Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Logic of Christianity 16: The Gospels (and Acts) are True until Proven False

In May of 2013, I presented a scholarly paper at Ghent University, Belgium,

in which I discussed the Beatitudes in Matthew and Luke and the nature of the Gospel genre.  The title of my presentation was "Burke's Entelechy, Perelman's Epideictic, and the Transmission of Values.  The conference was the Rhetoric as Equipment for Living (Kenneth Burke, Culture, and Education) Conference.  It was the first European conference devoted to the study of the concepts of Kenneth Burke.  While I consider Kenneth Burke to be the premier rhetorical theorist of the 20th Century, another close contender for that honor is Chaïm Perelman, who, during his lifetime, taught at the Free University of Brussels. 
I was honored to have in the audience at my presentation not only elite Burkean scholars from across the globe, but also the Belgian scholar who had succeeded Perelman as Professor of Rhetoric and Philosophy at the Free University of Brussels, Michel Meyer, a former student of Chaïm Perelman.  During the Question-and-Answer period following my presentation, Professor Meyer took it upon himself to question the historicity of all of the Gospels.  He asserted that there was no difference between the Gospels and the story of Pinocchio.  He asserted that anything that was written sixty years after the supposed historical event (which he asserted that the Gospels were) is nothing but fable.  I continued the conversation with Professor Meyer, following the session at which I spoke, and subsequently published a journal article on the topic—at the urging of other Belgian scholars—in the KB Journal

Volume 11, Issue 1 Summer 2015

Professor Meyer’s objection to the historicity of the Gospels is typical of many biblical scholars who, since the last third of the nineteenth century, have exchanged the previously overwhelming consensus that the Bible is the infallible Word of God for a new presumption—that the Scriptures are “a singular human book rather than a divine revelation” (Mark A. Noll, Between Faith and Criticism, 13).  The Society of Biblical Literature (of which, incidentally, I am a member) was founded in 1880, and generally accepted assumptions, such as “that all religion reflects an evolutionary development from the primitive to the complex . . . and that supernatural events are not possible” (Noll, 20).  Hence, a paradigm shift developed, between 1880 and 1900, for studying the Bible.  The new paradigm dictated: “[T]he Bible . . . is a human book to be investigated with the standard assumptions that one brings to the discussion of all products of human culture” (Noll, 45). 

Of course, that new liberal paradigm was a product of Modernism, which itself is now considered a failed philosophy.  However, as it turns out, even according to that Modernist paradigm of studying the Bible as a “human book,” the Gospels still shine as being historically reliable.  Most liberal scholars now place the writing of the gospels within 40 to 60 years after Jesus’ earthly life.  These critical scholars typically place the writing of Mark in the 70s, Matthew and Luke in the 80s, and John in the 90s.  If Jesus died in 33 AD, and the earliest gospel was written in the 70s, the gospel accounts began to be written down around 40 years after Jesus’ earthly life.  However, it is by no means certain that the liberal scholarly dating of the gospels is correct.  Dr. Craig Blomberg
argues that the Book of Acts could not have been written later than 62 AD, because it concludes with the Apostle Paul still living under house arrest in Rome, yet Paul was put to death sometime between 62 and 67.  Since Acts was written by Luke AFTER Luke wrote his gospel, the Gospel According to Luke was probably written no later than 61. Since Luke appears to rely somewhat on Mark, Mark would apparently have been written no later than 60.  If Jesus died in 33 AD and Mark was written as late as 60, the first gospel was written only 27 years after the events it describes.  Is it possible for eyewitnesses to reconstruct historical events in detail correctly 30 or 40 or even 60 years after the fact?  Absolutely! 
I offer a personal example. 
My brother Rod emailed a sister, another brother, and me, recently, recalling a car trip our family took 60 years ago.  Rod wrote: “Barb your trip reminds me of the 1957 trip to Pikes Peak. Dad picked up the new ‘57 pea green Ford in Mason City. We stopped overnight at Uncle Ted's and they took us by Harry Truman's house. Then on to the Kansas sod house with Dennis in the cowboy outfit. Then it was the disappointment of the real Dodge City and Boot Hill. On toward Colorado with Marilyn saying, ‘Mom make the boys sit still.’ Stan saying, ‘Are we there yet?’ Tim saying, ‘Dad make Barb drive faster!’  With Stan joining him in saying ‘Yeah, let's go 80.’”  In the spirit of eyewitness confirmation, Barb wrote back: “Wow Rod what a memory! . . .  It seemed like many times dad packed us all into the car in the early morning to make a trip --always so pleasant to be riding as the sun came up.”  To illustrate the corrective nature of eyewitnesses, I then responded: “Rod is mistaken about me saying, ‘Let's go 80.’  I recall that the line came from one of the children Uncle Emery used to take to church.   The child told him, ‘Let's go faster, Henry! Let's go 50.’  The story was related to me by Sam.  I do remember how exciting it was to be surprised at school by having Dad pick us up in a new car and take off on vacation.”  Rod, then, corroborated my account of the “let’s go faster” line: “Cindy Hartey implored ‘Henry’ to go faster, and her brother said, ‘Yeah, Henry, let's go 50,’ when our super uncle was already going 60.  Taking that lead, Barb's brothers implored her to drive faster and upped the ante to ‘Let's go 80.’  I was with Dad when he picked up that 57 Ford.  He loved the collar [Dad’s pronunciation of the word: color] he chose and ordered.  He was so disappointed when it over-heated so we didn't reach the top of the mountain.  But it was only a six cylinder and was loaded to the hilt with him, Mom, six kids and a trunk crammed with luggage. I loved his driving on those terribly narrow mountain roads. His wheels were often too close to the edge for Mom's sanity. And he had to back up to a wider place in the road several times upon meeting other cars. On the way to CO it was really good of him to give our 17-year-old sister a chance to drive.  On the way home, I think he must have been pretty tired of driving and, if Barb would drive, he would not back-seat-drive and have her go 80 NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU AND TIM YELLED AT HER!!!!!  But, Stan, you will be most pleased to learn that for the first time in family history Mom, Barb, and Marilyn ordered this new food called pizza in Colorado Springs, the night before we attempted the trip up the mountain. Of course, we boys didn't even try it because we thought it had to be yuk.”  I deferred to my older brother’s recollection, but added a caveat: “You are correct.  It was Cindy (although, for some reason, I had envisioned her last name as being spelled ‘Hardy’) and the joke was that Uncle Emery had already been going 60, at the time.  I suppose that it is possible that I upped the ante to 80 on that trip--I would have only been 7 years old at the time.  What I find fascinating about these interactions regarding our past shared history is the way they corroborate the ‘historical’ facticity of the Gospel accounts.  . . .  It emphasizes to me that these events happened 60 years ago, yet we eyewitnesses are able to supply recalcitrance (both corrective and corroborative) to reconstruct even the minute details of conversations and events that occurred so long ago.  If we ‘kids’ can do this sort of thing sixty years after the events, it would be a piece of cake for Jesus' hundreds and thousands of eyewitness disciples to supply this kind of recalcitrance regarding the sermons, teachings, conversations, and events of Jesus' life that were recorded by Paul (just a few years after Jesus' death and resurrection in I Corinthians 15:1-9, where he mentions hundreds of eyewitnesses) or his student and assistant Dr. Luke or Peter's student Mark or the actual eyewitnesses Matthew and John, within only 40 years after the events.  And our reconstructions are accomplished even without the considerable benefit of the spiritual gifts of Apostles and Evangelists!  . . . Dennis--being a later arrival, like the Apostle Paul--gets to confer with us original experiencers to discover the details he was not around to experience.  However, when Barb shoots us those pictures of her and Marilyn and the Flood, I find myself in Dennis and Paul's situation, as well!”  Rod, then modified his account of me saying ‘Let’s go eighty’: “I confess, you may not have egged Barb to drive faster.  It was Tim and I who coined the word squeighty on that trip.  I cannot imagine why a 17-year-old girl wouldn't feel safe driving 80 on a two lane road with her family of [eight] shoehorned into a little 57 Ford. My memory and faith (even in Barb's driving) fail miserably when compared to Matthew's and John's ability to recount events and statements.  Methinks, it is the difference between blowing smoke and the Holy Spirit giving utterance.  I debated Hardy and Hartey and thought it was the latter.”  Finally, Dennis, who was just a baby at the time of the trip we discussed, joined in to confirm the Cindy Hardy story, but in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, threw in the concept of textual variants: “I also remember the Cyndi Hardee story (note the textual variant!), though, obviously not from personal eyewitness experience. Stan, your implied designation of me as ‘one untimely born’ makes a lot of sense and helps me with my own self-understanding a bit.  Being untimely born has its pros and cons.  On the one hand, . . . I have little to no personal connection with our Lindsay cousins – certainly not the way you elderly siblings have.  On the other hand it affords me a unique perspective/voice in the family, not necessarily anchored to some of the earlier family experiences and experiments.”  Having some fun with Dennis’s allusion to the similarities between the Apostle Paul and himself, I replied: “Right, Dennis!  Don't push the metaphor too far!  :)  Were you thinking of making Rod into Cephas and Barb into the Magdalene?  I, being somewhat younger than Rod, am content with being the disciple whom Jesus loved.

            If this exchange among my family members seems excessively conscious of critical Biblical issues, it is because my brother Dennis holds a Doctor of Theology degree from the University of Tübingen and both my brother Rod and Barb’s husband Dean are Christian ministers, both holding the M.Div. degree from Lincoln Christian University.  Yet, I repeat my observation: “What I find fascinating about these interactions regarding our past shared history is the way they corroborate the ‘historical’ facticity of the Gospel accounts.  . . .  It emphasizes to me that these events happened 60 years ago, yet we eyewitnesses are able to . . . reconstruct even the minute details of conversations and events that occurred so long ago.  If we [OLD] ‘kids’ can do this sort of thing sixty years after the events, it would be a piece of cake for Jesus' hundreds and thousands of eyewitness disciples to supply this kind of recalcitrance regarding the sermons, teachings, conversations, and events of Jesus' life . . . within only 40 years after the events.”  And, this example of our reconstruction of events in our childhood is typical.  We have done this type of reconstruction countless times, regarding countless shared events in our lives.  I’m sure that we are not alone.  Virtually everyone could verify this type of phenomenon occurring in their lives. 

Crowdsourcing, a term coined in 2005, conceptualizes some of the very phenomena that I have just described from familial and Gospel contexts.  The primary difference is that the internet is now used to cross-check and verify information, whether used for ideas, services, marketing, or even Wikipedia, which offers the following definition: “Crowdsourcing is distinguished from outsourcing in that the work can come from an undefined public (instead of being commissioned from a specific, named group) and in that crowdsourcing includes a mix of bottom-up and top-down processes.”  On October 2, 2017, I watched the premier episode of a television show, “Wisdom of the Crowd,” which shows the crowdsourcing methodology being used to solve crimes.  This is not dissimilar to what occurred as the Gospels were being formulated.

The Gospels, however, were not the first written accounts of events in the life of Jesus. The earliest written record of events in the life of Jesus occurs, not in the Gospels, but in the epistles of Paul, written in the 40s and 50s.  Professor Meyer’s assertion that anything that was written sixty years after the supposed historical event (which he asserted that the Gospels were) is nothing but fable begins to unravel with the fact that Paul, in I Corinthians 15:3-8, gives an outline of the most important section of the Gospels (occurring in all 4 gospels and Acts):   “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

WHEN did Paul receive this account of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection on the third day, plus his appearances to his disciples (the related events of which take up one-half of the Gospel according to Mark)?  He certainly received it BEFORE he wrote the book of I Corinthians.  The most logical suggestion is that he received the account sometime in the three years following his conversion on the Road to Damascus, at which time Paul himself became an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus.  That event occurred approximately two years after Jesus’ death, and Paul (previously called Saul of Tarsus) had surely heard some of the gospel message, beforehand, because he had been actively persecuting the Christian sect for their message.  He would have known some of the claims of the sect he was persecuting.  Within three years of his conversion, he learned the gospel more fully from Ananias in Damascus and, eventually, three years later, from Peter and James (Jesus’ brother) in Jerusalem: “After three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:18-19).  If Paul is passing along information that he received within the first five years after Jesus’ earthly life, Professor Meyer’s assertion that these biblical accounts are non-historical because they are all written too many years after the fact is unraveling even more.  Paul’s writings confirm the Gospel accounts that:

1.      Jesus was a direct descendent of King David (Romans 1:3, II Timothy 2:8)
2.      Jesus’ brother was James--the son of Joseph and Mary (I Corinthians 15:3-8, Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 12)
3.      Jesus had twelve disciples (I Corinthians 15:3-8)
4.      Jesus is the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God (throughout Paul’s writings)
5.      Miracles actually do occur (I Corinthians 12:10, 28-29)
6.      Healings actually do occur (I Corinthians 12:9, 28, 30)
7.      Jesus was transfigured (Philippians 2:5-11)
8.      Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper (I Corinthians 11:23-26)
9.      Jesus was betrayed (I Corinthians 11:23)
10.  Jesus was killed by the method of crucifixion (Philippians 2:5-11)
11.  Jesus actually died (I Corinthians 15:3-8, Philippians 2:5-11)
12.  Jesus was buried (I Corinthians 15:4, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12)
13.  Jesus was resurrected in three days (I Corinthians 15:4, II Timothy 2:8)
14.  Jesus appeared in resurrected form to Peter and the twelve (I Corinthians 15:3-8)
15.  Jesus appeared in resurrected form to many others (I Corinthians 15:3-8)
16.  Jesus was exalted in heaven (Philippians 2:5-11)

If liberal scholars generally accept assumptions such as “that supernatural events are not possible” (Noll, 20), they would tend to write off all miracles and healings in the Gospel accounts.  I wrote, in The Logic of Christianity 15:  Revelation is True until Proven False:  “As I point out in my book ArguMentor, ‘Miracles and fulfilled prophecies are proofs that do not necessarily rely on ethos [and, hence, are logical, relying on logos].  However, ACCOUNTS of miracles, absent substantiating evidence, do again rely on ethos.  It is generally advisable in argumentation not to rely excessively on ethos, unless both parties in the dispute are willing to stipulate that the individual (or individuals) being relied on for ethos is in a position to know the truth of a matter.’ . . . How would one ever prove that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that he walked on water, changed water into wine, fed 5000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, raised Lazarus from the dead, and performed numerous healings?  Conversely, how would one ever disprove those things?  One just has to TRUST the person/s relating the account.  Of course, in the case of the gospel accounts of miracles, apostles and eyewitnesses were willing to die instead of recanting their testimonies.”  The writings of Josephus and other Jewish writers from the period do nothing to disclaim accounts of Jesus’ miraculous works, although the Talmud credits “sorcery” as the basis upon which he accomplished the works.
            Logically, it seems to me the height of arrogance to suggest that feats that defy nature that have been accomplished by other human beings would be IMPOSSIBLE to accomplish by someone who received power from God.  Except, possibly, for “raising the dead,” virtually every type of healing the Gospels attribute to Jesus has been accomplished, over the years, by medical science.  Chapter 3 of my book Implicit Rhetoric:  Kenneth Burke’s Extension of Aristotle’s Concept of Entelechy is entitled “The Human as Super-Natural:  Aristotelian Types of Entelechy.”  The premise of the chapter is a clause from Kenneth Burke’s Definition of Human.  The clause is that the human is “separated from his[/her] natural condition by instruments of his[/her] own making” (LSA 16, bold mine).  If even we humble mortals are capable of overcoming natural laws and conditions, how arrogant must we be to insist that God’s Son would never be able to defy natural laws?

The following list of illnesses and bodily malfunctions cured by Jesus is fairly complete:


·         bent spine Lk. 13:10-21 (crippled woman)

·         blind Jn. 9:1-41 (man born that way); Mk. 10:46-52; Mt. 20:29-34; Lk. 18:35-43; Mt. 11:2-19; Lk. 7:18-35

·         deaf Mt. 11:2-19; Lk. 7:18-35

·         diseases Mt. 11:2-19; Lk. 7:18-35

·         epileptic Mt. 4:23-25

·         fever Jn. 4:46-54; Mk. 1:29-34; Mt. 8:14-17; Luke 4:38-41

·         lame Jn. 1:5-47; Mt. 11:2-19; Lk. 7:18-35

·         leprosy Lk. 17:11-37; Mk. 1:40-45; Mt. 8:2-4; Lk. 5:12-16; Mt. 11:2-19; Lk. 7:18-35

·         palsy Mk. 2:1-12; Mt. 9:1-8; Lk. 5:17-26 (paralytic?); Mt. 4:23-25; Mt. 8:5-13; Lk.7:1-10 (near death)

·         plagues Mt. 11:2-19; Lk. 7:18-35

·         raise dead Mt. 11:2-19; Lk. 7:18-35; Jn. 11:1-44 (Lazarus); Lk. 7:11-17

·         sick on their beds Mk. 6:53-56; Mt. 14:34-36

·         various illnesses Mk. 1:29-34; Mt. 8:14-17; Luke 4:38-41

·         withered hand Mk. 3:1-6; Mt. 12:9-14; Lk. 6:6-11

Of course, being born of a virgin, walking on water, changing water into wine, feeding 5000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, and raising Lazarus from the dead are qualitatively much more substantial miracles than most of the healings Jesus effected.  But what greater miracle was there in all of history than Jesus’ resurrection from death by crucifixion?  And, Paul’s early testimony of more than 500 eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection argues strongly that the Gospel accounts were confirmed by the testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. 

In Lee Strobel’s powerful book, The Case for Christ, he interviews 13 scholars with excellent credentials for attesting to the historical reliability of the Gospels.  I recommend that readers purchase the audiobook version of this text and listen to it over and over again.  Strobel is a former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, and approaches the issue of whether Christianity is reliable from a legal/forensic perspective, as he calls scholarly witnesses.  His chapters focus on issues such as whether the eyewitness testimony in the Gospels is credible, whether the text of the Gospels have been reliably transmitted through the years, whether there is corroborating testimony concerning the historical reliability of the Gospels from other historical sources, whether archaeology confirms details found in the Gospels, etc.  Strobel’s interviews supply answers for a multitude of attacks that have been made against the Gospels. 

Certainly, as Strobel himself admits in a subsequent interview, it would be impossible to offer answers for every attack that has been launched against the Gospels in a single book.  Yet, many of the most important attacks are considered.  One such attack that is not covered by Strobel is one that I personally had the most difficulty with while studying in the Graduate School at Indiana University.  One incidental verse in the text of John 19 was nearly fatal to my faith, as I studied for my Master's in Hebrew at Indiana University, back in the 1970s. At Indiana, I had studied at the feet of scholars who were not only Biblical scholars, but also, especially, Jewish scholars, who had absolutely no vested interest in helping me defend the Christian scriptures.  I came home to my wife, Linda, on many occasions, saying that Biblical problems had been presented to me for which I had no answers.  Linda always said, "Just keep your faith; there will be answers."

But one day, I came home from class and said, "I think they have finally done it.  They have shown me an error in the New Testament for which there can be no answer."  The Jewish scholar who pointed it out even stated that, while Christian apologists have found answers to other Biblical problems, this is the one obvious contradiction that no one has ever been able to solve:  The synoptic gospels claim that the disciples ate the Passover Meal with his disciples before he was crucified.  You can't take an "absentee" Passover Meal like you vote with an "absentee" ballot.  No one eats the Passover until the evening of the first night (Friday night, being the beginning of Sabbath) of the Passover Week.  The paschal lamb is killed in the afternoon, before that meal.  But, according to John (19:14, et. al.), Jesus was crucified at the same time they killed the lamb (on the day of Preparation).  He was dead and in the tomb at the time when the Passover was eaten.  This was presented to me as the ultimate proof that the Gospels made an error.  Romans 3:4 says, "God must be true though every man be a liar," and in John 10:35, Jesus says, "Scripture cannot be broken."  Still, I trusted my wife's admonition.

Just TWO days later, I was reading one of Millar Burrows's books on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it jumped out at me.  It virtually slapped my face and said, "Don't ever doubt Me again (just as Jesus implicitly scolded Thomas for doubting)!"  I suspect that there was some Providence involved.  It seems that among the Dead Sea Scrolls, a calendar was found that disagreed with the official calendar of the Jerusalem temple cult.  The Essenes (from whom John the Baptist and his disciples came, some of whom subsequently became Jesus' disciples) followed a different calendar with a different date for Passover (and the day of Preparation).  There were at least two different dates for the first day of Passover in Jesus' time.  It was possible for the synoptic gospels to have used a different calendar when they said that Jesus ate the Passover meal before he died.  They say that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  I learned.  My faith has been thoroughly intact since then.

Christians will certainly stumble across issues that non-Christians argue should be obstacles to believing in the truth and infallibility of the scriptures.  Virtually everything a Christian might face has someone (usually cited on the internet) who offers plausible answers for the issue.  We return to Professor Meyer’s teacher, Chaïm Perelman.  As I stated earlier, Perelman states on pages 24-25 of the Realm of Rhetoric that presumption “imposes the burden of proof upon the person who wants to oppose its application.”  These are some of my presumptions:
·         The resurrection did occur.
·         God did create the universe.
·         The Bible is inspired of God.

Furthermore, they are presumptions held by a massive Christian Culture.  My presumption is that these premises are “true, until proven false.”  If others want to prove that the Bible is false, they must first determine every possible meaning of every Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic word in the Scriptures.  Then, they must consider every conceivable grammatical combination in which those words may be found.  Next, they must consider every possible trope, every figure of speech, as a means of determining the multitudinous possible interpretations of every verse of scripture.  And, they must disprove not just one or two interpretations that they might prefer to debunk, in a “straw man” logical fallacy approach.  They must disprove every single interpretation that is remotely possible—that has been previously advanced or that will be advanced at any point in the future.  The Gospels are true, until proven false. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hidden Mickeyisms 12: The De-Atheizing of Disney (Bye Bye, Bill Nye!)

“Atheizing” is the process of inserting an atheistic worldview into a culture.  “De-atheizing” would, therefore, mean the process of removing an atheistic worldview from a culture.  Just in case you did not already know:  The Universe of Energy exhibit (aka, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye [the science guy]) closed in 2017.  The Universe of Energy originally opened, along with EPCOT Center in 1982, and was then modified to Ellen’s Energy Adventure in 1996.  In my book Disneology:  Religious Rhetoric at Walt Disney World (Say Press, 2010, p.3), I write:

The religion that most strongly influenced Walt Disney was Christianity.  But, Disney was also influenced by Science, and science has historically had some major rhetorical conflicts with religion, in general.  Many, if not most, of the religious issues lurking in WDW are disagreements between Christianity and an approach to science that tends to eliminate theological considerations from its messages.  Although not all scientists who refrain from discussing theological issues are atheists, some are.  Atheist rhetorical issues will, therefore, be found in WDW.”

The premier example of the atheist perspective in Walt Disney World has been the Universe of Energy/Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  In Disneology, I encourage readers to:

Visit the attraction “Universe of Energy” at EPCOT.  Starting with the ‘Big Bang,’ in a very short span of time, you will view a sequence of events that many scientists believe occurred over a period of 13 to 14 billion years.  What you are viewing is Disney’s visual interpretation of the origins of the universe, according to accepted views in physics.”

In the Worksheet for Studying the book, I pose the following question to readers: “What would change, if God were inserted into the ‘Universe of Energy’ exhibit?”  Despite multiple references to creation, creator, and God in Walt Disney World, there has been, for many years, a counter-statement:  the assertion that the universe came into existence without any contribution from or reference to God.  On pages 4-5 of Disneology, I comment: 

“WDW is unafraid to present religious rhetoric in favor of Christian Realism.  Born in the 19th century, Walt Disney was a huge fan of President Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln is the president who receives the greatest attention in the ‘Hall of Presidents’ at the Magic Kingdom [MK].  Disney could have chosen to highlight purely secular comments from Lincoln.  Nevertheless, Disney highlights quite religious philosophy, as expressed by Lincoln.  His belief in ‘divine providence’ is mentioned in his debates.  Lincoln quotes Jesus from Mark 3:25: ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’  Lincoln asserts that all men are ‘created’ equal.  He identifies the Declaration of Independence as the ‘truth.’  He states his faith in God: ‘I know there is a God and that he hates injustice and slavery.  I see a storm coming; I know his hand is in it.’  Mention of the ‘creator’ in the Declaration of Independence is reiterated in the ‘American Adventure’ in EPCOT.  Just outside the ‘American Adventure,’ between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, annually, multiple daily presentations of the Candlelight Processional proclaim strong Christian rhetoric concerning the divine birth of Jesus.  Year-round, Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, in the MK, celebrates the Christmas holiday.  Indiana Jones is featured prominently in Disney’s Hollywood Studios [HS].  His most famous quest, the search for lost Ark of the Covenant, presents viewers with theological concepts of a God who communicates with humans, yet is invisible.  [Although, the physical depiction of the lost Ark that was prominent in the Great Movie Ride vanished in 2017 with the closing of the Great Movie Ride.  So far, the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, based on the Lost Ark remains.  Perhaps, in the future, HS will include the Ark as a visual somewhere in that attraction.]  Walt also once remarked, ‘I know drinking and smoking are sins because you aren't taking care of the body God gave you.’

On the other hand, WDW is also unafraid to present nonreligious rhetoric in favor of Scientific Realism.  The ‘Universe of Energy’ attraction at EPCOT present[ed] the origins of the universe from a wholly god-less perspective.  The perspective of physics inform[ed] riders that originally, there was a ‘big bang’ in which a great amount of energy was converted into huge supplies of mass.  Among the pieces of mass that were generated by the big bang was a small piece that became the planet Earth.  The perspective of Geology (the study of the Earth) then [took] over.  This originally very hot planet was a fiery, molten, and gaseous mixture.  The gasses surrounded the planet until the planet cooled; then, water condensed onto the surface of the earth and became the seas.  (Not too many years ago--before they replaced it with ‘The Seas with Nemo & Friends’ ride—WDW had corroborated these views of physics and geology in a preshow to ‘The Living Seas’ exhibit.  Again, no mention of a creator was to be found.)  The perspective of Evolutionary Biology . . . was presented in both the Energy and Seas shows, as plant life is followed by water life, then amphibian life, etc.”

You may still find online amateur videos of both the Universe of Energy and The Living Seas movies.  The following script of “The Living Seas” preshow movie supplies the dialogue (

“Cast Member: Good (morning/afternoon/evening), everyone. My name is _________ and welcome to The Living Seas. Ocean exploration has come a long way. We now have a better understanding of our involvement with the sea. How did it form, when did it form, and what possibilities lie ahead? Possible answers to these and many other questions are about to surface in a dramatic film simply entitled "The Sea." Please remain seated and refrain from smoking and flash photography during the show. And now, the beauty and splendor of "The Sea."
The lights dim and on the screen a galaxy of stars appears. This is followed by a closer look at planet Earth.
Female Narrator: Try to imagine, just for a moment, that somewhere in the endless reaches of the universe ... on the outer edge of a galaxy of a hundred thousand million suns ... deep within a cluster of slowly forming planets, a small sphere of just the right size lies just the right distance from its mother star ... cooling in the coldness of space. Try to imagine.
A volcano loudly erupts and the lava quickly flows down its sides.
Female Narrator: Now that sphere's creation continues as countless volcanoes spew clouds of gas and steam into the sky of melted mineral formations.
Steam rises from the hardened lava on the ground.
Female Narrator: And then that cloud covered planet waits ... and waits .... and waits ... until finally those clouds of gas and steam condense and rain upon that planet.
Lightning strikes, thunder roars, and the rain pours. It hits the hot ground and more steam rises.
Female Narrator: Rain upon that planet Earth. And they rain ... and rain ... and rain. The deluge.
Rain continues to pour and then we see large amounts of water falling off a large waterfall (most likely Niagara Falls).
Female Narrator: A deluge of such magnitude that the world's greatest waterfalls flowing together for more than a million years would only just begin to approach its results. For when it finally stopped, ... the seas had been born.
The water stops, a few drips fall into a puddle, and then the camera pans up to see the ocean with the sun setting in the background.
Female Narrator: Seas that would make this planet unlike any other within the realm of our knowledge. For it was there, sheltered from cosmic radiation that the means to support life on Earth was able to emerge. Tiny single celled plants – [phyto]plankton [pictures of the organisms appear on-screen]. They capture the energy of the sun and convert it into the most basic of life sustaining elements, oxygen, creating more than half the Earth's supply. But more than that, those same seas interact with that same solar energy and the Earth's rotation to serve as the engine that drives all the world's weather.
We see a blue sky and a palm tree followed by a beachfront. Then, using time-lapse photography, dark clouds quickly move into the beach area and then disappear.
Female Narrator: Yet these phenomen[a] occur at only the first few hundred feet of seas that average greater than two miles in depth [shot of choppy water]. And it is there in those depths in an endless night, darker than the darkest light on land, that we are just now beginning to explore an amazing world. There, amid raging underwater storms and [fiery] underwater volcanoes, mountain ranges that dwarf the Himalayas and gorges four times deeper than the Grand Canyon. There two miles deep in that darkness - an amazing world.
At this point, the screen goes completely black and every few seconds it lights up showing a new shot of the deep ocean floor. Each time it lights up, a sound similar to that heard on a submarine is heard. We see strange organisms and plants, rocky formations, and vents that erupt gas and steam.
Female Narrator: A world where the cold sea pours deep into the mountains' warm core through immense cracks in its surface and then rises back to the ocean floor as a super-heated, mineral-laden fluid emitting what to us would be lethal concentrations of poisonous chemicals. Yet, incredibly, around these strange vents, exotic life forms flourish.
Life forms that have astonished biologists by finding the needs for their survival, ... not in photosynthesis and the sun, but in the chemicals of the earth itself. Chemosynthesis. An ecosystem like none other on earth. Until now, scientifically inconceivable. Yet there, nevertheless, deep beneath the sea waiting for our discovery. Waiting in a world where we've spent less time than on the surface of the moon. A world we've only just begun to explore with tools we've only just begun to imagine.”

The Living Seas preshow ceased operations in 1999.  And it, now, appears that Walt Disney World has ELIMINATED BOTH of the exhibits that presented “the origins of the universe from a wholly god-less perspective,” as the Universe of Energy/Ellen’s Energy Adventure closed in 2017.  These two shows that presented a “god-less perspective” of the beginnings of the universe were/are being replaced by much less controversial exhibits.  The Living Seas was replaced by ‘The Seas with Nemo & Friends’ ride.  The Universe of Energy will, apparently, be replaced by an attraction based on the Guardians of the Galaxy movie/s. 

One might infer that the Living Seas and the Universe of Energy were replaced because the attractions were “dated.”  Certainly, there is little dispute that events occurring at the dawn of the universe are “dated.”  [It’s a joke!]  But, it is also true that some of the commentary by Ellen and Bill Nye regarding energy sources (at the end of the attraction) are clearly out of date, given the massive discoveries of natural gas and petroleum in the United States in recent years.  Nevertheless, since both Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye are still living, one would presume that such inaccuracies could be quickly corrected with some movie editing.  Finally, the technologically-dated “radio” broadcast portion of the ride could be eliminated or shortened.

Perhaps, the Universe of Energy simply took too long to experience.  Counting the preshow, the audience had to invest 45 minutes.  However, the queue lines alone at other attractions will often dwarf that amount of time investment, and much of the final “radio” broadcast could be shortened.  Throughout my many years of visiting Disney, I often found the 45 minute ride in the dark to be a great way to rest, or even take a nap!

Whether intentional or not, the elimination of the two major “god-less perspectives” of the origins of the universe in Walt Disney World amounts to a de-atheizing of Walt Disney World.  Along with the elimination of the “Wishes” fireworks display in the Magic Kingdom in 2017, which offered various forms of secularized prayer and the incredible doctrine that simply “wishing” for something would make it come true, Walt Disney World has made major strides to de-secularize, as well as, de-atheize the parks.

In an ironic twist, the year before Walt Disney World closed the Universe of Energy attraction, featuring popularist atheist Bill Nye, a creationist Christian who has publicly debated Bill Nye on issues of world origins—Ken Ham—opened his (Noah’s) Ark Encounter in Kentucky, to go along with his Creation Museum.  (Bill Nye has already visited the Ark—and argued with Ham about its message.)  My wife and I visited the Ark Encounter during the same month in which the Universe of Energy closed.  Very interesting argumentation, there!  An abundance of scientific data and reasoning to support his positions, as well as a unique experience in encountering a full-scale model of the Ark, as described in Genesis.  I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Logic of Christianity 15: Revelation is True until Proven False

As I was working on my Ph.D. thesis at Purdue University, analyzing the Book of Revelation from a Burkean standpoint, a scholar asked me:  “Surely [in this day and age], you don’t still believe in predictive prophecy, do you?”  The answer is: Yes, I do.  This fifteenth blog post in this series is focused on demonstrating that Revelation’s prophecies have been and are coming true. 
As I point out in my book ArguMentor, “Miracles and fulfilled prophecies are proofs that do not necessarily rely on ethos [and, hence, are logical, relying on logos].  However, ACCOUNTS of miracles, absent substantiating evidence, do again rely on ethos.  It is generally advisable in argumentation not to rely excessively on ethos, unless both parties in the dispute are willing to stipulate that the individual (or individuals) being relied on for ethos is in a position to know the truth of a matter.”  How would one go about proving that Paul met Jesus via a Bat Qol, on the road to Damascus?  How would one prove that he survived a venomous snakebite unscathed?  How would one prove that Peter miraculously escaped from prison?  How would one ever prove that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that he walked on water, changed water into wine, fed 5000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, raised Lazarus from the dead, and performed numerous healings?  Conversely, how would one ever disprove those things?  One just has to TRUST the person/s relating the account.  Of course, in the case of the gospel accounts of miracles, apostles and eye witnesses were willing to die instead of recanting their testimonies—if one believes the “accounts” of their deaths.  How would one prove (or disprove) these accounts?
Prophecies, on the other hand, can be tested; they are not substantially reliant on ethos.  We have alluded to some of the prophecies from the Old Testament that point to the coming Christ/Messiah—prophecies that helped to prove Jesus’ messiahship.  We argued, in the post entitled The Logic of Christianity 14:  The Parousia is True until Proven False, that Jesus’ own major prophecy regarding the Parousia should be given the presumption of truth.  So, we now turn to the major book of prophecy in the New Testament to see if it may be given the same presumption of truth.  In Revelation, John predicted:  the Parousia, a seven year war between the Beast and the harlot Babylon divided by two periods of 3 ½ years (“time, times, and half a time”) each, the Fall of Babylon, the Battle of Armageddon, Casting the Beast and False Prophet into the Lake of Fire, Casting the Dragon—chained—into the Abyss for 1000 years, a corresponding 1000 year Reign of Christ and his Followers on Earth, the Release of the Dragon after the 1000 years, the Rise of Gog and Magog, the Battle of Gog and Magog, Casting the Dragon into the Lake of Fire, the Destruction of the Old Heavens and Old Earth, and the Creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth, inhabited by the New Jerusalem.


Before I begin to discuss the fulfillment of these prophecies, I begin with an internal summary of the syllogistic chain I have called the Logic of Christianity.  We are nearing the conclusion of our presentation of the Logic of Christianity.  If as:
1.       The Logic of Christianity 1 observes, “faith” is a logical continuum, stretching all the way from believing that something is “barely possible” to the firm conviction that something is “almost definitely” true, and as:
2.      The Logic of Christianity 2 argues that, in order to build “faith,” we build (rhetorical/logical) arguments in terms of what Aristotle calls a “syllogistic chain,” with one argument built on top of another, and as:
3.      The Logic of Christianity 3 argues, there have been four logical explosions in the history of man, and the Renaissance was the one that began to undo faith in Christianity—culminating in Modernism, which taught us to “doubt” everything (thus, opposing all religious faith)—but that Postmodernism (around 1950) taught us to “doubt” Modernism, thus, leaving us with “faith” in probable truth (and reviving the possibility of religious faith), and as:
4.      The Logic of Christianity 4 argues (as the 4th link in the syllogistic chain), the universe exists as a result of the “action” of an “agent,” and as:
5.      The Logic of Christianity 5 argues, that agent acted using the agency of LOGOS in the formation of the universe, being motivated by both a self-actualization purpose and a social purpose, and as:
6.      The Logic of Christianity 6 argues, the most “logical” contemporarily viable candidate for the agent who formed the universe is the one single god who is acknowledged as God by the world’s three major world religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—the God of Abraham, and as:
7.      The Logic of Christianity 7 argues, Christianity (of the three religions) best meets the Koranic suggestion that Abraham’s son (whom God asked to be sacrificed) is to be replaced with a “great sacrifice,” encompasses Isaiah’s view that God has “no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats,” and further presents Jesus as Isaiah’s suffering servant who was led to the slaughter like a lamb, and as:
8.      The Logic of Christianity 8 argues, Jesus’ Transfiguration in the presence of at least one Immortal (Elijah) answers the logical need for proof that Jesus was perfect, and not punishable by death (the wages of sin), but by subsequently dying anyway, he paid the price for the sins of all of Adam’s children, and as:
9.      The Logic of Christianity 9 argues, Jesus’ Crucifixion was maximum justice for any sin known to mankind, not for Jesus’ own actions, but for the actions of any human that has ever lived, and as:
10.   The Logic of Christianity 10 argues, Jesus’ Resurrection completes the cosmic circle of the logic of eternal life that began with the very first man, Adam, and as:
11.  The Logic of Christianity 11 argues, there are no credible proofs that the Resurrection never happened, and as:
12.  The Logic of Christianity 12 argues, the most credible communication God ever made with man—in His own handwriting (the Ten Commandments)—claims that God created the universe, and as:
13.  The Logic of Christianity 13 argues, presumption demands that Creation is true until proven false, and as:
14.  The Logic of Christianity 14 argues, since Jesus is God’s Son, and must not be capable of making errors in his own prophecies, presumption demands that his prediction of the Parousia is true until proven false, then we may turn to the rest of the Bible, to establish that the other parts are also true until proven false, and to establish that Christianity is a logical worldview.

So, now, we turn to the prophecies included in the major book of prophecy in the New Testament, Revelation.  Did John, the author of Revelation, make huge mistakes, as some claim?  Among the important Revelation scholars, Adela Yarbro Collins (Crisis and Catharsis:  The Power of the Apocalypse.  Philadelphia:  Westminster, 1984) views Revelation historically as "something less than absolute bedrock."  She tries to present Revelation as a "perceived crisis" discussion.  She writes:  "It is not because I believe that the author of Revelation was intentionally deceptive or that he was a psychopathic personality.  It is rather because he was a human like the rest of us."  Her historical quest leads her to a quite difficult position--an inconsistency.  On the one hand, she cites external evidence for "a date [of writing] of about 95 or 96" under the reign of Domitian.  On the other hand, she knows that "[t]here is insufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that Domitian persecuted Christians as Christians."  She points out that many interpreters see Revelation as a response to this situation:  Domitian was persecuting Christians, even forcing them to worship the emperor.  She says this entire scenario is false.  Yarbro Collins claims the crisis addressed in Revelation is more perceived than real.  This is frustrating.  A more elaborate dramatistic analysis is possible if, as I suggested in the previous post, scholars revisit the dating of Revelation.  More historical consistency may be found by dating the writing in 69 A.D. (which the Book of Revelation, itself, claims as a date of authorship).  A more consistent and elaborate dramatistic analysis of Revelation is what my book (Revelation:  The Human Drama) attempts to accomplish.
John’s Own Dating of the Book of Revelation.  Virtually every Revelation scholar weighs in on the claim that the seven or eight-headed beast of Revelation is Rome.  The heads are kings.  Five have fallen.  In terms of dating the book, the book claims to be written during the reign of the sixth head.  Hence, calculations ensue to determine the date of the book.  It is difficult to see how the head count could begin before Julius Caesar.  If Julius were head one, head six would be Nero who died in 68 A.D.  Since Julius was never officially an emperor, it seems more likely that Augustus is head one, and that Galba who reigned only in 69 A.D. is head six.  Since Tiberius was the first Emperor following Jesus birth, he might be head one in which case Otho who reigned only in 69 A.D. is head six.  Skip Tiberius as head one and you have Vitellius who reigned only in 69 A.D. as head six.  How many heads may be skipped before this clue of John's becomes meaningless?  It appears that John is claiming that the book is being written around 69 A.D.  There certainly are elaborate ways of making Domitian equal head six, but it seems much easier to conclude that 69 A.D. is the date John claimed to write.  Yarbro Collins is incorrect in dating the writing of Revelation in 95 or 96 A.D., according the Book of Revelation.  She relies on the speculations of individuals who wrote much later than the cataclysmic events that Revelation predicts.
The Parousia.  Among the prophecies Revelation advances, this one has already been considered somewhat.  I commented in a previous post, “John, the author of Revelation, writing in 69 A.D., (within the ‘lifetime’ of some who heard Jesus’ prophecy), indicates that the time is ‘near’ or ‘short’ for the fulfilling of the apocalyptic prophecies (Revelation 1:3, 12:12).  Jesus repeatedly states: ‘I am coming (ERCHOMAI) quickly’ (Revelation 3:11, 22:7, 12, and 20).  If John wrote Revelation in 69 A.D., and Jesus’ Parousia occurred sometime between 70 and 73 A.D., then the fulfillment of Jesus’ Coming/Parousia being near/short/quickly, from John’s perspective, would be accurate indeed!
Revelation and Daniel.  What I did not mention in the earlier post regarding Revelation and the Parousia was the extent to which Jesus’ own prophecies and John’s Revelation prophecies tied themselves to the prophecies of Daniel.  Revelation certainly has elements that are prophetic in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets.  Jonah and Haggai may be the only Old Testament prophetic books not cited or alluded to in Revelation.  John refers most frequently to the books of Daniel and Ezekiel, followed closely by Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.  Jesus is quoted in the gospels as alluding to a prophecy of Daniel concerning an "abomination of desolation" that would be in control of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Gospel of Luke interprets the prophecy as a promise that armies would surround Jerusalem before the (then present) generation passed away."  In the view of R. H. Charles, the first Beast of Revelation 13 “is the Roman Empire" which he equates with the fourth beast of Daniel.  He further finds in a survey of Jewish and Christian exegetes from the Hellenistic period that "from 30 A.D. onwards Jewish exegesis universally and Christian exegesis generally took the Roman Empire to be the fourth kingdom in Daniel." 

a.       Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of seventy weeks of years pertaining to the coming of the Messiah/Christ.  During the first sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years) from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, the city--including its walls--would be rebuilt (9:25) and the messiah prince would be "cut off" (9:26).  [A couple of such decrees to rebuild Jerusalem, recorded in history, are mentioned here, but there are other possibilities.]  1.  If the starting point of Daniel’s prophetic calculation was the decree of Cyrus recorded in Ezra 1:1-4, which occurred in 536 B.C., 483 years brings us to 53 B.C.  2.  If the starting point was the decree of Artaxerxes recorded in Nehemiah 1 and 2, which occurred in 457 B.C., 483 years brings us to 26 A.D.  Both of these dates approximate the lifetime of Jesus, so when Jesus (in Matthew 24:15), at approximately the year indicated by the Artaxerxes calculation, speaks of Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” occurring in the future, he is effectively arguing that the Daniel prophecy is in the process of being fulfilled within the lifetime of his audience.  In (Daniel 9:27) the last week of years, "a desolator on the wing of abominations" would come--a figure which Mark 13:14 identifies with Jesus' prediction of the fall of Jerusalem within a generation (Mark 13:30).  In the "middle" of that last week (the final seven years), the desolator (?) "shall cause the offering and sacrifice to cease" (Daniel 9:27).  Dividing the final seven years in the "middle" leaves two periods of "three and one-half years" each--one before the cessation of sacrifice and one following the cessation of sacrifice.  Daniel concludes in 12:11 with the words:  "And from the time the daily [sacrifice] shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up, a thousand two hundred ninety days [= roughly, three and one-half years]," after which will come qeytz (a word which means "end" but is easily associated, for plays on words, with the verb "to awaken," cf. Ezekiel 7:6).  The various interpretations of Daniel by Old Testament scholars need not be traced in this instance.  The early church clearly interpreted Daniel in terms of the fall of Jerusalem.  Thus, the reference to something happening in the middle of the last week of the seventy weeks of years is tantamount to the ultimate brink of the end (the Parousia?).  If the "great city which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also their lord was crucified" (Revelation 11:8) is an unmistakable reference to Jerusalem, as several scholars believe, the identification of the significance of Jerusalem's doom for John's audience is supported.

Syncretistic tendencies have been identified by Revelation scholars as the porneia (fornication) of which John accuses Jezebel and Babylon.  Perhaps syncretistic tendencies are an important rationale in John's choosing "Babylon" as the name of the harlot.  John appears to be greatly influenced by the book of Daniel.  The heroes of Daniel are the young men who resist syncretism, once they have been carried away into "Babylon."  They refuse to eat Babylonian food (Dan. 1:8) on the grounds that they would be defiled (summolunô in LXX) by (the syncretistic? act of) eating the king's food.  This is possibly the verse that John had in mind when he spoke in 14:4 of the "virgins" who were not defiled.  John uses the cognate molunô (defiled).  The Babylonians attempt to assimilate the young men into their religion by renaming the young men with Babylonian names, often associated with Babylonian deities. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are renamed respectively Shadrach, Meshach, and Aved Nego (Abednego).  Daniel is renamed Belteshazzar.  Daniel is determined to resist the law outlawing prayer to his God, even if it means incarceration with lions.  The other three young heroes are determined to resist pagan worship, even if it means death in a fiery furnace.  These heroes are models of anti-syncretism.  Even John's literary style in many ways imitates this thoroughly anti-syncretistic book.  (Incidentally, Belteshazzar is a name that philologists cite as evidence for a later date for the book of Daniel, because the "t" should not be in the spelling.  However, if the Jewish scribes who resisted syncretism added the "t" to the name Belshazzar in order to avoid the association of the hero Daniel with the Babylonian god, Bel, in the same way that the scribes added an extra "y" to Jerusalem, making it Yerushalayim, thus avoiding a pagan deity association, then the misspelling of Belshazzar is further evidence of an anti-syncretistic sentiment related to the book of Daniel.)
Daniel and Revelation’s Seven-Structure (“Time, Times, and Half a Time”).  The language in Revelation 11:2-3, related to the "forty-two months" = "a thousand two hundred sixty days" (= three and one half years) corresponds to Daniel 9 and the times of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.  In fact, the "three and one-half years" of the testimony of the Witnesses (11:3) and the "three and one half years" of the trampling of the city by the Gentiles (11:2) have overwhelming significance themselves.  They appear to be either one or both halves of the "last week of years" described by Daniel in chapter 9.  The historical fact that the Jewish-Roman War from 66 to 73 A.D. lasted an exact SEVEN YEARS (or in Daniel’s terminology a final “week of years”) which occurred within the same generation as Jesus’ audience, when he predicted the Parousia, and which was constantly filled with “wars and rumors of wars” (Mark 13:7), and which concluded in two segments of “time, times, and half a time,” from John’s Revelation prophecy, there is stunning accuracy to support the prophecies of Daniel, Jesus, and John.
Babylon (Jerusalem) is Fallen!  Yarbro-Collins is wrong, not only in her dating the writing of Revelation, but also in her identification of Babylon as Rome.  The execution of Jesus had been accomplished by means of an alliance between the Jewish High Priestly party and the local representatives of the Roman Empire--Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate.  It was common knowledge among Jewish leaders that the High Priestly family was indebted to Herod's family for its prestige and power.  Antipas' father, Herod the Great, had deposed the then-current (Hasmonean) High Priestly family in the years preceding Jesus' birth.  In its place Herod (the Great) had installed a High Priest from among the Jews of the Babylonian Diaspora (those Jews who had been "carried away" into Babylon in the sixth century B.C. and who had not yet returned to Palestine).  It is probable that the term "Babylon" in Revelation and I Peter is a code word for this High Priestly family and/or Jerusalem, the city controlled by the (Babylonian?) High Priestly family.  Yarbro Collins argues that John's use of the term Babylon provides evidence for a later date.  Unfortunately, her reasoning is circular.  She points out, "Most commentators agree that 'Babylon' . . . is a symbolic name for Rome."  This is circular reasoning since most commentators also place the date of writing at 96 A.D.  To her credit, Yarbro Collins observes:  “Most of the occurrences of Babylon as a symbolic name for Rome in Jewish literature are in the Apocalypse of Ezra . . ., the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch . . ., and the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles.  . . . [T]he context makes it abundantly clear . . . Rome is called Babylon because her forces, like those of Babylon at an earlier time, destroyed the temple and Jerusalem.”  This is an interesting and valuable observation which pertains to the interpretation of the term Babylon.  But, in her greatest use of circular reasoning, Yarbro Collins concludes, "It is highly unlikely that the name would have been used before the destruction of the temple by Titus.  This internal evidence thus points decisively to a date after 70 C.E." Has Yarbro Collins completely missed the point (she personally implied) that since Babylon is never associated in Revelation with "destroy[ing] the temple and Jerusalem," Babylon in Revelation is not Rome?  Babylon in Revelation is called a harlot.  J. Massyngberde Ford points out, "The harlot . . . is also a Jewish OT theme depicting Jerusalem . . . and there is no clear indication that Babylon is Rome as in the Christian Sibyllines."  If, as Ford understands, the harlot Babylon is faithless Jerusalem, John is continuing his rejection of the villains' nomenclature.  Thus, he renames "the holy city" (11:2) in which the "Lord was crucified" (11:8), "Sodom and Egypt."  If he refers to Jews who dwell in Judea, he calls them the "inhabitants of the land" and leaves off the words "of Israel" (in the same way that the “inhabitants of the land” in Genesis 34:30, 50:11, Numbers 14:14, 32:17, 33:52, 33:55, Joshua 2:9, 7:9, 9:24, Judges 1:33, etc., refers not to the Israelites, but to the pagan inhabitants of the land of Israel).

·         Revelation 17:6 identifies Babylon as being "drunk from the blood of the saints and from the witnesses [martus] of Jesus."  Revelation 18:24 claims that "in her was found the blood of the prophets and of the saints, and of all those having been slain on the earth/land."  The only specific city accused elsewhere in the New Testament of "killing the prophets" is Jerusalem (Matt. 23:29-39; Lk. 11:47-51; 13:33-34).  In the Old Testament, Ezekiel 22:2ff. calls Jerusalem the "city of bloodshed" who "brings on herself doom by shedding blood."
·         Ezekiel 16:13 calls Jerusalem "a queen."  In Revelation 18:7, Babylon calls herself a "queen."  Both are actually harlots, according to their respective "prophets."

·         Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8 speak of God giving Jerusalem/Israel/Judah a certificate of divorce.  Ford sees the scroll with seven seals as a specific type of bill of divorce (Ford, 92-94).  The progressive opening of these seven seals, as God progressively moves towards divorcing Babylon/Jerusalem is described in Revelation chapters 5-11.
·         In Ezekiel 16:29, Jerusalem increased her harlotry to "Babylonia, a land of merchants."  In Revelation 18:3, the kings of the earth/land commit porneia with Babylon and the merchants of the earth became rich with her.
·         Jeremiah 4:16 speaks of armies coming to destroy Jerusalem.  Jeremiah 6:1 urges people to "Flee from Jerusalem."  In Revelation 18:4, God's people are warned to "come out of her."
·         Ezekiel 16:37ff. warns Jerusalem the harlot that all of her lovers will gather against her and strip her naked.  Revelation 17:16 reports that the ten horns of the beast "will hate the harlot and will make her desolated [erêmoô] and naked and will eat her flesh and will burn her with fire."
·         Not only will Babylon be left desolated in the previous verse, but also in 18:16 and 19.  Likewise, the Septuagint/LXX of Daniel 9:27 leaves Jerusalem "desolated," and Matthew 24:15, predicting the destruction of Jerusalem, refers to Daniel's abomination of desolation, at which point Jesus urges those in Judea to "flee."

6.      The Battle of Armageddon.  During the years immediately preceding the destruction of the temple, John refers to Jerusalem as "Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified" (Revelation 11:8).  In this period, John writes of "the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" (2:9).  At this time, John calls Jerusalem "the harlot Babylon" (as J. M. Ford interprets) and exults in her gory destruction.  Since John cannot refer to the Battle of Jerusalem, he gives the battle a new name:  Armageddon.  The word Armageddon is translated into the Greek from the Hebrew har məgiddô (הר מגידו).  The word Har is translated into English as “mountain.”  The word məgiddô is spelled in the Greek translation (LXX) of II Chronicles exactly as it is spelled in Revelation.  Here is the account of the Battle of Megiddo from II Chronicles 35:20-25:  “After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him. But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, "What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you." However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo. The archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am badly wounded." So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in the second chariot which he had, and brought him to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers.”  Note, however, that Megiddo is not a mountain—but a plain.  The only mountain associated with the Battle of Megiddo is Mount Zion (or Jerusalem) where Josiah died.  John is continuing to refuse to refer to Jerusalem as Jerusalem or Mount Zion (a term he uses to refer to the 144,000 Christians).  So he refers to Mount Zion as Mount Megiddo.  The Battle of Armageddon took place from 66 to 73 A.D.  Jerusalem was annihilated (in the same way that Josiah was killed and his kingdom was destroyed in 609 B.C.  Revelation is true in it’s prediction in 69 A.D. that Babylon the Great (understand: Jerusalem) would fall near/short/quickly.

7.      The Destruction of the Beast and the False Prophet in the Lake of Fire.  What is the Lake of Fire?  For many individuals, it is just a synonym for Hell.  But, most don’t realize that, before Revelation, no one ever spoke or wrote of a Lake of Fire.  John coined the phrase.  For John, as for other Jews of his generation, a concept of a whole from which parts spring up and to which they return is the concept of the Nehar di-Nur (the "stream of fire").  This is not quite yet, however, a “lake of fire.”  Louis Ginzberg states:  "Thus there are angels who spring up daily out of the stream Dinur (='stream of fire'; comp. Dan. 7.10); they praise God, and then disappear.  Out of every word uttered by God angels are created."  Is John familiar with the "stream of fire"?  He does not mention this stream, but he describes a "lake of fire" into which the Devil and his angels are thrown.  I believe that not only is John familiar with the "stream of fire," he even adds a twist to the concept:  A stream keeps on flowing, but a "lake" is the end of the line.  (The Lake does not allow water or fire to flow out of it; if something or someone is cast into the “lake” of fire, it will never ever reemerge.)  Later Jewish writers speak of souls passing through the river of fire where "the wicked" are "judged."  Whether these Jewish writers originated the idea of a river of fiery judgment or picked up on John's "lake of fire" is uncertain, but their concept does seem to demonstrate the ease with which fiery judgment and the stream of fire may be connected.  The stream of fire is a magma anecdote--the whole in which God's "words" exist in their "essential" nature before and after becoming "angels" (= parts).  In Revelation 19:19, the kings of the earth assemble for war with the Messiah/Christ, after the harlot (=Babylon=Jerusalem) has been destroyed, and the Beast is at that point thrown into the lake of fire.  Remember the seven heads of the Beast who were seven kings:  Beginning with the first in the Caesarean family, Julius Caesar, if Julius were head one, head six would be Nero who died in 68 A.D. 
The seventh head (currently reigning as John wrote) would be Galba who reigned only in 69 A.D. or Otho who reigned only in 69 A.D. or Vitellius who reigned only in 69 A.D. 
Vespasian who became emperor after these 3 short-lived emperors in 69 A.D. was the eighth head—Nero come back to life!  Caird comments:  "Since the main trait of the monster's character is that it wages war on God's people, the emperor who best fits the specifications is Nero.  His suicide in A.D. 68 could have been regarded as a deadly wound.  . . . Only with the accession of Vespasian did the monster come to life again.”  Vespasian was Nero's general whom Nero sent to besiege Jerusalem, and who in 69 A.D. became emperor after the Roman civil war which followed Nero's suicide (in 68 A.D.).  With Caird, I find Vespasian to be the best candidate for the head which "seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed" (Revelation 13:3).  No other candidate for emperor could more clearly have represented Nero-returned-to-life to the Jews in 69 A.D. than did the general whom Nero sent to attack Jerusalem.  Whether this eighth head was Otho, Vitellius, or Vespasian, however, there was no longer a true “Caesar.”  When Nero committed suicide, the last of the Caesarean dynasty died.  Vespasian represented a new family on the throne—The Flavian dynasty.  Nero was the Beast whose name meant “666.”  An Aramaic document of Nero's reign from the Wadi Murabba'at, in Jordan, contains the required spelling for Nero Caesar which would equal six hundred sixty-six in either Aramaic or Hebrew.  (In Aramaic and Hebrew, letters stood for numbers—similar to the way Latin letters do in Roman numerals.)  With the death of Nero, the entire Caesarean dynasty of emperors (the Beast) could be thrown into the Lake of Fire.  The dynasty never returned.  The other individual (besides the Beast) who was thrown into the Lake of Fire, at this point, was the “False Prophet” (Revelation 19:20). I explain in Chapter Four of my book Revelation:  The Human Drama, specifically with respect to "priestly" terminology, John's "false prophet" is probably a high priestly reference.  John’s description of the "second beast" is probably also a reference to the high priestly family.  His "image of the beast" and the name "Babylon" are probably also high priestly references.  With the destruction of Jerusalem, the entire (Babylonian) high priestly family that had usurped the high priesthood (with the help of Herod the Great) was destroyed—never again to preside over any sacrifices in the Temple (which was also destroyed).  With this destruction, the False Prophet/Babylon/image of the Beast could be thrown into the Lake of Fire.  Revelation is true until proven false. 
The Dragon in the Abyss/Bottomless Pit.  In Revelation, the dragon is progressively defeated.  First, he (the dragon) is cast out of heaven (Revelation 12:9-10).  Apparently, this occurred when Jesus died and paid the price for the sins of humanity.  There is, therefore, no longer any room for an “accuser” in heaven.   Then, he is chained and confined in the Abyss for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).  Then, before the End, he will be released from the Abyss for a period of time for his last battle—of Gog and Magog (Revelation 20:3, 7-9).  Finally, at the End, he is cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).  The Abyss is not Hell.  It is not a place that no one can ever escape from.  Revelation 11:7 speaks of the Beast who comes up from the abyss "conquering" God's two witnesses--i.e., killing them.  If he can come up from the Abyss, being confined to the Abyss is not a final judgment situation.  It is only a temporary quieting of his activities.  Which of his activities are quieted?  “Deceiving the Nations” (Revelation 20:3 and 8). 

9.      Thousand Year Reign.  Caird writes:  "We return therefore to the question raised by the very first sentence of the Revelation.  What did John think was 'bound to happen soon'?  Certainly not the End, which was at least a millennium away."  Which prophecies did John expect to happen near/short/quickly?  The Parousia?  (Yes.  See the previous post— The Logic of Christianity 14).  The Fall of Jerusalem?  Yes, it is a historical fact.  History records it in almost as much gory detail as John prophesied.  The beginning of the 1000 year reign (The Millennium)?  Yes.  The destruction of the Beast and the False Prophet in the Lake of Fire?  Yes.  The imprisonment of the Dragon?  Yes.  The End of history?  No.  There is a cyclical plot in John's description of the reign of the Messiah.  The messianic reign begins on the heels of the Battle (of Armageddon) in which a woman (the harlot Babylon) is destroyed (16:16ff.), and it ends with a Battle (of Gog and Magog) which the "new Jerusalem" wins.  It begins with a preliminary defeat of the dragon, with his being imprisoned in the abyss (20:3), and ends with the ultimate defeat of the dragon, his being cast into the lake of fire (20:10).  Having destroyed the harlot Babylon in the battle of Armageddon, the Lamb and his bride celebrate and rule the earth in 19.1-20.6.  The beast and the false prophet (Rome and the Jewish High Priesthood) are cast into the lake of fire.  The dragon/Satan is confined for a thousand years to the Abyss.  The Christian martyrs are resurrected and reign for one thousand years with Christ.  Since the significance of confining the Dragon to the Abyss was to curtail his activities of “deceiving the nations,” it is interesting to note that (despite successive world empires—Babylonian, Mede-Persian, Greek, and Roman—for hundreds of years), with the Fall of the Roman Empire, world empires vanished for a thousand years.  Calculate the thousand years from the death of Nero in 68 A.D. to 1068 A.D. or from the Christianizing of Rome under Constantine in 313 A.D. to 1313 A.D.  Either way, you are brought to the Renaissance.  For the thousand years prior to the Renaissance--as my professor of Ancient Greek Poetry at Indiana University, Willis Barnstone (nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry), first brought to my attention—Christian literature dominated the world and secular literature was progressively destroyed “FOR A THOUSAND YEARS.”  Furthermore, there was a thousand year gap in the military atrocities of the great world empires.  For example, “During their first war with Carthage, a Roman fleet with 100,000 men was lost in a single day. Rome responded to this catastrophic loss by calmly sending in more troops and continuing the war for another decade and a half. Over the course of the second Carthaginian War, Rome suffered nearly 400,000 casualties without batting an eye. The Roman Empire wasn't really interested in outwitting its opponents -- it just outlasted them. If Rome had a problem, it kept throwing troops at it until it stopped causing trouble.  When the Roman Empire fractured, Europe's economy became increasingly localized. Without an intercontinental tax base and a healthy division of labor, giant standing armies became artifacts of a bygone era. This sudden lack of fiscal infrastructure also left the scores of kings and princes who filled the Roman power vacuum strapped for cash. Sure, they probably would have wanted to roar through the continent with a million men, legion style; they just didn't have the money to pay such huge armies.  Most leaders responded to this problem by introducing a feudal system; they divided and distributed their land holdings, dealing out plots for military service. Since very few of them had all that much land to begin with, this kept the armies relatively tiny -- even the most massive military forces of the latter stages of the era had well under 20,000 soldiers. Most armies were basically just large mobs. As such, warfare in the Dark Ages was defined by quick skirmishes fought between tiny forces. There were no campaigns, no decade-long struggles” (  And, what about Jesus and his martyrs reigning?  According to an even antagonistic source,, “Christianity may have grown from about 1,000 believers in 40 C.E. to about 5-8 million in 300 C.E. – just 260 years. That would require a growth rate of 40% per decade, as shown by this table:
Number of Christians, given 40% growth per decade
. . . That really is tremendous growth.”  According to

Growth of the Church in Numbers.

Estimated Christians
First century
Second century
Third century
Fourth century
Fifth century
Sixth century
Seventh century
Eighth century
Ninth century
Tenth century
Eleventh century
Twelfth century
Thirteenth century
Fourteenth century
Fifteenth century
Sixteenth century
Seventeenth century
Eighteenth century
A current pie chart of the world’s religions, supplied by looks like this:

I think that we can historically say that not only Revelation’s prediction that Jesus’ witnesses “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4), but also that Revelation’s prediction that the God and Christ “shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15, 22:5) came and is coming true.

10.  Satan’s Release after the Thousand Years.  Revelation 20:7-15 describes the final events of humanity's earthly existence.  After the thousand years, Satan is released to raise one final army to fight against the camp of God's people, the city he loves.  Once again, he “deceives the nations.”  In my third blog post in this series, “The Logic of Christianity 3:  The Four Logical Explosions of Human History,” I pointed to the writings of the atheist John Thomas Didymus, and his article “Failed End-of-World Predictions of Jesus’ Coming:  Montanists and the Ecumenical Council (1000 AD)”:  “The Ecumenical Council sitting in 999 declared solemnly that the world would end on January 1, 1000 A.D. That was the signal for mass madness. On the last day of the year, St. Peter's at Rome was filled with a crazed mass of people, weeping, trembling, screaming in fear of the Day of the Lord. They thought that God would send fire from heaven and burn the world to ashes . . . .  But New Year came and passes [sic] and nothing happened.”  (Article Source:  I credited that 1000 A.D. event (or lack of an event) for shocking the world into the Renaissance (a logical abandonment of the teaching of the Church), because the Church had relied on the Book of Revelation (aka, the Apocalypse) in predicting that Jesus’ reign on earth would last 1000 years.  Certainly, the Ecumenical Council believed that John’s Revelation was predicting that the BEGINNING of the 1000 year reign and the 1000 year imprisonment of the Dragon (aka, the Millennium) would be during the First Century A.D.  The impetus for the Renaissance began when Christians’ faith in the end of the world did not materialize at the time they expected it.  Not only did the Renaissance bring with it a rebirth of humanism, but also a new rise in “nationalism.”  According to, ”Just as the turmoil of the Later Middle Ages had cleared the way for sweeping economic, cultural, and technological changes in Western Europe, it likewise produced significant political changes that led to the emergence of a new type of state in Western Europe: the nation state.”  Is it mere coincidence that Revelation predicted a millennium in which the Dragon (who raised up world powers) would be inhibited in his “deceiving the nations” only to be released at the end of the thousand years to “deceive the nations” again?  Yet, this happened!  As cited earlier, “Rome suffered nearly 400,000 casualties without batting an eye.”  By contrast, as noted earlier, during the millennium following the Roman Empire, “warfare . . . was defined by quick skirmishes fought between tiny forces. There were no campaigns, no decade-long struggles.”  But, once the thousand years were concluded, the deceiving of the “nations” begins again.  From the Hundred Years War of the 14th and 15th centuries to the War of Roses to the Italian Wars to two World Wars of the 20th Century, it is clear that nationalism and attempts at creating new world empires have been rising.  Revelation’s predictions are, once again, true.  The Dragon has been released.

11.  The Battle of Gog and Magog.  So, now we look to the future predictions of Revelation.  Satan's final world powers, Gog and Magog, are destroyed by fire.  Who are these entities?  We don’t know, but we may speculate.  What about Gog and Magog?  What about the surrounding of the beloved city?  Now, Hal Lindsey, you may try your hand.  These were futuristic for John.  The symbols used are much more ambiguous and, thus, open to speculation.  Christians can surely supply interpretations that acknowledge the strength of the Contemporary-Historical method and yet preserve the expectant hope for the future triumphant return of Christ.

12.  The End of Satan, Death, and the Old Earth.  Satan and all whose names are not found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire.  Death itself is thrown into the lake of fire.  The epilogue, chapters 21 and 22, describe the new heavens and new earth in which the Lamb and his bride will spend eternity.

These final two prophecies have not, to the best of my knowledge, yet been fulfilled.  But, what does that prove?  It proves only that the world is continuing to exist.  It does not prove that it will always continue.  Revelation is true until proven false.