Tuesday, August 31, 2010

360: The Alpha and the Omega

Revelation 1-3
" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.' " - Revelation 1:8

Chapter 1 starts with the bible telling us that this is a revelation from Jesus to John. It says that "blessed is the one" who reads this text. It must be good.

John then greets himself and goes right into his story of how he received this revelation. John says that on the "Lord's day" he was "in the spirit" (aka high on drugs?) and he heard a loud voice behind him. When he turned around, he saw seven gold lampstands. Walking among these lampstands was a man with white hair, eyes that glow like fire, and feet that glow like bronze in a furnace. In his right hand he is holding seven "stars", and there is a double edged sword coming out of his mouth. There seems to be a slight misunderstanding of what a "star" is.

When John sees him, he falls on the ground and plays dead until Jesus tells him not to be afraid. I say this is Jesus, because he describes himself as being dead and alive again. I'm not quite sure how Jesus is speaking when there is a sword coming out of his mouth. Jesus goes on to say that he wants John to write a letter to the angels of the seven churches of Asia. The rest of today's section is Jesus dictating those letters to John.

First to the angel the church of Ephesus. Jesus first introduces himself as the one who "holds seven stars" and walks among the lampstands. Jesus goes on to say that he's proud of what they've done (or, I should say what the angel has done), but he'd like them to repent anyway. Wait, the angel has to repent? Who is he talking to? He says that if they do not repent, he will come take away their lampstand. I'm not sure what that means, I didn't even know they had a lampstand.

Next to the angel of the church of Smyrna. Jesus says that they should not be afraid of what they are going to have to suffer. He says that the devil is going to put them in prison for ten days. But if they are faithful Jesus will give them the "crown of life". I'm not sure why these are addressed to the angel of these churches. Jesus seems to be talking directly to the people. He even refers to them as plural (e.g. "some of you will suffer").

Third, to the church of Pergamum. Jesus refers to Pergamum as the place where "Satan has his throne". Doesn't Satan live in hell? Jesus also tells these people (or the angel?) to repent.

Next is the church of Tyatira. Jesus seems to be very upset that this church tolerates a woman named Jezebel. She apparently leads many of Jesus's servants into sexual immorality, and leads them to eat food sacrificed to idols. Jesus says that if adulterers don't repent, he is going to cast them onto a bed of suffering.

The fifth letter is to the church of Sardis. This time Jesus introduces himself as the one who holds the seven spirits of God. That seems like a very arbitrary number of spirits. Jesus says that those who have not "soiled their clothes" will not be blotted out of the book of life. Jesus really doesn't like it when you take a dump in your clothes hamper. Oh wait, was that a metaphor? I can never tell.

The sixth letter is to the church of Philadelphia. Jesus says that he has placed before them a door that can never be shut. He also says that since the people of Philadelphia have endured so patiently that they will be exempt from the hour of judgement. He ends the letter by saying that he is on his way "soon". Jesus has a pretty ridiculous definition of "soon".

The final letter is to the church of Laodicea. This time, Jesus introduces himself as "the Amen". Whatever that means. In this letter, Jesus berates the Laodicians for being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Jesus, a famous hater of lukewarm food, says that he is going to spit the Laodicians out (why were they in his metaphorical mouth?). He ends with, of course, telling them to repent.

Does anyone actually take this book seriously?

One church has decided it's never too early to start bible lessons:
One Salt Lake area church believes babies are not too young to learn Bible stories.

The idea behind Bible study for babies at New Pilgrim Baptist Church is that hearing stories, touching objects, and seeing pictures will help children build a strong religious foundation.
Yes, you have to get in there and crush free thought before there's even the slightest chance of it's existence. The simple fact is that if you began indoctrinating someone when they were a baby, you could convince them to blindly worship a rock. If your religion is so perfect and true, why not teach them about Jesus when they're teenagers? Surely God has made a loophole for those younger than 10, who surely have no chance of fully understanding who/what Jesus is.
Reggy admits that some babies don't understand some of the activities all the time but what they manage to learn will have a lasting impact, especially if they stray from the fold for a while.

"Now we live in such a pluralistic society, they have a lot of choices out there," says Reggy. "We're praying that when they get to that age, that will be at least one of the options that will be available to them."

Reggy says more often than not, she sees kids in her congregation who have grown up learning the tenets of their Christian faith and those kids have grown into adults who live by those beliefs.

The youngest child in this year's class was 9 months old.
Isn't having to begin indoctrination at 9 months old to keep people in the pews a bit of a warning sign that your ideas might seem like bullshit to unbiased observers? You shouldn't be teaching your children your religion any more than you should be teaching them what political party they should belong to.

Of course, if we let them think for themselves, they might come to a conclusion that's not insane. And we can't have that.

(via KSL.com)


  1. You ask: "Does anyone actually take this book seriously?"
    The answer: Unfortunately, yes. They are even responsible adults.

  2. Revelations (aka Apocalypse) is a typical example of the apocalypse genre, like the various non-canonical Apocalypses attributed to Paul, Peter, etc., or the book of Daniel in the OT. In them, the writer poses as a famous person from the distant past and has him make predictions both about the author's recent past (which is portrayed as if it's a prophecy, even though the author knows what happened) and about the author's near future, which are true prophecies of the author. It usually is pretty easy to tell when the author is writing - just look at were the predictions veer off course.

    The future that is inevitably being predicted is one of strife between the forces of good and evil, culminating in God bringing about the end of the world. The author is generally brought to witness events in heaven, or is informed of the future events by a spiritual being, such as an angel, with the visions making extensive use of symbolism, although the author often eventually informs the reader of their meaning. Heavy use of earlier apocalyptic literature is also typical.

    The author of this book refers to himself as John, but doesn't specify further which John he means (it was a very common name, and there were several people known as John in early Christianity). It may even be his real name, but if so, this would be the only apocalypse known that is not pseudonymous. Probably the author is masquerading as John the apostle, and that is why it was included in the canon, but some ancient witnesses had their doubts (Eusebius thought it was written by The Elder who wrote the Johannine epistles); certainly most modern critical scholars do not think it was written by John, Son of Zebedee.

    Based on the prophecies in the book, it appears to have been written in the early 90s CE, in the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian, with the author pretending to be writing in the late 60s. This is known because the author alludes to the emperors up to Domitian, with Vespasian being the current one, but he thinks that Domitian will be the last, followed by the sudden collapse of the empire, ushering in the Parousia of Christ. Moreover, he is caught in the expectation, common in that time period, that the emperor Nero ("the Beast" in Revelation) will return from the dead. Suffice it to say, nothing he says about the time after Domitian came to pass.

  3. From here on out I'm going to go light on the comments for Revelation. Its well-deserved reputation for insanity/inanity speaks for itself. I'm also not going to list the numerous quotations and allusions to OT scripture.

    Rev 1:1-2. Note that an angel passes on the revelation of Jesus to John; it is not Jesus was communicates this message.

    Rev 1:3. As usual, the end is near. Only 2,000 years and counting.

    Rev 1:4. Bryan, in that time period people began their letters with their own names, not the people to whom they are writing. Look at Paul's letters.

    Rev 1:4-5. Apparently Jesus Christ is not the one "who is, and who was, and who is to come."

    Rev 1:11. These 7 cities are all located in Asia Minor.

    Rev 1:12-15. Several allusions to Daniel here, especially "one like a son of man." Note that John doesn't actually say that he is *the* Son of Man, the way Jesus is identified in the Gospels. In fact, it is not clear at all whether this is Jesus speaking or just an angel, since John did tell us that it was an angel who delivered the message to him.

    Rev 1:20. Maybe the stars in his hand are throwing stars?

    Rev 2:2. The "angels" of the various churches are messengers (which is what the word "angel" means), so John is just being told what message to send with each messenger to each church.

    Rev 2:7. People without ears better grow some fast. Jesus liked this expression so much he copped it.

    Rev 2:13. Pergamum was the location of a well-known statue of Zeus on his throne.

    Rev 3:4. If you crap your pants you're not worthy of Christ.

    Rev 3:9. The author is a Jewish Christian, like the author of the Gospel of Matthew and the frequent opponents of Paul.

    Rev 3:11. The end is nigh. Right around the corner. Any millennium now.

    Rev 3:18. Jesus is hocking refined gold, white clothes, and eye balm. He sometimes can be seen on QVC.

  4. You wrote: "John says that on the "Lord's day" he was "in the spirit" (aka high on drugs?)"

    John claims to have received his vision on the Island of Patmos... an island covered with psychedelic mushrooms. Coincidence? Meh.

  5. You're hilarious. I like your commentary. Keep up the good work. :)



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