Parables of War: Reading John's Jewish Apocalypse (Studies in Christianity and Judaism Series, 10)
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What makes the Book of Revelation so hard to understand?
How does the Book of Revelation fit into Judaism and the beginning of
John W. Marshall proposes a radical reinterpretation of the Book of Revelation of John, viewing it as a document of the Jewish diaspora during the Judean War. He contends that categorizing the Book as "Christian" has been an impediment in interpreting the Apocalypse. By suspending that category, solutions to several persistent problems in contemporary exegesis of the Apocalypse are facilitated. The author thus undertakes a rereading of the Book of Revelation that does not merely enumerate elements of a Jewish "background" but understands the Book of Revelation as an integral whole and a thoroughly Jewish text.
Marshall carefully scrutinizes the problems that plague contemporary interpretations of the Book of Revelation, and how the category of "Christian" relates to such problems. He employs the works of Mieke Bal, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Jean FranÂ‡ois Lyotard, and Jonathan Z. Smith as theoretical resources. In the second half of his study, he provides detailed descriptions of the social and cultural context of the diaspora during the Judean War, and constructive rereadings of four key text complexes.
The result is a portrait of the Apocalypse of John that envisions the document as deeply invested in the Judaism of its time, pursuing rhetorical objectives that are not defined by the issues that scholars use to differentiate Judaism from Christianity.
Apocalypse. It moves unstably between understanding Christians as distinct from Jews and understanding Christians as a subset of Jews. Yarbro Collins, one of the pre-eminent scholars of John's Apocalypse, is not alone. Thompson describes Christians "as Asian Jews" but suggests that "as Jews cross into the seer's world, they become 'the synagogue of Satan' " (1990b: 187, 190). Furthermore, he suggests that Christians had lost their "shelter of tradition" within Judaism (190) and were recognized
from the gospels of Matthew and Luke might illustrate my contention: The presence of [xxßßi in Matt 23:7 does not found a convincing argument that the rabbinic movement was afoot at the time of the historical Jesus. Either the author of Matthew added it to Q 11:43 or the author of Luke deleted it.19 In any case, the presence of the term in a narrative concerning the thirties does not imply a distinct social movement such that one could discuss the Rabbis in synchronic comparison with the
tranquillity, and foreign nations were sending embassies of congratulations, once again the Jews were in arms. There were embassies from you to your friends beyond the Euphrates fostering revolt" (προσφυγούσης γούν ήμΐν της ήγεμονίας, καί των μεν κατά ταύτη ν ήρεμούντων πάντων, πρεσβευομένων δε και συνηδομένων των έξωθεν έθνών, πάλιν οί Ιουδαίοι πολέμιοι, καί πρεσβειαι μεν υμών πρός τους υπέρ Ευφράτην επί νεωτερισμω. Josephus, War 6.34243). 6 "Hyrcanus . . . who had been taken prisoner by
scholars contended over myriad proposals regarding the composition history of the Apocalypse of John.9 In spite of their disagreements about the composition history of the Apocalypse of John, Völter and Vischer agree on assigning Rev 7:1*8 to the earliest stratum of the Apocalypse of John—in Völter's view, a Christian stratum, in Vischer's, a Jewish stratum. Furthermore, they agree on a differentiation between Rev 7:1-8 and the description of the innumerable multitude that follows in Rev
the wider Greco-Roman cultural complex. It is also worth noting that the first and last texts I reread (Rev 2:9, 3:9, and 11:1-14) are 176 PARABLES OF THE W A R the only pillars of the mistaken view that John is undertaking a conflict with the Jews, and that it is largely Christian strategies of reading that enable these texts to function as a foundation for anti-Semitism. My goal in this final chapter is to step back from the minutiae of exegesis and to present my reflection on three