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Parables of War

Reading John’s Jewish Apocalypse

By John W. Marshall
Series Studies in Christianity and Judaism Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889203747, 265 pages, November 2001

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Parables of War: Reading John's Jewish Apocalypse by John W. Marshall
1. Introduction
2. Aporias: Passages Without Passage
3. Meanings: Names and Paths
4. Terms: The Supplement and/or the Complement
5. Taxonomy: The Sine Qua Non of Christianity?
6. Narratives: John('s) Becomes a Christian (Document)
7. Names: Choosing Categories
8. Date: That Long Year
9. Location: Diaspora in War
10. Parables I: Standing Fast Among the Nations
11. Parables II: Defending the Holy City
12. Results: Judaism in Asia and Devotion to Jesus
Subject Index
Ancient Sources Index
Modern Authors


What makes the Book of Revelation so hard to understand?
How does the Book of Revelation fit into Judaism and the beginning of
John W. Marshall proposes a radical reinterpretation of the Book of Revelation of John, viewing it as a document of the Jewish diaspora during the Judean War. He contends that categorizing the Book as "Christian" has been an impediment in interpreting the Apocalypse. By suspending that category, solutions to several persistent problems in contemporary exegesis of the Apocalypse are facilitated. The author thus undertakes a rereading of the Book of Revelation that does not merely enumerate elements of a Jewish "background" but understands the Book of Revelation as an integral whole and a thoroughly Jewish text.
Marshall carefully scrutinizes the problems that plague contemporary interpretations of the Book of Revelation, and how the category of "Christian" relates to such problems. He employs the works of Mieke Bal, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Jean Fran‡ois Lyotard, and Jonathan Z. Smith as theoretical resources. In the second half of his study, he provides detailed descriptions of the social and cultural context of the diaspora during the Judean War, and constructive rereadings of four key text complexes.
The result is a portrait of the Apocalypse of John that envisions the document as deeply invested in the Judaism of its time, pursuing rhetorical objectives that are not defined by the issues that scholars use to differentiate Judaism from Christianity.


  • Short-listed, Canadian Society of Biblical Studies F.W. Beare Book Award 2002
  • Short-listed, F.W. Beare Book Award, Canadian Society of Biblical Studies 2002


A lively reinterpretation of John's Apocalypse.... [But] Marshall's fair, consistent interpretative paradigm is not the only aspect of the book that is particularly rigorous and sustained.... Marshall ... couches his critique of the dominance of the usual readings of the Apocalypse in the sophisticated terminology of the giant literary critics (especially Barthes, Culler, Jameson, and Derrida) and there is a levity to this treatment that belies the usual density.

- Laurence Broadhurst, York University, Studies in Religion, 34, 3-4, 2005, 2006 March