I was thinking a little bit recently about the symbolism present in Revelation. Anyone who has done even the most cursory study of the final book of the New Testament would be aware that it is in the genre of Jewish Apocalyptic literature, a highly figurative and symbolic form of writing filled with vague references and allusions. In addition to this, in order to avoid incurring the wrath of the Roman authorities at the time it was written, this symbolism acts as a form of code. What I was thinking about in particular was the numerology present in this work, and how numbers - from the 'Millennium' in chapter twenty to the multiple-headed beasts - are not used literally but to convey further meaning. Everything in this book is written for a purpose, and as an example, I will use the thousand year reign. A lot of people read this and think "oh, that's nice, Jesus will rule for a millennium." If you take the numerology into account, you will quickly realise the thousand is not literal. Three is the number of God, ten is the number of wholeness and completion, and 10x10x10, 10^3, 10 cubed, is 1000. The 'Millennium' can therefore be read as the whole and complete reign of God for an unspecified period of time, not a literal thousand years.
So what does that have to do with anything? Why am I explaining symbolism in what many find to be the most confusing book in the Bible? And how in the world does that possibly relate to my preface where I say this can be applied to other facets of life? Well, most people ignore this symbolism and ignore the depth of many works. They take what they see, view works on a shallow face-value basis, and make judgements without inquiring deeply. And ultimately, they miss the point.
Within Christianity, a movement has developed that aims to take the Bible - including Revelation - literally. This ultimately results in a reading where the texts are taken at face value and symbolism is ignored for the sake of "reading what the text actually says." The author's intent is completely ignored. This has been taken to the point where so-called theologians attempt to interpret today's headlines with the Bible (particularly Revelation) and interpret the Bible (particularly Revelation) with today's headlines. They read the Bible on a purely present-day level, looking at it solely from their short-term perspective. This has been a typical pattern of behaviour over history, though. People have read Revelation only in the context of their generation and proclaimed that the End is nigh.
This is a gross error. Historical documents - not just the Bible, but all texts - need to be read in their position in time. People behave as if Revelation is only relevant to today, and to those who believe that, I have just one question: why did anyone for almost two thousand years bother to retain a copy of Revelation, let alone read it or include it in the canon of holy texts? This book was written to the early Christians, and not just the first few chapters but THE ENTIRE THING! It was included in the Bible because it was seen as valuable to the ENTIRE body of Christ. It was seen as a relevant work for believers to read and study, viewed as a source of theological knowledge and edification, and has subsequently proved to be of value to Christians (and others) throughout the ages. This book should not be studied in light of today's headlines, but in light of the past that has culminated in today.
This is a problem that occurs often, I am sure. People do not make an effort to fully understand the genre of a text or its place in history and come to completely errant conclusions. I would argue that premillennialist theology has come from a lack of understanding of the genre of Revelation and the fad of using headlines to interpret Revelation is a result of reading the text as if it is solely written for today. If you take the time and effort to place a work in its proper time and work to understand its full meaning, you will complete your study having acquired much valuable knowledge.
Oh, and if you are wondering why there is no birthday tribute for Kate ... it's because you can't read it. Imagine me laughing evilly in your general direction.
Yes, I am feeling really apt with today's music. Really, really apt.