If you are in the area, I will be presenting at the Pacific Coast Region Society of Biblical Literature meeting tomorrow. The time and location are below:
I’m scheduled to present at one of the early morning sessions–“New Testament: Epistles and Apocalypse I”–starting at 8:30am. You can read the program for the meeting here. The paper that I will be presenting at the meeting–titled “Eschatology in Alexander’s Letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation”–is based on the article that I published recently with PLLS. Here is the abstract:
“The Alexander Romance is an open textual tradition comprised of numerous sources about the myths and exploits of Alexander the Great. The letter to Olympias is a special source in book 2 of the AR, appended to the text of recension β, but missing from recension α. The letter consists of a first person celestial travel narrative, in which Alexander journeys to the ends of the earth, descends into the sea, and flies into the air.
During his journey, Alexander describes seeing giant creatures with forearms and hands like saws, birds with human faces, and many other marvels. Although the preceding narrative in the AR is already quite legendary, the letter to Olympias stands out for its heightened fantastic elements, and it is written according to different generic conventions than the rest of the text.
Behind the baroque imagery in the letter is an eschatological undercurrent, in which Alexander pushes the world to its very limits. Similar themes of eschatology can also be found in other ancient accounts of celestial visions, such as the Book of Revelation. In the vision of John of Patmos he sees winged creatures covered in eyeballs, angelic beings, and the end of days. Unlike Alexander, who had merely traveled to the end of this world, John sees the world to come.
The letter to Olympias and the Book of Revelation offer two competing eschatologies. Alexander represents an earthly eschatology, whereas Christ represents an apocalyptic eschatology. Alexander may have been the greatest king of the Greeks, but Jesus is king over a divine and eternal kingdom. Comparing the eschatology in Revelation to other celestial travel accounts, such as the letter to Olympias, will shed light on the text’s role in defining the borders between the Christian and Greco-Roman worlds.”
You can also read this earlier blog post that I wrote on the same topic, in which I flesh out some more of my arguments and analysis. I look forward to presenting at the regional SBL meeting again. I last presented in 2016, and would have done so in 2017 (on the same paper as this year), but had to cancel due to a family related issue. I’m glad that I get a second chance to present the paper again this year, since I think that it is one of the most interesting research topics in my studies yet!