SoSe 19: Apocalypse Now! ... Or Later? Visions of the End in Byzantine and Western Christianity
The last and most controversial book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse of John, describes the end of the world and the last judgement in great detail with the aid of rich and often obscure ... Lesen Sie weiter
The last and most controversial book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse of John, describes the end of the world and the last judgement in great detail with the aid of rich and often obscure imagery. The text has fascinated its Christian readers from its composition in the 1st century AD and has produced an extensive commentary tradition since the 3rd century, especially in the Latin West. In the Byzantine East the Apocalypse of John was less popular, with influential figures such as Eusebius of Caesarea rejecting its authenticity and many other Greek Church Fathers simply ignoring the book. Only a handful of Greek commentaries on the text have been written, most of them post-dating the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
The tension between the expectation of an imminent end and the suspension or negation of these apocalyptic tendencies has characterized Christian engagement with the Apocalypse since the beginning. Aside from the difficult question of canonicity, the central question concerns the correct hermeneutics of the text. Are the events described by John to be understood literally or allegorically? If they are literally true, will they happen soon? If they are allegorical, what are these events symbols of? Some of the images and terms generated ample controversies, e.g. the millennium, the heavenly Jerusalem, the false prophet, the number of the beast, etc.
The course will discuss these and other issues from a philological, theological and literary perspective: We will first discuss the question of authorship and the textual history of the Apocalypse, then move on to study the exegetical engagement with the book in both Latin and Greek Christianity, but we will also briefly address the reception in Syriac, Armenian, and Arabic.
Another subject to be discussed in the seminar is the political instrumentalization of the Apocalypse of John and of other (apocryphal) apocalyptic texts, such as the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius or the Syriac Apocalypse of Ephrem.