Bodies and maps

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Bodies and maps the seer's journey in the Apocalypse of Paul
Rousseau, T. Katherine
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vii, 115 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm


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Apocalypse of PaulCriticism, interpretation, etc ( lcsh )
Apocalypse of Paul ( fast )
Criticism, interpretation, etc. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Criticism, interpretation, etc ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 105-115).
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Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by T. Katherine Rousseau.

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Full Text
T. Katherine Rousseau
B.A., Carleton University, 1993
M.A., Dalhousie University, 1994
Ph.D., Dalhousie University, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities

This thesis for the Master of Humanities
degree by
T. Katherine Rousseau
has been approved
David Valeta
V/io/0 9

Rousseau, T. Katherine (M.H.)
Bodies and Maps: The Seers Journey in the Apocalypse of Paul
Thesis directed by Dr. Margaret Woodhull
Does apocalyptic discourse necessitate the framing of the physical world and body as
fallen, in need of eschatological renewal and restoration? In the late antique
Christian extra-canonical text, the Apocalypse of Paul, physical phenomena have a
central role, displayed as the seer moves through the museum-like space of the
apocalyptic landscape. The Apocalypse of Paul functions like a verbal icon, in
DeConicks words, not unlike a pictorial icon: it evokes a similar map for the
audience, who actively participate in Pauls journey through memory and
imagination. During Pauls journey, his experiences are manifest and integral to the
revelation, through sight and sound, the promise of taste and smell, and the travel
through contrasting geographic terrains. The narrators senses and his movement
through spaces are narrative delivery systems for the apocalyptic journey and its
persuasion impact. However, there is a tension even a paradox between the texts
persuasive tactics and its overall message. Images of the physical body and world are
decisive conveyors of the texts message, directing the devotees imagination towards
a metaphorical journey and virtuous behavior. At the same time, physical bodies and
places may be circumscribed or appear distorted in both the verbal and pictorial icon.
Consequently, the apocalyptic narrative in the text qualifies but does not reject
dualistic divisions between this-worldly and otherworldly matters.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.

I would like to sincerely thank my advisor, Margaret Woodhull, for her many
contributions to my research and my growth. I also wish to thank the members of my
committee, Rob Metcalf and David Valeta, for their valuable role in my studies. In
addition, I owe much to my supporter and volunteer editor, Stephen Gombosi.

Significance of Research.....................................3
Literature Review............................................5
Implications for Future Research............................21
VERBAL ICON.....................................................23
DeConicks Analogy: The Otherwordly Journey as Verbal Icon..26
Memory and Imagination in its Place...................28
Sensory and Geographic Signposts in the Apocalypse of Paul...33
Ekphrasis as Invitation to the Audience...............41
Emotion as Invitation to the Audience.................53
PICTORIAL ICONS.................................................58
Points of Convergence: Verbal and Pictorial Icon............67
Points of Divergence: Verbal and Pictorial Icon.............82
IMPLICATIONS OF DECONICKS ANALOGY..............................91


2.1 St. Elizabeth of Hungary: North arcade: interior view......................32
3.1 Christ Pantocrator.........................................................65
3.2 Mother of God with Saints Theodore and George.............................70
3.3 Mother of God with Saints Theodore and George: Det.: Angels...............71
3.4 Saint Peter................................................................75
3.5 St. Elizabeth of Hungary: Sanctuary view: iconostasis......................81
3.6 Church of St. Demetrios: nave mosaic: St. Demetrios between bishop
and a high official: det....................................................89
3.7 Church of St. Demetrios: wall mosaic: St. Demetrios with a cleric..........90

Does apocalyptic discourse require us to frame territories and bodies as
fallen, in need of eschatological renewal and restoration? Whether we are
discussing early Jewish and Christian texts or the end-time beliefs of contemporary
millennial groups, the roles assigned to the physical world in the apocalyptic drama
can be both ambiguous and provocative. The physical aspects of apocalyptic
narrative and our interaction with them remain significant, whether they involve the
dividing line between territories of the dead and the living, the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem, or the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
Is it possible, then, to locate bodies and territories as central actors in an
apocalyptic drama? I explore this question using the early Christian non-canonical
text, the Apocalypse of Paul I examine how body and territory become vital
characters in the apocalyptic narrative, essential and necessary for the communication
of the goals of the text. I argue the following: the Apocalypse of Paul produces a
verbal map that valorizes place and body, using them as central persuasive strategies.
I read the text as a potential verbal icon, in April DeConicks words, evoking for

the devotee a relationship with divine mysteries much like a Byzantine pictorial icon.1 2 3
This verbal icon function operates as the narrative outlines the otherworldly journey,
describing it as a sensory and geographic revelation experienced by Paul, thereby
inviting the devotee as audience to participate in it as an iconic event. Here, the text
acts as an iconic window between earthly places and non-earthly places, establishing
a boundary line yet permitting a line of sight. The text persuades by engaging the
audience to appropriate its mysteries through vivid descriptions and a sensory
matrix. It simultaneously regulates the audience as it deploys the physical world to
convey didactic messages, displaying the apocalyptic landscape to Paul as he moves
through it and learns lessons. Because of the texts persuasive tactics of invitation
and regulation, the Apocalypse of Paul has as much to say about its earthly world
than any renewed, future world to come.4 I conclude that the central role of place and
body in communicating the goals of the text serves to qualify, if not repudiate, their
1 April D. DeConick, ed., What is Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism? Paradise Now: Essays on
Early Jewish and Christian Mysticism (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2006), 24. For other
uses of the term verbal icon, see Steven S. Tuell, Ezekiel 40-42 as Verbal Icon, Catholic Biblical
Quarterly 58.4 (1996): 649-664. Tuell argues that the visionary report of the temple in the passage
serves as a verbal icon, allowing Ezekiels audience to share and access in the prophets transcendant
2 See DeConick 24 on the appropriation of the text and its mysteries by following in the path of the
3 Ellen Bradshaw Aitken, The Landscape of Promise in the Apocalypse of Paul, Walk in the Wavs of
Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. ed. Shelly Matthews, Cynthia Briggs
Kittredge and Melanie Johnston-DeBauffe (Harrisburg, PA: Continuum International, 2003), 154.
4 Aitken 155.

role as merely fallen or transitory in the Apocalypse of Paul. This in turn suggests
that place and body may have an important role in apocalyptic journey narrative, if an
ambivalent role.
My thesis will be divided as follows: Chapter 1 details my thesis statement,
literature review and methodology. Chapter 2 assesses the text as a verbal icon that
invites the reader to participate in Pauls mapped journey. Chapter 3 examines the
comparison between the text as a verbal icon and the pictorial icon, outlining points
of convergence and divergence between the two types. Finally, Chapter 4 explores
the limits and implications of DeConicks analogy, particularly regarding apocalyptic
Significance of Research
VanderKam points to the prevailing scholarly emphasis on eschatological and
historical aspects of apocalypses,5 while DeConick states that this emphasis privileges
eschatology over the experiential nature of revelation as described in apocalyptic
texts.6 The scholarship on the Apocalypse of Paul in particular has, according to
5 James C. VanderKam, Messianism and Apocalypticism, The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism,
Vol. 1: The Origins of Apocalypticism in Judaism and Christianity, ed. John Joseph Collins, Bernard
McGinn, and Stephen J. Stein (New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1998), 196.
6 DeConick 18-19. See also Wolfson on the importance of experiential and hermeneutic modes in the
study of Jewish mystical ascents the ascent can be understood both as a how-to manual and as a
text for interpretation. Elliot R. Wolfson, Forms of Visionary Ascent as Ecstatic Experience in the
Zoharic Literature, Gershom Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism 50 Years After:
Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on the History of Jewish Mysticism, ed. Peter
Schafer and Joseph Dan (Tubingen: Mohr, 1993), 209-210.

Aitken, focused on genre, reception history, and source criticism, but not what the
text does or how the text functions to communicate with its audience.7 I would chart
the scholarship on the Apocalypse of Paul as emphasizing its theology, source
criticism, historical influence, and relationship with otherworldly journey literatures.8
In particular, I would note J.K. Elliotts attention to the ascetic interests of the
otherwise theologically orthodox text.9
In contrast, I am more concerned with the persuasive functions of the text and
their relationship to discursive practices about the physical world in apocalyptic
narrative. Thus, my work develops and connects the research agendas outlined by
7 Aitken 154. Aitken singles out Richard Bauckhams treatment of the Apocalypse of Paul as overly
focused on the fate of the dead when, as Aitken argues, the text is emphatically making an argument
about the present world, or as Himmelfarb states: The purpose of the Apocalypse of Paul is to
encourage proper behavior among Christians. Martha Himmelfarb, The Experience of the Visionary
and Genre in the Ascension of Isaiah 6-11 and the Apocalypse of Paul, Semeia 36(1986): 108. For a
summary of Bauckhams argument, see The Fate of the Dead: Studies on Jewish and Christian
Apocalypses (Boston: Brill, 1998), 92-93 and Early Jewish Visions of Hell, Journal of Theological
Studies 41.2 (1990): 356.
8 Theodore Silverstein, Did Dante Know the Vision of Saint Paul? Harvard Studies and Notes in
Philology and Literature 19 (1937): 231^17; R.P Casey, The Apocalypse of Paul, Journal of
Theological Studies 34 (1933): 1-32; James Tabor, Things Unutterable: Paul's Ascent to Paradise in its
Greco-Roman, Judaic, and Early Christian Contexts (Lanham, MD: University Press of America,
1986); Martha Himmelfarb, The Experience of the Visionary; Vernon K. Robbins, The Legacy of 2
Corinthians 12:2-4 in the Apocalypse of Paul, Paul and the Corinthians, ed. Trevor J. Burke & J. K.
Elliott (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 327-339; J.R. Harrison, In Quest of the Third Heaven: Paul and his
Apocalyptic Imitators, Vigiliae Christianae 58.1 (2004): 24-55; Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead 92-
9 J.K Elliott, ed., The Apocryphal New Testament: A Collection of Apocryphal Christian Literature in
an English Translation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 616.

DeConick and Aitken: I emphasize the study of internalized apocalypse10 as a
personal experience and I examine how the Apocalypse of Paul communicates its
goals to the audience. My research invites further avenues of inquiry, outlined in my
conclusion. Ultimately, assessing the role of body and territory in the Apocalypse of
Paul provides insights into the text itself and into the role of the physical in
otherworldly journey discourse.
Literature Review
The scholarly literature on apocalyptic discourse exposes the complex
relationship between the restored paradise of the future and the physical world of the
present. The literature examines the tension between the current and future worlds:
the former is seen as corrupt so fundamentally that a cosmic reordering of the
universe is required. There is a sharp distinction drawn between the current wicked
age and the righteous age to come. Such dualism and two-age theology, argues
Hahne, are characteristic of the foundational Jewish apocalyptic tradition, later
adapted in Christian beliefs about an ultimate deliverance from the death that infects
the creation.11 12 There is, then, a struggle between apocalyptic pessimism in this
world and apocalyptic optimism in a renewed future. Meeks points to the
10 DeConick 18.
11 Harry Alan Hahne, The Corruption and Redemption of Creation: Nature in Romans 8:19-22
(Harrisburg, PA: Continuum International, 2006), 9 and 15.
12 Hahne 9. Cf. DiTommaso on moral dualism in apocalyptic literature. Lorenzo DiTommaso,

implications of this dualistic framework: it divides this world from the world to come
and now-dwellers from then-dwellers in heaven, separating place from place in order
to call to mind the no-place of the world that is beyond space.13
Some scholars point to the apocalyptic theme of the present world as
fundamentally out of joint,14 as well as to the motif of a restored human race
returning to a non-earthly paradise.15 Murphy argues that Jewish apocalypses that
detail heavenly ascents developed in tandem with the de-sacralization of the earthly
temple: what had been defiled on earth could be restored as ideal in another future
world.16 Yet others stress the discursive violence against earth and body produced by
apocalyptic thinking, particularly from a gendered perspective.17
This is not to suggest that apocalyptic dualism regarding the physical world is
absolute. Hawkin points to the ability of apocalyptic narrative to critique
Apocalypses and Apocalypticism in Antiquity (Part I), Currents in Biblical Research 5 (2007): 236.
13 Wayne A. Meeks, Apocalyptic Discourse and Strategies of Goodness, Journal of Religion 80.3
(2000): 463.
14 John J. Collins, The Jewish Apocalypses, Semeia 14 (1979): 27.
15 David Aune, Apocalypse Renewed, The Reality of Apocalypse: Rhetoric and Politics in the Book
of Revelation, David L. Barr, ed. (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 68.
16 Francesca Aran Murphy, The Comedy of Revelation: Paradise Lost and Regained in Biblical
Narrative (Edinburgh. T&T Clark: 2000), 189.
17 See Catherine Keller, Ms. Calculating the Apocalypse, Gender and Apocalyptic Desire, ed.
Brenda E. Brasher and Lee Quimby. London: Equinox, 2006), 1-13; Tina Pippen, Apocalyptic Bodies:
The Visual End of the World in Text and Image (New York: Routledge, 1999) and The Joy of
(Apocalyptic) Sex, Gender and Apocalyptic Desire 64-75.

imperialisms destruction of nature, for example.18 As well, Bynum and Freedman
point to the work of Oscar Cullman, who argued that Christian eschatology was based
on Hebrew notions of an embodied being, not the Greek Platonic identification of
soul with the self.19 20 Evidently, the role of the physical world in apocalyptic discourse
is a continued source of debate, but we can identify a strong emphasis on divisions
between "this-worldly and next-worldly concerns in the literature.
While navigating these debates, my work is informed by the widely-used
definition of an apocalypse developed by the 1979 Society of Biblical Literature
(SBL) genres group, as updated by the 1986 SBL Seminar on Early Christian
Apocalypses. Specifically, I am concerned with the type lib apocalypses outlined in
the 1979 SBL typology, featuring an otherworldly journey with cosmic and/or
18 David J. Hawkin, The Critique of Ideology in the Book of Revelation and its Implications for
Ecology. Ecotheology: Journal of Religion. Nature & the Environment 8.2 (December 2003): 161-
19 Caroline Walker Bynum and Paul Freedman, eds., Introduction, Last Things: Death and the
Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 7.
20 The SBL genres group defined an apocalypse as a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative
framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient,
disclosing a transcendent reality, which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological
salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world. John J. Collins,
Introduction: Towards the Morphology of a Genre, Semeia 14 (1979): 9. In 1986, the follow-up to
the Apocalypse Group of the Society of Biblical Literatures Genres Project emphasized the function of
apocalypses as influencing understanding and behavior in the audience. Adela Yarbro Collins,
Introduction: Early Christian Apocalypticism, Semeia 36 (1986): 13. The SBL genres project was
part of a general resurgence of scholarly interest in apocalyptic literature and thought in the 1970s. See
DiTommaso, Apocalypses and Apocalypticism in Antiquity (Part I) 236-9 and passim.

9 1
political eschatology. However, I am also concerned with critiques of the SBL
typology, particularly those critiques relating to otherworldly tours. Himmelfarb
notes that while the SBL apocalyptic genre project makes a generally successful
attempt to correct the emphasis on historical-eschatological apocalypses, it is still
influenced by a scholarly bias towards eschatological matters. Texts are classified in
the SBL typology according to the presence of cosmic and/or political eschatology,
no matter how minor a textual feature. The classification of the Apocalypse of Paul is
an example of this bias, given its type lib label despite the fact that eschatology is a
small aspect of the text and it might be better grouped with other journey
Groupings of apocalyptic texts based on family resemblances are
heuristically useful; however, Himmelfarb effectively points to the implicit emphasis
on eschatology over otherwordly elements, such as geography, in the SBL typology.
DeConick also addresses this problem by arguing for a shift in how we approach
apocalyptic texts: an apocalypse is best understood, she states, as an account of a
mystical revelation experienced by an individual. She is critical of scholarly neglect
of this narrative of internalized apocalypse in favor of a preoccupation with the
eschatological unfolding of history. Indeed, she takes particular aim at the 1979 SBL
definition of an apocalypse, noting that it minimizes the description of the mystic 21 22
21 J. Collins, Introduction 15.
22 Himmelfarb, The Experience of the Visionary 106.

experience itself. She suggests that an otherworldly journey apocalypse is more than
just an imaginative narrative: the text is a means of bringing the devotee closer to the
divine, comparing it to the Byzantine icon.
I consider otherworldly journeys or cosmic tours as important in their own
right, and not merely a sub-classification of the apocalyptic genre.23 24 Moreover, the
otherworldly journey or cosmic tour suggests the necessary presence and perspective
of the one journeying or touring; this in turn implies an experiential adventure for the
joumeyer. In addition, physical elements become important for displaying the details
of the journey to the witnessing traveler: Himmelfarb, for example, carefully outlines
measure-for-measure and environmental eschatological punishments featured in
apocalyptic tours, further demonstrating the importance of body and place in
transmitting the goals of a text.25 In addition, I read the otherworldly tour as
intimately connected with accounts of visions of the throne of God or the heavenly
23 DeConick 24.
24 For the literature on otherworldly journeys, see Martha Himmelfarb, Tours Of Hell: An Apocalyptic
Form In Jewish And Christian Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983) and
Ascent to Heaven in Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993);
Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead: Kelley Coblentz Bautch, Situating the Afterlife, Paradise
Now 249-264; Kirsti B. Copeland, The Earthly Monastery and the Transformation of the Heavenly
City in Late Antique Egypt, Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities in Late Antique Religions, ed.
Raanan S. Boustan and Annette Yoshiko Reed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 142-
158. Bauckham, 355-56, notes in particular that apocalyptic sub-groupings of tours notably tours of
hell displaying the fate of the dead have suffered some scholarly neglect, even as they have been
historically important.
25 Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell. Measure-for-measure judgments will be explored in more detail in
Chapter 3.

temple in Jewish mystical traditions and apocalyptic literature as well as visits to
the underworld (katabasis) in the Greek and Roman traditions. In this sense, the
Apocalypse of Paul participates in, and contributes to, longstanding narrative
traditions. These narrative traditions intersect at different points with Greek and
Roman trips to the underworld, Jewish otherworldly vision stories like 1 Enoch and 4
Esdras, and Christian apocryphal literature featuring visions of paradise, and
likewise Zoroastrian concepts of cosmic dualism and eschatological judgment. We
have, at the heart of it, an epic story of a heros travels to the underworld presented in
a fantastical manner.26 27 28 29 30
I also connect the literature on apocalyptic otherworldly journeys with the
26 The contributing authors in Paradise Now and Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities explore the
relationship between merkavah or Temple vision traditions and apocalyptic journeys. See also John J.
Collins and Michael Fishbume, eds., Death. Ecstasy, and Other Worldly Journeys (Albany: State
University of New York Press, 1995).
27 Radcliffe G. Edmonds, 111, Myths of the Underworld Journey: Plato. Aristophanes, and the Orphic
Gold Tablets (New York: Cambridge Universtiy Press, 2004), 13-15; Paul Binski, Medieval Death:
Ritual and Representation (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 166; Bauckham, The Fate of
the Dead 21-22: A.Y. Collins, Introduction 3. Plato, as one instance, deployed multiple myths in his
dialogues to show the judgment of the dead in the underworld prior to the next reincarnation: Phaedo
(113d), the Myth of Er in the Republic (614b-621 b), Apology (41a), and Crito (54c).
28A. Hilhorst, A Visit to Paradise: Apocalypse of Paul 45 and its Background, Paradise Interpreted:
Representations of Biblical Paradise in Judaism and Christianity, ed. Gerard P. Luttikhuizen (Leiden:
Brill, 1999), 134.
29 Norman Cohn, Cosmos. Chaos, and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith.
2nd ed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001).
30 Tamas Adamik, The Apocalypse of Paul and Fantastic Literature, The Visio Pauli and the Gnostic
Apocalypse of Paul, ed. Jan Bremmer and Istvan Czachesz (Dudley, MA: Peeters, 2007), 145.

1 I
literature on ritual and sacred space as Robbins argues, there is insufficient
attention paid to the rhetorical relationship between apocalyptic discourse and the
spaces in which that discourse operates. In particular, Aitkens treatment of
landscape as a rhetorical device in the Apocalypse of Paul is a key point of departure
for my thesis. Aitken emphasizes the texts use of ekphrasis, or the detailed
descriptions of a scene such that the audience pictures it mentally. This ekphrastic
technique, evoking Roman landscape painting and the regulatory discourse around it,
conveys a persuasive message to the audience.31 32 33 34 I argue that this descriptive strategy
31 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans. William Trask (San Diego:
Harcourt, 1987); Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1987); Leonard L. Thompson, Mapping an Apocalyptic World, Sacred Places and
Profane Spaces: Essays on the Geographies of Judaism. Christianity, and Islam, ed. Jamie Scott and
Paul Simpson-Housley (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991), 115-130; Carol Duncan, Civilizing
Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (New York: Routledge, 1995).
32 Vernon K. Robbins, Rhetorical Ritual: Apocalyptic Discourse in Mark 13, Vision and Persuasion:
Rhetorical Dimensions of Apocalyptic Discourse, ed. Gregory Carey and L. Gregory Bloomquist (St.
Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1999), 96.
33 Aitken 153 n.l. Here, Aitken draws on Schussler-Fiorenzas idea of the apocalypse of John as
visionary rhetoric that must be approached like a work of art. When speaking of the text of Revelation,
with its apocalyptic visions, Schussler-Fiorenza argues that it must be appreciated as a work of art with
an overall composition: rather like a symphony, its tonal colors, music forms, motifs and relationships
all must be appreciated. Elisabeth SchUssler-Fiorenza, Revelation: Vision of a Just World
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), 32.
34 Aitken 157. See Humphrey for a discussion of the rhetorical strategy, demonstration in New
Testament vision reports, an ancient rhetorical move in which the argument is vividly depicted before
the eyes of the audience. Edith M. Humphrey, To Rejoice or Not to Rejoice? The Reality of
Apocalypse 114. Frank points to multiple terminology for this rhetorical strategy: scriptio, ekphrasis,
enargeia, evidentia, repraesentio, illustratio, demonstratio, all sharing the common goal to awaken
the audiences mental senses so that they might visualize the event, person, or place being described.
Georgia Frank, Taste and See: The Eucharist and the Eyes of Faith in the Fourth Century, Church
History 70.4 (2001): 641. See also Balch on the potential reinforcement that Roman domestic art of

is part of an overall sensory matrix in the Apocalypse of Paul, persuading by inviting
the audience to walk with Paul through the revelatory landscape, seeing what he sees
and hearing what he hears. The audience thereby re-enacts the journey.
Carol Duncan states that a ritual space is programmed for the enactment of
something35 36 and as I argue, Paul moves through the displays of otherworldly
rewards and punishments, responding accordingly with awe, fear, and adoration.
Paul enacts certain emotional behaviors in specific places, interacting with the ritual
locations of the journey, encouraging the audience to imagine itself doing the same.
Given Pauls perspective as narrator moving through the landscape, I stress the
importance of the body in conferring meaning to space; this incorporates a distinction
between space and place, the latter denoting areas through which a human body
moves and perceives.
mythic stories could lend to an apocalyptic text such as Revelation. As Revelation was read aloud to
an audience, the resulting word pictures would invoke familiar frescoes, statues or mosaics detailing
the related myth. David L. Balch, A Woman Clothed with the Sun and the Great Red Dragon
Seeking to Devour Her Child (Rev 12:1, 4) in Roman Domestic Art, New Testament and Early
Christian Literature in Greco-Roman Context: Studies in Honor of David E. Aune. ed. John
Fotopoulos (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 287.
35 Duncan 477.
36 See Michael L. Harrington, Sacred Place in Early Medieval Neoplatonism (New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2004), 42-43 for its discussion of Edward Casey and the body conferring meaning to
space. See also Smith, To Take Place 27-28.

Text and Genre
J.K. Elliott describes my primary text, the Apocalypse of Paul, as a rambling,
repetitive, and poorly constructed work. The text has been translated into various
languages from its earliest Greek form Syriac, Coptic, Latin among them and has
circulated in several recensions. There is some debate as to the dating of the
Apocalypse of Paul: it is generally dated in its initial Egyptian Greek form to the mid-
third century, developing into a longer version with framing introduction in the late
fourth CE. My principle source is Elliotts 1993 translation, an update after M.R.
Jamess seminal translation of the fifth or sixth century CE long Latin manuscript
(extant in the eight century copy, Paris MS 1631). Theodore Silverstein and Anthony
Hilhorsts 1997 critical edition of the three long Latin versions is also used as a
supplement. Adamik, in contrast to Elliott, notes that while the Latin translation is
vulgar, its structure is sophisticated and demonstrates an exciting flow, which may 37 38
37 Elliott 616.
38 See Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin. Development, and
Significance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 186-87. Metzger cites Caseys 1933 article on
the dating of the text: Casey has been influential in the two stage dating theory for the Apocalypse of
Paul the original Greek Egyptian text in the early to mid-third century, followed by the version with
Theodosius introduction dated to the late fourth century. See R.P. Casey, The Apocalypse of Paul,
Journal of Theological Studies 34 (1933): 1-32. For a contrary view, see Copeland 142-158.
Copeland argues for the fourth century date without the earlier stage.

account for its impact on medieval literature.39 I chose the Apocalypse of Paul as my
central text for its acknowledged attention to the geography of the otherworldly
journey, as well as for its profound influence on early Christian conceptualizations of
territories of heaven and hell.40
In the Apocalypse of Paul, the pseudonymous Paul is caught up while in
the body {Apoc. Paul 3), traveling to the heavens, paradise, and the realm of the
dead. Like a midrashic tale, the Jewish commentary on scriptures told with
interpretive freedom and imagination, the text develops a brief episode from a
canonical letter of Paul, 2 Cor. 12:2-4. In that letter, Paul describes a strange journey
to the third heaven, whether in the body or not he does not know, where
inexpressible things are revealed that no mortal is permitted to repeat. The
Apocalypse of Paul, written in its first form some two centuries later, invokes the
same wording Paul hears secret words which it is not lawful for men to speak -
yet renders the inexpressible expressible, as Paul is propelled though the landscape of
revelation {Apoc. Paul Intro.).
In the Apocalypse of Paul, Pauls experiences during his journey are
expressed in terms of his own bodily senses, his movement through territories, and
39 Adamik 152.
40 Indeed, the Apocalypse of Paul has been identified as part of the family of texts with the early
second century Apocalypse of Peter as parent that provided the foundation for subsequent medieval
visions of the other world. See, for example, Jean Delumeau, History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden
in Myth and Tradition, trans. Matthew O'Connell (Champaign, 1L: University of Illinois Press, 2000),

his emotional responses. The narrator has continuous interaction with his
environment: he reacts to the faces and features of the angelic beings, both bright and
terrifying; he observes the doorway and the golden pillars in the third heaven; and he
reads writing and hears singing in a specific language, Hebrew. He observes the
natural abundance of the earth near the gates of heaven, with its rivers of milk, wine
and honey, as well as the trees weighed down with grapes, offering the promise of a
ritual meal. He witnesses the condemned punished by cold, fire, bogs and insects,
weeping at their fate. He smells the stench of hell and the sweet odor of incense at
the altar beside the throne of God. Throughout Pauls otherworldly journey, the
structured areas of sensory display serve as key guideposts in the seers revelatory
In this way, the narrative makes central Pauls physical experience as a means
of declaring the force and import of the texts revelations. Pauls journey becomes a
map connecting the sensible, earthly realm to the otherworldly realm,41 with the
seers senses and feelings providing a potential conduit for narrative experience of the
divine. What he hears and sees, the food and drink that appear before him, his
witnessing of extreme temperatures, the tears he sheds these all become catalysts
for his revelation, and the audience is invited to join him by imagining his journey
41 In this sense, Pauls physical self connects the here and the beyond, almost functioning like the
ladder or bridge as a means of revelatory ascent as found in various traditions, including
Mesopotamian, Greek, and Christian. Fritz Graf, The Bridge and the Ladder: Narrow Passages in the
Late Antique, Heavenly Realms and Earthly Realities 19-33.

and its landmarks. Not only do body and territory become a means of production for
the otherworldly journey in its sensory and geographic dimensions, they also serves
as a chief didactic devices by which the rhetorical goals of the text are communicated,
even amplified.
While I treat this text as part of an apocalyptic genre, as outlined above, I do
so with awareness that this is a modem scholarly or etic classification.42 As Cook
points out, apocalyptic literature arose in its socio-historic context from an
apocalyptic Weltanschaung or type of religious thinking, and not from any conscious
use of literary devices.43 I also wish to emphasize that apocalyptic ideas are found in
various genres, not just those specific texts examined by the SBL group:44 as such, I
am more concerned with apocalyptic narrative or viewpoint than how the text
conforms to definitions of the apocalyptic genre. This is line with DiTommasos
recent call for a theory of apocalypticism as an epistemological phenomenon with
political, historical, ethical, social, and theological dimensions rather than a focus
on antique texts.45 Finally, DeConicks focus on the internalized apocalypse remains
42 DeConick 2. The 1979 SBL Apocalypse Group points out that the classification of apocalypse or
apocalyptic genre is a modem one. See J. Collins, Introduction, 2.
43 Stephen Cook, Prophecy and Apocalypticism: The Postexilic Social Setting (Minneapolis: Fortress
Press, 1995), 25.
44 See Barrs attention to the overall content and viewpoints of apocalyptic thinking, as opposed to the
forms of writing. James Barr, Jewish Apocalyptic in Recent Scholarly Study, Bulletin of the John
Rvlands Library 58 (1975): 18.
45 Lorenzo DiTommaso, Apocalypses and Apocalypticism in Antiquity (Part II), Currents in Biblical
Research 5 (2007): 408.

central for my thesis, particularly in establishing the text as a verbal icon. However,
as DeConick also states, my purpose is not to assess the validity of the texts mystic
revelations, but rather to map the expression of such revelations.46
Rhetorical and Literary Criticism
My research integrates literatures on apocalyptic discourse, sacred space, and
art history treatments of icons as aesthetic and ritual objects. I wish to suggest that in
the Apocalypse of Paul, revelation narrative is delivered via an emplaced, sensory
matrix: the seers embodied responses, emotional reactions, and movements through
territories produce meaning in the text.
Historical and source criticism of the Apocalypse of Paul offer vital context
for this discussion, providing social, political, and artistic frameworks for the text.
However, my reading focuses on the persuasive strategies used in the text to
communicate goals. I approach the text in line with Edith Humphreys delicate
balance of rhetorical and literary analysis a balance she considers useful for
examining the narrative vision report.47 I draw upon religious studies methodologies:
rhetorical criticism as developed from the Aristotelian model laid out by George A.
Kennedy and Wilhelm Wuellner in the 1980s, reflected in the work of Ellen
46 DeConick, 5-6, refers to this as the intersection of experience and hermeneutics, which she treats not
as antithetical but interdependent, per the work of Elliot Wolfson and Steve Katz.
47 Humphrey 115. Humphrey is specifically concerned with the canonical Apocalypse of John or

Bradshaw Aitken, Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, Edith Humphrey, Greg Carey, and
Vernon K. Robbins. As well, I incorporate Mary Carrutherss treatment of rhetoric as
an inner process of invitation and memory, exhorting virtuous behavior through the
sites and sights of the contemplative journey.
As Schussler-Fiorenza argues, literary-rhetorical approaches mark a shift from
historicist and positivist hegemony, making no claims of a single, correct
interpretation of a text.48 49 The literary-rhetorical reading is more concerned with the
power relations constituting the texts argument than with any definitive reading.50
Accordingly, I acknowledge diverse ways of reading the text, though my reading
stresses what the narrative does and how it motivates.51 I wish to examine the
apparatus of persuasive arguments in the Apocalypse of Paul: such a reading, I would
48 Mary Carruthers, The Craft of Thought: Meditation. Rhetoric, and the Making of Images. 400-1200
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
49 Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, Babylon the Great, The Reality of Apocalypse 243-245.
50 Schtissler-Fiorenza, Babylon the Great 245. See also Robbins, Rhetorical Ritual 95-97, who states
that a text will have multiple textures historical, social, and intertextual with one possible texture
involving the rhetorical effects of apocalyptic discourse on space. For a critique, see Carey, who
argues that rhetorical criticism emphasizes the text more than its audience; however, readers of
Revelation, including popular readers, create the texts meaning-potential. Greg Carey, Elusive
Apocalypse: Reading Authority in the Revelation to John (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1999), 25.
51 This echoes Aitkens reading of the Apocalypse of Paul, 154-155. See also Murphy, xiv-xv, who
discusses a potential balance that avoids the ahistoricism of narrative criticism and the loss of story in
historical criticism. She uses the metaphor of drama instead of story for biblical texts, with meaning
produced by three responsive participants: actor, script and audience. Murphys tri-partite drama of a
text is echoed in David Barrs threefold division of the text: the world within the text (where we can
locate actor, script and audience); the world behind the text (the socio-historical circumstances of its
composition); and the world in front of the text (the interpretations between us and the original text).
David L. Barr, Beyond Genre: The Expectations of Apocalypse, The Reality of Apocalypse 71-73.

argue, provides a basis for exploring the significance of the physical world in
otherwordly journey apocalypses.
Icons, Iconography and Semiotics
My reading of the Apocalypse of Paul as a verbal icon functioning not
unlike a Byzantine icon, in DeConicks words maps a narrative experience of
encounter with cosmic mysteries and otherworldly territories. This comparison
between an apocalypse in the sense of a revelation and a visual image can be
connected to rich literatures examining sensory manifestations of divine mysteries.
Visions the kavod or divine glory of God, for example, or visions of the merkavah,
the chariot of God, are prevalent themes in Jewish and Christian mystic traditions. In
her analogy, DeConick is proposing similarities between how the devotee interacts
with and is affected by verbal icons (journey texts) and pictorial icons (religious
artistic images).
Iconography, a canonical art historical method developed in the early
twentieth century work of Erwin Panofsky, offers a set of tools for reading religious
images. Panofskys three-tiered method a formal analysis of an image as a natural
subject, a historically contextual analysis of an image as secondary subject matter,
and an iconological analysis of intrinsic meaning or placement in a particular 52
52 See Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance
(Boulder: Westview, 1972), especially the Introductory, 3-32.

worldview remains helpful for examining religions icons. However, semiotic
analysis influences my research in its exploration of images as signs with fluid
relationships between signifiers and signifieds. Semiotic analysis concerns itself with
how meaning is possible: in the words of Damisch, iconography attempts to declare
what images represent, while semiotics is intent on stripping down the mechanism of
signifying, on bringing to light the mainsprings of the signifying process.53 It is
these mechanisms and mainsprings that are important for my project, while keeping
in mind that images are not merely signs, but actors and characters in their own
right.54 In particular, I draw upon Bal and Brysons framing of the sign as an event
in the world55 an image as a sign event suggests that an icon is a site of active and
participatory experience. Participation is a crucial element for understanding the
Apocalypse of Paul as a verbal icon.
53 Hubert Damisch, Semiotics and Iconography, The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, ed.
Donald Preziosi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 235.
54 See W. J. T. Mitchell, What Is an Image? New Literary History 15.3 (1984): 504.
55 Mieke Bal and Norman Bryson, Semiotics and Art History, Art Bulletin 73.2 (1991): 194. I would
dispute that iconographic methods, as developed from Panofsky, offer no tools for examining how an
image means. However, some critiques, such as those of Mieke Bal are aimed at how iconographic
methods are practiced: what she calls a dogmatic, iconographic art history that offers less specific
insight into of an image than a semiotic view not hung up on the historical dimension. Mieke Bal et
al., Art History and Its Theories, Art Bulletin 78.1 (1996) 8.

Implications for Future Research
I wish to demonstrate that body and place are necessary and essential elements
in the Apocalypse of Paul, functioning to produce a multivalent map of the seers
otherworldly journey. The text acts as a verbal icon, with the seers steps propelling
him through the territory of the revelation, issuing an invitation to the audience to
follow. In particular, the display of rewards and punishments in the structured places
of the textual landscape is a more regulatory persuasive argument, stressing
boundaries in the teaching virtuous behavior. My research speaks to a wider agenda:
can we trace similar maps that utilize body and place in other apocalyptic texts
featuring otherworldly journeys? As well, does this concern with the physicality of
apocalyptic dualism this world and a future world have any implications for our
own society? We may find links between the apocalyptic views of the physical world
and the discursive practices of our contemporary culture, where religious, economic
and ecological movements are defining the stakes of their debates in apocalyptic
terms. As I will point out in my conclusion, this is particularly true of eco-
apocalypse discourse. The study of the physical world in apocalyptic discourse,
then, provides abundant material and challenges for future research.
In Chapter 2,1 will examine DeConicks analogy in more detail: what does it
mean to suggest that the Apocalypse of Paul, as an otherworldly journey, is a verbal
icon? I will argue that through imagination and memory deployed in the text by

means of descriptive and emotional display the audience is invited to perform the
journey along with Paul, the narrator.

1 2
Condemned by Augustine invoked by Dante rejected as apocryphal by the
Gelasian Decree translated into more than a dozen languages and circulating as a
popular text1 2 3 4, the Apocalypse of Paul details the narrators travels to the secret terrain
1 M.R. James, in his seminal 1924 translation of New Testament apocryphal, references Augustine as a
critic of the Apocalypse of Paul: St. Augustine laughs at the folly of some who had forged an
Apocalypse of Paul, full of fables, and pretending to contain the unutterable things which the apostle
had heard. This is, I doubt not, our book. M.R. James, trans., The Apocryphal New Testament
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924), 525. The passage James references here is Augustines On John.
Tractate 98.8: Taking advantage of which, there have been some vain individuals, who, with a
presumption that betrays the grossest folly, have forged a Revelation of Paul, crammed with all manner
of fables, which has been rejected by the orthodox Church; affirming it to be that whereof he had said
that he was caught up into the third heavens, and there heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful
for a man to utter.
2 See Theodore Silverstein, Did Dante Know the Vision of St Paul? Harvard Studies and Notes in
Philology and Literature XIX (1937): 231-47. Elsewhere, Silverstein invokes Dantes use of the Visio
Pauli, or Apocalypse of Paul, as an instance of the poet effectively imitating an earlier work known to
readers. Silverstein, The Passage of the Souls to Purgatory in the Divina Commedia, Harvard
Theological Review 31.1 (1938): 54 n.2. Dante invokes Aeneas and Paul in Canto II of the Inferno as
worthier heroes than him, brave enough to journey to the underworld given the popularity of the
Apocalypse of Paul, Kraeling argues that Dante was referring to it, and not 2 Cor. 12:2-4, in this
passage. Carl H. Kraeling, The Apocalypse of Paul and the Iranische Erlosungsmysterium,
Harvard Theological Review 24.3 (1931): 210. Cf. James 525.
3 See Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 187.
4 Jean Delumeau, History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition, trans. Matthew
OConnell (Champagne, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 26. The proto-Apocalypse of Paul is
thought to be Greek, with Syriac, Coptic, Slavonic, Armenian and Ethiopic translations coming later,
followed by the influential early sixth century Latin translation. Delumeau notes that the text gained

of the heavens, the remote ends of the earth, and the furthest comers of hell. The
story serves as both paradigm and puzzle.
The text is an instance of the apocalyptic genre, what the 1979 SBL genres
group classified as a type lie apocalypse, one featuring an otherworldly journey
with cosmic and/or political eschatology. In this model, apocalyptic dualism -
particularly when it privileges eschatological concerns stresses the dividing line
between now and a future time, the things of this world and of a renewed world to
come. As such, the themes in the Apocalypse of Paul offer us a fascinating puzzle
about our own world. As we contemplate the ultimate dismantling of creation at the
end of time an final act that, ironically, the sun, moon and earth themselves implore
God to effect in the Apocalypse of Paul, in order to end the wickedness of humankind
(Apoc. Paul 4-6) we are left to ponder the repercussions of the apocalyptic scenario
for our bodies, our environment, and our geographic terrains.
The Apocalypse of Paul, itself a text of Egyptian Greek origin, dates from the
mid-third century and developed into its final late fourth century form with a framing
introduction.5 It is distinct from, and more widely influential than, the Gnostic Coptic
Apocalypse of Paul found at Nag Hammadi, though it shares with the Coptic text -
which describes Pauls ascent through the fourth through the tenth heavens a
popularity in the Middle Ages, with high points in the eighth and eleventh centuries, on the strength of
new Latin recensions. The text spread via translations into a variety of languages, including French,
Provencal, Romanian, English, Dutch, Welsh, German, Bulgarian, and Serbian.
5 Metzger 186-87.

concern with otherworldly journeys and cosmic mysteries.6 7 8
The Greek Apocalypse of Paul explored here is arguably the most influential
of all the apocalypses of late antiquity and early medieval Christianity, described by
Himmelfarb as the longest lived and the most influential of all Christian tours of the
underworld. As such, the text serves as a rich landscape for exploring the problem
of the physical world in apocalyptic imagination. The Tarsus introduction included in
later recensions of the Apocalypse of Paul places that version of the text in the late
fourth century, during the consulate of Theodosius Augustus the Younger and
Cynegius: more precisely, a date of 388 CE under the Roman Emperor Theodosius
I.9 Pauls story straddles a fascinating period: it was written in its first form before
Christianity was legalized by the Roman Empire and emerged in its more familiar
form after Christianity was declared the empires official religion. As Czachesz
argues, the text is concerned with orthodoxy from the inside of the religious
tradition itself who are the just; what is sin and what sins are committed inside the
church; what constitutes dogma about the body of Christ and his millennial return.10
6 Metzger 186.
7 On the texts widespread influence, see Olschki on the popularization of eschatological themes and
ascents to paradise before Dante through the Apocalypse of Paul, as well as the Hegira in Islam.
Leonardo Olschki, Mohammedan Eschatology and Dante's Other World, Comparative Literature 3.1
(1951): 7 1-17; cf. Kraeling 210; Delumeau 26.
8 Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell 16.
9 Metzger 186.
10 Istvan Czachesz, Torture in Hell and Reality. The Visio Pauli, Visio Pauli 132.

While a concern with orthodoxy provides a useful historical context for Pauls
story, the text has multiple layers, also presenting us with narrative challenges about
place and physicality. It is my contention that the otherworldly journey in the
Apocalypse of Paul with its use of travel, passage, and exploration as a means of
conveying the mysteries of those otherworldly places offers an opportunity to assess
our understanding of body and territory within the apocalyptic.
DeConicks Analogy: The Otherwordly Journey as Verbal Icon
April DeConick has stated that we may regard otherworldly journey
apocalypses not simply as imaginative narratives but also as verbal icons or maps,
comparable to Byzantine pictorial icons in their function. These verbal icons invite
the devotee into a relationship with the divine as the text is read, heard, or recalled.
Says DeConick:
Lately I have come to understand many of the narratives in the apocalyptic
and mystical texts to be verbal icons, not simply imaginative narratives
recounting the heavenly journeys and visions of the great heroes if the
tradition but verbal maps that functioned to bring the devotee into the
presence of God. Not unlike later Byzantine pictorial icons, meditation upon
the verbal images would have expressed and made present the sacred reality.
The person who contemplated these texts would have been making himself
ready to receive the mysteries that would be revealed directly and
immediately to him. Through verbal recitation of the narrative or mental
recall of the memorized text, the devotee too would have journeyed into the
heavenly spheres and into the presence of God, embracing this present
experience through its likeness to that which was past. His ability to decipher
the meaning of the words written would have provided his own journey into
the heavenly world. What mattered to the devotee was not so much following
the map in terms of sequential geography but rather his ability mentally to
picture the places where the hero had gone before, seeing again what the

great heroes of the Jews and Christians had themselves seen. In doing so, he
would have appropriated the text, and its mysteries, for himself.11
This reading allows us to stress what DeConick calls the internalized apocalypse in
the study of apocalyptic literature the otherworldly journey, certainly in the case of
the Apocalypse of Paul, narrates a process of revelation to a human recipient and his
encounter with cosmic secrets.
According to DeConick, then, the text functions as a verbal icon as the
devotee follows the journey undertaken by the narrator in this case, Paul using
imaginative recreation and subsequent recall of the expedition. What I refer to as the
verbal icon function points to the iconic event where the subject experiences a
perceived connection or line of sight to divine mysteries. The audiences iconic event
participates in, and does not dichotomize itself with, the narrative of Pauls outward
travel through territories. I would stress two immediate implications of DeConicks
verbal icon analogy: first, the process of appropriation of the text and its mysteries
through the verbal icon function. Second, the element of performance on the part of
the reader or hearer in relation to the textual journey this is an active and
participatory approach to the narrative.
11 DeConick 24.

Memory and Imagination in its Place
A principal source of this participation in the iconic event is the audiences
imaginative construction and traversal of iconic space. Just as the devotee performs
in the presence of the pictorial icon, recalling figures and events from the image, the
devotee also performs in the presence of the text as verbal icon. In the case of the
Apocalypse of Paul, memory and imagination are linking elements for the audience
as it traces the path of the seer, providing the architecture of the bridge that links this
place to some imagined otherworldly place. Memory, we might say, lives in the
landscape, and this landscape can be visited and re-visited by the audience, in
imaginative ways, as well as in physical structures.
The narrative movement through places establishes a chain of memory that
connects the audience to the events. Cognitively, this is comparable to memory
structures based on mental places, such as rooms, palaces or cathedrals where
memories are stored: this is the classical and medieval art of mnemotechnic, where
architecture is the means to classify and arrange memory. Recollection thus became 12
12 Carruthers 16. Carruthers, 7-9, relates mnemotechnic to the rhetorical arts generally: Cicero
describes the art of memory based on the construction of a house where reminder images are placed,
with the intention not to improve memory per se but to help a speakers composition. We can see that
the trope of architectural memory was a widespread Hellenistic idiom; Carruthers points to the Jewish
philosopher Philo as an example of a Hellenized thinker who employed it. We should note, however,
that Carruthers also points to the limitations of conceiving texts as mnemonic places a works context
may be forgotten as the reader engages with words as sounds, described images as shapes, and so on,
to create the foundation of the memory structure. Carruthers 30; cf. Marjorie ORourke Boyle,
Loyolas Acts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 8.

the recovery of knowledge in sensation by a deliberate hunt through the corridors of
memory according the principles of association and order. Thoughts were
arranged sequentially in rooms, even entrusted to its furniture or statues, to be
recalled at will by the custodians of these areas. Place was fundamental to memory
and argumentation.13 14
Fitting for our purposes, monastic architectural mnemonic is often related
like a vast superstructure to a canonical letter of Paul to the Corinthians, according
to Carruthers. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-17, Paul refers to himself as a wise master
builder laying foundations, a passage that lent authority to architectural markers of
memory into the Middle Ages.15 Such emplaced memory could be fixed or dynamic:
Quintillian, the Roman rhetorician, tells us of the long journey, like the fixed physical
place, as a mnemonic device, where memory objects are left on the path.16 We see
this emplaced memory in the development of early Christian pilgrimage narratives in
particular. As Leyerle notes, such narratives increasingly focused not only on
significant landmarks and directors, but also on the details and descriptions of the
way of travel itself, including flora, fauna and ethnography, as a way of capturing and
13 Boyle 8.
14 Boyle 9.
15 Carruthers 17.
16 Boyle 8.

remembering the journey.
Emplaced memory operates both narratively in imagined places and
experientially in physical places. Imagining a church, for example, allows one to
arrange memory objects inside it, while the physical traversing of a sacral place like a
church can act as a parallel process to the imagined traversing of memory places. The
mnemonic path is actively traveled, as it is in the sections of physical church structure
in the medieval Christian cathedral tradition: areas such as nave, transept, choir and
apse are marked off by artistic images, boundaries in the form of altars, and
architectural features like columns and capitals. Each area requires its own specific
behavior, prompted by the surroundings as for Paul, who weeps or asks a question
in a certain location, likewise for the devotee, who crosses himself or says a prayer.
In the case of Paul, certain places in his journey are reserved for greetings and
embraces, or for mourning, or for awe. For the devotee, certain places are reserved
for gazing at stained glass or for kneeling in prayer. In the physical structure of the
church, the arrangement of these discrete places leads the devotee from one section to 17
17 Blake Leyerle, Landscape as Cartography in Early Christian Pilgrimages, Journal of the American
Academy of Religion 64.1 (1996): 135. Leyerle refers to the lack of details on ecological, animal or
human life early maps, including the earliest pilgrimage routes from the early fourth century, as
silence and indeed, an ideological silence. The author suggests contemporary or geographic life
might have been regarded as a distraction from the devotees interaction with architectural shrines.
However, by the late fourth century, pilgrimage narratives develop more detailed and visceral
accounts, using emotional investment and explicit discussion of the countryside. By the time we reach
the sixth century Piacenza pilgrim account of a journey to the Holy Land, we have lively description
that ranges from regional produce to local customs, rendering the terrain holy and potentially
powerful in all its variety. Leyerle 138. See Boyle, 10, for the example of St. Jeromes fifth century
description of the Paulas pilgrimage to Palestine, with its various sights and sounds of the journey.

another. The architectural elements of the physical place the columns, the walls,
the open spaces, the arrangement of light and color are conductors, conveying the
subject through the fabric of the building.
I can best illustrate this by way of a location on the University of Colorado
campus in Denver, the Roman and Byzantine Rite church that is now the campus
chapel, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The church is a physical area of the secular
university campus that serves as a devotional focal point for its congregation, most
notably in its outdoor stations of the cross. For the devotee, the stations of the cross
are the fourteen stopping points in a route mapping the final hours and physical ordeal
of Jesus. The stations of the cross and niches for statues unfold in a graceful curve of
the arcade (Fig. 2.1). The structure is designed to draw the subject into performance
in that arcade, moving from one spot to the next, 18
18 See Carruthers, 204-05, on this process of conducting through the pictura or arrangement of
images in the rebuilt cathedral at Tours, as described by the sixth century poet Fortunatus. Carruthers
also discusses the process of leading of the devotee through spaces (ductus) in the context of the
writings of the Venerable Bede.

FIG. 2.1. ST. ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY. North arcade: interior view.
University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado.

in contemplation and remembrance. I would call this activating the relationship
between the devotee and a place. It is a putting into action or pulling into embodied
space our link with what we perceive as divine mysteries. We do so physically,
walking along the way, led from one area to the next. We construct and enact mental
architecture in encounters with such places.
Sensory and Geographic Signposts in the Apocalypse of Paul
In the case of the Apocalypse of Paul, the otherworldly journey fills in the
blanks of the strange experience narrated in the canonical second letter to the
Corinthians 12:2-4, where Paul describes a journey to the third heaven. In the New
Testament letter, he begins the story by speaking of his journey in the third person, as
if he were describing events that happened to another man fourteen years ago. This
style of narrative is generally as humility commentators argue that Paul does not
wish to boast about his otherworldly experience, during which he hears mysteries
inaccessible to most humans.19 Paul does not even understand the state of the seers
body or its connection with the physical world during this experience, and expresses
uncertainty as to whether the seer is in the body or not. The canonical letter
recounts direct experience with cosmic mysteries: during his journey, the seer
encounters inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. The
19 See, for example, Stephen D. Cox, The New Testament and Literature: A Guide to Literary Patterns
(Peru, IL: Open Court Publishing, 2006), 132.

experience of this journey to the third heaven in 2 Cor. 12:2-4 in described primarily
in auditory terms, but there is scholarly discussion of the necessary visual component,
as well.20
The Apocalypse of Paul takes this canonical tale and echoes it, reshaping and
retelling it with new details. The narrative established in the long Latin version of the
fifth or sixth century begins with the Tarsus introduction, a curious element of the
text that creates a story within a story. This introduction reveals how the text itself
was found buried in a marble box, together with a pair of walking shoes a reminder
of Pauls travels on earth, since he is said to have worn these shoes while wandering
and teaching. An unnamed nobleman inhabiting Pauls house discovers the text and
becomes the first witness to its cosmic mysteries, though he pays a high price. The
location of the text is revealed when an otherworldly messenger, an angel, visits the
nobleman in the night. The angel beats the nobleman during the last of three
visitations, until he opens the foundations of his house, finds a marble box, and
publishes the secrets he finds there (Apoc. Paul 2).
Pauls story, contained in the marble box, lays the same preliminary
groundwork as the canonical New Testament letter. Paul initially narrates his journey
as if describing the experiences of a man he knew fourteen years previous; whether
the experiences were in the body or not Paul cannot say. This man was snatched up
to the third heaven and paradise, hearing secret words men cannot lawfully repeat
20 Robbins, Legacy of 2 Corinthians 9.

(Apoc. Paul Intro.). Chapter 3 segues into Pauls first-person narrative of the journey
itself. The question of the state of Pauls body during his otherworldly journey is an
interesting one: in contrast to seers like Isaiah in the apocalyptic Ascension of Isaiah,
where the narrator is transformed and ascends to a level of appearance higher than the
angels, Pauls body does not seem in any way altered or disembodied during his
tour. As Robbins states, there is no indication in the text that Paul has an unusual
body during his journey: he weeps, sighs and prays; he sails in a boat across a lake;
Enoch embraces him and Elijah recognizes his face. Indeed, Pauls embodied
journey serves as a contrast to the dead he observes on earth as he looks down: those
souls leave their bodies as Paul watches {Apoc. Paul 14), presumably still inhabiting
his own body.
The drama begins with nature itself: in the opening chapters, the sun, moon
and stars, the sea, and the earth take turns petitioning God to destroy humankind for
its violence and moral failing {Apoc. Paul 4-6), establishing the eschatological
significance of narrative. The earth is particularly appalled by humankind, offended
by the actions of its own fruit. God cautions these elements of nature to be patient,
since humans may repent before they are judged: here, we have a glimpse of history
unfolding towards an eschatological climax that is not yet decided.
The audience subsequently follows Pauls journey as he is led through the 21 22
21 See Himmelfarb, The Experience of the Visionary.
22 Robbins, Legacy of 2 Corinthians 11.

otherworldly landscape, given details of Pauls experiences, including the cosmic
mysteries he sees and hears. From the start, we understand this apocalyptic landscape
as one of display for the audience its features and lessons are intended to be shown
to the reader or hearer through Pauls eyes. The apocalyptic text adds a prophetic
commissioning to Paul, in order to accomplish this goal: when the word of the Lord
comes upon Paul, the first divinely transmitted words he hears are speak to the
people, along with warnings of future judgment characteristic of apocalyptic visions
(Apoc. Paul 3). Pauls visions, then, offer an imperative of communication a
teachable model that is present to and described for the audience as part of the texts
own narrative logic. To be sure, there is a problematic relationship between things
not lawful to utter and things commanded to be told to the people Robbins argues
that the geography of the heavens itself is a controlling factor in this relationship.
Only in one location, paradise itself, does Paul hear esoteric secrets that he must not
reveal {Apoc. Paul 21). In other locations, there is no directive about the secretive
nature of the revelations. After moving on from paradise, Pauls angelic guide tells
him he must tell openly to others what he is shown, notably the abundant land of
promise where the millennial kingdom will be established {Apoc. Paul 21).23 24
23 See Robbins on a comparison between this prophetic commissioning and that of 1 Enoch. Robbins,
Legacy of 2 Corinthians 329.
24 Robbins, Legacy of 2 Corinthians 10; cf. Rev. 10:4. Robbins, 11, assesses and ultimately rejects
scholarly speculation that Paul is meant to have heard the unutterable name of God in paradise, in the
tradition of Jewish merkabah visions.

Throughout Pauls otherworldly journey, zones of sensory display serve as
key guideposts in the seers revelatory experience. During Pauls otherworldly
journey, he visits a bewildering variety of places, and given the patchwork nature
of the narrative, it is not immediately apparent where things and places are located.
There are, for example, competing theories as to whether paradise in the Apocalypse
of Paul is located in the heavens or a remote part of the earth itself.25 26 27 Nonetheless,
geographic details and markers are laid out for the audience repeatedly: the city of
Christ that Paul witnesses has a river of wine to the north and a river of oil to the east
(Apoc. Paul 27-28). The region of condemned souls exists outside the city and past
the land of promise, beyond the great ocean that holds up heaven; there are particular
provinces presented, like the north region with the great abyss (Apoc. Paul 31-32) and
the western region of cold and snow (Apoc. Paul 42). When Paul finally enters
paradise, it is marked by the four rivers of Genesis 2:10-14, where all four flow from
one great river originating in Eden: the Phison (Pishon), the Gehon (Gihon), the
Tigris and the Euphrates. The rivers themselves are tied to specific political
territories: the Gehon river flows around Egypt and Ethiopia, the Tigris through
25 Hilhorst, A Visit to Paradise 138.
26 Hilhorst, A Visit to Paradise 38. Hilhorst favors the theory that paradise is located in the same
place as the third heaven in the text, but he mentions Claude Carozzi and Jean-Marc Rosenstiehl as
supporters of the argument that Pauls paradise is in a remote location on earth itself.
27 See van Ruiten on the intertextual relationship between Genesis 2:10-14 and the Apocalypse of Paul.
J.T.A.G.M. van Ruiten, The Four Rivers of Eden in the Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Pauli). The
Intertextual relationship of Genesis 2:10-14 and the Apocalypse of Paul 23, Visio Pauli 50-76.

Assyria, and the Euphrates that flows to Mesopotamia (Apoc. Paul 45). These rivers
are noteworthy in that they connect this worldly territory with other worldly
territory, suggesting that the border between the two is not absolute or easily drawn.
Rather, these two worlds are connected by physical elements the water that flows
and the land it flows over. We are reminded of maps to the underworld that show an
entry way to a divine territory to places of the undead, of judgment, of
metempsychosis located somewhere on earth itself and accessible to mortals.
This demonstrates a fluidity of boundaries between the mundane world and the
otherworldly and thus qualifies a dualistic divide between this world and the
otherworld of apocalyptic revelation.
Specifically, Paul moves through the various rooms or places in the
otherworldly territory. He travels from the gates and inscribed pillars of gold at the
extremity of the world that mark the entry to paradise and then, by boat across the
lake Acherusia to the city of Christ with its twelve great walls and towers, and then to
the more segmented territories of punishment in hell. In particular, the boat trip
across the lake Acherusia serves as an effective example of movement through places 28
28 Book XI of Homers Odyssey, for example, indicates an earthly point of entry to the underworld,
accessible to the mortal hero in his journey to Hades. In order to reach the realm of the dead, Circe
instructs Odysseus to go where the rivers Pyriphlegethon (or Phlegethon) and Cocytus flow into
Acheron. There, Odysseus digs a pit and pours libations to all the dead, first with honey and milk, then
with wine, and finally with water. The souls of the dead then gather around the pit. As Bynum and
Freedman note this view of places of the dead, certainly in the medieval context somehow reachable
and identifiable to mortals has attracted increasing scholarly attention in recent decades. Bynum and
Freedman 4.

that prompts memory or association in the audience. The lake Acherusia is a motif
connected with underworld journeys: it has served as part of the (sometimes
problematic) geography of the afterlife, in texts such as the pseudepigraphal Jewish
work from the first century CE, the Life of Adam and Eve. In this text, the lake
Acherusia (or the river Acheron, with which it is sometimes associated) serves as a
barrier between the land of the living and the dead.29 30 This link between
Acherusia/Acheron and the underworld is detailed in numerous works. Acheron is
mentioned in Book VI of the Aeneid as part of the geography of the underworld, in
connection with the river Styx, in Platos Phaedo (112e-l 13a) as a river of Hades and
a parallel landscape to the land of the living above, and in Aristophanes Frogs as a
water barrier between the living and the dead, to be overcome in a heroic quest. In
the Apocalypse of Paul, the crossing of the Acherusian Lake by boat signals for Paul
the transition from the land of promise to a new location, the City of Christ he
moves from a fertile landscape to an architecturally constructed site with walls,
towers, and numerous inhabitants. Again, as DeConick points out, sequential
geography is not the central issue here31 and indeed, the geographic terrain here
29 Marinus de Jonge, Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament as Part of Christian Literature (Leiden:
Brill, 2003), 212-13. See also Silverstein, The Passage of the Souls to Purgatory 56, for an account
of Acherusia in the Apocalypse of Paul as the trope of a body of water, difficult or painful to traverse,
which divides the land of the blessed from the protagonists own land.
30 See de Jonge 211-13; Edmonds 124.
31 DeConick 24.

lacks the order we would expect from our contemporary maps. However, the more
important aspect is the evocation of place and regions where the hero travels and does
his deeds.
One of the most striking images in the Apocalypse of Paul demonstrates the
link between memory and the narrators experience of traveling through territories.
Paul sees the spirit of God manifest in the landscape itself, inhabiting a tree rooted in
paradise since creation. This description evokes the first chapter of Genesis, which
describes the spirit of God as invisible on the water before the emergence of heaven
and earth. In the Apocalypse of Paul, the spirit of God rests in the tree, now the
source of the four rivers in paradise flowing to the territories of earth, and whenever
the spirit blows, the waters flow from the tree (Apoc. Paul 45). This tree, the
receptacle for Gods spirit, stands next to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
and the tree of life. Trees stand as powerful icons here, exemplifying the centrality of
the physical world in conveying lessons and persuading the audience. Among the
natural imagery, trees have a particular significance in the text: not only does the
spirit of God reside in one, but trees great and high grow by the gate of the City of
Christ. These trees by the gate, with leaves but without fruit, feel pity for those 32
32 Gen 1:2, The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters ( ? n n 1 J 9U
nsirnn 1 n1? R it i n ) The Paris manuscript of the Apocalypse of Paul: From the beginning,
before the heavens and earth were manifested, all things were invisible and the Spirit of God hovered
upon the waters (priusquam celum et terrain manifestarentur, erant autem omnia inuisibilia, spiritus
autem dei ferebatur super aquas).

overly proud souls excluded from the fine city, lamenting for them. Paul notes with
fascination that the trees bow down on behalf of those excluded, grieving for them,
and he weeps with the trees (Apoc. Paul 24).
Such bodily and geographic cues enhance the verbal icon function of the text
because, I suggest, they identify and locate a this-world point of entry for the
audience in the appropriation of the text. The lake, the tree, the river these elements
of the physical world provide a framework that is simultaneously familiar in its
generalities and unusual in its textual particulars. These are the footprints that the
audience can follow. In particular, I would identify two rhetorical tactics in the text,
both of which employ the physical world as a conveyor of the iconic relationship.
First, the devotee is invited into an active relationship with the text by means of vivid
description of the otherworldly territory and second, the devotee is invited by Pauls
emotional cues, embedded like signposts in the landscape of his journey.
Ekphrasis as Invitation to the Audience
In the Apocalypse of Paul, the mediating role of place and body for the
devotee is communicated through the rhetorical technique of ekphrasis, the vivid
description of a place that leads to visualization, a rhetorical technique employed by
5 -3
Hellenistic and Roman authors and orators. The deployment of this technique is
particularly noteworthy in the Apocalypse of Paul, given that the text was likely read 33
33 Aitken 153, 162.

aloud in the manner of many documents of the period.34 As DeConick states, the
important function of the otherworldly journey as verbal icon is its ability to induce
the devotee to mentally picture the places where protagonists of Jewish and Christian
narratives had walked.
This textual map, drawn through description of otherworldly terrains and
sensory experiences, becomes the foundation of the iconic event. Description vivid
enough to evoke mental pictures of places and events centrally establish the texts
relationship with its audience. As such, the deployment of ekphrasis throughout the
text anchors the narrative in the sensible Pauls sensory experiences are roots that
connect the textual journey in a geographic terrain.
Peter Wagner calls ekphrasis Janus-faced and paradoxical, given its
multiple definitions: as a technique, it originated with rhetoricians but was later
34 Copeland 142; cf. Balch 287. See also Aland and Horton on the ancient practice of reading texts
aloud, written as they were without sentence breaks or punctuation: scriptio continua derived its
meaning not through silent reading but public performance, where the phonetic cues gave the sense of
the text. A text was meant to be heard, not seen. The reading aloud of scripture during early Christian
worship services, influenced by the same practice by Jews in the synagogue, is an example. In this
sense, early Christian texts were accessible through performance even though the hearers were often
illiterate themselves Aland and Horton note that in particular, the author of the canonical Apocalypse
of John expected his account to be read aloud. Barbara Aland and Charles Horton, The Earliest
Gospels: The Origins and Transmission of the Earliest Christian Gospels (Harrisburg, PA: Continuum
International Publishing Group, 2004), 31-33. The practice shifted into the medieval period of
Christian Europe, when the Apocalypse of Paul was a popular text, but participation and performance
was still key. Carruthers, 30, points out that during this period, it was common for learned devotees to
study a canonical book twice once verbaliter, fixing the syllables in memory, and twice with a
process of mental glossing, laying the text out with commentary like seats arranged in a church.

appropriated by literary critics and art historians.35 36 Ekphrasis is associated in a more
contemporary context with poetry inspired by visual art; however, in antiquity, the
connotation was a particular kind of speech meant to show or make known a thing
very clearly, as a rhetorical device. What we render in English as placing clearly
and distantly before the eyes is the more subtle Greek enargeia or the German
Anshaulichkeit, which is, according to Bruhn, closer in meaning to visually tangible
or sensually evocative. It is important to note: this process is not seeing with the
minds eye in the Neoplatonic or Augustinian sense of turning inward and
apprehending the ideal or divine with the intellect.37 38 Rather, it is a bringing into
light or bringing things into the field of visual perception. The aim of enargeia or
ekphrasis was clarity, according to the classical rhetorical form. This descriptive
clarity was intended to be so vivid as to render the absent present, evoking a physical
scene in all its line, texture and color. It appealed to the audiences senses and made
the listener a spectator. Boyle compares this conjuring of mental scenery to material
artistic creation the descriptive technique is an essential painterly skill.39
35 Peter Wagner, Icons. Texts. Iconotexts: Essays on Ekphrasis and Intermedialitv (New York: Walter
de Gruyter, 1996), 12-13.
36 Siglind Bruhn, Musical Ekphrasis: Composers Responding to Poetry and Painting (Hillsdale, NY:
Pendragon Press, 2000), xix.
37 See, for example, Phillip Cary, Augustine's Invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian
Platonist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 15-18, 73-74 and passim.
38 Boyle 6.
39 Boyle 6.

Eisner argues that ekphrasis narrowed to a description of visual art is a
twentieth-century development, while the classical rhetorical sense is broader, even as
Greek and Roman poetry also focused on a metatextual consideration of art.40 In the
midst of Roman ocular culture, itself deeply concerned with and aware of the gaze,
ekphrasis provided the potential to train viewers to see and, according to Eisner, its
true subject is not the verbal description of a visual object but, rather, the verbal
enactment of the gaze that tries to relate with and penetrate the object.41 Here, we
have a reinforcement of the audience participating in an event or performance: the
text as icon is an object accessed and penetrated by the imagination.
In her study of ekphrasis as a persuasive strategy in the Apocalypse of Paul,
Aitken argues that the text functions visually and ideologically as the Third Style of
Roman wall painting. This Third Style (ca. 20 BCE to 20 CE) flourished during the
Augustan period and used the presentation of pastoral and mythic landscapes to
reinforce sacral-idyllic ideals of a Roman golden age.42 That is, like Roman
40 Jas Eisner, Roman Eves: Visualitv and Subjectivity in Art and Text (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 2007), 67.
41 Eisner 68.
42 Aitken 153-55. Aitken argues that the Apocalypse of Paul belongs to the Roman world and
utilizes its rhetorical strategies. The Third Style Aitken discusses refers to Roman wall painting
characterized by large rectangles of solid color containing smaller rectangular paonting, much like a
series of pictures hung on a wall. Mythological landscape and human figures were typical subject
matter. Gregory S. Aldrete Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome. Pompeii and Ostia (Westport, CT:
Greenwood, 2004 ), 77. These scenes are architectural and landscape vignettes the sacral-idyllic type
that was popular in third- and fourth styles. Donald Strong and Roy Strong, Roman Art. 2nd ed. (New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), 98.

architectural structures that established themselves as centers of the control in the
terrain or sought to transcend exterior nature,43 landscapes are constructed and
controlled in this style of painting in order to further ideological goals. Likewise, in
the Apocalypse of Paul, the landscapes presented descriptively are rich in allusion to
Scripture and ritual, instilling virtuous behavior.44
I would stress that such construction of ideological landscapes is more than
just a visual process. Instead, I hold it akin to an overall sensory matrix in the
Apocalypse of Paul one that conveys narrative content with the presence or promise
of the auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory.45 As Hertel points out, while
contemporary understandings of ekphrasis focus more narrowly on the visual aspects
of a texts descriptive power, the original rhetorical meaning suggested a mode [of
43 See Harrington 3-4. Harrington draws on the work of Vincent Scully, using the specific examples
are Roman temples dominating the landscape, becoming the source of sight and not its object, and
Eastern Roman structures like the Hagia Sophia, which controls nature and encloses interior space.
44 Aitken 154.
45 Ralf Hertel, Making Sense: Sense Perception in the British novel of the 1980s and 1990s
(Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005), 29. Hertel refers to this as a natural nexus of sensuousness, with
sensuous qualities central to interaction with a text, incorporating all five Aristotelian senses (as well
as senses beyond those five, including proprioception). Soskice points out that St. John Damascene, a
formative figure in the early Christian theology of icons, explicitly privileged sight over other senses.
According to Damascene, we perceive the image of God through all our senses, but through this
perception, we sanctify the primary sense, sight. In this regard, we can argue that the Christian
privileging of sight is built into our historical discourse, from its earliest figures. My more synesthetic
approach is not to suggest that one descriptive mode that is, appealing descriptively to one sense such
as the visual is an incomplete phenomenon. Rather, in a process of ekphrastic supplementation, an
author adds sensory dimensions that cannot be expressed easily in visual terms: smell, taste, sound, and
touch. See Janet Soskice, Sight and Vision in Medieval Christian Thought, Vision in Context, ed.
Teresa Brennan and Martin Jay (New York: Routledge, 1996), 34-35.

speaking and writing] that evokes the presence of an absent subject matter through
the power of words. In this manner, a world is brought not only before the inner
eye, but before our inner sense of hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.46 This
creates a sort of virtual reality, as the senses play a vital role in negotiating the
fictional world as well as the real world. We imagine events, seeming to see, hear,
smell, touch, taste what we do not.47
The accessing of the otherworldly journey through sensory description is
crucial to the narrative in the Apocalypse of Paul. The senses are guideposts that
invite the audience to participate in the imaginative journey and instruct the audience
on virtuous behavior. In the process, the physical senses become linked to the
traversal of otherwordly geography: they serve not only as an organizing principle in
the narrative, but they also contribute to the architecture of the bridge that connects
here and there, our own world with the imaginative landscape of the apocalyptic
One particularly effective instance of ekphrasis in the text is the picture
painted of the bountiful countryside in the land of promise (Apoc. Paul 21). Paul
encounters this place after he perceives that he has suddenly left heaven and he views
46 Hertel 48. Harvey also points out that recent scholarship has tried to balance the privileging of the
auditory and especially the visual in religious experience, instead developing a growing interest in the
overall embodied experience with an expanded set of senses. Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity
and the Olfactory Imagination. Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and
the Olfactory Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 3-4.
47 Hertel 26.

the light of heaven shining on all the land of earth. That light makes the earth appear
seven times brighter than silver this, the angelic guide tells Paul, is the land of
promise. Its foundation is the river which waters all the earth, which is a great
ocean. As described in the text, one reaches this place by descending from the third
heaven, through the second heaven to the firmament, and over the gates of heaven to
the ocean.
The descriptions of this terrain are intimately intertwined with remembered
events and places that the audience can re-create as a mental map. The land of
promise that Paul travels through is the land that would have been created, according
to the texts theological perspective, in the first chapter of Genesis, when the earth
was first separated from the great primeval waters. This recalls the previously
discussed tree that houses the spirit of God, placed next to the Tree of Life and the
Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Apoc. Paul 45). Pauls angelic guide also
links this terrain with the land mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, inherited by
the meek (Matt. 5:5). This land of promise is moreover described by the angel as an
in-between place or a waiting place for the souls of the just, once they leave their
There is, therefore, an eschatological purpose for this promised land, to be
recalled by the audience. This place is charged with apocalyptic significance. This
territory is the location of the millennial kingdom that will be established by Christ 48
48 Robbins, Legacy of 2 Corinthians 5-6.

and inhabited by the saints, as outlined in the canonical Revelation or Apocalypse of
John (Rev. 20: 4-6). This is the millennial kingdom, the eschatological zone that has
stoked the apocalyptic imagination of Christians through the centuries. In the
Apocalypse of Paul, the millennial territory will begin in the future moment that God
decrees when the first earth will be dissolved and the land of promise will then be
revealed (Apoc. Paul 21). In the meantime, until the final chronological events
occur, the souls of the righteous are sent for a time to this place when they leave
their earthly bodies it is a liminal place where souls live temporarily until the
millennial kingdom is manifest.49 This place is a kind of waiting room. It is not,
however, unchanging and eternal, existing outside history rather, it exists in time
and its purpose and nature will change at a future time. Christ will rule with his saints
in this land for a thousand years, Paul is informed by his angelic guide, and they
shall eat of the good things which now I will show thee.
Paul looks around and sees what these good things include: a river flowing
49 Early Christian theologians were preoccupied by the general problem of an in-between time for
souls, after the soul leaves the body upon death but before the final judgment or the establishment of
the millennial kingdom. For a treatment of beliefs on this intermediate existence in late antiquity the
debate as to whether souls sleep in the dust until the final judgment or whether they are conscious in
some intermediate place until that last time see Nicholas Constas, To Sleep, Perchance to Dream:
The Middle State of Souls in Patristic and Byzantine Literature, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001):
91-124. Bauckham, Fate of the Dead 269-89, also details the sleeping in the dust beliefs of early
Christianity and Judaism: he details how a final bodily resurrection was shaped by the idea of the earth
first holding, then giving back to God, the sleeping dead at the end of time. See also Bauckham, Early
Jewish Visions of Hell 357-58; Bauckham argues that the very shift to a belief in an in-between time,
with its immediately visible eschatological judgments, permits a narrator to witness the fate of the

with milk and honey and trees weighted down with abundant fruit beside the river
(Apoc. Paul 22). This territory is a vision of plenty: every tree bears twelve various
and diverse fruit in a year. There are specific natural varieties, palm trees, of ten and
twenty cubits. These palm trees are full of fruit to the upper branches ten thousand
branches with tens of thousands of clusters, and ten thousand dates in each cluster.
There are also vines, every vine with ten thousand branches, each branch with ten
thousand bunches of grapes, and every bunch with ten thousand grapes. There are
also other trees in the land of promise, myriads and myriads, with as much fruit.
Here, the descriptive qualities appeal to multiple senses: taste, smell, sight, the tactile
weight of grapes hanging from the vine. Pauls travel through the land of promise is
bookended by similar sensory pleasures: as Paul sails across the Acherusian Lake,
taken up from the land of promise, he sees four rivers circling the gates of the city of
Christ: a river of honey, a river of milk, a river of wine, and a river of oil {Apoc.
Paul 23).
These images of the territorial waiting room for souls and the final site of the
millennial kingdom are concrete, verdant and lush, as well as abundant: they are
clearly drawn before the eyes as a tangible geographic space. Rivers flow with milk
and honey, invoking the idealized fertile territory of the Hebrew bible, as well as the
accompanying covenantal relationship with God first mentioned to Moses by God
in Ex. 3:8 (cf. Ex. 33:3, Lev. 20:24, Num. 13:27, Ezek. 20:6). Levine argues that this
milk and honey imagery is generally taken as a hyperbolic description of lush

fertility.50 Derrett, in turn, relates imagery of milk and honey (as well as wine) to
the fertile natural imagery associated with the Greek deity Dionysos or the Roman
Bacchus.51 52 In the case of the Apocalypse of Paul, the seers journey to a fertile and
idealized paradise is the going underground of the fantasy of a Golden Age located
in an abundant geographical paradise. According to Derrett, the apocalyptic narrative
in the text combines milk, honey and Alexander-romance themes.
Thus, the narrative about the land of promise is enhanced by the description of
the fertile zone of food and drink surrounding Paul. We are drawn a picture of
pastoral abundance, with the fruit and vegetation sketching an outline of feasting and
hospitality. The grapevines in particular remind the audience of the Eucharistic ritual
- and as the devotee imagines this scene of fruitfulness, a place at the table is set for
him or her. Indeed, our earliest extant Christian images stress the importance of the
50 Etan Levine, The Land of Milk and Honey, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 87 (2000):
43-57. Levine points out that such descriptions of lush abundance may be misleading, since such
idealized territory is not supported by topological conditions in Palestine. Levine states that milk and
honey refers to a kind of geographic anxiety of a precarious society unable to cultivate a harsh land
and reliant on the vicissitudes of nature or, in the case of the covenantal relationship, the vicissitudes of
51 Derrett cites the work of Plato, Euipides, Ovid, and Seneca: in Euripides Bacchae 142, for example,
honey, milk and water gush from the land for the followers of Dionysos, demonstrating the gods link
with the fertility and abundance. Indeed, Derrett suggests that the pagan associations with milk and
honey may explain why the phrase fell out of favor. J. Duncan M. Derrett, Whatever Happened to
the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey? Vigiliae Christianae 38.2 (1984): 181. In contrast, Levine
argues that the milk and honey metaphor was tied to the geographic circumstances of a people in crisis
- communities lived on uncultivated land and during times of crisis, they were dependent on rainfall
and divine assistance as they grazed their animals and searched for honey.
52 Derrett 182.

ritual meal, such as those pictured in the Catacomb of Priscilla outside Rome: these
paintings include the fish, the loaf of bread, the ceramic dishes, and the diners
reclining around a cushion and sharing the bowls.53 According to Jones, the Christian
ritual meal as established in the early centuries of the common era is less like the
Jewish Passover meal rushed, simple, evocative of suffering and flight and more
Roman, with its pastoral essence flavoring the Christian meal of communion.54 This
serves as an example of food developing as an artifact imbued with meaning in early
Christian societies.55 Not only is the ritual meal an example of practical activities
associated with a mystical praxis56 but it also communicates social values, reminding
us of the way formal meal traditions are planned and conducted.57
Thus, as the devotee contemplates the abundance presented before Pauls eyes
53 Martin Jones, Feast: Why Humans Share Food (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 268.
54 Jones 268. This point is debated: the Christian Eucharistic meal, as presented in a canonical passage
like Pauls letter in 1 Cor. 11:23-25, is also argued to be modeled on the Jewish feast. Kuhn presents
the various possibilities: the Christian meal may be grounded in pagan mystery rites or the Greek and
Roman meal to commemorate the dead, but a primarily pagan origin should not be automatically
favored over a Jewish origin. Heinz-Wolfgang Kuhn, The Qumran Meal and the Lords Supper in
Paul in the Context of the Greco-Roman World, Paul. Luke and the Graeco-Roman World, ed. A. J.
M. Wedderbum and Alf Christophersen (Harrisburg, PA: Continuum International Publishing Group,
2004), 239-241.
55 Jones 273.
55 DeConick 23.
57 Dennis Edwin Smith, From Symposium to Eucharist: The Banquet in the Early Christian World
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 3. Smith refers to banquet ideology, incorporating social codes
and encompassing meal traditions such as the Christian Eucharist, funerary banquets, mystery meals,
and Jewish festival meals.

in the land of promise, the role of memory is apparent. Audience memory interacts
with and informs the sights, smells and tastes of the text. Not only is the wine a
reminder of the Eucharistic meal, but the milk and honey are also the promises of
abundance and shelter in the Hebrew Bible, while the oil is the anointing of kings and
prophets. Pauls surroundings, which he reacts to with wonder and curiosity, produce
a richly sensible environment that is filled with the signage of memory.
Certainly, there is ambivalence here: the sensuousness of the promised land
contrasts with more circumscribed physicality in the text. Asceticism, as Himmelfarb
points out, is a feature of the Apocalypse of Paul.58 59 The righteous will enjoy this
abundance while the sexually pure will receive even greater rewards (Apoc. Paul
22). Another ambivalent note: the suggested ritual meal, with its wine, milk, honey
and fruit, is an unfulfilled promise that creates anticipation for the audience. Paul
may observe vines weighted down with tens of thousands of grapes and the rivers
may run with milk and honey, but there is no communal sharing of this food and
drink in the text. Its presence is a reminder like an empty chair at the table of the
of the sacred meal as mediation between human and divine, with its attendant sights
58 Susan K. Roll, Easter: From Death to New Life, Christian Feast and Festival: The Dynamics of
Western Liturgy and Culture, ed. Paulus Gijsbertus et al. (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2001), 539.
Here, Roll is referring specifically to the Easter feast.
59 Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell 74; see Elliott 616 on the ascetic interests in the Apocalypse of Paul.

and smells, as well as its appeal to taste and touch.60 However, gratification is
delayed. Just as the devotee must wait for the future time when the promised land
transitions to the millennial kingdom, the devotee must also wait for supper. The
promise of the ritual meal makes central the eschatological role of the bodily senses
in the text, setting the table for an anticipated celebration and presenting to the reader
a metaphor for participation.
Emotion as Invitation to the Audience
Pauls observations of his surroundings are embedded with emotional cues for
the audience, indicating to the audience how it should respond. Likewise, Pauls
relentless curiosity about his surroundings is imparted to the audience: he constantly
asks questions of his angelic guide as he moves through various territories. The
question and answer pattern, as Himmelfarb has pointed out, is a characteristic of
apocalyptic tours61 such as Chapter 21 s question Lord, what is this place and the
answer by the angelic guide that it is the land of promise and serves a narrative
guide for the reader or hearer. Paul is the roving eye that surveys the landscape and
relays information to the audience. He marvels at the sights, encouraging the
audience to do the same: he is amazed, for example, at the failings of the children of
60 Andrea Lieber, I Set a Table before You: The Jewish Eschatological Character of Aseneths
Conversion Meal, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 14.1 (2004) 65.
61 Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell 45.

men as seen from the great height of heaven (Apoc. Paul 13) and by the Acherusian
Lake, whiter than milk, whose water is used for ritually purifying the repentant {Apoc.
Paul 22).
When Paul reaches the territory of the punished dead, located over the ocean
which supports the foundations of heaven thus past an outer perimeter in the
direction of the setting sun {Apoc. Paul 31) his reactions continue as signage on the
road. He sighs and weeps for the eschatological punishments of humankind after
witnessing their torments {Apoc. Paul 40). Indeed, while scholarship on the
Apocalypse of Paul has focused on the tour of hell as a highlight, this section of the
otherworldly journey has a strong emotional message of mercy. Paul is shown
discrete, displayed sections of punishments: the river of fire reserved for the bishop
who showed no compassion to widows and orphans {Apoc. Paul 35), in the same area
as the pit for those who clung to their riches in life {Apoc. Paul 37), itself above the
pool like blood for those who speak enchantments {Apoc. Paul 38). Each display
serves to increase Pauls distress and sorrow, and he cries out repeatedly that men
should not even have been bom {Apoc. Paul 40).
The narrative builds emotional tension through the continued display of areas
of punishment. It culminates in the dramatic high point in the text: the scene of
collective mourning followed by Pauls vision of the throne room of God and finally, 62
62 Interestingly enough, a section of punishments is devoted to those transgressors in church offices,
such as priest, bishop, and reader (Apoc. Paul 34-36).

God himself. The condemned souls see Paul weeping and they weep themselves,
praying for mercy. The heavens open and Michael and his angels descend when
they see the state of the souls, the angels weep, as well. When the souls see the
angels, they weep again; Michael joins them and Paul in tears, all crying with hope
for mercy from God (Apoc. Paul 43). As in the canonical Revelation 4, twenty-four
elders and four creatures appear, seemingly as a precursor visual cue to the imminent
presence of God. Paul then sees the altar, the veil and the throne. He smells the
sweet odor of incense coming from the altar at the throne. He sees the Son of God
come down out of heaven, crowned, as the ultimate vision in the moment of
sorrowful weeping; he hears the voice of God recounting the bodily sacrifice of
crucifixion.63 Because of the outpouring of emotion and grief by Paul, Michael and
the angels, God awards the condemned souls respite for a day and a night the souls
get a day off from punishment on Sundays. This does not end their punishment, but
the souls rejoice nonetheless (Apoc. Paul 44).
Certainly, it is difficult to deny the dramatic impact of the descriptions of
Pauls tour of hell and therefore any scholarly emphasis on the penitential aspects of
the text is understandable. The persuasive impact of creative depictions of hell is
only increased by their vividness, per the principles of classical rhetoric: in mnemonic
63 Robbins notes that this is not the figure of Christ or the Lord God as a direct vision to Paul rather,
Paul sees the throne of God and Christ at a distance and observes others reaction to the presence.
Robbins also emphasizing that Paul does not have a vision of divine presence in the City of Christ, but
in the place of sorrow and darkness. The presence of Christ and the archangel Michael in hell serve as
redemptive function in the apocalyptic drama. Robbins, Legacy of 2 Corinthians 8-9.

theory, ordinary images were thought to slip the memory more easily, with dramatic
and unusual images serving as better guideposts. A solar eclipse, for example, was
regarded as a more dramatic mnemonic tool than the daily sunrise.64 In order to aid
memory, the classical prescription was for mnemonic images that were base,
dishonorable, unusual, great, unbelievable, ridiculous, or comic, and in the later
medieval period, gross and sensible.65 So, the images of Pauls tour of hell,
shocking and repellant as they are, harness the power and persuasion of memory.
Hell is, rhetorically speaking, unforgettable.
At the same time, this display of hell also highlights the visceral impact of
Pauls sympathetic reactions, which help sway God himself. As Bauckham points
out, Pauls journey to hell was originally placed between two different and more
extensive accounts of paradise: only certain later versions, notably the Latin
Redaction IV and its vernacular translations, reduced the texts journey to a catalogue
of punishments in hell.66 We should also note that the power of the descriptions of
hell is answered in the text by a compassionate response to the condemned by all the
dramatic characters in the narrative, including the narrator himself. The textual
emphasis on hell, argues Bauckham eventually regarded as more pedagogically
powerful than trips to paradise addressed a theological problem: if God was
64 Boyle 8.
65 Boyle 8.
66 Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead 93-4.

merciful, hell was a puzzle. The apocalyptic journey of Paul grapples with that
problem by traveling the paths of hell, physically sectioning it off and arranging it -
attempting to classify the chaos of punishment and bodily pain and then responding
to it with Pauls narrative compassion. The correctness of Pauls sympathetic
responses to the condemned is underscored by his role as much-loved throughout
his journey: the angelic guide (Apoc. Paul 41), Michael the archangel (Apoc. Paul
42), and God himself {Apoc. Paul 44) refer to Paul as beloved. Such consistent
affection reminds the audience that Paul is a figure to be emulated and that his
emotional reactions are praiseworthy.
Through the use of detailed sensory description, meant to draw a map of
Pauls journey for the audience, and through the emotional cues present in particular
places, the text functions as a verbal icon. The audience participates and performs by
following imaginatively and emotionally, linking elements of the narrative to
remembered characters and events. DeConicks analogy also suggests, however, that
the verbal icon function of the otherworldly journey is comparable to that of a
pictorial icon. In the next chapter, I will discuss the pictorial icon and compare its
function to that of the verbal icon.
67 Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead 94.

DeConick argues not only for the apocalyptic otherworldly journey as a verbal
icon, but also for its similarity to a pictorial icon, like those of the Byzantine tradition.
How can we assess this statement? Our first step is to unpack the concept of pictorial
icon itself, in the sense that DeConick intends it, to see how it operates vis-a-vis the
text as verbal icon.
Byzantine icons, religious images held as sacred and presented in a traditional
and distinctive style, ranged from small paintings on wood to be carried on ones
person to large-scale frescoes and church mosaics. These images developed in the
Byzantine Empire, which extended roughly from the fourth century CE with the
division between Western and Eastern empires in 395 through to the Ottoman
conquest in 1453. Icon imagery grew in the context of the eastern Christian
communities and ultimately, the Eastern Orthodox Church, including later distinct
national orthodox churches. The Russian Novgorod school of iconic art, flowering in
the 12th century as an extension of Byzantine visual traditions and gradually emerging
as its own cultural style, is an example. For the purposes of my project, I will draw
my examples of icons from our earliest existing examples, dating to the sixth and
seventh centuries approximately a century after the long Latin text of the

Apocalypse of Paul and prior to the Byzantine iconoclastic movements of the eighth
and ninth centuries.1 2
Icons themselves mark a conceptual transition in early Christian images from
figurative to divine representation. The earliest existing Christian images, dating to
the beginning of the third century, include catacomb wall frescoes outside Rome -
the catacombs of San Callistus, as an example, feature symbols like the dove, the
anchor, or the fish, in addition to simple narrative images based on biblical scenes.
Similar images are found on domestic objects like pottery lamps or relief carvings on
sarcophagi, as well as on walls in early Christian sites such as the Dura-Europos
house, with its baptistry frescoes. Jensen called the turn of the third century the
period just before the emergence of the proto-version of the Apocalypse of Paul a
watershed in the development of Christian imagery, with early Christian
communities creating distinct art by combining familiar and new motifs.3 Indeed, by
the late fourth century, when the Apocalypse of Paul emerged in its form with Tarsus
introduction, church leaders increasingly recognized that art could be employed as an
1 We should note that few instances survived the iconoclastic period a small but important group
reside in the collection of the Monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai, Egypt. Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus
Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
1999), 93.
2 Robin Jensen, Face to Face: Portraits of the Divine in Early Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press,
2005), 3-6. See Balch for a discussion of domestic art as a possible reinforcement of apocalyptic
narrative, visually echoing mythic events in the homes where the audience was gathered, hearing the
text read aloud.
3 Jensen 3-5.

instrument of worship, enhancing liturgy and imparting lessons.4
By the late fourth century, a shift had occurred from symbolic and narrative
art to portraits of Christ, Mary, or the saints. These portraits offered an encounter to
the devotee what Bal and Bryson might refer to as a sign that is an event in the
world.5 The Good Shepherd, for example, was a metaphor or symbol, meant to
express certain qualities of a loving caretaker; a holy portrait, on the other hand,
presented a divine countenance for contemplation.6 7 The inducement to contemplation
suggests that the devotee observing the portrait plays a necessary role in the image
event, as the one contemplating or imaginatively viewing. This was precisely the
kind of representation that the early church had sought to avoid. It could be conflated
with pagan imagery and run the risk of confusing the surface world with the invisible,
eternal world. Devotional portraits made a claim to some likeness of the original
personage, inwardly and outwardly, rather than merely showing an actor occupying
the spot within the frame.8 This iconic function, controversial in the early centuries
4 Jensen 21.
5 Bal and Bryson, Semiotics and Art History 194.
6 Jensen 23, 26. This challenges Soskices discussion, 34, of hierarchy of intellectual sight over
corporeal or vision sight in early Christianity the theology of the icon is such that intellectual sight
and corporeal sight are merged when interacting with the image.
7 Plato believed that divine images should be avoided for this reason, due to its mimetic and even
deceptive claims to represent something beyond surface reality. These claims had the potential to
mislead and confuse the finite and infinite for the viewer. Jensen 27. See also Soskice 34.
8 Jensen 26.

of Christianity, is the very thing I wish to stress: the devotee encounters and interacts
with an icon as an event, with the icon itself offering a line of sight between this
world and one beyond.
Byzantine icons as a visual idiom developed in Eastern Christianity, with our
earliest extant examples dating to the sixth century.9 This form of iconography was
formally established by church decree, such as statements by the 787 CE Seventh
Council of Nicaea, held in the aftermath of the first iconoclastic controversy.
Theologically, the icon was cast by the church as providing channels of grace, with
an icon serving as a mysterion or sacred mystery, even a sacrament.10 St. John
Damascene, an influential theological writer during the iconoclastic debates, argued
for the visual power of icons to reveal or suggest the intangible to the devotee, in
what can be termed a basic principle of iconography: Damascene held that visible
things are images of invisible and intangible things, on which they throw a faint
light.11 12
The icon or the pictorial concept that lends itself to veneration grew
theologically as it did stylistically. According to Belting and Jephcott, the first icons
9 Margaret E. Kenna, Icons in Theory and Practice: An Orthodox Christian Example, History of
Religions 24.4 (May, 1985): 348.
10 Kenna 346-7.
11 Michael Latzer, Using a Picture: Wittgenstein and Byzantine Iconography, Encounter 66.3
(2005): 272.
12 Hans Belting and Edmund Jephcott, Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era
of Art, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 29.

of late antiquity were largely standardized and lacked natural spontaneity, reflecting
the needs of the early church to control the cult-image; physical form was given less
attention. Material use of the image was standardized, with the noetic separated from
the physical. By the eleventh century, however, new speech roles for the icon were
opening, as paintings of saints in particular emphasized roles, reenacting mythical
narrative.13 The late Byzantine period saw yet another radical change in the
appearance of the icon. Even though icons allowed a personal way of experiencing
its meaning, stimulated by the affective means of mime, gesture, and color on the
one hand, at the same time all was now removed into the unattainable world
beyond. Later icons fostered this effect by use of light that seemed to come from a
world beyond, pointing the way into a personal escape into another world, a
transcendental one that was now the only world intact.14 Thus, the icon may seem
visually simple crude, even but its shifting theological and stylistic nature
demonstrates its complexity. I would argue that even the earliest icons, as my
examples will demonstrate, display unstable boundaries between tangible and
transcendent realms, with the devotee enacting the iconic event within and through
the physical world.
This performed relationship between the icon and the devotee even extends to
the material production of the icon itself. The production of icons becomes itself a
13 Belting and Jephcott 28
14 Belting and Jephcott 28.

sacralized activity carried out according to particular rules, and the activity augments
the devotees performance within the physical world. Margaret Kenna, who explores
the cultural meaning of icons through to present day Greece, states that the production
of icons is a statement about the relationship of the created world to its Creator.15
The icon is made of substances from all parts of the natural world animal, vegetable
and mineral sources and even the pigments are supposed to remain unblended, so as
to stress their individuality, yet their contribution to the compositional whole. The
icon, states Kenna, is a microcosm of the relationship between the material world,
human beings, and the divine power believed to have created them all and moreover,
is a sacramental form of communion with that divine power.16 This view is also
held by Janet Soskice, who argues that in icons, we find emblems of the mystery of
the invisible divine made visible. She states:
The icon is in its own way a transformation, remaining wood and paint
yet being image and saint at the same time. The physicality of the
surface, the wood, the pigments, is an emblem of the physicality of the
God whose veneration the icons serve....The icon is furthermore not
passive to the gaze. If anything, and explicitly with the icons of Virgin
and Child, it is the worshipper who is looked upon.17
15 Kenna 348.
16 Kenna 348.
17 Soskice 35.

Perhaps most importantly for our purposes, the icon is generally presented as a
window to heaven18 in theological terms. The icon, in this way, is meant to permit a
point of entry: the devotee may peer through it to something beyond, experiencing a
potentially transformative event. Latzer states that in Eastern Christian iconographic
teaching, icons demarcate the mystery of divine reality, marking off what is, and is
not, accessible to human speculative cognition.19 Icons, then, are meant to function
both as reminders of theological events and conduits of experience. Accessible is a
key word describing this relationship between the icon and the devotee: an icon
allows the devotee to access remembered figures and events and at the same time, it
makes another place beyond that window accessible to the devotee.
Among our earliest examples of Byzantine icons is the Christ Pantocrator,
dating from the sixth or seventh century (Fig. 3.1). This icon is located in the
Monastery of St. Catherine on the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, originally built by the
Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I in the sixth century. Christ, bearded, long-haired
and dressed in a dark tunic, stands in front of the viewer, his face and torso in the
frame. In his left hand, he clutches a book adorned with a cross and other decorative
elements, while his right hand makes the characteristic gesture of benediction. This
image subverts the idea that icons should follow a strict pattern: the large gold nimbus
18 Latzer 271; John Hanson, The Statuesque Hodegetria and the Limitations of the Sculpted Icon,
Icon and Word: The Power of Images in Byzantium: Studies Presented to Robin Cormack. ed. Antony
Eastmond and Liz James (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), 180.
19 Latzer 271-2.

FIG. 3.1. CHRIST PANTOCRATOR. C. 659-700 CE. Encaustic on wood, 85 x 45
cm. St. Catherine Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt. Artstor.

of other space around the head, the book and the hand gesture contrast with the
flesh-like brushstrokes and the asymmetrical, imperfect eyes and lips. We have the
sense that this figure is standing in a familiar kind of place, and not in a sacral space
that suggests a void behind him is a horizon with perspectival architecture, two gold
eight-pointed stars suspended in the sky in the upper right and left comers.20
This image succeeds, in a unique way, in capturing the dual nature of god and
man in its blend of humanity and aloof timelessness.21 According to the early
Christian theology of the devotional icon, such an image reminds us of truths and
events (God as Christ in the Pantocrator motif, the all-powerful ruler of the world,
Roman emperor-like) and provides a means of reflection and connection (the
relationship of the viewing subject to the divine, achieved by peering through the
window of the icon). To this, we must add another layer of meaning the importance
of the iconic display in the regulation of audience behavior, especially true if the icon
is physically located in a space designated as sacred but accessible to the layperson,
such as a church.
A lynchpin of DeConicks analogy, text as verbal icon and image as visual
icon, is the shared affective quality of both. The affective relationship between the
religious image and viewer in particular the need for two dramatic parts to interact
20 Manolis Chatzidakis and Gerry Walters, An Encaustic Icon of Christ at Sinai, Art Bulletin 49.3
(1967): 197.
21 Pelikan 93.

in performance, in order to light the spark of the iconic event has a broad and well-
established context. Orsi points to the unmediated art object, specifically Marian
icons, as inducing a personal relationship with the divine: the image, in this case, is a
medium of presence.22 23 In this regard, the iconic event can be related to affective
religious imagery in general.
Points of Convergence: Verbal and Pictorial Icon
Schiissler-Fiorenza and Aitken both support the argument that a text can
function like an art object and induce certain behaviors in the audience. Schiissler-
Fiorenza, as we have observed, argues that the apocalyptic text Revelation functions
as an artwork, comparable to symphony with its forms, motifs and composition.
Aitkens comparison between the Apocalypse of Paul and the Third Style of Roman
painting emphasizing the ideological and rhetorical functions of bringing landscape
before the audiences eyes in both also highlights the overlap of artistic work and
These examples demonstrate the potentially interrelated nature of the visual
and the written text. However, if we are to compare the iconic function in both
pictorial icons and in Pauls otherworldly journey as a verbal icon, we must go
22 Robert A. Orsi, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars
Who Study Them (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 59.
23 Schiissler-Fiorenza, Revelation 32.
24 Aitken 153 and passim.

further. How does DeConicks analogy operate? I would identify two key elements:
first, both types of icon use space and body as mediators between icon and subject
(viewer, worshipper, or reader), establishing the relationship between the devotee and
the icon. Second, both types of icon have a ritualistic, as well as a regulatory, role.
The mediating role of space and body is particularly relevant to the
comparison between the pictorial icon and the otherwordly journey as a verbal icon.
We can regard the devotee as performing in the presence of the pictorial icon,
recalling events or persons depicted in the icon or seeking access to regions beyond
the iconic window. Place and physicality become important components in
communicating the terms of this performance: the spaceless space in many
Byzantine icons, where figures almost float above thrones and the flatly rendered
figures are assembled in groupings with a spaceless quality,25 26 calls attention to our
own contrasting space. The figures in icons, their bodies frequently distorted or in
stylized, hieratic poses, suggest that alterations of expected physicality convey
narrative meaning. Bodies, as we observe them in the world around us, do not stand
stiffly, arranged in perfect straight lines; they exist naturally and imperfectly, moving
in physical space. In addition, features like attenuated fingers and enlarged crania in
25 Ori Soltes, Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish. Christian and Muslim Art Draw From the Same Source
(Boulder: Westview, 2005), 80.
26 Soltes 81.

iconic figures suggest a presence distinct from our experience. As van Deventer
points out, narrative silently speaking bodies can both subvert and reinforce culture
An example is the Virgin Enthroned Between Saints Theodore and George,
also at the Monastery of Saint Catherine in Egypt and dating to the sixth or seventh
century (Fig. 3.2). The Virgin Mary is seated with the child in her lap, with bearded
Theodore on the right of mother and child and youthful George on the left. The
figures here are arranged formally in row, with elongated bodies and faces. The
saints are reminiscent of alert bodyguards flanking mother and child, while the
vertical lines of their bodies offers a sense of height. Krautheimer et al. state that
mother and child are presented with some degree of naturalism, nonetheless
undermined by the unnatural proportions of the Virgin. All the figures are nimbed.
Mary wears a purple gown and red shoes, clothing worn only by Byzantine empresses 27 28 29
27 See Hanson on the physicality of icons that suggests spiritual presence. Anthony Tyrrell Hanson,
The Prophetic Gospel (Continuum International, 2006), 291. See also Soltes on attenuated figuration
and the adult-like form of the infant Jesus as characteristic of icons, characteristics distinguishing such
images from other developing styles of European art. Soltes, 81, refers to the attenuated quality as
defying physicality, but I would argue that it also uses physicality as a central and necessary device for
28 Hans van Deventer, The Bold, the Beautiful and the Beasts in the Book of Daniel, Scriptura 90
(2005): 722.
29 Richard Krautheimer et al., Early Christian and Byzantine Art. 4th ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1986), 92.

6th century CE. Encaustic on wood, 69 x 48 cm. St. Catherine Monastery, Mount
Sinai, Egypt. Artstor.

ANGELS. Late 6th century CE. Encaustic on wood, 69 x 48 cm. St. Catherine
Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt. Artstor.
during that period;30 31 32 they suggest splendor in both theological and political terms.
There is an interesting and potentially subversive element here: a slight, almost
imperceptible movement is created by the sidelong glance of Marys eyes and slight
turn of knee. The child looks straight out towards the viewer, common in icons of the
first centuries. Yet, neither figure engages the eyes of the viewer, instead focusing
on something beyond the viewer: grave, impersonal, detached, withdrawn, these
unearthly beings look past and beyond into infinity. Two angels behind form a
30 Konrad Onasch and Annemarie Schnieper, Icons: The Fascination and Reality, trans. Daniel G.
Conklin (New York: Riverside, 1997), 19.
31 Onasch and Schnieper 19.
32 Krautheimer 92.

counterpoint to the front row of figures they look upwards, drawing our attention to
the hand of God, descending in light above the tableau (Fig. 3.3). The angels stare,
wide-eyed and awestruck, perhaps even terrified. We are invited to contemplate
where God is and where this antechamber or waiting room presented in the icon
might be, and where we are in relation to these figures.
Physicality, then, is the language used to express this distinction between our
sensible world and the world inhabited by these iconic figures. We speak the visual
language of limb and facial feature; we see the saints stand straight on either side of
mother and child and understand them to be guardians; we see a disembodied hand
and the expressions on the angels faces and we understand that this indicates a
powerful being able to reach into the tableau. These physical signs straddle places,
the familiar and the unfamiliar: elongated limbs or rounded eyes belong to forms that
are at the same time of this world and of another world.33 In this regard, the places
of the icon are not clearly and neatly divided between this place and another place.
The physical environment of the iconic tableau remains vaguely familiar, yet
ultimately elusive.
33 Kenna 349. There are contrary viewpoints, we should note: horror vacui in Jewish and early
Christian art, for example, expressed the desire to fill any available compositional space with
ornamentation. Rachel Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in the Land of Israel (Leiden:
Brill, 1988) 104, 115, 289. Soltes argues that in early Christian images, there exists the belief that an
artistic image invoked the sacred and thus, could allow something negative to enter the mundane world
through the portal. So, an entire surface was covered with ornamentation, allowing nothing negative to
enter from the sacred space accessed. Soltes 73-74. In particular, Soltes points to the complex
surfaces of sarcophagi as a powerful boundary between the space of this world and a sacred space
beyond it.

Moreover, the very bodies in pictorial icons may act as border creatures,
further blurring the boundaries between this-worldly and otherworldly places.
Figures are often presented surrounded by high value space depicted by gold paint or
the presence of angels or sacred figures peering into the frame from an unseen
location. Instead of shadows lining the folds of a garment, we may have gold paint;
saints or Mary may have gold hands, denoting a divine significance of a bodily
limb.34 Given the common metaphor of the window for the pictorial icon, we may
understand that it is meant to permit our line of sight between the viewer and the
places beyond the windowpane. The metaphor of a window is useful, but I would
also argue for the icon as a bridge, a connective structure spanning a divide and
promising passage.
We find such bridge in the St. Catherine monastery icon of Saint Peter from
the sixth or seventh century, with crosier and keys (Fig. 3.4). He is magisterial and
even elegant with neatly cut grey hair; he stands in what appears to be a hall where
we glimpse two columns and capitals behind him, or in an exedra, a semicircular
recess. The atmosphere suggests secular portraiture: Peter is presented in the style of
34 Soltes 81. See also Kenna, 347 and 352, on the ritual production of icons, including the use of
precious or semi-precious metals, and on the relation between pigments used for icons and the
Plotinian views of the divine located in light and color. This use of gold paint extended to the body as
well as to space: gold paint might be used for the hand of Mary or the hand or mouth of a saint, to
denote the physical limb that was the wellspring of intercession, healing, or prayer. See Hans Belting
and Edmund Jephcott, Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image Before the Era of Art, trans.
Edmund Jephcott (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 38-40.

consular authorities.35 He is the anchor in the icon, his bodily presence familiar to
the audience a man standing in a corridor or recess is a known quantity. However,
our expectations about physical space are subverted. Behind Peter and presented as
overarching authorities, three medallions at the top of the scene show busts of Christ,
Mary, and a figure at times identified as John the disciple36 peering though Peters
space and out towards the viewer. As with the hand of God, we are unsure of the
place where these figures are located it is somewhere unfamiliar and different from
our mundane world. With his more familiar bodily presence, Peter forms both a
boundary and a link between the viewer and the divine manifestations in the
35 Krautheimer 94.
36 Onash and Schnieper 19.

FIG. 3.4. SAINT PETER. 6th century CE. Encaustic on wood, 52 x 39 cm. St.
Catherine Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt. Artstor.

Certainly, neither pictorial nor verbal icons are straightforward representations
of the material world in terms of perspective, architecture or landscape, but rather,
both are intended to embody spiritual truths. The audience understands that rivers
do not flow with milk and honey in our day-to-day world, and it knows that space is
not gold-colored. Here, we have a paradox: these icons, verbal and pictorial, are not
meant to be an exact representation of the physical world, yet they use the elements of
the physical world bodily form and space as crucial persuasive tactics.
That icons, verbal and pictorial, do not attempt to exactly represent the
physical world, yet use the elements of the physical as central persuasive tactics, may
be paradoxical. At the same time, however, this very paradox leads us into another
point of convergence between the pictorial icon and the otherworldly journey as
verbal icon. Physical space may not be naturalistic, particularly in the case of the
pictorial icon, but it is ritualistic. Jonathan Z. Smith conceptualizes sacrality as a
category of emplacement in particular, he presents ritual as an idealized version of
physical acts in our own world. The bear hunt, for example, becomes perfected in its
material details when made into a ritualized ceremony reenacting the hunt.37 38 39
37 Kenna 350.
38 Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual (Chicago, University of Chicago Press
1987), 104.
39 Jonathan Z. Smith, The Bare Facts of Ritual, History of Religions 20.1/2 (1980): 126-27.
Interestingly, Smith asserts that this idealization of an ordinary act acknowledges that the world cannot
be compelled, not that it shall be compelled, via ritual. This contrasts with views of ritual that involve
space as a category for maintaining order in the world: see, for example, Frank H. Gorman, Jr., The

Applying Smiths approach to our text, Pauls journey occurs in places that are active
and operate as forces shaping actors and events.40 Other features of ritual space are
examined in the work of Carol Duncan, who compares the religious ritual place with
the secular art museum. Secular culture full of ritual situations and events, argues
Duncan, even if few take place in religious contexts, and art museums are rich in
symbolism that publicly represents beliefs about the order of the world, mapping to
guide visitors through their constructed universe.41 Duncans comparison between
ritual space in art museums and religious places stresses intentional movement
through discrete areas or clearly defined precincts, as well as the viewing of
displayed objects in specific areas with a special kind of expectancy and a special
quality of time and space.42 A ritual experience, moreover, has a purpose, an end. In
her discussion, Duncan shows how ritual space is carefully marked off and culturally
designated as reserved for a special quality of attention in this case, for
contemplation and learning.43
This attention to the behaviors present in ritual spaces certainly true of Pauls
apocalyptic journey. The apocalyptic landscape that Paul travels through is itself
Ideology of Ritual: Space. Time and Status in the Priestly Theology. JSOT Sup. Series 91 (Sheffield :
Sheffield Academic Press, 1990).
40 Smith, To Take Place 26.
41 Duncan 8.
42 Duncan 476.
43 Duncan 10.

segmented and organized into specific, ritual tasks in particular areas: angels observe
the deeds of humans and report them to God every morning and evening; God listens
to the reports; angels take souls to paradise or Tartarus; Michael descends from
heaven to perform certain assignments for humans.44 There is a clearly defined
division of labor in the otherworldly territories.
In these terms, Paul is the visitor to the museum of otherworldly rewards and
punishments, where place and the ritual movement through it act upon him. As Paul
moves through the display zones of his tour, he reacts to the exhibits in characteristic
fashion for a recipient of mysteries in apocalyptic literature, with awe, fear, and
adoration. For both Paul and the figures of the pictorial icon, Duncans observation
can be applied: a ritual space is programmed for the enactment of something and
the evocation of certain responses, including decorous and contemplative conduct.45
This ritual movement in an almost museum-like place is reinforced by the
question and answer pattern in the text, previously discussed in Chapter 2 as
characteristic of otherwordly journey apocalypses in general:46 Paul asks a question
about what he observes and his angelic guide offers an explanatory answer. Thus,
each exhibit displayed in the museum has its label and its plaque describing its
contents to the visitor. At one point, the angel even observes wryly, we might
44 Robbins, Legacy of 2 Corinthians 13-14.
45 Duncan 477.
45 Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell 45.

imagine, in the face of Pauls many questions: Thou dost examine and inquire of all
things (Apoc. Paul 30). This pattern of question and answer often signals territorial
markers of importance during Pauls journey. In the City of Christ, for example, Paul
asks his angelic guide, What are these rivers that compass this city about? The
answer: These are the four rivers which flow abundantly for them that are in this
land of promise, whereof the names are these: the river of honey is called Phison, and
the river of milk Euphrates, and the river of oil Geon, and the river of wine Tigris
(Apoc. Paul 23). These labeling questions and answers set the terms or rules
governing Pauls performance in the otherwordly space, conveyed to the audience in
In addition to the ritualistic space shared by verbal and pictorial icon, both
types of icons also direct and instruct. In drawing the devotee into a relationship with
perceived sacrality, icons also regulate as well as invite. We might say, using
Latzers terminology, that pictorial icons have both a didactic and a mystagogic
role, with moral teaching and mystical, experiential dimensions.47 We may think, for
47 Latzer states that icons are both didactic and mystagogic in function, instructing the faithful by
revealing the divine and inviting worshippers into the divine reality disclosed. Michael Latzer,
Using a Picture: Wittgenstein and Byzantine Iconography, Encounter 66.3 (2005): 271-72. For the
instructive-mystery functions of the icon, see also Gennadios Limouris, The Apocalyptic Character
and Dimension of the Icon in the Life of the Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Theological Review
33.3 (1988): 253. On icons teaching through display, see Thomas E. A. Dale, Relics. Prayer, and
Politics in Medieval Venetia: Romanesque Painting in the Crypt of Aquileia Cathedral (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1997), 57; Antony Eastmond, Between Icon and Idol: The Uncertainty of
Imperial Images, Icon and Word: The Power of Images in Byzantium: Studies Presented to Robin
Cormack. ed. Antony Eastmond, Liz James, and Robin Cormack (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), 73.

example, of the iconostasis or Eastern Christian sanctuary screen, with its elaborate
rows of icons and religious images, separating the sanctuary from the nave and
congregation: it serves both as a door to and a boundary against the most sacred
area of the church on the other side of the screen, demonstrating the didactic and
regulatory function of displayed icons (Fig. 3.5). In the case of Pauls movement
through particular zones of the apocalyptic landscape, his journey stresses display for
the purpose of demonstrating proper behavior. As Bynum and Freedman have noted
in their discussion of eschatological display in medieval Christian Europe, artistic
depictions of the territories and characters of hell serve both as an expression of
anxiety and a mechanism of social control.48
48 Bynum and Freedman, Last Things 4.

University of Colorado, Denver, Colorado.
Here, the museum of otherworldly rewards and punishments once again
comes to the fore: Paul witnesses the series of measure for measure punishments a
pattern in tours of hell in particular where the eschatological sentence is related to
the nature of the transgression. Himmelfarb notes how a condemned soul might be
hung by an offending limb:49 in the Apocalypse of Paul, men and women are hung by
their hair for adultery, the hair being a physical locus of sexual allure and pleasure.
Likewise, tantalization is a thematic punishment in tours of hell, connecting the
appetites of the living body with the appetites of the dead: in the Apocalypse of Paul,
those who broke their religious fasts early are sentenced to hang over a pool of water
with dry tongues, unable to drink or reach the abundant fruit close to them,
49 Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell 85-87.

reminiscent of the Greek myth of Tantalus.50 We should note that in order for these
punishments to be displayed to Paul as he travels through the apocalyptic territories,
the condemned souls cannot be conceptualized as disembodied. Quite the contrary:
the body of the soul, so to speak, is crucial to eschatological judgment and more
importantly, to its display. The pain experienced by the souls body is what
prompts Pauls compassionate reaction in Chapter 40, furthering the didactic goals of
the text. Map and body, in this sense, are deployed to convey lessons, becoming
themselves ideological.51 Like the pictorial icon used for religious and political
display, then, the verbal icon functions as more than just a trigger or conduit for
personal experience.
Points of Divergence: Verbal and Pictorial Icon
There are key points at which the function of the pictorial icon and the
otherwordly journey as verbal icon diverge. First, I would argue that in general, the
verbal and the pictorial icon are characterized by boundaries between this place and
another place. Those boundaries are not necessarily rigid ones and in some instances,
become quite fluid. The pictorial icon acts simultaneously as bridge and barrier, like
the iconostasis at the altar, and its visual narrative portrays border creatures that exist
between places but that iconic place is not homogeneous in its presentation of
50 Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell 92.
51 Aitken 154.

space. An example is the presence of non-divine figures in icons, such as saints or
patrons even increasingly, in later period examples, political rulers subverting the
rules about who is allowed to enter the liminal space of the pictorial icon.
I would also argue, however, that the boundaries in the otherworldly journey
of the Apocalypse of Paul are even more fluid than those of the pictorial icon. The
textual narrative lacks the hieratic quality of pictorial icons and indeed, overflows
with the much less disciplined and far more eclectic apocalyptic imagination. In
contrast to the identified schools of pictorial icons such as the Moscow and
Novgorod schools during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, or very specific
motifs, such as the Mother of God Hodegetria who gestures towards the child held in
her left arm the elements and examples of apocalyptic literature are less cohesive.
The boundaries between the places of this world and the places in the otherworldly
journey narrative demonstrate even less stability. In his study of apocalyptic
imagination in Daniel 1-6, Valeta refers to Bakhtins concept of experimental
fantasticality in the presentation of otherwordly drama: the text may demonstrate
various planes of existence, earthly space, strange lands, and transitional
movements/moments. These are textual examples of encounters and settings that
occur on the margins and thresholds of everyday normal life.
Such fluidity of boundaries underscores an ongoing tension that drives the 52
52 David Valeta, Lions and Ovens and Visions: A Satirical Reading of Daniel 1-6 (Sheffield : Sheffield
Phoenix Press, 2008), 113-14.

texts narrative forward like a wheel turning: the things of this world are
superimposed and even intermingled with the things of the otherworldly journey.
The rivers of paradise correspond to those of earth, human languages are spoken,
food and drink are present, buildings with specific architecture exist, extremes of
temperature characterize the otherwordly geography in climate zones, the cardinal
points of the compass order the otherwordly landscape. Regions that should not be
regions but rather, we might think, ought to be atemporal and aspatial, existing
outside the bounds of earthly weights and measures are given distance, direction,
height, language, and weather. Indeed, the secrets introduced in the text as
inexpressible become concrete and emplaced in many regards.
Martha Himmelfarb has argued that the Apocalypse of Paul demonstrates that
the boundaries between divine and human are solid because unlike a recipient of
revelation like Isaiah in the Ascension of Isaiah, Paul remains human through his
tour. He is a man experiencing the revelatory journey in all its sensory detail,
whereas Isaiah is transformed into a being higher than an angel during his
otherwordly tour. The otherwordly journeys of these two characters certainly do
present a contrast. However, we can also turn this around and see Pauls non-divine
presence injected into divine spaces as the transgression of boundaries. In the
Apocalypse of Paul, revelation is contained within mobile boundaries, as J. Z.
Smith puts it, where the ordinary may become sacred by being there, in a particular
place. The sacredness of a place is not intrinsic or absolute, but rather, becomes

sacred by having our attention directed to it in a special way.53
Indeed, spatially expressed revelations occur in the narrative wherever Paul
goes and wherever our attention is directed via his footsteps. When Paul is led to the
north side of the City of Christ, by the river of wine, we follow him as he meets
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Lot and Job (Apoc. Paul 27). When Paul goes to the high
altar in the middle of the city, we follow him as he observes David, whose face shines
like the sun as he sings and plays music on the harp (Apoc. Paul 29). When Paul is
led into paradise, he negotiates the geographic landmarks of the place, its four rivers
that we know from Genesis 2 these rivers run from the tree of paradise and end up
flowing to specific territories, such as Assyria or Mesopotamia (Apoc. Paul 45). So,
in this otherworldly journey narrative, we find fluidity rather than a rigid separation
between this world and ideal world that Paul experiences during his journey. This
echoes scholarly concern about the text that is focused less on the eschatological
content of apocalyptic narrative and more what apocalyptic discourse says about this
world. In the case of the Apocalypse of Paul, Aitken counters Richard Bauckhams
stress on the fate of the dead in another place as a feature of the text. She argues that
53 Smith, The Bare Facts of Ritual 115. In addition, Levine points to the social construction of the
sacredness of space: ideas of the sacred space developed differently among Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam, for example. In Judaism, he argues, sacred space was minimized as a concept because of the
destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. This event shifted the emphasis away from the temple as
locus of religious identity it became instead a locus of memory and hope. Baruch A. Levine,
Mythic and Ritual: Projections of Sacred Space in Biblical Literature, Journal of Jewish Thought and
Philosophy 6 (1997): 62.

the text makes an argument about this world and how we must behave in it,54 and
hence, the didactic geography of Pauls journey straddles the boundary between
locations, in defiance of apocalyptic dualism: this world and the world to come; the
places of the living and the places of the dead.
Second, pictorial icons are more difficult to de-contextualize from physical
places of display. Pictorial icons may be explicitly anchored in a performance place,
to use Duncans discussion of ritual behavior that establishes a particular relationship
between visual text and devotee: those icons exhibited in cathedrals, religious spaces,
monasteries or similar structures. This is not to willfully miss the intention of
DeConicks analogy, which is concerned with the shared iconic function of the
written or visual texts. However, the placement of pictorial icons does shape their
function, as well as the relationship between icon and devotee.
Icons located physically in the midst of an architectural order such as a church
can mitigate the relationship between icon and devotee. Certainly, icons have
historically also been employed for personal use a painting of an icon on a small
piece of wood, for example, which can be carried around by the devotee and hence
have no fixed place.55 However, icons are also anchored in specific places that have
54 Aitken 154. Bynum and Freedman, 4, share this perspective, arguing that medievalists in particular
are increasingly inclined to view apocalyptic sentiments as mixed with this-worldly concerns and not
necessarily as attacking the established order. Rather, apocalyptic sentiment is viewed as a lens for
viewing social change and describing individual experience as linked to the destiny of humanity.
55 Kenna 347.

added meaning for the devotee including an ideological meaning that subverts or
interrupts the relationship between icon and viewer. The literature on the
intertwining of ideology and iconography, particularly in religious architecture, is
well-established.56 A particular example is the Church of St. Demetrios in
Thessaloniki, Greece: its seventh century mosaic icons are among the few remaining
instances from the pre-icononclastic period. These mosaics demonstrate the growing
importance of religious images in liturgical spaces into the iconoclastic period of the
8 and 9 centuries: they are a cycle of images that do not depict any particular
narrative but rather, use the image of the patron saint, Demetrios, as an intercessor,
whose image offers a mediating presence between devotee and the divine.57 The
mosaics of Demetrios with church officials a bishop and cleric highlight the role
of church patronage in the content and placement of icons (Figs. 3.6 and 3.7).58
These points of convergence and divergence demonstrate both the possibilities
56 Helen Hills, Iconography and Ideology: Aristocracy, Immaculacy and Virginity in Seventeenth-
Century Palermo, Oxford Art Journal 17.2 (1994): 16-31; James Bugslag, Ideology and Iconography
in Chartres Cathedral: Jean Clement and the Oriflamme, Zeitschrift fur Kunstgeschichte 61.4 (1998):
491-508; Paul Crossley, Medieval Architecture and Meaning: The Limits of Iconography, The
Burlington Magazine. 130.1019, Special Issue on English Gothic Art (1988): 116-121.
57 Stefanos Yerasimos, Constantinople: Istanbuls Historical Heritage, trans. Sally M. Schreiber, Uta
Hoffmann, and Ellen Loeffler (Cologne: Ullman, 2008), 80-81.
58 See Christopher Wickham, Framing the Early Middle Ages and the Mediterranean: 400-800
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 601. The potentially ideological nature of an icon may not
necessarily be linked to an architectural order there are examples of icons with ideological content
that lack fixed place. The consular diptychs of the sixth century, for example, sent as inaugural gifts
from Constantinople, introduced images of Christ as state images. Belting and Jephcott, Likeness and
Presence 109. See also 184 on the weekly ceremonial processions in Constantinople that paraded
icons through the streets, turning the city into a huge stage for their worship.

and the limitations presented by DeConicks comparison between iconic types. Her
analogy does ultimately offer a useful means for examining iconic function and how
an audience enacts a relationship with the icon. In the concluding chapter, I will
evaluate the analogy and its implications, not only for our treatment of the text but
also for the language of apocalyptic dualism more generally.

Church of St. Demetrios, Thessaloniki, Greece. Artstor.

WITH A CLERIC. 7th century CE. Mosaic. Church of St. Demetrios, Thessaloniki,
Greece. Artstor.

In the Apocalypse of Paul, Pauls progression through the apocalyptic
landscape is descriptive, persuasive, narrative, imaginative even technical, a sort of
how-to manual for the navigation of heaven and hell. The otherworldly journey, a
paradigm within apocalyptic literature, demonstrates how the physical world can
invite the audience to map and participate in the experience of the territory, even as
the physical is used ideologically, to support certain moral teachings in the text.
The Apocalypse of Paul is frequently associated with its picture of hell,
influential in the development of Christian and literary ideas, whose regulatory
function has been discussed previously. However, the text offers us possibilities and
problems beyond the vivid portrait of hell. As an otherworldly journey, where the
narrator Paul is the recipient of divine secrets and the witness to cosmic mysteries, is
the Apocalypse of Paul a verbal icon? I would argue that the verbal icon is a useful
heuristic in this case, with the text using descriptions of bodies and territories to
augment participation in and appropriation of Pauls journey.
Moreover, the text as verbal icon shares with the pictorial icon certain points
of convergence and points of divergence: the two types of icon have in common the
use of place and body as mediators. In addition, both types have a shared

participation in ritualistic and regulatory uses of place and body. Points of divergence
are found in the more fluid boundaries between the this worldly and the
otherwordly in the apocalyptic text, as well as the potentially more explicit
anchoring of pictorial icons in places of display.
We can locate an important theme in both the verbal and pictorial icon: while
both use place and body as central, necessary devices to communicate and invite, they
both offer an ultimately ambivalent view of physicality. This ambivalence is
particularly dramatic in the Byzantine pictorial icon, which presents the devotee with
a problematic spatial and bodily order. The stylized, elongated limbs and high value
spaceless space interrupt expected physicality, thereby accentuating our own space
yet offering us a far from naturalistic portrayal. Likewise, the territories that Paul
travels through are circumscribed and idealized, and while the places of the dead offer
the promise of sensible pleasures, ascetic and chaste behaviors are also rewarded. In
iconic display, it would seem, physicality is needed to express the message of the
icon, but that physicality may be distorted or restricted.
How then may we assess DeConicks analogy? DeConick views the
otherworldly journey as simply imaginary narrative made more complex by the
recognition of its iconic qualities.1 However, I would argue that the two functions of
the text, as imaginative narrative and as verbal icon, are intertwined and interacting.
It is the very outline of Pauls imaginative journey that allows us to construct a verbal
1 DeConick 24.

map of Pauls experiences. In turn, the iconic function presents the devotee with
places and figures that evoke memories, inviting the subject to reconstruct and follow
the unfolding story of Pauls travels. Moreover, this process emphasizes the
relationship between the devotee and icon, underscoring the performance involved.
DeConick stresses the inward iconic experience without attention to the icons
outward, ideological functions. Her interest is in the former, not the latter. However,
in her interest in the latter and the otherwordly journey as verbal icon would benefit
from a more detailed treatment of theories of perception. How we conceptualize
sensory data is helpful in understanding the line of sight between the devotee and the
object of devotion. DeConick touches on this topic in her discussion of the Greek
ideal of apotheosis, where an image enters through the eye, creating an imprint on the
soul and transforming the seer reminiscent of the Jewish and Christian mystic
traditions where the kavod, or Image of God, is restamped on the soul. However,
we are left with many questions about the relationship between direct sensory
experience and images crafted for the mind through perception. Perception, here, is
imbued with meanings related to awareness and understanding, and not merely
In his discussion, What is an Image?, Mitchell describes the family tree of
images, with each branch designated to a particular intellectual discipline. Optical
imagery belongs to the physicist, for example, while graphic, sculptural, and 2
2 DeConick 22.