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Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now (Bible & Liberation) Paperback – December 3, 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The two authors of this volume--both committed Christians and social activists--are not interested in the idea of apocalypse as an end-of-the-world phenomenon. Rather, they conclude, St. John's book was a call to "the followers of Jesus in the cities of Roman Asia [the audience for the Revelation] to continue the nonviolent witness practiced by Jesus. This is how the disciples were to live in the midst of empire." In short, "Revelation is a call to have faith in God rather than empire."

Beginning with a chapter connecting the contemporary enthusiasm for apocalypse to such events as UFO sightings, near-death experiences, New Age spirituality, and even the current visions of Mary, the writers then explore the origins of apocalyptic writing in (among other places) the book of Daniel, Isaiah, and the gospels, and place John's vision in the historical context of first-century Rome. From there the book devotes itself to a close study of Revelation itself, concluding with a chapter that returns to the question of the relevance of John's vision to the current global economic empire, which is, the authors suggest, "simply the air we breathe." The deepest goal of this exciting and challenging book--like John's own Revelation--is to challenge that. --Doug Thorpe

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Product Details

  • Series: Bible & Liberation
  • Paperback: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books (December 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570752877
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570752872
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,039,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
There seems in general to be two encampments around the book of Revelation. Fundamentalists have literalized it, wrapped their theological arms around it, and made it their gospel. Mainstream denominations have largely ignored it, treating it rather like Uncle John, the gospel family's erratic eccentric . Why either group would stretch themselves to read this book is unclear. Outside of a seminary classroom, this book seems to have no intended audience. But it must be more broadly read. I have felt the authors' passionate plea for justice which winds its way through the pages of the Old and New Testament and culminates with the visceral images in Revelation. John of Patmos has metamorphosed from worm to wasp as he stings the institutions of capitalism and creates the structure by which oppression can be identified and resisted. If you suspect that things are not what they ought to be, if something seems amiss within the status quo, if you have ever felt that the world seems somehow upside down, join with these two authors on a trip through the mind of John of Patmos. In their hands, the Book of Revelation becomes a careful, considered, coherent plan of action which puts the immanence of God before immediate gratification and an interest in the sacred above commercial interests. Mere words cannot express my appreciation to these two authors for unveiling the message behind the images in this often misunderstood biblical text. You must read this book.
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Format: Paperback
This is a thematic rather than verse-by-verse commentary. An underlying premise is that the churches of Asia Minor who originally received this letter were not under the severe persecution from Rome that has long been assumed. The authors assert that it was in fact a time of peace and affluence, and the churches in Asia Minor were succumbing to assimilation. The parallels with churches in the West are therefore more exact and evocative than previous interpreters have understood. The authors are not shy about drawing out the similarities between Babylon (as depicted in Revelation) and contemporary global capitalism (the incarnation of Babylon that surrounds us today). Drawing inspiration from Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement, as well as the interpretive and prophetic work of Daniel Berrigan and William Stringfellow, this is a provocative reading of a consistently neuralgic but unavoidable part of the canon. The political implications are drawn out in a final chapter dialogue between the authors.
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Format: Paperback
Howard-Brook and Gwyther unpack what Revelation really means. Studying the book in its original context - remember, Revelation was written for the first century, not for us! - the authors still connect the concerns of John of Patmos' day to our own. They see Revelation's message of faithful resistance to the surrounding patriotic culture and how John warned the early Christians to resist it and preach the good news instead. And they uncover what the "beast" really is in modern society. A thoughtful and passionate understanding of this fantastic book's true message to both its time and our own.
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Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther have written an excellent commentary on Revelation. Like most mainstream scholars they believe that John of Patmos was writing about the Roman empire of his day. What I found especially unique about this book, was its very fascinating account of the imperial court and imperial worship. The authors make a very good case that Revelation's message to its Asian Minor audience was not to compromise with the deadly - both to soul and body - Roman imperial culture.
Furthermore, the authors also discuss applications of Revelation to current social justice issues. I really learned a lot form this book. I also used Unveiling Empire to teach an adult education class at my church. The class seemed fairly well received, and part of the reason was due to this book.
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Format: Paperback
No one ever seems to want to tackle Revelations because of the fear that is associated with it. The two authors take a different approach, and instead of calling for end-of-the-world disasters with huge fires and such, they talk about how Revelations is a call for action for the disciples of Jesus. Revelations is a message of hope, not of fear. Of love, not violence. Of serving God, not Empire. The authors do a great job of explaining this and more. Would recommend this book to everyone, ESPECIALLY those who are uncomfortable reading Revelations.
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