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Feb. 7-11 - Beginnings and Endings: Rev. 1:1-3 and 22:6-21

Feb. 7 - Syllabus discussion and approval
Video/Discussion: "Facing the Millenium" (a Jim Lehrer News Hour conversation with Richard Landes of The Center for Millenial Studies; aired Dec. 22, 1999, Austin); also "A Conversation with Elie Wiesel", holocaust author and theologian regarding his new book "And the Sea is Never Full. Memoirs, 1969- "

Feb 11 - The Text: Beginnings and Endings: Rev. 1:1-3 and 22:6-21
Genre: seeing what we are looking at. Aproaches: "Apocalypse!" (PBS: Frontline; a selection); Michael Card (CD- "Unveiled Hope", a selection); What does the text remind you of among possible biblical counterparts?

The Revelation to/through John

(JEA) Chapter 1: 1 The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to make known to hisslaves which things are necessary to become suddenly and he made oraculardisclosure having commissioned apostolically through his divine messengerto his slave John, 2  who witnessed the word of God, even withrespect to the witness of Jesus Christ, as regards as many things as hesaw. 3 God blesses the one who is reading and the ones who are hearingthe words of the prophecy and are keeping the things having been writtenin it; for the critical hour is proximate.

(DH) Chapter 22: 6  And he said to me.  "These words [are] faithful/reliable/trustworthy and true, and the Lord [the] God of the spirits of the prophets sent [with a commission] his divine messenger [angel?] [in order] to show to his slaves the things that are necessary to become in a short while/soon [cf. 1:1 !!!]. 7  And behold, I am coming quickly [soon?].  Blessed [by God] is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
    8  And I, John, [am] the one who hears [heard?] and sees [saw?] these things.  And when [as long as] I heard and saw, I fell in order to worship before the feet of the divine messenger [angel?], the one who was showing to me these things.  9  And he is saying to me:  "Do not [do that]!  A fellow slave of you I am, and of your brothers the prophets and of the ones who keep these words of this book;  with respect to God worship!"
    10  And he is saying to me:  "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the critical hour/moment is near.  11 Let the one who does wrong [evil?] do wrong [evil?] still, and let the dirty one get him or herself dirty still, and let the righteous one do righteousness still, and let the holy one [saint?] be holy still.
    12  Behold, I am coming quickly [soon?], and my reward with me [in order] to return [repay] to each one like/as his work is.  13 I [am] the Alpha and the Omega, the First One and the Last One, the Beginning and the End.
    14  Blessed [by God] are the ones who wash their robes [stoles, clothes?] in order that their authority will be upon the wood [tree?] of [the] life and by means of the gates they might enter into the city. 15  Outside [are] the dogs and the sorcerers [poison mixers?] and the sexually-immoral-ones and the murderers and the idol-makers and everyone who loves and does a lie.
    16  I, Jesus, sent my divine messenger [angel?] to bear witness to you with respect to these things upon [for] the churches.  I am (!) the root and the offspring/descendent [of] David, the shining early morning star."
    17  And the spirit and the bride are saying:  "Come!"  And let the one who hears say:  "Come!"  And let everyone who is thirsty come, the one who wishes let him or her receive water of life as a gift [without charge?].
    18  I will bear witness to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book;  if someone lays upon [adds?] [up]on these things, [the] God will lay upon [up]on him the plagues [beatings?] that are written in this book. 19  And if someone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy , [the] God will take away his part [share?] from the wood [tree] of [the] life and from/out of the holy city of the things written in thisbook.
    20  The one who is bearing witness with respect to these things is saying:  "Yes [indeed, surely?], I am coming quickly [soon?]."  Amen, come Lord Jesus.

21  The grace of the Lord Jesus [be, is?] with all [everyone]. Revelation - comments on a PBS Video

Revelation - evaluation of a PBS Video

(JM) On February 11, 2000 the members of the Bi.367 class at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary watched a video produced by the Public Broadcasting System during December of 1999. Following that, our class listened to three selections from a Music CD, entitled Unveiled Hope, by Michael Card. After a weekend during which time we were able to ponder these two presentations, we met on Monday, February 14th to discuss our reviews and comments regarding them.

Presented here are notes of the comments regarding the PBS Video.

More class notes regarding the video
as compiled by MS

Genre is a living entity.
Video is a genre unto itself. There is a form called "historical documentary." But this one seemed to be more of a "docudrama" with other genres interspersed within it.

It showed heavily religious views predicting the apocalypse vs. cool academic/religious views of professionals. The affiliation and academic credentials of the speakers were not clearly noted.

They differientated between the popular definition of 'apocalypse' as the end of the world and the academica view which is 'revelation." The popular defintion seemed to be used more in the video.

Substance built on predictions of the "horror to come." The production people fit images to the stories of the presenters. (Note: those being interviewed are usually given questions ahead of time and they send in their answers. Given that the documentary interviewer will focus on a particular area. Those used on camera are the ones who have something to say to the subject the staff has determined will fit into the scope of the program. The interviews are edited. The one giving commentary has no control of what is actually broadcast and what is cut of edited out.)

"Authorities" were balanced by gender/religion, etc. but (according to Professors Reid and Alsup) were not particularly recognized authorities in the areas of the subjects they addressed.

Has PBS shaped the program to fit public interest?

The show itself was presented as Revelation, that is as "unveiling."
The show should leave us (the viewers) wanting to read more.
It was presented as ancient history rewritten.

      I want to respond to your invitation to comment about our class discussion of genre, February 14, 2000: prior to seminary I did a fair amount of radio-television-film production work over the years, including documentaries (though I never made a docudrama). Needless to say, therefore, much of our discussion hit very close to home.

      At one point during the discussion, in response to a comment from me concerning the audience for the Frontline program, you said that it wasn't your intention to either criticize or defend the program producers. At the same time, however, you expressed real reservations about decisions the producers made, reservations which, implicitly at least, were criticisms. My understanding of genre study is that we have a responsibility to engage the assumptions operative within the genre, whether they be those of the genre itself or of the producers or receivers of a given genre text. I don't think we really did that to the extent we should have to do the Frontline piece justice.

      We were fairly quick to criticize the piece for what it wasn't--a more theologically and exegetically nuanced exploration of apocalypse and the book of Revelation--and equally quick to comment on what it was (e.g. choice of visuals, soundtrack, etc.). What we didn't do, I think, was fully explore the reasons behind what it was or wasn't. Issues of genre are always very tricky vis a vis the media, especially television, where not only are innumerable genres thrown together and recombined in myriad ways but where the economic realities of broadcasting, the technological realities of a 19" screen, and the various ways we watch television (as opposed to motion pictures) jointly create genre issues of their own.

      One of the great gifts you gave me last semester was in encouraging all of us to consider "gospel" as a genre, and the extent to which Mark "invented" it, a move that required us to attempt to get inside the text, let it have it's way with us (as you so often and aptly said), and grapple with the genre on its own terms. Television, dare I say, makes the same demands. We began our discussion by talking about what a medium like TV does with a genre like apocalypse...well, it changes the genre into one that television can utilize or, more to the point, it reshapes it in terms of a number of genres television draws upon: melodrama, news (especially crisis and catastrophe reporting), documentary, athletic contests, etc. The end result is both something less and something more than the original genre (in this case, apocalyptic or, if you're Roloff, epistle).

      Now, yes, we can say television ultimately cheapens and "dumbs down" the original, but that says as much about our own expectations as it does about the way television tells stories. More productive, I think, is to ask why Frontline producers made the choices they made, not only for what that says about how TV works but for what it says about how genre and biblical narrative works. For me, it's really too bad that the Frontline producers didn't read Roloff and accept his argument that Revelation is an epistle. Television is an intimate medium and generally works best when it is telling simple (not simplistic), human stories. Epistle is much more intimate, I think, than apocalypse; indeed, I'd bet that class reaction to the Frontline piece would have been rather different (i.e. more positive) had we watched it as a theatrical film in a movie theater. In other words, how much of what we reacted to was a function of how we relate to TV relative to other narrative forms? But that's something we can answer only if we engage with the text on its own terms and attempt to understand why the text is doing what it is doing--otherwise, we're not so much critically engaging the text as criticizing it.

      Bottom line: I think there was a good deal more going on in the documentary--and going on legitimately--than we allowed for in our responses. And given the fact that far more people (including those in our congregations) watch Frontline than read Nestle-Aland, we have some responsibility perhaps, to explore what's going on therein as fully as we can. And speaking of congregations, from the standpoint of Christian Education, which of the two--documentary or CD--do you think would generate the most helpful discussion?

Response JEA:
      Thanks for this insightful, helpful response. Undoubtedly all of your points are valid and all of us non-pros in made-for-TV documentary productions are very much in your debt. (Recently, for my part, I have been reading and thinking about the work of Neil Postman, especially "Amusing Ourselves to Death [NY, 1985]," in this area of media genre). I can well imagine that producers of documentaries for the public face a world of "tradition" shaping what they do that is beyond what most of us could fathom. And in the case of the Book of Revelation - the "book" which they said this Frontline piece was about - at the turn of the Millennium and with a hopper full of Y2K agendas coming from all directions, I can only imagine the headaches they were facing.

      If we return to this matter in class or small group discussion, I would like to weigh the difference between "critique" and "criticism" and the limits and possibilities for genre appreciation in a particular case once one has been identified. For example, once a "docudrama" has come into being - even if it is the product of multiple genre pieces in a blend - it is to be seen and understood as a whole; that whole, moreover, ought to be subject - I would think - to the responsible critique of thinking, believing people.       And as regards the final question, which actually is very close to the place where we ended the discussion, I find it difficult to say which of the two would "generate the most helpful discussion" from a Christian education point of view. Both seemed to generate excellent discussion in our seminar, but as you say we are a mixed group that has, in addition to our traditions and personal preferences, the Greek text (and Mark as background to the genre question) with which to grapple. One of our members said he was teaching a Sunday school class on the Book of Revelation and may have used a video or CD in his approach; if so, maybe he could help us out here.


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Feb. 11-18 - Introductory Questions

Roloff, Introduction, pp. 1-17
L. Goppelt, Theology, Vol 2, pp. 178-197
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