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Staging the Gaze: Early Christian Apocalypses and Narrative Self-Representation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

Harry O. Maier
Vancouver School of Theology


In Minucius Felix's Octavius, the pagan Caecilius offers an intriguing critique of the Christian God. Having pilloried Christian faith as trust in a “solitary, forlorn God, whom no free nation, no kingdom, no superstition known to Rome has knowledge of,” he goes on to mock him as a voyeur:

[W]hat monstrous absurdities these Christians invent about this God of theirs, whom they can neither show nor see! That he searches diligently into the ways and deeds of all people, yea even their words and hidden thoughts, hurrying to and fro, everywhere present at once; they make him out to be a troublesome, restless being, who has a hand in everything that is done, is shamelessly curious, interlopes at every turn, and can neither attend to particulars because he is distracted with the whole, nor to the whole because he is engaged with particulars.

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1997

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1 Felix, MinuciusOctavius 10.35Google Scholar . (trans. Rendall, Gerald H.; LCL; London/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984)Google Scholar . I have changed slightly the translation here and in the quotations that follow.

2 Ibid. 11.1, 3, 5.

3 Ibid. 32.7, 9.

4 Ibid. 37.1.

5 In this article, I follow the practice of many scholars in employing the term “apocalypse” as the name of a literary genre, “apocalyptic eschatology” as the designation of a body of tradition appearing in both “apocalypses” and related works, and “apocalypticism” as a descriptor of a social, ideational phenomenon. “Apocalyptic literature” describes both “apocalypses” and other literary works that evidence either “apocalyptic eschatology” or at least some connection to “apocalypticism.”

6 For apocalyptic literature as unveiling/reveiling see Pippin, Tina,“The Revelation to John,” in Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schiissler, ed., Searching the Scriptures, vol. 2: A Feminist Commentary (New York: Crossroad, 1994) 111–12Google Scholar ; and Keller, Catherine, “Warriors, Women, and the Nuclear Complex: Toward a Postnuclear Postmodernity,” in Griffin, David Ray, ed. Sacred Connections: Postmodern Spirituality, Political Economy, and Art (Albany: Suny Press, 1990) 6382Google Scholar.

7 Kermode, Thus Frank, Sense of an Ending (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967) 78.Google Scholar

8 See, e.g. , Vielhauer, Philipp, “Introduction,” in NTApoc 2. 587Google Scholar ; Munchow, Christoph, Ethik und Eschatologie: Ein Beitrag turn Verstdndnis derfruhjudischen Apokalyptik (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982)Google Scholar . The paraenetic functions of apocalyptic literature have been the focus of study, especially in the case of Mark 13 ( Gaston, Lloyd, Not One Stone on Another: Studies in the Significance of the Fall of Jerusalem in the Synoptic Gospels [NovTSup 23; Leiden: Brill, 1970] 4160CrossRefGoogle Scholar ) and the seven letters of the Book of Revelation (Rev 1:4-3:22) ; Aune, David, Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983] 19, 274–78Google Scholar , 299-304 ; Muller, Ulrich B., Prophetie undPredigt im Neuen Testament: Formgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur urchristlichen Prophetie [Giitersloh: Mohn, 1975] 47108Google Scholar ; Hahn, Ferdinand, “Die Sendschreiben der Johannesapokalypse: Ein Beitrag zur Bestimmung prophetischer Redeformen,” in Jeremias, Gert, Kuhn, Heinz-Wolfgang, and Stegemann, Hartmut, eds.. Tradition und Glaube [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971[ 357–94)Google Scholar.

9 For an outline of the theory of cognitive dissonance, see Gager, John G., Kingdom and Community: The Social World of Early Christianity (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1975) 4951Google Scholar : Revelation overcomes “unwelcome contradictions between hope and reality.” Other classic studies, although not formally sociological, posit a similar origin. Thus Paul D. Hanson traces the “dawn” of apocalyptic and apocalyptic literature to a social need to reaffirm hope in the face of disillusionment ( The Dawn of Apocalyptic [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975] 158–61)Google Scholar . David E. Aune summarizes the scholarly consensus when he describes “apocalyptic eschatology” as “the idiom of those who are oppressed and powerless and whose hopes appear impossible of realization within the existing order” (Prophecy, 110). Similarly, John J. Collins explains apocalyptic literature as “constructs of the imagination, designed to motivate people and sustain them in the face of problems” ( Daniel, First Maccabees, Second Maccabees with an Excursus on the Apocalyptic Genre [Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1981] 145)Google Scholar ; or as a means of removing the scandal of the persecution of the righteous ( Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel [Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1993] 61)Google Scholar . See also Collins, Adela Yarbro (Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of Apocalypse [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984] 84-110, 141–64Google Scholar ) for a view of apocalyptic literature as response to “perceived crisis” and as narrating a vision of “what ought to be” in the face of the disconfirmation of what is. Crisis, perceived or otherwise, has continued to dominate discussion of early Christian apocalyptic literature. For an exception see Thompson, Leonard L. (The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1990] 30-34, 174–76)Google Scholar , who argues that the Book of Revelation (and one could extend his argument to the rest of the literature under discussion in this article) portrays (as a function of its literary genre), rather than necessarily reflects, a world in crisis and that through this portrayal it functions as exhortation, admonition, or comfort. This way of reading allows one to make sense of social descriptions in early Christian apocalyptic literature that censure audiences for indolence, pursuit of wealth, and the nurturing of relations with pagan outsiders. Such descriptions betray both the possibility of deployment of themes in a noncrisis situation and the rhetorical aim of this literature generally to construct a perception of a world falling under divine judgment.

10 For example, Vis. 3.6.5; 3.8.11-9.10; Man. 10.1.4-5; Sim. 1.4-11; 6.2.3-4; 8.8.1; 8.9.1-3; 9.20.2. For further discussion of the problems of abuse of wealth in Shepherd see Maier, Harry O., The Social Setting of the Ministry as Reflected in the Writings of Hermas, Clement and Ignatius (Waterloo, Ontario: Laurier University Press, 1991) 5972Google Scholar . A dispute exists regarding the genre of Shepherd. Both Osiek, Carolyn (“The Genre and Function of the Shepherd of Hermas,” Semeia 36 [1986] 113–26)Google Scholar and Hellholm, David (Das Visionbuch des Hermas als Apokalypse: Formgeschichtliche und texttheoretische Studien z.u einer literarischen Gattung, vol. 1: Methodologische Voruberlegungen und makrostrukturelle Textanalyse (ConBNT 13. Lund: Gleerup, 1980])Google Scholar present compelling cases for treatment of Shepherd as apocalyptic literature. This is in contrast to the earlier positions of , Vielhauer, “Introduction,” 630Google Scholar , 634-38 ; Dibelius, Martin, Der Hirtdes Hermas (HNT Supplement; Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1923) 454–60Google Scholar , 462-72; and Erik Peterson, “Beitrage zur Interpretation der Visionen im ‘Pastor Hermae,”’ in idem , Fruhkirche, Judentum und Gnosis (Rome: Herder, 1959) 254-70Google Scholar . Dibelius contends that the author of Shepherd adapts preexisting apocalyptic literary forms by inserting his own individual-oriented paraenesis. Dibelius's reading, however, depends on an unnecessary opposition of apocalyptic literature and paraenesis as well as an individualistic misreading of Shepherd as a document focused primarily on the problem of guilt and postbaptismal sin. The paraenetical passages insisting on the proper use of wealth, however, betray a strong communitarian interest, a concern that the use of apocalyptic devices certainly also serves to promote.

11 Herm. Vis. 4.2.4. Here and in what follows I adopt the translation, which I sometimes slightly change, of Lake, Kirsopp (The Apostolic Fathers; LCL, 2 vols.; London/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976])Google Scholar . For double-mindedness and wealth see Herm. Man. 5.2, 9.4; Herm. Sim. 1.1-4.

12 Herm. Vis. 4.2.5, 6.

13 Rev 3:10.

14 This presumes the contemporary consensus regarding the relationship of 1:4-3:22 to 4:1-22:21, namely (based on linguistic and grammatical evidence) that both sections form a unity and did not circulate separately, as scholars had previously argued ( Friedrich Spitta, Die Offenbarung von Johannes [Halle: Waisenhaus, 1889]Google Scholar ; Charles, Robert H., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John [ICC; 2 vols.; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1920] 1. 3747Google Scholar ; for a more recent example of the compilation theory see Ford, John M., The Revelation of John [AB 38; New York: Doubleday, 1975])Google Scholar . Popkes, Wiard (“Die Funktion der Sendschreiben in der Johannes-Apokalypse: Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Spatgeschichte der neutestamentlichen Gleichnisse,” ZNW 74 [1983] 90107CrossRefGoogle Scholar ) reflects the contemporary consensus. Following Popkes, I understand the seven letters to provide a preparatory hermeneutical function which orients the audience to receive properly the visions in 4:1-22:21. Building on this I suggest that the stern tone of the letters (with the sole exception of 3:7-13), as well as their arrangement, alternatingly more negative and more positive ( Hubert, M., “L'architecture des lettres aux sept dglises,” RB 67 [1960] 349–53)Google Scholar , train the audience to receive the visions which follow not as comfort, but primarily as warning or exhortation (cf. Rev 13:10; 14:12). The social descriptions in the letters are themselves part of the larger socio-rhetorical strategy of Revelation as a whole, a reading consistent with the aims outlined by Schussler-Fiorenza, Elisabeth (“The Followers of the Lamb: Visionary Rhetorical and Social-Political Situation,” Semeia 36 [1986] 123–46)Google Scholar . I would disagree, however, that Revelation is primarily a book of comfort. My reading as admonition and censure gains support from the repeated allegations of fornication and idolatry introduced in the seven letters and taken up at key turning points in Revelation's apocalyptic plot.

15 Apoc. Pet. 5. Quotations from Apocalypse of Peter are from the translation of Mauer, Christian and Duensing, Hugo (NTApoc, 2. 663–83)Google Scholar.

16 Betz, Hans Dieter, “The Problem of Apocalyptic Genre in Greek and Hellenistic Literature: The Case of the Oracle of Trophonius,” in Hellholm, David, ed., Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East. Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Apocalypticism, Upsala, August 12-17, 1979 (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1983) 577–97Google Scholar . See especially the commentary of Socrates on the journey of Er to the afterlife and his visions of reward and punishment used as sources for paraenesis (Plato Resp. 614A–62ID). Elsewhere (Gorg. 525B), Plato argues that the purpose of such myths is to instill fear in their hearers as an inducement to live a good life.

17 For the carnivalesque as fantasy parodying a prevailing ideology through subversive narrative, see Bakhtin, Mikhail, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (ed. and trans. Emerson, Caryl; Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press, 1984) 106–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar . Bakhtin uses the terms carnival and carnivalization to describe an inversion of the dominant order through narrative. This is precisely the effect of apocalyptic literature, which repeatedly presents those who prosper or who rule as suffering indignities and defeat. Among his examples of carnivalizing literature, Bakhtin includes apocalypses (p. 135). In the case of the Apocalypse of Peter, carnivalization occurs as the prosperous and the sinners are parodied in scenes of punishment mimicking their transgressions (for example, blasphemers suffer by being hung from their tongues). Bakhtin's term is especially useful in identifying the parodic strategy of the Book of Revelation, with its depiction of the harlot of Babylon and her paramours.

18 Apoc. Pet. 22 (Akhmim fragment).

19 Ibid. 24.

20 Ibid. 30.

21 Ibid. 16-17 (Ethiopic), 12-20 (Akhmim).

22 6Ezra 15.12-19,24-27,46-63; 16.1-17 in Metzger's, Bruce M. translation (OTP 1. 555–58)Google Scholar.

23 Ibid. 16.74.

24 Ibid. 15.20-27, 28-33, 34-44; 16.9-17, 18-39.

25 Ibid. 15.24-63.

26 Ibid. 16.54-55, 65-67. I alter slightly , Metzger's translation (OTP 1. 559)Google Scholar.

27 Ibid. 16.68 and 75, which promises the obedient deliverance from imminent tribulation.

28 Ibid. 16.40-52.

29 Ibid. 16.77-78.

30 Sibylline Oracles 2. The translation is by Collins, John J. in (OTP 1. 317472)Google Scholar.

31 Sib. Or. 7.151-62.

32 In ibid. 1.255-338, the hortatory section of the apocalypse, the writer portrays enemies of God generally but emphasizes disapprobation of the favoritism that presbyters and deacons show for persons of wealth (ibid. 1.265-75).

33 Ibid. 1.270-76, 279-82.

34 Booth, Wayne, The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) 139.Google Scholar

35 , Thompson, Revelation, 174–97Google Scholar ; deSilva, David A., “The Revelation to John: A Case Study in Apocalyptic Propaganda and the Maintenance of Sectarian Identity,” Sociological Analysis 53 (1992) 375–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar ; idem , The Social Setting of the Revelation to John: Conflicts Within, Fears Without,” WTJ 54 (1992) 273302Google Scholar ; idem , The ‘Image of the Beast’ and the Christians in Asia Minor: Escalation of Sectarian Tension in Revelation 13,” Trinity Journal 12 (1991) 185208Google Scholar.

36 , Thompson, Revelation, 74.Google Scholar

37 Rev 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15.

38 Rev 2:23.

39 Rev 5:6. The primary purpose of this motif is not to offer the comfort of God's presence t o the persecuted (as Jacobus C. de Smidt has argued [“Die Oe van die Gees in die Boek Openbaring—‘N Teologiese Perspektief,’” Scriptura 54 (1995) 159–76])Google Scholar , as the fact that the “I know” sections (with the exception of Rev 2:9-10 and 3:8-9) move directly to censure (2:2-4, 13-14, 19-20; 3:1-2, 15-16) attests. The use of the motif is consistent with the roughly contemporary apocalyptic literature that I cite below, which similarly deploys it to refer not o t comfort but to judgment.

40 The notion of God seeing all, recording all human action (usually in anticipation of judgment) recurs repeatedly in this literature: I Enoch 61.8-9; 63.1-4; 104.7; 2 Enoch la, 4 (A); 33.4 (A, J); 50.1; 53.2-3 (A, J); 66.2-3 (J); Apoc. Zeph. 3.5-8; 7.1-7; 2 Bar. 14.1-2; 48.3-5; 39; 83.1-3; Apoc. Abr. 17.15; 21.3; T. Benj. 6.5-7; T. Abr. (B) 10.8, 11-16; 11.9-12.1-14; T. Mos. 12.4; Jub. 1:3-9; Apoc. Elijah 5.26; Lactantius lnst. 7.21; Syb. Or. 8.228-31; 8.366-77; Apoc. Paul 4-5, 6, 7, 10, 14, 17. These notions have some precedent in the Hebrew Bible, as in, for example: 2 Chr 16:9; Job 34:21; Ps 7:9; 11:4; 139; Prov 5:21; 15:3; 24:12; Jer 16:17; 17:10; Amos 9:8; and Zech 4:10. The panoptic God also appears rather frequently in other New Testament apocalyptic literature: Matt 25:31-46; cf. 6:6; Mark 4:22; Rom 2:14-16 (the reference to “my Gospel” perhaps recalling the content of Paul's apocalyptic protreptic preaching); 1 Thess 1:5,9–10; see also Heb 4:11–13 for a nonapocalyptic hortatory application.

41 Sib. Or. 8.282-84.

42 Ibid. 359-428, 480-500.

43 Ibid. 337-58.

44 Ibid. 496.

45 Herm. Man. 4.3.4-5.

46 Herm. Vis. 1.1.5-2.3.

47 Herm. Vis. 1.3; Sim. 7.2-7.

48 Herm. Sim. 9.9-11, 13-15.

49 Justin Apol. 1.12. I altered slightly the translation by Coxe, A. Cleveland (ANF 1. 66)Google Scholar.

50 Thus Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage, 1979)Google Scholar . For panopticism generally see ibid., 195-228. The panopticon refers to an architectural prison structure of Jeremy Bentham's devising in which prisoners' cells are arranged around and open out to a central watchtower where a guard is able to see each cell without himself being subject to detection. Reforming prisoners, knowing that at any moment they may meet the guard's gaze, must keep watch over themselves.

51 Rev 5:6c-d.

52 , Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 170–71.Google Scholar

53 , JustinApol. 1. 12.Google Scholar

54 I borrow the term “scopic regime” from contemporary film criticism to refer to the training of the eye to see the world and self in particular ways (for general discussion and literature see Martin Jay, “Scopic Regimes of Modernity,” in Forster, Hal, ed., Vision and Visuality [Dia Art Foundation Discussions in Contemporary Culture 2; Seattle: Bay Press, 1988] 323)Google Scholar . Apocalyptic literature generally, by providing its audiences with sweeping historical and visual vistas, teaches a grammar of seeing the world, imposing a new visuality on its audiences by entangling them in their narratives. This is especially evident in first-person apocalypses (like Revelation, Ascension of Isaiah, and the Akhmim fragment of Apoc. Pet. 21-34), where the audience's eye becomes that of the seer, whose reporting (usually in the past tense, but sometimes, as in Revelation [12:2; 16:14; 19:9, 11] on-the-scene in the present tense) expands the audience's understanding of its visions. For the grammar of seeing the world see Sontag, Susan, On Photography (New York: Doubleday, 1989) 3Google Scholar.

55 6 Ezra 16.65-66.

56 The Suffering Self: Pain and Narrative Representation in the Early Christian Era (New York/London: Routledge, 1995) esp. 140Google Scholar , where the author presents the theoretical explication of her thesis.

57 Goffman, Erving, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (New York: Doubleday, 1959).Google Scholar

58 For the legacy of Goffman, see Brisset, Dennis and Edgley, Charles, eds., Life as Theater: A Dramaturgical Sourcebook (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1990) 3646Google Scholar.

59 Presentation of Self, 19. Goffman summarizes his point of view by saying:

It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person, in its first meaning, is a mask. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everyone is always and everywhere more or less consciously playing a role.…It is in these roles that we know each other; it is in these roles that we know ourselves. In a sense, and in so far as this mask represents the conception we have formed of ourselves—the role we are striving to live up to—this mask is our truer self, the self we would like to be. In the end, our conception of our role becomes second nature and an integral part of our personality. We come into the world as individuals, achieve character, and become persons.

60 Freedman, Barbara, Staging the Gaze: Post-modernism, Psychoanalysis, and Shakespearean Comedy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991) 1Google Scholar . For “the gaze” generally, from which much critical theory derives, see Lacan, Jacques, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (New York: Norton, 1978) 67119Google Scholar . For a fuller discussion see Burns, Elizabeth, Theatricality: A Study ofConvention in the Theater and in Social Life (London: Longman, 1972)Google Scholar ; and for a thorough introduction, see , Brisset and , Edgley, Life as TheaterGoogle Scholar . These insights have well served Shadi Bartsch in her study of imperial authority and the analysis of audiences performing themselves as appreciative spectators of emperors acting on the stage ( Actors in the Audience: Theatricality and Doublespeak from Nero to Hadrian [London/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994])Google Scholar.

61 Again, Bakhtin's notion of the carnivalesque is especially illuminating when combined with the theory of theatricality and the displaced gaze that I have explicated. For parody as “an entire system of crooked mirrors, elongating, diminishing, distorting in various directions and to various degrees” and the role of literary character as parodying double, see , Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, 127Google Scholar.

62 Cf. Rev 2:20; 22:18-19.

63 Rev 2:14; 2:6-15; 2:20, respectively.

64 For discussion of the possible community-eroding activities underlying the charges see Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schüssler, The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985) 114–32Google Scholar and the works of deSilva cited in n. 35 above. In the following analysis of the world of the text I bracket these considerations and treat the depictions of the seven churches as introducing themes that play out in the course of the apocalypse. Again, like Thompson (Revelation), I am primarily interested in the way apocalyptic literature represents the world, rather than the setting out of which it arises. The approach taken here is not unlike, though less formal than, that of Boring, M. Eugene, “Narrative Christology in the Apocalypse,” CBQ 54 (1992) 702–23Google Scholar . See especially his comments on the world of the text (722-23).

65 Rev 2:14, 20c, 22. I follow the exegesis of the term “Nikolaitans” first suggested by Moffatt, James, “Revelation,” in Nicoll, W. Robertson, ed., The Expositor's Greek Testament (5 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990) 5. 352Google Scholar . Moffatt argued that the term was a Greek synonym for the Hebrew figure, Balaam.

66 See Fiorenza, Schüssler (Justice and Judgment, 114–32)Google Scholar for the inference that John's opponents were gnosticizing.

67 Theissen, Gerd, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982) 121–43.Google Scholar

68 Herm. Vis. 1.4.2; 2.2.6-8; 3.6.5; Sim. 1.4-6; 6.2.3-4; 8.8.2; 8.9.1-3; cf. Man. 10.1.4-5; Sim. 8.9.1-3.

69 Herm. Sim. 9.9-15.

70 Rev 3:17.

71 Rev 2:16, 22-23.

72 Rev 21:8-9; cf. 21:27.

73 Rev 22:15.

74 For Revelation as an epistle and the relationship of 1-4 and 22:8-21, see Karrer, Martin, Die Johannesoffenbarung als Brief (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

75 Rev 9:20-21; 14:8; 17:2, 4-5; 18:3, 9; 19:2.

76 Fiorenza, Schüssler, Justice and Judgment, 174–76.Google Scholar

77 Rev 13:4, 14-15; 14:4, 9, 11.

78 For the intercalation of 11-14, see Fiorenza, Schiissler, Justice and Judgment, 170–77Google Scholar . For 11-14 mirroring and offering commentary on 8-9 and 15-20, see Humphrey, Edith M., “The Sweet and the Sour: Epics of Wrath and Return in the Apocalypse,” in Lovering, Eugene H. Jr, ed., SBL 1991 Seminar Papers (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991) 457–60Google Scholar.

79 2 Kgs 9:22, 30.

80 Rev 17:1, 2.

81 Rev 17:2, 4; 18:3, 9; 19:2.

82 Rev 17:4, 5; 21:27, with the repeated use of the term βσελνμνα (“abomination”).

83 Rev 2:20.

84 Balaam, a more ambiguous figure in the Hebrew Bible (thus Numbers 22-24), is probably deployed to illustrate the character of John's allegedly immoral, idolatrous opponents in Rev 2:14 on the basis of Num 25:1-9 and 31:1-12, 16. These passages imply Balaam's culpability in the immorality and idolatry of the children of Israel at Baal-Peor. Again, the full danger of “Balaam” is the subject of Revelation 17-18.

85 Rev 3:17.

86 Rev 18:11-24.

87 Rev 21:8; 22:15.

88 For narrative voice as an author's second self see , Booth, Rhetoric of Fiction, 7077Google Scholar . Booth writes that the importance of the “official scribe” of a narrative is that “our reactions t o his various commitments, secret or overt, will help to determine our response to the work” (71). “John” signals his commitments in his opening description of himself in Rev 1:9 as “sharing” with them “the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance,” thus from the outset endeavoring to persuade them to take his side against his allegedly idolatrous, immoral opponents.

89 Rev 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 12:11; 14:1-5; 16:15; 19:1-9; 20:4; 21:1-7, 9; 22:14. I here borrow from John Berger's reflections on images in publicity and advertising in his Ways of Seeing (London: BBC/Penguin, 1977) 132Google Scholar : “Publicity is always about the future buyer. It offers him an image of himself made glamorous by the product or opportunity it is trying to sell. The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be. Yet what makes this self-which-might-be enviable? The envy of others.” The images of Revelation project possibilities of self John's readers are to envy. For the role of characters and characterization in ancient literature, see Burnett, Fred W., “Characterization and Reader Construction of Characters in the Gospels,” Semeia 63 (1993) 328Google Scholar ; and Tolbert, Mary Ann, Sowing the Gospel: Mark's World in Literary-Historical Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989)Google Scholar.

90 For the “carnival sense of the world” in Revelation, especially its parodic staging of the world, and its meals of reversal (Rev 17:6; 17:16; 18:24; and 19:17-18, 21) see the discussion of Pippin, Tina, Death and Desire: The Rhetoric of Gender in the Apocalypse of John (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992) 6568Google Scholar.

91 To be sure, it is a male gaze, as one can see most clearly in the idealized vision of self as bride of the lamb (Rev 21:2, 9; 22:17). For further discussion see , Pippin, Death and Desire, 6986Google Scholar . For the gaze as male generally see Iragaray, Luce, Speculum of the Other Woman (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985) 323Google Scholar . John's authorial I/eye and the divine I/eye become so blended in the course of the apocalypse that it is impossible at some points to determine who is seeing or reporting (for example, Rev 22:6-20); see Barr, David L., “The Apocalypse of John as Oral Enactment,” Int 40 (1986) 243–56Google Scholar ; Boring, M. Eugene, “The Voice of Jesus in the Apocalypse of John,” NovT 34 (1992) 334–59Google Scholar.

92 Asc. Isaiah 3.24. My translation of the Ascension of Isaiah are those of Flemming, Jan and Duensing, Hugo (NTApoc 2. 642–63)Google Scholar.

93 Ibid. 3.25.

94 Ibid. 3.27-30.

95 Ibid. 3.31.

96 Ibid. 4.18-19.

97 Apoc. Pet. 22-26.

98 Ibid. 6-16 (Akhmim).

99 , TertullianDe Speclaculis 20Google Scholar (trans. Terrot R. Glover; LCL; London/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984). I slightly alter the translation adopted here and in following quotations from Terrot's translation.

100 Ibid. 29.

101 Ibid. 30.

102 Ibid.

103 For the function of the gaze in making visible, see , Lacan, Concepts, 105–19.Google Scholar

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