Reshaping the Prophets: The Influence of the Epistle of Enoch on John’s Critique of Wealth in the Seven Messages and Revelation 18

The language of Revelation 18 has been examined in detail for its many allusions to the Hebrew Bible, in particular the oracles against the nations of Tyre and Babylon in the prophetic tradition (Is 13, 23; Jer 50-51; Ezek 27). Yet a transformation of the language by the author is evident in his explicit denunciation of riches. Those who have dealt with this text in light of the biblical tradition have identified this transformation, though without an analysis or explanation that accounts for this shift. This raises the question: To what degree might more recent Jewish interpretive traditions related to wealth in the Second Temple period inform John’s portrayal of the faithful Christian community? The proposed study will examine the author’s sharp denigration of the rich (3:17) and praise of the poor (2:9) in the seven messages in connection with the critique of wealth in Revelation 18 and the call for the faithful to ‘Come out’ of Babylon. In light of a tradition-historical reading the study will compare the author’s language of wealth in the seven messages and the reformulation of prophetic traditions in Rev 18 with similar themes found in the Epistle of Enoch. The essay hopes to demonstrate that the worldview presupposed in the Apocalypse that distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked in terms of economic status has been shaped by the Enochic tradition. This allows us to suggest that John’s concerns over economic involvement among the Christian communities was not an ad hoc response to the Roman Empire, but was influenced by traditions already circulating in the Second Temple period that associated faithfulness with poverty and the rich with the wicked.