Apocalyptic Propaganda

Although there are many Christian fundamentalists who consider the Book of Revelations to be an essential part of the bible, many scholars have rightfully denounced the last book as a peculiar and contrived tale of propaganda.

The Book of Revelations may have some religious inspiration, however it is mostly an “intelligent” story that is based on themes John’s potential converts may connect with. In the story, John encounters a book with 7 seals, a sea beast with 7 heads, 7 angels with 7 plagues, and so on. Kirsch argues that the number 7 originates from the Book of Genesis among other parts of the bible in which God creates the world in 7 days. John also borrows language from the Hebrew bible in another attempt to have Jewish readers relate to his messages. Moreover, the 7-headed beasts and the story of the pregnant woman clothed in the sun are themes that Pagans are familiar with. Along with his obsession with numerology and symbolism, these all make John’s story seem to be an artificial attempt to create an “intelligent” story that Jews and Pagans of the time could relate to.

The blatant juxtaposition of grotesque apocalyptic images with a heavenly new earth is clearly a contrived effort to scare his Jewish and Pagan readers into converting to Christianity. Most of the Book of Revelation includes chapters about 7-headed creatures, red dragons and other fantastical themes which remind readers of gory science fiction novels. However, there is a stark contrast in the final chapters in which John describes the new heavenly city that will be created: “the city had no need of the sun … for the glory of God did lighten it”, “there shall be no more curse”, etc. After the previous bloody chapters, John finally creates a peaceful atmosphere for his readers. Before he ends on a positive note, though, John reminds the reader that whoremongers, murders and those that do not follow the commandments would not be entering this city – yet another contrived effort to force this idea of being saved onto the non-Christian readers.

The author of the Book of Revelations and many Christians may have genuinely believed in his apocalyptic messages, however it is evident that John had a not-so-hidden agenda of scaring non-Christians into being saved by converting to Christianity.

2 thoughts on “Apocalyptic Propaganda

  1. I’m glad that you and Emily brought up the idea of the Book of Revelation as a conversion document, something meant to sway more people towards Christianity in an era before it was a major religion. I suppose I was giving John more credit than he was due in not really realizing this aspect of his prophecy, and it furthers the explanation for the Book’s inclusion in the Bible, given that it’s themes are so at odds with the rest of the New Testament.

  2. It’s interesting to see that we had a lot of similar ideas. John’s obsession with numerology, as you said, along with his possible attempt to convert Jews leads me to an interesting thought. After spending my whole life in a largely Jewish area, I’ve come to learn a few things about Judaism. One thing that particularly stands out in my mind is the fact that the number 18 is considered to be a “lucky” number. This is because the letters in the Hebrew word for life (“chai”), add up to 18. Hence, it is quite interesting that John’s proclaimed “mark of the beast” is 666 when 6+6+6 add up to 18. Kirsch explains that John may have been Jewish, so it is quite possible that this could have crossed his mind. Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but maybe it was an additional effort to try to convert Jews to Christianity.

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