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 America obsessed with future apocalypse

article by former Anglican parish priest, Rhodes scholar and seminary professor Tom Harpur

America obsessed
with future apocalypse,

There is no work in all literature that has been more misunderstood, prostituted, exploited and abused than the Bible's final book, titled simply in the Greek, "Apocalypse of John." The phenomenon is evidenced daily in the quite incredible fascination of our culture just now with "end times" and apocalyptic scenarios of every kind.

The word "apocalyptic" has appeared every day for months in some newspaper, magazine or TV program in the GTA. Endless movies and videos, tonnes of lurid, top-selling pocket books, and repetitive use of related themes by right-wing preachers and politicians, especially in the U.S., reveal an near-total North American obsession with the idea that a future of blood, mayhem, and utter desolation is looming ahead. Only those saved "by the blood of the lamb" will be "raptured" to the clouds and eternal glory. Fortunes are being made overnight by hordes of unscrupulous fiction-writers and alleged Bible experts alike as they spin imaginary tales of coming cataclysm.

President George W. Bush, himself a "born-again Christian" has, ever since the 9-11 catastrophe, played his Christian Right card on this repeatedly. At every chance he milks the theme of an impending showdown between good and evil, exploits the growing fears of the American people of terrorism at home and abroad, and stresses the helplessness of the average citizen to cope — without his heroic, God-appointed leadership.

What scares one most about all the ignorant but lucrative nonsense being spouted about Revelation just now is that a recent Time Magazine/CNN poll found that 59 per cent of Americans actually believe the "end-of-the-world prophecies" in the Book of Revelation will come true. About 25 per cent believe the attacks of Sept.11, 2001, were predicted in the Bible. About 17 per cent believe the world will "end" in their lifetime.

This kind of belief creates the conditions to bring about the very thing supposedly most feared. It makes it easier for Bush and the Pentagon to conjure up nightmare possibilities and to persuade the masses to countenance any measures deemed necessary to win. If you convince enough people that an Armageddon is coming, it's simple to prod them towards it. Self-fulfilling prophecies become the order of the day.

We need a remedy, one only some basic knowledge can bring. Apocalypse comes from a word meaning "to reveal what is hidden" and so the customary translation is "the Book of Revelation."

This book is definitely not by the author/editor of the John's Gospel — its Greek, which can be described as "barbarous," has a completely different style — and it belongs to a whole genre of books appearing in Jewish circles in the uncertain times from about 200 BCE down to 100 CE. But, there were apocalypses in other pre-Christian religions as well.

In fact, British orientalist Gerald Massey wrote that Revelation itself is the oldest book in the New Testament and is really a Christian version of the Mithraic apocalypse, the Bahman Yasht. Massey says the latter has the same drama drawn out as in Revelation and that all ancient Parsee or Persian sacred books referred to the original scriptures as apocalypses.

The fact that Revelation is the Bible's last book was a purely arbitrary decision of the church and it should be widely known that the book itself was only accepted into the official canon after four centuries of wrangling over its authenticity.

Revelation has absolutely nothing specific to say about events today or events tomorrow. Fundamentalists conveniently skip over the fact that its very first verse says its contents are about happenings that will occur "speedily" and verse three underlines this by saying the time spoken of is "near" at hand. Nothing could be clearer.

People totally ignore the fact that the author nowhere claims to have known the "historical Jesus" and is very vague about the Apostles. They ignore as well the reality that the Christ of the Apocalypse is not the "personal Jesus" of the Gospels but a cosmic intelligence and principle. He is the spiritual Christ of Pauline mysticism.

Let me illustrate this with two passages I have never heard any preacher mention. In Revelation 11, verses 8-9, we read: "And the dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is ... called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified."

The Gospels say Jerusalem was the place of crucifixion. But this says it was Sodom and Egypt. Sodom was destroyed centuries before; Egypt is obviously not a city. What this means is that the crucifixion was in reality a spiritual transaction not rooted in any historical place whatever. The entire story is symbolic.

Revelation 1:13 describes the Christ as an androgynous figure with "paps" or female breasts. Plainly this has nothing do with a historic Jesus or any coming events on this planet.

 2004/4/8 16:31Profile
crsschk
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Joined: 2003/6/11
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 Re: America obsessed with future apocalypse

Quote:
Revelation 1:13 describes the Christ as an androgynous figure with "paps" or female breasts. Plainly this has nothing do with a historic Jesus or any coming events on this planet.



Huh?

[u]And girt about the paps[/u] - About the breast. It was common, and is still, in the East, to wear a girdle to confine the robe, as well as to form a beautiful ornament. This was commonly worn about the middle of the person, or “the loins,” but it would seem also that it was sometimes worn around the breast. See the notes on Mat_5:38-41.*


*[u]Coat[/u] - The Jews wore two principal garments, an interior and an exterior. The interior, here called the “coat,” or the tunic, was made commonly of linen, and encircled the whole body, extending down to the knees. Sometimes beneath this garment, as in the case of the priests, there was another garment corresponding to pantaloons. The coat, or tunic, was extended to the neck. and had long or short sleeves. Over this was commonly worn an upper garment, here called “cloak,” or mantle. It was made commonly nearly square, of different sizes, 5 or 6 cubits long and as many broad, and was wrapped around the body, and was thrown off when labor was performed. If, said Christ, an adversary wished to obtain, at law, one of these garments, rather than contend with him let him have the other also. A reference to various articles of apparel occurs frequently in the New Testament, and it is desirable to have a correct view of the ancient mode of dress. in order to a proper understanding of the Bible. The Asiatic modes of dress are nearly the same from age to age, and hence it is not difficult to illustrate the passages where such a reference occurs. The ordinary dress consisted of the inner garment, the outer garment, the girdle (belt), and the sandals. In regard to the sandals, see the notes at Mat_3:11.
In the girdle (belt) was the place of the pouch Mat_10:9, and to it the sword and dirk were commonly attached. Compare 2Sa_20:8. In modern times the pistols are also fastened to the belt. It is the usual place for the handkerchief, smoking materials, inkhorn, and, in general, the implements of one’s profession. The belt served to confine the loose-flowing robe or outer garment to the body. It held the garment when it was tucked up, as it was usually in walking or in labor. Hence, “to gird up the loins” became a significant figurative expression, denoting readiness for service, activity, labor, and watchfulness; and “to loosen the loins” denoted the giving way to repose and indolence, 2Ki_4:29; Job_38:3; Isa_5:27; Luk_12:35; Joh_21:7.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Some scholar...


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 2004/4/9 0:44Profile
jeremyhulsey
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Posts: 777


 Re: America obsessed with future apocalypse

Tom Harpur:

"This book is definitely not by the author/editor of the John's Gospel — its Greek, which can be described as "barbarous," has a completely different style — and it belongs to a whole genre of books appearing in Jewish circles in the uncertain times from about 200 BCE down to 100 CE. But, there were apocalypses in other pre-Christian religions as well."

REPLY: Taken from http://www.thingstocome.org/datrev.htm

Quote:
"The writing of the Revelation of Jesus Christ has been traditionally assigned to around AD 96. Because this date does not fit into their theological scheme, Full Preterists, who claim that all of Bible prophesy was fulfilled in AD 70, argue for an earlier dating of the book, prior to AD 70.

However, the testimony of the Church Fathers is that the Revelation of Jesus Christ was written by John near the end of the reign of Domitian in AD 96. According to them, John was banished by Domitian to the lonely Isle of Patmos, a desolate Greek island in the Aegean Sea only 11 square miles in area. Victorinus, in his Commentary on the Apocolypse of the Blessed John, recorded that John labored in the mines of Patmos.

Domitian was a particularly cruel and ostentatious Roman emperor, who reigned from AD 81 - 96. He regularly arrested, imprisoned, and executed his enemies, even Roman noblemen and senators, and confiscated their properties for his own use. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The years 93-96 were regarded as a period of terror hitherto unsurpassed."

The Britannica also informs us that “A grave source of offense was his insistence on being addressed as dominus et deus (‘master and god’).” Perhaps this aroused in Domitian a hatred of faithful Christians, who would have refused him this demand. Domitian did in fact launch a persecution of Christians. In Book three, chapter 17 of his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius writes,


Domitian, having shown great cruelty toward many, and having unjustly put to death no small number of well-born and notable men at Rome, and having without cause exiled and confiscated the property of a great many other illustrious men, finally became a successor of Nero in his hatred and enmity toward God. He was in fact the second that stirred up a persecution against us, although his father Vespasian had undertaken nothing prejudicial to us.


Justin Martyr (b.100 AD, d.165 AD) is an early Christian writer who also testifies to this persecution. However, according to Justin, Domitian was somewhat more restrained than Nero had been in his persecution of Christians. In his Apology, Justin wrote:

Domitian, too, a man of Nero's type in cruelty, tried his hand at persecution, but as he had something of the human in him, he soon put an end to what he had begun, even restoring again those whom he had banished.

According to the Church fathers, the Apostle John was not among those released, but even if he had been, the fact that Domitian's reign did not begin until AD 81 means that the Revelation must have been written after that date.

Domitian was so hated for his excesses that own wife participated in the plot to assassinate him. Upon his death, his successor, Nerva, reversed many of the cruel judgments of Domitian, and John was subsequently released. Domitian’s reign ended in AD 96, and this has provided the traditional means for dating the writing of the book of Revelation.

Direct References to the Date

Although there are many indirect references to John being banished to Patmos under Domitian in the Church Fathers, there are also direct references to John’s banishment under Domitian. The earliest of these is that of Irenaeus (c. 130-202). He was bishop of Lyons in Gaul. In Against Heresies (A.D. 180-199), Book V, Chapter 30, we read:

We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.

The church historian Eusebius Pamphili was born about 260 and died before 341. Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine, he is known as the "Father of Church History." Eusebius confirms the authenticity of the testimony of Irenaeus. In chapter 18, Book 3 of his Church History, we read:

It is said that in this persecution the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word. Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him: a "If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian."

[b]Regarding the reliability of the testimony of Irenaeus, in Barnes Notes on the New Testament we read:[/b]

It will be recollected that he [Irenaeus] was a disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was himself the disciple of the apostle John. He had, therefore, every opportunity of obtaining correct information, and doubtless expresses the common sentiment of his age on the subject. His character is unexceptionable, and he had no inducement to bear any false or perverted testimony in the case. His testimony is plain and positive that the book was written near the close of the reign of Domitian, and the testimony should be regarded as decisive unless it can be set aside. His language in regard to the book of Revelation is: "It was seen no long time ago, but almost in our age, at the end of the reign of Domitian."—Lardner, ii. 181. Or, as the passage is translated by Prof. Stuart: "The Apocalypse was seen not long ago, but almost in our generation, near the end of Domitian’s reign." There can be no doubt, therefore, as to the meaning of the passage, or as to the time when Irenaeus believed the book to have been written. Domitian was put to death A.D. 96, and consequently, according to Irenaeus, the Apocalypse must have been written not far from this time.

Writing around AD 236, Hippolytis, in chapter one, verse 3 of On the Twelve Apostles, penned:

John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan's time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.

About AD 270, Victorinus, In the Tenth Chapter of his Commentary on the Apocolypse of the Blessed John, wrote

...when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labour of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God.

Jerome was born about 340. He died at Bethlehem, 30 September, 420. Jerome wrote in the Ninth Chapter of Illustrious Men,

In the fourteenth year then after Nero, Domitian, having raised a second persecution, he was banished to the island of Patmos, and wrote the Apocalypse, on which Justin Martyr and Irenaeus afterwards wrote commentaries. But Domitian having been put to death and his acts, on account of his excessive cruelty, having been annulled by the senate, he returned to Ephesus under Pertinax(1) and continuing there until the tithe of the emperor Trajan, founded and built churches throughout all Asia, and, worn out by old age, died in the sixty-eighth year after our Lord's passion and was buried near the same city.

In Against Jovinianus, Book 1, Jerome also wrote:

"John is both an Apostle and an Evangelist, and a prophet. An Apostle, because he wrote to the Churches as a master; an Evangelist, because he composed a Gospel, a thing which no other of the Apostles, excepting Matthew, did; a prophet, for he saw in the island of Patmos, to which he had been banished by the Emperor Domitian as a martyr for the Lord, an Apocalypse containing the boundless mysteries of the future."

Sulpitius Severus was an ecclesiastical writer who was born in Aquitaine in 360. He died about 420-25. In chapter 31 of Book 2 of his Sacred History, we read:

THEN, after an interval, Domitian, the son of Vespasian, persecuted the Christians. At this date, he banished John the Apostle and Evangelist to the island of Patmos. "

While this article deals with the date of the writing of Revelation, the patristic testimony of its authorship devastates any contemporary claim that the apostle John did not write it.

Further, the claim that John couldn't have written it because the Greek is "barbarous" shows that this "Rhodes Scholar" needs to brush up on his history. I would not expect polished Greek literature from one who's native tongue is Aramaic. This, my friend, only lends its self to the authenticity of the authorship.



Tom Harpur:

"The fact that Revelation is the Bible's last book was a purely arbitrary decision of the church and it should be widely known that the book itself was only accepted into the official canon after four centuries of wrangling over its authenticity. "

REPLY:

It's true that it was debated for a while; however, you can find Revelation among the earliest lists of books of the New Testament before there was ever an accepted and "official" cannon.

Tom Harpur:

"Let me illustrate this with two passages I have never heard any preacher mention. In Revelation 11, verses 8-9, we read: "And the dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is ... called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified."

The Gospels say Jerusalem was the place of crucifixion. But this says it was Sodom and Egypt. Sodom was destroyed centuries before; Egypt is obviously not a city. What this means is that the crucifixion was in reality a spiritual transaction not rooted in any historical place whatever. The entire story is symbolic."

REPLY:

Rev 11:8 And their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

It's painfully obvious that the writer here is not referring literaly to Sodom or Egypt, but is talking about Jerusalem. The apostle is using Old Testament prophetic descriptions of Jerusalem.

In Christ,
Jeremy Hulsey





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