Book of Revelation’s Bumpy History

The late appearance of the New Testament book of The Revelation upon the Christian scene, penned c. 135-137, followed closely upon the occurrence of the Jewish insurrection in Jerusalem under Ben Cocheba (132-135 CE).  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 (as in Mark and Matthew) into the harsh judgmental figure of Revelation.  Missing in the new book was any attempt to attract or convert Jews to the emergent Jesus cult; the narrow focus was set upon the organization 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, not Rome; the Jews were not to be saved as far as the author was concerned.  Add to this that the work is addressed to a definite group of seven new 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 Hebrew Scripture 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 Revelation.  And clearly the symbolism used, such as the number seven, happens to be common in all Creation myths; so in this imagined re-creation of Jerusalem there are 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 references to the number seven are not unique to the book of Revelation, for the very same numerical symbols are to be found in the book of Ezekiel, chapter four.  Another example of zodiac plundering is found in Revelation in the opening of chapter four where the throne is beheld; “…and one sat upon the throne..”  The one allegedly seen sitting upon the throne is 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 gemstone symbols for Pisces, Gemini and Cancer.*  This type of borrowing continues through the book.  (*Prehistory teachings used these three constellations as illustrations on lessons of Creation: with Pisces was taught Creative Consciousness; Gemini taught Mental Matter; and Cancer taught about Astral Matter.  Modern science has other definitions for these energies.)

Much of the symbolism used in Revelation happens to be common to Apocalyptic tradition of the timeframe in which it was written, and doubtlessly parts of the text were also drawn from ancient Babylonian and/or Persian mythology.  The Apocryphal vision presented in Revelation was likely also inspired by the old Hebrew tales of Moses (tales which were not canonically approved).  In the non-canonized Moses-related tale it tells of a “war in heaven” which was allegedly fought between angels and Satan’s horde over the possession of the deceased Moses’ physical body.  These elements of Revelation made the text a divisive work from its inception, with many finding its style and brutal scenes as starkly out of character with the earlier books of Gospel which depicted a gentle Jesus.

The “mark,” “name,” or “number” which supposedly will indicate the unworthy beings as referred to in Revelation, asserts that the mark will be received and viewable “in their right hand, or in their foreheads” (Revelation 13:16, 14:9, 20:4).  But nowhere does it say that either the name or number is received as being the mark, which may be interpreted that all three refer to one and the same thing.  So in this scare-the-hell out of believers harangue, those who receive this identification “…shall drink of the wine of the wrath of god, and be tormented  with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:9-11).  The horror tactic continues through chapter 20, which noticeably contradicts the message of god’s love and mercy which Jesus allegedly brought to the world.

So where did the idea of marking victims for eternal damnation come from?  From Hebrew scriptures, where else?  Remember the priest-composed Genesis, 4:5 where the Lord is said to have placed a mark upon Cain “…lest any finding him should kill him”?  And there is Ezekiel 9:4-6 where the Lord “…revealed to the “prophet” that there was to be “…set a mark upon the foreheads..” of those to be spared the Lord’s wrath.  In that account anyone who did not bear the mark were to be destroyed: “Slay utterly the old and young, both maids and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary.” (Verse 6)  These “values” were completely reversed by the author of Revelation, but he kept the old-fashioned fear tactics for keeping the “sheep” in line.

Unfortunately, by the time of “saint” Irenaeus (flourished 170-190), the book The Revelation began to be presented as the prophecy of God’s intention for the world, or as 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 and struck the book from their canon.

And so the debates continued.  By 340 the Christian 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 from 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.  Even later reformers such as Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1431) were doubtful of the book’s authenticity.  In general many of those who attribute the fourth Gospel to have been written by “saint” John, judged that Revelation, because of its style, could not have been written by him.

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

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

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