Revelation resources -- Revelation and the problem of genre

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Description: This page treats the discussion of the genre problem as it has developed from the very influential works of the SBL Apocalypse Group, published in Semeia 14 (1979) and 36 (1986). ()


See also

The apocalypse genre

Aune, David Edward. "The Apocalypse of John and the Problem of Genre." Semeia, no. 36 (1986): 65-96.

One of the influential articles, especially with regard to the enhancement of the definition of the apocalypse genre.

Collins, John Joseph. "Introduction: Towards the Morphology of a Genre." Semeia, no. 14 (1979): 1-20.

This is the standard article that introduced, first, the working definition of the SBL Genre study group and, second, the articles contained within the same issue of Semeia. It was later enhanced on the basis of the work of David Hellholm. ()

Hellholm, David. "The Problem of Apocalyptic Genre and the Apocalypse of John." Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers 21 (1982): 157-98. See also the same article in Semeia, no. 36 (1986): 13-64.
Hellholm, David. Das Visionenbuch des Hermas als Apokalypse. Coniectanea Biblica, New Testament Series 13: 1. Lund: CWK Gleeup, 1980.
Hellholm, David. "Methodological Reflections on the Problem of Definition of Generic Texts." Pages 134-63 in John Joseph Collins, and James H. Charlesworth. Mysteries and Revelations: Apocalyptic Studies Since the Uppsala Colloquium. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha Supplement Series 9. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991.

Professor David Hellholm, University of Oslo, wrote his doctoral thesis on Hermas and the apocalypse genre from a text-linguistic point of view (Hellholm 1980). Hellholm challenged the initial genre definition (see #Collins_Introduction) that focused on form and content and argued that a genre definition must also deal with function. Hellholm's proposal was accepted by the other scholars of the SBL Genre study group (see Hellholm 1991). See also the dicussion of genre in Aune's article mentioned above () and in Aune's commentary on Revelation, vol. 1. ()

Mazzaferri, F.D.: The Genre of the Book of Revelation from a Source-critical Perspective. Berlin: Gruyter, 1989.

This dissertation builds on the research carried out by a number of scholars from the International Colloquium and the SBL Apocalypse Group onwards. In particular, Mazzaferri makes use of the works by David Hellholm. Mazzaferri investigates the generic problem from three perspectives: form (structure), content and function (purpose) and defines rigorous criteria to establish the boundaries between apocalyptic and prophetic works as well as proximate works. He concludes that Revelation is "a proximate classical prophecy, and John is not only a prophet, but a neo-classical one" (383). Mazzaferri's book has some precise and valuable analyses, and it is his merit to focus on the question of function. Nevertheless, whether his thesis is correct depends on the acceptance of his rigorous methodology which has, in fact, not been accepted by all scholars. To conclude, Mazzaferri has done very much to further research on this difficult topic and should definitely be consulted. Besides the question of genre, Mazzaferri proposes that the scrolls in Rev 5 and Rev 10 are in fact the same scroll. This is accepted by Bauckham, Climax, but rigthly rejected by Garrow, Revelation (2 Jan 1998).

Analyses of the purpose of Revelation

The SBL Apocalypse Group's definition(s), for which see above, rightly asserts that function is an important generic aspect: An apocalypse is "intended to interpret the present, earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to influence both the understanding and the behavior of the audience by means of divine authority." This is, naturally, a broad definition. The various approaches to Revelation interpret, implicitly or explicitly, its purpose in different ways. This section refers to specific analyses of the purpose of Revelation ().
Adamsen, Georg Stubkjĉr. "Parousia and Paraenesis: The Parousia Motif and Its Paraenetic Use in the Book of Revelation." Dr.theol. thesis, Norwegian Lutheran School of Theology, Oslo (Det teologiske Menighetsfakultetet, Oslo), 2001/2002.

For an abstract of this as yet unpublished work, see adamsen.html ()

Müller, Ulrich B.: Prophetie und Predigt im Neuen Testament. Formgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur urchristlichen Prophetie. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1975.

This Habilitationsschrift (doctoral dissertation) is one of the most important investigations of the problem of prophecy and preaching in the NT where the second part (pp. 47-107) is a detailed analysis mainly of Revelation 2-3 treating the prophecy as the utterings of Christ and the Spirit and analysing the seven messages under two perspectives: as preaching to repentance (Bußpredigt) and preaching to salvation (Heilspredigt). Müller's analysis should without doubt be consulted to any analysis of these chapters. (2 Jan 1998).


© Dr. Georg S. Adamsen, The Lutheran School of Theology in Aarhus 1996-2002

Opdateret d. 16.2.2003