Friday, December 09, 2005

John's "rhetorical portrait" of Martyrdom

Here is my latest attempt at coining some new term for the Biblical studies world. In yesterday's post ("S. Pattemore and Martyrdom in the Apocalypse") I suggested that John writes his composition in such a way that he develops "an idealic picture of the church as a collective group of martyrs." I then described this as a "rhetorical device" and noted that this was probably not the best term. After thinking through what might be a better way of describing what John might be doing, here is what I would like to propose.

In essence, I would argue that John is developing a "rhetorical portrait" of the church as a collective group of martyrs. What I mean by that is that John so strongly wants to encourage individual Christians to bear witness to "the testimony of Jesus" that through the course of his composition, he comes close to developing the formula "Christian = martyr." John is not suggesting ever Christian will be a martyr. Instead, he is attempting to encourage Christians by creating a "world" in which martyrdom becomes a normal occurrence in the life of a anyone who faithfully testifies to the gospel. [On the notion of John "creating a 'world,' see D. Barr, "The Apocalypse as symbolic transformation of the world: a literary analysis," Int 38 (1984: 39-50).]

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