Revelation mailing list: Dissertation Abstracts 2.003: Johns: The Origins and Rhetorical Force of the Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John

The Origins and Rhetorical Force of the Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse of John

Loren L. Johns (
Bluffton College

Dissertation Adviser: Dr. James H. Charlesworth

Date of defence: 13 Feb 1998

An investigation of the origins and rhetorical force of the lamb imagery in the Apocalypse of John. Chapter one introduces the problem of reading this book ethically.

Chapter two focuses on the semantic domain of lambs in the biblical literature. The chapter suggests how arnion should be translated in light of its use in the New Testament, the Septuagint, Josephus, Philo, and the documentary papyri.

Chapter three examines lamb symbolism in the ancient Near East and in the Graeco-Roman environment. Lambs were associated with divination and the consulting of oracles. They also often served as a symbol for vulnerability.

Chapter four shows that there is little evidence to support the existence of a militant lamb-redeemer figure in the apocalyptic traditions of Early Judaism. The symbolic value of lambs in later rabbinic traditions is also briefly considered.

Chapter five discusses method in symbol analysis, then the socio-historical situation of the seven churches. This provides the background necessary for considering seven possible sources of the lamb imagery from the Old Testament: (1) the sacrificial system; (2) the paschal victim; (3) Daniel's ram and goat; (4) Isaiah 53:7; (5) the Aqedah; (6) the eschatologically victorious lamb of Micah 5 (LXX); and (7) the lamb as a symbol of vulnerability in visions of eschatological peace.

Chapter six focuses on the role of the Lamb Christology within the rhetorical program of the Apocalypse. The political and liturgical language of the Apocalypse supports an ethic of nonviolent resistance. Though lions and lambs both had rich backgrounds in the history, literature, and ritual of the ancient Near East, the application of both terms to the messiah was a creative contribution of the author.

The evidence supports the thesis that the Lamb Christology of the Apocalypse has an ethical force: the Seer saw in the death of Jesus both the decisive victory over evil and the pattern for the Asian Christians' nonviolent resistance to evil. John's readers were to "overcome" in the same way that the Lamb overcame, making Jesus' death ethically paradigmatic.

Date of original posting on Revelation mailing list: 26 Apr 1998
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