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The Urban Earthquake Imagery and Divine Judgement in John's Apocalypse

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This paper seeks to explain a Johannine innovation in first century apocalyptic: the urban earthquake. Assuming that John's Apocalypse is best understood against a backdrop of the historical and political setting of first century proconsular Asia, the paper presents three facts of provincial life under the Julio-Claudian Principate which, when seen together, suggest the significance of John's urban earthquake: 1. the cities of Asia were renown as the victims of devastating earthquakes; 2. the cities provided an infrastructure for Roman control; and 3. the cities were beneficiaries of publicly announced and memorialized imperial earthquake relief. In short, the apocalyptic urban earthquake demonstrates the victory of God over Caesar, for the cities which once were saved from seismic destruction by imperial benefaction, now experience a divine judgement against which Caesar can offer no help.


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