I normally don’t inflict my religious views on people but since “666” has been in the news lately I’d thought I’d share this article with you. This is especially for people who think that the Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John and that it foretells the Apocalypse…
Most modern scholars attribute the writing of the book of Revelation to John of Patmos. He is said to have received visions on a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, most likely around 90 A.D., that make up the book’s contents.
The Roman emperor Nero, who ruled from 54 to his suicide in 68 A.D., persecuted Christians in horrific ways that were likely to be remembered only a couple of generations later when John may have been writing Revelation. It was under Nero that both St. Peter and St. Paul are traditionally thought to have been martyred in Rome.
Domitian, the emperor from 81-96 A.D., during John’s time in Patmos, “was the first one to take emperor worship seriously,” said the Rev. Dan Doriani, pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton and former chair of the New Testament department at Covenant Seminary. “Since Christians were not worshipping him, they were liable for persecution.”
“Said Frank Flinn, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University, “Nero conducted the first systematic persecution of both Jews and Christians and is clearly identified with the real beast of Revelation.”
“Back then there were no separate symbols for numerical values,” said the Rev. Louis A. Brighton, a professor of New Testament interpretation at Concordia Seminary. So letters did double-duty as numbers. The Hebrew consonants that spelled out “Nero Caesar,” in the Greek form of the name, add up to 666. (Transliterated into the Latin form of Nero Caesar, the numbers add up to 616.)
John was a Christian prophet of Jewish origin who was possibly living in self-imposed exile in a cave in Patmos. He wrote his vision in letters to a group of seven Christian churches in western Asia Minor, now Turkey – communities he clearly knew well.
In the first verse, John introduces his book as an apokalypsis, or revelation, a term that has come to define the literary genre – a narrative, told in the first person, that includes visions of the future. The book of Revelation is sometimes called “The Revelation to John” or “The Apocalypse of John.”
Brown said apocalypses are most often addressed to people living in times of suffering and persecution – times so desperate they are seen as the embodiment of supreme evil.
He said the modern misuse of Revelation “is based on the misunderstanding that the message is primarily addressed to Christians of our time if they can decode the author’s symbols. Rather, the meaning of the symbolism must be judged from the viewpoint of the 1st-century (churches)” which received John’s letters.
Revelation is so full of symbolism that nearly anything can be read from it. At one time or another, Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Rasputin, Torquemada and Osama bin Laden have all been considered the antichrist.
But here, Tuesday is likely to be just another day – especially since the Gregorian calendar was not adopted by most of Christendom until 1500 years after Revelation was written.
So lighten up folks. It’s history, not Armageddon.