Original Research - Special Collection: Biblical values on social change

The book of Revelation − an early Christian ‘Search for Meaning’ in critical conversation with its Jewish heritage and Hellenistic-Roman society

Michael Labahn
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 48, No 1 | a1833 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v48i1.1833 | © 2014 Michael Labahn | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 April 2014 | Published: 18 December 2014

About the author(s)

Michael Labahn, Unit for Reformed Theology and the Development of the South African Society, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa and Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany


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Abstract

The book of Revelation’s attitude towards its political, religious and social environment is aradical one: Revelation 18:4 asks the readers to leave the city of Babylon, less so they do not become victims of God’s punishment, but so that they do not share the sins of this city. Such a narrative program is a counter-cultural access that leads its adherents into isolation at the edge of ancient society. On the other hand, the narrative incorporates pictures and ideas from different ancient milieus. By this, the narrative shows a profound understanding of political, religious and cultural streams. It shows a creative reception and a reworking of motifs or themes into a new literary entity, in terms of producing something new instead of ignorance or simple negation of reality. The rhetoric of good and evil and the subversive power of the autobiographic narrative make the usage of ancient culture a dangerous rhetorical weapon compared to the more dialogical approach to ancient culture used in other Christian groups. John’s narrative is witness of an approach that integrates and selects insights from different religious streams, from 1st century Judaism and 1st century Christianity into a selective and limited model of Christian attitude towards society and culture. The narrative is not simply conservative but integrative in developing new revelation on old ground, whose counter-cultural access is based on the transformation of different cultural means. Therefore, the article describes the apocalyptic and antagonistic strategy of the book of Revelation as acomplex technique of exchange and transformation of religious or cultural ideas and motifs.

Die boek Openbaring – ’n vroeëre Christensoeke na betekenis in kritiese gesprek met sy Joodse herkoms en Grieks-Romeinse gemeenskap. Die boek Openbaring se benadering tot sy politieke, religieuse en sosiale omgewing is ingrypend: Openbaring 18:4 versoek die lesers om die stad Babel te verlaat – nie so seer om God se straf vry te spring nie, maar veral om nie in die stad se sondes te deel nie. Sodanige narratiewe program is ’n kontra-kulturele benadering wat die volgelinge daarvan tot die rand van die antieke gemeenskap marginaliseer. Aan die ander kant inkorporeer hierdie narratief ook beelde en idees uit verskillende antieke milieus. Hierdeur demonstreer die narratief ook ’n diepgaande begrip van politieke, religieuse en kulturele strominge. Dit toon ’n kreatiewe resepsie en ’n verwerking van motiewe of temas tot ’n nuwe literêre entiteit in terme van die voortbring van iets nuuts in plaas van die ignorering of blote ontkenning van die realiteit. Die retoriek van goed en kwaad en die subversiewe mag van die outobiografiese narratief maak die gebruik van die antieke kultuur ’n gevaarlike retoriese wapen in vergelyking met die meer dialogiese benadering tot die antieke kultuur soos dié van ander Christengroepe. Johannes se narratief getuig van ’n benadering wat verskillendereligieuse denkrigtings van die eerste eeuse Judaïsme en Christendom integreer en selekteertot ’n selektiewe en beperkte model van die Christelike gesindheid teenoor samelewing en kultuur. Hierdie narratief is nie alleen konserwatief nie, maar ook geïntegreerd met die ontwikkeling van nuwe openbaring op ou gronde – openbaring met kontra-kulturele toegang gebaseer op die transformasie van verskillende kulturele middele. Hierdie artikel beskryf dus die apokaliptiese en antagonistiese strategie van die boek Openbaring as ’n komplekse tegniek van wisselwerking en transformasie van religieuse of kulturele idees en motiewe.


Keywords

Book of Revelation, Christian groups, identity formation, Roman Society

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