Constructing the earth as Sanctuary : priesthood and temple in the Apocalypse of John

  • Timothy Tse

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Although it has long been noted that John uses language drawn from the Hebrew Bible’s descriptions of YHWH’s dwelling place (namely the Tabernacle and various iterations of the Temple, hereafter collectively referred to as the “Sanctuary”) and its priests, scholars have overlooked the importance of his spatial transformation of that language. I fill this lacuna by using Relevance Theory, Resistance Theory, Critical Space Theory, and Conceptual Metaphor Theory, to demonstrate that a significant part of John’s apocalyptic strategy of resistance is to re-present his vision to his audience spatially, so that they can experience a divinely ordained alternative to the world in which they live. In doing so, John attempts to relegate their experience of space to his revelation of space. Specifically, John’s description of the visionary world creates the metaphors “the earth is a Sanctuary” and “the Saints are its priests.” Under this view, life on earth must be evaluated according to the concerns of the Sanctuary, which by definition requires the removal of everything impure (i.e., Satan, Babylon, and their followers). In the same way, the Saints (namely all Christians in both the historic and visionary worlds) must take priestly responsibility for the earth. Therefore, John portrays the Saints joining in the removal of all impurity upon the earth by fighting, as priests, in God and the Lamb’s war against Satan, Babylon, and all her impurities. After all, ancient priests do not join the battleline, but by maintaining purity and through their prayers, they effect victory in battle and conquer their enemies. Overall, John means to realign the church’s experience of space, so that they understand themselves as priests of the Sanctuary, and to live according to that reality.
Date of Award16 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorElizabeth Evans Shively (Supervisor)


  • Revelation
  • Apocalypse
  • John
  • Temple
  • Bible
  • New Testament
  • Priest
  • Priesthood
  • Sanctuary
  • Tabernacle
  • Thirdspace
  • Apocalyptic literature
  • Critical space theory
  • Relevance theory
  • Resistance theory
  • Conceptual metaphor theory
  • Holy war
  • Visionary world

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 24th January 2026

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