Concluding thoughts on this book. Next week, in NT class, we start on the Gospels…
While I believe that John had a specific meaning when writing the Book of Revelation, or rather, a specific application, my allowance for subjective applications have grown considerably while reading through some of these essays, and most notably, two of the final ones. Westhelle allows that the genius of John’s storytelling allows for a cross-cultural, cross-generational, usage of the Apocalypse. In that John allowed his audience, and thus subsequent readers, the ability to name their own Beast (p198). Yeo seemingly agrees with Westhelle notes the “universal” scope, but the fruits which come from reading the book in “particular” locations (p200). While admittedly, I have difficultly reading the Book of Revelation through some, especially the subaltern, lens which I am unfamiliar with, I can see the logic of both Westhelle and Yeo and what reading Revelation in particular locations may do for the local community.
Most interesting was chapter seven when Dr. Pablo Richard clearly called out the United States of America for the role in which it was playing in the world today. Ideally, Christians would recognize the imperialism and other forms of Empire which this country regularly puts on, not only in our foreign policy, but so too in our domestic policy. While his words will no doubt be disconcerting, Richard is writing from the point of view which I imagine John might have recognized, that of the oppressed by an whelming power with no end to that power in site. Further, both writers most operate under the view of the Image of that power, finding sustenance and fostering resistance. While Westhelle didn’t associate the Beast with the United States, I believe that the examination of Revelation against the backdrop of the rise of the military regime in Brazil is equally valid and equally pointed to what we know as the Military-Industrial complex in the U.S.
Rossing, clearly an environmentalist, stretched my ability to legitimize her application, although she does provide some historical support for her understanding. While I can understand her concern, the usefulness in her interpretation is almost devoid of validity, unless of course, ones lives in the Appalachian Mountains, facing the constant battles over Mountain Top Mining, poisoned water, and the nearly apocalyptic fear of an impoundment breaking and washing away homes and communities with toxic sludge. Then, like the other subjective applications to respective communities, her interpretations become intimately real and hit close to home. But even in this, I feel that her application is just a little too subjective for any allowance I can make, especially given that to follow her interpretation would be to invite the Beast to take action.
While I note that several authors have attempted to keep with the historical understanding of Revelation and only then see if it holds values today, namely Gonzalez, other authors were simply concerned with understanding Revelation only through their respective hermeneutic lens. While I can understand that in certain situations, such as those described by Westhelle and Richard, the Book of Revelation becomes almost re-inspired, I still cannot go so far as to see an allowance for the kind of subjective hermeneutic which is advocated by Blount, Pippin or Martin. While, in the end, my allowance for interpretation and usage of Revelation has grown, my initial concerns, in that by allowing small groups of people to see Revelation as something which their situation interprets, we give freedom to those who seek to use it as a key to world events, American Foreign Policy, and in the end, how to read the daily newspaper.
- Thoughts on From Every People and Nation, Reading Revelation Interculturally (thechurchofjesuschrist.us)
- Justo González on Interpreting Revelation (thechurchofjesuschrist.us)
- Scratchpad: The Limits of Legitimate Interpretation (thechurchofjesuschrist.us)
- Speaking Blount-ly about Escapism in the Book of Revelation (thechurchofjesuschrist.us)