Revelation mailing list: Dissertation Abstracts 1.001: Marshall: Paraables of the War

Parables of the War: Reading the Apocalypse within Judaism and during the Judaean War

John W. Marshall (jwm@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Princeton University

Supervisor: John G. Gager

Date of defence: 7th November 1997

This dissertation resituates the Apocalypse of John as a document of the Jewish diaspora during the Judaean War. The argument of the study is that the category "Christian" has been more of a hindrance than a help in approaching the Apocalypse and that holding that category in abeyance facilitates solutions to several persistent problems in contemporary exegesis of the Apocalypse. For the most part this thesis is worked out in relation to four text-complexes in the Apocalypse: 1) the accusations that John' s opponents are a "synagogue of Satan (ApJn 2.9, 3.9); 2) the characterisation of the protagonist community as one that "keeps the commandments of God" and the witness or faith of Jesus (ApJn 12.17 and 14.12); 3) the descriptions of a protagonist community of one hundred and forty-four thousand people "sealed from every tribe of the children of Israel" and of one hundred and forty-four thousand men standing on Zion with the Lamb; 4) the great city and the holy city of ApJn 11.1-13.

The first half of the study, chapters two through four, is dedicated to illustrating the problems that plague contemporary interpretations of these texts and the relation of the category "Christian" to such problems. The works of Mieke Bal, Roland Barthes , Jacques Derrida, Jean François Lyotard, and Jonathan Z. Smith and provide many of the theoretical resources for this endeavour. The second half of the study, chapters five through seven, is dedicated to describing in detail the social and cultural context of the diaspora during the Judaean War and to providing constructive re-readings of the four text complexes. These investigations yield a portrait of the Apocalypse of John that understands 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.

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Date of original posting on Revelation mailing list: 24 Nov 1997
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