In my first post in this series, I outlined my (strong) belief that the traditional interpretive categories for approaching the book of Revelation are not a very helpful starting place.
In my second post, I began to outline the first ‘layer’ of my proposed methodology: the contextual examination of the text. In that post I made the (I think) reasonable claim that texts usually make some sense to their original recipients. The book of Revelation, I suggested, was written by a real person (named John), to a bunch of real Christians in the cities around Ephesus at the end of the first century C.E., as an urgent message that he thought they really needed to hear. The whole region was under the control of the mighty Roman Empire, and for those who bought into the Roman system (including treating the Roman Emperor as some sort of divine being), things were ok. But for those who didn’t, well, their fate wasn’t looking very rosy. Rome didn’t play nice with those who dared challenge her power, and Jerusalem post 70C.E. stood as testament to this. John, it seems, saw the inevitability of conflict with Rome for faithful Christians (who could only ever proclaim Jesus as ‘Lord’, not Caesar), and seems to have written his bizarre text to speak into this situation.
But why did he write what he wrote? Why did he pick the particular style that he did? Why didn’t he just simply say, “Rome is not so good and her systems and structures are, pretty much, antithetical to the claims of Christianity, so don’t buy into it all”?
In my first post in this series, I started by indicating that I believe that the traditional interpretive frameworks used to approach the book of Revelation are, to be blunt, pretty much useless. I’m convinced that the usual categories more often than not force people to make interpretive conclusions about the text before actually approaching the text at all, that they treat the book of Revelation as something wholly different from all other New Testament texts, and that they usually become totally centred around the concept of the ‘millennium’ in a way that I don’t think the text itself either directs or allows.
I suggested, then, that there might be a more excellent way, and mentioned that I would, from this post onwards, begin to outline what I think is a more authentic method to approach the text with, which consisted of essentially three inter-connected layers:
A contextual examination
An inter-textual examination
A literary-rhetorical examination
In this post, then, I will begin with the contextual considerations, and move on to examine the other layers in subsequent posts.
I am currently working towards a PhD focused on the book of Revelation.
When I tell people this information, I am usually greeted with one of two responses: people either look at me like I’m crazy and want to get out of the conversation quickly (what kind of weirdo would study such things, after all?), or they look at me all crazy-like, with their eyes beginning to bulge (and glazing over ever-so-slightly) as they prepare to tell me all about the prophetic visions that they have had and their predictions about the carnage that is about to be unleashed.
Well, the Micah Challenge’sVoices for Justice conference is over for another a year, and I thought I might offer just a few reflections on what we did while we were in Canberra for the four incredible days.
Though the quality of the teaching sessions, the general reality of our diversity in unity, and the important meetings with (over 100!) MPs are obviously very important to note (and great to take part in), I thought I’d take a step back and look at some of the larger themes. The conference this year centred, basically, around two main points:
Every year, hundreds of Australian Christians who are concerned with issues of poverty and justice head to Canberra to meet with our elected political representatives as part of the Micah Challenge’s Voices for Justice conference. We meet with them to discuss the Millennium Development Goals, and to remind them of the commitment our nation made to these goals by 2015.
With just 3 days to go until Voices for Justice 2012(!), I wanted to reflect for a moment on what it is that we are actually doing when we descend on Canberra every year, from my perspective, and why we do (and should do) it.
This has become an interesting day for me for at least a couple of reasons: 7 years ago I was told that I would never have children, and yet here I am with two beautiful daughters of my own flesh and blood. 6 years ago my own father passed away.
So, whenever this day rolls around, I am left with a mixture of joy and sadness. I am filled with inexpressible joy as I behold my own kids, and am supremely thankful for this gift of fatherhood that I have been given. I am filled with sadness at the fact that my own father is no longer around, and never got to meet any of his grandkids. I am filled with joy at the fact that I was on good terms with my dad before he died. I am filled with sadness as I reflect on the lost years of estrangement, when I did not realise that dad wouldn’t be around for much longer.
After almost a year out of the game, a major career change, and a complete re-design and fresh start for the site, I’m-a bloggin’ again.
God help us all…
Anyway, I’d like to start with a reflection on the concept (and practice) of ‘hope’. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, but what is it really? How does one define it? What does it look like? Is hope just an otherworldly opiate that stubbornly refuses to accept ‘reality’, disengaging all possibility of change in the present?