I suggest an alternative title for the next edition: "1001 Things I Hate About the Book of Revelation." From the review I read, Id been hoping for a balanced, scholarly critique of the Revelation to John, but instead I got a 200-page polemic by a lawyer whose sloppy research wouldnt get him through a masters thesis, let alone the lavish praise of someone like Karen Armstrong, who should be embarrassed to be quoted on the front cover. Kirschs theme can be summed up thus: The Book of Revelation is the elaborate, violent fantasy of a man named John who expected the imminent end of the world, whereupon he would see someone vaguely resembling Jesus kick the asses of all the people John didnt like. Spiritual writings before Johns were read allegorically, not literally. Readers from Augustine to Martin Luther King who did not take the story literally have found in Revelation reason to work for the perfection of the church, or to care for Gods creation, or to hope for spiritual elevation. While he argues briefly (and not always effectively) for an allegorical reading of Revelation, he shows little comprehension of the hope that moved its readers: Augustine prefers to see all the spooky and scary details in the prophecies of Revelation as a series of elaborate metaphors for a divine truth so ineffable that John is compelled to reduce it to concrete words, numbers, and images because the ordinary human mind could not otherwise comprehend them. Kirsch seems to have his own problems with it, given that he quotes from six other, wildly different translations of the Bible, freely and without justification, sometimes even within the same biblical chapter.
But I think that common people may have a hard time reading it. It is not about how the Book of Revelation changed the course of the Western Civilization, but rather how the Book of Revelation was perceived and interpreted in different periods of time. If you want to write about how the Book of Revelation changed to course of Western civilization then you write and insist on historical facts caused by apocalyptic beliefs: how Nero was believed to be the Antichrist, Islamophobia, the Protestant Reformation, historicism, preterism, futurism, dispensationalism, how the Book of Revelation influenced Columbus to discover America or how American exceptionalism came to birth and so much more. And everything combined with his own speculations and interpretations; I dont know if I remember a book using so many times words like: might have been, possibly, are possible, would be, etc. And, to make matters worse, the author even includes in appendix the Book of Revelation in full, as if the text is hard to find or is not available to anyone anytime. In fact, the appendix is ridiculously long: aside from the Book of revelation, the author also included Searchable Terms, Glossary, about the author, credits and glossary.
It could be I've become spoiled by reading Ehrman, another who writes about this sort of thing and does better at revealing information in a progressive way. More to come as I hurry through; here's hoping it gets more focused in the last three quarters.
Today at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time, we have chosen not only to believe in ourselves, but in each other. Sometime in the last two years I think I read a scholarly look at the biblical book of Daniel. So when I eventually got around to doing something similar with the book of Revelation, I chose to get a more fun version to read. Nero Cesar is the beast (possibly resurrected in Domitian) and all the dragons, whores, and tortured souls in the book are evil cities, or the church, or the saints. Seems like the universal opinion of any age was the prophecies in the book of Revelation were meant for the generation of folks actually reading them. I mean, Barak Hussain Obama translates as 616 in the Jewish gematria, after all sure, I have to misspell his name, and go with 616 instead of 666 (to elaborate on that point, scholars arent sure if the number of the beast is 616 or 666, since both appear in our oldest copies of the book of the Revelation) but its close enough for prophecy, I guess. Which is that the book is vague enough that every generation has been able to fit some current figure into the role of the beast of Revelation.
Characterized by Kirsch, and in the minds of many readers rightfully so, as the single scariest book in the Bible (and arguably in all of Judeo-Christian writing), Revelations is a strange book that is both at odds with the rest of the Bible and yet surprisingly the biggest attraction in the Bible. One of the recurring themes in the book is the fact that, despite several millennia of biblical scholars and street corner preachers' claims; the world has "failed to end on time." Kirsch exhibits a slightly sarcastic tone on occasion as he goes through the litany of previous attempts to determine the end of the world, and how the world refused to cooperate. One of the key elements of Kirsch's arguments focuses on how the Book of Revelations, and the belief in the end of the world, feeds the psychological needs of the believer. Kirsch notes that at the time, many Jewish leaders would have been happy with a land anywhere and were not themselves pushing for the lands of Israel, because they believed only God could restore their homeland. But that issue aside, readers with an interest in understanding the psychology and history behind the Book of Revelations will find a book written with the casual reader in mind.
(Veering from one to five and back again and quite emphatic about their opinions!) My little inner voice tells me that the variation in stars has a lot to do with the controversial nature of its contents. The Apocalypse of John, or Revelations, has had nearly two thousand controversial years now and has confounded, astonished and obsessed readers for most of that time. Some of the most interesting history in Kirsch's book tells us of various obsessed scholars attempting to "crack the code" of Revelations to predict the timing of the end of the world. John, himself, seemed to feel that the end would be upon his readers very swiftly. Unfortunately, the world has failed to end when the calculating scholars predicted. Without John of Patmos, Handel did not have much of the inspiration for his sublime Messiah. The world's great painters and sculpters have found John's vivid descriptions challenging and inspiring.
Saint John of the Book of Revelations (almost certainly a different person than the Saint John of the Gospels) lived in a time when the "end time" was real. When John of Patmos wrote of "things which must shortly come to pass," he was speaking of within his own lifetime, or at least certainly within the lifetimes of those who heard or read his words. they've always been very patient and gentle, avowed pacifists as they are), or babbling on your TV set about why peace in the Middle East would be a BAD thing, here is the book you've been looking for in order to have a few intelligent answers for them.