And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones


The Book of Revelation is the strangest book in the Bible. It’s the most controversial. It doesn’t have any stories, moral teaching. It only has visions, dreams and nightmares. Not many people say they understand it, but for 2000 years, this book has been wildly popular. (…)

I started with three questions. First, who wrote this book? And what was he thinking? Second, what other books of Revelation were written about the same time? How did this book, and only this one, get into the Bible? And what constitutes the appeal, whether you’re talking psychologically, literarily, politically, of this book? (…)

The author says he’s a prophet named John. He claims to be a prophet called John of Patmos, because he said he wrote from the island of Patmos, which is about 50 miles off the coast of Turkey, in what was then Asia Minor. John said he was in the spirit, that is, he was in an ecstatic trance, when suddenly he heard a loud voice talking to him. He turned around and saw a divine being speaking to him, telling him what must happen soon. (…)

Next, John says, he was back in heaven, and suddenly he saw seven angels, each of seven angels carrying an enormous golden bowl. And each bowl is full of the wrath of God. And as angels sound the trumpets, the first angel starts to pour the wrath of God over the earth and catastrophes happen. (…)

Finally, John pictures Babylon as the prophet Isaiah had seen Babylon. You may not recognize her, but she is a whore. She’s sitting on a seven-headed red beast, and drinking from a golden cup, the blood of the saints. (…)

You may be wondering, who was John, and why did he write this? The evidence suggests that John was a Jewish prophet. He was living in exile around the year 90 of the first century. We can’t understand this book until we understand that it was written in war time, or shortly after war. John was a refugee, apparently, from the Jewish war that had destroyed his home country, Judea, started, as you may know, in year 66 when Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire. The slogan of the war was, “In the name of God and our common liberty.” And four years later, in the year 70, 60,000 Roman troops stormed into Jerusalem and killed thousands of people. They said that the blood was as high as the horses’ bridles in the city of Jerusalem. That’s what Josephus wrote in his account of the war. And starved and raped, and killed thousands of people, and then finally attacked and burned down the great Temple of God which formed the entire city center.

{ Elaine Pagels/Edge | Continue reading }