This semester’s topic is Embedded Texts and Ur-Texts within Early Christian Literature. In our free eBook Easter: Exploring the Resurrection of Jesus, expert Bible scholars and archaeologists offer in-depth research and reflections on this important event. I hope to publish with permission some of the results of our work in the seminar on the Book of Revelation in several upcoming posts on this blog. But what is even more astounding, to me at least, was the observation that nearly all of these references can be easily removed without detracting in any way from the structure or flow of the passages in which they occur.
2 who testified to the word of God [and to the testimony of Jesus Christ,] even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near. 6 and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Rev 19:10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! Rev 4:8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Rev 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the LORD of the earth. Rev 19:6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunder peals, crying out, “Hallelujah! I am convinced that in the same way the basic apocalyptic texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls have as their historical reference points the parties and politics of the mid-1st century BCE, the Ur-text of revelation is most likely composed against the backdrop of local events in Judea in the 40s and 50s CE–and has little to do with Rome and its emperors.
The text, of course, has an ongoing history, certainly through the reign of Domitian and the destruction of Pompei by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the summer of 79 CE. Some of these materials are now on-line, most recently see my article “Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Millennialism,” In Oxford Handbook of Millennialism, ed., Cathy Wessinger. We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. The Book of Revelation in the Bible today can be dated to after 164 CE, while parts of it date to 59 CE.
13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The virgin with a crown of 12 stars describes the solar eclipse over Patmos and Cypress on September 4, 164 CE.
3 And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.
It becomes the Virgin Mary with child and the multi-headed beast (Herod) waiting for the child to be delivered as in Matthew’s gospel.


I am grateful to Prof Tabor for opening my eyes to a new way of understanding the curious book of Revelation. Revelation is well detailed like other apocalyptic writings composed while the temple stood in Jerusalem during the first century (Book of Enoch, Apocalypse of Abraham, Ascension of Isaiah), and understanding it requires a grasp of the Old Testament which the early Christians relied on. If you were downtown and looked across the street over the parked cars and saw someone you knew rushing intently to push a little old lady over, what would you think of that person?
And this is one of the biggest problems with how people approach the Book of Revelation: the historical background to the Book is unknown to most readers. If a student of the Book of Revelation (i) ignores the historical context of the book, (ii) assumes that it is describing the end of the world (an expression no where found in the Book itself) - it will inevitably lead to some wild speculation about what this book means. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Revelation was not written to an English-speaking Church living in Western affluence. I have written a fuller explanation of the book of Revelation in my eBook- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE (click here to read a preview).
Discover what they say about the story of the resurrection, the location of Biblical Emmaus, Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, the ancient Jewish roots of bodily resurrection, and the possible endings of the Gospel of Mark. In other words, one could get the distinct impression that references to Jesus Christ lay quite lightly on the text and could even be seen as secondary interpolations. I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades [who hold the testimony of Jesus.]Worship God! I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded [for their testimony to Jesus and] for the word of God. First, it appears that one can fairly easily recover a pre-Christian version of this text, more or less, with very little change to the underlying text itself.
I have also come to the view quite recently, after visiting and studying Pompeii that Revelation 18 is a fairly direct reaction to the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius–imagined by the author to be a precursor to the destruction of Rome itself.
James Tabor is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he is professor of Christian origins and ancient Judaism. I don’t believe that the removal of Christ from the text is a wise interpretation, therefore futile and serves no purpose. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Would your opinion of this person change if you later discovered that the cars you were looking over obscured your view of this person actually pushing this little old lady out of the way of a speeding sports car which was hurtling towards her and about to hit her? They have their understanding of the Book of Revelation obscured by their lack of understanding about history, Biblical language, and even modern opinions. History reveals that this speculation has brought much discredit to the cause of promoting Christ and His infallble Word when well-meaning (but mistaken) people make bold claims that the Book of Revelation predicts the fortunes of their own nation in their own day.
It was written to a First Century Church undergoing intense tribulation and wondering whether their faith in Christ had been in vain. He is told to perform two simple tasks - to SEE (meaning to pay attention to what God would show him) and to WRITE (to record what he saw).
What are the methods and assumptions involved in positing strata of textual traditions within a finished work?


Tabor sheds light on longtime Biblical debates, such as the origins of Christianity, what archaeology reveals about the last days of Jesus and what the Bible says about death, the afterlife and resurrection.
They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. For example, one of the first assumptions that those who employ sound hermeneutics use is, treat any Biblical book as if it was written to someone else.
The Book of Revelation not only does not make this claim, it actually claims to be speaking to a first century audience within the existing Roman Empire.
Without understanding the overall context of the Bible, it is impossible to understand the Book of Revelation. Just as there are lessons for the modern Church from any New Testament book, there are some powerful lessons for today from this ancient book. For beginners and seasoned readers of Biblical Archaeology Review–and everyone in between!
Scholars have most often applied the basic setting of the book to the reigns of the Roman emperors Nero and Domitian, with several stages of redaction in the period from 68 to 100 CE.
These two sources are consistently referred to throughout Revelation- Beast and the False Prophet, Beast from across the sea and the Beast of the Land, the Seven Headed Beast and the Mother of Prostitutes. We are told in Revelation 6 that there were many martyrs who had been killed for following Christ.
The focus of this course is on method – therefore it is targeted to a wider audience beyond those interested in specializing in early Christianity since the phenomenon of layered texts is ubiquitous in many religious traditions. Over the past decade he has teamed up with with Shimon Gibson to excavate the “John the Baptist” cave at Suba, the “Tomb of the Shroud” discovered in 2000, Mt Zion and, along with Rami Arav, he has been involved in the re-exploration of two tombs in East Talpiot including the controversial “Jesus tomb.” Tabor is the author of the popular Taborblog, and several of his recent posts have been featured in Bible History Daily as well as the Huffington Post.
But this presents a problem to the modern reader since we are at least two thousand years removed from the original audience. For example, in Revelation 17 it describes a great prostitute who is curiously dressed in the exact fashion described in Exodus 29 yet with deliberately different embossed wording. His latest book, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity has become a immediately popular with specialists and non-specialists alike. If we fail to address these problems when interpretting the Book of Revelation, we are doomed to commit the same errors that have plagued the history of Revelation's interpretation.
Failure to appreciate the Old Testament will cause the reader to miss this connection and then fail to get the point of what the author is trying to say. It looked to many believers that the Church would be conquered by this unrelenting persecution. But John's visions of Christ's Revelation, reassured the suffering Church that Jesus was indeed Lord, and that He would indeed conquer.
I wrote an entire book on Waco with Eugene Gallagher, you can read the first chapter on-line here, and I urge readers to get the book as well, especially those interested in interpretations of the Book of Revelation.
Thus, while the nature of the term apocalyptic is certainly symbolic, certainly prophetic, and certainly about the ending of something, but it is not necessarily (if at all) about the end of the world.



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