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Source: (consider it) Thread: Apocalyptic literature
Martin60
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In the absence of apocalyptic genre, how should thick old buggers on the bus like me, who were away with the faeries for 30 years and have only just after another 20 finally got away from any need to see foretelling claims when they just aren't there, refer to coded, occulted contemporary history disguised for propaganda purposes for the oppressed cognoscenti?

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
On the point about educating people (made above in more than one post), I am still not convinced that the approach suggested is worthwhile.

Keep 'em ignorant, eh? Easy to control?

quote:
A more economical way would be to say, “Here is a good way to read Revelation…” rather than “This is Apocalyptic and here is a good way to read it…”
What has economicality to do with it?

quote:
This is why I think it important to treat narrative (which includes dialogue) as the fundamental matrix within which interpretation needs to take place.
Letters aren't narrative, by and large. Unless you broaden the meaning of "narrative" so much as to be meaningless.

quote:
In what sense, if any, could this type of literature be said to be predictive?
Of course it is not. And here is one very good reason for the label "apocalyptic." It distinguishes it from "prophetic" in the sense of "predictive" (the various senses and misuses of "prophetic" could make a whole 'nother thread). It says "this is not meant to be read as predictive." I suppose you could inform people of that without using the label, but you've said you prefer not to inform people.

quote:
The issue, though, is with moving from there to the assumption that because a group of texts share common characteristics that they then must be interpreted in the same way each and every time.
And people are going to do that whether you will or no. They will notice the similarities and come up with their own bloody categories if you keep them ignorant of the existing ones. "This is like that bit in Ezekiel, and the second half of Daniel, lovey. We should call them something."

Or you could teach them something, like the label and its limitations. Nah. Keep 'em in the dark.

quote:
Originally posted by Garasu:
But who is choosing the genre? Some authors embrace genre; others acquire genre; some have genre pinned on to them...

Once you write something and present it to the world, it's out of your hands. You have no more say about it. If you didn't write what you wanted to into the piece, tough luck.

quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
...rather it sounds like a misuse of the implications of belonging to a genre.

And that, folks, is a nice summary of what I have been trying to say thus far!
In which case you haven't said anything, or at least anything that nobody else here has said. The problem is that that's NOT all you've said. You've gone on to pin the entire problem on the existence and use of a single word. Which is inane.

quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
[Overused] I've missed you mousethief. It's good to be back.

You are very kind! It's good to have you back.

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Nigel M
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Oh come on mousethief! Wake up and smell the coffee!

It’s because people get so preoccupied with the label that it is not worth the time and effort explaining the label ‘apocalyptic’ AND then moving on to the content. Just get on with the content.

Letters (as a genre) do not generate the same level of contortion as Apocalyptic. But you can apply useful literary tools, such as semantic structure analyses, to them without being distracted by genre criticism (when was the last time you came across the type of argument that runs “This is an example of Letter, therefore it must refer to…”)?

Narrative as a genre are capable of literary analyses, such as plot development, schema, etc., without being distracted by genre criticism (when was the last time you came across the type of argument that runs “This is an example of Narrative, therefore it must refer to…”)?

Apocalyptic however, approached as a genre, has set up a firewall of expectations before you can get down to the literary analyses. I’ve said how this plays out at a popular level, but I do not have to go far to find it generating ink in the scholarly world either. N. T. Wright, for one, has had to expend some considerable resource in his works over the past few years in combatting – as he would argue – misguided approaches to apocalyptic literature in academia. Happy to provide references at length if you wish. By all means, if people want to learn about genre criticism then leap on the hog and let them know. But if they want to know what a book like Revelation means, why run the risks associated with genre criticism? Why not just get on with the interpretation?

You have assumed that apocalyptic literature is not predictive. Why? I could make an argument that it does have predictive power. But have you come to your conclusion on the basis of the genre, or literary analysis? It sounds from what you said that it is the former.

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Gamaliel
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Get on with the interpretation without taking genre into account?

That wouldn't get you very far on a 'normal' literary study course, so I can't see why it shouldn't apply equally to theology or biblical studies.

I'll bow to your wider reading when it comes to the esteemed N T Wright's concerns, but I really don't see any of us mere mortal non-academic theologian posters closing things down by applying the term 'apocalyptic' to Revelation.

Rather, I see us avoiding the kind of hermeneutical traps that posters like Jamat have become ensnared by - Dispensationalism and all that malarkey and shite.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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ThunderBunk

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Get on with the interpretation without taking genre into account?

That wouldn't get you very far on a 'normal' literary study course, so I can't see why it shouldn't apply equally to theology or biblical studies.

I'll bow to your wider reading when it comes to the esteemed N T Wright's concerns, but I really don't see any of us mere mortal non-academic theologian posters closing things down by applying the term 'apocalyptic' to Revelation.

Rather, I see us avoiding the kind of hermeneutical traps that posters like Jamat have become ensnared by - Dispensationalism and all that malarkey and shite.

From a literary, rather that theological, perspective, my huge problem with genre criticism as carried out in theological circles is that the corpus available is pathetically small. I can't see the point of genre criticism unless there are extra-biblical texts which can be used as a point of comparison and contrast, which is where I join in the chorus of doubters of the value of the apocalyptic as a genre.

It is a preoccupation of biblical writings, for sure, but whether it comes with its own usefully discernible generic characteristics I'm not convinced.

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Currently mostly furious, and occasionally foolish. Normal service may resume eventually. Or it may not. And remember children, "feiern ist wichtig".

Foolish, potentially deranged witterings

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Gamaliel
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Ok, I get that but as someone with literary rather than theological qualifications it goes against the grain.

I get that the genre pool (see what I did there?) is small but I'm not citing it as THE be all and end all in biblical interpretation.

I'm simply suggesting that it doesn't even seem to come into the equation in certain traditions.

I'm suggesting that those traditions might talk less bollocks if they actually took genre into account in some way or other at least.

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ThunderBunk

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Ok, I get that but as someone with literary rather than theological qualifications it goes against the grain.

I get that the genre pool (see what I did there?) is small but I'm not citing it as THE be all and end all in biblical interpretation.

I'm simply suggesting that it doesn't even seem to come into the equation in certain traditions.

I'm suggesting that those traditions might talk less bollocks if they actually took genre into account in some way or other at least.

I can see this, but I would suggest that, to be useful, the apocalyptic needs to be seen as a type of a wider genre, or a variant. I think my proposal would be to pair it with the prophetic. There have been rumours of this upthread, I know, but I think a more systematic and acknowledged approach is needed to make the classification really powerful as an interpretative, rather than a purely denotative, marker.

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Currently mostly furious, and occasionally foolish. Normal service may resume eventually. Or it may not. And remember children, "feiern ist wichtig".

Foolish, potentially deranged witterings

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Gamaliel
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Fair enough, that makes sense.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
Oh come on mousethief! Wake up and smell the coffee!

I know, I don't agree with you therefore I'm being stupid. I can think of a number of shipmates who employ this rhetoric. I thought it above you.

quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
It’s because people get so preoccupied with the label that it is not worth the time and effort explaining the label ‘apocalyptic’ AND then moving on to the content. Just get on with the content.

But to a large extent, the content IS the label. That's how it got that label. Besides the people are going to hear others use that label, and you would keep them ignorant of what it means. You're being more than a little patronising.

quote:
Apocalyptic however, approached as a genre, has set up a firewall of expectations before you can get down to the literary analyses.
In a bunch of people who know neither the label, nor the books it describes? Very unlikely.

quote:
I do not have to go far to find it generating ink in the scholarly world either. N. T. Wright, for one, has had to expend some considerable resource in his works over the past few years in combatting – as he would argue – misguided approaches to apocalyptic literature in academia. Happy to provide references at length if you wish. By all means, if people want to learn about genre criticism then leap on the hog and let them know. But if they want to know what a book like Revelation means, why run the risks associated with genre criticism? Why not just get on with the interpretation?
You are speaking of two different groups of people, and moving the problems of one to the other. Academics can't be untaught the label. People who don't know the label don't have the baggage. You're borrowing trouble that doesn't exist.

quote:
You have assumed that apocalyptic literature is not predictive. Why?
I was following on from what Gamaliel said. Perhaps I misunderstood him. But I haven't "assumed" anything.

quote:
Letters (as a genre) do not generate the same level of contortion as Apocalyptic. But you can apply useful literary tools, such as semantic structure analyses, to them without being distracted by genre criticism (when was the last time you came across the type of argument that runs “This is an example of Letter, therefore it must refer to…”)?
When was the last time someone to whom you are introducing the word "apocalyptic" for the first time ever did anything of the sort, mutatis mutandis? Again, you are inventing problems that cannot possibly exist.

_______________________
*changing that which needs to be changed [to make the analogy/scenario/whatever work]

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Gamaliel
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I tend to think that apocalyptic literature isn't predictive in the way fundamentalists understand such things.

If that helps ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Jamat
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I tend to think that apocalyptic literature isn't predictive in the way fundamentalists understand such things.

If that helps ...

So your genre label of ‘apocalyptic’’, is just a way for you to shut the door on it, avoid trying to interpret it, and enable you to state categorically that any predictive elements are speculations of an interpreter?

I think Nigel M’s comment that genre labels were not intended to be ‘load bearing’ is very insightful.

To return to the sonnet analogy, a sonnet by Donne, is usually close packed with compressed logic. Similarly, one by Shakespeare. The genre is not dictating message, rather vice verse, message is dictating genre.

[ 01. January 2018, 22:27: Message edited by: Jamat ]

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Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

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Kwesi
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I seem to recall that the meaning or punchline of a sonnet is the final couplet: a feature of the genre. There is a link between form and interpretation, is there not?
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Gamaliel
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I'm not the one doing the ignoring, Jamat.

You are the one who is ignoring two centuries of biblical scholarship.

You are also being highly selective in picking those parts of Nigel M's response which accord most closely with your own highly conservative approach and ignoring comments by Thunder bunk and others that don't fly your way.

I've agreed that my sonnet analogy wasn't a good one and that a genre category such as 'science fiction' might be more helpful in a discussion of this kind.

I've also indicated that I can see why both Nigel M and Thunderbunk have challenged the premise outlined in the OP and have conceded some points - whilst continuing to defend others.

That's how debate works.

You'll also notice that rather than ignoring or refusing to interpret certain texts, I am engaging with those texts on the Daniel 9 thread.

I'm not ignoring anything. I'm the one who is asking questions.

Coming to a different conclusion to you isn't ignoring anything. It's the sign of an open mind.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwesi:
I seem to recall that the meaning or punchline of a sonnet is the final couplet: a feature of the genre. There is a link between form and interpretation, is there not?

That's only a feature of certain sonnets. Some have a 'volta' or change of direction in line 8 too.

Yes, form and message do go together, but it isn't always a direct relationship.

On Jamat's point about message determining form, then one could certainly make out a case for the author's of apocalyptic and prophetic literature choosing that form as it best suited their purpose.

They didn't have a dream one night then woke up in the morning and write it all down. However much dreams and visions werr involved they still had to marshal their material, they still had to choose a form.

The form they chose was the one I'm labelling 'apocalyptic'. That doesn't stymie interpretation. It aids it.

It stops us taking flights of fancy and constructing contrived and convoluted eschatological schemas in an attempt to make things 'fit'.

It helps us engage with the text properly, taking genre and intention into account.

Yes,the intention comes first. The form follows.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I can think of a number of shipmates who employ this rhetoric. I thought it above you.

You’d been adopting the genre labelled ‘sarcasm’, which was unnecessary and needed to be challenged.
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Once you write something and present it to the world, it's out of your hands. You have no more say about it.

There’s an element of truth in this and certainly the Reader-Response advocates have trumpeted that slogan in the past.

I’d like to suggest, though (and I don’t know if this is what Garasu had in mind), that authors retain what could be called an Intellectual Property Right in, or Copyright for, or the Moral Right to be Identified with, their works even beyond the grave. If so, this adds a constraining factor to interpretation, genre analysis, and so on. The author continues to have a say. In major part this is because although the text is in the public arena (it’s out there), control is maintained by the fact that the author has written what he/she wrote, using the words he or she used in the way he or she used them, to effect an affect on an audience.
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Keep 'em ignorant, eh? Easy to control?

On the issue of telling people what they want to know:

If you teach at a seminary or bible college then yes, you would need to tackle the issues, because they are there in the scholarly literature and need to be engaged with.

If you are in a church with people who are already familiar with the debates and issues, then yes, you would need to cover the issues.

If, however, you are in a more typical church with a congregation that is pressed for time and who want to understand what the author of Revelation meant, (or with Martin60 on the top of the Clapham Omnibus), then why would you do them such a disservice as to waste their precious time and resource in working through the discipline of genre criticism and its outputs, instead of just getting on with reading the text? If we were to adopt the idea of ‘not keeping people in the dark’, we would be teaching them to The End without ever getting into the text itself, regurgitating the stuff leaned at college, no matter how effective it is or isn't. That is not economical for the audience in church.

quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
In which case you haven't said anything, or at least anything that nobody else here has said

I haven’t said there is anything particularly novel or extensive about the idea of skirting the issue of genre criticism when it comes to apocalypticism. In the give and take on this thread I have tried to explain the provide evidence in support for that idea as people have posted. I used to post lengthy posts, which tried to cover all the bases and provide counter for the range of objections I could think of, but decided to keep things short. That, of course, risks being probed for further detail, being misunderstood, or accused of holding to a particularly heinous heresy (not necessarily all on this thread), but that comes with the territory and often means the cumulative total font expended would have been the equal of a lengthy post to begin with.

So I have been a bit surprised that my point continues to arouse reaction. But the fact that Gamaliel felt a need to open this thread with the questions he raised, and the fact that we are having this extended conversation, does suggest that there is indeed a problem with the term Apocalyptic as a genre. It is not treated neutrally, but rather has come to carry imported assumptions, beyond its intended weight limit. Not something I have found to be the case with some other genre analyses.
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
You're borrowing trouble that doesn't exist.

In an earlier post I noted that the issue is widespread at a popular level. In addition to the God TV example, I am sure that a few minutes searching the internet will turn up a range of web sites that exemplify the problem. It’s not that hard to find or hear. I also noted that it is a problem at the academic level. I did look up N.T. Wright’s take on the issue and it was a matter of seconds to find a quote about the term Apocalyptic as a genre: “…this term has proved so slippery and many-sided in scholarly discourse that that one is often tempted to declare a moratorium on it altogether.”*

So the trouble does exist, and speaks on many levels…

As to the predictive element in apocalyptic, you did say in answer to my question, “Of course it is not.”

That leads me (obviously we are doomed to lengthy posts) to the question of just how useful the genre label is when we get into the text. I mentioned earlier the issue around bracketing out elements that are not deemed to be apocalyptic and how that impacts interpretation. Rev. 1 offers an example of this and also hints as to the predictive element.

The first 3 verses run like this in the NET Bible Version:
quote:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon. He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John, who then testified to everything that he saw concerning the word of God and the testimony about Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!

One constraining factor that the author holds over any later interpretation, genre analysis, etc., starts here. The author refers to what follows as ‘prophecy’. This is then followed by narrative elements, letter elements, and what genre critics would note as being apocalyptic:
quote:

From John, to the seven churches that are in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from “he who is,” and who was, and who is still to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father—to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen.
(Look! He is returning with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him,
and all the tribes on the earth will mourn because of him.
This will certainly come to pass! Amen.)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God—the one who is, and who was, and who is still to come—the All-Powerful!

I, John, your brother and the one who shares with you in the persecution, kingdom, and endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony about Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, saying: “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches—to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”

Clearly references there back into the Jewish Scriptures upen which much of Revelation as a book depends. But the mix of style and rhetoric is also clear. Even in just these first 10 verses I fail to see how relevant a prolonged discussion of the issues around an apocalyptic genre is going to be for interpreting the text. One need only get on with reading it and applying literary analysis with contextual support. That is the main driver for an interpretive output. Genre here would impose articial boundaries and risk bracketting out parts of the text that the author put together quite smoothly and without boundary.


* Wright, N.T., Paul, Fresh Perspectives. London: SPCK, 2005, p.41

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Gamaliel
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I 'get' what you are saying, Nigel M and have a lot of sympathy with your approach.

I'm not for a moment suggesting that there is some kind of clear cut transition from 'non-apocalyptic' to 'apocalyptic' genres (for want of better terms) as you used to have in 'flash-backs' in films - where the screen would go all wobbly and you'd have twiddly music to show that some kind of time-transition was taking place.

All I am suggesting is that for the man on the Clapham Omnibus, so to speak, introducing the idea of an apocalyptic genre - however slippery that term might be, as N T Wright observes, does, at the very least, put us on our guard against the kind of elaborate eschatological speculations found in some traditions.

That's all.

As for the predictive element, yes there are hints of that in Revelation but it's clearly addressing contemporary concerns - 'what must soon take place' - rather than a case of, 'Look folks, this is going to be nothing to do with you but it's there so that people can get the right end of the stick from the 1830s onwards and be fair warned about the end of the world ...'

[Roll Eyes]

I may be over-stating my case but you're as aware - if not more aware - of the sort of bollocks there is out there on eschatological websites and God TV and all that malarkey.

Yes, let's got on and interpret what it says - but in the context of the genre in which it was written.

Both/and ...

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Nigel M
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Fair enough, I’d say, if it genuinely assists with interpretation within the particular context in which you find yourself.

Thinking a bit further about the predictive sense, I wonder if it is helpful to distinguish between 3 types:

[1] The short-term prediction: the communication from the author to his/her audience relates to a current or near anticipated issue. That’s the scenario you set out in the OP. I would guess that there is no one on the Ship (now there’s a hostage to fortune) who would object to a text like Revelation being at least that. Perhaps this comes closest to what has been called the preterist position.

[2] A ‘weak’ longer-term prediction: the communication from the author to his/her audience builds on the expectations of God’s people expressed in the Jewish Scriptures (and beyond) where promises can take several generations before fulfilment. One example would be Abram who had a promise of land, but for a later generation to possess. Then there are the more widespread examples of how persistent wrong behaviour under a covenant would result in exile; the people exhibiting the wrong behaviour could be several generations before the actual exile, but it was reasonable for a prophet to say that the exile would come one day. I think we could probably put into this category Jesus’ prediction of the end of the Jerusalem temple. If a ‘weak’ option is held here, prediction would be reasonable because Jesus could be said to be building on the known expectations of his era that God would let (or even organise) destruction as a sanction against persistent wrong behaviour.

As an aside here, I know Martin60 voiced a concern (another thread) about magic. In this ‘weak’ option, there is no magic; the prophet could be said to be acting – as a good little theologian – on what he understood about God and God’s expectations under a covenant worldview, and is quite reasonably saying: “You know it is the case that behaviour ‘x’ results in outcome ‘y’? Well, your behaviour is ‘x’ so you can be assured that ‘y’ will come down the line.”

[3] A ‘strong’ longer-term prediction: the communication from the author to his/her audience includes, whether consciously intended or not, an expectation that there is a more definitive fulfilment at a further remove in time, the detail around which is contained in the enhanced symbolism used by the author.

I assume it this third option that is the real focus of attention on these threads. An argument in support of three above could run:

By the time of the second temple era in Judaism (i.e., post Babylonian exile and up to the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 AD), theologians had acquired sufficient knowledge of how God worked to enable them to say that there would be a final, one-off, event in the future when God would return to rule his creation, reward his loyal people and sanction traitors. They could also build on their knowledge to begin answering the “Yes, but how?” question, although the preference was to use the rhetoric of enhanced symbolism to picture God’s action in the world.

In the biblical literature I think we have authors who are really bedded in the past for their predictive elements. I know there is literature that comes along a bit later in both Judaism and Christianity that seems to go on flights of fancy, cut loose from any past anchor.

As to the “When?” question, my personal preference is to take seriously Jesus’ statement in Matt. 24:26 (= Mk. 13:32):
quote:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
If not even Jesus knew, then there is little chance we would. This is parallelled in Acts 1:6f:
quote:
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
I think we also have a warning about dating in Mark 13, where Jesus answers the “When” question with advice to ignore signs (which will always be there) in favour of watching behaviour.

All that goes to the “When”, but leaves open the “How” of God’s action at some point.

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Martin60
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I like that Nigel M.

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Gamaliel
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So do I.

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Jamat
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quote:
Gamaliel: All I am suggesting is that for the man on the Clapham Omnibus, so to speak, introducing the idea of an apocalyptic genre - however slippery that term might be, as N T Wright observes, does, at the very least, put us on our guard against the kind of elaborate eschatological speculations found in some traditions.

But really you are suggesting more than that. You are suggesting that the label 'apocalyptic' is a mental barrier against theology that you believe has led to futurist interpretations that you see as damaging.

The problem I have with that, (despite being one of those nutty people,) is that you do not discriminate almonds from cashews. Your thinking leads to a generalised dismissal of any scripture you choose to define like that eg Daniel ch 7-12..

" Oh well, lets forget what it means or what is intended by the author .. probably it's redacted anyway..too hard basket .. etc"

But if that is the case why is it in the Bible in the first place?

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Martin60
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Propaganda.

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by Jamat:
quote:
Gamaliel: All I am suggesting is that for the man on the Clapham Omnibus, so to speak, introducing the idea of an apocalyptic genre - however slippery that term might be, as N T Wright observes, does, at the very least, put us on our guard against the kind of elaborate eschatological speculations found in some traditions.

But really you are suggesting more than that. You are suggesting that the label 'apocalyptic' is a mental barrier against theology that you believe has led to futurist interpretations that you see as damaging.

The problem I have with that, (despite being one of those nutty people,) is that you do not discriminate almonds from cashews. Your thinking leads to a generalised dismissal of any scripture you choose to define like that eg Daniel ch 7-12..

" Oh well, lets forget what it means or what is intended by the author .. probably it's redacted anyway..too hard basket .. etc"

But if that is the case why is it in the Bible in the first place?

No, I am not suggesting that it's a 'mental barrier' against the kind of theology you espouse, rather that - alongside other considerations such as those eloquently outlined by both Nigel M and Thunderbunk - it can help us understand:

- The author's intentions.

- Why it's there.

- How we can go about interpreting it.

Namely, not how you do ...
[Biased] [Razz]

You've yet to show me how I've failed to engage with the passages you cite. I've done that in the Daniel 9 thread.

Because my approach and conclusions don't conform to yours you dismiss them out of hand ... whilst accusing me of doing the same simply by the expedient of referring to them as 'apocalyptic literature.'

If you actually bothered to read my posts properly you'll see that I am actually engaging with the texts and not switching my brain off as you allege.

I wouldn't completely rule out a 'futurist' approach, but would add certain caveats. Nigel M has done a good job of outlining what those might be.

'Of that day and of that hour ...'

I really don't see the point of interpreting these things in a way off, futurist way. What possible value would that have had for the first hearers/readers?

Why are passages like Daniel chapters 7-12 in the Bible in the first place?

Same reason as why Malachi is in there, or Song of Songs, or Esther or Job, Jonah, Amos, Obadiah, Proverbs or Deuteronomy, or Hebrews or Jude or the Epistle of James ...

Because it was agreed to 'canonise' them at some point.

Are they profitable to read and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness?

Yes, most certainly.

That doesn't mean that they are there to provide us with some kind of tour-guide to the end of the world.

Why do you think the Eastern Churches were late and reluctant in accepting Revelation into the canon?

Precisely because they realised that people would read all sorts of whacky theories and forecasts into it, which is exactly what has happened at your end of the spectrum.

One way of guarding against that is to categorise such writings as 'apocalyptic' and therefore subject to other rules of interpretation to some extent than those that might be applied to other parts of scripture.

It ain't the only way, but it is one way of setting a marker. 'Watch out folks, don't try this at home ...'

I fully accept that there are dangers associated with applying that label - and Nigel M has made out a strong case for that.

Fine.

But surely treating these passages with caution and applying an 'apocalyptic' label to them, however slippery the gum on that adhesive label might be - is eminently preferable to opening the bottle, drinking it all down without reading the label and then wondering why you've got a tummy ache ...

Bottles of medicine and bottles of aspirin have safety labels on for a reason.

Some of the more 'spaced-out' sounding biblical passages can go to people's heads. People do daft things with them ... think Munster ... think millenarian sects taking themselves off to the hills ...

Of course, there are dangers with everything, but at least by labelling something 'apocalyptic' we are making some attempt to provide a warning.

If you choose to ignore such warnings and end up with your head in the clouds, then that's up to you.

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Jamat
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quote:
Gamaliel: why are passages like Daniel chapters 7-12 in the Bible in the first place?

Same reason as why Malachi is in there, or Song of Songs, or Esther or Job, Jonah, Amos, Obadiah, Proverbs or Deuteronomy, or Hebrews or Jude or the Epistle of James ...

Because it was agreed to 'canonise' them at some point.

Are they profitable to read and useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness?

Yes, most certainly.

That doesn't mean that they are there to provide us with some kind of tour-guide to the end of the world.

Why do you think the Eastern Churches were late and reluctant in accepting Revelation into the canon

There are a few points here.
‘canonising’ is not an explanatory term unless you unpack who did it and their authority to do it.

If it was an agreed canonisation by generations of Jewish scholars scribes and Rabbis, then what value did they see in the documents if they were NOT a ‘tour guide’ to the establishment of God’s kingdom and fulfilment of his covenants made with the patriarchs..which when you boil it down means the end of the age at least though not the end of the world.

I have no knowledge of the Eastern churches and am not sure why you think they are relevant to the discussion.

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Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
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Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

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Gamaliel
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Then you are simply displaying your own ignorance.

The reason I cite the reluctance of the Eastern Churches to accept Revelation into the canon until quite late on - around the 5th century - was to indicate that consensus came quite late and was only achieved over time.

The fact that some sections of the Christian church were initially reluctant to unequivocally accept part of what we now call the New Testament tells us a number of things. It tells us something of how the process of canonisation worked and demonstrates that there were concerns about how literature of this kind might be interpreted.

Of course the Eastern churches read Revelation and treat it as canonical but even today they don't use it liturgically, it's not read in church.

Whatever else that tells us and whether they were right or wrong to do so it at least demonstrates concerns about how these things should be handled.

You mentioned the Dead Sea Scrolls earlier. Whilst they contain all the canonical OT books apart from Esther they contain all sorts of other material we wouldn't consider canonical today. There's some dispute as to when the Jews actually agreed on a fixed canon for their sacred writings but it seems to have taken place sometime into what we'd call the Christian era.

Anyhow, my point is that the process of canonisation happens in community and through discussion and debate until some kind of consensus emerges. That doesn't obviate the divine element of course.

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Gamaliel
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Of course the Rabbis saw these texts as significant and that's why they canonised them.

How they regarded / regard them, I don't know as I'm not Jewish but you'll know as well as I do that there are a wide range of views within contemporary Judaism as there are within Christianity.

I used to live within easy walking distance of 4 synagogues and they all had their own flavour, whether Orthodox, Reform or somewhere in between.

I don't know enough about Jewish eschatology to comment on how they see things panning out 'at the end of the age' but I'd imagine there's a range of views there just as there are among Christians.

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Jamat
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Of course the Rabbis saw these texts as significant and that's why they canonised them.

How they regarded / regard them, I don't know as I'm not Jewish but you'll know as well as I do that there are a wide range of views within contemporary Judaism as there are within Christianity.

I used to live within easy walking distance of 4 synagogues and they all had their own flavour, whether Orthodox, Reform or somewhere in between.

I don't know enough about Jewish eschatology to comment on how they see things panning out 'at the end of the age' but I'd imagine there's a range of views there just as there are among Christians.

So now that’s off your chest why aren’t these so called apocalyptic narratives ‘tour guides’ to the end of the age given they are in the canon and the intent of the authors was to pass on divine information about how history will wrap up?
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balaam

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I also like what Nigel M said but would put the warnings about not trying to date when the end will come much stronger than Nigel does.

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
How they regarded / regard them, I don't know as I'm not Jewish but you'll know as well as I do that there are a wide range of views within contemporary Judaism as there are within Christianity.

As far as the book of Daniel is concerned there are many interpretations, but they fall into two main groups. Those who say that Daniel is included when the Talmud says "48 prophets and 7 prophetesses prophesied to Israel" and those who do not.

Sorry, I about whyhave not gone in to this far enough, so I may not be of further help, but there is a view that visions can either be prophesy or ruach ha-kodesh, divine inspiration.

Ruach ha-kodesh is the type of inspiration that inspired poets to write Psalms/Proverbs/Job rather than directly prophesy, and Daniel is put into that category.

This partly contradicts what I said upthread about why Daniel is not in the Prophets in the Jewish ordering, but, as you said, there are a range of interpretations within Judaism.

However, it isn't a large step from saying that the inspiration behind Daniel is ruach ha-kadesh and saying that early Jewish Christians would have understood Revelation to be of divine inspiration and not prophesy.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Jamat:
I have no knowledge of the Eastern churches and am not sure why you think they are relevant to the discussion.

Ain't that just the way?

quote:
So now that’s off your chest why aren’t these so called apocalyptic narratives ‘tour guides’ to the end of the age given they are in the canon and the intent of the authors was to pass on divine information about how history will wrap up?
Was that their intent? You haven't demonstrated that. Others have given other interpretations that are just as prima facie plausible as yours.

quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
You’d been adopting the genre labelled ‘sarcasm’, which was unnecessary and needed to be challenged.

Sarcasm isn't successfully challenged by assholery.

quote:
In major part this is because although the text is in the public arena (it’s out there), control is maintained by the fact that the author has written what he/she wrote, using the words he or she used in the way he or she used them, to effect an affect on an audience.
This adds no argument to effect your case. "It belongs to the author because the author wrote it." That's just tautological. Yes, the author wrote it. But if the words themselves don't do the work the author intended, then sucks to be that author. Because what we have are the words.

quote:
“…this term has proved so slippery and many-sided in scholarly discourse that that one is often tempted to declare a moratorium on it altogether.”*
This quote shows confusion in the academy. I already admitted confusion in the academy, and was challenging confusion in the ignorant. As such this quote is irrelevant to the point I was making.

quote:
That leads me (obviously we are doomed to lengthy posts) to the question of just how useful the genre label is when we get into the text.
But I've already mentioned this. It is more useful, to someone who wants to understand the crazy bits of Revelation, to compare it to the crazy bits of Daniel than to compare it to Love's Labour's Lost. Why? Because the relevant bits of Daniel and the relevant bits of Revelation share something that is encapsulated by saying they are both apocalyptic literature. The genre label picks out a group of writings and says, "These have stuff in common, and it can be useful to compare and contrast them to learn more about either/both." That's a huge part of what genre does. You could argue that when discussing Scripture, it's its most important job.

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Gamaliel
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The intent of the authors seems to have been primarily to comment on contemporary developments and concerns using particular rhetorical, allegorical and prophetic / poetic devices.

Given their context they were also concerned about the ultimate fulfilment of all things too - 'all will come right in the end.'

So, yes, I accept an eschatological dimension.

What I don't accept is the use of these apocalyptic texts to construct an elaborate schema to predict, forecast or delineate a blue-print sequence of events to chart the end of the world.

That's not the point, not the purpose nor is it how texts of this kind work.

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Jamat
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quote:
What I don't accept is the use of these apocalyptic texts to construct an elaborate schema to predict, forecast or delineate a blue-print sequence of events to chart the end of the world.
It’s also not something You have proved futurists do though you assert it often enough!
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Martin60
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The EschatonЯus, it's about our yearning, our psychology. Or is Jesus going to land on the Mount of Olives and clave it in twain any day now then? Or in a hundred, thousand, hundred thousand years?

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Moo

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel
Then you are simply displaying your own ignorance.

quote:
Originally posted by Jamat
So now that’s off your chest...

Host hat on

Please try to keep personal feelings out of this.

Host hat off

Moo

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by Jamat:
quote:
What I don't accept is the use of these apocalyptic texts to construct an elaborate schema to predict, forecast or delineate a blue-print sequence of events to chart the end of the world.
It’s also not something You have proved futurists do though you assert it often enough!
Yes, I have asserted it often enough because my perception is that this is exactly what they do.

But then, I'm not a Futurist.

You are, so your perception is going to be different to mine.

What looks to you like a straight-forward extrapolation from the text doesn't look that way to me. To me it looks like an attempt to create an elaborate schema by working out the 'weeks' in Daniel or by counting the number of heads on the beasts of Revelation ...

And so on and so forth.

One man's 'plain reading of scripture' looks like another man's convoluted and contrived eschatological speculation.

I don't mean that as an insult. I'm speaking as I find. And I find that Futurists do engage in futile speculations. From my point of view, that is.

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Jamat
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quote:
One man's 'plain reading of scripture' looks like another man's convoluted and contrived eschatological speculation
Do you not think it is time to dispense with generalities?
What specifically do you see as convoluted and contrived speculation.
If you reply date setting and survivalism and other kinds of escapism rather than dealing with life’s realities, then I think I’d agree. But surely, these are straw men and excuses for people to talk past one another.

Looking for the Lord’s coming as a motivation for holy living is more what I am about. To me, study of prophecy, as part of what the Lord said about his return, cannot be ignored but certainly, it is an area fraught with difficulties which, incidentally, do not go away by ignoring them or throwing up the hands in despair of understanding them.

--------------------
Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

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Gamaliel
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Well, constructing tiered and multi-layered accounts of the Eschaton involving multiple returns of Christ and a literal Millennium and Raptures and goodness knows what else falls into the category of unhelpful speculation as far as I can see ...

But our mileages will vary.

I'm not 'ignoring' anything.

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Jamat
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Well, constructing tiered and multi-layered accounts of the Eschaton involving multiple returns of Christ and a literal Millennium and Raptures and goodness knows what else falls into the category of unhelpful speculation as far as I can see ...

But our mileages will vary.

I'm not 'ignoring' anything.

But if you toss out a literal future kingdom, then you are allegorising. One end of that is Gnosticism and the other a kind of alternative that substitutes human speculation for the
Clear’I will return and receive you unto myself’ Jn 14 teaching of the Lord.

--------------------
Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

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Gamaliel
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Where have I said that I don't believe in a future fulfilment of the Kingdom?

You seem to think that the only alternatives to a pre-millenialist, Dispensationalist schema is some form of Gnosticism on the one hand or a kind of Spong-like liberalism on the other.

You also seem unwilling or unable to recognise elements that are clearly allegorical. If many-headed beasts and strange, surreal creatures aren't allegorical then what are they?

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Jamat
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quote:
You also seem unwilling or unable to recognise elements that are clearly allegorical. If many-headed beasts and strange, surreal creatures aren't allegorical then what are they?

No That is a generalisation. If I look at the beasts of Daniel it is clear that each represents an earthly kingdom. They are not seen as real leopards or bears. The text clearly shows us how to interpret them.

If you are referring to angelic beings that speak to Daniel or John and administer the judgements of God, then these are known only by their appearance to Daniel eg man-like, or by their function as oracles and transmitters of God’s Judgements.

If you assume the ancient texts are written by simpletons then you tend to judge them from a position of superiority. Apart from technologies, why is this fair?

--------------------
Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

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Gamaliel
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Nobody is saying the ancient texts were written by simpletons. They are very sophisticated.

I've seen you take references in Revelation literally that I wouldn't interpret that way. That says something about us, not about the original authors.

I don't mean that performatively either. It simply means that we are using somewhat different interpretative tools in some me instances.

In other instances our interpretations would be identical or broadly similar.

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Freddy
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If we assume that God is the ultimate author of this literature, then I would think that we would assume that it is about what He is interested in. Not about kingdoms or political events, or even about events that can be physically observed. It is about the spiritual progress of humanity.

Isn't it reasonable to read these curious texts as saying simply that there are spiritual threats and serious bumps in the road in humanity's future, but that all will be well in the end? [Angel]

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Jamat
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quote:
Gamaliel: nobody is saying the ancient texts were written by simpletons. They are very sophisticated.

I've seen you take references in Revelation literally that I wouldn't interpret that way. That says something about us, not about the original authors.

It seems to be a fair assumption. The reasoning goes thus:

Ancient docs reflect unevolved, non technological thinking.

This was fraught with superstition, super religious belief that the god’s pulled the strings and one needed to placate them.

Nowadays this superstition is regarded as silly. We know way more about the universe and time will continue to uncover further causes rendering religion irrelevant.

So when you look at the Bible, you have to realise and allow for the the Bronze Age mind and not expect too much.
It is unsurprising to find errors in scripture..get with the programme.

By the way, please refer to specific comments rather than..
‘I’ve seen you do this or that in past discussions’...

Posts: 3228 | From: New Zealand | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged
Gamaliel
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# 812

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I'll thank you not to second-guess what my reasoning is and allow me to speak for myself rather than you imposing assumptions about what I'm saying based on what strikes me as broad brush generalisations.

You accuse me of not being specific enough but your posts often strike me the same way, a rehashing of entrenched Pre-millenialist Dispensationalist positions in a way that dismisses any other view as a slippery slope towards apostasy.

If you want a specific example, I once read a post of yours in which you appeared to believe in literal humanoid 'locusts' with poisonous stings in Revelation 9.

I'm not making any value judgements about our ancestors in terms of their cosmology,world-view or anything else.

All I am saying is 'apocalyptic' narratives operate on a different wavelength to what we might regard as more conventional narrative forms. They are often less linear, for one thing and they often fuse symbolic, allegorical and more naturalist elements - a bit like 'magic realism' in late 20th century novels.

Although, like any analogy that only takes us a short way down the track.

I'm not saying that certain biblical writers wrote that way because they were stupid or ignorant. Rather, I'm saying they wrote that way because it suited their authorial purpose and it helped them get their point across.

These texts are sophisticated, multi-layered and intriguing. They operate on different levels. Like poetry you don't have to grasp all the details in order to experience the overall effect.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't get to grips with the details, of course, but we run the risk of category error if we seek to decode them as blow-by-blow linear projections and forecasts about the end of the world.

In his Apocalypse, John was reaching back into the literary heritage of his own people and applying tropes, imagery and themes from that to the immediate problems and issues of his own age. I don't have an issue with there being foretastes,if you like, of future fulfilment and the consummation of all things.

But let's understand the genre and how these texts work.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

Posts: 15997 | From: Cheshire, UK | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Moo

Ship's tough old bird
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel
I'll thank you not to second-guess what my reasoning is and allow me to speak for myself rather than you imposing assumptions about what I'm saying based on what strikes me as broad brush generalisations.

You accuse me of not being specific enough but your posts often strike me the same way, a rehashing of entrenched Pre-millenialist Dispensationalist positions in a way that dismisses any other view as a slippery slope towards apostasy.

If you want a specific example, I once read a post of yours in which you appeared to believe in literal humanoid 'locusts' with poisonous stings in Revelation 9.

Host hat on

Gamaliel, cool it.

Host hat off

Moo

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Posts: 20365 | From: Alleghany Mountains of Virginia | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jamat
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# 11621

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quote:
Gamaliel: ..not saying that certain biblical writers wrote that way because they were stupid or ignorant. Rather, I'm saying they wrote that way because it suited their authorial purpose and it helped them get their point across
Apologies Moo..Gamaliel, no personal inference was intended.

The issue though is what that POINT is. You can judge by its subject matter that the texts that involve predictive visions like Revelation and Daniel and parts of many others, are often about the way God intends to resolve human affairs in the final wash-up. In trying to deal with this subject matter you do have an interpretive mine field.

My point above is that one can tend to be dismissive of their cogency and connectedness if one assumes they are primitive in conception and it is tempting to do this.

Regarding the creatures referred to in Rev 9:19, as the judgement released here is future, I have no idea what these horses are. They are nothing like anything that corresponds to our current realities so are probably demonic creatures. If you ask me if I think they are literally true, I think I would say John saw something as part of his vision that was but as he did not fully understand what he saw, how can we? Like a lot of stuff in the Bible, we are told only what we are told and speculation just confuses matters.

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Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

Posts: 3228 | From: New Zealand | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged
Gamaliel
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But why do you have to interpret them as literal, physical entities at all, Jamat?

We are dealing with dreams and visions here, with 'picture language'.

I'm not so 'liberal' that I don't believe in the Devil or in demons, but I don't envisage them as actual physical beings in the sense that we are accustomed to - only with pointy tails and horns and so forth.

Why do you feel the 'need' to interpret the creatures in Revelation 9 in a literal or physical sense?

Whether as hybrid horse/locust/human beings or some kind of demon?

Why not take them in some kind of figurative sense as conveying something of the seriousness of the nature of sin and judgement?

I can't offer any particularly wise insights into what these creatures represent whether the 'locusts' from Rev:9:3-10 or the 'horses and riders' in Rev:17-19.

However, in terms of imagery and bearing in mind the genre - 'apocalyptic literature' - then I'd argue that it's possible to derive some insight from the kind of tropes and pictures painted.

After all, when it talks of Jesus as having a 'sharp double-edged sword' coming out of his mouth (Rev:1:16) we don't interpret that to mean that his tongue is actually some kind of blade, do we?

No, we look at other biblical images about swords and so on - and that helps us to understand this particular word-picture: cf. Hebrews 4:12

http://biblehub.com/hebrews/4-12.htm

Both the 'locusts' and the 'horses' in Revelation 9 have poison in their mouths and in their tails - they sting at both ends as it were. The 'locusts' wear crowns - 'principalities and powers'? They look a bit like people - and yet have lions' teeth. The 'horses' later on have the heads of lions - what does that remind us of?

Our enemy, the Devil, we are told in 1 Peter 5:8 prowls around 'like a roaring lion' seeking whom he may devour:

http://biblehub.com/1_peter/5-8.htm

We're dealing with 'picture-language' that describes embodiments of evil. It's a bit like heraldry.

I'm not suggesting that John didn't have dreams and visions, that he simply wrote Revelation in the way that Milton wrote Paradise Lost, say or Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress (presenting it as some kind of dream for literary effect).

It's more than a work of imagination in that respect. But the issue isn't whether John had actual visions but what he intended his visionary descriptions to convey.

They will have had resonance and meaning for the people he was addressing in the immediate circumstances they were facing.

It's application for us isn't to warn us that one day we'll see some whacky demonic creatures chasing around and stinging people, rather that this current world-order will pass away and that we can expect nasty things to happen - judgements, poison etc etc until it does.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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balaam

Making an ass of myself
# 4543

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
However, in terms of imagery and bearing in mind the genre - 'apocalyptic literature' - then I'd argue that it's possible to derive some insight from the kind of tropes and pictures painted.

<snippety snip>Both the 'locusts' and the 'horses' in Revelation 9 have poison in their mouths and in their tails - they sting at both ends as it were. The 'locusts' wear crowns - 'principalities and powers'? They look a bit like people - and yet have lions' teeth. The 'horses' later on have the heads of lions - what does that remind us of?

Our enemy, the Devil, we are told in 1 Peter 5:8 prowls around 'like a roaring lion' seeking whom he may devour:

http://biblehub.com/1_peter/5-8.htm

We're dealing with 'picture-language' that describes embodiments of evil. It's a bit like heraldry.

I beg to differ on that. When interpreting Revelation I'd first look at the imagery used elsewhere in Revelation. In 5:5 we have "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals" In Revelation 5 the lion is Christ, with the imagery going back to the lion being the symbol of the tribe of Judah in Genesis.

The very next verse after the one Jamat quoted says that despite the action of the horses people still continued to worship demons. So in context I would say the horses representing demons or the devil seems unlikely.

If you look at the wider context, this happens after the 6th angel has blown a trumpet. The 7 angels with trumpets passage, starting in Chapter 8, are judgements not on those with the mark of God.

My interpretation is the judgement of Christ on those who reject him. As always other interpretations are possible, but this one works for me. Is Satan waging war on his own followers?

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blog

Posts: 9049 | From: Hen Ogledd | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Gamaliel
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# 812

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Ok, the 'Aslan isn't safe' thing ...

I think that's a good point about comparing imagery within a book - be it Revelation or any other scriptural book - before referring to other texts from other parts of scripture - as I did.

I was thinking aloud. I don't really have any firm or fixed idea on what the 'locusts' and the 'horses' are meant to represent but I think the features are interesting and I think it's an interesting point you've made ...

You could argue that it shows that people still continue to 'follow evil' despite the harm it causes.

There are various possible applications.

Good one. Food for thought.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

Posts: 15997 | From: Cheshire, UK | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Jamat
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# 11621

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quote:
But why do you have to interpret them as literal, physical entities at all, Jamat?
I didn't. What I said was John saw something literal..nothing about physical but real in effect if you like in the power to inflict pain.
It seems to me that you are jumping to a lot of conclusions in categorising.

--------------------
Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

Posts: 3228 | From: New Zealand | Registered: Jul 2006  |  IP: Logged
Gamaliel
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# 812

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In what way? Jumping to a lot of conclusions about you or about Revelation?

[Confused]

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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