Thoughts on From Every People and Nation, Reading Revelation Interculturally

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The Question:

As you read the articles by Blount and Gonzales in particular, what perspectives do you find helpful or perhaps challenging? Why do you think you value or are pushed by their particular reading? What does this tell you about the way you engage the biblical text? Does this make you want to change the way you interpret Scripture in any way?

My attempted, draft, rough drafted, answer:

My instinct in reading the Book of Revelation is to read it solely in its cultural context. For too long we in the more fundamentalist sects of Western Christianity have abused John’s visions and fit it into our own, often times politically motivated, individual needs. However, it is noted that if the inspiration of the text was for the audience of that day, an audience racked by accommodation, by persecution, and by the hated minority, then it may serve well the audiences today who read it during their own time of persecution. Who am I to begrudge someone for getting comfort from the pages of Holy Writ? After all, how often do we turn to the psalms to find comfort? My primary concern, still however, is that by seeking to place our own cultural concerns within the contexts of the Book of Revelation, we will miss the larger picture.

That is exactly the reason that Gonzalez’ essay appeals to me more than Blount’s. For Gonzales, the Book of Revelation is relevant today exactly because the world systems which the book first addressed – geopolitical, economic, and cross-cultural – still exists. For Blount, I feel that he seeks to interpret the Book of Revelation through his own experiences or those of his community from the ground up, while Gonzalez seeks to understand his community, and indeed his world, through the Book of Revelation. I cannot help but cast Blount in almost the same light as modern ‘prophecy-olics’ who seek to understand the headlines in today’s paper by the Book of Revelation and vice-versa. What he does say, however, about the slave community in the same situation, the same world system, makes sense and should not be discounted from the discussion; however, it is Gonzalez’ cosmic warfare view which I believe best fits the book, the ancient, and the modern audiences.

The engagement in the biblical text, especially one so emotionally charged as the Book of Revelation, should not be limited; however, every engagement is not equally valid. I do not believe that we are allowed to easily approach the Scriptures with our own subjective readings and expect it to be ‘right.’ Instead, especially in political statements such as John’s (Gonzalez makes this point more thoroughly than Blount, in my opinion), we should seek to understand the historic situation not by our own situation and certainly, not allow our own situation to influence our use of the text. This is happening, especially with the Book of Revelation, far too often. Granted, it is not a book which should be placed on a shelf only for scholars, but to give it simply to the community to do with as they wish is to invite consequences, of the likes which we see among many today.

What these two essays have done for me is two-fold: 1.) Forced me to wrestle with the use of this book for communities under persecution. The result? It should be used limitedly, if nothing else, to show that during times of persecution of God’s people, Christ is being glorified, and most importantly, there are things unseen which, if we hold out through our thrashing, we will see manifested on earth. To apply it to one culturally specific situation, even in the vileness of antebellum slavery, seems to me to be disingenuous to the universal people of God. 2.) Allowed to better understand John’s work still stands as a testament, supported by Ephesians, to the sometimes unseen world systems which we are called to resist in favor of the Kingdom of God in Christ. Gonzales’ break down of the call to resist these systems, with sometimes questions asked and left unanswered, leaves enough room to ponder the divine commands for a longer period of time than just reading the book itself.

My understanding of Ephesians and Cosmic warfare has been greatly influenced by Dr. Gombis’ book.

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