In the last couple of years, I have come, in increasing measure, to the rather pessimistic conclusion that it will most probably take some sort of ‘apocalyptic’ event to finally make us humans realise that our current trajectory is unsustainable.
Obviously, this is somewhat at odds with my usually fairly optimistic, hope-filled outlook on possibilities for social change, however I am more and more (reluctantly) convinced by the argument that only an upheaval (or series of upheavals) of epic proportions will cause us to see with the required clarity that we can’t go on the way we are currently living.
Continue reading The ‘Apocalypse’ We Had to Have?
Lately I’ve been doing a bit of reading and thinking about the early ‘apocalyptic’ texts, especially the book of Daniel. It’s a truly fascinating text for so many reasons, and has proven itself over and again to be an enigma to many who have tried to navigate these difficult waters but who’ve found themselves hermeneutically shipwrecked along the way.
As a (partial) tangent, I’ve had the joy of re-reading an excellent article written by my friend, the brilliant Dr George Athas (of Sydney’s Moore Theological College), entitled “In Search of the Seventy ‘Weeks’ of Daniel 9.” It is an historically, theologically, and exegetically astute article, and offers what is, I think, a very helpful way of thinking about this issue. You can find a post summarising the article (which also contains a link to the original article in JHS) on George’s blog: With Meagre Powers.
Anyway (and getting back to the real point of writing this post), something that has often bugged me about the way many have interacted with this text is the issue of the prophet being told to ‘seal up’ his prophetic words.
Continue reading Daniel the Prophet and His ‘Sealed Scroll’
Though I outlined a few (I think) helpful resources for further reading at the end of my final post on Reading Revelation, I wanted to link here to some posts from my friend Matt Anslow over on his blog Life:Remixed.
Matt’s blog is one that I reckon you should read as a matter of course, but these posts in particular may be helpful in going a little deeper into some of the prominent themes in the book of Revelation. You will notice that Matt and I understand things quite similarly in regards to the book of Revelation, but Matt brings a number of very special observations to his work on this topic, and I just love reading pretty much everything that he writes!
His posts on Revelation centre around the idea of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in the book of Revelation, with a specific focus on Empire. He takes some of the significant images on display in the text and unpacks them each a little bit, in a very helpful way. I highly recommend checking the posts out.
- Part I: Revelation in Context
- Part II: The Beast – Might and Power
- Part III: The Prostitute – Seduction and Luxury
- Part IV: The Lamb – The Witness of the Cross
So, here we are at the final post in this 5-part series. If you’ve made it this far, then I tip my hat to you : )
In the first post, I suggested that the traditional interpretive frameworks for approaching the book of Revelation are all a bit naff, and that we would be better off approaching the text with a more well-rounded triple-layered approach consisting of a contextual examination, an intertextual examination, and a literary-rhetorical examination. In the next three posts, I explained each of these ‘layers’ in order seeking to lay-out a reasonably comprehensive introduction to approaching the text in the space available here (excluding, obviously, detailed exegetical examination).
In this last post, I want to try to bring it all together (…as best I can). In order to do that, I am basically going to be asking the following questions:
1) What did the text mean to the original recipients?
2) What might it mean to us?
Continue reading Reading Revelation (Part V)
In my first post in this series, I outlined my belief that the traditional interpretive categories used to approach the book of Revelation were less than helpful, and suggested that there was a more excellent way.
In my second post, I started to outline an alternate reading strategy, consisting of three interwoven ‘layers’, and discussed the first of these: the contextual layer.
In my third post, I discussed the second of these interpretive ‘layers’: the intertextual layer.
In this post, then, I wish to discuss the final interpretive ‘layer’: the literary-rhetorical layer. It should be noted, however, that all of these ‘layers’ of interpretation are integrally connected. The ‘intertextual’ layer is, in a sense, the meeting point of the contextual and literary-rhetorical examination, and binds them all together in a way that means that there is a fair amount of overlap between the categories themselves. Although I am treating them separately here, this does not take away from the inherent inter-connectedness of these interpretive elements.
Continue reading Reading Revelation (Part IV)
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”?
I’m glad you asked : )
Continue reading Reading Revelation (Part III)
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.
Continue reading Reading Revelation (Part II)