The Revelations of John (an Exile in Patmos) Reconsidered ,… Sort of

Or perhaps, the “Reconsiderations of Bill or Guille” (an expatriate of sorts in Manizales)

Introduction

(The serious part)

The purported revelations of John of Patmos (really, an expatriate who fled to Patmos), a John who styled himself the Elder, the purported book of revelations written on or about the year 96 of the Common Era, seem, in their apocalyptic aspects, almost completely Zoroastrian.  A cartoonish culmination of the doctrine of ethical dualism.  Indeed, the version of Yešu[1] it envisions, denominated “Christ”, seems utterly different than the loving Jesus reflected in modern imagery, much more the messiah longed for by racist, ethnocentric Hebrews, to whom all others were inferiors, now, ironically, subsumed in fundamentalist Paulist Christianity[2].

Interestingly, old Johnny seemed most bothered by the sexual and dietary heresies of the Nicolaitans, followers of Nicholas the Deacon, a real apostle (unlike Saul, albeit as a replacement) and member of the Jerusalem Community.  As in today’s uber polarized world, relatively irrelevant issues were used to divide people who had much more in common than in conflict, the apparent goal (as it is today) being the elimination of any who held contrary views, regardless of how innocuous.  The Nicolaitans’ horrible heresy (according to their detractors, including John but strangely, not Saul), involved the belief that monogamy was not essential and that sharing those beloved with others was a positive, rather than a negative thing, true love promoting the joy and pleasure of the beloved, rather than restricting it; but also, the belief that it was not inappropriate to eat food (specifically meat), offered in sacrifice to idols if it had first been exorcised, … probably important when food was scarce.

John was not original in his revelations, primarily using imagery, threats and promises old before Yešu had purportedly incarnated.  Imagery, threats and promises made in writings such as the books of Daniel and Ezekiel in the Old Testament, 1 Esdras in the Apocrypha, the Book of Enoch in the Pseudepigrapha, the Assumption of Moses, and, portions of the Synoptic Gospels.  He merely placed them in a new, anti-Roman Imperial context, and directed them specifically against the Roman Emperor and those who followed him, especially followers of Yešu willing to compromise the beliefs Pauline Christianity required of them.  In essence, he was a plagiarist, but that was not looked down upon in antiquity.  Indeed, a popular literary device at the time was the antithesis of plagiarism, giving famous others credit for what one had written in order to enhance its impact.

Of course, all of the threats and promises reflected in John’s purported revelations were to take place while the Roman Empire continued to exist in its pagan version.  It’s hard to believe that they applied after the Roman Empire became Pauline, when it became Pauline Christians who engaged in persecution, torture and murder, as well as who placed restrictions on religious beliefs; actions such as those attributed by John to the Romans.  Hence, everything predicted should have taken place prior to the Emperor Constantine’s decrees in the year 331 of the Common Era, decrees which made Pauline Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. 

Through distorted rationalization (such as are common today in journalism) disassociated from the religious aspect of John’s purported revelations and focused exclusively on their political dimension, i.e., the existence of the Roman State, one could, albeit unconvincingly, argue that the promised (or threatened) events need only have occurred prior to the fall of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire in the year 1453 of the Common Era.  And if later, only if today’s Vatican State is seen as the continuation of the Roman Empire against which John railed can an argument be made that the prophecies of John’s purported revelations remain merely inchoate, rather than utter claptrap.

Interestingly, the sexual beliefs associated with Nicholas the Deacon seem to never have gone out of style and seem, at least since the 1960’s, to have emerged from the closet, as it were.  As to eating food sacrificed to idols, well, who knows?  Who can tell where today’s food has its origins, regardless of labeling laws, … except perhaps for Kosher food.

Summary of John’s Imagery

(The satirical part.  Accurate, but satire just the same.  Unavoidably so):

Yešu, in his role as the Pauline “Christ”, purportedly speaking from heaven to John, addresses messages to seven angels, each responsible for one of seven specific Pauline churches in Asia Minor.  One might ask why Yešu, in heaven, would need the assistance of John, to address his angels, but evidently the divine communication network was not functioning at the time.  So much for ubiquitous omnipresence.

With reference to the seven angels, one each had purportedly been assigned the role of guardian to Pauline churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Pergamum, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.  Evidently, five of the angels were not doing such a great job at eliminating those who found the doctrines of the Nicolaitans reasonable.  Yešu seems especially miffed with the angel charged with guarding the Pauline church at Pergamum, where “Satan”[3] was purported to have his headquarters. 

Interesting. 

One wonders if Pergamum has been carefully searched in quest of a portal leading to the infernal regions.  For anyone interested, the site of Pergamum is located sixteen miles from the Aegean Sea on a lofty isolated hill on the northern side of the broad valley of the Bakır River, a site currently occupied by the modern town of Bergama, in the province of İzmir in Turkey.  One wonders if, as in the Colombian municipality of Rio Sucio, they have biannual carnivals dedicated to “the Devil”.

Following Yešu’s message to his angels, strangely, via John (as I’ve noted), he describes to John, evidently for transmittal to us, a message concerning seven seals (no, not the animals, just scrolls) on which is (or will be) purportedly written an account of events that “are about to take place” (the term “about” was evidently to be interpreted in a very broad manner, a manner to include any temporal period whatsoever; hmmm, a bit suspicious that).  But only Yešu is purportedly authorized to open the seals (no one else being worthy). 

There follows a bit of equine fantasy (I’m rather fond of horses myself) as the first four seals, if ever opened (John assures us they will, be, Yešu told him so) for some reason deal with horses.  Sigismund Schlomo Freud might have had something to say concerning that imagery, had it ever been brought to his attention.  Perhaps it was and perhaps he did.  Hmmm, on at least one occasion Freud did discuss equine fixations as follows: he interpreted horses, as a phobia (unfortunately he did not discuss them directly as a fixation), as symbolic of the father, and that fear that a horse would bite represented fear of castration as punishment for incestuous desires towards the mother, an expression of the Oedipus complex.  One might wonder what that tells us about John.  As far as I know, Yešu had no personal interaction with horses, only asses, although certain ranks of Roman soldiers in Palestine (where Yešu lived) did use them.  For the safety of my eternal soul then, I’ll limit my observations to John.

Anyway, again according to Yešu (via John), when Yešu opens the first seal, a white horse will appear whose rider will go forth to conquer. Other seals will then be opened, and three more horses: a red one, a black one, and a pale one, will appear in rapid succession.  According to analysts of John’s purported revelations, the four horses and their respective riders purportedly symbolize the conflicts that will mark the beginning of the final destruction of the Roman Empire (and have nothing to do with an Oedipal Complex, but, … who knows).

When the fifth seal is opened, the souls of those who have been waiting for the purported second coming, in duly respectful tones but obviously “verily” annoyed, will demand to know (respectfully of course), how much longer they have to wait until their suffering is avenged, but will be advised (one assumes by Yešu) that they still have a while to wait, and that their wait is likely to be unpleasant, but that if they are patient and faithful (it seems they were not merely souls, but living entities as well), they will be among the redeemed whose names are written in a “Book of Life”.  Evidently, such souls will never have been previously exposed to the revelations of John and will thus be ignorant of what is happening; apparently not being all that conscientious in complying with their Pauline educational obligations.

According to good old John, the scene then changes and we will embark on act two of his revelations.  One wonders if John’s production might not make a good video game.  Four angels representing the four winds of heaven will be told to hold back their winds (hmmm, flatulent angels) until “the servants of God have had seals placed on their foreheads”.  “Ouch”; one wonders if that will hurt.  It seems quite a bit like branding.  Then, apparently, notwithstanding the billions who have, since the dawn of the Common Era, attempted to comply with the usually incoherent, incomprehensible and contradictory instructions they keep receiving from the heirs of Paul (and presumably John) in Yešu’s name of course, all but a very few of them, 144,000 to be precise, will be sentenced to perdition.  As of the dawn of 2023, the world’s current population is approximately eight billion people, most of whom may have souls (although most politicians, lawyers, journalists and priests may not).  As of the dawn of 2023, it is estimated that 117 billion people have lived on Earth, the vast majority having lived following the start of the Common Era.  Assuming that Yešu decarnated (a neologism for when he abandoned his “carnate” form) approximately 1,990 years ago, as 2023 dawns, that means that, were the events “imagined” by John to occur today, an average of only about 72 people per year would have been “saved”.  One wonders at those stuck in Limbo, all the unbaptized infants, etc., what is to happen to them?  That means that fewer people will be “saved”, regardless of their piety, belief and conduct, than currently comprise the 0.01% who rule and own us.  What are the probabilities that such 0.01% have somehow cornered this market as well?  Hmm, they currently constitute about 800,000 people; that means that less than one in five of them will make the cut.  Interesting situation, at least for them.  For the rest of us, it’s apparently “Abandon All Hope”.

Anyway, according to Yešu (according to John), before Yešu opens the rest of the seals, another series of disasters will be heralded by seven angels, each one carrying a trumpet. One wonders if the seven angels are the same each time, or if they arrive in teams of seven.  The trumpets must be huge as they have massive destructive power when blown, although they perhaps are only indicia of coming calamities, Harbingers in Black, perhaps like those that the Latin American poet César Abraham Vallejo Mendoza wrote about in his poem, “Los Heraldos Negros”. 

Following the blowing of the trumpets, a massive earthquake will purportedly occur, turning rivers to blood.  The light of the sun and the moon will be extinguished and the stars will come unglued and fall to Earth.  Then things will really get bad, especially for any surviving persecutors of (one assumes) the 144,000 lucky ones.  Given all the schisms in Pauline Christianity since John’s day, where members of each Pauline denomination claim all others are to be condemned to Hell as heretics, certainly a form of persecution, it would seem that the most avidly religious may well be both among the punished and the vindicated, concurrently, which may explain the 144,000 number.

John, apparently paraphrasing Yešu, unless he has a really good memory, then maligns dragons, equating them with poor old confused Satan (remember the whole thing with Hêl él, Lucifer, and Sama’el; now they’re turned into a dragon, yeesh!!!).  But apparently, Satan and Marcus Cocceius Nerva, the Roman Emperor in the year 96 of the Common Era (when John purportedly wrote his “revelations”), are to be considered one and the same.  Poor Nerva; he did not reign long at all, just fifteen months, and he was a reformer of sorts, no Caligula or Nero.  But then, perhaps communication was slow back then and good old John thought that someone else was in charge.  However, one would assume that Yešu would have known better.  Perhaps poor John just misunderstood.  After all, it may be that Yešu was declaiming to John in Enoquiano, the mythical celestial language.  And there have never been all that many certified, or even qualified Enoquiano translators and interpreters, at least since the fall of that tower in Babel.

Anyway, ….

The “Dragon”, a-Satan (clearly a reference to Hêl él who rebelled in Heaven against YHWH and then purportedly schemed with Herod I, also known as Herod the Great, to do away with the infant Yešu) will somehow have been busy along with his retinue of angels (supposedly fully one third of the former Heavenly Host), challenging Yešu, YHWH and the Holy Spirit, purportedly working through poor Nerva (more probably his predecessors as Nerva was the first of the Five Good Emperors, or perhaps his successors, or perhaps the Papacy, or who knows who).  At any rate, “he” (whoever “he” is) will have been the one who will have been persecuting Yešu’s followers.  Hmmm, that “he” could be any leader of any purportedly Pauline church[4] since, based on the aforementioned thousands of Pauline schisms, almost all followers of Yešu will have been commended to condemnation in Hell and to damnation (assuming the two things are different) by other followers of Paul, given that they each consider all others blasphemous heretics.

Actually, the aforesaid “he” ought to be easy to recognize as, according to good old John (as told to him directly by Yešu), “he” will have seven heads and ten horns and will be somehow further identifiable by calculating his number, it should be “666” (although how our numbers are calculated remains a mystery); so be in the lookout for anyone fitting that description.

As the end finally draws near (again), again according to John as told directly by Yešu, or perhaps only by Yešu’s voice, three angels will appear (one wonders what will have happened to the other four, if indeed they are the same, or why the change in numbers if they are different; and whatever will have happened to the horses and their jockeys?).  One angel will announce that the hour of God’s judgment has come, the second one will yell that Babylon has fallen (which happened millennia ago so is no surprise) and the third will be doing his best to terrify anyone who’s been worshipping “the Beast” (probably the Dragon, you remember, our composite nemesis), all of whom are to then be thrown into a lake of fire where they will forever be destroyed. Hmmm, that seems a bit oxymoronic at best, poor phrasing, as destruction seems a final event rather than a process.  But then again, as you may recall, it may be that Yešu was declaiming to John in Enoquiano, hard for mortals to understand.

As if that’s not enough, with all the bad guys frying in a lake of fire (sounds sort of like something the Nazis were accused of doing), seven more angels will then appear (ahhh, the seven reunited perhaps), each one carrying a bowl filled with one of seven plagues as YHWH will be really wroth!!!!.  One wonders at the interaction of the fire in the humungous lake into which billions of bodies and souls are frying, with the plagues, which are to be as follows, almost as though they were a recipe: the first bowl will have some sort of agent generating “foul and evil sores” on the men who at the time bear the mark of the beast and who worship its image (does that mean women will be exempt, just asking, that will certainly please feminists); the second, will be poured into the sea (which sea is not clear), and will turn its waters into blood (which supposedly had already occurred to rivers somewhat earlier), but this time, killing everything there (assuming our pollution has not already done that).  Hmmm, it seems YHWH will become a mass polluter. Then, similar calamities, all different, will follow as each angel carelessly empties its bowl, without any thought for the consequences.

So, having destroyed everyone and everything except for the 144,000 lucky prize winners, Yešu will finally return, riding on clouds (hopefully not thoroughly polluted) and, amazingly, it appears that the fiery lake and plagues will not have been enough to destroy all the “wicked”, because more will be slain by the light Yešu’s coming generates (as though he were radioactive).  Apparently, concurrently with that event, the Dragon (a-Satan, etc.) will be bound underground for a thousand years and the Earth itself will be condemned to a thousand year period of desolation.  In the meantime, the 144,000 lucky righteous ones will have been flown to a celestial city where they can hang out with YHWH, Yešu, the Holly Spirit, and those angels who’d declined Hêl él’s invitation to rebel.

But that’s only for a single millennium.  Apparently, somehow, during that time, the remainder of the 117 billion will have recovered; revived so that they can be destroyed again.  Interesting to speculate as to when they will have died as their torment was to have been perpetual, what with the fiery lake, the plagues and all.

Anyway, according to John, as told to him by the voice of Yešu (one wonders if his voice is an entity in and of itself, which would seem to make the trinity a bit crowded), the celestial city will land on earth and someone or someones will engage in one more wars (which will probably make the 144,000 very happy, as, assuming they coincide with the current 0.01% who rule us, war seems to be their favorite pastime), and the wicked will be destroyed … again.  After which, the residue of humanity will live happily ever after, perpetually partying with YHWH, Yešu, the Holly Spirit, and those angels who’d declined Hêl él’s invitation to rebel, in the celestial city now on earth.  Given the slight population, it could be on a tiny Island somewhere in the Caribbean perhaps, perhaps near Eden, a new Jerusalem with streets of gold,  walls of jasper and gates of pearl (and what about windows?), in the midst of the good old River of Life, which will flow eternally from the throne of God, with neither sorrow nor crying allowed (or else), for God will wipe away all tears (one wonders, with no crying, from whence tears will appear), and there will be no more death.

One does wonder a bit what might happen to any of the happy denizens of the grounded celestial city, should they become a bit too independent; one wonders whether “free will” will be an aspect of that paradise; one wonders, … just asking, what would happen to any who might transgress.  You know, sing out of tune or harp off chord or something.  Perhaps wonder about dear old Nicholas the Deacon.

Anyway ….

Amen.

Concluding Observation

One wonders what happened after good old John sobered up.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2023; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.


[1] Yešu, commonly referred to as Jesus, or the Christ, or Joshua, or Yeshua, but the correct Aramaic variant (the name he might answer to) was Yešu.  He never, ever, ever answered to Christ.

[2] The adjective Paulist is added because Saul of Tarsus perverted the original teachings of Yešu, for his own purposes, in opposition to the religious movement that initially sought to promote the beliefs espoused by Yešu as promoted by Yešu’s brothers and apostles through an organization known as the Jerusalem Community.  He referred to his counter movement as Christianity and to Yešu as the “Christ”, a Greek term roughly analogous to messenger or messiah.  Saul, who renamed himself “Paul” for some reason, first tried to destroy the Jerusalem Community through legal and religious means within Judaism (including assassinations) but eventually found it much more profitable to coopt it, disassociating them from their Jewish origins by melding Jewish beliefs with Greek spiritual philosophies.

[3] Known to latter pre-Pauline Hebrews as ha-Satan, the unfortunate syncretic composite through mistranslation by Jerome of Stridon of the Hebrew archangel Hêl él, Lucifer, the Roman god of truth and light, and, YHWH’s chief legal advisor and prosecutor, Sama’el.  Poor Lucifer, eternally calumnied since then.

[4] All leaders with the possible exception of a certain Jorge Mario Bergoglio, also known currently as Pope Francis I.  He’s an unusually forgiving and empathic sort who refuses to condemn anyone.

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