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re: revelation & parody

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  • Chris
    Regarding the recent discussion on Revelation, I really don t see how any sensible argument can be made that Revelation parodies Jesus. The broad category of
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 23, 2005
      Regarding the recent discussion on Revelation, I really don't see how any
      sensible argument can be made that Revelation parodies Jesus. The broad
      category of writing that Revelation fits in is known as apocalyptic
      literature. This form is traditionally said to have begun with the book of
      Daniel, as can be seen in the visions of the last six chapters. In its
      historical context, the book of Daniel is the only apocalyptic book admitted
      to the Old Testament while Revelation is the only apocalyptic book admitted
      to the New Testament.

      Now this historical parallel can be pushed further: The book of Daniel is
      set in the Babylonian captivity. Daniel was a Jewish prophet that found
      favor in the court of Nebuchadnezzar II. However, in reality, the book of
      Daniel was written during a later national crisis, when Jewish people
      suffered under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, c. 163 B.C., the second Seleucid
      ruler of Palestine.

      Like Daniel, Revelation was also written during a period of persecution,
      when Christians suffered under Roman Emperor Domitian (there are arguments
      that it was actually Nero, but the closest reading of the text suggests the
      period of Domitian better). And just as Babylon had once sacked the Temple
      of Solomon, so the Roman Empire had sacked the Temple of Herod. Rome had
      become the "New" Babylon. The Christians who first read Revelation almost
      certainly understood it in that way.

      So, as I am coming with this understanding, I do not at all understand any
      argument by Gleason or whoever else is laying claim to this view that
      Revelation parodies Jesus. In my opinion, this is a wildly invalid claim
      that has less merit than many of the spurious opinions put forth about who
      the Number of the Beast refers to.

      -Chris
    • Chris
      Hi James, ... Yes, this is the major divide on the chronology of this work. Both emperors were notoriously cruel: Nero reigned from 54-68 while Domitian,
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 24, 2005
        Hi James,

        >
        > Chris, thanks for an insightful post. I have always thought the Apocalypse
        > concerned the time of Nero, and would be most grateful if you could tell me or
        > give me a reference why Domitian's reign fits better.
        >

        Yes, this is the major divide on the chronology of this work. Both emperors
        were notoriously cruel: Nero reigned from 54-68 while Domitian, often
        referred to as a "second Nero", reigned from AD 81-96.

        According to Rev 1:9, the author states he was in the island of Patmos when
        he wrote his book. The question then becomes, Which emperor banished him to
        Patmos? Traditionally, the date of writing has been fixed at 96 A.D., in the
        reign of Domitian. But others contend for an earlier date, c. 68-9 A.D. The
        dates are not dramatically different: a mere difference of some 28 years.
        But it seems the strongest compulsion to fix the date around Nero is by
        those Preterists who contend that all Bible prophesy was fulfilled by the
        time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Apparently, if you want to cram all
        the action of the Bible into a time before the fall of the temple, Nero's
        your man!

        There are many indirect references to John being banished to Patmos under
        Domitian in the Church Fathers. However, as regards *direct* reference, the
        earliest is that of Irenaeus (c. 130-202), bishop of Lyons in Gaul. The most
        convincing reason for relying on Irenaeus is because he was a disciple of
        Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was himself the disciple of the apostle
        John. Polycarp, therefore, had every opportunity of obtaining correct
        information and, according to this line of reasoning, so too did Irenaeus.

        Irenaeus says:

        "We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the
        name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be
        distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by
        him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was *seen no very long time
        since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign*."
        [Against Heresies  (A.D. 180-199), Book V, Chapter 30]

        Other external evidence:

        -Eusebius Pamphili (c. 260-341), bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, and known
        as the "Father of Church History." [ chapter 18, Book 3 of his Church
        History]
        -Hippolytis, writing around AD 236 [ chapter one, verse 3 of On the Twelve
        Apostles]
        -Victorinus, writing about AD 270 [ Tenth Chapter of his Commentary on the
        Apocalypse of the Blessed John]
        -Jerome (c. 340-420) [ Ninth Chapter of Illustrious Men; also: Against
        Jovinianus, Book 1]
        -Sulpitius Severus (c. 360-420), an ecclesiastical writer [ chapter 31 of
        Book 2 of his Sacred History]

        As regards internal evidence, the most convincing is that the book alludes
        to significant persecution affecting Christians in Asia Minor. After all,
        John's work seems to have been mainly aimed at Asia Minor. Chapter one,
        verse four makes this pretty clear: "John to the seven churches which are in
        Asia...". Persecution in Asia Minor is a better historical fit for
        Domitian's reign than Nero's; Nero's persecution was mostly confined to the
        territories around Rome, while Domitian's persecution was indeed vigorously
        carried out in Asia Minor.

        Source:
        http://www.thingstocome.org/datrev.htm
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Revelation

        -Chris
      • Mark Swaney
        Chris, The idea behind my post on Revelation is not that Revelation is a parody on Jesus. Far from it. Actually, the idea is that Revelation is a parody on
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 25, 2005
          Chris,

          The idea behind my post on Revelation is not that Revelation is a parody on
          Jesus.

          Far from it.

          Actually, the idea is that Revelation is a parody on *The Greek Version of
          Jesus* - Paul's Jesus - and on certain Christian propaganda then circulating
          in the Eastern Roman world. That's Gleason's idea and I think he is right.
          I think it's possible that the author of Revelation was an Ebionite - a
          "Jewish" Christian, a member of the group that was formed from the original
          followers of Jesus. Therefore the parody is of Greek Christian literature,
          not of the Jesus known to the Ebionites.

          The argument bases itself on history, mostly that of Josephus, not theology.

          What do you know about the Ebionites? I am very interested in them, as I
          believe they are crucial to understanding the mysteries of early Christian
          development.

          Mark


          -----Original Message-----
          From: sacredlandscapelist@yahoogroups.com
          [mailto:sacredlandscapelist@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Chris
          Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2005 5:59 AM
          To: Sacred Landscape
          Subject: [sl] Re: revelation & parody


          Hi James,

          >
          > Chris, thanks for an insightful post. I have always thought the Apocalypse
          > concerned the time of Nero, and would be most grateful if you could tell
          me or
          > give me a reference why Domitian's reign fits better.
          >

          Yes, this is the major divide on the chronology of this work. Both emperors
          were notoriously cruel: Nero reigned from 54-68 while Domitian, often
          referred to as a "second Nero", reigned from AD 81-96.

          According to Rev 1:9, the author states he was in the island of Patmos when
          he wrote his book. The question then becomes, Which emperor banished him to
          Patmos? Traditionally, the date of writing has been fixed at 96 A.D., in the
          reign of Domitian. But others contend for an earlier date, c. 68-9 A.D. The
          dates are not dramatically different: a mere difference of some 28 years.
          But it seems the strongest compulsion to fix the date around Nero is by
          those Preterists who contend that all Bible prophesy was fulfilled by the
          time of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Apparently, if you want to cram all
          the action of the Bible into a time before the fall of the temple, Nero's
          your man!

          There are many indirect references to John being banished to Patmos under
          Domitian in the Church Fathers. However, as regards *direct* reference, the
          earliest is that of Irenaeus (c. 130-202), bishop of Lyons in Gaul. The most
          convincing reason for relying on Irenaeus is because he was a disciple of
          Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was himself the disciple of the apostle
          John. Polycarp, therefore, had every opportunity of obtaining correct
          information and, according to this line of reasoning, so too did Irenaeus.

          Irenaeus says:

          "We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the
          name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be
          distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by
          him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was *seen no very long time
          since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign*."
          [Against Heresies  (A.D. 180-199), Book V, Chapter 30]

          Other external evidence:

          -Eusebius Pamphili (c. 260-341), bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, and known
          as the "Father of Church History." [ chapter 18, Book 3 of his Church
          History]
          -Hippolytis, writing around AD 236 [ chapter one, verse 3 of On the Twelve
          Apostles]
          -Victorinus, writing about AD 270 [ Tenth Chapter of his Commentary on the
          Apocalypse of the Blessed John]
          -Jerome (c. 340-420) [ Ninth Chapter of Illustrious Men; also: Against
          Jovinianus, Book 1]
          -Sulpitius Severus (c. 360-420), an ecclesiastical writer [ chapter 31 of
          Book 2 of his Sacred History]

          As regards internal evidence, the most convincing is that the book alludes
          to significant persecution affecting Christians in Asia Minor. After all,
          John's work seems to have been mainly aimed at Asia Minor. Chapter one,
          verse four makes this pretty clear: "John to the seven churches which are in
          Asia...". Persecution in Asia Minor is a better historical fit for
          Domitian's reign than Nero's; Nero's persecution was mostly confined to the
          territories around Rome, while Domitian's persecution was indeed vigorously
          carried out in Asia Minor.

          Source:
          http://www.thingstocome.org/datrev.htm
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Revelation

          -Chris




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        • Chris
          Hi Mark, ... This helps but is still not entirely clear. Are you saying that it is a parody on the Dionysian strain of mythology? Because that is the Greek
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 27, 2005
            Hi Mark,

            > Actually, the idea is that Revelation is a parody on *The Greek Version of
            > Jesus* - Paul's Jesus - and on certain Christian propaganda then circulating
            > in the Eastern Roman world.

            This helps but is still not entirely clear. Are you saying that it is a
            parody on the Dionysian strain of mythology? Because that is the Greek
            basis of the Greek form of the Jesus myth (the whole "body and wine"
            business--Dionysus was the god of wine and was said to have been eaten by
            his followers, etc. etc. etc.). Or are you limiting the parody to the story
            of Jesus promulgated by Paul--particularly Paul's idea that Christianity be
            open to everyone--Jews and gentiles alike. As I understand, that was one of
            Paul's main innovations (as can be seen in his advocacy of open and
            non-exclusive dietary laws for Christians as opposed to the very strict
            Jewish ones).

            Other than that, I am still not clear how Revelation can be a parody of
            anything. I'm not saying I disagree, just that I don't yet follow. Can you
            provide a link or some background I could follow this train of thought up on
            better? I appreciate your POV, of course, and am open to the idea. Heck,
            even the Catholic encyclopedia recognizes that Revelation may originally
            have been a Jewish story adapted and modified by Christians:

            "We cannot conclude without mentioning the theory advanced by the German
            scholar Vischer. He holds the Apocalypse to have been originally a purely
            Jewish composition, and to have been changed into a Christian work by the
            insertion of those sections that deal with Christian subjects. From a
            doctrinal point of view, we think, it cannot be objected to. There are other
            instances where inspired writers have availed themselves of non-canonical
            literature. Intrinsically considered it is not improbable. The Apocalypse
            abounds in passages which bear no specific Christian character but, on the
            contrary, show a decidedly Jewish complexion. Yet on the whole the theory is
            but a conjecture."


            >
            > The argument bases itself on history, mostly that of Josephus, not theology.

            Does Gleason cover this stuff? I have done careful reading of
            Josephus--particularly as regards the temple and his so-called "history" of
            the tabernacle. When you say that the argument "bases" itself on history,
            what exactly are you referring to? For my purposes, I would certainly agree
            that the New Jerusalem strain has precedent elsewhere--that is by no means
            new to John--however, one thing I have discovered is that the Christian New
            Jerusalem profoundly alters the earlier models for this celestial vision
            (either Babylonian or Jewish). So, by my reasoning, Revelation adapts from
            earlier stories much as the Jewish stories did too. It is even possible we
            are saying the same thing without knowing it: Jewish stories often adapted
            and modified "heathen" Babylonian stories. Such is the case with Noah and
            the flood and who knows how many other stories.

            Regarding the modification of earlier stories, however, there are definitely
            some ideas that are new to Christianity that cannot come from past
            sources--particularly because Jewish practices so abhorred them. One
            interesting aspect of Revelation, for instance, is that the narrator says he
            saw the souls of martyrs under the altar (Rev 6:9). The statement helped
            legitimize, and may even have introduced, the practice of incorporating
            bones of important people into altars--and even the practice of erecting
            entire churches on the location of martyrs' deaths. But given
            Christianity's central mystery­-from death comes life-‹it is not that
            surprising.

            >
            > What do you know about the Ebionites? I am very interested in them, as I
            > believe they are crucial to understanding the mysteries of early Christian
            > development.

            This is a very interesting topic but I'll have to get back to you later on
            the Ebionites--running short on time here.

            One book I strongly recommend to everyone on this list is Margaret Visser's
            "The Geometry of Love". It certainly won't appease your thirst for Ebionite
            information--but it is an excellent book that covers a wide range of
            Christian practices in the confines of one church in Italy. Check it out.

            Other than that, sadly, there aren't too many single sources I can cite.
            Mostly I research widely and cull information from a variety of sources.
            Probably your best bet is to look into Northrop Frye's "The Great Code". You
            might like his novel ideas--if you can stomach the difficult way he writes.
            Frye was a literary critic so he approaches the Bible from a lit. crit.'s
            POV. Eye-opening stuff in places.

            Best,

            -Chris
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