A Sociorhetorical Interpretation of Revelation 14:6-13 A Call to Act Justly toward the Just and Judging God -- By: David A. deSilva

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 09:1 (NA 1999)
Article: A Sociorhetorical Interpretation of Revelation 14:6-13 A Call to Act Justly toward the Just and Judging God
Author: David A. deSilva


A Sociorhetorical Interpretation
of Revelation 14:6-13
A Call to Act Justly toward
the Just and Judging God

David A. Desilva

Ashland Theological Seminary

Sociorhetorical interpretation offers an integrated system of analysis promoting rich exploration of a biblical text in terms of its literary and rhetorical textures, its conversations with other available “texts,” the social and cultural contexts of its audience, and the ideologies of author and interpreter. In this paper, Rev 14:6-13 is analyzed across the full spectrum of sociorhetorical interpretation in an attempt to discover at each level of the text how John leads his audiences to a certain perception of their surrounding world and how he persuades them to accept his guidance for their responses to that world.

Key Words: Revelation, rhetoric, intertextuality, social-scientific interpretation, culture, ideology, Roman Empire

Introduction: The Promise Of Sociorhetorical Commentary

In 1996, two books were released in which Vernon Robbins laid out in its fullest form the program of sociorhetorical investigation.1 These books articulate what is perhaps the richest and most fully interdisciplinary strategy for the exegesis of an ancient text. Sociorhetorical interpretation leads the interpreter through a programmatic exploration of a text, a text’s conversations with other texts, the way a text orients its readers toward their world, and the way a text advances its author’s objectives. These investigations, resulting in richly textured observations about the text being explored, are all pursued in an environment which calls for the integration of the results of

this research. Both its interdisciplinary focus and its commitment to integration of the study of literary, rhetorical, social, intertextual, ideological, and theological aspects of a text make sociorhetorical interpretation more than the sum of its parts.

I have found sociorhetorical interpretation to be particularly helpful in that it presses me to explore a text from angles in addition to those toward which I naturally gravitate. In the pages which follow, I present a sociorhetorical interpretation of Rev 14:6-13. I begin with a presentation of the situations addressed by John, the goals John has for his audiences, and the ideological battles he must fight along the way to achieving those goals. With that orientation serving as a point of reference, I explore the passage in light of (almost) the entire program laid out in Robbins’s interpretive ana...

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