I recently learned that my paper proposal for the upcoming New England Regional Meeting of the SBL (April 18 at Andover-Newton Theological School) was accepted. The proposal was based upon my first term paper at Yale--written for Prof. Adela Collins in the fall of 2005. Here's the abstract:
Splish, splash: the symbolism of water in the Book of Revelation
Nearly two thousand years after its initial composition and dissemination, the Book of Revelation remains among the most enigmatic and inscrutable components of the biblical canon. Generations of clerics, commentators, scholars, and students have struggled to penetrate the thick veneer of historical, cultural, and hermeneutical patina which has so successfully hidden its secrets. But as Adela Yarbro Collins, Frederick Murphy, and other sensitive modern exegetes have noted, attention to Revelation’s original historical and literary milieu provides the most illuminating insights into its character and purpose. A cursory examination of the book reveals that its author is heavily dependent upon the symbolic imagery of the ancient Near East, as found in portions of the Hebrew Bible and in the literature of other contemporary societies. The author often utilizes this imagery in a fairly universal way, incorporating it into his own work while retaining and exploiting the intrinsic emotional and thematic connotations present in his source material. This paper will present an extended analysis of one of the most pervasive of these symbolic elements: the element of water, which appears more than two dozen times throughout the work in an array of forms. With this analysis in hand, it is eminently clear that the author of Revelation has appropriated three established aquatic archetypes—the tumultuous sea and other raging waters; life-giving rivers, streams, and springs; and the elements of the storm—as crucial buttresses for his presentation of the Christian God as the sole possessor of sovereign power.