the bible and country music, “Revelation” and Merle Haggard’s “Big City”

Do you know how difficult it is to find a country song about the acid trip that is Revelation?

I kid… slightly.

Because of the difficulty, I may post more than one.

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You keep using that word, χλιαρός

fundamentalism word

The ‘lukewarmness’ of Laodicea is to be related to the local water-supply, as suggested by Rudwick and Green. Their interpretation of the term as denoting ineffectiveness rather than half-heartedness is to be accepted. Further study confirms their suggestion that ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ allude respectively to Hierapolis and Colossae. Some details of the background and its application remain obscure.

Hemer notes that the “moralistic speculations which cannot reasonably be sustained” in regards to the usual interpretations. This is important, because the use of “lukewarm” is often tossed around to indicate some sort of vile middle-ness.

Such as today. In response to a post I wrote, some pastors who should know better use this word as a way to dismiss the argument. He used it to such a squalid and tepid faith. Yet, this is not the case. Rather, biblical scholarship shows this letter has been misunderstood, greatly. Rather than a faith that is stuck in the middle, χλιαρός is meant to show a faith without God, without the need for God, and that is self-sufficient. Hemer goes on to show that the condemnation was not against the spirituality or faith itself of the Laodiceans but of the works.

Hemer draws a parallel: “In Arrian, Epict. 3.21, Epictetus, a native of Hierapolis who betrays little contact with Judaism or Christianity, likens unqualified persons who enter lightly upon lecturing or the mysteries successively to those of a weak stomach who throw up their food and to those who misuse eyesalves”

Do you get this? The falseness, not the mildness, of the people are at question. It is not the wrongness, nor the misguided, but the falseness. For instance, those who hide their demons behind a cloak of a public show of Christian McCarthyism.

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Revelation with a ‘pre-Christian’ core?

The Angel Appears to John. The book of Revelat...
The Angel Appears to John. The book of Revelation. 13th century manuscript. British Library, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

James Tabor writes –

In the references below I have put these interpolative elements bold italicized brackets. This exercise strongly suggests that these are later additions to an original Jewish text inserted to “Christianize” a book that in its origins had nothing to do with Jesus. This is a rather astounding phenomenon and once one sees it it seems clear that the underlying original text remains intact and makes complete sense without these references:

via Can A Pre-Christian Version of the Book of Revelation Be Recovered? | TaborBlog.

His exercise is remarkably mundane and based on the same subjective movements employed in the Q camp. We simply have no hard evidence of a ‘pre-Christian’ apocalypse in Revelation.

And yet…

Tabor’s argument has merit and I would have no disagreement with those who can see such things. My only real disagreement is drawing too fine a line between Judaism and Christianity at the stage when this was written and implying early Jewish believers in Jesus ‘Christianized’ pre-existing documents. Like the Didache, Revelation would be leftovers. Well, a basic core of it anyway.

Sidenote – several scholars see in the Didache a pre-existing document likely used by later believers in their worship. Not to draw too close to anachronistic imagery here, but Wesley used the 39 Articles of Religion from the Anglican Church to draw up his 25 Articles of Religion for Methodists groups. Wesley was not yet independent, but remained Anglican. He simply used what he had and what was familiar. 

As I have previously stated, my position on Revelation is that it is built on Psalm 2. I further believe ancient liturgical practices are incorporated inside of Revelation. Fitting, I believe, since Psalm 2 and liturgy would most likely go together. Jewish believers in Jesus, like they do with other works, would see a natural enough structure to give them something to use to build their new community. After all, they aren’t really separated from Judaism of the time. It is possible the Jewish author, one who believed in Jesus, took a pre-existing liturgical document and made use of it for his community. It was familiar, safe, and served his theological purpose. The pre-existing document, a pre-midrash of Psalm 2, fitted nicely with Jesus becoming enthroned as the Lamb. And remember, any such pre-existing document would not necessarily not belong to the new group, especially if they saw themselves in continuity with Moses and the Prophets.

It wasn’t ‘Christanized;’ it was reworked to include the new order of things.

In other words, we shouldn’t really call works ‘Christian’ until we get to certain times in the 2nd century nor should we assume there was an agenda to ‘Christianize’ Jewish documents. This is anachronistic.

So, while we may have a pre-existing core, we cannot really say it is Jewish and the added material is Christian. Such a dichotomy likely did not exist at the time. Rather, we have a pre-existing liturgical framework Jewish believers in Jesus used to plug in their theological statements. I do not, however, believe we can easily remove the core, if there is really a core, from the overlaying layers.

As far as the author, I am not as convinced as some the name ‘John’ is not the author’s real name. I mean, Mark is but a surname.

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Revelation 10 and the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q400-7)

English: Qumran refectory (locus 77) Français ...
English: Qumran refectory (locus 77) Français : Qumran réfectoire (locus 77) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, sorry for the brevity, just wanted to put this out there. By now, you know I am working on my 3rd book, one that is taking a different look at Revelation. As I write the book, it slowly changes. I don’t think it will morph anymore, mind you, but what started off as X has now become Y. Or something like that. Anyway,

Read Revelation 10.1-11. Note especially Revelation 10.4-5 and seven thunders speaking unknown things. We find this in the Qumran collection called the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice (4Q400-7). There are nine fragments. One reads,

the third of the chief princes. He will exalt the God of the exalted gels seven times, with seven words of wonderful exaltations.


seven mysteries of knowledge in the wonderful mystery of the seven regions of the hol

seven times with (that) of the third to ue of the thi be strengthened seve

There is more in the fragments, but this should give you a taste. What are this fragments thought to represent? Why… an ancient liturgy.


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Some affinity between Revelation 9 and 4Q300 (also 1QMysteries)

English: Stained Glass depiction of Revelation...
English: Stained Glass depiction of Revelation 3:20 “Jesus at the Door.” Window attributed to the Quaker City Glass Company of Philadelphia, 1912. Installed in St. Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I don’t want to really get into this at the moment, but if you look at Revelation 9, you will see something very similar to the DSS fragment below. See this brief paper by Torleif Elgvin, especially the part where he mentions Flusser’s arguments on 1Q27 and how it influenced the Rosh Hashanah liturgy.

My goal is not to suggest John used 1Q27, but to show the use of ‘smoke’ in both, as (as it appears to me) something similar… like an ancient liturgy.

Frag. 1 col. I (= 4Q299 1; 4Q300 3)

1 all
2 mysteries of sin
3 their wisd. And they do not know the mystery of existence, nor understand ancient matters. And they do not
4 know what is going to happen to them; and they will not save their souls from the mystery of existence.
5 And this will be for you the sign /that this is going to happen./ When those born of sin are locked up, evil will disappear before justice as rkness disappears before
6 light. As smoke vanishes, and n longer exists, so will evil vanish for ever. And justice will be revealed like the sun which regulates
7 the world. And all those who curb the wonderful mysteries will no longer exist. And knowledge will pervade the world, and there will ne be folly there.
8 This word will undoubtedly happen, the prediction is truthful. And by this he will show you that it is irrevocable: Do not all
9 nations loathe sin? And yet, it is about by the hands of all of them. Does not praise of truth come from the mouth of all nations?
10 And yet, is there perhaps one lip or one tongue which persists with it? What people would wish to be oppressed by another more powerful than itself? Who
11 would wish to be sinfully looted of its wealth? And yet, which is the people not to oppress its neighbour? Where is the people which has not
12 looted of its wea … and the exits

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Blogging my Book: Revelation 3.7–13 and 1 Cor 11.27–32 – The Eucharist in View

English: Peresopnytsia Gospels. 1556-1561. Min...
English: Peresopnytsia Gospels. 1556-1561. Miniature of Saint Matthew. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I am trying not to go too far into the literary connections between Revelation and other parts of Scripture but if I do, I try to bring out the theological implications first.

Anyway, I am currently working through the 7 Churches of Asia and arriving at Philadelphia, I noticed language very similar to that of Paul’s.

Compare Revelation 3.7-13 and 1 Co 11.27-32. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Notice that Christ is the setting the table/open door. Compare 1 Corinthians 11.26 and Revelation 3.11. Compare as well the promise of Christ in 3.10 with Paul’s hope for the Eucharist — 1 Corinthians 11.28–32.

There is also some language here drawn from Isaiah 22.22, perhaps by way of Scott Hahn’s interpretation of  Matthew 16.18.

Anyway, rather than the open door of John’s vision in Revelation 4, this is (and maybe there isn’t much difference) the Eucharistic table where Christ is presiding.

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Hypothesis – Historical Present (Mark, John, Revelation)

I wanted to write this for first to start my thought process and second, perhaps, for discussion:

Matthew        94/78
Mark               150/151
Luke               13
John               163
Acts                14
Revelation     54

Mark is the first, and as I explained in my book, uses this for a particular reason. I think it is a rhetorical ploy. This explains Matthew’s continued use with it (keeping in mind the textual tradition you use and hoping we have a fairly accurate representation of the original text). In Luke-Acts, it is almost done away with and thus becomes just another verb choice.

However, in Revelation, we see another uptick.

Wait. Go here and read this paper by Steve Runge first.

Anyway, here is my current hypothesis:

Mark begins the Gospel genre. His use is rhetorical. Matthew sees this and uses it, expanding Mark’s story with his own. Luke‘s rhetoric goes into a different direction and thus doesn’t need word choice, or rather, doesn’t need this particular grammar choice. Or, he may not get the entire theme as displayed in Mark and Matthew and thus attempts to correct the “poor” grammar. Acts doesn’t really count here, except to show the author(s) of Luke-Acts as a single-minded writer who likes tidiness.

John reworks the Markan narrative including other narratives along the way and his own material but unlike Matthew and Luke, retains more of Mark’s rhetorical flair.

Oh, yes. Thomas (the Greek fragments such as P. Oxy 654) uses the historical present in relation to Jesus. The Coptic has it as past tense, indicating a translation from the Greek, I’d argue. Wonder if this means Thomas knew the Synoptics? —->

What does this mean for Revelation? First, I would argue Revelation is written by the same author(ial community) as The Gospel of Mark. Second, I believe there are direct literary connections between Revelation and Mark, such as the borrowing of certain phrases. Not words. Phrases.

I think the use of the historical present as we move from Mark to Revelation indicates an awareness — perhaps a theological intent — of the original literary use in the first written Gospel. I think it also indicates reliance (especially for Matthew, Luke, and John) on Mark.

What about Thomas? I don’t know, really, but it would be interesting to do a vivisection of the use of historical presents and where each of them end up. Numbering the usage starts us on a path, but the path should lead us to examining the exact use — where are the HP’s used in relation to one another.

Anyway, just wanted to jot this down.

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So, if we take Revelation 17.9 “futurist-literal” doesn’t this disqualify the Catholic Church

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...
emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, following with the theme from the last post.

Got me to thunkin’. Revelation 17.9 says the city on seven hills is the bad city. The new Babylon. Who cares that Scripture already defines who/what the new Babylon is? I mean, clearly Scripture wasn’t written for them, but for us. Dullards.

So, as I search for the city on seven hills, we must first consider the Roman Catholic Church.

Rome itself had reached seven hills by the time John was writing, but since this book wasn’t meant for John’s Christians, but really for us, we can’t allow that the city of Rome is what John meant.

So, the likely example many Protestants since Luther throw out is the Roman Catholic Church.

But, I was disappointed.

See, the Roman Catholic Church, ruled from Vatican City, doesn’t sit on seven hills. It sits on one. Namely, Vatican Hill.

One hill.

Gosh dang it all to heckfire and back and then back to heckfire.

Oh well, back to Richmond.

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