Where is the cross in the Book of Revelation?

Any discussion of ‘the cross’ in the Book of Revelation immediately faces a substantial challenge: in contrast with almost every other book in the New Testament, it is barely mentioned at all overtly. Its solitary explicit appearance comes in an extended prophetic narrative in chapter 11: the bodies of the ‘two witnesses’ will ‘lie in the public square of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified’ (11.8). The identification of the place in this way has led some to suppose that ‘the great city’ was John’s oblique way of referring to Jerusalem. But it is very hard to think of Jerusalem as the city that ‘rules over the kings of the earth’ (17.18) who made all the merchants of the world rich (18.19). Identifying it as a place of sin and debauchery (‘Sodom’) and a place of slavery for God’s people from which they would be liberated in exodus (‘Egypt’) points to it as being the jurisdiction of Rome—by whose power Jesus was put on the cross. The crucifixion is therefore here described as exemplary: just as Jesus suffered and died on the cross, so his faithful followers, bearing prophetic witness after the pattern of Moses and Elijah, will also suffer and be killed. But like their Lord, they too will experience the victory of resurrection life in defiance of their enemies, and this will lead some to repentance (11.11–12).

How does Revelation configure space and time?

I am contributing the chapter on Revelation to the forthcoming Cambridge Handbook to Apocalyptic Literature, and this is what I am planning to say about time and space in Revelation. Any observations welcome! As part of the extended epistolary opening (which runs from Rev 1:4 to 1:11), John locates himself temporally, spatially, relationally and spiritually in … Continue Reading

On mothers, church, and the motherly love of God

There’s probably no occasion in the calendar which is more bittersweet than Mothering Sunday—more recently but incorrectly called Mother’s Day—no other occasion which combines gratitude and celebration with pain and discomfort. Given how difficult we find it in modern culture to hold together joy and grief, it makes for a uniquely challenging pastoral moment. Kate … Continue Reading

What does Revelation tell us about the human condition?

I have contributed a chapter to a book appearing next year on Anthropology of the New Testament, exploring Revelation’s depiction of the human condition. I include here some paragraphs from my introduction, and the conclusion. Revelation’s anthropology (like much else about it!) is less straightforward and less predictable than commonly thought. Excavating the anthropology of the … Continue Reading