Early Jewish textual culture and the New Testament : the reuse of Zechariah 1-8 in the book of Revelation
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The text of the book of Revelation preserves examples of scriptural reuse that cohere with similar patterns of borrowing in other ancient Jewish works. This thesis describes the processes of reuse employed by Revelation’s notional author (John), and places them into conversation with modes of reuse employed in other ancient Jewish texts, using Zechariah 1-8 as a test case. The design of the study has been crafted to explore these examples in a manner consistent with ancient textual composition. In the first chapter, I examine a dominant aspect of Jewish and early Christian textual culture: pluriformity. I argue that a pluriform scriptural tradition (in both Hebrew and Greek) was a controlling force that shaped the processes of scriptural reuse and, in turn, composition in this period. This analysis also delimits the possible forms of Zechariah available to ancient readers. With textual pluriformity in mind, the next chapter examines the text of Zech 1-8 preserved in John’s scriptural references (Rev 5.6; 6.1-8, 9-11; 7.1; 11.4; 19.11-16). While this analysis is complicated by the author’s presentation of reused material in Revelation, the evidence strongly suggests that John was familiar with a Hebrew form of Zechariah. Once John’s preferred form of Zechariah is identified, the third chapter describes his techniques of reuse. This portion of the thesis consists of a catalogue and discussion of the differences in graphic representation between segments of Zech 1-8 and their instantiation in Revelation. This examination builds a set of textual data that accesses John’s processes and strategies of reading. The fourth section of the thesis explores John’s habits of reading as witnessed in his techniques of reuse. This section identifies features of Zech 1-8 that motivated John to engage with and alter the wording of antecedent material. Not every textual difference can be accounted for in this way, but it is evident that John is cognisant of the features of a particular form of Zech 1-8. Many of the differences between source and reuse can be explained as John’s attempt to comprehend ambiguities in Zechariah. The final section of the thesis is a comparative analysis. The results of the preceding examinations of Revelation are compared to instances of the reuse of Zechariah in early Jewish literature, including works in the Hebrew Bible, the ancient versions of Zechariah, Dead Sea Scrolls, and works commonly classified as “deutero-canonical.” This analysis grounds previous observations about John’s reuse in their native textual culture and acts as an historical control. The evidence suggests that John’s modes of reading, reformulation, and reuse are similar to those found in other early Jewish works. The thesis concludes that scriptural reuse in the book of Revelation cannot be understood apart from the realities of textual pluriformity and the practices of scriptural reuse in Jewish antiquity. This approach suggests that John is a “scribal” expert—a careful reader of his scriptural tradition—and that his modes of reuse are conditioned by the textual culture of this period.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Print and electronic copy restricted until 28th April 2020
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations