Authority And Motivation In The Apocalypse Of John -- By: Alexander E. Stewart

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 23:4 (NA 2013)
Article: Authority And Motivation In The Apocalypse Of John
Author: Alexander E. Stewart


Authority And Motivation In The Apocalypse Of John

Alexander E. Stewart

Tyndale Theological Seminary

This study explores how John constructs and utilizes authority in the Apocalypse to support his motivational argumentation. Four mutually reinforcing levels of authority support John’s rhetorical goals: God’s authority over the entire cosmos and the unfolding of human history; Christ’s authority over the churches and the kingdoms of the world; John’s authority as a Christian prophet through whom Christ was speaking to his church; and the derivative authority of the Apocalypse itself as a self-attested inspired text. These four levels of authority interact to increase the motivational power of the Apocalypse among hearers who share John’s early Christian world view.

Key Words: authority, ethos, motivation, Revelation, theology, Christology

Introduction

Recent scholars have cogently demonstrated that “authority is an essential topos of apocalyptic argumentation.”1 David Aune argues that “the legitimation of the transcendent authorization of the message” is a central literary function of apocalypses in general.2 Hearers do not accept the

legitimacy of divine proclamation from just anybody—particularly when the divine proclamation advocates a countercultural stance that will result in increased social ostracization and/or direct persecution.3 In addition, ancient rhetorical theorists emphasized the importance of establishing ethos, generally at the beginning and ending of speeches (the exordium and peroration), and particularly in cases of competing speakers.4

Toulmin, Rieke, and Janik note that the problem with many appeals to authority in argumentation is “the failure to establish an adequate foundation for the authority. To justify a claim with any cogency, the authority cited must be qualified as capable of providing expert judgment on the subject of the claim.”5 How does John through the text of the Apocalypse convince his hearers that his words carry ultimate divine authority, an authority greater than that of other competing authorities? The first three verses of John’s Apocalypse bear witness to four levels of mutually reinforcing authority: God’s authority over the entire cosmos and the unfolding of human history, Christ’s authority over the churches and the kingdoms of the world, John’s authority as a Christi...

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