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Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 111 (Dueling Revelations)

[reaction to OYB's Dec. 21-24 readings]

The prophet Zechariah is writing during the time of Darius of Persia, which is after the Hebrew exiles have returned and are rebuilding the temple. John the Revelator is writing during the time of Nero of Rome, which is after that temple has been destroyed and lots of people are being killed for being Christian. Their revelations, thus have a different tone. Here are two examples. They both talk about four colored horses. In Zechariah the horses are pulling chariots and bringing the Spirit of God to the four directions of the compass, while in Revelation the four horses are carrying riders who bring misery to the earth. (And then they end up in Notre Dame's backfield which seems weird.)

They also both predict the coming of the God to live with us, or God's son to live with us. Here is what Zechariah has to say in chapter 2.
10 “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD. 11 “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. 12 The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. 13 Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
Revelation 12 has a slightly darker take on things.

In which world do modern Christians live? Is it the world that is filled with hope and possibility, or one with hope tempered by the reality of trial and tribulation directly before us?

4 comments:

Witness said...

I think it depends where you live and what your circumstance. I live in the US in relative wealth (for the US, extreme wealth for the world) so I have very little persecution to fear. Zecharia's hope is easy for me, while for those in poverty and living in a place ruled by despots or drug dealers the Revelation story is probably compelling.
Yet even in my situation I sometimes lose hope as I see injustice in so many places and hear it in so many ideas frequently tossed around these days. I can understand the allure of a powerful supernatural being punishing those I disagree with. However like Aniken Skywalker in the second of the new Star Wars movies, I think the hangover after the exercise of punishing power would ultimately weigh heavy on the victors and thereby render the conquest moot. Far better to live in the hope of Zechariah than that of John.

David C

Anonymous said...

From Reverend Mary Jacobs (whose comment was lost in a Google SNAFU)

There is a difference between prophetic vision and apocryphal vision. Prophetic vision includes an acute awareness of the people's lives and political situation. God's ever present call to faithfulness to the Holy One and the vision of justice and compassion becoming real in society and people's lives are offered again and again through different prophets.

Revelation lands in the apocryphal writings which includes a vision of the future where God's rule is real. It comes out of the faithful being persecuted and God making it right for them rather than the people of God losing their way and being called back to faithfulness. It is a hopeful vision but it also calls forth a vision of God judging and setting things right whereas prophets usually called the people to get their act together. Revelation was written in code. There are things that are in code that most folks don't even have a clue what they represent, but they like to make bold statements about the "true" meaning anyway. The code used by the writer(s) must be known to gather a clearer understanding of this vision.

Apocryphal writings come out of a deep sense of suffering for being faithful. There is some Jewish apocryphal writings, Ezekiel certainly leans that way and Daniel too. In fact some scholars think that Revelation is a mixture of Jewish and early Christian apocryphal vision.

JimII said...

@David: "However like Aniken Skywalker in the second of the new Star Wars movies, I think the hangover after the exercise of punishing power would ultimately weigh heavy on the victors and thereby render the conquest moot." For New Years Eve I watch all six Star Wars movie, and this component of Aniken's character really struck me. I think it is a great example of why the process is important.

Responding in general to your comment, I do wonder whether our physical comfort is a reason to have hope for the Kingdom coming. Of coruse, the capitalism that has brought our wealth and comfort has also brougth greater physical security for the poor in our country and medical marvels for everyone, even if not distributed as evenly as some of us would like. All-in-all, I think we should share more in common with Zecharia.

JimII said...

@Mary: "In fact some scholars think that Revelation is a mixture of Jewish and early Christian apocryphal vision." The was this was "revealed" to me, having read Revelation more recently, was that in reading Ezekiel and Isaiah and Daniel, the imagery that John would later use in Revelation jumped right out at me.

When I first read Revelation I was really turned off by it. I recognized that it was a coded message, but that didn't help me understand it. Having read it after reading the Old Testament apocalyptic writings, I appreciate it more.