The Final Battle

Ben Witherington had this to say about the final cosmic battle in Revelation:

There is such a strong stress on God’s control over the final eschatological
situation in apocalyptic literature that when in fact one gets to
the final showdown, it turns out not to be a battle between human
forces, which we might call Armageddon, but rather a divine execution.

– Ben Witherington III, The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations of Calvinism, Dispensationalism, and Wesleyanism (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2005), 106.

This is the way I tend to read Revelation–a heavily symbolic, apocalyptically infused letter to churches who are experiencing some measure of persecution. John writes to encourage, not to frighten, and employs imagery of the culture to make his points. In the end, God will dispense with evil and unrighteousness and establish His reign over the renewed creation. In the mean time, persever–the slain lamb is victorious.

Αυτω η δοξα

 

John’s Use of Gematria

One among many issues in the book of Revelation concerns the mark of the beast–666. While I have my own interpretation/understanding of what that means, it’s been the subject of intense debate over the years. A plethora of candidates have been offered–Muhammad, the Roman Catholic Church, the papacy, various individual popes, Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen, Martin Luther, Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon III, Mussolini, Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan (each of his three names had six letters—666), Anwar Sadat, Muammar Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein, and I’m sure Obama has been added to this list by some.[1]

One common suggestion for figuring out who the beast is (many scholars point to Nero) is the use of gematria, the practice of assigning numerical value to letters in cultures thad had no distinct numerals (used by both Jewish and Greco-Roman writers). Much of the discussion about this circles around the transliteration of Nero’s name in Greek into Hebrew and, via gematria, you come out with a numerical value of 666.

I was recently involved in a discussion of this and it was suggested that one reason it was unlikely to be Nero is the fact that one would have to transliterate the name (and title) of Nero into Hebrew. My question is this–why would this evidence be considered to weigh against identifying Nero as the beast? It is well known and quite obvious that John assumes his audiences’ familiarity with the OT, so why should we not assume they would have been familiar enough with Hebrew to know what John meant? He has cloaked his rebuke of the empire in the imagery of the OT (and be extension the ANE; he also uses imagery familiar to the Greco-Roman world), so why would this be any exception?

Just a thought–what say ye?

Αυτω η δοξα

[1] Mitchell G. Reddish, Revelation, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2001), 268.

For Your “End-Times” Preachers

One of my former profs Gerald Stevens writes

“Signs of the times” preaching is pure gimmickry. The goal is to persuade an uncritical audience, which, given America’s rampant scriptural ignorance, general gullibility, pervasive conspiracy mindset, and widespread fears of social and political disruption, is not that hard.

Gerald L. Stevens, Revelation: The Past and Future of John’s Apocalypse (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014), 160–61.

Ouch. Blood moons, anyone?

Αυτω η δοξα

 

On Revelation and Empire

Stephen Moore writes,

Parody of the Roman imperial order permeates Revelation, reaching a scurrilous climax in the depiction of the goddess Roma, austere and noble personification the urbs aeterna, as a tawdry whore who has had a little too much drink.

Stephen D. Moore, “The Revelation to John,” in A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings, ed. Fernando F. Segovia and R. S. Sugirtharajah (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 436.

Boom.

Αυτω η δοξα

Caird on Sin

I like G. B. Caird and I think his synopsis of the evil in the world is spot on. This quote come from his commentary on Revelation, specifically his discussion of the locusts of chapter nine and their human-like faces (p. 120). He writes

Evil may take many sinister forms and ramify far beyond the immediate implications of individual sin; but in the last analysis it has a human face, for it is caused by the rebellion of human wills against the will of God.

Αυτω η δοξα

The Beginning of the End…

Well, sort of. Today marks the beginning of my last seminar of coursework in route to a PhD (only exams and dissertation will remain–piece of cake, right?).

This semester we will be studying the general epistles and Revelation, so there is plenty of fodder for lively discussions! I am a tad disappointed that my research for the semester will not have much relevance for my dissertation. The last few seminars have allowed me to research and write on topics that would in some way aid my later research, a bonus for sure, but since I’m writing on Paul it would be a stretch to tie the two areas together. Despite this, however, I am excited about my topic for the next few months. Basically I’ll be examining literary monsters/creatures from Greek and Roman literature and their relevance (if any!) to John’s Apocalypse. I’ve got a good start on it, but I always have an open ear to suggestions for resources. If you know of solid works that would relevant for this topic, please feel free to send me the info.