"Blessed is he who keeps the words of prophecy in this book." An intra-textual reading of the Apocalypse as parenesis
Frank, Patrik Immanuel
This thesis seeks to explore the implications of a parenetic reading of the Book of Revelation as a whole, rather than merely of the seven messages in which this is more commonly regarded as the primary purpose of the text. It examines the validity of this approach in relation to the book's claims about its purpose in the original communication event of which its text is a witness and its effectiveness in addressing hermeneutical issues in key passages of the book and argues that attention to the function of parenesis facilitates readings of Revelation which connect more directly with the intention of the book free from the need to decipher obscure coded references to past or future history. Drawing from the text of the Apocalypse a twofold hermeneutical strategy is developed and exemplified by application to key passages of the book. The first aspect of this reading strategy is focussed on the proposed parenetic nature of the book. In an examination of Revelation's introductory and concluding passages it is argued that as a coherent unity they form a frame around the book. This frame serves to establish the perspective from which the whole book may be read. It does so by giving rise to the expectation that the whole book contains parenetic exhortation to faithfulness in light of the imminent parousia. Consequently this thesis proceeds to interpret the Book of Revelation by focussing primarily on how the various images in the book's body (4:1-22:9) as well as the explicit parenesis in the seven messages serve to communicate this parenetic exhortation to the original addressees. The second aspect of interpretation seeks to facilitate scholarly analysis of the parenesis expected to be contained in Revelation's body with systematic regard for the individual situation of each of the addressees of the book, as documented in the comparatively accessible seven messages. To this end an intra-textual hermeneutic is employed. It builds on an examination of the links between the various parts of Revelation which is part of the examination of both the book's frame and the seven messages. This intra-textual reading utilizes the many links between the seven messages and Revelation's body by allowing them to play a determinative role in the investigation of an image's parenetic implications. In order to further explore the validity of a parentic reading, the intra-textual principle is applied to two central parts of Revelation's body, the Babylon vision (Rev 17 -19:3) and the seal, trumpet and bowl visions (Rev 6, 8, 9, 11:15-19, 15, 16). In this reading, the Babylon vision is read not as a general critique of the church's pagan environment but as a divine commentary on the concrete threats and temptations with which the churches of the seven messages were confronted. In God's judgment of Babylon those who suffer under her violence against Christians are promised vindication and are thus encouraged to maintain their faithful witness as citizens of the New Jerusalem. The citizens of Babylon however are exhorted to repent and leave her behind, becoming citizens of the New Jerusalem and thus escaping Babylon's demise. The seal, trumpet and bowl visions are interpreted as illustrating the dividing line between what constitutes faithful witness to Christ on the one hand and heed to satanic deception on the other. Faithfulness even to the point of death is expected of the followers of the Lamb; the inhabitants of the earth are exhorted to repent from their affiliation with the beast and give glory to God. Thus such an intra-textual reading of Revelation as parenesis offers a strategy for reading the book in a way that is relevant for the Christian church beyond the limits of end-time phantasms on the one hand and mere historic interest on the other hand and so might facilitate the emergence of the message of the book from the obscurity in which it appears to be hidden to a significant proportion of its contemporary readers.
Advisor: Trebilco, Paul; Harding, James
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Theology and Religion
Research Type: Thesis
Description: x, 273 leaves ; 30 cm. Notes: University of Otago department: Theology and Religious Studies. "12th December 2006." Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Otago. Includes bibliographical references.