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Title: Prophets reading prophecy : the interpretation of the Book of Revelation in the writings of Richard Brothers, Joanna Southcott and William Blake
Author: Downing, Jonathan Philip
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 8818
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines the use and interpretation of Revelation in the writings of the contemporary prophets Richard Brothers, Joanna Southcott and William Blake. Contributing to an emerging scholarly interest in the reception of biblical texts within marginalised interpretative traditions, the thesis offers a detailed exploration of how Revelation is incorporated into these authors' prophetic texts, and how it informs the identity of readers who see their activities as bringing about the fulfilment of the text's visions on the historical plane. This aim is achieved by engaging with extant comparative studies of Brothers, Southcott and Blake within historical and literary studies; a comparison with similar contemporary prophetic figures and the contribution of Revelation to their prophetic self-understandings; and contextualising these figures against contemporary constructions of Revelation as a prophetic text, and the recognition of the poetic nature of biblical prophecy in the eighteenth century. In particular, the thesis advocates for the continued exploration of "emic" approaches to these figures, a process started by members of Oxford's Prophecy Project. The thesis thus argues that "prophecy", rather than "millenarianism," is the most appropriate way of characterising these authors' scriptural engagement, and explores how prophecy is understood in their writings to delineate commonalities in their understanding of the prophet's role. Finally, it surveys how Revelation is interpreted within the respective works of the writers who are the focus of this thesis. The conclusion offers a hermeneutical reflection on the relationship between the prophetic interpreter and the texts they engage with. It suggests that the reader who claims to be "inspired" faces a tension between offering an interpretation of the authoritative text, and claiming an equivalent level of authority for their own works. The thesis makes three contributions to existing scholarly debates. Firstly, it demonstrates that attention to these three authors' interpretations of Revelation shows how attention to neglected voices illuminates the history of interpretation of this biblical book. Secondly, it justifies comparing these three authors under the framework of "prophecy", rather than the anachronistic terminology of "millenarianism." Thirdly, it explores their readings of Revelation to shed light on how interpretation of a scriptural text such as Revelation is key to the evolution of prophetic vocation; how Revelation’s images are developed and transformed in their own prophetic texts; and finally, their sensitivity to hermeneutical questions raised by Revelation’s relationship to other biblical texts and the problems posed by its eschatology.
Supervisor: Rowland, Christopher Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biblical studies ; Church history ; Minor cults and religions ; prophecy ; Biblical Interpretation ; Book of Revelation ; William Blake ; Joanna Southcott ; Richard Brothers