Jim Papandrea on the End of the World and Revelation
Date: August 20th, 2012
If we are to believe the hype surrounding the Mayan calendar controversy, we only have a few more months until the end of the world. So, what better way to celebrate than to have a podcast devoted to the book of Revelation? Prof. James Papandrea, an assistant professor of church history at the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary discusses his new book The Wedding of the Lamb: A Historical Approach to the Book of Revelation. Before digging into the historical context of first century Christians, Jim sets Tony straight on the whole Mayan calendar apocalypse thing, making your humble host fret about his recent spate of spending on end-of-the-world party supplies. Fortunately, Jim tells us, more Mayan calendars have been discoved pushing out the date of any eventual calamity. We then begin to discuss the book of Revelation, setting it in its historical context — an increasingly oppressive Roman Empire at a time when the Christian Church is expanding. We talk about who wrote it and when, with Jim favoring the thesis that its author was John, the Beloved Disciple, who also authored the Gospel of John. He further pinpoints the drafting of this book at approximately 95 A.D., making Tony wonder if it was possible or probable that John could have lived long enough to write that text. By Tony’s estimate, John would have been in his 80s at the time Revelation was written. Following this interesting discussion, we review what life was like for Christians in the latter half of the first century and why this is important in understanding Revelation. Prof. Papandrea, in addition to noting that much of the vivid imagery in Revelation was used to relate a vision that was difficult to describe, points out that there is a great deal of allusion back to texts in the Old Testament, of which Christians would have been familiar with at that time. We investigate the meanings of various numbers and symbols in the book of Revelation with Jim pointing out that numbers were not just numbers, but had very important symbolic significance. We run through numbers such as three, seven and six, as well as larger numbers such as 144 and 1,000. Along the way, we ponder some of the more impenetrable mysteries of life such as why there is a unit of measurement that is twelve dozen (i.e., a gross) and why the number of hot dogs in a package never matches the number of buns in a package. We then look at the more visual imagery such as the beast, the lamb, and the lampstands. Jim explains to Tony that the imagery of seven horns and seven eyes, while creepy to the reader, actually conveyed a message of strength and omniscience. The issue of time then is brought into play, and Jim discusses how there are several different diachronic perspectives that we have to be aware of when reading Revelation; it is not just a book that is written “outside of time,” but rather refer’s to the author’s past, present, and future. Part of that future — most notably the collapse of the Roman Empire — is now part of our past. Nonetheless, we bring up our own future with a discussion of eschatology. Throughout this interview, we make reference to a number of individuals who have interpretted Revelation in a more literal fashion or who have tended to miss the historical context and thus end up using the book to make wild predictions about contemporary events. Jim finishes with his thoughts on what he’s learned in studying this book in such detail, relaying the important point that Revelation is not about the “doom and gloom” so many people make it out to be, but rather is consistent with the good news of the other portions of the New Testament in that it signals a promise to be fulfilled — a wedding of the lamb. Recorded: August 1, 2012.
Prof. Jim Papandrea’s website at Garrett-Theological Seminary.
Prof. Jim Papandrea’s personal website (includes links to his writings, music, blog and Facebook page).
The Wedding of the Lamb: A Historical Approach to the Book of Revelation, by James L. Papandrea.
Spiritual Blueprint: How We Live, Work, Love, Play, and Pray, by James L. Papandrea.
James Papandrea on the Church Fathers and Patristic Exegisis.
Justin Barrett on the Naturalness of Religious Belief.
Brant Pitre on the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.
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