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This chapter examines the role of apocalyptic thought during the Renaissance, which was marked by both continuity with medieval apocalypticism and innovation. It includes consideration of its impact on sober humanist scholarship, fierce Reformation debates regarding the papacy, apocalyptic optimism associated with exploration and missionary expansion in the New World, and esoteric speculation about the figure of Enoch.
From the mid-eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries the chronology of production and distribution of the Bible, especially in popular editions, combines two narratives. The first traces a remarkable story of technological development in the printing and related industries, while the second follows the growth of cultural infrastructures that supported evangelical enthusiasm. Once printed, bibles had to be distributed. In the decades before the introduction of bible societies, religious authorities undertook this task directly. Within the Roman Catholic communion, distribution was generally limited to those copies required by members of the clergy. The laws and structure of the new organisation, called the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS), responded to the social and religious tensions within English society. American Bible Society (ABS) incursions were facilitated by an 1860 agreement permitting either society to print editions financed by the other, provided that no changes were made to the text.
The one called ‘Jezebel’, prophet of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to John our brother: Grace to you and peace.
It is with great trepidation, with fear and trembling, that I find myself putting ink to paper. Indeed, you may say, with what audacity does that woman dare to respond to such uncompromising words of prophecy? Surely the authoritative word of the heavenly Son of Man is final? Surely there is no come-back in the face of visions and revelations of the Lord?
But respond I must, for your prophetic oracle, and the vivid description of your visions received on Patmos, have thrown our little community into turmoil. No doubt that was your hope. No doubt you wished that I be discredited amongst the saints here in Thyatira (though I thank God that this has not yet happened, such are our bonds of familial loyalty). That much seems evident from the ‘word of the Lord’ you wish to mediate to us. But – I speak as one prophet to another, though this is bound to make your hackles rise! – are you sure that you have not confused your own animosity with the spirit of prophecy? Must one interpret your heavenly visions only in the way you present them to us? I wonder. For in those damning words of the Son of Man, I can hear the familiar tones of my brother and old sparring partner John.
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