Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Defining an Apocalypse and Making Toast

We have recently come to the end of the semester here at Duke and in my New Testament Introduction, we reached the Book of Revelation right at the end, just as one should.  One of the things I always like to stress to introductory students is that "Revelation" is the same word as "Apocalypse" and that understanding apocalyptic is not simply about eschatology but is also, more importantly, about the open heaven and the revelation of divine secrets.

While I was retailing the SBL Apocalypse Group definition from 1979, I couldn't help finding myself amused by an element in it.  Take a look:
"Apocalypse" is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated  by an otherworldly being  to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world."
I've seen this and thought about this many times over the last twenty years or so, but what struck me on this occasion is that it contains the word being defined within the definition!  Since "revelation" is another way of saying "apocalypse", I can't help thinking that this is a bit like one of the recipes in a book I used to use as a student, The Gourmet Vegan by Heather Lamont.  In a section headed "Eating to Survive", the book helpfully explains how to make "toast" lest anyone is unfamiliar with the concept:
Used sliced wholemeal bread or bread buns, halved.  Toast until golden. Spread with vegan margarine, and any vegan jams, preserves, marmalades or Marmite . . ."
This used to strike me as hilarious.  The implied reader is a hypothetical (one might say non-existent) person who does does not know what "toast" is.  Should there be such an unlikely person who has purchased The Gourmet Vegan, they would hardly be helped in their ignorance of what "toast" is by invoking the verb "to toast".

It's worrying the kind of links that your mind makes when you are in the middle of teaching.  Perhaps it's just me.


Keen Reader said...

On another topic, you haven't posted much about 'Bible Secrets Revealed'. What do you make of it so far?

There seems to have been a lot of promotion of it by various bibliobloggers before the first episode screened, and now it's all gone quiet.

Bit like the Gospel of Jesus' Wife in that respect!

Peter Malik said...

Having been a vegetarian at one point and still being a Christian, it seems to me that, in a sense, calling a vegan recipe book "Gourmet Vegan" is as bizarre (and oxymoronic) as calling a piece of visionary literature "Apocalypse/Revelation of John". In any event, are you a vegan yourself? :)

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Keen Reader. To be honest, I never quite know how to comment on TV programmes that I appear in! It's much easier to talk about other people's stuff.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Peter. I am ashamed to say that I am an ex-vegan. But one of my daughters is a vegan, so perhaps I've been an influence for good.

I love your comments, though. It's even more funny to think of "toast" being a key recipe in a "gourmet" diet!

Unknown said...

I love reading Apocalypse, because I do believe that the End is near... CISMP course