Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

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Paul the Uncertain
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Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

What are the community's thoughts on James Tabor's theory, recently revived and reviewed at his blog, that Revelation is a lightly Christianized version of a Jewish writing?

https://jamestabor.com/am-i-damned-fore ... hristians/

Briefly, he sees a fairly clean decomposition of the canonical text into a coherent Jewish work heavily focused on Daniel, with a patchwork of Christian elements, some lengthy (e.g. the visionary letter to the churches) and others mere dabs of Jesus references here and there onto what were originally simple divine references.

Personally I have no settled opinion in the matter, nor am I a Tabor booster.
Bernard Muller
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by Bernard Muller »

Revelation is a lightly Christianized version of a Jewish writing
I agree. And Tabor and I are not the only ones:
It has been mentioned that 'Revelation' is the result of Christian additions on a thoroughly Jewish text:
- "the main [part of the] apocalypse [of John] actually belongs to Jewish apocalyptic literature." (Jewish Encyclopedia)
- "... German scholar Vischer .. holds the Apocalypse to have been originally a purely Jewish composition ... we think, it cannot be objected to ... The Apocalypse abounds in passages which bear no specific Christian character but, on the contrary, show a decidedly Jewish complexion." (Catholic Encyclopedia)
I never saw any detailed reconstruction of the original Jewish Revelation. Well, this is just what I attempted, carefully sorting out the Christian parts. What is left had to be written by a non-Christian, definitively a Jew, for obvious reasons that I will explain within the text.
from http://historical-jesus.info/danrv.html

See my extensive work on Revelation here: http://historical-jesus.info/danrv.html

My reconstruction of the original Jewish version: http://historical-jesus.info/rjohnx.html

Cordially, Bernard
schillingklaus
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by schillingklaus »

Revelation is profoundly Roman Catholic from the front to the back; it just happens to use intertestamental Jewish literature such as Henochian parables and the Testamentd of the Patriarchs; but this does not make it a slightly Christianized anything.
Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

Nice to see you again, Bernard. Thank you for those links.

And thank you, too, Klaus, for defining an opposite boundary for the range of community views.
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DCHindley
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by DCHindley »

schillingklaus wrote: Sat Jul 30, 2022 7:33 am Revelation is profoundly Roman Catholic from the front to the back; it just happens to use intertestamental Jewish literature such as Henochian parables and the Testamentd of the Patriarchs; but this does not make it a slightly Christianized anything.
Tabor is, at the least, a specialist in apocalyptic literature, and also originally came from a Christian movement that emphasized end time prophecy.

He claims that when David Koresh had his work on end-times prophecy in the book of Revelation published, he had (with permission of the FBI) exchanged messages with Koresh about problems with his interpretations of Revelation's apocalyptic logic, and may have changed Koresh's mind about his standoff with the FBI, only to have the FBI go in to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco TX before Koresh could respond.

Apparently, the FBI used Tabor as a diversion and did not really value his scholarly contribution. I felt, at the time it was happening, that the FBI had absolutely no idea about anything dealing with with Protestant apocalypticism of any kind. I think this unfamiliarity extends also to Fundamentalist Christianity's own notoriously weird end-times interpretations that involve conspiracies between their "Ant-Christ" and the European Union, Soviet Union, and 1960-70's era Middle East politics. It continues to present in their refusal to go after Religious Right militia movements as potential terrorists.

We in the USA are, IMHO, rapidly heading to a situation very similar to what happened in Lebanon. Every faction built a private militia and tried to impose their POV on everybody. They would set up roadblocks and check your state ID (which indicates whether they were Sunni, Shi'a or one of the other sects such as Druz, Yasidi, etc.), and sometimes summarily shoot some who they believed were not "real" Muslims. The USSR supplied all sorts of military vehicles, including tanks and APCs, to all the partiers involved and the local Arab nations like Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Somalia, and we to modern Israel, with the whole region devolving into a powder keg. How long before we see a revival of Nation of Islam militias and black or other minority oriented militias (they exist), which will ramp up the right militias boldness, and we'll see vigilante type law like the US "Old West." The reality was quite different than what was portrayed in penny novels of the time and in movies ever since, but modern militias were built on the movies, not on fact, and if you ask me, living in the American old west was probably no picnic.

While I was once a member of his discussion group, I have not been following Tabor for quite a while. Is there a link you can supply to this revised paper on the sources and nature of the composition of the Apocalypse? Maybe on www.academia.edu. Personally, I think that R H Charles had correctly identified the various sources and editorial contributions that went into the Apocalypse as we have it in the NT, but his scholarly explanation is now out of date.

DCH
Ken Olson
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by Ken Olson »

Paul the Uncertain wrote: Sat Jul 30, 2022 6:30 am What are the community's thoughts on James Tabor's theory, recently revived and reviewed at his blog, that Revelation is a lightly Christianized version of a Jewish writing?

https://jamestabor.com/am-i-damned-fore ... hristians/

Briefly, he sees a fairly clean decomposition of the canonical text into a coherent Jewish work heavily focused on Daniel, with a patchwork of Christian elements, some lengthy (e.g. the visionary letter to the churches) and others mere dabs of Jesus references here and there onto what were originally simple divine references.

Personally I have no settled opinion in the matter, nor am I a Tabor booster.
I haven't watched the video, but the blog post seems to presuppose a false dichotomy (i.e., we can sort any given concept into the Judaism pile or the Christianity pile). It surprised me that Tabor should assume this, as he has written about Jewish/Judean Christianity. I would agree that Revelation is a probably a composite document, but I think it may reflect a form of religious belief closer to that of the Christians (to use an anachronistic word) in Judea than is the Gentile/Pauline form of Christianity assumed in most of the rest of the NT.

Best,

Ken
Paul the Uncertain
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by Paul the Uncertain »

Thank you, DCHindley for that background.

Ken:

My understanding (possibly defective) based on the video and the earlier blog post linked to in the recent one is that a graduate class studied common interpolation techniques in ancient literature, and then as a capstone class exercise (including the professor participating in the exercise) took the canonical Revelation and "reversed" apparent interpolation instances.
...the blog post seems to presuppose a false dichotomy (i.e., we can sort any given concept into the Judaism pile or the Christianity pile). It surprised me that Tabor should assume this...
There are not many details available about the method used, but it does seem to be Tabor's claim that the coherent Jewish residual was derived from this process applied to the canonical text rather than assumed to be there a priori. Whether it was assumed or "discovered" that the interpolators were Christian isn't clear to me.

What seems distinctive about this exercise is the contrast between the two final "piles." One, the presumptive original, is a coherent or nearly coherent writing, while the other has some "locally coherent" chunks (the letter to the churches, for instance) but also many disjointed bits and pieces.

It would be even better if there were also some kind of control example (for example, take a high-confidence singly authored work, apply the same "interpolaton reversal" techniques and end up with two equally incoherent piles of chunks and spare parts, or a virtually unchanged original, or whatever the contrasting outcome should be). Examples, plural, better still.
Bernard Muller
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by Bernard Muller »

I deducted the Jewih Revelation was written right after 70-71 to the Jewish community in Antioch. It was meant to be against Rome (the city) and provide hope to the Jews (so they don't loose their faith) after the disastrous Jewish War in Judea.

Cordially, Bernard
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by neilgodfrey »

For a more recent series of analyses of Revelation that I understand to be slowly gaining some traction among scholars see Witulski's books (in German):

Witulski argues that many of the difficulties that have led scholars to see Revelation as a patchwork of redactions, including Christian additions to an early Jewish text, disappear and Revelation becomes more evidently a coherent text, a composition of a single author, when "unthinkably" dated to the time of Hadrian and the Bar Kochba rebellion.

On Witulski's recommendations for the clearest arguments for earlier dates, I turned to and outlined the works of
and Thomas Witulski's discussion of the problems with all of the above: When was the Book of Revelation Written?

Witulski combines archaeological evidence with the literary record and makes a case for Revelation being written by a single author in Asia Minor who was responding to the pressures of Christians in that area of the Greek world to conform to a new level of emperor worship unprecedented at that time: Hadrian (and through his close friend and propagandist, the famous orator and prophet-priest, Polemon) claimed worship as incorporated into Zeus himself (not just worshiped alongside Zeus) and required shrines for himself to be set up in every household.

We have archaeological evidence that the Jewish community in the area went along with Hadrian's program, highly honouring Hadrian, -- as presumably did some Christians -- according to Revelation's messages to the seven churches in the area affected.

The author of Revelation is writing with the memory of Trajan's wars of expansion and in particular with his savage suppression of what looked like in part to be Jewish messianic uprisings in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. One of the results of these uprisings and their suppression was food shortages in Asia Minor (grain imports from Egypt being interrupted) that resulted in edicts for price fixing there.

Hadrian himself was seen, in part, as a kind of return of the Roman emperor who had been the most popular in that part of the Greek world - Nero. Hadrian's official name even happened to identify him as Nero by isopsephy -- the names of both Nero and Hadrian sharing the same number by gematria, 666.

Witulski's work is in German but I have attempted to make it somewhat accessible through the following series of posts:
I sometimes turn aside to discuss the works of other authors who place W's arguments in the wider context of traditional scholarly interpretations: https://vridar.org/tag/book-of-revelation/

I have not yet completed posting W's case for Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiba being the two witnesses but will do so after completing reviews of some other works forwarded to me.

The point is that W's interpretations of Revelation are supported by archaeological evidence and point to a unitary work composed at a time when the Christian and Jewish communities of Asia Minor were experiencing a climate of unprecedented pressure to fall in with worshipping the emperor as God (far moreso in every way than had ever been experienced since Augustus, the Flavians, and up till the time of Hadrian.)

As noted by Ken, there is no need to assume that Jewish elements in a Christian work imply that a (non-Christian) Jewish text must have redacted by a Christian author.
klewis
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Re: Any thoughts on Tabor's view of a Jewish original Revelation?

Post by klewis »

I am on the other side, in that the book of Revelation was written by a Christian from the start. It looks Jewish because the writer of Revelation did not have access to any of the NT writings. That is the same for the Gospels not copying Paul's writings into them but deriving the life of Jesus from OT sources.


Unfortunately, it is hard to convey in just a post. So I included the first chapter, an approximation draft.

Shameless plug:
How John Wrote the Book of Revelation: From Concept to Publication

Chapter 1 which explains the process in 11 pages with illustrations:
Chapter 1


1st Approximation Draft (Contains how John inserted Ezekiel and Isaiah into the book of Revelation). In this draft, the writer of Revelation used content from Isaiah to form imagery of Jesus. Basically, Ezekiel is judgements (bad cop), and Jesus is salvation (good cop).
First Draft of Revelation
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