Stephen Moore reads Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign and The Animal That Therefore I am as “incisive if unintended” commentary on Revelation’s animality. In “Ecotherology” Moore explores the relationship between animals in Revelation and animals in today’s “apocalyptically theriocidal world (227).”
Revelation’s beast is typically understood as a metaphor for imperial Rome and/or it’s emperors; Derrida’s finding that sovereignty is often represented through animal monstrosity (much like the beast from Revelation) supports this interpretation. The beast qualifies as a monster because it does not respect the divisions between species: it is a composite creature of leopard, lion, and bear. This monster, or beast, is an appropriate symbol for the Roman Empire (and/or its emperors) because both are outside the law. A sovereign not only makes laws but also has the power to break them—much like a wild beast that does not respect law and order. Yet, as Moore points out, Revelation’s author similarly represents divine power in the guise of an animal (the Lamb). God, as divine sovereign, and Jesus as his agent, are outside the law—including their own law of “Thou shalt not kill.” For those who do not number among the faithful (read: those who do not accept God’s absolute sovereignty), God and the lamb are monsters who bestow upon them vengeance and destruction. In this way Revelation reinscribes imperial power while simultaneously critiquing it.
Two kinds of animals are represented in Revelation: the domestic (the lamb) and the wild (the beast). This dichotomy is reflected in the two women represented in Revelation: the bride and the whore. The whore is bloodthirsty and savage like a predatory animal, whereas the bride’s virtue aligns her with the Lamb. Both the bride and the Lamb are docile, domesticated figures who simultaneously (and paradoxically) represent absolute domination; thus Revelation replicates imperial Rome’s hegemonic structure at the same time it offers a nonhegemonic alternative through the interspecies intimacy of the bride and Lamb.
Personified by the bride, the new Jerusalem is a city constructed around the needs of humans and as such represents a domesticated version of nature—much like modern high-end shopping malls. The city is an “anthropocentering of nature (237).” The new city of Jerusalem is sovereign not just as the seat of a divine ruler but because of its enormous size—excess being, according to Derrida, one of the intrinsic qualities of sovereignty. Moore finds the new Jerusalem to be ill-designed as a prophetic counterexample to the anthropocentrism of empire because it exhibits eerie similarity to the megamalls of today. There does seem to be hope for the formation of a positive, constructive ecotherology in Moore’s reading of Revelation; though the city is anthropocentric in design, its emblematic animal, the Lamb, defies that reading in that it holds dominion over all humans. In Revelation, Jesus is most powerful in animal form—it is the only form in which he is worshipped, and it is as a theriomorph that he is enthroned in the heavenly kingdom.