The sitz im leben of revelation : an examination of the literary and social environment of the apocalypse of John
Previous attempts at understanding Revelation have stressed the common links between it and the rest of the New Testament writings, or else have tended to ignore entirely its distinctive perspective on the world. This thesis illuminates the content of John's unique message in respect to its particular life-situation. There are nine chapters and the first deals with a review of the date and authorship of the Apocalypse while the second looks at how genre criticism can help us understand the audience's predispositions and the author's strategy. The third chapter is also concerned with literary criticism in that it looks at how John presents himself to his audience and how this gives us clues to his social standing within the seven assemblies named in the text. Chapters four and five look in detail at John's use of two important titles, God as 'the Almighty' and Jesus as 'the Lamb'. Chapter six deals with the usefulness of sociology in helping us understand the dynamics of the life-setting in Asia Minor by reference to research on sects and millenarian movements. Chapter seven covers the manner in which Rome ruled and compares this to the brutal and vindictive images in Revelation. Chapter eight looks at how the Apocalypse differs from the indigenous religions of Asia Minor (especially the cult of Ephesian Artemis), the Jews in Sardis and the early Christian works of 1 Peter and Ignatius of Antioch. The ninth chapter forms our conclusions. John of Patmos wrote an apocalypse to seven named assemblies in Western Asia Minor. This was a genre with which his audience was familiar. He attempted to gain their confidence in Rev 1-5 by using a number of literary devices which stressed that he was a legitimate bearer of a transcendent message. The message was so unusual in its malevolent imagery that he needed to assure his audience that they could be confident in accepting his analysis of the world around them. John and his followers can be best characterised as a revolutionist sect and even a millenarian movement. Such groups separate themselves from the wider world and expect its imminent end. They tend to come from marginalised groups deprived of power and status. John's message was unique among the early Christian texts in that it presents Jesus in the role of a theriomorphic avenger and God is seen as the Almighty who wreaks indiscriminate torture and then utterly destroys his enemies. Such images are drawn as a counterpoint to John's understanding of Roman rule as violent and repressive. In response to this understanding he forms a theology based on brutality, vengeance and cruelty and desires power, honour and wealth, the crucial values in the Roman world, for the Almighty God and his most ardent followers.