Quick Book Review: The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud

babyloniantalmudTitle: The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud

Author: David Halivni

Bibliographic info: 352 pp.

Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Buy the book at Amazon

The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud is an English translation of Halivni’s work relating to his Meqorot umesorot (Sources and Traditions) project. This project is a commentary (written in Hebrew) on the Babylonian Talmud which, so far, has been published in eight volumes from 1968-2012. The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud represents an in-depth account of Halivni’s source-critical approach in this project. Most academic research on the Talmud is actually written in Hebrew, with much of it never seeing the light of day in English. This fact alone makes this English translation of Halivni’s work a great step forward in Talmudic studies.

In a nutshell, here is what Halivni proposes concerning the Babylonian Talmud (the Talmud consists of the Gemara, completed ca. 500, and the Mishnah, completed ca. 200). It is typically thought that the Gemara was produced by the Amoraim and that the Mishnah was produced by the Tannaim (both being groups of rabbis). Halivni, however, disputes this chronology and presents a revised rabbinic timeline of the literary production of the Talmud. He believes that the Talmud was only made to look like it was written by the Amoraim, and that the unique style of the Gemara was, in fact, produced by the Stammaim during the 6th-8th centuries (rabbis who followed the Amoraim).

To argue his case, Halivni first puts forward his case for the Stammaim (“the anonymous ones”), who he sees as being a cohort of rabbis that is primarily responsible for the Gemara. Next, he discusses the editing of the Talmud, arguing against the typical belief that the Talmud went through a standardized editorial revision process (which he sees as being due to the contradictory Tannaitic and Amoraic sayings). Then Halivni hones in on the finer details of his proposed redactional process, and finishes by tackling the beginning of the Talmud’s written form (which involves a oral proto-Talmud that was retained by memorization by the Stammaim, some of whom cross-referenced thematically connected segments in the nascent Talmudic body by duplicating them in various redactional contexts).

The Formation of the Babylonian Talmud is an impressive volume and is also somewhat intimidating for the uninitiated like myself. I would say that this volume is more suited for those already familiar with Talmudic scholarship, rather than someone seeking an introductory volume.

Book Review: NIDNTTE

NIDNTTETitle: New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis Set

Editor: Moisés Silva

Bibliographic info: 3552 pp (5 vols).

Publisher: Zondervan, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon or Zondervan

With thanks to Zondervan for the review copy.

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDNTTE) is a thorough revision of the original New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT; ed. Colin Brown; Zondervan 1975-78), which itself was based on the German two-volume dictionary, Theologisches Begriffslexikon zum Neuen Testamentum (1970-71).

The NIDNTTE consists of five volumes (four dictionary volumes and an index volume) that contain about 800 entries, covering 3000 Greek words. As to be expected, nouns and adjectives are listed in the nominative case and verbs are in the first-person singular. The word entries contain useful statistical data on its usage, as well as exegetical and semantic information. There is a consistent format for each word entry. It begins with a discussion of the word in Greek literature (pre-classical to Roman times), followed by the same for Jewish literature (LXX, Pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus), and, finally, with the usage in the New Testament (with occasional references to non-canonical early Christian literature). Where possible, relevant Hebrew and Aramaic words are discussed including their usage in the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and rabbinical texts. Each entry then closes with a bibliography listing other sources that can be consulted for further study (which, of course, have been updated from the original edition).

The first four volumes are the dictionary proper, with the fifth volume containing a handy set of indices, including scripture indices for the Old and New Testaments, indices for Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, and an index for Greek literature. There is also a  conversion chart for converting from Strong’s numbers to Goodrick-Kohlenberger.

As I mentioned earlier, this volume edited by Silva is an updated version of Brown’s original edition. The original edition had the drawback of being organized according to English words, whereas Silva’s new edition organizes the entries alphabetically by Greek words. A useful feature that organizing by English provides is that it groups together New Testament words that are semantically related to one another. This feature is retained in this new edition, however, by providing a list of various words related to particular concepts (the list is found at the beginning of each volume). An example is the concept of “love,” for which there are six Greek words that fall under this concept. This feature is quite useful and if you study each word listed under a concept, then you gain a greater appreciation for how the different words all contribute towards a particular concept.

There are various differences one will notice between the editions by Brown and Silva. One example is that due to the original edition being published in the 70s, some of the articles focus on issues dealing with Bultmann’s theological interpretations (this was a time when Bultmanns’s work was still being interacted with in NT studies). The examples I compared have the discussions on Bultmann noticeably shortened in Silva’s new edition.

There are other theological and exegetical dictionaries of the New Testament. A classic is Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which, while still very useful, is a bit outdated at this point. Apart from being an up-to-date set, the NIDNTTE also has another useful feature that places it above Kittel’s TDNT, which is that each entry discusses the Greek word along with other words that are in its semantic field. That is quite a handy feature in my opinion. In fact, I think the whole method of organizing in Silva’s NIDNTTE is a step up from Kittel’s TDNT as it circumvents any confusion that may arise between lexicography and conceptual analysis.

The NIDNTTE will be a very useful tool for pastors and students of theology/biblical studies. This set is well-suited to help one understand the meaning of a Greek word in relation to its semantic field and to broader concepts. I imagine the NIDNTTE will become the standard New Testament theological dictionary.

Quick Book Review: The Sign of the Gospel

signofthegospelTitle: The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth

Author: W. Travis McMaken

Bibliographic info: 352 pp.

Publisher: Fortress Press, 2013.

Buy the book at Amazon

With thanks to Fortress Press for the review copy

This volume is a revised version of the author’s doctoral dissertation completed at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2011. McMaken is currently an Assistant Professor of Religion at Lindenwood University.

In a nutshell, the author’s thesis is that Barth’s doctrine of baptism–and specifically, his rejection of infant baptism–has not received a fair hearing.” Furthermore, while “Barth himself rejected infant baptism, I argue that such a rejection is not necessary on the basis of his mature theology’s broader commitments.” McMaken contends that if one sees infant baptism as a “nonverbal form of the church’s gospel proclamation”, then infant baptism is also compatible with Barth’s mature theology and not necessarily a departure from it.

Apart from the standard introductory and concluding chapters, the book’s makeup consists of these chapters:

  • Baptism and Infant Baptism from the New Testament Through Barth
  • Election, Soteriology, and Barth’s “No” to Sacramental Infant Baptism
  • Election, Circumcision, and Barth’s “No” to Covenantal Infant Baptism
  • Barth’s Doctrine of Baptism, “The Foundation of the Christian Life”
  • “The Sign of the Gospel” – Toward a Post-Barthian Doctrine of Infant Baptism

For the first few chapters, McMaken discusses Barth’s rejection of arguments for infant baptism (the “sacramental” and “covenant” views). It was quite interesting to see why Barth objected to infant baptism, a couple of the reasons being that it could all too easily lead to a systematic across-the-board baptizing of infants, and that if infants are allowed to be baptized then one could make the case that they should be allowed to participate in communion too. And then there is the issue of it opening up the door too much for sacramentalism and sacerdotalism. In the end, for Barth, baptism is a response to the Spirit and an action of public obedience to the gospel.

In the final chapter, McMaken constructs a baptismal doctrine that allows infant baptism, yet is still in sync with Barth’s theology. This view is not sacramental nor covenantal, but is instead a post-Barthian understanding. In this understanding, infant baptism does not have to be employed by the church but can legitimately be utilized as a “a mode of gospel proclamation whereby the church discharges its missionary task.” This is, of course, a preliminary and non-definitive attempt by McMaken at devising such a post-Barthian understanding and will hopefully ignite some ecumenical discussion on infant baptism and be taken further (and, of course, the meaningfulness of this proposal depends in part upon how the degree to which one agrees with a Barthian understanding of soteriology).

While I enjoy reading books on Barth, I am not that well-versed with Barth’s actual writings, so I cannot really offer a comment on whether I think McMaken’s work truly is faithful to Barth’s thought. However, I will say that it is well-written and tightly argued. The historical survey was top notch and ably shows how various concepts (e.g. sacraments and soteriology) have developed throughout church history. Despite the narrow focus of this volume, it is actually quite an illuminating look at Barth’s theology. If you’re interested in Barth, ecumenical thought, or just baptismal doctrine, then I heartily recommend this book.

Some Nice Moltmann Quotes

The Moltmanniac has posted a list of favorite Moltmann quotes. Here are several of my own favorites:

“Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.” (Theology of Hope)

“Whatever can stand before the face of the crucified Christ is true Christian theology. What cannot stand there must disappear.” (The Crucified God)

“Christians who do not have the feeling that they must flee the crucified Christ have probably not understood him in a sufficiently radical way.” (The Crucified God)

“Jesus did not suffer passively from the world in which he lived, but incited it against himself by his message and the life he lived.” (The Crucified God)

“If Christians find their identity in the crucified Christ, then what relevance can national, cultural, and economic identity still have for them?” (The Experiment Hope)

“The peace of God is secured and maintained not by any caesar or ideology of power, but alone by the crucified one.” (The Experiment Hope)

“Whoever follows after the person who is crucified by the idols and powers of this world becomes ready also to be an iconoclast of freedom against the gods and cults of his society.” (The Gospel of Liberation)

“The anticipation of the coming kingdom of God has taken place in history in the crucified Jesus of Nazareth. That means that the kingdom of God is not to be found anywhere on earth, except in the cross of Golgotha.” (The Future of Creation)

“[The problem of evil] is the open wound of life in this world. It is the real task of faith and theology to make it possible for us to survive, to go on living, with this open wound.” (The Trinity and the Kingdom)

“The cross is not something historically fortuitous which might not have happened. God himself is nothing other than love. Consequently Golgotha is the inescapable revelation of his nature in a world of evil and suffering.” (The Trinity and the Kingdom)

“To know Jesus does not simply mean learning the facts of Christological dogma. It means learning to know him in the praxis of discipleship.” (The Way of Jesus Christ)

“When the fear of death leaves us, the destructive craving for life leaves us too. We can then restrict our desires and our demands to our natural requirements. The dreams of power and happiness and luxury and far-off places, which are used to create artificial wants, no longer entice us. They have become ludicrous. So we shall use only what we really need, and shall no longer be prepared to go along with the lunacy of extravagance and waste. We do not even need solemn appeals for saving and moderation; for life itself is glorious, and here joy in existence can be had for nothing.” (The Power of the Powerless)

“In the raising and exaltation of Christ, God has chosen the one whom the moral and political powers of this world rejected – the poor, humiliated, suffering and forsaken Christ. God identified himself with him and made him Lord of the new world ….. The God who creates justice for those who suffer violence, the God who exalts the humiliated and executed Christ – that is the God of hope for the new world of righteousness and justice and peace.” (Ethics of Hope)

Book Review: Galatians and Christian Theology

GalatianschristiantheologyTitle: Galatians and Christian Theology: Justification, the Gospel, and Ethics in Paul’s Letter

Editors: N. T. Wright, Mark W. Elliott, Scott J. Hafemann, John Frederick

Bibliographic info: 400 pp.

Publisher: Baker Academic, 2014.

Buy the book at Amazon

With thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy.

Galatians and Christian Theology is the published proceedings of the Galatians and Christian Theology Conference hosted at the University of St. Andrews in 2012. I was excited to see this volume coming out because not only did I enjoy the previous volumes from St. Andrews’ triennial Scripture and Theology conference (Hebrews and Christian Theology, published in 2009; and Genesis and Christian Theology, published in 2012), but Galatians is also my favorite piece of Pauline writing.

There are twenty-three studies in this volume:

Part 1: Justification
1. Messiahship in Galatians? [N. T. Wright]
2. Paul’s Former Occupation in Ioudaismos [Matthew V. Novenson]
3. Galatians in the Early Church: Five Case Studies [Karla Pollmann and Mark W. Elliott]
4. Justification and Participation: Ecumenical Dimensions of Galatians [Thomas Söding]
5. Arguing with Scripture in Galatia: Galatians 3:10-14 as a Series of Ad Hoc Arguments [Timothy G. Gombis]
6. Martin Luther on Galatians 3:6-14: Justification by Curses and Blessings [Timothy Wengert]
7. Yaein: Yes and No to Luther’s Reading of Galatians 3:6-14 [Scott Hafemann]
8. “Not an Idle Quality or an Empty Husk in the Heart”: A Critique of Tuomo Mannermaa on Luther and Galatians [Javier A. Garcia]
9. Judaism, Reformation Theology, and Justification [Mark W. Elliott]
10. Can We Still Speak of “Justification by Faith”? An In-House Debate with Apocalyptic Readings of Paul [Bruce McCormack]

Part 2: Gospel
11. The Singularity of the Gospel Revisited [Beverly Roberts Gaventa]
12. Apocalyptic Poiēsis in Galatians: Paternity, Passion, and Participation [Richard B. Hays]
13. “Now and Above; Then and Now” (Gal. 4:21-31): Platonizing and Apocalyptic Polarities in Paul’s Eschatology [Michael B. Cover]
14. Christ in Paul’s Narrative: Salvation History, Apocalyptic Invasion, and Supralapsarian Theology [Edwin Chr. van Driel]
15. “In the Fullness of Time” (Gal. 4:4): Chronology and Theology in Galatians [Todd D. Still]
16. Karl Barth and “The Fullness of Time”: Eternity and Divine Intent in the Epistle to the Galatians [Darren O. Sumner]
17. “Heirs through God”: Galatians 4:4-7 and the Doctrine of the Trinity [Scott R. Swain]

Part 3: Ethics
18. Flesh and Spirit [Oliver O’Donovan]
19. “Indicative and Imperative” as the Substructure of Paul’s Theology-and-Ethics in Galatians?: A Discussion of Divine and Human Agency in Paul [Volker Rabens]
20. Grace and the Countercultural Reckoning of Worth: Community Construction in Galatians 5-6 [John M. G. Barclay]
21. Paul’s Exhortations in Galatians 5:16-25: From the Apostle’s Techniques to His Theology [Jean-Noël Aletti]
22. The Drama of Agency: Affective Augustinianism and Galatians [Simeon Zahl]
23. Life in the Spirit and Life in Wisdom: Reading Galatians and James as a Dialogue [Mariam J. Kamell]

I won’t go into detail for every chapter, but will give an overview of what I consider to be some highlights of the volume.

N.T. Wright leads the way with a study that includes statistics regarding Paul’s usage of the term Χριστός. Wright argues that Χριστός does indeed mean “Messiah” in Galatians (as opposed to simply being Jesus’ last name), and that the word is “at the heart of Paul’s incorporative ecclesiology in Galatians,” with the first point explaining the second. I think Wright makes an interesting case for Χριστός being the vehicle for Paul’s participatory vision of the Church/God’s people. The primary text Wright discusses in this regard is Gal. 3:16, where Paul notes that the promise to Abraham did not say “to your families”, but “to your family, which is Χριστός (hos estin Christos).” A key reason Wright says this theme has been ignored in Galatians is due to the epistle being primarily seen as having soteriology as its focus, rather than ecclesiology.

The next chapter, by Matthew Novenson, also provides a lexical study, this time on the term Ιουδαϊσμος. This word appears twice in the New Testament, both times in Galatians 1, and is usually translated as “Judaism.” Novenson, however, contends that it really derives from ιουδαϊζω (i.e. to judaize or to act like a Jew), designating a sectarian activity rather than an entire religious system. Thus, in Gal. 2:14 where Paul rebukes Peter for making Gentile Christians ιουδαϊζειν, the point is that Peter is trying to make the Gentiles judaize. Novenson sees the verbal form, ιουδαϊζειν, as referring to non-Jews adopting Jewish rituals, while the noun ιουδαϊσμος refers to Jews who advocate for the taking up of Judaism, so “the judaization movement” is  a better gloss for the noun form (rather than “Judaism”).

Beverly Roberts Gaventa’s contribution on the singularity of the gospel was quite good. She makes the case that the singularity of the gospel isn’t primarily about the fact that there is only one gospel, but because of the gospel’s “singular, all-encompassing action in the lives of human beings. The gospel claims all that a human is; the gospel becomes the locus of human identity; the gospel replaces the old cosmos.”  Another interesting chapter was Scott Swain’s study on Gal. 4:4-7. By looking at the grammar of divine agency in this passage, he attempts to show how it can be used as a “seat of doctrine” for the Trinity.

One interesting observation on this volume as a whole is that it doesn’t revolve around the New Perspective on Paul. In actuality, there was more of a focus on the participationistic and apocalyptic schools of thought in Pauline studies. The studies range from tackling issues in systematic theology (Sumner’s contribution on Karl Barth), to regular biblical studies, and historical theology (e.g. the essays on Luther). So whether you are involved in biblical studies or theological studies, this volume will surely have something you can enjoy. It is a fantastic read for anyone interested in current issues swirling about regarding Galatians.

Babylon and New Jerusalem: A Polemic against Hybridity (Part V)

Part II: A Polemic against Hybridity (continued)

The economic critique of Babylon begins not with Revelation 17, but with the critiques found in the letters to the seven ekklēsiai in Revelation 2 and 3. Here we see the wealth of Laodicea being labeled “poverty” (Rev. 3:14-22), while the lack of wealth at Smyrna is regarded as true wealth (Rev. 2:8-11). Why does John mock wealth here and reverse the status of the wealthy and the poor? The answer lies in how the economic, political, and religious systems in Roman times were inextricably tied up with one another.[1] While in modern Western culture religion operates separately from economics and politics, in the Roman Empire these concepts were tied together. In order to preserve the pax Romana, the pax deum had to be assured through the carrying out of religious rituals; economic strength depended upon adherence to religious observances. Additionally, religious piety directed towards the Roman imperial cult was how Roman cities supported the Empire and gained imperial favor for themselves. Throughout the Roman provinces, minus the notable exception of the province of Judaea, there was strong competition for imperial favor by competing for coveted titles of neokoros. Cities won these titles by showing their loyalty to the Emperor, demonstrated through the displays of loyalty and divine honor to Roman emperors known as the imperial cult.

John objects to the fact that some of his readers are eating food offered to idols (Rev. 2:14-15, 20) because, in doing so, they are effectively propping up the religious and economic orders of the imperial culture.[2] In Asia Minor, the church at Pergamum is criticized for the teachings of “Balaam” and “the Nicolaitans” (Rev. 2:15; cf. Num. 22-24), while the church at Thyatira “tolerate[s] that woman Jezebel” (Rev. 2:20; cf. 1 Kgs 18:1-19). The context suggests that the teaching of Balaam is the same as the teachings of the Nicolaitans, and that Jezebel is a name specific to an individual at Thyatira, with the teachings of this individual being described in identical terms to that of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 2:14-15).[3] The Nicolaitans are those who chose to assimilate themselves to the norms of polis, including consuming meat in socio-religious situations. In Revelation, the Nicolatians are the epitome of hybridity and John desires to excise them from the ekklēsiai, for it not only supports the corrupt economic system of Rome but it is also a symbol of integration and interdependence with Rome; it is this hybridity that John so loathes.

Yet, in calling on the members of the ekklēsiai to have no part with these expressions of Roman power and patronage, John is placing them in a precarious situation where they are living on the margins of standard Asian culture, thus they may very well face social and economic maltreatment, and in certain instances, even death. To endure the burden that this would create, John knows that the members of the ekklēsiai would require a solid bond with one another, and that despite the blemishes in the various ekklēsiai, they were the proper communal context that contained the opportunity for the alternative reality to the Roman order. Rather than relying on the economic system of Rome, which was entirely corrupt, the ekklēsiai were to think of themselves as a faithful alternative.


Though I did not go into it in as much detailed as I originally intended, hopefully this has shown how the postcolonial concepts of mimicry and hybridity allow us to scrutinize the rhetorical dualism in Revelation. The resolve of John in regards to the purity of the ekklēsiai of Asia Minor and his determined efforts to dissociate himself from his proximate others–the Nicolaitans, Jezebel, Rome–are a reaction to the peril of hybridity that was confronting his subaltern. By participating in the cultic meals, the members of the ekklēsiai are symbolically endorsing the Roman imperial order. Therefore, John relates the visions of Babylon and New Jerusalem to show the stark contrast between the Roman order and that of faithful witness to Jesus Christ. Those inside New Jerusalem are overcoming empire; those outside the walls are colluding with and profiting from the imperial order, and also likely engaging in imperial vices (Rev. 22:14-15). Yet there is a porous boundary between the two cities in that the walls have large perpetually-open gates (Rev. 21:25), allowing “those who wash their robes” (Rev. 22:14) to enter the city through metanoia (Rev. 2:5, 16, 21; 3:3, 19). In a nutshell, the attitude of John in regards to participation in the standard civic life of a Roman polis is one of separatism and resolute rejection, going to great lengths to reveal how the Roman Empire is the utter antithesis of “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah” (Rev. 11:5). In contrast to the death-dealing economic exploitation of Babylon, John presents the reader with New Jerusalem, a life-giving economy.



[1] A well-known example of the intermingling of the religious, economic, and political spheres is to be found in the “mark of the beast” pericope, where we are told that “no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark [of the beast]” (Rev. 13:16-17).

[2] Steven J. Friesen, “Satan’s Throne, Imperial Cults and the Social Settings of Revelation”, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27.3 (2005), pp. 351-73 contends that John’s usage of imperial cult imagery is not due to persecution under the Emperor Domitian, but is instead utilized to make his audience consider the connections between religion, economy, and imperialism.

[3] G.B. Caird, The Revelation of St John (orig. pub. 1966; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), pp. 38-40; David Aune, Revelation 1-5 (Word Biblical Commentary, 52A; Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1997), p. 188. For an argument that Balaam and the Nicolaitans are different, see Steven J. Friesen, Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 192-93.

Babylon and New Jerusalem: A Polemic against Hybridity (Part IV)

Part II: A Polemic against Hybridity


Using the Babylon and New Jerusalem symbolism, John has presented the reader with a black-and-white critique of the Roman Empire, a key function of which is to describe the exploitative economics of the Roman Empire. This dualism reaches its pinnacle in the appearance of New Jerusalem. Outside of the walls of New Jerusalem is everything associated with imperialism and empire, but within the walls there is none of this (Rev. 21:27). There is no spectrum; immediately outside the walls of New Jerusalem, complete alterity commences.

In John’s perspective, the Roman culture of imperialism and the Christian culture must be kept absolutely separate. In order to maintain the rhetorical vigor of this picture that he paints, the distinction between the Roman Empire and the ekklēsiai must be stressed to the absolute. Thus, any appearance of assimilation to Rome needs to be decisively countered. Evidently the imperial system of Rome had made inroads in some of the ekklēsiai of Asia Minor and so John constructs a thorough condemnation aimed at the Rome through the cities of Babylon and New Jerusalem, showing that by associating with the Roman imperial system, one is unavoidably mired in the imperial endeavors of the empire: its violence, opulence, idolatry, and economy. So while Revelation is appropriately viewed as resistance literature, it is also offensive literature aimed at excising any hybridity.

Hybridity in the Ekklēsiai

Postcolonial theory provides several concepts that described how in a colonized society there is a contentious integration of cultures that the colonized must navigate. Homi Bhabha, one of the pioneering figures of postcolonial thought, says that the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized is best understood as one of mimicry, a concept closely connected with hybridity.[1] This idea behind mimicry is that when the colonizer’s culture is imposed upon the colonized, the latter will internalize and replicate it. Yet this replication is not a perfect carbon copy, but rather results in a hybrid mixture that, as Bhabha puts it, is “almost the same but not quite.”[2] This is known as hybridity. Essentially, Bhabha’s postcolonial theory cuts against the notion of a complete dichotomization between the colonizer and colonized. He contends that the attitude of the colonized vis-à-vis the colonizer is not one of unequivocal hostility, but one of ambivalence where resistance and collusion are both simultaneously apparent in the colonized subjects.

Mimicry is prevalent in Revelation.[3] In many ways, the Roman imperial order is parodied by John and parody is essentially mimicry with the intent of mockery. Robert Royalty has argued that John, by utilizing wealth imagery in his description of New Jerusalem, is simply reinscribing Rome’s ideology of wealth rather than being critical of it.[4] However, applying Bhabha’s insights on mimicry would suggest that Royalty misconstrues how John has altered the wealth imagery through his use of mockery and irony. Reading John’s narrative of Babylon and New Jerusalem with Bhabha’s concepts of mimicry and hybridity in mind shows that John indirectly represents the economic situation of his day, while mocking the entrenched assumptions about wealth, money, and power that underlie imperial economics.


[1] For Bhabha’s thoughts on mimicry and hybridity, see, e.g., Homi K. Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority Under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817”, in Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (2nd edn; London: Routledge 1994), pp. 102-22.

[2] Homi K. Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”, in Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (2nd edn; London: Routledge 1994), pp. 85-92 (p. 86).

[3] The fact that Revelation co-opts Roman ideology and language is nothing new. For a thorough examination of the status quaestionis of the Roman imperial cult in Revelation, see Michael Naylor, “The Roman Imperial Cult and Revelation”, Currents in Biblical Research 8 (2010), pp. 207-39. See also Steven J. Friesen, Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[4] Robert Royalty, The Streets of Heaven: The Ideology of Wealth in the Apocalypse of John (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1998).


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 126 other followers