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.
Stephen Moore’s chapter, “The Quadrupedal Christ” explores the relationship between humans and animals and the issues surrounding the image of Christ in the book of Revelation. Moore points out quite rightly that in Revelation, it is the only time in all of Christian writing where the metaphor of Jesus as the Lamb of God is not just metaphorical but actual. He is one who is “like the Son of Man” and yet glimpses back and forth between mainly human and particularly animal. Furthermore, Moore notes that is not just the Christ as a bifurcated human-animal, but is a triad of three essences, “divine-human-animal triad that bleeds into each other profusely”. Revelation, unlike other writings blurs the lines on how one is supposed to look at Jesus. Most scholarship agrees that in revelation particularly, no one renders John’s usage of Christ as the lamb metaphorically. Rather, in reading Revelation the reader is supposed to imagine this divine-lamb like creature with a curious set of horns and eyes just as it is. As to why people have traditionally read it this way is an interesting concept, especially because most people who have read this book throughout history make metaphors or images out of most other situations and characters in its story.
Moore also points out that in the entirety of the book, the lamb does not speak. It stays in the image of a slaughtered beast that forever lives. Another section in Moore’s chapter discusses the relationship between the way humanity looks at the slaughtering of animals differently than it does that of their fellow race. For example: the slaughtering of animals today, especially in the U.S. would if it were compared to humans on the same scale would not even come close to what Nazi Germany accomplished under the Third Reich. Generally today, people relegate cattle, sheep and the like as animals that die for our behalf but are not murdered for us. The difference being that humanity possesses a certain soulish quality that other animals do not. If one relates this back to Revelation they encounter a disturbing truth. The Christ, slaughtered and sacrificed in a similar way animals are today is the only means by which John shows his audience that humanity can obtain salvation. It was through cruel acts of savage men and spilled blood of the righteous God-Man-Lamb, forever in Revelation holding in part to his animality that the salvation of God has come to the world. Whether or not John intended to make this ecological comparison (most likely he did not), it is striking when one meditates on the Christ as an animal and not just the God-Man.
The final thing that should be noted in Moore’s chapter is the relationship between calling the sacrifice of an animal murder or not. Typically, we carnivorous bunch would not label the death of an animal to feed our hungry bellies as “murder”. However, if we relate that logic to the Christ-Lamb in Revelation our logic fails us. This Lamb-Christ is obviously understtod to have been murdered, and yet is pictured just as much (if not more so) as an animal than it is a human being. That being said, Moore makes the reader at least ask the question, “Is my eating an animal, or rather slaughtering one order to meet my own desires be considered murder?”
In “Quadrupedal Christ,” Moore provides several examples that support his argument that Revelation both affirms and disturbs the Cartesian model. First there is the fusion of the divine, the human, and the animal (lamb) — all three of these Christological figures represent Jesus (207). Thus, Christ is both theriomorphic and anthropomorphic (211). This disturbs the Cartesian model (human/animal divide). Further, Moore notes that Christ drifts in and out of humanity by the donning and un-donning of clothing (since humans are the only animals who wear clothing); Moore argues that in this way Jesus can be “made and unmade” into animal (209). This example actually affirms the Cartesian Model.
In his more complex example, Moore notes that Revelation actually inverts the Aristotelian-species hierarchy that elevated the human over the animal. He gives the example of those worshipping the Lamb in the throne room. Those worshipping (the angelic beings and elders) are subdued, subservient and slavish— much how we imagine cattle or other livestock being led to the slaughter— yet the Lamb is the one who is being worshipped (“King of Kings and “Lord of Lords”)(210, 212). This represents an inverse in Aristotelian logic as “the animal is domesticated to serve human beings now rules over them” (212). However, Moore says that in order for this inverse to happen, the animal had to be subjected to the slaughter of humans. This means that the lamb had to suffer and die. The image of Jesus dying an inhumane death— like that of an animal—serves to further affirm the Cartesian Model: animals are killed; but humans are murdered and die. The difference? An act is immoral if taking a life involves a “human” animal. But Moore then posits a question concerning the ethics involved in the slaughter of animals. Is it only murder when it is a human? What then are we to make of Revelation’s depiction of Christ in his three forms, not least of which is an animal? And if animals lack the requisite features of human (spirit), and man who, quoting Heidegger “has an experiential relation to death” can they die (217)? If so, this would confirm the Cartesian model, but as we read further, we find that this example is far from complete. In fact, Heidegger, says, no— animals “perish but do not die” (217).
Further, bringing in Derrida, we are given his take, “the animal is a living creature that cannot die.” For Moore, This existential axiom, coupled with the example of the Lamb in Revelation, provides a complex and paradoxal example which disturbs the Cartesian model. Further, Moore brings in Levinas to give an account of the ethical treatment of animals. We find then that if an animal has a face, (specific requisite to ethical treatment) to kill it is to commit murder. However, as Moore points out, without a face, using Heidegger’s axiom, the lamb even when killed cannot die, and lives on “forever as the sacrificial animal” (219). This example complicates but disturbs the Cartesian model. However, Moore complicates it further when he says Revelation is highly more complex than this: the slaughter of a single lamb is indeed a crime; an injustice that deserves mention, reverence and respect; it is an effective and effectual sacrifice. To this end, Moore says, “Revelation [ ] relies on the sacrificial logic it deconstructs” (220). Moore points out that in order for this sacrifice to be redemptive though, “the slaughter of the sacrificial victim must itself be a sin, a crime” (221). This means that the victim must have a face— this is the ethical and lawful requisite that constitutes murder. These examples complicate but also, paradoxically, affirm and disturb the Cartesian model.
Using Moore’s analysis on the ethical treatment of animals we find that Revelation’s view on this subject doesn’t necessarily present an explicit critique on animal sacrifice (that it is grossly unethical), but rather gives an implicit critique— that the lamb’s death in a compelling but subtle way, constitutes unlawful killing. I am not sure how people in the 1st century would have interpreted this, or how people today would. People, typically (though not always) read religious texts with an agenda, sometimes this is explicit (specifically reading texts for thoughts, ideas, & examples which validate and reinforce their own) more often than not it is implicit. I imagine those people (both then and now) who subsist off eating meat would read Revelation in such a way as to validate their own lifestyle, especially if not eating meat isn’t an option. To kill an animal for the sake of killing however, would be I think, hard to validate regardless. Also, this is not to put factory farms and the mass slaughtering of animals on the same scale as ethically-treated organic, grass-fed livestock of small, local farms. These are separate things, to be sure and need to be evaluated as such.
The bold type throughout the text, I think, serves to support and give depth to Moore’s argument. Using the modern arguments and examples of animal treatment, he is able to effectively weave and link the thread of the ethical treatment of animals in today’s society with that in the first century and that presented in Revelation, so that we are able to see the congruence and incongruences, and peak hills and valleys in human consciousness through the last 2000 years regarding this issue.