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Reading The Book Of Revelation Essay

1378 words - 6 pages

The Book of Revelation, the final book of the Christian biblical canon, is perhaps one of the most complex and polyvalent biblical texts accessible to modern readers, and has been the source of many differing and divergent interpretations and readings. This is due in large part to the richly detailed language and imagery the author has placed within the book as well as the vast array of content. Both of these features function within the text to produce a book that is extremely difficult to describe within the traditional literary conceptions of genre and structure, which, as we shall see, feed into the complexity and multiple interpretations that can be drawn from it. With all this in mind, it will be the purpose of this essay to explore the Book of Revelation, examining the nature of its structure and content as well as the generic framework(s) the text function within. Following this, we will also survey one of the major ways people have read Revelation, namely the scientific/positivist understanding, and outline some of the strengths and weaknesses of this approach in relation to other models.

The examination of the Book of Revelation by those seeking to understand and explain its structure has been one of the most difficult tasks undertaken by biblical literary critics. As a result of this, there are multiple understandings of the way in which the author of Revelation has laid out the book, focusing on different aspects and particularities within it. While there is no scholarly consensus on the matter of structure in this book , there do appear to be two primary schools of thought that, while not unified, centre around the theories of recapitulation and the ‘series of seven’. Several major scholars , to varying degrees, argue that the structure is determined by the parallelism present between the various visions, with Collins stating that the repetition of certain motifs show the beginning and end of discernable sections. In contrast to this theory, a structure based on the ‘series of seven’ visions is another prominent understanding. Argued especially by Farrar and Collins, this theory lays out a structure split into eight segments , viewing number seven, used by the author of Revelation very strongly, as the key to understanding the structure. Critics, however, point out the ‘unnumbered’ sections as a dubious aspect of this theory. As such, the structure of Revelation is a complex matter that is still debated widely within scholarship, with no solution offered thoroughly without difficulty.

Closely related to the structure of the Book of Revelation, and one of the primary causes behind the difficulty in determining structure, the content of the text is multifarious and deep in meaning and imagery. Primarily, content centres around the letters sent to seven churches, the extrapolation of John’s visions of Heaven, the remainder of the ‘series of seven’ , and finally the defeat of Babylon and establishment of the New...

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