that the term diaphtheiro can mean destruction both in the sense of causing ruin and in the sense of “corrupting with evil.” The enemy forces of the dragon, beast, and false prophet are corrupting God’s creation, and so the faithfulness of God demands judgment in order to deliver his creation (Bauckham 1993, 52). The second component that makes God’s judgment of evil “true and just” is choice. Although Barr questions the ethics of God’s delay in putting a stop to evil (Barr 2006, 211), one function of delay is the granting of time for repentance. The slaughtered Lamb offers not only freedom to the oppressed, but also the opportunity for

Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation   287 salvation to the oppressor (Thomas and Macchia 2016, 436). The choice to reject this opportunity and to continue in opposition to the kingdom of God highlights the justness of the judgment they receive in return. Judgment in Revelation, however, is ultimately not in service of the destruction of creation but in service of hope for creation. Victory in Revelation involves overcoming the oppositional dualism that structures the narrative. The dragon, beast, false prophet, and all who are aligned with them, find their place in the lake of fire (19:20; 20:10; 21:8), which symbolizes the reality that some evils are beyond repair (Barr 2006, 218). These evil forces corrupted this world and only their full removal can allow for the healing of creation, since a world of justice, truth, and peace can only exist by ending injustice, deception, and violence (Bauckham 1993, 46–47; Volf 1996, 300). Creation itself adheres in part to the pattern of the Christ, which ends with hope in the form of resurrection and exaltation, the new beginning that follows an ending. In line with this pattern, creation itself passes away and is resurrected as a new creation (21:1–3). Within this new creation, the opposition that characterized the old creation is no more. Heaven and earth no longer represent opposing orientations but are reborn in harmony, as is represented by the new Jerusalem descending from heaven to earth, so that the dwelling of God now resides with humanity (21:2–3). Evil finds no place in this new creation (21:8; 22:15). Opposition has been replaced with healing and reconciliation, a quality that is rare in apocalyptic writings (Meeks 2000, 468). Throughout Revelation “the nations” and “the kings of the earth” stand opposed to God, aligned with the dragon and the beast. The nations are “angry” (11:2, 18) and drink the wine of adultery (14:8; 18:3), indicating their seduction by the great whore. Likewise, the kings of the earth commit adultery with the great whore (17:2), align with the beast (17:12–14, 18), make war against the righteous (16:14–16; 17:14; 19:19), and lament Babylon’s doom (18:9–10). Nevertheless, Revelation offers hints within the narrative that the opposition of the nations and kings will ultimately be removed, not by their confinement to the lake of fire, but through reconciliation. The nations will one day worship God (15:4), a great multitude “from every nation” will gather before the heavenly throne (7:9), and the kings of the earth will turn against the great whore (17:16). These glimpses find their fulfillment within the new creation, where the nations and kings of the earth bring their glory into the city of God (21:24–27) and the leaves of the tree of life are “for the healing of the nations” (22:2). Revelation contextualizes the conflict with evil within God’s cosmic plan for his creation. Within this plan, the deceptive and oppressive nature of evil is overcome by the faithfulness of Christ, the witness and endurance of his followers, and the faithfulness of God to his vision for a creation that is reconciled to himself in peace and love.

Concluding Reflections The power of apocalyptic rhetoric lies in its fluidity and flexibility. This makes it a fitting choice for addressing the complex and multifaceted social context of the seven churches. Particularly through its use of a warfare metaphor, Revelation both encourages those

288   Gregory Stevenson faithful Christians who suffer as a result of their witness and critiques those unfaithful Christians who compromise their faith through accommodation to Roman culture and values. As such, Revelation simultaneously addresses the “evil” that attacks from without and the “evil” that arises from within. This flexibility allows Revelation to speak to varied circumstances both ancient and modern. This is why modern interpreters who live in a context where Christians enjoy prosperity and protection and where the relationship between empire and church can become overly comfortable see in the book an indictment of Western culture and of Christianity’s accommodation to Western values (e.g., Maier 2002, xiii), whereas interpreters who have experienced oppression and who live in contexts where poverty and conflict between church and authority are the norm see in the book a powerful vision of hope and comfort (e.g., Boesak 1987). Rather than limiting the reading of Revelation to one perspective or the other, and in so doing limiting the book’s message regarding evil, embracing the flexibility of Revelation’s rhetoric in speaking both to the oppressed and to the complacent allows Revelation to show how evil can be defeated in all its varied forms.

Note 1. James Crenshaw’s book bears the subtitle Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil, yet the book of Revelation is never mentioned once (Crenshaw 2005). Anssi Simojoki’s essay, “The Book of Revelation,” which appears in Theodicy in the World of the Bible, practically ignores the text of Revelation in favor of the book’s history of interpretation, genre, and reliance on the Old Testament (Simojoki 2003). Robert Faricy adds that even among scholars who take apocalyptic seriously, they do so “rarely if ever in the context of the problem of evil” (Faricy 1979, 185).

References Aune, David. 1998. Revelation 6–16. WBC 52B. Dallas: Word. Barr, David L. 2003. “Doing Violence: Moral Issues in Reading John’s Apocalypse.” In Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 97–108. RBS 44. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Barr, David L. 2006. “The Lamb Who Looks like a Dragon? Characterizing Jesus in John’s Apocalypse.” In The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 205–20. SymS 39. Leiden: Brill. Bauckham, Richard. 1993. The Theology of the Book of Revelation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bauckham, Richard. 2004. “Judgment in the Book of Revelation.” Ex Auditu 20: 1–24. Baumeister, Roy F. 1997. Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New York: Holt. Beale, G. K. 1999. The Book of Revelation. NIGTC. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Boesak, Allan A. 1987. Comfort and Protest: Reflections on the Apocalypse of John of Patmos. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. Boxall, Ian. 2006. The Revelation of Saint John. BNTC. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

Perspectives on Evil in the Book of Revelation   289 Carey, Greg. 1999. Elusive Apocalypse: Reading Authority in the Revelation to John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Charry, Ellen T. 1999. “ ‘A Sharp Two-Edged Sword: Pastoral Implications of Apocalyptic.” Int 53: 158–72. Collins, John J. 1995. “The Origin of Evil in Apocalyptic Literature and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In Congress Volume: Paris 1992, edited by J. A. Emerton, pp. 25–38. VTSup 61. Leiden: Brill. Cook, Stephen L. 2003. The Apocalyptic Literature. Nashville: Abingdon. Crenshaw, James L. 2005. Defending God: Biblical Responses to the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press. De Villiers, Pieter G. R. 2000. “Prime Evil and Its Many Faces in the Book of Revelation.” Neot 34: 57–85. Duff, Paul B. 2003. “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: Literary Opposition and Social Tension in the Revelation of John.” In Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 65–79. RBS 44. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Faricy, Robert. 1979. “The Problem of Evil in Perspective.” Communio 6: 173–91. Friesen, Steven. 2006. “Sarcasm in Revelation 2–3: Churches, Christians, True Jews, and Satanic Synagogues.” In The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 127–44. SymS 39. Leiden: Brill. Maier, Harry  O. 2002. Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom. Minneapolis: Fortress. Meeks, Wayne A. 2000. “Apocalyptic Discourse and Strategies of Goodness.” JR 80: 461–75. Mounce, Robert  H. 1998. The Book of Revelation. Rev. ed. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1985. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. Philadelphia: Fortress. Simojoki, Anssi. 2003. “The Book of Revelation.” In Theodicy in the World of the Bible, edited by Antti Laato and Johanees C. de Moor, pp. 652–84. Leiden: Brill. Stevenson, Gregory. 2013. A Slaughtered Lamb: Revelation and the Apocalyptic Response to Evil and Suffering. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press. Swete, Henry Barclay. 1906. The Apocalypse of St. John. New York: Macmillan. Thomas, John Christopher, and Frank  D.  Macchia. 2016. Revelation. Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Thompson, Leonard  L. 1990. The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire. New York: Oxford University Press. Thompson, Leonard  L. 2003. “Ordinary Lives: John and His First Readers.” In Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students, edited by David  L.  Barr, pp. 25–47. RBS 44. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Volf, Miroslav. 1996. Exclusion and Embrace. Nashville: Abingdon.

chapter 18

V iolence i n th e A poca ly pse of Joh n David L. Barr

Violence is not incidental to apocalyptic thinking; it lies at its heart. The conundrum that apocalyptic writings seek to explain may be stated thus: If God created the world, then why is the world is so ungodly? Why do the wicked dominate the righteous? As one apocalyptic writer implores: And now, O Lord, these nations, which are reputed to be as nothing, domineer over us and devour us. But we who are your people, whom you have called your firstborn, only begotten, zealous for you, and most dear, have been given into their hands. If the world has indeed been created for us, why do we not possess our world as an inheritance? (4 Ezra 6:57–58)

The Scope of Violence Apocalyptic writers offered various answers to this question, but most agreed that things were about to change. They generally saw the time of change to be one of great suffering, violence, and divine retribution (Schmithals 1973, 62; Wessinger 2014). There would be war (Arcari  2011, 18–27; Collins  1975). And war of necessity involved violence. John builds his story on this paradigm of the coming holy war, with its attendant violence, as Adela Yarbro Collins (1976) has so ably shown in her study of the combat myth in the book of Revelation. While the use of such a paradigm is not unproblematic, violence is at least understandable as a theme of warfare—and there is such a thing as a just-war theory. A people under attack have a right to defend themselves, and John portrays such an attack on his community (Rev 12:17). A second, related, root metaphor for the freeing of God’s people from the powers of this age also involves violence: the Exodus tradition (Kio 1989). In that tradition, God

292   David L. Barr brings a series of plagues upon Egypt, forcing pharaoh to release Israel from her captivity. Most of the images of violence portrayed in the trumpet series and the bowls of wrath series are drawn directly from the plague tradition (Richard 1997). Given the violent nature of these two traditions and their fundamental role in the Apocalypse, it would be surprising if there were not significant violence. But the violence of John’s Apocalypse runs much deeper. It is not only personal (3:5); it is corporate (2:5), social (18:1–24), and indeed cosmic (21:1). As the American philosopher C. S. Pierce lamented, But little by little the bitterness increases until in the last book of the New Testament, its poor distracted author represents that all the time Christ was talking about having come to save the world, the secret design was to catch the entire human race, with the exception of a paltry 144,000, and souse them all in brimstone lake, and as the smoke of their torment went up for ever and ever, to turn and remark, “There is no curse anymore.” Would it be an insensible smirk or a fiendish grin that should accompany such an utterance? I wish I could believe St. John did not write it. (Peirce 1992, 385–86)

But this wish, which we can of course grant in terms of authorship, overlooks the significant violence found in the Gospels themselves. Matthew, for example, begins with a slaughter the innocent children and ends with a calling down of divine vengeance on the Jews who crucified Jesus and on their children (Matt 2:16; 27:25; Matthews and Gibson 2005; Volf 1996). We should not be shocked to find significant violence in a movement that was grounded in the horrendous violence of the crucifixion of an innocent person (Fitzmyer 1978; Hengel 1977). Nor should we overlook the considerable violence in the Hebrew Scriptures, held sacred by John and his community. Most pointedly, these writings present a version of holy war practices that can be deemed no less than immoral, demanding the obliteration of the enemy, and not just the soldiers: They are to “kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Sam 15:3; cf. Josh 6:21; Num 34–35, Deut 2:33–34). Surely, such stories would inure their hearers to the problem of divine violence (Collins 2003). Finally, we should not ignore the social context in which John wrote, a context of blood sport and death in the arena, where the display of violence and the punishment of criminals functioned to establish Roman identity and to maintain social control (Frilingos 2004). The expansive portrayal of violence in John’s Apocalypse must be considered within these four contexts: the holy war mythology, the violence in the Jesus story, the portrayals of violence in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the everyday violence of life in the GrecoRoman world. These contexts are not offered to justify John’s violence, but simply to remind ourselves that ancient and modern sensibilities might be quite different. Still, a careful look at John’s violence must be undertaken.

Violence in the Apocalypse of John   293

The Kinds of Violence John communicates violence to the audience in three ways: violent actions in the plot, violent images in the characterization, and violent language in the discourse. By violent language I mean those instances where John engages in verbal violence, such as the curse he pronounces on any who would change his recital (Rev 22:18–19). I would also include his labeling of his opponents as “Jezebel” (2:22) and a “synagogue of Satan” (2:9; 3:9). He presents his community as those who follow one who is truly human (1:13), while others serve an animal (13:1). John’s Lamb was not simply killed; it has been slaughtered (sphazō 5:6). Such language is meant to divide people, not to bring them together (Yarbro Collins 1986). Even more violent are the images John chooses for telling the story. The carrion birds feasting on the entrails of the defeated army (19:17); the drunken ruler queen, killed and eaten (17:16); the killing of Jezebel’s children (2:23); the slow torture of those who follow the beast (14:11); the winepress of God’s anger, with blood flowing as high as the horses bridles (14:19–20); and the lake of fire that consumes all those not written in the Lamb’s book of life (19:20, 20:15). These aspects of John’s violence are perhaps the most difficult to understand, because none of them is essential for the story. They entail what we might call a surplus of violence. As noted, John’s story involves war and its attendant violence. The manifestation of that war appears slowly: it is only hinted at in the first section (chapters 1–3), made explicit in the second section (chapters 4–11), and dramatically portrayed in the final section (chapters 12–22). Our first hint that there is a war to be fought occurs in the instructions John sends to the seven churches, in which each is admonished that they must conquer (nikaō; 2:7, 11, 17, etc.) Indeed, if they do not conquer, the writer threatens to come and make war against them with the sword of his mouth (2:16). In this segment of the story (Rev 2–3), the fight is against one’s own inclinations and the failures of others in the community, and there are harsh judgments on those who fail to conquer (war, destruction, and death) and extravagant rewards for those who do (tree of life, manna, sharing the divine throne). The scene shifts dramatically in the second segment as we join John on his journey to heaven, where he witnesses the empowerment of Jesus to reveal what has been hidden. In that revelation, we learn two things about the war. First, we are shown the origins of war with the appearance of one who would conquer the world: the rider on the white horse. Such aggression leads inevitably to war, famine, and deaths of the innocent, which can only be resolved in apocalyptic judgment, depicted in the seven seals. The ultimate vision of the ending of evil in the series of seven seals is one not just of a holy war, but of cosmic dissolution (6:12–17). Then, without precedent, foreshadowing, or explanation, we are told of the beast who rises out of the abyss to make war on the witnesses, killing them and leaving their bodies in the street (11:1–10). The first battle of the final war seems to have been won by the enemy.

294   David L. Barr The third segment of the story explains where this beast came from, why he wages war, and how that war progresses. It is filled with violence. We are told that the beast is an agent of the ancient dragon, who waged war against Michael and his angels and was cast out of heaven to earth (12:7). Failing to destroy the pregnant woman and eat her infant son, the dragon turns to make war on the rest of her children (12:17). There are at least five battles in the ensuing narrative, each of which would seem to be the final conflict (16:14, 17:14; 19:11, 19; 20:8). Curiously, none of these scenes ever describes an actual battle; in each case, the narrative moves directly from the announcement of the battle to the announcement of victory, a victory that includes extreme violence. By contrast, the War Scroll from Qumran (1QM) is at great pains to portray the actual fighting of the battle—the battle formations, standards, and trumpet signals (Wise, Abegg, and Cook 1996, 150–71). It gives very little attention to the world after the battle, and ­imagines that the hostilities cease when the long battle is won. The War Scroll imagines a battle that will last forty years; the battles in the Apocalypse seem over in an instant. In John’s scheme, the first “final battle” (Harmagedōn) culminates in the destruction of the earth in an unprecedented earthquake, the elimination of islands and mountains, and unbelievably large hail stones that plague humankind (16:17–21). The second includes the truly ghastly scene of the destruction of Babylon the great whore, whose allies will “make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire” (17:16). And it gets worse. The third expands the menu, as the birds feast on the remains of those who were killed in the war. Then, after the battle, the prisoners of war are executed by the rider on the white horse (19:21). This brings peace, but only for a thousand years, after which there is one more battle, one that entails the complete destruction of the earth and the heavens, and the judgment of all humanity—the living and the dead. And “anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (20:15). So we have a violent story, represented in violent images and spoken in violent language. This is perhaps what D. H. Lawrence had in mind when he called Revlation “a rather repulsive work” that is “not content till the whole world be destroyed, except that lake of fire in which those who fail to get in line might suffer eternally” (1982, 103). Such revulsion has been expressed by critics as far back as Martin Luther (1522) and as contemporary as the modern literary critic Harold Bloom (1988). The portrayal becomes even more problematic when we examine the sources and implications of the violence that is portrayed. I will first consider its subjects and objects, focusing on who does the violence and to whom it is done. Then I will ask about its relation to justice and to what degree is the violence deserved.

The Subjects and Objects of Violence John portrays four different sources of violence: violence by humans, violence by the dragon and his agents, violence by Jesus, and violence by God—the latter predominat-

Violence in the Apocalypse of John   295 ing. The violence is perpetrated against four objects: Jesus, John’s community, the earth, and the dragon with his agents. Much of this violence is symmetrical. The dragon attacks John’s community and is repulsed by divine violence against him. The dragon’s agents make war on John’s community and Jesus appears as the divine warrior to defeat them. The violence symbolized in the seven seals is largely human violence (seals one through five; 6:1–11), which is overcome by divine violence (seal six; 6:12–17). Such reciprocal violence is easy to understand, after the model of self-defense. Much of the violence fits this reciprocal model, but some of the violence is asymmetrical: Jesus followers are never shown to do violence to him, yet Jesus is said to make war on (2:16), kill (2:23), threaten (3:3), and remove (2:5) those among his own followers who fall short of expectations. Moreover, the majority of the violent acts in the Apocalypse are attributed to God, though no violence is enacted against God. The reverse is true of the earth: she enacts no violence but experiences extreme violence in earthquakes and the destruction of oceans and streams, and is finally destroyed. We will consider what might justify this perspective in the next section. Human violence against Jesus is never shown; it has happened in the past. Thus Jesus was pierced (1:7), was dead (1:5, 18), and appears as the slaughtered Lamb (5:6). The violence portrayed here is historical and hardly graphic. Much the same can be said for human violence against the community. Some will be imprisoned (2:10), and at least one of their number was killed (2:13). The vision of the lives under the altar might imply that more deaths are anticipated (6:9). Some have been slandered by those “who call themselves Jews” (2:9). It is also foreseen that the nations will trample Jerusalem (11:2). This last vision suggests a third object of human violence: the earth itself. Again, this is declared but not shown (11:18). Clearly, John conceives of his community as under siege, but he is restrained in showing human violence against the community. In John’s story the real violence against the community stems from the dragon—that “ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (12:9). Having failed to capture and devour the newborn child of the heavenly woman, the dragon now makes war on the rest of her children—surely John’s community (12:17; 13:7). This dragon and his agents are said to kill the two witnesses (11:7), and they repeatedly raise an army of rebellion (13:7, 16:14, 17:14, 19:19, 20:8). More pernicious, they entice, torture, and kill any who do not worship them (13:15–16). However, John never portrays his community committing violence against the dragon or his agents. Quite the opposite, they are cautioned that those who take the sword die by the sword (13:10). When the Lamb gathers his followers on Mount Zion, it might seem that he is gathering his army for war, but what ensues is not a war. It is rather more like a victory parade (14:1–5; Thomas 2008). The rhetoric of the subjects and objects of violence in the Apocalypse provide some justification for its use (Peters 2004). There is violence against the community, but no violence by the community. There is violence by the forces of evil and violence against the forces of evil. There is violence by God but no portrayal of violence against God. John would like us to believe that this is an ethical portrayal: “[B]ecause they shed the

296   David L. Barr blood of saints and prophets, you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” (16:6). But there are problems, because at another point, John prays: “Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed” (18:6). This double repayment begins to sound more like revenge than justice—as does the cry of the martyrs: “[A]venge our blood” (6:10). Is the violence of this story justified?

The Ethics of Violence The violence portrayed in John’s Apocalypse raises at least four ethical questions having to do with coercion, criminal actions, procrastination, and the rhetoric of destruction.

Coercion All societies involve some level of coercion; evil deeds and the people who do them must be constrained. “Do not resist one who is evil” (Matt 5:39) may be healthy individual advice, but it is impossible as social practice. But just here we come to a paradox. To punish people for their deeds is to assume that they are responsible for their deeds, that they have chosen them, that they have free will. But if violence is used to coerce behavior, free will disappears. If you put a gun in someone’s back and demand their wallet, you cannot later claim that they gave it of their own free will. The choice between dying and giving up your wallet is not a real choice. Part of John’s case against the dragon and his beasts is that they resort to violence when persuasion and seduction are not sufficient. When miracles fail to lure people into worshiping the beast, coercion raises its ugly head: those who fail to worship the beast will be killed (13:15). But John portrays an even greater threat, because God is the one who will enact an even graver hazard—eternal punishment for those who do not fall in line (20:14). John seems to anticipate the logic of the Inquisition: it is better to torture the body to enforce correct belief than to let people lose their souls through heresy. The fourth, fifth, and six bowl of wrath—featuring fire, plagues, pains, and sores—seem to be intended to make people repent (16:8–11; cf. 9:21). But how is this different from the threat of the beast to kill all who do not worship his image? In fact, the divine coercion goes even further: Then another angel, a third, followed them, crying with a loud voice, “Those who worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands, they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image and for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” (14:9–11)

Violence in the Apocalypse of John   297 Humanity seems to be left with some very narrow options: refuse to worship the beast and the beast will kill you, or worship the beast and God will kill you. We must at least ask the question as to whether the use of lethal violence to control religious behavior is ever morally justified.

Immoral Actions The question of the ethics of John’s story must be pursued even further, for the establishment of the new city of God includes actions that are today universally recognized as inherently immoral. Here the indictment of God would read: war crimes, crimes against humanity, and, perhaps, sadism. The Geneva conventions, signed in 1929, establish rules for the conduct of war—rules designed to protect noncombatants, especially civilians and prisoners of war. It embodies a nearly universal agreement that certain humanitarian values must be maintained even in war. Of course, the need for these conventions reminds us that wars routinely violate such norms. Unfortunately, the wars portrayed in the Apocalypse do not observe such conventions. In John’s story the enemy combatants are annihilated after the war has been fought and won: And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed in its presence the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were killed by the sword of the rider on the horse, the sword that came from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (19:9–11)

Such practices were routine for the Romans. It was customary to bring the leaders of foreign wars back to Rome, along with the captured booty and soldiers, to display them publicly in victory parades, and then to publicly execute them (Thomas 2008, 83–86; Versnel 1970). Those not killed would be sold as slaves. The Arch of Titus in Rome commemorates Titus’s victory over Judea in 70 ce and clearly shows the triumphal parade of prisoners and booty. One could argue that it is unfair to hold John to a higher standard than that of his own time, but if we find the Roman practice repugnant, should we not find John’s imitation of that practice equally repugnant?

Sadism Perhaps the most disturbing scene in the whole of John’s Apocalypse involves the apparent enjoyment of unending suffering: Then another angel, a third, followed them, crying with a loud voice, “Those who worship the beast and its image, and receive a mark on their foreheads or on their

298   David L. Barr hands, they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. (14:9–11)

Wrath, anger, torment, forever. Bad enough that John should portray such a scene; even more troubling is that he makes the Lamb complicit. As Steve Moyise has commented: “Had such a statement been written about the beasts, commentators would have described it as the epitome of malice, vindictiveness and evil” (2001, 182).

Procrastination John seems to recognize that by creating a story in which God has both the power and the intention to overthrow the dragon’s illegitimate regime, he has created an additional ethical problem. After reviewing the havoc caused by human endeavors to create empires, the suffering victims inquire, “[H]ow long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” (6:10). Actions have moral consequences, but so do inactions. The ethical problem of delay can be illustrated quite simply: if you know that a child on your street is being abused, and you know that you could place a call to children’s services and end the abuse, by what logic can you delay in doing so? Would not such delay make you responsible for what the child suffers in the interim? So, also, we must ask, if God has the power to stop evil and suffering, and intends one day to use that power, how can any delay be justified? Again, John seems to recognize this problem when the revealing angel refuses to let John write down the seven thunders, but instead declares, “[T] here will be no more delay” (10:5–6). This is, first of all, a promise that the story will proceed apace, but it echoes the desire of the apocalyptic writers for immediate divine action.

The Explanations of Violence While the scope of the problem as it has been outlined here is a distinctively modern conception, earlier readers were not without their concerns (Verheyden, Nicklas, and Merkt 2011). Already in the third century, Origen rejected a literal reading of the lake of fire, which he insisted was for the purification and redemption of the soul (Ramelli 2011, 62). His argument was theological: since God is good, and God can only do good things, therefore the lake of fire must serve some virtuous purpose. Tyconius argued in the fourth century against those who saw the Apocalypse presenting a series of future events. He argued that these events encapsulated the experience of Christians in the world. Thus the millennium is not some future time, but the present

Violence in the Apocalypse of John   299 experience of reigning with Christ in the church, a view taken by Augustine and many later interpreters. This focus on the spiritual meaning of the Apocalypse, rather than its literal reality, allowed most interpreters to avoid the moral concerns that have been outlined here. They did not seek to “decode” the Apocalypse (to decide that each symbol “really means” some actual event or person) but to embody it (to imagine how these symbols and events should instruct the spiritual life of the Christian community). Interpreters who did take the violence seriously, such as Oecumenius in the sixth century or Andrew of Caesarea in the seventh, saw the need to rationalize and justify the actions attributed to God. In their view, the violence stems from human weakness and from the human rejection of divine love. These explanations seem to have been widely accepted. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther initially rejected the Apocalypse. In his Preface to the Revelation of St. John (1522), he admitted that the work did not speak to him, did not present a picture of the Christ that he knew from the Gospels. His new preface (1530) saw the conflicts of the Apocalypse as the struggle between true and false faith. In a curious way, the same dichotomy exists today among interpreters of John’s Apocalypse (for an overview, see Hylen 2011; Skaggs and Doyle 2007). There are those who reject the work because they find its support for violence, misogyny, and revenge objectionable (Bloom  1988; Mack  1995, 195–97; Moore  1999; Moyise  2001; Pippin 1992, 1999). Others, probably the majority, find ways to explain away the objectionable elements—most commonly by appeals to symbolism and metaphor (Barr 2003, 2006; Bauckham 1993b; Blount 2005; Boring 1989; Farmer 1997; Johns 2003, 2005). Of course, the nuance of the individual scholars suggests that these are not absolute categories but two poles on a continuum.

Real Violence One way to clarify the issues between these two schools of thought is to ask the simple question: To what degree can the events portrayed in the Apocalypse be said to actually happen? If they denote real events that have happened, do happen, or will happen, it will require some extraordinary intellectual gymnastics to continue to regard the book as telling an ethical story. For it is not just the violence that must be explained; there are also the moral issues of coercion, criminality, sadism, and procrastination outlined here. If there are ways to reconcile a literalist reading of Revelation with these ethical issues, I have not come across it. Perhaps the best one can do is to say that the awful judgments of the Apocalypse are deserved because of humanity’s failure to repent (Peters 2004). But the problem does not disappear even if one takes a less literal and more symbolic interpretation. We are still left with the problem of what the symbols symbolize. A great many interpreters adopt some form of allegorical interpretation, wherein things in the story actually mean something outside the story: “[E]verything just meant something and something moral at that. You put down the meaning flat” (D. H. Lawrence, quoted in Bloom 1988, 47). The women in John’s story are mythic figures, but if they refer in any

300   David L. Barr way to real women it is hard to avoid their portrayal in terms of Western misogyny and sexism. Tina Pippin explains her evaluation of the story as a “Pornoapocalypse” (1999, 92–97), suggesting that even if one could accept the meaning of the symbolism, the symbolism itself was intolerable: “Having studied the evils of Roman imperial policy in the colonies, I find the violent destruction of Babylon very cathartic. When I looked into the face of Babylon, I saw a woman” (1992, 80). One way interpreters have sought to avoid this dilemma is to establish some hermeneutical principle by which to evaluate the story. Since the story itself embodies the concept of justice, for example, the reader is authorized to evaluate the use of the symbols according to a standard of justice (e.g., Schüssler Fiorenza 1998, 3–10). Adopting such a standard allows the reader to understand that the gender of John’s characters is accidental, not essential (Huber 2007, 33–44). These are not real women, and we should interpret them in accord with John’s primary objective of justice (Schüssler Fiorenza 1991, 13). This is an important idea. The suggestion is analogous to the controversy surrounding the reading of Huckleberry Finn, whose racist language has caused some to seek to set it aside (Mensh and Mensh 2000). Others argue that at a deeper level, the story is an­ti­rac­ ist and should be read in accord with its underlying humanism. The feminist debate about the Apocalypse is similar (see the essays in Levine 2009). But does this appeal to some more basic truth solve the problem? It may be possible to read Revelation without sexism, but it certainly does not demand to be read that way (Moyise 2001, 190–94). The story John tells contains much that is deplorable. Setting aside for the moment the larger issues of theology and focusing on only the morality of the actions portrayed, we come to a harsh conclusion. This god who threatens death, and eventually enacts it on all who do not submit, is immoral. It is like an abusive marriage in which the stronger partner beats the weaker till the weaker surrenders, or else eventually dies at the hands of the one who claims to love them. I am not persuaded by the argument that it was for their own good. We cannot justify immoral acts merely by attaching the name “god” to them (Keller 1995, 199–201). Is the book, then, “without wisdom, goodness, kindness, or affection of any kind”? (Bloom 1988, 4).

Metaphoric Violence When reading an apocalypse we must always remind ourselves that things are not what they appear. The “unveiling” of an apocalypse presumes that the reality that we can see is false. We can make an analogy to Plato’s cave, whose inhabitants mistake the grotesque shadows on the back wall of the cave for actual people (see Plato’s Republic, VII 514 a, 2 to 517 a, 7; Paulien 2004). So, perhaps, the grotesque figures we meet in the Apocalypse should be read otherwise. One approach draws on the ancient practice of rereading illustrated by the phrase: when you see X, read Y, where Y is understood to be some deeper meaning. For example, the author of the Gospel of John shows Jesus reinterpreting the Exodus tradition of manna, claiming that the true meaning refers to the bread of life (Brown 1966, 1.262).

Violence in the Apocalypse of John   301 Many argue that John is doing something similar in the scene that introduces Jesus in the guise of the heavenly Lamb: See the Lion of the tribe of Judah . . . . I saw . . . A Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered. . . . (Rev 5:5–6).

On one level, this is simply John rewriting history; the one they believed to be the Messiah did not look like the Messiah was supposed to look and did not do what the Messiah was supposed to do. But on another level, John is redefining what it takes to be worthy. As Caird suggested, it is almost as if John is saying to us at one point after another, “Wherever the Old Testament says ‘Lion,’ read ‘Lamb’ ” (cf. Barr  1997, 361; Boring 1989, 110; Caird 1966, 73). This is a very tempting reading, for once the Lamb is introduced he dominates the story; the Lion does not reappear. But it is too simple to say that the Lamb replaces the Lion, for before the story is finished the Lamb will be acting very Lion-like: destroying the enemies of God (17:14). Is he, as D. H. Lawrence suggested, really a Lion in Lamb’s clothing? This is also too simple. In John’s vision the Lamb does not replace the Lion; nor does the Lamb become the Lion. John has created a paradoxical symbol that cannot be easily translated into other language (Barr 1984; 2006, 206–10). John never tells us what it means; he deals in symbols, not explanations (Bauckham 1993a, 180). John uses this technique of substituting visual symbols for oral ones at least twice more: when he is told he will be shown the bride, but actually sees a city (20:9–27), And he is told the elect are one hundred forty-four thousand, but sees they are an innumerable multitude (7:4–8). The reader is not asked to choose which is real; both are. They are two ways of imagining the same thing. Two other paradoxical symbols are often cited to argue that John does not imagine real violence. The first is the war in heaven in which Satan is defeated by a heavenly army that is headed by Michael, but then the defeat is attributed to the blood of Jesus and his followers (12:7, 11); the other is the mass slaughter of the unrepentant, but by a mouthborne sword (19:21). Clearly, John regularly subverts his metaphors of power and domination by matching them with equally powerful metaphors of suffering and subversion (on metaphor theory, see Huber 2007, 45–88; on multiple metaphors, see Hylen 2011). But matching, not replacing. We must not move too quickly to embrace one pole of John’s paradox while we ignore the other. Few interpreters have directly addressed the ethical issues that I have just sketched. Although John seems to have some recognition of the problem of delay (10:6), he makes no effort to address the issues of coercion, immoral acts, or sadistic enjoyment of others’ suffering. Nor have his interpreters, though there has been some preliminary work (Barr 2003) and broader discussion of apocalyptic ethics (Collins 2014, 326–42; Meeks 2000). When the martyrs cry out for vengeance, they are told they must wait until the number of sufferers is complete (6:10). When judgment is enacted, it is said to be “destroying those who destroy the earth” (11:18). It could be argued that the mechanism of judgment here is not some external coercion but the inevitable result of unjust actions (see 16:6).

302   David L. Barr This would be consistent with John’s theme that victory comes through suffering, which may provide a theoretical basis for martyrdom, raising further ethical questions (Middleton 2018). Much work remains to be done here. On the one hand, no one doubts that John’s plea is for patience and endurance. He does not advocate violence, and nothing in his gory story can be read as legitimating violence against others. In addition, no one doubts that the image of the heavenly warrior slaying his enemies with the sword of his mouth is a metaphor for what we might call verbal combat—not actual killing. Metaphors do not kill, though they may cause injury. Using battle metaphors predisposes one to see a bipolar world of friends and enemies (Strozier 2007). There is little room for dialogue, differing values, and honest disagreements. This is especially problematic in a time when many Christians and Muslims regard each other as wholly evil (Amanat and Collins 2004), and violent apocalyptic groups have emerged in both traditions (Wessinger 2014, 429–37). Interpreters who suggest that we can ignore the violence in the Apocalypse by showing that it is “only symbolic” make their task of understanding too easy. We must not pretend that concentrating on the meaning of the violent symbols allows us to overlook the violence and immorality involved in those symbols. Symbols, unlike simple signs, participate in the reality to which they point. Surely John’s metaphors are dipped in blood (De Villiers 2015). Metaphors are not similes; they do not point to something else, they embody it. We might easily grasp a sign, a simile, or an allegory. But symbols and metaphors grasp us. Said another way: Allegory can always be explained, and explained away. The true symbol defies all explanation, so does the true myth. You can give meanings to either—you will never explain them away. Because symbol and myth do not affect us only mentally, they move the deep emotional centers each time. (D.  H.  Lawrence, quoted in in Bloom 1988, 46)

On the other hand, to simply condemn John for the violence in his story is to fail to read carefully. For at every point at which violence is employed, John is careful to undermine the violence (the sword) with some, often absurd, counterimage (of his mouth; 19:15, 21). John never resolves this tension, and perhaps we should not either. Interpreters who see only violence make their task of understanding too easy. It is important to remember that John is telling a story, a story that relates what happened to him when he was out of his mind (or, as he says, “in the spirit”; 1:10). This is more like telling someone about your dream: reporting an experience, not outlining a plan of life (Paulien 2004). Our dreams are not entirely rational; anything can happen in a dream. In fact, things happen in dreams that our critical consciousness would never allow. When we bring our critical consciousness to bear on John’s use of violence in his story, that story comes up woefully short. When we allow ourselves to listen to that story, to share his dream, we may yet find a meaning relevant to our own situation. It is time to end allegorical readings of the Apocalypse. The actions and images recounted there do not refer to something else; neither future events nor timeless truths are figured. It is a

Violence in the Apocalypse of John   303 story, and, as a great modern storyteller noted: “ ‘There is nothing better than imagining other worlds,’ he said, ‘to forget the painful one we live in. At least I thought so then. I hadn’t yet realized that, imagining other worlds, you end up changing this one” (Eco 2002, 99). The Apocalypse is, to be sure, a violent story—built on the paradigm of holy war and using the Exodus tradition of divine judgment through plagues. Written in a time when the horror of the public violence of crucifixions and the arena were routine, the Apocalypse shows little concern about employing images that are both violent and ethically offensive. At the same time, we must recognize the extreme irony of John’s conquering force: suffering. It is what made Jesus “worthy” (5:2–5). It is what enables his followers to win their battle against evil (12:11). This violent nonviolence (De Villiers 2015) may be impossible to rationalize, but it can be experienced as the audience is enabled to re-live John’s dream.

References Amanat, Abbas, and John  J.  Collins. 2004. Apocalypse and Violence. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for International and Area Studies: Council on Middle East Studies. Arcari, Luca. 2011. “Early Jewish Background of the War Scenes in John’s Revelation.” In Ancient Christian Interpretations of “Violent Texts” in the Apocalypse, edited by Jozef Verheyden, Tobias Nicklas, and Andreas Merkt, pp. 9–27. SUNT 92. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Barr, David L. 1984. “The Apocalypse as a Symbolic Transformation of the World: A Literary Analysis.” Int 38: 39–50. Barr, David L. 1997. “Towards an Ethical Reading of the Apocalypse: Reflections on John’s Use of Power, Violence, and Misogyny.” In Society of Biblical Literature 1997 Seminar Papers, pp. 358–73. SBLSP 36. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. Barr, David L. 2003. “Doing Violence: Moral Issues in Reading John's Apocalypse.” In Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 97–108. RBS 44. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Barr, David L. 2006. “The Lamb Who Looks like a Dragon? Characterizing Jesus in John’s Apocalypse.” In The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book of Revelation, edited by David L. Barr, pp. 205–20. SymS 39. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Bauckham, Richard  J. 1993a. The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Bauckham, Richard J. 1993b. “The Lion, the Lamb, and the Dragon.” In The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation, pp. 174–98. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Bloom, Harold. 1988. The Revelation of St. John the Divine. New York: Chelsea House. Blount, Brian  K. 2005. Can I Get a Witness? Reading Revelation through African American Culture. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Boring, M. Eugene. 1989. Revelation. Interpretation. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Brown, Raymond  E. 1966. The Gospel According to John I–XII. AB 29. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. Caird, G. B. 1966. A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine. HNTC. New York: Harper & Row.

304   David L. Barr Collins, John J. 1975. “ ‘Mythology of Holy War in Daniel and the Qumran War Scroll: A Point of Transition in Jewish Apocalyptic.” VT 25: 596–612. Collins, John J. 2003. “The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence.” JBL 122: 3–21. Collins, John  J. 2014. Apocalypse, Prophecy, and Pseudepigraphy: On Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. De Villiers, Pieter G. R. 2015. “The Violence of Nonviolence in the Revelation of John.” Open Theology 1: 189–203. Eco, Umberto. 2002. Baudolino. Translated by William Weaver. New York: Harcourt. Farmer, Ron. 1997. Beyond the Impasse: The Promise of a Process Hermeneutic. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Fitzmyer, Joseph A. 1978. “Crucifixion in Ancient Palestine, Qumran Literature, and the New Testament.” CBQ 10: 493–513. Frilingos, Christopher  A. 2004. Spectacles of Empire: Monsters, Martyrs, and the Book of Revelation. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hengel, Martin. 1977. Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross. Translated by John Bowden. Philadelphia: Fortress. Huber, Lynn R. 2007. Like a Bride Adorned: Reading Metaphor in John’s Apocalypse. Emory Studies in Early Christianity. New York: T & T Clark. Hylen, Susan  E. 2011. “Metaphor Matters: Violence and Ethics in Revelation.” CBQ 73: 777–96. Johns, Loren L. 2003. The Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John: An Investigation into Its Origins and Rhetorical Force. WUNT II/167. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Johns, Loren  L. 2005. “Conceiving Violence: The Apocalypse of John and the Left Behind Series.” Direction: A Mennonite Brethren Forum 34: 194–14. Keller, Catherine. 1995. “Power Lines.” ThTo 52: 188–203. Kio, Stephen H. 1989. “Exodus as the Central Symbol of Liberation in the Book of Revelation.” BT 40: 120–35. Lawrence, D. H. 1982. Apocalypse. New York: Viking. Levine, Amy-Jill. 2009. A Feminist Companion to the Apocalypse of John. Feminist Companion to the New Testament and Early Christian Writings. London: T & T Clark. Mack, Burton L. 1995. Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. Matthews, Shelly, and E. Leigh Gibson, eds. 2005. Violence in the New Testament. New York: T & T Clark. Meeks, Wayne A. 2000. “Apocalyptic Discourse and Strategies of Goodness. JR 80: 461–75. Mensh, Elaine, and Harry Mensh. 2000. Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn: Re-imagining the American Dream. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. Middleton, Paul. 2018. The Violence of the Lamb: Martyrs as Agents of Divine Judgement in the Book of Revelation. LNTS 586. London: T & T Clark. Moore, Stephen D. 1999. “Revolting Revelations.” In The Personal Voice in Biblical Interpretation, edited by Ingrid Rosa, pp. 183–200. London: Routledge. Moyise, Steve. 2001. “Does the Lion Lie Down with the Lamb?” In Studies in the Book of Revelation, edited by Steve Moyise, 181–94. Edinburgh: T & T Clark. Paulien, Jon. 2004. “John’s Apocalyptic Matrix: Violence and Virtual Reality Ancient and Modern.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, San Antonio, TX.

Violence in the Apocalypse of John   305 Peirce, Charles  S. 1992. “ ‘Evolutionary Love.” In The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings, edited by Nathan Houser and Christian Klossel, pp. 365–66. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Peters, Olutola K. 2004. “Politics of Violence in the Apocalypse of John: Moral Dilemma and Justification.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, San Antonio, TX. Pippin, Tina. 1992. Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in the Apocalypse of John. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Pippin, Tina. 1999. Apocalyptic Bodies: The Biblical End of the World in Text and Image. London: Routledge. Ramelli, Ilaria L. F. 2011. “Origen’s Interpretation of Violence in the Apocalypse: Destruction of Evil and Purification of Sinners.” In Ancient Christian Interpretations of “Violent Texts” in the Apocalypse, edited by Jozef Verheyden, Tobias Nicklas, and Andreas Merkt, pp. 46–62. SUNT 92. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Richard, Pablo. 1997. “Plagues in the Bible: Exodus and Apocalypse.” In The Return of the Plague, edited by José Oscar Beozzo and Virgil Elizondo, pp. 45–54. London: SCM Press. Schmithals, Walter, ed. 1973. The Apocalyptic Movement: Introduction and Interpretation. Translated by John E. Steely. Nashville: Abingdon. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis: Fortress. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1998. The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Fortress. Skaggs, Rebecca, and Thomas Doyle. 2007. “Violence in the Apocalypse of John.” CurBR 5: 220–34. Strozier, Charles B. 2007. “The Apocalyptic Other: On Fundamentalism and Violence.” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 11: 84–96. Thomas, David Andrew. 2008. Revelation 19 in Historical and Mythological Context. Studies in Biblical Literature. New York: Peter Lang. Verheyden, Jozef, Tobias Nicklas, and Andreas Merkt, eds. 2011. Ancient Christian Interpretations of “Violent Texts” in the Apocalypse. SUNT 92. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Versnel, H. S. 1970. Triumphus: An Inquiry into the Origin, Development and Meaning of the Roman Triumph. Leiden: Brill. Volf, Miroslav. 1996. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon. Wessinger, Catherine. 2014. “Apocalypse and Violence.” In The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature, edited by John Collins, pp. 422–40. New York: Oxford University Press. Wise, Michael, Martin Abegg Jr., and Edward Cook. 1996. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1976. The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation. HDR 9. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1986. “Vilification and Self-Definition in the Book of Revelation.” HTR 79: 308–20.

chapter 19

The Cit y-Wom en Ba by l on a n d N ew J erusa l em i n R ev el ation Lynn R. Huber

Southwest of Laodicea, one of the seven cities addressed in the book of Revelation, is the city of Aphrodisias, named for its patron, Aphrodite. The city was known for its fine buildings, including the sebasteion (imperial cult temple), dedicated to Aphrodite and the Julio-Claudian emperors. Likely finished during the reign of Nero (54–68 ce), the sebasteion was an impressive structure that included a temple and a highly decorated three-storey portico that lined the processional way. The portico included reliefs depicting imperial triumphs within a framework of Greek myth, as well as the breadth of Roman conquest. The latter was communicated through personifications of the ethnē (nations or “foreign peoples”) that lay at the edges of the Empire, including Dacia, Egypt, and Judea (R. R. R. Smith 1988). Many of the scenes of imperial triumph similarly included personified nations, such as Britannia and Armenia. These personifications, which draw upon a long tradition of representing nations and cities as women, present an elite Aphrodisian perspective on Roman power. Drawing upon this tradition, John, Revelation’s self-named author, deploys his own city-woman images as part of his call for his community to resist Roman power and build a communal identity in relation to God and the Lamb.

Reading Revelation’s City-Women with Scholars Scholarly conversation about Revelation’s city-women began in earnest with the emergence of feminist critical approaches to the text, since the imagery raises questions about

308   Lynn R. Huber John’s understanding of gender and sex and about how gendered imagery is interpreted and appropriated by scholars and communities in conversation with Revelation (Stenström 2009).1 For most of these scholars, Revelation’s depictions of the whore and the bride are central to understanding the text’s rhetorical strategy.2 Some of the earliest discussions of Revelation’s city-women explore the relationship between these images and their cultural contexts. Adela Yarbro Collins draws from history-of-religions scholarship as she explores the mythological foremothers of Revelation’s women. She highlights the bride’s roots in Isaiah’s depiction of Jerusalem as God’s wife, which, like Revelation, includes a description of the city bejeweled (Isa 54:12). Babylon the whore similarly “hails from” the prophetic tradition in which Nineveh and Tyre are depicted as prostitutes because of their unscrupulous “quest for wealth” (Yarbro Collins 1993, 26; Nah 3:4; Isa 23). The prophets even depict Jerusalem, Israel, and Judah as a prostitute or unfaithful wife, as a way of symbolizing the people’s supposed turn to “idolatry” (Isa 1:21; Hos 1–4; Jer 3:6–10; Ezek 16; 23:5–21). Barbara Rossing emphasizes the rhetorical function of the two city-women in Revelation by examining the “two-choice” topos in Greek and Roman moralist writings and Jewish wisdom traditions. Like these, Revelation’s use of whore and bride imagery, which John combines with the prophetic critique of cities, depicts an either/or option. Revelation’s audience can either associate with the whore, which is an indictment of the Roman Empire, or accept the invitation of the bridal new Jerusalem, which is “an invitation to citizenship in God’s alternative realm” (Rossing 1999, 15). Rossing emphasizes that this gendered imagery is mainly a way of contrasting the two options and not a statement about gender per se (1999, 162). Two of the most influential interpreters of Revelation’s city-woman imagery have been Tina Pippin and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Although both scholars understand their readings as feminist, they disagree over whether one should highlight the gendered (Pippin) or the political (Schüssler Fiorenza) aspects of the imagery. Exploring how Revelation’s assumption of a male-identified audience encourages readers to celebrate the whore’s gruesome demise and to valorize the passive and virginal bride, Pippin challenges the assumption that modern interpreters can look past the text’s misogyny (1992a).3 Critical of Pippin’s perspective, Schüssler Fiorenza argues that the whore and bride should not be read as revealing John’s perspectives on actual women, but as John’s appropriation of prophetic traditions in which women symbolize cities and political institutions. Reading the book in historical context and in subsequent parallel contexts, Schüssler Fiorenza argues that these two images present the audience with a choice, either associate oneself with “the powers of oppression . . . [or] those of liberation and well-being” (1991, 130). As such, they are part of Revelation's liberatory vision. Shanell T. Smith pushes past the binary options presented by Pippin and Schüssler Fiorenza by employing a hermeneutic of “ambiveilence.”4 Reading Babylon through the lenses of postcolonial theory and womanist interpretation, Smith maintains that the citywoman is “simultaneously a brothel slavewoman and empress/ imperial city” (2014, 176). This is an image of one who both experiences and participates in oppression and victimization, and, as such, it is one with which Smith identifies as an African American woman living in the United States. Smith highlights the intersecting identities incorporated into

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   309 this imagery noting that feminist Conversations overemphasize the gendered aspect of the city-women, and give little or no attention to the fact that audiences, whether living in ancient Asia Minor or the contemporary United States, cannot envision the city-women without making assumptions about their racial, ethnic, and class identities. While many scholars have focused on Revelation’s depiction of the great whore, my own work has explored how the bride serves as an image of the idealized community to which John calls his audience (Huber 2007). I have demonstrated that the image of the bride has been productive for thinking about communal and individual identity among interpreters of Revelation, including medieval and modern women visionaries (Huber 2013). Similarly, Jacqueline M. Hidalgo explores how Revelation’s evocation of a new Jerusalem bridges the past, present, and future and parallels and intersects with Latinx visions of Aztlán, the mythical past, present, and future home of the Chicanx community (Hidalgo 2016). More recently, Revelation scholars have brought the insights of queer theory into conversation with the text’s city-women imagery. I approach the image of the woman Babylon as a queer lesbian reader, and identify with John as he wonders at the elaborately clad female figure before him (17:6–7), thereby pushing against the text’s heteronormative assumption that readers who desire the whore are male-identified (see Pippin 1992a, 83–86). In so doing, I interpret queer desire for the whore figure in terms of the appeal of assimilation to the dominant culture (Huber 2011). More recently, Luis Menéndez-Antuña reminds interpreters of queer theory’s emphasis on the multidirectionality of desire, arguing that the desire of Revelation’s audience cannot easily be realigned from one object, the whore, to another, the bride (2018, 96–98). We can imagine that, despite John’s assumption that his audience embodies male desire for women, Revelation’s audience members have complex experiences of both attraction and repulsion to the two city-women presented to them. Queer readings of Revelation remind us that texts do not control the responses of their readers. Scholarly engagement with Revelation’s city-women reveals the tendency to reduce these rich images to a single facet—either the city or woman—and to overlook other aspects within the imagery. Moreover, we see a tension among scholars between those who look at what the images have said (as rhetorical historical constructions) and those who look at what the images might say as resources for contemporary interpretative communities. Here I will focus upon the former, on how Revelation’s city-women relate to their ancient rhetorical context, including other female personifications.

The Ancient Personification of Cities and Nations as Women The personification of cities and nations as women appears throughout the ancient Mediterranean world in texts, on coins, in monumental art, and more. Although in some cases these entities were depicted as men,5 the association between cities and

310   Lynn R. Huber women stems partly from the grammatical gender of the Greek and Latin terms for “city,” polis and urb respectively (A. C. Smith 2011, 105). Another aspect is that both cities and women could be metaphorically envisioned as containers. The connection is built on the assumption that cities were walled spaces with gates that could be closed and opened. That idea aligned with the views of ancient physicians who understood the female body as defined by possessing a uterus. The uterus, as described by Galen near the end of the first century ce, was understood to be akin to the male “part,” simply turned “inward” (On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body 14.6). According to this view, women were naturally inwardly oriented, designed to contain a man’s penis, sperm, and, eventually, a fetus. Woman were by design “living containers” (Bonnard 2013). Given these metaphorical associations between cities and containers and women and containers, a metaphorical connection between cities and women was easily drawn. The metaphorical logic that equates women and cities with containers includes the idea that both can be penetrated. This leads to a common association between sexual assault and invasion, between rape and war. When the Greeks invade Priam’s palace in Troy, they penetrate the structure’s “stubborn gateway” behind which “trembling matrons moan, clinging to the doors and imprinting kisses on them” (Virgil, Aen. 2.480–90). The physical penetration of a building, conceptually similar to a city, evokes a sexual response in the matrons who live within the palace. The boundary between physical place and human women is blurred (Whittaker 2009). A similar blurring of the boundary between conquered place and assaulted women occurs in at least two of the extant reliefs from Aphrodisias. In one, the emperor Nero carries a seemingly unconscious and nude personification of Armenia by her armpits, and in another, a nude Claudius stands behind a partially unclothed and fallen Britannia (Fig. 19.1). Both reliefs use the imagery of sexual violence as a way of indicating the defeat of nations. Although the images ostensibly depict political conquest, they also remind the viewer that militaries, ancient and modern, regularly deploy sexual assault and rape as a means of demonstrating and maintaining power over the other (Gaca 2003). Moreover, using images of sexual violence to depict political dominance reflects the cultural equation of the free male with power and dominance and the female and feminized, a category that included enslaved males, with weakness and passivity, a gender logic that imbued the Roman social world writ large (Walters 1997). The personification of cities as women did not always signify dominance and conquest. One of the most widespread and flexible personifications was the depiction of various cities as the goddess Tyche, a deity associated with fate and fortune. Popular in Greek and Hellenistic contexts, visual representations of different cities as Tyche (e.g., Alexandria, Tarsus, Laodicea) underscore the metaphorical association between cities and women as containers (Broucke 1994, 37–38). One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the goddess is the mural crown on her head. The crown resembles city walls and at times even includes representations of city gates. For instance, the Anatolian city of Tarsus is depicted as Tyche on a coin minted during Domitian’s reign (Fig. 19.2). Like other versions of Tyche, she wears a mural crown that evokes the walls of Tarsus, which contained and ostensibly protected its inhabitants and institutions. The image of Tyche

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   311

Figure 19.1  Sebasteion Relief of Claudius and Britannia, Aphrodisias, Turkey, first-century ce. Photo courtesy of New York University Excavations at Aphrodisias (G. Petruccioli). 

here points to the way the personifications map the characteristics of cities and women onto one another. Based on a famous fourth-century bce bronze statue of Tyche of Antioch by Eutychides, the Tyche of Tarsus sits with her foot on a male figure who represents the river Cydnus, just as the city itself “sat” along the river. While the initial connection made between cities and women might be on account of their metaphorical status as containers, the blending of these concepts easily lends itself to being extended in a variety of ways. The city of Rome was also depicted in the form of a goddess, called Roma, who was occasionally shown wearing a mural crown, like Tyche (Joyce  2014, 10). Evoking

312   Lynn R. Huber

Figure 19.2  Silver Tetradrachm of Domitian (obverse) and Tyche (reverse), Tarsus, 83–96 ce. Photo courtesy of the American Numismatic Society.

Figure 19.3  Silver Cistophorus of Nerva, Asia Minor, 98 ce. Photo courtesy of the American Numismatic Society.

im­agery associated with the Amazons, Roma could appear helmeted, holding a spear, and with one breast bared. The parts of a personification require interpretation in relation to the whole. Even though the bared breast of a figure like Britannia indicates her vulnerability and the shame of her defeat, in relation to other Amazonian signifiers on Roma, the breast signals the goddess’s valor, a willingness to take risk in battle (Joyce 2014, 6). Additionally, the breast may signal Roma’s maternal nature as a goddess who provides for those under her care. Roma was especially popular in the Greek-speaking eastern portion of the Empire and the cities of Asia Minor were some of the earliest to build temples in her honor. Smyrna was the first, building a temple to the personified city during the Republican period (Tacitus, Ann. 4.56). Subsequent temples dedicated to Roma and Augustus were

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   313 built in Ephesus and Pergamum. A first-century coin from Pergamum represents the temple on its reverse side, labeled roma et aug. Perhaps the cornucopia bearing goddess, who bestows power by placing a crown upon an emperor’s head (likely Augustus, though it is sometimes associated with Nerva (Friesen 2001, 32) is Roma h ­ erself, who was often depicted holding the “horn of plenty” (Fig. 19.3).6 The prevalence of Roma in Asia Minor suggests that Revelation’s audiences would have been familiar with this personification. In a context in which the imperial cults were an important aspect of civic and provincial culture, the expectation would be that Roma was worthy of respect and honor, a far cry from the treatment Revelation offers her.

The City-Women of Revelation The city-women of Revelation—Babylon the great whore and the bride named new Jerusalem—appear primarily in chapters 17–18 and 19–21 respectively. They emerge after John’s depiction of earthly political powers as beasts who have been empowered by the “great dragon,” who is identified as Satan (12:9). While the inhabitants of the earth are inclined to follow and worship the beast (13:4), throughout the narrative John calls his audience to resist this and to be faithful to God and the Lamb, even if that leads to death (e.g., 6:9; 7:14; 20:4). The dualism, which positions the beast and the Lamb as cosmic foes, reflects John’s perspective on the state of things for Jesus-followers in the urban centers of first-century ce Asia Minor. He understands them as combatants in a battle that will ultimately be won by Christ and his armies (19:11–21). Whether the members of John’s audience saw things in the same way is another issue. Revelation’s world was one in which the urban elites were invested in gaining the favor of imperial Rome. The city of Pergamum requested and received the privilege of honoring Augustus and Roma with a provincial temple (Dio Cassius, Rom. Hist. 51.20), depicted on the coin in Fig. 19.3. The sebasteion building project in Aphrodisias began during the reign of Augustus’s successor, Tiberius, to honor the Julio-Claudian family for granting the city “free and allied status,” which made it independent of the province of Asia. At least one of the individuals who sponsored the project received Roman citizenship as a result (R. R. R. Smith 1987, 90). These types of patron-client relationships would have been important throughout the cities of Asia Minor. Even though only the wealthy could undertake a massive building project, there were myriad ways individuals and associations could demonstrate their gratefulness and loyalty to the dominant powers, such as attending festivals and games related to the imperial cults.7 Moreover, there would have been significant social pressure to support and participate in the imperial cults, for, as Steven M. Friesen underscores, these traditions were not imposed by Rome but reflected “local values” (1993, 75). Honoring and even worshipping imperial figures, including Roma, were part of being a good neighbor or citizen in the cities to which Revelation is addressed; however, for John, these activities pandered to the beast who bears blasphemous names (Rev 13:1–4). According to John, even eating the meat that was left over from sacrifices, which would

314   Lynn R. Huber have been sold in the local markets, was participating in the empire’s evils (2:14, 20). This toleration of the imperial cults among Revelation’s audience members was a failure to recognize both the true reign of God and the Lamb and that the imperial system threatens, physically and spiritually, those who follow the Lamb. Revelation responds by drawing on the tradition of personifying cities and nations as women, and then deploying these city-woman images to simultaneously critique Rome, construct a communal identity for those who follow the Lamb, and present the two options that are available to audience members.

Babylon, the Great Whore and City Immediately after he witnesses angels in heaven pouring out bowls of plague upon the earth, John is whisked away into the wilderness by one of the angels, who has something to show the seer. The language of seeing and showing plays an important role throughout Revelation, which uses the rhetorical technique of ekphrasis to place images before the audience members’ eyes (Huber 2013, 11–15; Whitaker 2015, 6). John characterizes the narrative as a whole as something intended to be shown to God’s “slaves” (1:1).8 The aim, as noted by Robyn J. Whitaker, was to use vivid description to persuade one’s audience members to see things in a particular way, so that their perspectives, opinions, and actions would be impacted (2015, 17–18). The focus of this visionary event, according to the angel, is the judgment of the great whore (17:1). As we will see, This vision is not simply descriptive; it is a call to action. The object of judgment, tēs pornēs tēs megalēs in Greek, is a paradoxical image that plays with the category of class. While we opt to translate this phrase the “great whore,” since John clearly wants to vilify this character, the variety of English translations reflects the difficulty scholars have in capturing the social significance of this character. Is the term best rendered “harlot” (ASV), “whore” (KJV, NRSV), or “prostitute” (NIV)? At first glance, one might see this woman as a hetaira, a wealthy and high-class courtesan, often associated with classical Greece (e.g., Roose  2005). Her clients are the “kings of the earth,” suggesting that she trades in power and prestige, and her extravagant appearance makes her success clear: she is “adorned with gold and jewels and pearls” (17:4). Contributing to the sense that this woman comes from the upper class, she wears garments made of scarlet and purple, colors associated with the clothing of the imperial family. The costume points to this being an imperial woman; however, the label pornē belies this. The term suggests not a woman with rank and class but a typical Roman prostitute, who worked or was forced to work—since many were enslaved—in the bars and brothels found throughout the Empire’s cities (Glancy and Moore 2011, 554–55).9 John’s depiction draws on the imagery of enslavement when he says that her name is visible upon her forehead (17,5), as the enslaved could be tattooed with the name that linked them to their enslaver (Glancy and Moore 2011, 559–60; Jones 1987).10

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   315 Prostitution was part of the Roman social system, providing free males opportunities for sex apart from marriage, and without the risk of infringing on another man’s property (i.e., wife, daughter, slave). Despite this, sex workers of all genders, many of whom were enslaved, were infames, lacking in reputation or honor. As Catharine Edwards notes, “Prostitution, for many Roman writers, represented the most degrading form of female existence imaginable” (1997, 82), an assessment John clearly shares. Roman authors associated brothels and prostitutes with unpleasant smells and dirtiness (Juvenal, Sat. 6.121; 11.173). Similarly, John depicts the whore of Rev 17 holding a golden cup full of bdelygmatōn, which is often translated as “abominations” (NRSV), a term that has a moral or euphemistic valance in English but is linguistically related to words associated with nausea and filth.11 The whore’s cup also holds akatharta, or “unclean things,” explicitly related to her “fornication” or “prostitution” (porneia). On top of this, the great whore is drunk on the blood of the saints (17:6), pointing to her lack of s­ elf-control, a flaw from the Roman perspective, and her taste for violence. These ­characteristics create a sense of antipathy toward the woman adorned in imperial garb. Revelation’s great whore is an image of one who has access to everything and to all power, but who has debased herself and even become enslaved. Glancy and Moore compare this text to Juvenal’s depiction of Messalina, the third wife of Emperor Claudius, as a “whore-empress” (meretrix augusta). Juvenal describes Messalina trading her palace bed at night for a brothel doorway, where she stands “naked and for sale” with “nipples gilded” (Sat. 6.120–125). The historian Tacitus similarly depicts Messalina as excessive and whore-like (Ann. 11.25–38). In both cases, as Glancy and Moore note, the depiction of the “whore-empress” serves as a way of critiquing the decline of the social order and, especially, the imperial family’s role in that decline (2011, 565).12 For John, however, the great whore is not just an elite woman who has traded status for enslavement; she is aligned with evil itself. The great whore rides on a scarlet beast “full of blasphemous names” and with multiple horns and heads (17:3), a clear allusion to the beasts that appear earlier in the narrative and who are aligned with Satan (12:9). The beast the great whore rides is clearly an inversion of the divine, as the angel explains that “the beast that you saw was and is not” (17:7), a play on the description of God as the one “who is and who was and who is to come” (1:8). As the great whore’s mount, the beast is the thing that moves and motivates her. She, in other words, colludes with evil. It quickly becomes clear that it is a personification when John reveals the great whore’s name: “Babylon the Great, Mother of Whores and of the Earth’s Abominations” (17:5). The allusion to the quintessential evil city of Jewish tradition makes sense given that Babylon and Rome share the distinction of having destroyed Jerusalem and the city’s Jewish temple on the same day, albeit centuries apart. Other ancient Jewish authors make the same connection (e.g., 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch). The allusion portrays Rome, like Babylon, as the heart of an oppressive imperial power that brings destruction on the people of God. The city and woman imagery within this personification merges almost seamlessly as John describes the whore in a way that evokes representations of the goddess Roma. As

316   Lynn R. Huber in popular representations of the goddess, John views the great whore Babylon “sitting” upon both “seven mountains” (17:9) and “many waters” (17:1, 15). The seven mountains, which John simultaneously identifies as seven kings, is an apparent reference to the seven hills with which Rome was commonly identified (e.g. Pliny, Nat. 3.66; Martial, Epigr. 4.64.11–12). The depiction of Rome sitting on waters and mountains conjures up images of the goddess sitting like Tyche (Joyce 2014, 13). Often, Roma sits upon shields, indicating the peace she brings through military domination (pax Romana), although on at least one first-century coin minted in Asia Minor, Roma sits upon seven hills with her feet resting upon a personification of the Tiber (Koester 2014, 685). In an allusion to this traditional imagery, John equates the water upon which Rome sits with “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages” (17:15). The ­metaphorical equation evokes all those who have been subdued by Rome because of the city’s strategic location; one need only look at the reliefs of the sebasteion to get a sense of their identities. The description of the personified Rome concludes with a graphic representation of the judgment promised in 17:1. The kings that make up the horns and heads of the beast will, under authority from God, turn against the “great city” (hē polis hē megalē). The Greek here recalls the initial description of the “great whore” (tēs pornēs tēs megalēs), who will be judged. The vivid account of the judgment again makes no distinction between city and woman, even though interpreters often favor one image over the other. The angel explains that the beast and the kings “will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her with fire” (17:16). Many interpreters have emphasized that this violent scene should be understood as the destruction of an oppressive city and not an actual woman (e.g., Huber 2013, 69; Rossing 1999, 90). However, the metaphorical blending of woman and city erases any line that may exist between these concepts, and Revelation’s audience members are subjected to viewing the rape and utter annihilation of a city-woman. The image, which parallels traditions from Revelation’s prophetic past (e.g., Ezek 16:41; 23:25), is horrific, because the metaphorical blending of the concept woman and city suggest the razing of a city in a way that conjures visions of sexual violence against women. The reference to the kings’ cannibalizing the great whore clearly evokes the body of a person, although the boundary between woman and city collapses as the city-woman burns. Some interpreters characterize this scene as one of “selfdestruction,” since the great whore is the one who associated with the kings who destroy her (e.g., Blount  2009, 322). Rome, from this perspective gets what she deserves. Mitzi J. Smith wryly notes the problematic logic behind this, characterizing it as victim blaming: “[W]hores can be subjected to violence because they are whores” (2015, 174). The horror of this imagery potentially obscures the irony at the heart of the personification. As Craig R. Koester notes in reference to the reliefs in Aphrodisias, the city that contributed to the subjugation of others, including Britannia and Armenia, will be “stripped and devastated” (2014, 694). We might imagine some in John’s audience being uncomfortable with the vision unfolding before them. Whether they hear Rev 17 as referring to a city, a goddess, or as a thorough blending of both, they are prompted to envision the destruction and complete debasement of something that has been and is held in honor by some within their ranks and by those around them.

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   317 The violence enacted upon the city-woman named Babylon continues in Rev 18, although the narrative highlights the concept of city more strongly in this chapter, including the metaphorical connection between cities, women, and containers. Echoing the oracles of Isaiah, an angel announces the destruction and desolation of the great city Babylon (18:2; see Isa 21:9; 34:11–15). The city has become a “prison” (phylakē), a word that is repeated three times in 18:2, connoting a place that contains individuals or foul spirits, birds, and beasts.13 The image of Babylon as a place that contains and even traps its inhabitants leads another voice from heaven to command, “Come out of her, my people” (18:4). This command, which Revelation’s audience members hear directed at them when the text is read aloud (1:3), signals one of the primary functions of Revelation’s city-woman imagery: to persuade Jesus-followers in urban Asia Minor to distance themselves from Rome. These Jesus-followers are to remove themselves from the city lest they become contaminated by its sins and plagues (18:4). In fact, John even calls his audience to participate in the punishment of the city-woman (18:6). Unlike those around or even among them who participate in the adulation of the Empire, John’s audience members are called to withdraw from and even oppose the city-woman that John depicts as depraved, disgusting, and entangled with evil.

New Jerusalem, the Wife and Bride Audience members, as those who desire to be faithful to God and the Lamb, are also presented with a city-woman with which they can identify (Pattemore 2004). As the smoke from the destruction of the great whore rises, the multitudes of heaven joyfully announce that the “marriage of the Lamb” has come: “’Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure” (19:7–8a). Given the hymnic wedding announcement of the great multitude, it is surprising that the personification begins with a reference to the Lamb’s gynē, “woman” or “wife,” and not nymphē or “bride.” Some ancient manuscripts even change gynē to nymphē. While the exact reason behind John’s choice of terms remains unknown, gynē reflects the ancient assumption that, with few exceptions, all free women with social status were expected to marry. Likewise, Revelation refrains from identifying the Lamb’s partner as “virgin,” even though the ancient wedding involved a virgin becoming a bride becoming a wife. The wedding, including the donning of bridal garments and the procession to the groom’s home, was the moment in which a young female transitioned from one social role to another (Hersch 2010, 295; Huber 2007, 127–28). The wedding is all about the virgin’s transition into her new identity as wife, and in 19:7, the end of that transition is anticipated as the Lamb’s wife is introduced. Although the virgin is not mentioned in the hymn announcing the wedding, multiple virgins, one hundred forty-four thousand to be exact, are introduced earlier. In 14:4, parthenos is used to characterize those who follow the Lamb, understood as male

318   Lynn R. Huber (i.e., they have not “defiled” themselves with women, suggesting that they are chaste heterosexual males). “Virgin” is a term that refers primarily to an unmarried girl, as well as conveying a sense of sexual inexperience.14 Describing men in this way challenges the ancient valuation of male power being evidenced through sexual conquest and fathering heirs (Huber 2008, 9–10; Stenström 2011; Walters 1997). By encouraging audience members, who presumably want to be faithful Jesus-followers, to see themselves in this role, John prepares them for eventually identifying with the bridal imagery of Rev 19 and 21: the faithful, envisioned in terms of male identity, are virgins who follow the Lamb “wherever he goes,” even to the point of becoming his bride and wife. Revelation’s description of the Lamb revolves primarily around her appearance. Although this plays on the ancient assumption that women were overly concerned with appearances (Olson 1992, 2009), it also reflects the ideals communicated through the ancient bridal costume and the ways in which costumes were assumed to communicate identity. In the traditional Roman bride’s costume, for instance, chastity was signaled by the “Herculean knot” that fastened her belt; and fertility, through the reddish-yellow color of the veil (flammeum; Olson 2008, 21–24). Revelation’s description of the garment as “bright and pure” (19:8) similarly suggests ideal traits of the bride, including her closeness to the divine, who is associated with light, and her purity, suggesting an exclusive connection to the Lamb, despite the appeal of the beast. More importantly, the bridal garment represented the virgin’s ability to provide for her future family by spinning and weaving, since the bride ideally wove the tunica recta she wore (Olson 2008, 21). Even if the bride did not actually weave the particular tunic she wore on the wedding day, the donning of the tunica recta, made of a single piece of fabric woven on a upright loom, was a signal of her readiness to take on the responsibility for clothing her family, something that even the female family members of Augustus supposedly managed (Suetonius, Aug. 73). Revelation’s language describing the bride preparing herself for the wedding suggests her active role in the construction of this garment. Similarly, the description of the garment’s fine linen being made from the “righteous deeds of the saints” (Rev 19:8) hints at the communal identity of the bride. If a bride traditionally makes her own wedding garment and this bride’s garment is made up, metaphorically, of the actions of those who are faithful to God and the Lamb, then the imagery suggests that the faithful ones must be collectively the Lamb’s bride. In other words, those who were envisioned as virgins in 14:4 eventually transition into the role of bride and wife. The description of the bride’s garment as “fine linen” (19:8) evokes the description of the personified Jerusalem in Ezekiel, since she, too, is clothed, by God, in “fine linen” when he becomes betrothed to and weds her (Ezek 16:10, 13, LXX). Although the bride’s identity as new Jerusalem will not be revealed until chapter 21, through this personification John prompts his audience to see themselves as a renewed or rebuilt Jerusalem, since the old city has been “given over to the Gentiles,” a likely reference to the Roman capture and destruction of the holy city (Rev 11:2). While the bride’s faithfulness is emphasized through her costume, the wedding also points to God’s faithfulness to Jerusalem; although the city is in ruins, it will be reconstituted in the future and reunited with the divine.

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   319 Though brief, the wedding imagery draws a clear contrast between the bride and the great whore. The reference to purity reflects a metaphorical connection between physical cleanliness and moral behavior. However, the imagery also implies a kind of class distinction. The great whore, an imperial figure, debases herself with filth by becoming a prostitute, and even a slave. She is bought by the kings of the earth and eventually dies at their hands. Interestingly, while many prostitutes in the ancient world would actually have been enslaved, throughout Revelation John encourages his audience to envision themselves as both bride of the Lamb and enslaved to God and the Lamb (e.g., 1:1; Koester 2008), wearing the names of these two “lords” upon their foreheads like marked slaves (14:1). John views this metaphorical enslavement in positive terms and in ways that belie the harsh realities of ancient slavery, including the sexual exploitation of the enslaved (Marchal 2011). The difference is that the whore sells herself to the beast, while the bride is faithful, as slave and wife, to the Lamb. Although those who make up the bride are “slaves,” as bride they prepare to take on a role associated with honor and ­status. This is somewhat paradoxical since in the first-century Roman Empire, legal marriage was a privilege of those who were free (Evans-Grubbs 1993, 127). Revelation’s use of both slave and bridal imagery as a way of characterizing those faithful to God and the Lamb would sound dissonant to some audience members, especially those Jesusfollowers who were enslaved and not allowed to legally marry. While the hymn proclaimed by the multitudes alludes to the Lamb’s wife, “she” does not appear in John’s vision until the beginning of Rev 21, after the last judgment has concluded (Rev 20). John then witnesses the emergence of a new heaven and earth, followed by “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, like a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2). The moment John and his audience see the new Jerusalem, they also hear “her” likened to a bride. The personification of the new Jerusalem as bride is unveiled. The unveiling (anakalypsis) of the bride, the revelation of her to the groom and wedding witnesses, was a key part of the ancient wedding, according to Greek visual sources (Sutton 1997, 28). That Revelation as an “apocalypse” is in itself an “unveiling” does not seem coincidental, since the personification of new Jerusalem as bride is one of the narrative’s culminating visions (Huber 2013, 1–2), When the identity of the Lamb’s woman, the bride, is revealed, the focus is clearly on the city that is being compared to a bride. Revelation elaborates the metaphorical blending of city and woman when a loud voice from God’s throne announces that the new Jerusalem is the place where the divine “dwells” with people: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them” (21:3). While the NRSV uses “home” and “dwell,” the Greek terms are related to the noun skēnē, which recalls the tent used as God’s dwelling place during the Exodus (Exod 29:43–46). This is a place of meeting and encounter, where God will wipe away the tears of the faithful, easing their mourning and pain (Rev 21:4). Although the skēnē suggests a temporary space, especially since the term is also used to describe a theatrical backdrop, a vision of a more solidly constructed new Jerusalem appears when an angel comes to show John “the bride, the wife (gynē) of the Lamb” (21:9). The bride is fully unveiled as John describes a four-square city with high walls and bejeweled foundations. John’s angel guide even measures the city walls

320   Lynn R. Huber with a rod of gold, highlighting the city’s geometric perfection. The gemstones that adorn the city recall the breastplate of the temple priests, but also evoke images of elite Roman women dressed in precious materials. Even though the opulence of the great whore serves as a sign of her baseness, the jewels that adorn the bride are a sign of her connection to the divine, who was also associated with jewels and precious stones (Royalty 1998). One might imagine that these walls would look quite nice imaged as a mural crown worn by Tyche. The container metaphor at work in the personification of new Jerusalem continues to be at the fore when John describes the city’s gates and what comes into the city, and what cannot enter the city. There seems to be a kind of irony in the fact that new Jerusalem is built much like a fortress, yet its twelve gates are never closed, since there is no night (21:25). The city contains, and yet it is ostensibly permeable. While the city’s gates remain open and people bring honor and glory into it, there are still those who remain outside the city: “But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination (bdelygma) or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27). The city remains off limits for those who have not been faithful to the Lamb and therefore do not have their names written in the book of life (20:12, 15). Again, a clear distinction from the great whore is made by noting that those who practice bdelygma (17:5) will not enter the city. In Revelation’s personification of the great whore, the boundaries between city and woman overlap to the point of being nonexistent at times. English translations of these chapters highlight this by using feminine pronouns to describe the city-woman, even when the city imagery seemingly dominates. Even when a translation uses the neuter “it” to describe Babylon as a “a dwelling place of demons” (18:2, NIV), the text renders the command to leave Babylon in feminine terms, underscoring that Babylon is also a woman: “Come out of her, my people!” (18:4, my emphasis). The command reads, quite bluntly, as a command to discontinue intercourse. However, when it comes to the bridal new Jerusalem, whose garments are pure, English translations tend to opt for the neuter when describing those who are allowed in and those who are not. With few exceptions (e.g. Pippin  1992b, 70), the possible gender and sexual connotations of the new Jerusalem are erased or avoided in modern translations. Perhaps the elision of sexual connotations emphasizes that the new Jerusalem is not simply a place to visit or a container of sorts to enter. Instead, the audience is to embrace the role of bride and to become part of the new Jerusalem, or, as Robert H. Gundry has aptly put it, this image is one of “People as Place, Not Place for People” (1987). While depictions of conquered nations dominate the sebasteion reliefs in terms of numbers, the elaborate sculptural program includes some representations of Rome as the goddess Roma. In one, Roma wears a turreted crown, like Tyche, and stands over a personification of an abundant arth, the goddess Gē. In another, a victorious Roma stands in armor with a male captive at her feet. There may even have been a depiction of Roma crowning a personification of the Polis, Aphrodisias (R. R. R, Smith 1987, 97). These images present Roma as the elite citizens of Aphrodisias probably wanted others to see the “great city,” a very different picture of Rome than the one John constructs in

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   321 Rev 17–18. Revelation deploys the rhetorical resources of the ancient world, but as tools for resisting and constructing alternative identities. The visions of Roma from the sebasteion remind us, too, that the goddess and the conquered nations are all part of the same narrative, part of the vision being presented to the people of Aphrodisias. Taking one set of images without the others presents only a partial vision of how one should understand the story of Rome. So, too, Revelation’s great whore Babylon and bridal new Jerusalem are both integral to John’s vision of idea Christian identity.

Notes 1. The number of female-identified scholars who focus on Revelation is notable in a field dominated by men. See Levine (2009, 1). 2. Not all Revelation scholars focus on the whore in contrast to the bride. Paul Duff (2001, 85), for example, suggests that all the female characters are related to the whore and that the Woman Clothed in the Sun should be understood as the whore’s counterpart. I use “whore” instead of prostitute because it aligns with Revelation’s rhetorical aims. This is argued later in the essay. 3. Pippin, along with J. Michael Clark, arrives at a similar conclusion when reading Revelation from a queer perspective (Pippin and Clark 2006). 4. “Ambiveilence” is a term used by to Smith to capture the complexity of her interpretive perspective, which draws together womanist and postcolonial criticisms (2014, 50). 5. There are some examples of cities or peoples depicted as men. The people of Rome, for  example, were sometimes represented in the guise of a young male, semi-nude and bearing a cornucopia, commonly understood as the Genius Populi Romani (Fears 1978, 277). 6. Silver Cistophorus of Nerva, Asia Minor, 98 ce, ANC 1944.199.42643, American Numismatic Society, accessed April 21, 2019, 1944.100.42643. Joyce notes that Roma was sometimes depicted holding a cornucopia, like Tyche or Fortuna (2014, 10). 7. Key works on the prevalence of the imperial cults in Asia Minor include Friesen (1993, 2001) and Price (1984). 8. Throughout Revelation, those who faithfully follow God and the Lamb are characterized as douloi. The Greek term is often translated as “servant,” reflecting a trend in English biblical translation to efface the Bible’s role in the justification of slavery (Martin 1990). Revelation, however, clearly uses slave imagery for those who are faithful, describing them as ones who will be “sealed” for God (7:4), implying that God’s name is placed on their foreheads like a brand, and as those who have been “purchased” for God (14:1–4; Glancy and Moore 2011). 9. On the ubiquity of brothels throughout Roman cities, see McGinn (2006). 10. In Rev 7:3 John depicts those who follow God and the Lamb as having their names (those belonging to God and the Lamb) tattooed upon their foreheads. This is part of Revelation’s depiction of those who are faithful to God and the Lamb as slaves. 11. For example, bdelygmia is used by Xenophon to describe food that is nauseating (Xenophon, Mem. 3.11). 12. See also Susanna H. Braund’s (1992) argument that Juvenal’s sixth satire is more a critique of marriage and Augustan marriage laws than simple misogyny.

322   Lynn R. Huber 13. The third instance of phylakē, which describes the place containing foul and hateful beasts, is not attested in all manuscripts. However, both the NRSV and NIV reference all three uses of the term, although both versions translate it as “haunt.” This fails to capture the container imagery at work in these verses. The KJV comes closer, although it does not include the third reference, translating phylakē as “hold” and “cage.” 14. For a discussion of the how virginity was understood by medical writers in the firstcentury Mediterranean world, see Hanson (2007).

References Blount, Brian K. 2009. Revelation: A Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Bonnard, Jean-Baptiste. 2013. “Male and Female Bodies according to Ancient Greek Physicians.” Clio. Women, Gender, History 37: 1–18. Braund, Susanna H. 1992. “Juvenal—Misogynist or Misogamist?” JRS 82: 71–86. Broucke, Pieter B. F. J. 1994. “Tyche and the Fortune of Cities in the Greek and Roman World.” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: 34–49. Carey, Greg. 1999. Elusive Apocalypse: Reading Authority in the Revelation to John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Classen, Constance. 1994. Aroma. London: Routledge. Duff, Paul Brooks. 2001. Who Rides the Beast? Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edwards, Catherine. 1997. “Unspeakable Professions: Public Performance and Prostitution in Ancient Rome.” In Roman Sexualities, edited by Judith P. Hallett and Marilyn B. Skinner, pp. 66–95. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Fears, J. Rufus. 1978. “O ΔΗΜΟΣ O ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ Genius Populi Romani. A Note on the Origin of Dea Roma.” Mnemosyne 31: 274–86. Friesen, Steven  J. 1993. Twice Neokoros: Ephesus, Asia, and the Cult of the Flavian Imperial Family. Leiden: Brill. Friesen, Steven J. 2001. Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gaca, Kathy L. 2003. The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity. Hellenistic Culture and Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. Glancy, Jennifer  A., and Stephen  D.  Moore. 2011. “How Typical a Roman Prostitute Is Revelation’s ‘Great Whore’?” JBL 130: 551–69. Gundry, Robert H. 1987. “The New Jerusalem: People as Place, Not Place for People.” NovT 29: 254–64. Evans-Grubbs, Judith. 1993. “ ‘Marriage More Shameful Than Adultery’: Slave-Mistress Relationships, ‘Mixed Marriages,’ and Late Roman Law.” Phoenix 47: 125–54. Hanson, Ann Ellis. 2007. “The Hippocratic Parthenos in Sickness and Health.” In Virginity Revisited: Configurations of the Unpossessed Body, edited by Bonnie MacLachlan and Judith Fletcher, pp. 40–65. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Hersch, Karen K. 2010. The Roman Wedding: Ritual and Meaning in Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hidalgo, Jacqueline  M. 2016. Revelation in Aztlán: Scriptures, Utopias, and the Chicano Movement. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

The City-Women Babylon and New Jerusalem   323 Huber, Lynn R. 2007. Like a Bride Adorned: Reading Metaphor in John’s Apocalypse. New York: T & T Clark. Huber, Lynn  R. 2008. “Sexually Explicit? Re-reading Revelation’s 144,000 Virgins as a Response to Roman Discourses.” JMMS 2: 3–28. Huber, Lynn R. 2011. “Gazing at the Whore: Reading Revelation Queerly.” In Bible Trouble: Queer Reading at the Boundaries of Biblical Scholarship, edited by Teresa J. Hornsby and Ken Stone, pp. 301–20. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Huber, Lynn  R. 2013. Thinking and Seeing with Women in Revelation. LNTS 475. London: Bloomsbury. Jones, C. P. 1987. “Stigma: Tattooing and Branding in Graeco-Roman Antiquity.” JRS 77: 139–55. Joyce, Lillian. 2014. “Roma and the Virtuous Breast.” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 59/60: 1–49. Keller, Catherine. 1996. Apocalypse Now and Then: A Feminist Guide to the End of the World. Boston: Beacon Press. Koester, Craig  R. 2014. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AYB. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Koester, Craig R. 2008. “Roman Slave Trade and the Critique of Babylon in Revelation 18.” CBQ 70: 766–86. Levine, Amy-Jill. 2009. Introduction to A Feminist Companion to the Apocalypse of John, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Maria Mayo Robbins, pp. 1–16. London: T & T Clark. Martin, Clarice  J. 1990. “Womanist Interpretations of the New Testament: The Quest for Holistic and Inclusive Translation and Interpretation.” JFSR 6: 41–61. McGinn, Thomas A. J. 2006. “Zoning Shame in the Roman City.” In Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World, edited by Christopher A. Faraone and Laura K. McClure, pp. 161–76. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Menéndez-Antuña, Luis. 2018. Thinking Sex with the Great Whore: Deviant Sexualities and Empire in the Book of Revelation. Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Biblical Criticism. New York, NY: Routledge. Olson, Kelly. 2008. Dress and the Roman Woman: Self-Presentation and Society. New York: Routledge. Olson, Kelly. 2009. “Cosmetics in Roman Antiquity: Substance, Remedy, Poison.” CW 102: 291–310. Pattemore, Stephen W. 2004. The People of God in the Apocalypse: Discourse, Structure, and Exegesis. SNTSMS 128. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pippin, Tina. 1992a. Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in the Apocalypse of John. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox. Pippin, Tina. 1992b. “The Heroine and the Whore: Fantasy and the Female in the Apocalypse of John.” Semeia 60: 67–82. Pippin, Tina, and J.  Michael Clark. 2006. “Revelation/Apocalypse.” In The Queer Bible Commentary, edited by Deryn Guest, Robert Goss, Mona West, and Thomas Bohache, pp. 753–68. London: SCM Press. Price, S. R. F. 1984. Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Roose, Hanna. 2005. “The Fall of the ‘Great Harlot’ and the Fate of the Aging Prostitute: An Iconographic Approach to Revelation 18.” In Picturing the New Testament: Studies in Ancient Visual Images, edited by Annette Weisenrieder, Friederike Wendt, and Petra von Gemünden, pp. 228–52. WUNT II/193. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

324   Lynn R. Huber Rossing, Barbara  R. 1999. The Choice between Two Cities: Whore, Bride, and Empire in the Apocalypse. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International. Royalty, Robert M. 1998. The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1991. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis: Fortress. Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth. 1998. “Epilogue: The Rhetoricality of Apocalypse and the Politics of Interpretation.” In The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment, edited by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, pp. 205–36. Minneapolis: Fortress. Smith, Amy C. 2011. Polis and Personification in Classical Athenian Art. Leiden: Brill. Smith, Mitzi J. 2015. “Fashioning Our Own Souls: A Womanist Reading of the Virgin-Whore Binary in Matthew and Revelation.” In I Found God in Me: A Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 158–82. Smith, R. R. R. 1987. “The Imperial Reliefs from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias.” JRS 77: 88–138. Smith, R. R. R. 1988. “Simulacra Gentium: The Ethne from the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias.” JRS 78: 50–77. Smith, Shanell T. 2014. The Woman Babylon and the Marks of Empire: Reading Revelation with a Postcolonial Womanist Hermeneutics of Ambiveilence. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. Stenström, Hanna. 2009. “Feminists in Search for a Usable Future: Feminist Reception of the Book of Revelation.” In The Way the World Ends? The Apocalypse of John in Culture and Ideology, edited by William John Lyons and Jorunn Økland, pp. 240–66. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix. Stenström, Hanna. 2011. “Is Salvation Only for True Men? On Gendered Imagery in the Book of Revelation.” In Imagery in the Book of Revelation, edited by Michael Labahn and Outi Lehtipuu, pp. 183–98. Leuven: Peeters. Sutton, Robert F. 1997. “Nuptial Eros: The Visual Discourse of Marriage in Classical Athens.” The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 55/56: 27–48. Walters, Jonathan. 1997. “Invading the Roman Body: Manliness and Impenetrability in Roman Thought.” In Roman Sexualities, edited by Judith  P.  Hallett and Marilyn  B.  Skinner, pp. 29–43. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Whitaker, Robyn J. 2015. Ekphrasis, Vision, and Persuasion in the Book of Revelation. WUNT II/410. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. Whittaker, Tony. 2009. “Sex and the Sack of the City.” Greece and Rome 56: 234–42. Yarbro Collins, Adela. 1993. “Feminine Symbolism in the Book of Revelation.” BI 1: 20–33.

chapter 20

The Peopl e of G od i n the Book of R ev el ation Peter S. Perry

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues.” (Rev 18:4 NRSV)

The phrase “people of God in the book of Revelation” is ambiguous and can be interpreted diversely and even divergently depending on a reader’s context, assumptions, and memories.