This month’s book club book was a bit different, a book out of the Bible, “The Revelation”. There are a lot of other names for this book, e.g. “Book of Revelation of Saint John the Divine” or “Apocolypse of John”, but my Bible simply calls it “The Revelation”. A number of years ago I read it and thought it was the craziest thing I had ever read! I didn’t get it at all.
Then, a year or so ago our book club read “Children of God Children of Earth” by James Curry, which presented a theory of religion that basically stated that religions had evolved over the years with the needs of mankind. There are a lot of big, unanswered questions about the world and religion gave the answers to those questions. As the questions and needs changed, so did religion.
So, my question was “How does The Revelation fit in with Curry’s idea that religions can change over time to fit the needs of man?”. Who wrote this book? Why did he write it? How did it get into the Bible and why is it still in there?
The first question was “Who wrote this?”. In the book itself, he says “I, John … was on the island of Patmos…”. So, it must be some guy named John. Beyond that, there is a lot of disagreement amongst the scholars. It might have been John the Apostle, some other guy named John of Patmos, or some folks say that The Revelation was actually penned by several people. This last one seems likely since the book has several decidedly different things going on.
The second question is “Why did he write it?”. It turns out that this sort of writing was common back then. It is a genre called Apocalyptic Literature. It was a style of writing that used a lot of symbolism to paint of picture of the end times. Someone called it the “Star Wars” of the times. Actually, once I realized this and read it with regards to the symbolism and genre, it was easier to read and understand. I wasn’t just trying to read a story or doodlings of some old guy, but rather was picturing the events as they unfolded. I found an illustrated version of The Revelation online that was very easy to follow.
Next question: “How did it get in the Bible?”. It’s hard to say exactly. It seems that the Catholics held a retreat around 400 A.D. and somehow decided it should go in there. It was grudgingly accepted. I’m picturing a conference with a lot of men arguing about what the ending of the Bible should be. Certainly there needed to be an ending … that is one of the basic questions of mankind. Deciding which apocolyptic writing to include would have been difficult.
Final question: “Why is it still in there?”. I guess this is the big question, at least in regards to the Children of God Children of Earth book. How has this book survived almost 2000 years without change? Why has the belief of the end of the earth not evolved in that amount of time, even when so much more is known about the world? Our group came up with some ideas.
First of all, the religions are certain that they are right and that God has inspired the Bible and once it was decided, it cannot change … “Biblical Inerrancy”. This concept would keep the leaders of the current religions from ever changing the Bible. Whenever other ideas came along, other religions were formed … Islam, Mormon, etc.
Therefore, it’s easy to see why The Revelation hasn’t been changed, replaced, or removed from the Bible. So then, the question might be “Why hasn’t religion changed?”. The answer might simply be that the question “How will the earth end?”, or more precisely “How will mankind end?” hasn’t changed and there hasn’t been any scientific data to show what will happen.
A ton of stuff is changing in regards to the beginning of the earth, and of life. The scientific data leans strongly towards the Big Bang theory and evolution, but nothing in regards to the end of the earth. Many more people are regarding evolution seriously and trying to see how it fits in the Bible. If the theories presented in Children of God Children of Earth are correct, then it is likely that religions will start incorporating evolution into their beliefs.
However, there is nothing to counter The Revelation. Any other ideas would simply be ideas. It’s hard to imagine any experiments that would provide data to predict how the earth would end. Scientists could look at other stars and planets to try to see what happens when they die out, but that would be a stretch. As far as I know, nothing has been predicted other than the sun will burn down in a gabillion years and then it will become too cold for life on earth. Who knows what will become of mankind in the meantime.
So, The Revelation remains.