Antithetical Feminine-urban Imagery and a Tale of Two Women-cities in the Book of Revelation -- By: Gordon Campbell
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Antithetical Feminine-urban Imagery and a Tale of Two Women-cities in the Book of Revelation
A major theme of the Book of Revelation is the woman-city,1 incorporating various women and cities in the unfolding story. The women are Jezebel, 2:20–23; the woman clothed with the sun, 12:1–6; the whore astride the monster, 17:1–6; and the bride, 19:6–9a, 21:9–10. The cities include seven Church-cities in Roman Asia, 2:1–3:22; Jerusalem, 11:1–13; Babylon, 14:8; 18:1–24; and New Jerusalem, 21–22. Revelation integrates them all into an unprecedented orchestration of a binary motif borrowed from prophetic denunciations of ancient cities – Yahweh’s marriage to his beloved people and that people’s spiritual adultery. The result is both a complex blending of feminine-urban imagery and a double metaphor whose fullest development is an elaborate literary contrast between two women-cities, Babylon-the-whore and New Jerusalem-the-bride. Sustained antithetical parallelism conditioning theme development2 makes the woman-city a fundamentally ambiguous reality and a powerful dramatisation of
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sinful humanity’s fickle response to God. For believing inhabitants of earthly cities, tragic tension between the call to faithful belonging and the lure of idolatrous affiliations is ultimately resolved through doubly faithful divine action which removes the squalid whore-city, Babylon, and establishes the glorious bride-city, New Jerusalem.
In a grand fresco of the economy of salvation which pictures Isaiah 1:21 in reverse, Revelation’s closing chapters depict the demise of a caricatural city, Jerusalem-the-whore (nicknamed Babylon) and the descent of the real thing, faithful New Jerusalem-the-bride. Scholarship has often taken account of the more obvious antithetical correlations that result.3 However in earlier scenes, long before Babylon appears or is rep...
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