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Readers’ Mailbag on Revelation: November 6, 2015

Last week I started a new feature on the blog, a weekly “Readers’ Mailbag,” where I answer two or three fairly random questions that have come in to me, ones that I do not simply want to answer in a sentence, as in most of my replies to “Comments” on my posts, but also not as fully as a thread or even a full post.  Most of these questions do indeed deserve full posts, or threads, and I may in fact get around to devoting some to them.  But for now I will be content with giving short answers that are hopefully packed with content.

Feel free to ask me questions for this weekly feature.  I don’t know how I can get to all the viable questions by doing this just once a week (last week I received a dozen interesting questions).  Some weeks possibly I’ll do the mailbag twice.  But this week I do it just once, addressing three questions.


QUESTION:  Since Revelation was probably written around the year 95 why does it seem to share the imminent Armageddon view of the earlier books like Mark and the Pauline epistles? The Gospel of John came around that time and seemed to counteract the “this generation” idea due to the late date. So why is it in Revelation?

RESPONSE:  Ah, yes, this can be confusing.  Why would we have…

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Jesus and the Messianic Prophecies – Did the Old Testament Point to Jesus?
The Crucified Messiah in 1 Corinthians



  1. Avatar
    Pegill7  November 6, 2015

    While the Hebrew Bible is filled with references to blood sacrifices there are passages where Yahweh appears to speak disparagingly of them as in Micah 6:6-8.Yet a cornerstone of the Christian message is that Yahweh consents to the blood sacrifice of His own Son so that the sins of mankind may be atoned for. But why is this sacrifice necessary? Who but God can decide whether the sins of mankind can only be atoned for in this way? Is there some form of justice that even God must subscribe to? Otherwise why couldn’t God just forgive the sins of those who ask for it?

    • Avatar
      Rthompsonmdog  November 8, 2015

      Pegill7, those are good questions.

      There seems to me to be several gaps before I could understand how the death of Jesus brings humans into a closer relationship with Yahweh. The death itself doesn’t do it, I must also accept the death as a form of payment or any number of other aspects that elude me.

  2. Avatar
    gabilaranjeira  November 6, 2015


    I understand that the author of Acts did not have the death of Paul in his agenda. However, assuming that Paul (and Peter for that matter) was an important figure for the Christian movement in his own lifetime, what explains this lack of documentation of his death? Is there a chance that he wasn’t that important?


    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      I think he simply couldn’t refer to Paul’s death because it would show that Paul was not completely empowered by God against his enemies.

      • gmatthews
        gmatthews  November 8, 2015

        I believe the question in the comment was more general and not necessarily about Acts, ie, why is there no mention of Paul (and Peter’s) death anywhere prior to 1 Clement. Personally, I’ve always felt that perhaps there was somewhere at some time, but it hasn’t been preserved (or found yet). Surely someone wrote a letter to someone else mentioning Paul/Peter’s death immediately after he died, but it likely just wasn’t a letter to a wider audience and hence not preserved.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 9, 2015

          My sense is that none of the writings before 1 Clement had any occasion to mention it, any more than they mentioned the deaths of any of the other important early Christians (e.g., Peter, James, the other apostles)

  3. Avatar
    gavriel  November 7, 2015

    Isn’t Acts 20:25 a relatively clear attestation of the author’s knowledge of Paul’s death? He just don’t want to talk about it?

  4. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  November 7, 2015

    If Paul was executed in 64 CE, that would make his letters written much closer to Jesus’ lifetime than what’s accepted by most scholars, right?

  5. Avatar
    han23614  November 7, 2015

    The Apostolic Fathers are supposedly within two generations from the Twelve Apostles and received information directly from the Apostles.

    Did these Apostolic Fathers influence the forming of Christianity?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      The Apostolic Fathers is a disparate collection of books/authors, some of whom were from early second century, but others from late second century. Some of them were indeed influential

  6. Avatar
    Crixtian  November 7, 2015

    As far as i know there is an abbey named ” Tre Fontane ” in Rome on the alleged place where Paul was beheaded , because from his severed neck appeared three springs of clear water.
    Nobody mentioned , by the way , any curative properties of this water.

  7. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  November 7, 2015

    Three good questions with 3 good answers. This is going to be a good weekly feature.

  8. Avatar
    rivercrowman  November 7, 2015

    Bart, consider for the mailbag please. … Did the anonymous author of Mark have among his sources any of Paul’s Epistles? Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      AOK! On the long list.

      • Avatar
        willow  November 9, 2015

        Regarding rivercrowman’s question: Could you maybe move that one closer to the top of the pile?

  9. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  November 7, 2015

    Question: Since Paul played such an important role in the spread of early Christianity and since Matthew, Mark, and John were written after the death of Paul, it’s seems odd, at least to me, that the authors of these three Gospels do not, at least, mention the appearance of Jesus to Paul, Paul’s ministry, and Paul’s death as well as the ministries and deaths of the other disciples. This information would have added evidence to the account of the Resurrection. Do scholars have any explanations for this???? Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      It’s mainly because they are concerned only with the events and persons connected with Jesus’ earthly life.

  10. Avatar
    Sallyanne  November 8, 2015

    Do you have any good resources for looking up the history of the rest of the disciples life after Jesus? I read that you didn’t really believe all but John we’re martyred like the church says, but I was just wondering the info to get there 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  November 8, 2015

      Regrettably, all we have are legends. But there are good ones, many of them found in the Apocryphal Acts (you can see these in J. K. Elliott’s book The Apocryphal New Testament)

    • Avatar
      sleonard  November 19, 2015

      I recommend you check out a blog post from a friend of mine who answered this question a few years ago:
      He talks about Paul and the disciples and the sources that mention how they died.

  11. Avatar
    dragonfly  November 8, 2015

    I like the mailbag feature. And I also like the story of Ruth. It seems like an interesting story about some unknown moabite woman, until the very end when the punchline comes… this moabite woman is the great grandmother of David! (What do you say to that, Ezra?)

  12. Avatar
    Boltonian  November 9, 2015

    Re-the first mailbag item, do you think, like the late, great, Geza Vermes, that Jesus himself was an eschatological preacher and, furthermore, that Paul believed that Jesus simply got his timing wrong and that the end would come in his lifetime?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 11, 2015

      I don’t think Paul thought Jesus’ calendar was off: it was to happen within his own (and thus Paul’s) generation.

  13. Avatar
    JimBG  November 9, 2015

    Why do you think that Jesus did not leave anything in writing? Was he just illiterate? If so how could he read from the scroll of Isaiah? Even if this account was added he seemed well versed in scripture. Was it because he thought the end was so near that he didn’t see the need to write for his future followers? Or was this just typical of itinerant prophets or preachers of the time, who expected their followers to write down their message? Sorry if I missed a post on this.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 11, 2015

      Yup, he couldn’t write. It’s not clear if he could actually read. Very few people could, almost no one from small villages like Nazareth.

  14. Avatar
    willow  November 10, 2015

    “Some communities had different views at different times (i.e., their views changed over time), and some different communities had the same views at different times (i.e., one later community might have had a view that was earlier held by some other community), and some different communities had different views at the same time (so that in the year 80 CE different communities had varying views from one another). You can’t trace an exact straight-line progression of Christian views of “the end.””

    Might this not be because the communities didn’t have the same writings, all at the same time, but merely one or two writings at a time, and quite often not by the same author? As I understand it, one community might have had but one or more letters of Paul whereas another community the writings of Mark; and didn’t they have their favorite writings besides, adhering themselves to one while rejecting the other?

    Is it possible that their views changed over time, as more letters were circulated,

    • Bart
      Bart  November 11, 2015

      Yup, I think they certain did have different writings, and that a number of writings they simply didn’t agree with.

  15. Avatar
    Robert Wahler  November 10, 2015

    Originally, the “End Times” meant the end of YOUR life, not the world to end. That’s the mystic meaning. Somewhere along the line people got the idea the world was supposed to be coming to an end. “Some standing here will not taste of death until the Son of man comes in his kingdom” or whatever, is first century, not our time. People have been looking ever since for the world to end, but it won’t. In Revelation, for those who care to know, New Jerusalem with streets of gems and light and all, is a description of the first inner region, known as Sahansdal Kanwal in the Eastern Mystic tradition. The highest region, six above Sahansdal Kanwal is called Anami Desh, or the “region never called by any name” in the Gospel of Judas. Trikuti, Bhanwar Gupha, Daswan Dwar, and Maha Sunn are the others before Sach Khand with three parts, Anami Desh as the final region. Each one is a Universe all its own, with the one below it like a “basket hanging in a tree” so insignificant is it in the vastness of the region above it. That is a direct quote from one of the recent Masters of the East. So, there really are Seven Heavens!

    • Avatar
      Robert Wahler  November 10, 2015

      To understand Matthew 24 correctly, the Son is not Jesus, but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is to come, not Jesus. Same reason why John 3:16 is past tense. It is not about Jesus but successive incarnations of the Spirit, “the Son of man”. In John 3, and in the John Prologue, the author was talking about the Son or Light in JOHN the B, not Jesus! See John 3:19 for confirmation. Men “loveD the darkness”, not they ‘love’ or ‘are loving’ it.

  16. Avatar
    bobnaumann  November 12, 2015

    As I understand it at the time the Gospels were written it was believed that the womb was just an incubator for man’s seed. It was centuries later that it became known that women contributed genetic material to the reproductive process. So then how could David’s lineage to Jesus be traced through women?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2015

      In Matthew’s genealogy it is definitely traced through men. The women are mentioned as the ones who gave birth, but the line is patrilinear

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