Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett

in The Bible: Authorized King James Version

Published in print February 1998 | ISBN: 9780192835253
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford World's Classics


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Revelation is a very complex book and its highly figurative language has inspired artists, illustrators, and film-makers, from Bosch and Dürer to William Blake, John Martin, and films such as Bergman's The Seventh Seal. It has also been interpreted in extremely literal fashion by many millenarian and fundamentalist groups throughout Christian history.123 Tradition places the book in a time of persecution in the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian, towards the end of the first century ce. The author, John, is a prophet and tradition identifies him with the apostle John (son of Zebedee). This claim to apostolic authorship helped to secure its canonization, but modern critical opinion is, as always, divided about accepting it.124 As its name implies, it is an apocalypse (1: 1), or an ‘unveiling’, though it is also called a prophecy (1: 3; 22: 19), and parts of it (1: 4–3: 22) look like an encyclical letter to the seven churches of Asia Minor. Closing the New Testament, it reinscribes the apocalyptic subtext of the whole canon. Thus the Christian Bible ends with the vision of the new Jerusalem (lacking a temple: 21: 22) and the heartfelt prayer ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’ (22: 20). From the genealogy heralding the coming of Jesus (Matt. 1) to this exhortation, ‘come, Lord Jesus’, the New Testament presents a series of variations on the theme of the present and absent Jesus among the Christian communities—a theme endlessly recapitulated in the subsequent history of Christianity. How far the visions contained in Revelation were intended as a description of events actually expected in history, and how far they are poetic images of an unvisualized and metaphysical state, must remain conjectural. Though it seems to have been written at a time when the Second Coming had failed to occur, it has repeatedly been read as describing particular historical situations—most notably, perhaps, at the time of the French Revolution.125

Chapter.  1955 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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