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The Odd Modern Way of Reading the Book of Revelation


Back to my possible trade book on the book of Revelation and the way it has affected not just modern conservative Christianity but also secular society (literature, film) and political policy (environmental legislation; second Amendment discussions; policy on the Middle East).   In my description-to-myself of what I’m imagining the book to be, after discussing these various effects of Revelation, I start talking about Revelation itself, and how it came to be read as a blueprint for our future (a reading that seems so *natural* today, but is not how the book was read until the 19th century).


Armageddon in the Book of Revelation

The thesis of my book is that all of these manifestations of apocalyptic thought in American discourse – religious, literary, cinematic, social, and political – ultimately stem from a particular way of reading the book of Revelation, a reading that, despite a few scattered precedents throughout history, came to the fore only at the end of the 19th century.   Critical biblical scholars are unified in thinking it is based on entirely false premises.

The book of Revelation records a series of visions concerning what is “soon to take place,” given to a Christian prophet named John in exile on the Island of Patmos.  The prophet is taken up to heaven itself, to the throne room of God, and there witnesses what will occur in both heaven and earth as history comes to its climax.  These visions are (intentionally) mystifying, baffling, and highly symbolic, portraying divinely sanctioned catastrophes on earth — wars, famines, earthquakes, and the collapse of the entire universe — which, if taken literally, would destroy the entire world and everything on it, already a third of the way through the book (chapter 6)!

In the midst of the mind-boggling calamities, the ultimate enemy of God, called …

To see what happens next, you will need to belong to the blog.  Don’t we all want to know what happens next?  Why else read Revelation?  Why else join the blog?  Do both!

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Armageddon and American Politics



  1. Avatar
    Alexandre Ferreira  April 2, 2019

    Being free gives fear, so our fear seeks shelter in what we fear.

  2. Avatar
    nlg  May 21, 2019

    Bart, I will look forward to your book on Revelations! I would hope you could write about how and when endtime preachers started mixing New World Order Conspiracy theories to explain how the beast and one world government will come about. It is a crime that children have to sit in church services and hear this kind of stuff!

  3. Avatar
    BETA1449  October 21, 2019

    Your examples are helpful. Thanks.
    There is a growing fascination with crypto-currency and its supposed connection to Revelation 13:16-18 (a prophecy that foretells the END because of a New World Order and a single currency with “marks of the beast” etc). I am not interested in the prophecy – though it seems like the only thing I can read about online. How is it that Revelations – specifically the passages quoted for this particular prophecy – would be interpreted by a historical/critical approach?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 22, 2019

      Rev. 13 is all about how the Roman empire is establishing hegemony over the earth. And it’s not a good thing. My next book will be on this (as I guess you know).

  4. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  March 17, 2020

    I do not consider the Revelation as a history of the future at all.

    If the Revelation was in fact written by a Jew, with some background in the Jewish theology (even more deep spiritual thoughts and concepts), it would not surprise me if he might have been inspired by thoughts like all those Jewish scholars and even orthodox Jews, that the basis of the Torah is based on a more mystical view encoded into their theology. Considering this, I do not particularly think of dualistic thoughts which some Jews adopted (i.e Gnosticism among others), but the more monotheistic thoughts which one might find in the old Jewish form of Kabbalistic thoughts.
    If I take on those Jewish mystical “glasses” (talking about the old Jewish mysticism, the Revelation will not be very different both in language, symbols or in form as what they thought. The whole concept through the pure monetaristic thoughts would be a system where the “whole is in the part”, nothing is outside of God and never will. Their story will be a story of the soul, from the beginning, and the return the original form, source.
    If I should base it on those ideas, the Revelation would have been a book of the soul, the journey of the soul through purification, from an individual level, through a collective level into the New Jerusalem. At least the correlation and similarities are for me obvious and so many Jewish orthodox claim that these thoughts were the origin of the whole Torah and the theology thereafter.
    In this context also according to (The Apocalypse unsealed” by James M. Pryce, 1910) the number 666 could be linked to Gnostic and Kabbalistic thoughts of the “Lower Mind” .The 666 would be the number of man, the egoistic and destructive force of human opposed to the “spiritual man”. This force/activity is a hinderance for the ascending soul which have to be defeated. The 666 will be the highest possible achievement of the spiritual unconscious man.
    The definition of “revelation” (to uncover) will for me be more accurate definition of the word at least, since such an understanding would be a story of human soul in relation to God, and its nature.

    So, I do NOT AT ALL consider the Revelation as a vision of the timely/linear future. I do not believe that that was the intention with this book.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 18, 2020

      I don’t think it is predicting our future either. If it was written by a Jew, it was a Jew who believed in Jesus. Kabbala, of course, did not exist yet. 666 is usually thought to refer to Nero; search on the blog and you’ll see my discussion of it.

      • kt@rg.no
        kt@rg.no  March 18, 2020

        I have an understanding that Kabbalah were formalized, 1000 years ago, and compiled into Zohar as a foundaton of this beleif..
        How it developed before the Zohar is easier for me to speculate than for you to address as an historian, which I so easily can respect.
        In my world of speculation, I can consider the even orthodox Judaist believers who claim this theory/ was there from the beginning and are the basic of the Torah and even the Hebrew language. Ok, ok,,,I get it, it is understandable far beyond what a historian even want to consider, if not because it is impossible to prove.
        Beside all those claims, and even beside the claims that the Zohar was actually came from the “mystic” Rabbi, Yohai in the first century CE, there seems to be “mystic” thoughts among the Jews, without even consider the claim that Kabbalah was an oral tradition at that time who were passed on orally like other stories were (also the oral Torah). When I refer to the Kabbala around Jesus and even before, I just allow to reflect on unverified claims that the tradition was there even before Jesus. In addition there were texts and mystic texts (ideas which seemed to circulate at least 1 century before and on, like Ma’aseh Breishit (“work of creatioת) and Ma’aseh Merkavah (work of the Chariot) which seems to be preoccupied with the Creation and esotoric ideas of who and what God was. I’ve considered this to be connected with the old Jewish esoteric teachings a few centuries before Jesus.
        That is why I used Kabbalistic ideas at the time of Jesus and before

        I don’t believe in the “perteristic” which describes the conflict between the Romans and the Jews at that time. I can’t understand that John would like to use such a language (which he heavily borrowed from the mystics mentioned above), just to encourage the faithful. If the faithful weren’t aware of the heavy mystic symbols heavily used in the text, the probably unliteral faithful wouldn’t probably understand a clue of what he meant and probably thought he had drunk too much Greek Ouzo. At least I would !
        I think John tried to write a spiritual message since the symbols and language resembles the mystic language I’ve seen the Jewish mystic used (even Gnostic). That is why I think it is a messianic mystic (symbolic) text inspired by Jewish mystical texts

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