Posted by: jevcat | November 8, 2010

Revelation Revolt

Have I mentioned the fact that I hate the Book of Revelation?  The Daily Lectionary has been working its way through Revelation again lately, and my internal outrage just keeps getting stronger.  Sure, there are some beautiful passages:  the new heavens and new earth descending, the twelve gates of pearl, the “he shall wipe every tear from their eyes,” but getting there!  What a wild, violent, hallucinatory (what was John on?!), vengeful, hate-filled book it is – the most mean-spirited book in the Bible, by my reckoning, – and there are some pretty hellish books in the Bible – I know; I read it! – and Revelation glories in the prospect of dreadful things happening to non-believers.

If they gave biblical awards for highest schadenfreude quotient, the Book of Revelation would win, hands down.  I sometimes wonder if those Christians who complain about the Koran approving violence to non-believers have actually read our own holy book.  There are parts of the Hebrew scriptures that could curl your hair and that ought to carry parental warnings for strong content – and I’m not talking about Song of Solomon here (or any of the other sex-related parts).

I cannot believe Revelation was written by that same John whose Gospel emphasizes love and whose continual admonishment to those receiving his letters was variations on “Little children, love one another.”

So where does that leave me?  I battle this every time Revelation comes up in the lectionary.  Whatever possessed those putting together the Bible to include it?  And why would God let them? (of course, why does God let us do any number of the things we do?).  It seems somewhere else could have been found to sandwich in the movingly beautiful, comforting parts and left the rest.

But that’s not what happened, and I’m not sure there is any good explanation – or at least any that I’m capable of understanding.  What I know of God does not include God acting like a petty tyrant or a spoiled child.  Someday, I’d like to hear a theology of how and why it was included (and some of that Old Testament stuff, too).  Maybe Revelation’s writing and inclusion were a violent over-reaction to persecution, which was real and terrifying.  Whatever the human reason, I sometimes wonder if God’s reason for letting it be included was to give us an example of how not to be, to show us how horrifying we humans can be when we forget that the greatest, most important thing we are called on to do is to love – and not just God but each other.


  1. In seminary classes re Revelation a discussion was held regarding the idea that John was writing to his followers in code regarding the certain state of the faith in congregations he was concerned about.
    I have lived with that explanation ever since and like it. It sure beats believing the one you are writing about!

    • I’m not sure I buy that Joan, but it beats believing it was meant to be taken literally!

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