Revelation mailing list: Dissertation Abstracts 2.001: Wilson: A Pie in a Very Bleak Sky?

A Pie in a Very Bleak sky? Analysis and Appropriation of the Promise Sayings in the Seven Letters to the Churches in Revelation 2-3.

Mark Wayne Wilson (mwilson@oru.edu)
Oral Roberts University

submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Literature and Philosophy in the subject Biblical Studies at the University of South Africa


Promoter: Prof H.A. Lombard


November 1996


This study of the promise sayings elucidates the motif of victory as the book's macrodynamic theme. Through intentional examination, the thesis finds the issue epitomized throughout Revelation on two levels_formally (re structure) and materially (re content). Jesus as Victor over death and the dragon desires the Asian believers to be prepared for his soon coming. The victors are promised eschatological rewards if they overcome various internal and external threats.

In mapping out the dramatic scenario Chapter 1 explores afresh such background issues as authorship and audience. The pagan religious environment, represented by the Artemis and emperor cults, is demonstrated to be adversarial.

Chapter 2 looks at four situations in Revelation_the rhetorical, historical, apocalyptic, and prophetic. Their composite exigences point to an early dating in the late 60s.

Chapter 3 postulates that chiasmus is Revelation's macro-structure, and a chiastic model is proposed.

Chapter 4 examines several proposed forms for the seven letters, such as edicts, oracles, and epistles. We conclude that they are a mixtum compositum_best called prophetic letters.

Chapter 5 explores the sociological significance of victory in the Greco-Roman world. Through the use of language such as nikao and images like the palm branch, John motivates his audience toward the ideal of victory.

Chapter 6 investigates the text of the promises and their co-texts as reflected intertextually in traditions of biblical literature. Local references are also determined to contribute to a multivalent interpretation of the promise imagery.

Chapter 7 surveys the eschatological fulfillment of the promises, especially in the new Jerusalem. The rewards of spiritual provision, heavenly place, and divine person serve to incite the saints to victory.

Chapter 8 investigates the appropriation of the promises for the time and the text world of Revelation. A multiplicity of functions for the promise sayings is established. This study shows that the promises function as prophetic parenesis to help the saints endure the coming tribulation. The possibility and reality of such a fulfillment and the appropriation of the promises allow us to postulate that these promises to the victors are not vain pies in a very bleak sky!

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Date of original posting on Revelation mailing list: 11 Jan 1998
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