Patmos in the Reception History of the Apocalypse

ISBN : 9780199674206

Ian Boxall
288 Pages
162 x 241 mm
Pub date
Apr 2013
Oxford Theology and Religion Monographs
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This monograph explores the significance accorded to John's island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9) within the wider reception history of the Apocalypse. In contrast to the relatively scant attention paid to John's island in modern commentaries, this reception-historical survey reveals both the greater prominence accorded to Patmos by earlier interpreters, and the richer diversity of readings the text has provoked. These include interest in the physical character of Patmos and its significance as an island; the date and reason for John's sojourn there; attempts to locate Patmos in a geography which is sometimes more mythical than literal; the meaning of the name 'Patmos' in the context of a biblical book which treats other place-names symbolically. This diversity is supported by a close reading of Rev. 1:9, which highlights the extent to which even its literal sense is highly ambiguous. Ian Boxall brings together for the first time in a coherent narrative a wide range of interpretations of Patmos, reflecting different chronological periods, cultural contexts, and Christian traditions. Boxall understands biblical interpretation broadly, to include interpretations in biographical traditions about John, sermons, liturgy, and visual art as well as biblical commentaries.He also considers popular and marginal readings alongside magisterial and centrist ones, and draws analogies between similar hermeneutical strategies across the centuries. In the final chapter Boxall explores the wider implications of his study for biblical scholarship, advocating an approach which encourages use of the imagination and reader participation, and which works with a broader concept of 'meaning' than traditional historical criticism.


1. I was on the Island Called Patmos : Re-reading Rev. 1:9
2. Patmos in Early Patristic Tradition (2nd 5th Centuries)
3. Patmos in Early Medieval Latin Tradition (6th 10th Centuries)
4. Patmos in Later Medieval Latin Tradition (1000 1516)
5. Patmos in Eastern Traditions from the 5th Century
6. Patmos in Western Interpreters from 1517
7. Visual Interpretations of Patmos
8. Hermeneutical Reflections
Appendix 1: Patmos in Modern Commentators
Appendix 2: The Pre-Johannine Reception: Patmos in Classical Sources and Inscriptions

About the author: 

Ian Boxall, Senior Tutor and Tutorial Fellow in New Testament, St Stephen's House, Oxford

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