Revelation’s Bumpy History

The late appearance of the New Testament book Revelation upon the Christian scene, penned c. 135-137 CE, followed closely upon the occurrence of the Jewish insurrection in Jerusalem under Bar Cocheba (132-135).  It was a Jewish insurrection which spread to Cyrene, Egypt,  Cyprus and Mesopotamia.  With this NT book’s  late appearance there is presented an inexplicable psychological change in the character of Jesus from a mild and peaceful teacher into a harsh judgmental figure.  Missing in the new book of Revelation was any attempt to attract or convert Jews to the struggling cult: the emphasis was focused instead on the establishment of a new Jerusalem, a situation that is picturesquely achieved at the end of the lumbering tale (Revelation 21:10).  There is strong but veiled anti-Jewish anger expressed in this tale written during Roman Empire times, and it is revealed in the contention that it is a new Jerusalem that is to be purified and lowered from Heaven; it is not Rome that is to be cleansed and lowered back to Earth.  It should be noted that the work is addressed to a definite group of seven churches, all in the Roman Province of Asia.

It is also worth noting that the description of the new Jerusalem asserts that it is to have a wall surrounding it with twelve gates—three each along the north, east, south and west.  As in the Old Testament tales, where the number twelve is a prime clue in the story, it is a covert way of referring to the Zodiac—as are numerous other descriptions in Revelations.  And clearly the symbolism used, such as the number seven, is common to all Creation myths: 7 angels,  7 horns, 7 stars, 7 seals, 7 vials, 7 plagues, 7 candlesticks, 7 churches, 7 spirits before the throne, and the great beast with 7 heads.  These are not unique to the book of Revelations, for the very same symbols are to be found in the OT book of Ezekiel (4).  Another example of Zodiac plundering opens chapter four where a throne is beheld; “…and one sat upon the throne.”  The one sitting upon the throne was said to have the look  “…of a jasper and a sardine stone and there was a rainbow round about the throne in sight like unto an emerald.”  The mention of these stones—jasper, sardine stone, and emerald—happen to be the gem symbols for Pisces, Gemini and Cancer.  This type of borrowing continues throughout the book.

Much of the symbolism used in Revelation happens to have been common to Apocalyptic tradition of that era, and doubtlessly parts of it were also drawn from ancient Babylonian or Persian mythology.  The Apocryphal vision presented in Revelation was likely also stirred by the old Hebrew tales of Moses (legends which were not canonically approved).  In the unapproved Moses tale it tells of a “war in heaven” which was allegedly fought between angels and Satan’s horde over possession of Moses’ physical body after his death.  The elements of Revelation made the book a divisive work from the start, with many finding its style and brutal scenes as starkly out-of-place with the earlier books of Gospel.

Unfortunately, by the time of “saint” Irenaeus (flourished 170-190), the book began being presented as a prophecy of God’s intention for the world or his plan for the church.  The third century theologian, “saint” Dionysius of Alexandria. c. 260, said of Revelation: “Even if I do not understand, I yet conceive some deeper sense to lie in the words.  Not measuring and judging these things by private reasoning but giving the chief right to faith, I have supposed it to be too high to be comprehended by me.”  But not all Christian cult theologians were so willing to abandon rationality.  For example, by 340 the Christian Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem omitted the book of Revelation from his canon.  In 370, however, Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis (Constantia) of the Island of Cyprus reinstated the book for use.  But then in 375 the Bishop of Nazianzen, in SW Cappadocia, struck the book form his canon.  And in 380 Bishop Philastrius, bishop of Brescia (Lombardy, Italy) omitted Revelation from his canon.  Even “saint” Jerome (about 390) expressed doubt about the book being attributed to John the presbyter.  (The general uniformity of style indicate that was by a singular author, however.)

Even the later reformers such as Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) were doubtful of the book’s authenticity.  In general those who attribute the Fourth Gospel to “saint” John deny that Revelation could have been written by him. 

The message in the Judgment Day tale is defined by local color found in the Roman Empire of the time, and references to contemporary events and issues clearly indicate that it was meant for its own age.  Without doubt the author was strongly connected to the Christian cult circles in Asia, and his purpose was to send forth a message of intimidation and warning to insurgent Jews that Christ would soon be manifest and cleanse the world (the Roman world) of unbelievers. 

At the closing of Revelation, John allegedly beheld “…a holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  This happens to have been lifted out of Gnostic lore of Creation, not some revelation of the new church being the “bride” of the world’s savior.

Time has shown (over 2000 years) that the things allegedly foretold in Revelation is not applicalbe to the world we know today; its imagery simply is not relvant, and more importantly, it holds no spiritual value.

 

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2 Responses to “Revelation’s Bumpy History”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by C.M. Houck, C.M. Houck. C.M. Houck said: Revelation's Bumpy History: http://wp.me/psfRa-n9 […]

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