Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Book of Revelation, Part 2: Canon & Background

This is the final installment of Cook’s book, The Apocalyptic Literature. It’s a helpful book, but, honestly, I’ll have to look it over again when I teach apocalyptic literature again in the future. I hope this was helpful to someone.

Reading Revelation as Canonical Scripture
The application, it seems, of Cook’s view of recapitulation is that the canon of Scripture is revealed (at multiple levels = polyvalence) in Revelation. It also applies to the challenges the church faces in the present time. Specifically, the liturgical worship in Revelation is strewn throughout the book – and it serves as central to the church’s worship today.

Cook takes an interesting walk through the biblical storyline and how Revelation fits it at different levels. For instance, Revelation 12 breaks the rules of apocalyptic by showing how the earthly realities shape what is happening in heaven (it’s usually the other way around). This defining moment of the cross has secured the defeat of Satan. Everything else in Revelation is waiting for the consummation of the defeat. Another example of the canonical perspective when it comes to looking at Revelation is seen in the woman of Rev. 12 who could be Eve, Israel, Mary, or all of God’s people. The canon informs our reading of Revelation.

Group Origins and Social Background
Cook’s insight on Revelation concludes with his belief that it is written by John of Patmos, not John the apostle (he speaks of apostles as one outside their number in Rev. 21.14). He was a Jewish prophet from a guild, according to Cook. Regarding the context of the recipients, Cook also denies the conventional wisdom that Revelation is written to a church dealing with extensive persecution. Domitian did not undertake wide scale persecution. While there was local persecution (Rev. 2.13), Domitian’s time was one of extensive celebration and building of the Roman Caesar cult to unify the empire. The church would obviously be in a difficult place where they were to call Jesus Lord, not Caesar – the one who unifies.

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