Friday, May 22, 2009

John and Revelation: more thoughts from Carter

This is just something I want to remind myself to think about later, but—as always—I would also be interested in comments from the gallery. I'm in the middle of Warren Carter's argument that John's gospel employs a "rhetoric of distance" in critique of the Christian community in Ephesus (and anywhere else, for that matter) that has grown too comfortable with Rome and Roman imperialism. This is dramatically different, I think, then the standard approach to reading John, in which the audience is typically read as experiencing persecution, whether from the synagogue or from Rome. Not so, says Carter; John targets Christians who have learned to participate in civic and imperial life despite their devotion to Jesus.

In his discussion of the gospel's genre, he draws some links between John and Revelation. Now, as I pointed out earlier, Carter suggests that Revelation, too, is written to over-accommodated Christians in Asia, so the similarities between these two texts perhaps isn't very surprising. And I'm still interested in this reading of Revelation. But as I think about it now it seems to me that persecution at least has something to do with Revelation, even if "persecution" doesn't aptly describe the entire generative context of that book. Inasmuch, then, as persecution is even partly a motivating factor in Revelation's composition, do thematic, generic, and theological links between Revelation and John suggest that persecution similarly explains some, if not all, of the gospel's features?

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