NEW JERUSALEM: CONCEPTIONS OF REVELATION’S HOLY CITY IN LATE ANTIQUE CHRISTIANITY
One of the most recognizable figures in the Christian tradition, the extravagantly portrayed New Jerusalem of Revelation 21—22, was appropriated by Christians throughout the late-antique period to represent an array of meanings and support various priorities. The reception of these patristic notions of the New Jerusalem has had a direct, profound, and enduring influence on the idea of the holy city in both the West and East in many contexts and leaves a legacy that continues to shape our culture to this very day. For a variety of reasons, however, the foundational early-Christian understandings, uses, and abuses of the New Jerusalem idea have been mostly overlooked at an object of study in its own right. This symposium, therefore, seeks to refocus scholarly attention on the patristic reception of the biblical New Jerusalem.
Revelation's New Jerusalem has been taken to signify inter alia the believer's soul, the church universal, various ecclesiastical buildings, the present life of virtue, the future messianic reign, the coming reward of the just, and the consummated union of the virtuous with Christ in eternity. While in this symposium we will always center on the New Jerusalem as it appears in Revelation 21—22, we will also take into consideration accounts of the spiritual Jerusalem that emerge from a rich network of biblical, classical, and apocalyptic texts that ancient authors draw on in connection with the New Jerusalem. Examples of such sources include Paul's "Jerusalem above" text [Gal. 4:26], the "heavenly Jerusalem" passage of Heb. 12:21-22, representations of a renewed Jerusalem in the Psalter and the Prophets, Virgil's Eclogue 4, the Sibylline Oracles). Treatments of the New Jerusalem inspired by non-textual ancient sources will also be within our scope.
The focus of interest will be (1) the various late antique Christian interpretations of the New Jerusalem, the theological, ethical, and political priorities it has been enlisted to support, (2) the sources upon which these interpretations and appropriations were based, the earliest artistic realizations of the image, and, (3) the motivations of the actors involved. The period covered will be c. 150 – 800.
- Biblical exegesis: Patristic exegesis of Revelation 21-22 and corresponding pericopes. Topoi such as the tree of life, the river of water of life, precious stones, divine filiation, nuptial imagery. Common cognates, including Zion, the kingdom of heaven, Jerusalem above, the Holy City.
- Theology: The New Jerusalem and prophecy, eschatology, millennialism. The New Jerusalem and ecclesiology. The physical versus the spiritual Jerusalem. Mystical interpretations and applications.
- Ethics and pedagogy: The New Jerusalem, ethics, and the life of virtue. Functional and pedagogical use of New Jerusalem imagery.
- Material culture and liturgy. Expressions in early liturgy and sermons. Pilgrimages and pilgrims. Representations in early Christian material culture, especially iconography and sacred architecture.
- Politics, ethnicity, and empire: The New Jerusalem and empire. Old vs. New Jerusalem. Earthly vs. heavenly Jerusalem. Citizenship. Christians, Jews, and "the nations" in a new Jerusalem.
- Intertextuality and alternative perspectives: The New Jerusalem in Christian apocalyptic texts and contexts. The New Jerusalem in Montanism, gnostic teaching, and classical literature.