Moore looks at two aspects of Revelation he feels has been neglected by previous commentators: the animality of Christ and the huge, fairly desolate New Jerusalem. Largely basing his examination around Derrida’s The Beast and the Sovereign, Moore explores the similar, yet contrasting natures of the Lamb and the Beast. Bestiality’s traditional association with political despotism, on one level, explains why John personified the Roman empire as an animal-like figure. But, it also raises the question, why is the Lamb, simultaneously an animal and symbol of the divine, assigned to embody Christ? Moore draws on Derrida to conclude that Revelation presents a hybrid view of animality. The two beasts, divine and evil, behave as humans expect animals to behave- by remaining mute. However, they both carry significant metaphorical connotations (the Beast as absolute evil and the Lamb as absolute divinity), illustrating Revelation’s dual view of animality.
Moore then addresses other instances of evil and divinity in Revelation that are directly related to the respective beasts. Human savagery is simultaneously present in the Beast and the personification of Babylon, who physically rides on the Beast’s back. Both figures are closely connected, almost morphing into one evil being. The Lamb also corresponds with a human figure. The virtuous woman is closely related to the divine animal. However, her connection runs deeper, as she is referred to as the bride of the Lamb. Moore points out that Revelation transforms the bride into the New Jerusalem, equating the good woman with the good city and the good woman with the good people of God. However, Moore questions the “goodness” of the new city when it is described as essentially empty, with the exception of the river, the tree of life, and the Lamb. Again, he states that while eco-commentators have addressed the river and the tree in the walls of the city, they have rarely tackled the unfathomable size of the New Jerusalem. Moore admits that the sheer size is used to convey power, authority, and sovereignty, but the description presents a dystopian environment devoid of life, similar to a dead megamall. And the Lamb, as the sole living creature within the dead environment, is again part of the duality (or contradiction) of Revelation. Questioning the place of animals in the New Jerusalem, Moore metaphorically relates the unworthy humans to dogs, cast out of the city because of the dirtiness and base desires.
Moore concludes that the lone presence of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem signifies that humans now exist to serve animals, instead of the reverse that is often assumed by humans (especially those living today). Christ takes the throne in the heavenly city as an animal, the only form in which he is worshipped by humans, demonstrating that, in Revelation, the ultimate form of divinity is the animal Christ.
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.
Moore’s exploration of the “interspecies intimacies” raises some interesting questions. It is obvious in reading Revelation that the relationship between the beast and the whore is a satirical caricature of the imperial power of Rome. Even Moore admits that “bestiality has always been a convenient figure for political despotism” (230), so it makes sense to use these images to condemn the sovereignty of Rome. By using a wild beast, John invokes the savagery of the animal kingdom, yet cruelty is a human quality. The whore riding abreast the beast is savage and cruel, evil and lustful, and so the imagery makes sense in this context. However, what is not apparently clear is why John would then keep with the same trope to illustrate the proper sovereignty of God the Father by creating another interspecies relationship with the Lamb and the bride? The answer to this question takes us back to the Quadrapedal Christ, where the Lamb is both dominated and dominant. Indeed, More states that the Lamb is a “nonhegemonic symbol for a hegemonic entity” (234). Hegemony is the term used to describe the masculine dominance over feminine submission. By describing him in this way, Moore sees the Lamb as a domesticated animal, pure and innocent, thus the perfect sacrifice, yet at the same time He is the warrior sovereign, the dominant (masculine) bridegroom. The (feminine) bride, like the domesticated Lamb, is silent and docile, so now we can see the contrast to the beast-whore intimacy more clearly. The wild, undomesticated, fornicating beast has no place in the New Jerusalem.
I admit that Moore’s articles perpetually perplex me. He is not as clear to his point as he could be and I feel like he writes in circles and meanders on tangents. I don’t know how to answer the question of “ecotherology” because, honestly, I barely understood what I wrote above and I even feel that I probably was entirely off base with it.