The Albertine Notes was a whirlwind of a story, confusing in the way that Inception was. I feel like I need to read through it a second time in order to fully understand it, however, from just one reading themes that we have been discussing all semester did clearly emerge. Continue reading
It took quite some time to get used to the tone of Glorious Appearing. As a liberal New Yorker without strong religious affiliations, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop (so to speak). This can’t be serious, I kept thinking, even though I knew the premise of the series. Continue reading
In the second portion of Jonathan Kirsch’s A History of the End of the World, we learn a great deal about the cultural uproar of the Book of Revelation and all the events that have ultimately contributed to our understanding of apocalyptic phenomena. It is clear that many more prophets, besides John himself, have taken the Revelation into their own hands and retold the end of the world as they envisioned it. It is precisely the people and circumstances under which the Book of Revelation was read and interpreted that have so greatly shaped the timeline of our world as we know it today.
The change in Christian apocalyptic perception over time is pertinent to our understanding of the ideology that surrounds John’s text. Originally, the world was heavily centered around the Christian fundamentalists who believed that only the saints and martyrs would prevail through the Rapture and make it to the New Heaven and Earth. At this time, there was a divisive line between what qualified one’s lifestyle to be worthy of salvation and the habits that did not. Its interesting to note how clearly defined the extremities of good and evil, godly and satanic, and right and wrong were upon the early stages of this end of world speculation. Naturally, however, these realms lost sight their strict margins, as did the belief in the Book of Revelation. Some interpretations and understandings certainly spilled over and blended with each other over the course of apocalyptic history. This corresponds with the growing tendency and encouragement to read the Revelation symbolically rather than carnally.
We see early on how interpretations of the text were contorted according to societal circumstances. For example, the mosaic in the western European church initially consisted of Jesus and his twelve disciples. Once Rome imperialized under Constantine, the mosaic was re-adorned to include a throne and golden halo, as well as the city of Jerusalem, all which resonate with images depicted in the Book of Revelation. This coincides with the “apocalyptic invasion” as coined by Kirsch. And as Kirsch continues to emphasize, the popularity of the Book of Revelation and manifestations of its iconography all came about at the same time as Christianity became a formal state religion of the Roman Empire. Once again, we must not forget to question the authenticity of a text that thrives in an environment of pervasive religious and social changes.
Kirsch also comments on the cultural war that has spawned from the Book of Revelation. While the religious disparities among apocalyptic believers have greatly lessened, the social debate over this issue is still in full effect. In the beginning, the end of world discourse mainly differed among premellenialist and postmellenialist, who were both essentially Christian fundamentalists whose opinions diverged at the “when” factor of the apocalypse. The contemporary debate is far more extensive, consisting of many branches of skepticism of how the world will end or if in fact, there will be an ending at all. It is understandable that so much more disbelief is present in our society today, considering all the history of disappointments and false predictions of doomsday. After all, with all our wars and struggles, the world has indeed proven to withstand more destruction than the human mind would have thought possible. Moreover, there is far more complexity and technology present in our current world, which has triggered further doubt. Can God really be responsible for the end of a world that can revitalize life and land after the atomic bomb hits it? Though all science may point against it, the strong faith in God has been enough to sway people to believe so.
I agree that the Book of Revelation has become heavily utilized as “language arsenal” for opposing sides of the apocalyptic spectrum. Some may see this as God’s way of preserving the text in our society. On the other hand, the text may have been so ingrained into our cultural backbone, that we cannot simply filter its past admonitions out of our future plans. But if we are subconsciously holding on to these theories to sustain the Book of Revelation, then we are also summoning doomsday to us. Why else would we fight so hard to keep alive a tradition that may be the end-all of all other traditions and spur the death of life itself? Perhaps we are exactly the structural race that Kirsch depicts in the finality of his text, “the men and women who continue to wait, and have always waited, for the world to end on time”. (256)
“For the great day of his wrath is come and who shall be able to stand?”
I think of all the quotable material from the Book of Revelation, this line struck me the most. At first, it was because it reminded me of one of my favorite post-apocalyptic books, The Stand by Stephen King. (I did check to see if this quotation had inspired the title. However, King’s epigrams suggest that honor goes to a Bruce Springsteen song and not the Book of Revelation – though it is certainly relevant.) On further examination however, what struck me about this line from Revelation is that “his” does not refer to Satan, but to God. Continue reading