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An Aural-Performance Analysis of Revelation 1 and 11

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Kayle B. de Waal

This book breaks fresh ground in the interpretation of the Apocalypse with an interdisciplinary methodology called aural-performance criticism that assesses how the first-century audience would have heard the Apocalypse. First-century media culture is probed by assessing the dynamics of literacy, orality, aurality, and performance in the Gospels, parts of the Pauline corpus, and also Jewish apocalyptic literature. The audience constructs of informed, minimal, and competent assist the interpreter to apply the methodology. Sound maps and an aural-performance commentary of Revelation 1 and 11 are developed that analyze aural markers, sound style, identity markers, repetition, themes, and the appropriation of the message by the audience. The book concludes by examining the sociological, theological, and communal aspects of aurality and performance and its implications for interpreting the Apocalypse.
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Introduction and Procedure

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The late twentieth century has seen a deluge of research on the Book of Revelation. Masterly commentaries have been published, new questions have been raised and contemporary methodologies have been championed.1 The current of new methodologies and concepts has continued to run strong and indeed the cracks and crevices of older scholarship have been exposed and found wanting. Shafts of new light have brought fresh vitality to the study of the Apocalypse.

The academic debates have focused primarily around the following broad questions: the genre of the book, methodological issues focusing on the unity of the work, the use of the Old Testament in Revelation, the social situation with particular attention to the imperial cults, the interpretation of its symbolism, and the different readings emerging from a reader-response approach.2 This study is an investigation into the aural and performative elements of Revelation that focuses on ancient media culture as these features have been neglected in scholarship on Revelation. It has the potential to open up new perspectives regarding the literary, social and theological understanding of the book.

The Book of Revelation was written primarily for hearers in the communities of faith in Asia Minor in the first-century CE. While scholars acknowledge that the vast majority of people in John’s day could not read “and therefore learned aurally,” we often assume that his audience were readers and would have approached and understood the text in a similar fashion to us.3 According to John D. Harvey,...

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