The influence of ancient near eastern vassal treaties on the seven prophetic messages in revelation.

  • David E Graves

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


David Aune established the standard description of the genre of the seven proclamations of revelation 2–3 as “royal or imperial edict,” (Graeco-Roman influence) over 20 years ago,3 largely on the negative basis that the texts do not “rigidly replicate the generic features of any known ancient literary form.”
The thesis will challenge Aune’s statement by showing that there is a known form that is replicated in the messages, although not rigidly, namely that of the ancient Near Eastern vassal treaties (ANEVT) via the Torah and OT lawsuit material. The influence of the ANEVT on the seven messages of Revelation (SMR) indicates a Hebraic-Semitic influence which has a long history. It starts with the Hittite and Assyrian treaties and is identifiable inthe OT pentateuchal material, and the OT prophetic oracles. This large body of material influences John. While the Torah unmistakably shows the presence of the ANEVT
structure,5 elements are also present in the covenant lawsuit material of the OT prophets. Given the influence of the Torah on the prophets, it is natural for the prophetic use of the covenant lawsuit to contain elements of the ANEVT, particularly the sanctions of blessing and cursing evident in OT rîb patterns. John’s messages are hybrid6 prophetic oraclesincorporating the covenant lawsuit7 message of the prophets, structured after the covenant schema found in the Torah. The treaty scheme was not some amorphous idea of treaty but the covenant treaty of the Torah found throughout the OT.

The thesis will attempt to show that the genre of the seven messages in Revelation 2–3 is hybrid prophetic oracle influenced by the Hebraic-Semitic covenantal elements functioning as a set of paraenetic8 lawsuits. The presence of the ANEVT structure within the messages, consistent with the prophetic genre, will be demonstrated for each of the SMR, but exegetically highlighted more fully in the message to Smyrna9 (2:8–11), as a clear example of what is present in all of the messages. The ANEVT structures within the SMR are appropriate for prophetic oracles that call the churches to repentance and covenantal faithfulness.
Date of Award29 Nov 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Aberdeen
SupervisorHoward Marshall (Supervisor), Jamie Grant (Supervisor) & Alistair Wilson (Supervisor)

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