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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 56, 2008

LYNN R. HUBER, Like a Bride Adorned: Reading Metaphor in John’s Apocalypse (Emory Studies in Early Christianity; New York: T & T Clark, 2007). Pp. ix + 221. Paper. $US37.95.

Huber's work was a dissertation directed by Gail O’Day and it offers a detailed analysis of how metaphor works to convey meaning, taking the bridal imagery in the Apocalypse as an example. As is customary in a dissertation, H.’s first chapter reviews previous scholarship on this image with a critical judgement on previous understandings of the structure and function of metaphor. Her second chapter then traces theories of metaphor from Aristotle to modern theorists. In this context she develops the method that will be used in her analysis of the bridal imagery. This method, called conceptual metaphor theory, was developed in the 1980s, and Huber draws particularly on the work of Gerard Steen. This approach moves deeper than the linguistic structure of the metaphor to its underlying concepts. In the expression, “our relationship has reached a dead-end,” the metaphor draws on an underlying concept that a relationship is a journey. As long as the speaker and hearer share this concept the metaphor can be understood. If one party works out of a different concept, such as a relationship is a game, then the metaphor breaks down. So as well as identifying the linguistic structure of the metaphor, this method also identifies the source concepts or domains.

The third chapter looks back at ancient Near Eastern and Old Testament precedents for imaging a city as a woman. Here H. gives quite detailed attention to the marriage metaphor in Ezekiel and Isaiah. This chapter lays the foundation for her examination of the Apocalypse. Ezekiel’s imagery portrays Jerusalem as an embodied woman whose adornments and clothing designate her change of status and identity. In Isaiah the imagery also portrays Jerusalem as an embodied woman whose inhabitants are her children, and whose husband is God. Chapter Four turns to the Roman context in which the Apocalypse was written and received. H. examines the use of familial images and values as a way of speaking of the Empire, and also the Empire’s emphasis on the family and its laws to protect the family. She notes that the wedding ceremony clearly shows that marriage was a transition for the bride and not the groom, she leaves her home to travel to his home and the clothes she wears indicate her change of status from girlhood to woman, wife and future mother.

Having established the literary, biblical and social background, H.’s fifth chapter turns to the bridal passages in the Apocalypse. She draws the conclusion that the bridal metaphors functions to encourage the hearers/readers to take on the identity of a community in whom God dwells. A brief appendix on the image of Babylon follows. The bibliography is very full and helpfully organised. Biblical and author indices conclude the book.

H.’s work on metaphor gives this work its particular value. While her conclusions about the meaning of the bridal imagery are not new, the detailed analysis of the language and images provide greater assurance as to the validity of her interpretation. Metaphors are fluid, as she notes, but their meaning is not entirely open-ended. H. demonstrates a method for interpreting metaphors within parameters established by the text itself. This is a very worthwhile addition to studies of the Apocalypse.

Review by
Mary L. Coloe
Australian Catholic University
Locked Bag 4115
Fitzroy VIC 3065