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HÖCK Andreas

The «katabasis» of the New Jerusalem. A Discourse Analysis of Rev 21:1--22:5

Mod.: R.P. Ugo Vanni, S.J.   This doctoral thesis is an attempt of a discourse-analysis of the last and longest of John's visions in his Apocalypse, 21:1–22:5. Typical of this approach is its surpassing of sentence boundaries towards a text-oriented and essentially synchronic exegesis. The aim is to contribute to the solution of questions posed by contemporary scholarship: the seemingly abnormal tense use, the puzzling merging and veiling of protagonists, the repeated description of the descent of the New Jerusalem in 21:2 and 21:10, the redundancy of figurative expressions, and the apparent lack of inner-textual logic. Through the subdivision into seven macro-sentences all textual characteristics (such as antithetical language, verb tense fluctuation, lists, intra-textual interpretive hints, accumulative symbology, and reiterative description of identical issues) are understood as goal-directed elements of communication. The criteria for such a segmentation of the discourse are 'change in worlds', episode markers, and change of active subjects, called 'actants'. The underlying intent is to show the inherent flux of communication, the logical embodiment of words, clauses and macro-sentences into the ultimate unit of exegetical analysis, i.e., the text.

 Among the principal conclusions reached is the recognition that the hagiographer contemplates the main theme (theandric communion) from ever varying perspectives, displayed in orbiting and interpenetrating rhemata in a logic of circularity. Thus, the reiteration of the New Jerusalem's descent can be explained with the text-linguistic device of anticipation and detailed resumption of a theme. In order to ensure a correct interpretation of an ample imagery he offers regular hermeneutic-sapiential hints. Furthermore, the discourse is composed of a paratactic-reiterative pattern of descriptive, interpretive, prophetic and antithetical passages with their typical tenses. The hagiographer engages in a vivid dialogue not only with his own visionary account, but also with several books of the Old Testament. His inter-textual relationship with them takes place on the level of creative semantic-thematic innuendos and stunningly original blending. While on the one hand this technique guarantees a certain literary continuity, on the other hand it stimulates the hearer's own ingenuity.

On account of its position at the end of the book and its thematic expressiveness, 21:1–22:5 can be called the absolute climax of the Apocalypse. Yet, the discourse itself presents a double climactic movement: the first textual zenith, 21:5-8, is reached at the end of the first part, 21:1-8, with God's prediction of a perfect covenant. The end of the second part of the discourse, 22:1-5, can be defined as the second and absolute apex, where the author prophetically delineates the accomplished theandric communion. In addition, the mainly descriptive-interpretive discourse parts, 21:9-14.18-21, with the symbolic action of the angelic guide in their center, 21:15-17, are encircled by a fourfold prophetic comment, 21:1-4.5-8.22-27; 22:1-5.

John uses characteristic tenses in determinate discourse sections. The aorist tense prevalently signals an objective vision linearity. The future tense occurs mainly in four prophetic text segments, while the present tense, typifying the interpretive and antithetical text sections, unveils the author's subjective perspective independent of the vision plot. The remotest retrospective viewpoint is the prophetic perfect, broadening the temporal deixis of the text. However, the perfect, aorist, imperfect, present and future tenses are constantly oscillating, aiding the hearer to realize both the imminence and the futurity of the realities portrayed. This fusion of the horizons of time and space finds its quintessential expression is the katabasis of the Holy City.