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Title: 'Come out of her my people' (Rev. 18:4) : the use and influence of the Whore of Babylon motif in the Christian Brethren movement, 1829-1900
Author: Harding, James.
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis provides an account of the history of the exegesis of Rev. 17-18 with a particular emphasis upon the use made of the text by, and the influence that the text appears to have had upon, Christian Brethren writers from 1829-1900. ' This is, then, an examination of the Wirkungsgeschichte or `History of Impact' of the text among largely non-critical readers. The question tackled here is: `How was the Whore of Babylon image used by the Brethren and did the text have any significant influence on the thought and practise of the movement'? Traditional historical-critical issues relating to Revelation are hence of only limited importance and little space is given over to them. Significant archival research has been undertaken, and it is here, in part, that the originality of this thesis lies. The Christian Brethren Collection, a special collection found in the JRULM which contains some 15000 items of printed material, including 280 periodicals, 5300 books, 7500 pamphlets and 6000 manuscripts, has been extensively utilised. Some 340 publications from twenty-eight authors containing exegetical material on Rev. 17-18 written between 1829-1900 have been studied in detail. Little work on these materials has been conducted before, and that which has, has not had a particular concern with Brethren exegesis. Chapter one examines the major hermeneutical approaches to Revelation, identifying five different ways in which the text has been traditionally read. Chapter two is a study of how reader-response criticism can shed light on readings of Revelation. These two chapters are designed to set the context for the more original work found in the rest of the thesis. Chapter three, a historical survey of the afterlife of the Whore of Babylon motif from the second to nineteenth century, highlights the various ways the text has been interpreted. Chapter four tracks the major people and events associated with the origins of the Brethren movement in order to clarify the Sitz im Leben of the readers here examined. This is important, for in the overall process of reading the reader comes to the text from a very specific social, religious and historical context and this will affect in significant ways how the text functions within the community. Throughout I argue that the Brethren use the Whore of Babylon motif as a form of vituperative rhetoric. The Brethren use Babylon to vilify all other Christian traditions and to define the `self on a religious level (chapters five `Babylon is Papal Rome' and chapter six `Babylon is All of Corrupt Christendom'). On an epistemological level those with confused doctrinal beliefs, both extra muros and intra muros, are defined as `Babylon' (chapter seven `Babylon is Doctrinal Confusion'). On a secular level Babylon is used to vilify the `extreme outsider': the world, a place of pollution and contamination (chapter eight `Babylon is Worldliness'). I also argue that the Brethren two-stage `secret rapture' doctrine developed as the direct result of a biological `fight or flight' response and a psychological `fear and fantasy' response to the Babylon motif (chapter nine `Babylon and the Secret Rapture of the Church'). For the Brethren, the ultimate application of Rev. 18: 4 is to quit the earth altogether: to be `raptured'. This thesis hence makes an original contribution to learning in two ways. First, it accesses new material. Second, it offers new insights into the ways in which readers, texts and contexts interact within this very specific context. Throughout the Brethren are in focus, though some of what is said here is of value in the context of `sectarian' biblical exegesis more generally.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available