Revelation


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No part of the Bible and its interpretation is more controversial than the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is the last profound book in the New Testament. It conveys the significant purpose of Christianity by describing God’s plan for the world and his final judgment of the people by reinforcing the importance of faith and the concept of Christianity as a whole. This book was written by John in 95 or 96 AD. What is, what has been, and what is to come is the central focus of the content in Revelation.
Literalist fundamentalists read Revelation’s multivalent visions as predictions of doom and threat, of punishment for the many and salvation for the elect few. Scholarly scientific readings seek to translate the book’s ambiguity into one-to-one meanings and to transpose its language of symbol and myth into description and facts. In Elisabeth Schûssler Fiorenza’s The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment, a third way of reading Revelation is depicted. The collection of essays in this book seeks to intervene in scholarly as well as popular discourses on the apocalypse from a liberationist feminist perspective.
     The first two parts of the book discuss the kind of theological-historical perspective and ecclesial situation that determines the form-content configuration of Revelation. The first section attempts to assess the theological commonality to and differences from Jewish apocalypticism. Fiorenza focuses of the problem that although Revelation claims to be a genuinely Christian book and has found its way into the Christian canon, it is often judged to be more Jewish than Christian and not to have achieved the “heights” of genuinely early Christian theology. In the second part of the book, Fiorenza seeks to assess whether and how much Revelation shares in the theological structure of the Fourth Gospel. Fiorenza proposes that a careful analysis of Revelation would suggest that Pauline, Johannine, and Christian apocalyptic-prophetic traditions and circles interacted with each other at the end of the first century C.E in Asia Minor. She charts in the book the structural-theological similarities and differences between the response of Paul and that of Revelation to the “realized eschatology”. She argues that the author of Revelation attempts to correct the “realized eschatology” implications of the early Christian tradition with an emphasis on a futuristic apocalyptic understanding of salvation. Fiorenza draws the conclusion that Revelation and its author belong neither to the Johannine nor to the Pauline school, but point to prophetic-apocalyptic traditions in Asia Minor.

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     The third and last part of the book seeks to elaborate how the author of Revelation expresses his theological perspective in the composition and visionary rhetoric of Revelation. Fiorenza seeks to show that the dramatic composition of Revelation is well planned and executed. Also in this section is Fiorenza’s discussion about where feminism and gender play a role in the composition and interpretation of Revelation. These essays utilize different methods of analysis in order to make sense not only of the book’s language and imagery, but also of the scholarly attempts to understand it. Feminist scholars of Revelation have taken up many of Fiorenza’s arguments, but in addition argue that Revelation is a misogynist tract. That it advocated the dehumanization of women and removes them from its community because the only actual historical woman, “Jezebel”, is vilified. Fiorenza does not agree. She argues that the androcentrism of Revelation is conventional and that the rhetoric of Revelation is determined by its masculine language. She questions whether the gendered language is meant as an exclusion of women. Fiorenza argues that rather than focusing on “woman” in Revelation, one must explore its politics of meaning in order to adjudicate whether the discourses of Revelation are misogynist. She points out that the interpretation of Revelation depends on “the theoretical lenses and methodological approaches employed.”
     Fiorenza continues her work with Revelation and has published many other books regarding the Bible and feminist approaches to understanding it. Revelation is possibly the most controversial and complex book in the Bible. It has been endlessly dissected and examined for the purpose of understanding and interpreting the meaning behind the words written. Fiorenza, with her feminist perspective, has impacted many with her essays and books about feminism and the Bible. Many feminist scholars are influenced by her. Her arguments have definitely made a difference in the way many view women in the Bible.


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