Thursday, November 18, 2010

Discover The Book of Revelation (Danielle R.)

The website entitled Discover The Book of Revelation is very thorough, offering commentary on each verse of Revelation as well as write ups on fifty-nine different subjects which include topics like Daniel’s Visions, The Accuracy of Prophecies, Government, Judgment, and Mark of the Beast. Additionally the front page offers links to pages entitled “Can You Lose Your Salvation” and “What is the Meaning of Worship.” There is no author listed, although it appears that the entire site was constructed by a single individual who lives in Missouri and attends a Baptist church, where according to the author “the Word is taught straight from the Bible. On the home page the author declares him or herself to be “a simple lay person with a deep desire to educate those who are honestly seeking the truth.” The author acknowledges that there may be differences of opinion concerning the exact interpretation and the timing of the events found in Revelation but that, “when it comes to salvation issues, there should be NO differences of opinion” (this emphasis and any others, along with unusual capitalization, is that of the author’s). Discover The Book of Revelation is one of many websites that offer exegesis on Revelation from a particular faith perspective which views the book as having direct relevance to the modern believer.

The "Revelation, Chapter 1" page illustrates a problem that persists throughout the site. The author seems to have little understanding of how the Bible as we know it today was constructed. Here as well as in several other places the author takes the red letters of what is commonly known as a “Red Letter Bible” to be authoritative proof that a particular verse is being directly spoken by Jesus. In the same vein when speaking of the spirits of Revelation 1:4 he asserts that the seven spirits are really just one spirit, the Holy Spirit, solely on the basis that the word “Spirits” in the English translation is capitalized. Furthermore, on the page on the subject of “The History of the Bible – How we Got It” the author only discusses the history of the Bible in English. It commends Martin Luther for his efforts to make the Bible available for the laity and yet the author appears not to know that Martin Luther was at the very least suspicious of the authority and relevancy of Revelation. If the author is aware of the history of the Biblical text before its translation into contemporary languages that knowledge is not shared with the reader.

On the page entitled “Preface to Revelation” the author discusses the origins of Revelation. In regards to authorship the site states, “God is the author” but “the penman was the apostle John.” Here the author makes clear that he supports the view that the John of the Gospel of John is the same author as that of the John of Revelation, in fact he appears to take this for granted, offering no evidence in support of this stated authorship, nor does he make any mention of arguments against such an idea. The above statement also reveals something else about the author’s point of view. He states that while John is the one that wrote down the words the author is God. This has ramifications for how this site will interpret Revelation because it asserts that not only is the experience that John had to be ascribed to God, but also the way in which he recorded this experience in the text comes directly from God. The author goes on to enhance John’s and Revelation’s credibility by speaking at some length about the special relationship that John supposedly had with Jesus. The author argues that John had a very close relationship with Jesus and thus it is natural that he be entrusted with this revelation. The site sets the date of Revelation’s writing at 96 C.E. although the author acknowledges that there is no firm evidence for this dating.

As the introductory portion of the site comes to a close, just before it moves into verse by verse interpretation, the author states the point of view that no doubt informs the interpretation that will follow. It reads;

“Many people believe that the things in Revelation have already happened. Many others believe that the things in Revelation are not even real, that they are a vision and we are not supposed to take it literally. There are others (and I am one of them) that believe it is current, happening now, and in the very near future. I really will not argue with anyone about any of this. All I can relate is what it means to me and that is what I will attempt to do in this study with the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God.”

While on the whole my review of this site and the positions it supports will be quite critical I do want to recognize this statement. Here the author is honest about the fact that there are views in competition with his own and that the interpretation that will be offered is largely based upon personal reflection. I wish to point this out because once the detailed interpretation begins this admission tends to get lost. In the midst of reading the analysis of each chapter it takes on a much more authoritative tone which I believe downplays the very personal aspect of the interpretation the site offers and presents those views the site espouses as more self evident and based upon fact than they really are. In fact, by Chapter 10 the idea that Revelation events are part of our current time goes from being a personal assertion to obvious as evidenced by the author’s declaration that, “It should be apparent to even the most casual of readers that this is the generation in which knowledge has increased to the level necessary to understand the differences between symbols and substance. This is the generation in which many will experience John’s eyewitness testimony, to their everlasting regret! This generation is the Generation of End Times.” No detailed support of this thesis is given, it is simply understood as being more or less obvious. This understanding is fundamental to the site’s offered interpretation. While the identification of specific current events with specific happenings in Revelation is generally absent there are many points where the author draws more general parallels. He is fond of pointing to what he sees as the moral problems of society as corresponding to events in Revelation and signaling the end times.

The site manages to avoid the most radical attempts to compare events in Revelation with modern day occurrences. A reference to a possible connection between wormwood and Chernobly is mentioned but not given much credence. While extremely specific correlations between Revelation and modern day events are not present the author does draw more general parallels. In Chapter 2 for example the letters to the seven churches are viewed as being messages to seven historical churches, however, the author adds an additional layer of meaning in which he connects each of the seven churches with a particular time period in Christian history. Ephesus is seen as a warning about “the danger of diminishing love.” Smyra is equivalent to “the persecuted church” of 100-313 CE. Pergamos is relevant to the period of the state church form 313 CE to 590 CE and is seen as warning of “THE DANGER OF DOCTRINAL COMPROMISE.” The Papal church of 590-1517 CE is analogous to Thyatira and “THE DANGER OF MORAL COMPROMISE.” It continues in a similar fashion, pairing each of the seven churches with a time period and a warning. Comparable parallels are drawn when discussing chapter 9 the four sins of Revelation 9:21. In the text the sins are identified as murder, sorcery, fornication, and left. The author says that these sins are really sins of our modern world like abortion and drunk driving, drug use and meditation, gay marriage and cohabitation, and juvenile delinquency respectively. The author makes many more such leaps in the presented interpretation, connecting verses in Revelation with perceived modern day sins in an assertive tone that belies the complete lack of an obvious or logical connection.

A careful reader will note that there is next to no in text citation provided as evidence for the interpretations offered. This is especially problematic because when reading through the rather verbose commentary at many points the author comes off as very authoritative, likely leading a casual reader to ascribe much more credence to the interpretation presented than it deserves. The only mention of an outside source that I found within the commentary itself was several references to Tim LaHaye an evangelical minster best known for co-authoring the Left Behind series which is a fictional depiction of Revelation events in modern times. He is also the author of such books as The Unhappy Gays in which he ascribes all sorts of malicious traits to homosexuals and Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain in which he lambasts Catholicism. It is no surprise that the author is fond of Tim LaHaye as he takes several opportunities to criticize homosexuals and Catholics. Visiting the "Links, Books and Reference Material" page lists other authors such as John MacArthur, Hal Lindsey, and Dave Hunt among whom one can find much anti-gay, anti-catholic, and anti-Islam rhetoric along with a belief that the Revelation teaches that the end of the world is in fact imminent. Readers are also invited to visit such sites as Rapture Ready and End time Ministries which understand a wide variety of current events to be precursors to the pending apocalypse. Assuming that the kinds of material the author points his readers towards is that upon which his own exegesis is based the conclusions offered by this site are hardly surprising. There is no evidence that the author ever considered any source or author which I would identify with legitimate scholarship. His reference materials page illustrates perfectly not only the general position of Revelation that his interpretation takes, but also the lack of critical thought and scholarship that went into creating this interpretation and presenting it for public consumption.

The author of the site obviously put much time and effort into creating a site with an extensive amount of content, addressing not only every verse in Revelation, but also offering commentary on a myriad of topics related to the book. The author is clearly coming from a particular faith tradition which ascribes great importance to Revelation and its consequences for the modern day believer. Unfortunately the interpretation offered frequently shows the lack of academic research behind it and occasionally espousing thinly veiled hate speech. Furthermore that author leaves little room for disagreement with any of the fundamental assertions of the site and thus makes his efforts of little worth outside of providing an excellent example of the importance this book has to many and the kind of interpretation frequently espoused by a particular set of believers.

No comments:

Post a Comment