Reading Revelation: A Thematic Approach
Even in times when people’s belief in religion and religious institutions is seemingly on the decline and it has become not uncommon to publicly announce atheist convictions, the Bible, its topics and motifs, is still as prominent as ever. Even though people might not be aware of its presence, contemporary pop culture frequently relates to the setting, the characters and events of the Bible. One of the most prominent representatives to do so has been the American prime time TV-drama Lost. The show depicted characters, who were quoting verses from the Bible and bore names like Jacob, Michael, Thomas, John or
Christian. In several scenes even the book itself became the focus of the camera’s lens, as someone was reading in it. But the shows strong tie to the book became most obvious, when in the final episode of the show the protagonist turned out to be an almost Jesus-like figure, who made a martyr of himself for the good of the other character’s lives.
Within this context, The Book of Revelation seems to be the book of the Scripture that has an exceptionally prominent status with contemporary entertainment. On television, records and in books, artists, actors, authors and directors construct scenarios in which people have to face environmental catastrophes, plagues, death and, generally, the end of the world as we know it. In entertainment, the eschatological scenario has become normality and the motifs of Revelation are utilized to make listener, viewers and readers aware of an ever-present menace. On their debut album Kill ‘em all, the heavy metal band Metallica sang about the apocalypse as it is brought to mankind by the horsemen Time, Famine, Pestilence and Death, in Showtime’s Dexter the main antagonist models his crimes after those in The Book of Revelation and the city Metropolis in Fritz Lang’s film tends to be received as a modern-day version of Babylon. Literary scholars frequently categorize Revelation as an early – or maybe even the earliest – work of apocalyptic literature and thus an influential precursor for acclaimed novels by Kurt Vonnegurt (Cat’s Cradle), Cormack McCarthy (The Road) and H.G. Wells (The Time Machine), who all play with Revelation’s theme of the end of civilization in one way or the other.
With Reading Revelation: A Thematic Approach, W. Gordon Campbell has written a book, which intends to examine the themes and topics occurring in The Book of Revelation. Different from the several other works on The Book of Revelation, with Reading Revelation the author is here refraining from the approach of going behind the text, in search of its context of origin, or from investigating the book’s reception history. Motivated by a conviction that the Church requires a biblical-theological appreciation of Revelation’s story, W. Gordon Campbell is actually going inside the text, using tools and methods provided by narrative criticism. This involves as well the relating of Revelation and its topics, the bogus worship, pseudo-divinity, counter-proclamation and covenant, adequately to the rest of the Bible, to the Gospel, the Epistles and to the Old Testament, to which it so frequently alludes.
By offering this innovative approach, Reading Revelation is not only making a contribution to Bible scholarship, but also helps the regular listener, viewer and reader to add a deeper meaning to the themes and topics occurring in and on his/her album, novel or TV-show and reminds us that we are not as far removed from religious influences as we may like to think.
by W. Gordon Campbell
Release Date: 28/06/2012
For further reading on The Book of Revelation:
by Poul F. Gutessen