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← 23. Apocalyptic and Resistance

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  1. Prof: The word
  2. is the Greek word
    apocalypsis that is
  3. translated as
  4. because that's exactly what it
    means, "an
  5. uncovering."
  6. You will often hear the
    Revelation of John also referred
  7. to as The Apocalypse because
    that's also its title.
  8. Now one point,
    please don't call it "The
  9. Revelations."
  10. I don't know why people think
    that "Revelations"
  11. is the name of the book.
  12. It's not, and it's the
    "Revelation of John,"
  13. that's the title.
  14. The word just means "the
  15. it refers nowadays in the
    modern world to an entire genre
  16. of literature of the ancient
  17. most of which is Jewish,
    but there are some maybe Greek
  18. apocalypse,
    things that people would call a
  19. Greek apocalypse or apocalyptic
    type literature in some Latin
  20. texts or in Egyptian or in other
    near eastern situations.
  21. Most of what we call
    apocalypses comes from either an
  22. ancient Jewish or ancient
    Christian milieu.
  23. This kind of literature has
    several characteristics the
  24. scholars have pointed out,
    and I'll go over this very
  25. briefly.
  26. They tend to be pseudonymous,
    and they are set deep in the
  27. past like we saw in the book of
  28. In fact, Daniel is where we get
    a lot of our generic notions of
  29. what an apocalypse is.
  30. The two apocalyptic,
    most apocalyptic books in the
  31. Bible are Daniel and Revelation.
  32. There's kind of an apocalyptic
    world view that I'll talk about
  33. also.
  34. When we talk about apocalypse
    we're talking about first that
  35. genre of literature.
  36. They're usually pseudonymous,
    they're ascribed to some
  37. ancient hero,
    so we have apocalypses that are
  38. titled after Enoch,
    said to be by Enoch,
  39. who lived way,
    way, way back just after Adam.
  40. We have apocalypses attributed
    to various other Old Testament
  41. characters,
    so that the idea,
  42. as we saw with Daniel,
    is it's written at one time but
  43. the author claims to be writing
    centuries before.
  44. Like we saw in the case of
    Daniel, they usually tell you
  45. what's going to happen in the
  46. Of course it's actually in the
    past for the writer,
  47. all up until a certain point,
    and then the end of the current
  48. society or the end of the world
    as we know it.
  49. It's not normally the end of
    the world entirely.
  50. Usually it is a destruction and
    then a resettling or recreation
  51. of a physical world.
  52. It's just called in the Kingdom
    of God or something like that.
  53. They usually have a
    chronological span of time.
  54. They have all kinds of images,
    angels, demons,
  55. sometimes beasts,
    sometimes monstrous kinds of
  56. beasts as you've seen also in
    Revelation and in Daniel.
  57. They're usually constructed as
    some kind of narrative.
  58. The author will say something
  59. I was in a dream and I saw this
    and then this angel grabbed me
  60. and took me to this part of
    heaven and to took me to the
  61. third heaven,
    or the fifth heaven,
  62. or the 12th heaven,
    and then I went down to the
  63. deep and saw the dead.
  64. Think Dante's Inferno
    and the way that Dante is led
  65. around into the different parts
    of the cosmos.
  66. And they have a cosmology.
  67. They usually have a storied
    structure to the universe with
  68. several different layers of
    heavens and often several
  69. different layers of underneath,
    the different hells or Hades.
  70. That's the genre of an
  71. There's also the world view of
    apocalypticism we'll call it.
  72. Why we use this term is because
  73. as far as we know it,
    never wrote an apocalypse,
  74. and yet his letters show strong
    influence of apocalypticism,
  75. that is an apocalyptic world
  76. You have, for example,
    three different kinds of
  77. dualisms.
  78. You've already seen in the
    Gospel of John and other texts
  79. how there's a dualism between
    good and evil,
  80. there are the good guys and the
    bad guys,
  81. there is God and there is
    Satan, so there's an ethical
  82. kind of dualism.
  83. There's also a spatial dualism.
  84. There's a dualism of up there
    and down here,
  85. and so you have things that go
    on on the earth are simply
  86. shadows of what's going on
    actually in the heavens.
  87. It's like every country,
    according to Daniel,
  88. has its own prince,
    by that he means some kind of
  89. angelic being.
  90. The Prince of Persia refers in
    Daniel to some huge angelic
  91. super human being who actually
    rules Persia.
  92. The Prince of Judah,
    the angel of Judah tends to be
  93. Michael or some other angel that
    you've probably heard of,
  94. like Raphael.
  95. Each of the nations has its own
    angel so you can imagine sort of
  96. that Russia has its angel,
    and so then America has its
  97. angel, and if Russia and America
    were to go to war this would be
  98. actually simply an earthly
    shadow type reflection of the
  99. true reality which would be
    going on as the angel of Russia
  100. was battling the angel of
    America in heaven.
  101. So everything that goes on in
    our cosmos is simply a mirror
  102. image of these battles that are
    going on the heavens.
  103. So that's another dualism of
  104. Then there's of course a
    dualism of time.
  105. We've talked a lot about how
    for Daniel, remember there is a
  106. dualism of before time and the
    after time.
  107. There's a time that Daniel's
  108. which is up to this,
    and then what will happen is
  109. some big cataclysm will happen,
    and then, according to Daniel,
  110. the Son of Man will come down,
    battle against the bad evil
  111. forces,
    overthrow Antiochus the IV
  112. Epiphanes,
    and set up the Kingdom of God.
  113. You have the same kind of
    structure of the time before and
  114. the time after in the New
    Testament except it's squirrely,
  115. right?
  116. Because according,
    say, to Paul,
  117. this is what's happened:
    you have the now time which is
  118. still going on,
    and then you have the future
  119. time which has already started
    impinging on the present.
  120. The thing that marks the
    beginning of the end time has
  121. been the cross and the
    resurrection of Jesus.
  122. Jesus was raised--what do you
    have when people are raised?
  123. The end of the world.
  124. The dead are supposed to be
    raised according to Jewish
  125. mythology,
    and this is something that
  126. doesn't happen all the time,
    and mainly it happens at the
  127. end of time.
  128. The early Christians were Jews
    expecting an apocalyptic Kingdom
  129. of God to happen,
    and Jesus probably taught this
  130. sort of thing himself as an
    apocalyptic prophet.
  131. But when Jesus was killed then
    the whole thing seemed to go
  132. awry because the Messiah is not
    supposed to be killed.
  133. The followers of Jesus,
    though, very quickly believed
  134. that they had seen him after he
    died, so they believed they had
  135. seen the resurrected Jesus.
  136. We're not going to talk about
    what they actually saw or what
  137. happened.
  138. From a historical point of view
    all we can say is that they
  139. believed they saw him raised
    from the dead.
  140. And that meant they thought,
    oh the end time must have
  141. already started because he has
    been raised.
  142. In other words,
    remember how Paul talks about
  143. Jesus as the "first fruits
    of those who sleep."
  144. That just means that Jesus is
    just the first apple on the tree
  145. in his resurrection,
    and all the rest will be raised
  146. when the final end comes.
  147. But for the early Christians
    they believed the end had
  148. already to in some sense started
    with the resurrection of Jesus,
  149. so that's this end.
  150. But then they also know the
    full end hasn't come because we
  151. don't see the Kingdom of God
    around us.
  152. Those damn Romans are still in
  153. The bad evil American
    government is still running
  154. things in the world,
    so this must not be the Kingdom
  155. of God.
  156. It may be the kingdom of Obama
    but it's not yet the Kingdom of
  157. God.
  158. The Christians expected Jesus
    to come back down,
  159. to come from heaven.
  160. This was called the
  161. We've already seen it in
    several texts.
  162. In I Thessalonians,
    for example,
  163. Paul talks about Jesus will
    come and then we'll fly up in
  164. the air and meet him.
  165. That's the parousia,
    which is a Greek term that just
  166. means "presence"
    or "coming,"
  167. and we'll refer to the time
    when a king or the emperor would
  168. come to visit a city,
    and all the people in the city,
  169. the important people would come
    out of the city,
  170. out of the gates,
    to meet the king and give him
  171. gifts and the king would give
    them gifts,
  172. and they would all accompany
    the king back into the city.
  173. That's called a parousia.
  174. It's a purely sort of political
    civic kind of term.
  175. This is what early Christians
    use to call the coming back of
  176. Jesus in his parousia.
  177. Christians lived,
    according to Paul's theology,
  178. right in this middle time of an
    overlap of the before and the
  179. after,
    but that's still the before and
  180. after that you see of
  181. It's still there.
  182. All these different dualisms
    are one of the characteristics,
  183. and you can see these sorts of
    things even in texts that aren't
  184. themselves apocalypses,
    but they show influences from
  185. this kind of world view and this
    kind of narrative view of
  186. history and the cosmology.
  187. Often apocalypses seem to have
    served as a form of cultural
  188. resistance.
  189. They make the most sense often
    if you see them as being popular
  190. among people who either are
    oppressed by some more powerful
  191. entity or at least believed that
    they are oppressed.
  192. They fear themselves to be
  193. For example,
    it's a perfectly natural world
  194. view--
    you can understand how the
  195. world view is,
    if you believe you're an
  196. oppressed minority and you can't
    really fight against the more
  197. powerful entity.
  198. There's no way these early
    little Christians groups or even
  199. the nation of Israel could rebel
    against the Roman Empire and
  200. win.
  201. The idea is that,
    well, we will resist them and
  202. eventually God will intervene in
    history with his angels and his
  203. army and the divine armies will
  204. and we will fight alongside
    them to overthrow the Greeks.
  205. The earliest apocalypses,
    Daniel was talking about the
  206. Greeks and Syrians,
    the Greco-Syrian Empire.
  207. So the Greeks were the first
    oppressive power that people
  208. thought they could overthrow
    this way.
  209. Then of course the Romans
    became the more oppressive power
  210. later,
    so in Jesus' time and Paul's
  211. time it's the Romans who are the
    enemy that will be overthrown.
  212. But that will all happen.
  213. It's not always true that the
    people who believe in these
  214. kinds of apocalyptic ideas are
    themselves in fact an oppressed
  215. minority.
  216. After all, Ronald Reagan was
    the President of the United
  217. States, and he still believed
    this stuff.
  218. He still believed that God was
    going to come any day,
  219. he thought it was going to
    happen right then,
  220. any day now,
    and God was going to have a big
  221. battle.
  222. Israel would be involved in it
    and all the different nations of
  223. the earth, and then God would
    set up the Kingdom of God in
  224. Jerusalem.
  225. Reagan talked about this on the
    phone with different Israeli
  226. politicians and leaders.
  227. How does this make sense for
    Ronald Reagan,
  228. the most powerful man in the
    world, to have this apocalyptic
  229. world view?
  230. Well Reagan spent a lot of his
    life feeling like he was on the
  231. out and feeling like he was not
    one of the liberal establishment
  232. of the east coast and this sort
    of thing.
  233. It doesn't necessarily mean
    that people who hold these views
  234. are themselves discriminated
    against minorities or oppressed
  235. minorities,
    but it usually means that they
  236. perceive themselves that way,
    because, otherwise,
  237. if you really do have power you
    just make the world like you
  238. want it to be.
  239. You overthrow somebody or you
    wage a battle,
  240. and wage war,
    and you fix the problem
  241. yourself.
  242. It's when you don't have the
    power politically or militarily
  243. to fix the problem that this
    kind of world view becomes very
  244. persuasive to you,
    very believable, plausible.
  245. That's what the Book of
    Revelation is.
  246. In fact, we use the title of
  247. the Apocalypse,
    as the term for the whole genre
  248. and for the whole world,
    and it comes basically from
  249. this book because it's the most
    famous apocalypse of all,
  250. naturally.
  251. The weird thing about
    Revelation, though,
  252. is that it's not pseudonymous.
  253. We don't--the book says it's
    just written by a guy named
  254. John.
  255. It's not the same John who was
    the brother of Zebedee,
  256. it's not the same John--if
    there was a John who wrote the
  257. Gospel of John and the letters
    of John,
  258. which we don't really know who
    wrote them,
  259. but whoever wrote Revelation is
    not the same person who wrote
  260. any of that literature.
  261. The style is too different,
    the theology is too different.
  262. It's just clearly not the same
  263. He doesn't claim to be any
    famous John, he just claims to
  264. be John, and so we call him
    often John the Seer or John the
  265. prophet or something like that.
  266. He doesn't seem to hide who he
    is, and, interestingly enough,
  267. he doesn't place the
    composition of his book
  268. centuries in the past.
  269. He actually places it in his
    own time.
  270. This is also tells you where he
    thought he was.
  271. He really believed that he was
    right there and that the end had
  272. already begun in a sense with
  273. He doesn't feel the need to
    pass back into the past and
  274. prophesy again.
  275. He sees himself as a prophetic
    figure like Daniel,
  276. but a prophetic figure not for
    the future, he doesn't believe
  277. there's going to be any more
  278. He believes that Jesus is
    coming back right now,
  279. so he just places himself right
    at the beginning.
  280. It's also a little bit unlike
    some apocalypses because you
  281. have these seven letters in the
    beginning of the book that are
  282. addressed to seven different
    churches in Asia Minor.
  283. One of the interesting things
    about all of Revelation is its
  284. structure.
  285. I talked about Hebrews last
    week and I gave you an outline
  286. to the letter to the Hebrews to
    show you that it was a very
  287. elaborately structured sermon.
  288. Hebrews was very well written.
  289. It's some of the best Greek in
    the New Testament.
  290. Revelation is interestingly
    structured, and I'll show you
  291. why I say that,
    but actually it's not very well
  292. written.
  293. The Greek is almost illiterate,
    and scholars have wondered
  294. about this, is it just because
    the writer of this didn't have a
  295. very good education?
  296. Or some people have even
    suggested maybe he's
  297. intentionally writing in kind of
    a weird way as sort of almost a
  298. form of protest against people
    in power.
  299. There are different theories
    about this, but it's not very
  300. good Greek, and it's not very
    well written.
  301. But it does have a fairly
    intricate and interesting
  302. structure, and I call this a
    structure of cycles,
  303. the spiral.
  304. I've titled your outline
    "a spiral outline of
  305. Revelation"
    because the story--
  306. a lot of people have read
  307. well, let me also back up and
    explain what's different this
  308. week from what we did last week.
  309. Last week, if you recall,
    I spent a lot of time talking
  310. about Hebrews and medieval
    interpretation because I was
  311. trying to illustrate how the
  312. critical interpretation of
    these texts that I'm teaching
  313. you in the semester is not the
    only way to do it.
  314. There are other kinds of
    allegorical, theological,
  315. literary ways to read these
    texts, and those are perfectly
  316. fine.
  317. Now, though,
    I'm completely reverting back
  318. to the historical critical way
    of reading this text.
  319. Partly because the way that so
    many people in popular culture
  320. read Revelation,
    especially very conservative
  321. Christians, is to read it about
    our time.
  322. It's been read over and over
    again to be about English wars
  323. or World War I or World War II,
    or most recently in The Late
  324. Great Planet Earth and these
    kinds of things,
  325. it's about the Soviet Union
    versus the United States of
  326. America,
    and everything that it talks
  327. about is referring to what's
    going to happen in our
  328. lifetimes.
  329. So the weird animals,
    the locust type things that
  330. have the heads of men and fly
    through the air,
  331. there are all kinds of modern
    Christians that say,
  332. oh those are helicopters.
  333. The author didn't know what a
    helicopter looked like in the
  334. ancient world so he just
    described kind of what he saw,
  335. but we know now those are
  336. so he's actually describing a
    big war that's going to break
  337. out around Israel and in Israel
    when the whole world's going to
  338. come to this big cataclysmic
    nuclear war,
  339. and it's all talked about right
    here in Revelation.
  340. Well, obviously I'm not going
    to do that.
  341. What I'm going to show you is
    how historians read this text
  342. precisely by putting it back in
    its ancient context.
  343. One of the things is,
    if you notice,
  344. the Book Revelation doesn't
    give one strict timeline.
  345. In fact it seems to have cycles
    of setting up some kind of weird
  346. crisis,
    having all these terrible
  347. things happen,
    and then have something that
  348. looks like a quasi resolution
    and then starting the cycle
  349. again.
  350. It ends up being a big
    cataclysmic crash at the end of
  351. the book,
    so this is why I call this a
  352. spiral of cycles that are going
    on in the Book of Revelation.
  353. First though look at just
    chapters 6-8,
  354. and I'm going to walk you
    through this very rapidly
  355. because you can see something of
    the structure of this book right
  356. here.
  357. Now this is after you've had
    the letters in the beginning of
  358. Revelation,
    then you've had the throne room
  359. scene with God,
    which we're going to talk about
  360. in a minute,
    and all the songs that
  361. everybody's saying.
  362. Let's just walk through first
    structure here.
  363. Then I saw the Lamb open one of
    the seven seals,
  364. and I heard one of the four
    living creatures call out with a
  365. voice of thunder,
  366. I looked and there was a white
  367. Its rider had a bow,
    a crown was given to him,
  368. and he came out conquering and
    to conquer.
  369. This is conquering,
    and warfare is this first
  370. horse.
  371. "When he opened the second
    seal," --where is he going
  372. with the seals?
  373. -- Picture this now:
    we've talked about how books
  374. were composed in the ancient
    world, and we talked about
  375. scrolls.
  376. Things were in scrolls not in
    books like this with all the
  377. different pages all sewn
  378. What he's imagining seeing is
    there's this huge scroll in the
  379. sky that this angel is holding
    and doing different things.
  380. When you want to finish a
    letter or a book you roll up the
  381. scroll, and then you put a wax
    seal at the end of the roll and
  382. that seals the book.
  383. So anybody who wants to read
    that letter or that book the
  384. first time has to break that wax
  385. The seals that he's talking
    about are the wax seals on the
  386. scroll.
  387. You imagine that you've got
    this scroll that has one seal
  388. and you can break that seal and
    you can unroll the scroll a
  389. little bit,
    but then you get another seal,
  390. so you undo that seal and you
    can unroll it a little bit more,
  391. so he's gradually unrolling
    this scroll that's going to have
  392. all these things pop out of it.
  393. There's this big huge scroll
    that has horses and riders
  394. jumping out of it and flying
    through the air.
  395. He opened the second seal.
  396. I heard the second living
    creature call out,
  397. "Come!"
  398. And out came another horse
    bright red.
  399. Its writer was permitted to
    take peace from the earth so
  400. that the people would slaughter
    one another and he was given a
  401. great sword.
  402. So the first seal releases this
    horse that looks like Empire,
  403. the conquering of the
  404. the second is just general
  405. When he opened the third seal,
    I heard the third living
  406. creature call out,
  407. I looked and there was a black
  408. Its rider had a pair of scales
    in his hand,
  409. and I heard what seemed to be a
    voice in the midst of the four
  410. living creatures saying,
    "A quart of wheat for a
  411. day's pay and three quarts of
    barley for a day's pay,
  412. but do not damage the olive oil
    and the wine."
  413. The third seal is what?
  414. Famine and poverty.
  415. When he opened the fourth seal
    I heard the voice of the fourth
  416. living creature call out,
  417. And I looked and there was a
    pale green horse.
  418. Its rider's name was Death,
    and Hades followed with him.
  419. They were given authority over
    a fourth of the earth to kill
  420. with the sword,
    famine, and pestilence,
  421. and by the wild animals of the
  422. So death is the fourth seal.
  423. "When I opened the fifth
    seal I saw under the
  424. altar"--notice we're not
    talking about horsemen anymore.
  425. You had four horsemen
    representing four different
  426. things.
  427. The fifth seal has something
    like a digression,
  428. the fifth seal is not another
    horse like you expect.
  429. In other words,
    you're given to expect that
  430. you're going to see another
    horse that's going to be some
  431. other catastrophe,
    but you don't get that,
  432. you have a digression.
  433. Under the altar,
    the souls of those who had been
  434. slaughtered for the word of God
    and for the testimony they had
  435. given,
    they cried out with a loud
  436. voice, "Sovereign Lord,
    holy and true,
  437. how long will it be before you
    judge and avenge our blood on
  438. the inhabitants of the
  439. They were each given a white
    robe and told to rest a little
  440. longer until the number would be
  441. both of their fellow slaves [it
    says "slaves"
  442. actually in the Greek,
    not "servants"]
  443. and of their brothers.
  444. It doesn't say sisters.
  445. There's almost no women in this
    text at all.
  446. It's all men,
    virgin men who have never been
  447. polluted by touching women.
  448. It's not exactly a pro-woman
  449. You might not get that idea if
    you have an English translation
  450. that keeps putting sisters in
    here, but there are no sisters
  451. in this book.
  452. There's the whore of Babylon,
    there's the mother bride,
  453. and then there are
  454. your slaves,
    you fellow brothers,
  455. who are soon to be killed as
    they themselves have been
  456. killed."
  457. What's the fifth seal?
  458. Well it gives him a vision of
    the altar of God,
  459. in the temple of God in heaven,
    and there's this big altar.
  460. And under the altar are the
    souls of all the followers of
  461. Jesus who have been martyred up
    to this time,
  462. and the souls of those people
    who will be martyred.
  463. They're not punished,
    they're saying how long,
  464. how long, and he says,
    oh keep your pants on,
  465. here's a white robe,
    just sit there and be nice
  466. under the altar,
    we're going to take care of it
  467. all very,
    very soon.
  468. The fifth seal is actually a
    digression that tells you,
  469. the audience,
    that if you suffer in this
  470. present time it will be taken
    care of by God.
  471. You have these four building up
    of terrible things,
  472. and the fifth is a digression
    that gives you comfort.
  473. But now we're going to get back.
  474. He opened the sixth seal,
    I looked and I heard a great
  475. earthquake,
    the sun became black as
  476. sackcloth, the full moon became
    like blood,
  477. the stars of the sky fell to
    the earth as a fig tree drops
  478. its winter fruit when shaken by
    a gale.
  479. The sky vanished like a scroll
    rolling itself up.
  480. Remember I talked about how the
    sky in ancient cosmology isn't
  481. just air,
    it's actually a firm thing,
  482. it's like a big piece of
    leather or something like that
  483. sits up there,
    and there's water on the other
  484. side of it in most ancient
  485. or something on the other side
    of it.
  486. When he talks about seeing the
    sky rolled up like a scroll he
  487. means that quite literally.
  488. The sky goes jrrrjrrjrrrrjrrr
    and rolls up,
  489. and you can see heaven above
  490. So the sky vanishes like a
  491. Every mountain and island moved
    from its place.
  492. Then the kings of the earth,
    and the magnates and the
  493. generals,
    and the rich and the powerful,
  494. and everyone,
    slave and free,
  495. hid in the caves,
    and among the rocks of the
  496. mountains,
    calling to the mountains and
  497. rocks,
    "Fall on us and hide us
  498. from the face of the one seated
    on the throne,
  499. and from the wrath of the Lamb!
  500. For the great day of their
    wrath has come,
  501. and who is able to stand?"
  502. The sixth seal is all hell
    breaks loose.
  503. The cosmos is coming down on
    top of itself.
  504. He's created an increasing
    level of anxiety and catastrophe
  505. with this, but that fifth seal
    there's kind of a digression.
  506. "After this I saw four
  507. Now you think,
    oh man, if the sixth seal is
  508. like that you know one more seal
    is coming up.
  509. What's the seventh seal going
    to be?
  510. Man, I'm eager to hear this!
  511. Remember all this was read out
    loud in the ancient world so
  512. you're hearing all this.
  513. "I saw four angles
    standing at the four corners of
  514. the earth, hurrying back the
    four winds of the earth."
  515. Now you get a bunch of other
    stuff, "I saw another angel
  516. ascend, and I heard the number
    of those were sealed."
  517. Now you have all the followers
    of Jesus are numbered into
  518. different tribes of 12,000 a
    piece, and each of those tribes
  519. is sealed themselves.
  520. Isn't that interesting,
    you have another use of the
  521. term seal but now this is a seal
    that's put on the faces of all
  522. the people who are the true
  523. who are the true Israel,
    twelve tribes like the twelve
  524. tribe--
    the lost ten tribes and the
  525. other two tribes of Israel.
  526. There's the reconstituting of
    Israel now, and they're sealed,
  527. and the seal is a good thing.
  528. It means you won't be harmed if
    you have this on you.
  529. That goes on all of chapter 7.
  530. You're thinking where is the
    seventh seal?
  531. We had six, I know there's
    another one coming,
  532. where is it?
  533. You have to wait all the way
    through chapter 7 wanting the
  534. seventh seal but you're not
    getting it yet.
  535. In other words,
    he's just stringing you along.
  536. But he's stringing you along in
    a way that's kind of good
  537. because he's reassuring you.
  538. You know the seventh seal is
  539. and you're just--you're pretty
    sure it's going to be really,
  540. really, really,
    really bad because the sixth
  541. seal was.
  542. But before you get to the
    seventh seal you have this
  543. sealing of you,
    if you're a faithful follower
  544. of Jesus, with the reassurance
    of a seal.
  545. And then you have some songs,
    we're going to talk about some
  546. songs, but everybody comes in
    and it's like a Broadway play.
  547. You have something happen,
    and then the chorus all runs on
  548. stage and they do a little song,
    blessed be the lamb,
  549. and the blah,
  550. blah, halleluiah,
    halleluiah, and then they run
  551. off and you have more action.
  552. That's the way the story is
    structured, for interesting
  553. reasons.
  554. We get to the end of chapter 7,
    we're finally to this chapter,
  555. so you get to Chapter 8--of
    course they're not numbered in
  556. the ancient world.
  557. But "When the Lamb opened
    the seventh seal,"
  558. you ready for this?
  559. "there was silence in
    heaven for a half an hour."
  560. That's the seventh seal.
  561. What's going on?
  562. The text builds up tension,
    and you hear this read out
  563. loud,
    and it keeps building up this
  564. tension,
    but then the seventh seal is
  565. such a anticlimax:
    silence in heaven for a half an
  566. hour.
  567. Then it doesn't explain
    anything about that,
  568. it just starts over.
  569. And then you have another cycle
    a little bit later.
  570. "Another angel of the
    golden censor came and stood by
  571. the altar."
  572. In other words,
    what's you've got is something
  573. like this.
  574. You have these four
    scrolls--the four seals which
  575. are terrible,
    terrible, terrible awful
  576. things, and then you have the
    fifth which is a digression,
  577. and it's actually a good thing,
    it's the telling of the souls
  578. who have been martyred,
    don't worry,
  579. you'll be saved,
    here's a white robe,
  580. relax.
  581. Then you have the sixth seal
    which is another worse thing
  582. than all of these,
    it's really,
  583. really bad and its goes on
  584. and then you have this long
    digression again,
  585. this is like the fifth seal,
    it's a sealing of the followers
  586. of Jesus with salvation.
  587. Then after that digression then
    you have this seventh seal which
  588. is really kind of anticlimactic.
  589. But it's not bad because,
    you know, silence in heaven for
  590. a half an hour.
  591. Look at your spiral outline now
    because this kind of structure
  592. of having a cycle of
    catastrophes that are
  593. interrupted every once in a
    while by some kind of digression
  594. that then ends with something
  595. that's the way the whole book
    is structured in three different
  596. cycles.
  597. For example,
    I said in the fourth chapter of
  598. Revelation you have the big
    heavenly throne room scene.
  599. Revelation 5,
    you have the introduction of
  600. the scroll with seven seals and
    the lamb,
  601. and then you have the first
    cycle of seven,
  602. and that's what I just walked
    you through just now.
  603. Then right after 8:1,
    the silence in heaven,
  604. it starts again with a second
  605. and you have in 8:2
    introduction of seven angels
  606. with seven trumpets,
    and then again you have the
  607. first, second,
    third, and fourth trumpet which
  608. announce these kind of
  609. And then you have an interlude
    where this eagle comes through
  610. and announces woes on everybody.
  611. And then you have the fifth
    trumpet in 9:1-12,
  612. and the sixth trumpet in 9:13,
    and then you have chapter 10
  613. which has another interlude
    which is about the scroll of
  614. prophecy.
  615. Chapter 11, you have the talk
    about the temple,
  616. and he has to measure the
  617. And then in 11:14 you have the
    end of the second woe.
  618. And finally in 11:15 you have
    the seventh trumpet.
  619. And what does the seventh
    trumpet introduce?
  620. Praise in heaven,
    sort of like that half hour of
  621. silence.
  622. Then you have a long interlude,
    which is chapters 12,
  623. 13, and 14 which is about
    battles between the woman who's
  624. the mother of church or the
    mother of the Savior,
  625. and the dragon.
  626. Chapter 13 is about the dragon
    and the beast.
  627. Chapter 14 is about the lamb,
    the horned lamb which
  628. represents Jesus who's a horned
    lamb who is wounded.
  629. And then you have starting in
    15:1, you have a third cycle of
  630. seven angels and seven plagues
    or bowls.
  631. Then you have the great
    conclusion, which is the very
  632. end, the destruction of Rome in
    chapters 17-19.
  633. The final battle which is
  634. the imprisonment and eventual
    destruction of enemies which is
  635. Chapter 20 and the establishment
    of the new Jerusalem in chapters
  636. 21 and 22.
  637. What does this structure tell
  638. Because the structures in these
    different cycles,
  639. it builds up crisis and then it
    gives you something,
  640. a relief at the end.
  641. There's a famous New Testament
    scholar who teaches at the
  642. Divinity School,
    this time it's not me,
  643. who teaches in the Divinity
  644. Adela Yarbro Collins.
  645. Many years ago when I was still
    a student I read this book she
  646. had wrote called,
    Crisis and Catharsis.
  647. It's a wonderful book about
  648. And her thesis was,
    the very purpose of the Book of
  649. Revelation is to build up a
    sense of crisis in early
  650. followers of Jesus.
  651. If you're too comfortable with
    your world, you don't know that
  652. things are really a lot worse
    than what you think they are.
  653. If it's addressed to Christians
    who are, if they're comfortable,
  654. it wants to make them
    uncomfortable with Roman
  655. rule.
  656. If they're uncomfortable with
    Roman rule, and feel depressed
  657. and oppressed,
    then eventually the book will
  658. lead them to feeling comfort.
  659. So crisis is created by the
    book in order to let you
  660. experience a catharsis of the
  661. The looping structure of the
    book tries to work that out
  662. psychologically in its hearers.
  663. You can see how it's going to
    do this.
  664. And, remember,
    it's meant to be performed.
  665. You're hearing it read out loud.
  666. It's a long book,
    but you sit there,
  667. and you imagine a bunch of
    Christians in Asia Minor in some
  668. church,
    say, in Ephesus,
  669. and they're meeting is dark,
    they're meeting in some house
  670. somewhere,
    in somebody's dining room,
  671. and somebody has sent around
    this document and asked it to be
  672. read.
  673. You're all sitting around with
    just some candles going and
  674. somebody's reading this book,
    and it's got all these strange
  675. things going on,
    strange creatures,
  676. and a lot of these songs and
    things that people are singing,
  677. and angels are singing,
    and beasts are singing,
  678. and elders are singing.
  679. It's sort of like in the fourth
    chapter, look at the fourth
  680. chapter of Revelation.
  681. This is where we're in the
    throne room of God.
  682. After this I looked,
    and there in heaven,
  683. a door stood open and the first
  684. which I had heard speaking to
    me like a trumpet said,
  685. "Come up here and I will
    show you what must take place
  686. after this."
  687. At once I was in the spirit,
    and there in heaven stood a
  688. throne with one seated on the
  689. And the one seated there looks
    like jasper and carnelian,
  690. and around the throne is a
    rainbow that looks like an
  691. emerald.
  692. And around the throne are
    twenty-four thrones,
  693. and seated on the thrones are
    twenty-four elders dressed in
  694. white robes with golden crowns
    on their heads.
  695. Coming from the throne were
    flashes of lightning,
  696. rumblings, and peals of
    thunder, and in front of the
  697. throne were seven flaming
    torches with the seven spirits
  698. of God.
  699. You have all this going on and
    then the four living creatures,
  700. these monstrous combination
    kind of monster creatures are
  701. standing around the throne and
    they starting singing
  702. "holy,
    holy, holy is the Lord God
  703. Almighty,
    who was, and who is,
  704. and who is to come."
  705. Then you see the twenty-four
    elders, and they're singing
  706. another song.
  707. The whole thing is meant to be
    seen in your mind,
  708. not just read silently.
  709. We're going to do a little
    experiment here to show how that
  710. might happen.
  711. We're going to break up into
  712. You get to be the four living
  713. Then we're going to split the
    rest of the class right here,
  714. you all get to be--I think it's
    the elders I can't remember,
  715. and then you'll be another
  716. These are the quotations.
  717. I want you to say this with me
    very soft at first,
  718. all right?
  719. Don't rush, don't get faster.
  720. I'm a musician you know,
    I'm going to make you stick
  721. with the tempo I set.
  722. "Holy, holy,
    holy is the Lord God Almighty,
  723. who was, and who is,
    and who is to come."
  724. Say it!
  725. "Worthy is the lamb that
    was slain."
  726. Don't rush.
  727. "Worthy is the lamb that
    was slain."
  728. "Glory,
    honor, power to thee,
  729. oh Lord, most high.
  730. Glory, honor,
    power to thee oh Lord most
  731. high."
  732. Now get a little bit louder.
  733. There's smoke in the throne
  734. There are beasts flapping their
  735. Now close your eyes and get
  736. Shout it!
  737. Stop!
  738. You feel something?
  739. You're supposed to feel
  740. You're supposed to kind of feel
  741. You're supposed to feel
    uncomfortable just a little bit,
  742. you're supposed to feel a
    little tingle,
  743. because reading Revelation as
    if it's a blueprint for Jesus
  744. coming back and what's going to
    happen with the Republicans and
  745. the Democrats kind of misses the
  746. Because what it really is
    doing, it's trying to pull you
  747. into a world,
    a very performative world.
  748. That's the thing--it really is
    like a stage show except the
  749. stage is the whole cosmos and
    all kind of weird things that
  750. are happening all around.
  751. Part of what's going on here,
    to use Professor Collins's
  752. phrase, is it introduces this
    sense of a crisis in the cosmos.
  753. It doesn't do that because it
    wants you to,
  754. in the end, simply live in that
  755. It's because the author
    believes God's going to take
  756. care of the crisis eventually
    but not necessarily today.
  757. The book, having this book
    performed in your church for
  758. you,
    read out loud in the middle of
  759. the night,
    deals with your sense of
  760. persecution if you have one.
  761. But what if you don't have a
    sense of persecution?
  762. What if you're actually fairly
    comfortable with Rome?
  763. What if you're fairly well off?
  764. You've got a good business,
    the Pax Romana,
  765. the Roman peace,
    actually allows you to travel.
  766. You can get on a ship and not
    have to worry about pirates,
  767. unlike today [student
    laughter], or unlike it was a
  768. hundred years before this.
  769. Pompey was the general who
    cleaned the pirates out of the
  770. Mediterranean in the first
    century BCE.
  771. So if you're a businessman,
    and you're fairly well off,
  772. you might think that the Roman
    peace is a pretty good thing.
  773. Sure a few people's heads got
    to get cracked every once in a
  774. while, to keep the peace,
    that's just the way it is.
  775. The Book of Revelation seems to
    have a dual purpose.
  776. It's like that old saying about
    what good preaching is,
  777. good preaching is supposed to
    comfort the afflicted and
  778. afflict the comfortable.
  779. That's kind of what the Book of
    Revelation seems to try to do.
  780. Because notice,
    what is the view of Rome that
  781. you get here?
  782. Look in Revelation 18 and 19.
  783. If all you had was the letters
    of Paul,
  784. what might you think about
    Rome, what might you think about
  785. the government,
    what might you think about the
  786. emperor?
  787. If you all you had were certain
    other books such as the Pastoral
  788. Epistles what would you think
    the--about their politics?
  789. There's no way you could find
    this author saying something
  790. like "honor the
  791. which is precisely what you get
    in some other early Christian
  792. letters.
  793. After this I saw another angel
    coming down from heaven having
  794. great authority and the earth
    was made bright with his
  795. splendor.
  796. He called out with a might
    voice, "Fallen,
  797. fallen is Babylon the Great!
  798. It has become a dwelling place
    of demons, a haunt of every foul
  799. spirit, a haunt of every foul
    bird, a haunt of every foul and
  800. hateful beast.
  801. For all the nations have drunk
    of the wine of the wrath of her
  802. fornication,
    and the kings of the earth have
  803. committed fornication with her,
    and the merchants,
  804. and the earth have grown rich
    from the power of her
  805. luxury."
  806. This is clearly Rome.
  807. Babylon is the code name for
    Rome here.
  808. We know it is because in
    17:9,18 he talks about this city
  809. being on seven hills,
    referring to the famous Seven
  810. Hills of Rome.
  811. Of course in 13:18 ...
  812. so that no one can buy or sell
    who does not have the mark of
  813. the beast, the name of the beast
    or the number of its name.
  814. This calls for wisdom,
    let anyone with understanding
  815. calculate the number of the
    beast, for it is the number of a
  816. person.
  817. Its number is 666.
  818. What is 666?
  819. Well, back in the 1980s some of
    us leftists said Ronald Wilson
  820. Reagan, or you can come up with
    all kinds of other things.
  821. Scholars think that if you take
    the word "Nero,"
  822. the name of the Emperor and you
    spell it "Neron,"
  823. with a final N like you would,
    in the Hebrew letters,
  824. it comes out to be 666,
    adding up those three letters.
  825. Now you'll notice there's also
    a footnote that says other
  826. ancient authorities say 616,
    so some scribe comes along and
  827. sees 666 and said,
    oh no that can't be right,
  828. it must be 616.
  829. It's actually--that makes a lot
    sense if this is supposed to
  830. refer to Nero because if you
    spelled Nero's name slightly
  831. differently,
    in a way that was still
  832. possible to spell it for the
    ancient world,
  833. it comes out to be 616 rather
    than 666,
  834. which leads a lot of us
    scholars just to think the
  835. writer is probably referring to
    Nero in some way.
  836. Nero is a beast,
    and Nero is the whore,
  837. Rome is the whore that's had
    sex with every rich man and
  838. every king throughout the whole
  839. This is not a very positive
    view of Rome,
  840. and Rome of course is
    completely destroyed at the end.
  841. The part of Nero is when we
    don't when this text was
  842. written.
  843. Some people actually believe
    that Revelation was written in
  844. the 60s when Nero was himself
    the emperor.
  845. More tend to believe that it's
    written toward the end of the
  846. century, when Nero had already
    been dead.
  847. This refers to a great myth
    from the ancient world called
  848. Nero redivivus.
  849. The myth was that Nero was such
    a terrible,
  850. terrible, terrible bad man that
    even though he had been
  851. assassinated he was going to
    rise from the dead someday.
  852. Or some people believed he
    wasn't ever dead,
  853. he escaped and he was off
    living with Parthians,
  854. who were these people who lived
    on the very eastern corner of
  855. the Roman Empire.
  856. The idea was Nero was still
    alive somewhere and he was going
  857. to raise an army of Parthians,
    and he was going to come back
  858. and he was going to wage war and
    take over the Roman Empire
  859. again.
  860. Or he was going to rise from
    the dead and raise an army and
  861. take over the empire again.
  862. This was especially chilling
    for followers of Jesus because
  863. Nero was well known,
    at the end of the century,
  864. for being the first emperor to
    have persecuted the followers of
  865. Jesus in Rome.
  866. The famous story is that
    Nero--there was a big fire in
  867. Rome,
    and Nero was blamed for the
  868. fire because he was clearing a
    bunch of apartment buildings of
  869. lower income people out of a
    certain area of Rome,
  870. it's right by the Coliseum,
    to build his huge big palace.
  871. In fact now,
    if you go to Rome,
  872. they've opened up the Golden
    House, they call it,
  873. and this was the palace that
    Nero built.
  874. It's beautiful,
    you have to go under the ground
  875. to get into it and see it and
    everything because it's all
  876. covered by the ground.
  877. If you go to Rome,
    get tickets and go to Nero's
  878. palace because it's only in the
    last several years that it's
  879. been reopened for the public.
  880. The idea was,
    Nero had actually burned a
  881. bunch of tenements in order to
    make room for his palace,
  882. but because this was so
    unpopular he blamed it on the
  883. Christians.
  884. He said, the Christians set the
  885. the Christians are those really
    bad people,
  886. and the story goes that he had
    big barbeques in his palace
  887. grounds and he put the bodies of
    Christians covered with tar on
  888. stakes and crucified them,
    and put them on stakes,
  889. and lit them and their burning
    bodies provided the torchlight
  890. for his party.
  891. This is the story that was
    circulated about Nero by later
  892. Christians and by other people
  893. For followers of Jesus,
    Nero was this terrible figure,
  894. who they thought he might even
    rise again from the dead and do
  895. battle against us.
  896. What does all this make sense
  897. The writer is giving this big
  898. obviously the whore is killed,
    Babylon is killed,
  899. Rome is destroyed,
    all the wealthy people are
  900. destroyed,
    all the kings of the earth are
  901. destroyed by the angels and by
    Jesus coming down.
  902. And then the setting up of the
    new Jerusalem that's gold and
  903. beautiful,
    and there's no night or day
  904. there because God is its light
    and everybody lives happily ever
  905. after.
  906. What is the kind of situation
    that this speaks too?
  907. We're going to go back to the
    beginning of Revelation now.
  908. Look at chapter 2.
  909. These are in the letters.
  910. We know it was written by a guy
    named John.
  911. He says he was imprisoned on
    the isle of Patmos in the
  912. Mediterranean when he wrote
    this, and then he circulates it
  913. around.
  914. He starts off with these seven
    letters to seven churches.
  915. "To the angel of the
    church in Ephesus."
  916. Ephesus, we've seen Ephesus
    haven't we?
  917. One of pseudo-Paul's letters
    may have been addressed to
  918. Ephesus.
  919. Paul apparently did found a
    church in Ephesus,
  920. and it was one of his bigger
    churches it seems like.
  921. He spent years there.
  922. These are the words of him who
    holds the seven stars in his
  923. right hand, who walks among the
    seven golden lamp stands.
  924. I know your works,
    your toil, and your patient
  925. endurance.
  926. I know that you cannot tolerate
    evil doers, you have tested
  927. those who claim to be apostles
    but are not, and have found them
  928. to be false.
  929. [There are false apostles
    running around.],
  930. I also know that you are
    enduring patiently and bearing
  931. up for the sake of my name,
    and that you have not grown
  932. weary.
  933. But I have this against you ....
  934. See some of the letters are
    mainly letters of praise to the
  935. churches and some of them are
    scolding letters,
  936. so it's interesting to see what
    does he scold people for,
  937. and what does he praise them
  938. Remember, then,
    from what you have fallen,
  939. repent.
  940. [This is a backslid church he
  941. Do the works you did at first.
  942. If not, I will come to you and
    remove your lamp stand from its
  943. place unless you repent.
  944. Yet this is to your credit,
    you hate the works of the
  945. Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
  946. [Well, we don't really know
    anything about the Nicolaitans,
  947. so that doesn't tell us much.]
    Let anyone who has an ear,
  948. listen to what the spirit is
    saying to the churches.
  949. To everyone who conquers I will
    give permission to eat from the
  950. tree of life that is in the
    paradise of God.
  951. Then he goes onto another
  952. So there are false apostles,
    but then look at 2:9:
  953. I know your affliction and your
    poverty, even though you are
  954. rich.
  955. I know the slander on the part
    of those who say that they are
  956. Jews but are not,
    but are a synagogue of Satan.
  957. There is this poverty,
    he's praising poverty.
  958. He talks about people who -say
    they're Jews but they're not.
  959. 2:13: "I know where you
    are living."
  960. This is to Pergamum which
    happened to be a huge site of
  961. the imperial cult,
    the cult to the emperor.
  962. In fact you can go there now,
    I'm going to be there in June,
  963. aren't you jealous?
  964. You can go to the top of this
  965. the Acropolis in Pergamum,
    and the Austrian archeologists
  966. are rebuilding all these temples
    to Trajan and Hadrian on the top
  967. of this hill.
  968. Of course Trajan and Hadrian
    are after he wrote this,
  969. but there was still a big
    emperor cult there.
  970. I know where you are living,
    where Satan's throne is.
  971. [well maybe that's a reference
    to the emperor cult itself.]
  972. You are holding fast to my
  973. you did not deny your faith in
    me even in the days of Antipas
  974. my witness,
    I have some things against you,
  975. you have some ....
  976. Well, I'm running out of time
    but let me tell you what
  977. basically he really doesn't
  978. He doesn't like a woman named,
    he calls Jezebel,
  979. who is one of the prophets in
    one the churches.
  980. He doesn't like rich people.
  981. He says stuff about idolatry
    which makes it sound like he
  982. doesn't like people who are
    eating meat sacrificed to idols.
  983. We don't think there were any
    of these churches that were
  984. actually practicing pagan
  985. What's probably going on is,
    he knows that there are some
  986. Christians who eat meat
    sacrificed to idols,
  987. and he calls that idolatry.
  988. Now let's think about it,
    which churches are in this area
  989. of western Asia Minor that have
    women as leaders in them,
  990. they've been told by their
    apostle that it's okay to eat
  991. meat sacrificed to idols,
    and some of them are not that
  992. poor,
    like there seem to be people in
  993. Corinth who seem to be fairly
    well off.
  994. Maybe this guy,
    and this is just a theory,
  995. but I think it's fun to think
  996. maybe he's actually writing to
    Paul's churches precisely
  997. because he thinks they're too
    comfortable with Roman rule,
  998. and he wants to make them
    uncomfortable with Roman rule in
  999. order to turn them against Rome
    and to convert him to his own
  1000. vision about this anti-Roman
    version of the Gospel.
  1001. And that's why he constructs
    the letter to say,
  1002. as I said, if you're troubled,
    if you feel like you're
  1003. oppressed you're supposed to be
    comforted by this text.
  1004. But if you're too comfortable
    with the Pax Romana
  1005. you're supposed to be mad
    uncomfortable by the text and
  1006. get on the right side.
  1007. On Wednesday we'll talk about
    some texts that may have been
  1008. more comfortable with Roman