- Revelation’s Hymns: Commentary on the Cosmic Conflict by Steven Grabiner
Grabiner’s book is a slightly revised version of his doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of South Africa in 2013. In this study he focused on the prevalent cosmic conflict motif as an integral part of the texture of Revelation. He argued that this leitmotif reaches every part of the storyline in this book. Furthermore, he investigated the hymnic pericopes found dispersed throughout the book through the lens of the [End Page 194] cosmic conflict motif. The motif of the war in heaven is allowed to have a dominant role in the interpretation of Revelation, therefore enhancing the understanding of the book’s plot and permitting the hymnic sections to make a meaningful contribution to the overarching narratival concerns.
Grabiner placed the hymnic sections within the literary setting of the heavenly temple, which has a controlling influence on the storyline. He argued that the cosmic conflict began in the temple environment, through the subtle misrepresentations of one of the members of the heavenly council. By placing the hymns in this setting, the heavenly voices that praise God and pronounce the justice of his actions are juxtaposed with the devious and elusive voice of accusation that initiated the heavenly war. By engaging the hymns in their narrative setting, the interpreter is assisted in discerning Revelation’s central concerns. These concerns are related to issues of the rightness of God’s rule.
Grabiner’s book is divided in eight chapters. Chapter one explains the aim and justification of the research, while providing an overview of the study. Chapter two provides the hermeneutical perspective from which Grabiner conducted his inquiry. He chose a narrative critical approach as method of exegesis. In chapter three Grabiner addresses some literary considerations pertaining to the book of Revelation. Chapter four investigates the textual markers within Revelation that brings the cosmic conflict theme to the foreground. Between chapters five and seven, Grabiner discusses the hymnic pericopes: Rev 4:8–11 and 5:9–14 in chapter five; Rev 7:9–12, 11:15–18 & 12:10–12 in chapter six; and Rev 15:3–4 and 19:1–8 in chapter seven. Chapter eight serves as summary and conclusion of the book.
Grabiner argues that the temple as setting makes an important contribution to understanding the storyline and function of the hymns in Revelation. Each hymnic pericope is placed in the setting of the temple, relating directly to issues emanating from the throne room. In his interpretation Grabiner allowed the war in heaven motif to have a governing role, and this makes chapter four of foundational importance for the study as a whole. Furthermore, Grabiner argues in favour of a correction of what he views as the misapprehension of the role of Satan in the Revelation narrative. His primary attributes in Revelation is his work of deception and slander and his role as persecutor. Satan’s ultimate aim is to divert the worship that should be given to God, to himself. This is attempted through misrepresentations and insinuations regarding God’s character and his right to rule. [End Page 195]
Read this way, Revelation’s storyline argues that Satan’s methods need to be unmasked and his character revealed in order to resolve the cosmic conflict. This happens when God reveals Himself in a way that dispels the deception created by Satan, through the revelatory work of Christ, the slain Lamb. Christ’s self-sacrifice serves to clarify God’s nature and the justice of his reign, with Christ’s position on the throne as identification of the truth about God.
Grabiner’s research leads him to conclude that the cosmic conflict theme in Revelation deserves more consideration than is usually given to it. This is the result of the frequent attempts to relate the book back to the historical context (that of the Roman Empire) at the time of composition. Grabiner feels that the conflict theme provides a controlling effect on...