Preaching in the Last Days : The Theme of `Two Witnesses' in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Visionary strength was given to the piety, polity, and political activity of Protestantism in its formative periods through the way in which the Apocalypse was read. By identifying with the text depicting two witnesses, or prophets, who preach at the end of history, are slain by the beast from the abyss (understood to be Antichrist), and rise again victoriously, representatives of the Protestant movement found a measure of self-identity. This text, Revelation 11:3-13, became the lens through which many envisioned the movement of history from the first advent of Christ to his promised return. It was used by earlier reform movements, but it lent special definition to the work of Protestant ministers through the nineteenth century, suggesting different approaches to social organization. Preaching in the Last Days is a study in the history of how the Apocalypse was read. It is also an examination of how social groups are formed through ideas occasioned by texts. It offers an account of the interplay between religious and social history during the time of the development of Protestantism. Petersen's study provides a fascinating look at the theological significance of how we read biblical texts and the insights this offers on the development of culture, the Christian movement, and its churches. The book is especially important for understanding the assumptions behind the ways in which the book of Revelation is being read and used in our own day.
- Hardback | 336 pages
- 160 x 237.2 x 27.4mm | 684.94g
- 01 Jan 1997
- Oxford University Press
- Oxford, United Kingdom
Back cover copy
Reform-minded movements have long appealed to the Apocalypse, for it served to whet the visionary appetite. Early in the church's history speculation grew up around the text - Revelation 11:3-13 - depicting two witnesses, or prophets, who preach at the end of history against the beast from the abyss, the epitome of evil, called Antichrist. Different interpretive methodologies have discovered different meanings in the text, and a symbolic value for political or ecclesial reform has been identified with it throughout the history of its use. The witnesses have been linked to a time of culminating evil, to the final proclamation of hope, and to the end of history associated with divine judgment. Such speculation found ample expression in medieval literature, art, and drama. In the writings of reformers, however, the story acquired increased social implications. The text of the Apocalypse came to lend visionary strength to Protestant piety, polity, and political activity, and the adventual witnesses became increasingly visible in Protestant polemics. Anglo-American commentators, in particular, have used the text both for self-identity and as part of a formula for plotting the onset of Christ's millennial reign. Tracing the history of how the Apocalypse was read, Preaching in the Last Days sheds light on how social groups are formed through ideas occasioned by texts. Petersen's study provides a fascinating look at the theological significance of how we read biblical texts and offers new insights on the development of culture, the Christian movement, and its churches. The book has added importance for understanding the assumptions behind the ways in which the book of Revelation is read andused in our own day.
contains some fascinating information * Alastair Hamilton, University of Amsterdam, Heythrop Journal, July 1997, Vol. 38, No. 3 * The book has been thoroughly researched, contains a wealth of interesting detail and valuable observations... * Journal of Theological Studies Vol 46 no 1 * `a valuable addition to our understanding of a theme that currently evokes a lot of attention.'Richard Pierard, Indiana State University