Do you keep a healthy distance between yourself and the book of Revelation? Have a loved one who believes super weird things about Revelation? If so, you're in good company.
Scot McKnight wrote a brilliant book called Revelation for the Rest of Us that turns all of those weird ways of interpreting Revelation on their heads and shows us what Revelation truly is. It turns out that the book of Revelation is a brilliantly subversive book about resisting the evil ways of whatever empire the people of God find themselves living in, whether it's Babylon, Rome, or America. Revelation calls us to give our faithfulness and allegiance to the slaughtered Lamb who has triumphed over the violent and oppressive ways of the empire.
Scot is a brilliant New Testament scholar who has become a great friend of the podcast. We're excited to share more of Scot with you.
In this episode, we tasted Leopold Bros. Straight Bourbon.
To skip the tasting, go to 7:42.
You can find the transcript for this episode here.
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NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.
The dragon stood on the shore of the sea, and I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had 10 horns and seven heads with 10 crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard but had feet like those of a bear in a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and throne and it great authority.
Sets. That's Joe Biden, right?
Yes, yes. Episode over there it is,
it is done
praise. I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.
We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.
Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. So don't assume last night with four old friends like college Minister friends, and I'm in reading this book of Revelation and by Scot McKnight. And I asked them, What are your thoughts on the book of Revelation? And, again, surprised by how one of one of my friends he's been he's, he's a leader at his church. He has been in the church since he was a kid. He said, This member of my family scared the pants off of me when I was a kid about Revelation and talking about when Jesus is going to come back and giving me these predictions. So much so that I've never been able to engage with the book of Revelation again, in my life as a Christian. And it blew me away that that's kind of still a prevalent perspective on the book of Revelation. Is that like, someone traumatize me with this? And I can't engage with this book ever again. Yeah. Right. So this episode is for those people. And it's for those of us who just think revelation is super weird, and don't know what it means have no idea what's going on in there. And it's kind of off limits, right? Or maybe we grew up in that same kind of home. But this book that Scot McKnight wrote called revelation for the rest of us is a brilliant book that really, really is, should be a companion for anybody reading through the book of Revelation.
Yeah, it's really great. I remember sitting in my private Christian Middle School, in the required chapel services bored out of my mind. So I grabbed the King James Bible in front of me and flipped to Revelation started imagery, because it was the most engaging and interesting book for a child. as nerdy as I was. And man, I wish I had had a framework like the one laid out in this book for understanding it, because for the longest time, I mean, it just seems terrifying, and it seems vengeful, and it seems, yeah, like something that you would write if you really hate most of the people in the world, frankly, and you kind of want to want to see vengeance done on them in the most violent way. And that is such a poor reading of Revelation. And a book like this does a really excellent job of giving you a better alternative and illustrating why that's such a an irresponsible read.
Yeah. I mean, the ultimate ironies of the book of Revelation is that so many people see it as a dark, violent, vindictive book of vengeance, when really, it's a book about the victory of God and the the Justice coming to the earth, being done with oppression, and God making all things new, enter right and good. That's what the book of Revelation is. So it's just so ironic that it's seen as completely opposite of that. And that so many Christian nationalists and so many people who are like overly in love with America, I would say, and really in love with the State of Israel, all that cling to the book of Revelation. I think it's the best thing ever, when really, it's a book about how the evil empire is influencing the church way too much.
Right. Right. So it's it's every bit as relevant and timely as they think it is. But for all the opposite.
Exactly. Yes. I can't wait for this conversation with Scot McKnight. This is Scott's fourth time on the show. This is he's he's become surely a friend of the show. Yeah, yeah. New record. I think so. Yeah. New Testament scholar. He's one of the most prolific writers about the New Testament that he's alive. And he's just a fun guy to be around. He's like my favorite uncle. Awesome. What are we tasting today? Yeah,
let's take some bourbon. So one of the things we do on the show, if you haven't listened before, is we taste an adult beverage, because we're pastor philosopher walk into a bar, and it just kind of sets the mood and we love bourbon. And so what I have here is a bourbon that was recommended by one of our previous guests. If you remember back to when we had the philosopher teen when on the show, so good, and we asked him what he was drinking. He recommended this distillery called Leopold brothers. They don't distribute to Wisconsin, unfortunately, so I had to wait until the next time I drove to Chicago to find a
bottle of this. Let it planted. That's it. Did you start to
pick this up in Chicago? This is there straight bourbon whiskey 45%, four years old, and it is open fermentation. And that's that's what makes them a little different. And he claimed when we talked to him that you could tell that you can taste the difference. So we'll we'll find out.
This smells like it made sense when you said it's 45% because this smells like kind of a classic bourbon. That's not cask strength or anything like that.
Yeah, it has a very bright nose. I get a lot of fruit light fruit on it. Yeah,
citrus. I get lemon and then I get the library books. Yeah, mostly books that
dusty. I wonder if that's part of it being What's it open?
Yeah. Fermented. Yeah. So So basically, if you were to make a saison or like a Farmhouse Ale and turn that into whiskey, this is what this is. Okay.
That didn't go the direction I thought it would.
Sorry, I was having a gastrointestinal moment here.
Some distress. Yeah.
Give us some tasting notes. Randy.
Yes. No. I mean, it's, it's good. It's one of those whiskies that doesn't do a ton. In a really good way. It's I mean, it's simple. It's straightforward. It's not super complex. But it's got a really, really nice, you can tell it's not young, it's got a grid mashbill that it's, it's just a well rounded bourbon, I think.
Yeah, I do get some complexity. I think it changes two or three times. On the way through to the finish the finishes, lingers a bit, which I really appreciate the bourbon, especially when this young there's also a five year I think, and I wonder what difference that would make. I'm not getting any of that funk that maybe I expected to get from that kind of fermentation process. But it is a Yeah, nice. Well Rounded bourbon, I have no negative comments.
I like the balance of sweet and he and it goes a little bit the direction of arrive for me. Sure.
Yeah. Yeah. So it is hard, right? I guess accounts is how arrived 15%. That's
in the tea, say this is his favorite, or he just recommended they
were making some of the most interesting bourbon right now. They do have, they have another method. I don't know if they invented it or revived it. But it's like a three chamber ride. Don't ask me what that means. Just Google it. Kyle. Nobody needs to know this stuff. I'm just saying they do an interesting stuff that other people aren't doing. And so yeah, so maybe there's there's more out there. We should try. Awesome. Well, what is again, this is called Leopold brothers for years straight bourbon whiskey.
Thank you teen when cheers.
It's a very satisfying Clink.
That was a good sound, good sound.
So we'd like to read reviews on the show. We love getting your reviews. We love hearing your feedback, what you're thinking, we got a really interesting email from someone named row. And I just want to read you a little bit of it, because it's excellent, and we appreciate it. So row says I've now been listening to your podcast for about a year. And it's easily become my favorite podcast by a long stretch. There aren't even any close contenders. I grew up steeped in the evangelical fundamentalist type of Christianity that tends to prevail in conservative Midwest communities. But by the grace of God, I found myself in a Bible program at a Christian College, where I found mentorship and a handful of professors who think very much the way you do. It's that cocktail of gentleness, graciousness and knowledgeability that won me over then, and converted me into a progressive, much to the chagrin of the communities I grew up in. And I find that same delicate balance in your podcast, as my relationship with God and God's world continues to change and grow. I found your podcast, such a gift and a guide. I can't express how grateful I am not just for your content, but for the way you present it. It's one of the things that makes me want to keep following Jesus. How about that? Yeah. That's why we do it. Yeah.
Thank you ro. Scot McKnight, welcome back to a pastor philosopher walk into a bar. Great to be with you guys again. Yeah, I think tonight, Scott, you're setting the record. You're breaking your tie with Beth Ellison bar for most appearances on the podcast. Oh, about that. I'm pretty sure that's really fourth time. I'm gonna have to write
her let her know. Absolutely winning.
So you wrote this book about Revelation. I don't know how long in the making this book was Scott. But can you tell us where the book came from? Why you wanted to write it?
How long did it take to write I'm 69 years old. It probably took at least 55 of those years. I grew up in dispensationalists. In the first Bibles that I bought, with my paper out money, I was about 13. Well over 13 was a Scofield Bible reference Bible. The old one, you know, yeah. And a Morocco leather. My dad said it was a nicer Bible than he had. And I learned a little bit of dispensationalism from that from the notes in that Bible, none of my pastors were big on the Scofield Bible, but it was the Bible of preference in our church. When I was in high school though, I encountered Salem kerbed who most people do not know, Salem Kirby, but he was before how Lindsay writing the same kind of stuff that Lindsay wrote. And some people think how Lindsay got his ideas from Salem, kerbed He wrote a book called 666. And then I read a guide to survival, which was written for people who survived the rapture, and were left on earth, and this would guide them through the tribulation. In college, I read Bob Gundry, Robert Gundry, his book that convinced me of a post trib rapture, and at that point, I was semi connected with being a liberal, for being post trib. I sort I mean, it was a big issue in college, the all the eschatology stuff, and then I just I went to seminary and that stuff just sort of disappeared from me. I got interested in other topics, really did not get much interested in that until I was teaching in seminary at Trinity, and I taught on the Gospel of Matthew Matthew 24. And I realized then that I was a somewhat of a preterist, trying to teach that Matthew 24 was about 70 ad. I had read Josephus, you know, the Jewish war. And I, it just all seemed so first century to me. But I did not teach much of about eschatology. When I taught college students, it just never came up all that much. I never talked the Book of Revelation, I did give a lecture too, at times in survey courses. But then I've read it, I've read about it. I've always been interested a little bit in it. I read Jewish apocalyptic literature. And I was ready just all of a sudden say, let's I want to do this, a demon student, a doctoral student of mine, said in class one day, would you teach in our next course, the book of Revelation. And I thought, you know, I'd really like to do that. But there's no way in my schedule that I can do that for the next class. So a couple years later, I saw what was happening in my schedule. And I said, it's time. So I began to work on the book of Revelation. I had read several books recently that really got me interested in it again. And I taught it with Cody Matchett was my graduate assistant. And I told Cody when we were preparing lectures, and when we were, I was working on it. I said, Well, when this class finishes, I'm going to start writing a book on this, I'm gonna see if it works. And if it does, I want you to be the co author. And in December, I was already writing pages. So that's, that's sort of my interest. I'm, I became convinced, long time ago, that dispensationalism, as classically known in the speculation type approach is a serious misreading of the book of Revelation. Yeah, I mean, I don't mean just, it's a preference. I mean, it's wrong. Yeah. That's not what this book is doing. Yeah,
that was literally my next question on the outline, because we've avoided talking directly about dispensationalism. On the show so far, it's come up tangentially every now and then. So this is a good opportunity to actually say, what's wrong with it? So can you just set up for our listeners who may not be familiar with it, what it is how they read Revelation, why they read it that way? And what do you think the major issues are?
There's a lot of things going on in dispensationalism. It's almost like an entire systematic theology and an entire way to read the Bible. So it's a it's a big set of care. It's as big as Calvinism. In that sense. It's as big as any kind of theological agenda. But first of all, it teaches people to read the Bible in a pattern of seven stages. I can never remember the stages, I haven't thought about them since I was in college where I had to write it down on a on a test. So there are like seven stages. Of course, the last is eternity, the kingdom of God, etc. Wouldn't be kingdom of God. But the characteristics of dispensationalists are sort of a major emphasis on the rapture of Christians from planet Earth, where they will suddenly go up into the sky, sky writers, and they whatever they're doing, Jesus will return as if they're driving a car, their car will go careening into other cars. If they're typing on a machine, the typing will stop. If they're riding a bicycle, the bicycle or you know, whatever they're doing, it's going to add, and we'll all be lifted into the sky to be with Jesus. And then there will be a seven year tribulation on Earth where things will just get impossibly difficult. And God will breathe out His wrath and convince Israel and asleep that the rapture is of the church. The Tribulation prepares people for the millennium. And the millennium is for Jews who believe in Jesus. And at the end of the millennium, there's judgment, everything that everything turns into the New Jerusalem and eternity. That those are sort of the big pictures of, of dispensation dispensationalism. And it teaches people to read the book of Revelation as a as a, let's say, minute predictions of what will happen on planet Earth in graphic detail. So that the readers become speculators, I like to call them they, people who interpret it. Their their preoccupation tends to be coup in the modern world, Vladimir Putin corresponds to which character in the book of Revelation ie, the beasts from the land, the beasts from the sea. And so there's there's always been a preoccupation with identifying countries, Russia, Nazi Germany, China, I was interviewing with somebody the other day, tried to convince me here, he's got me talking about this book. He's trying to convince me that China, China is predicted in the book of Revelation. I, oh, boy, I don't know what I'm going to do here. It that's the sort of thing with dispensations. But what I began to realize in the 80s was everything that I was taught in the 60s and 70s, every prediction that anybody made was wrong. Yes. And I thought, at some point, we're just gonna say, this is not the way to read the book of Revelation. But you would think you would think, you know, who do isn't that what they say? Who knows that all of a sudden, that will just start fighting more and more people, you know, it'll just keep going and going and going, and now John Hagee, you know, down there in Texas somewhere, he's he's predicting all these things again, and they a lot of them believe that. In 1948, Israel became a nation as a fulfillment of the fig tree and Matthew 24, they believe the temple will eventually be rebuilt, and that there will actually be sacrifices on the temple again. So that's, that's pretty literal, real.
I mean, I don't I say this more seriously than snarkily. But it's, it resembles astrology more than theology to me. So John, as
long as people don't quote me saying, alright, alright, that's me.
You can just nod along. Yeah, it won't be attributed to you. This isn't
in the outline, Scott. But this would be helpful, I think, for our listeners. So we get the translation of the Revelation of St. John, but really, the book is called The Apocalypse of St. John and its book of Revelation is one of the few apocalyptic books in the Bible. Can you just tell our listeners, what is apocalyptic writing? Why is Revelation like the way it is? Buck elliptic writing
is a is a, let's say, a personal audit, almost autobiographical, autobiographical narrative of journeying usually to heaven, or encountering angels, during which time God reveals to the apocalypse, that what is about to take place. And the revelations are in graphic, bizarre images, you know, dragons and stuff like this pretty cool angels zooming and zipping everywhere. And it becomes then a powerful vision of the establishment of Justice, the rectification as it were, of God's ways on Earth. One of the driving questions of an apocalypse is why does God allow bad things in the world to happen? And also, why do the people of God suffer so and this Apocalypse reveals what's going to happen? And it's always going to happen that the bad guys lose, and the good guys win. And the good guys are always our team, you know, the people that we believe to be true. So and then of course, then it motivates people to live according to the ethic that is taught in the apocalypse or that is assumed in the Christian circles of our Christian apocalypse, or covenant life, Torah life in the Jewish apocalypse.
So I think it might be helpful to listeners to zoom out a little bit and become a little bit aware of some of the interpretive alternatives to the book of Revelation that scholars have taken over the years. So you mentioned Preterism, a few minutes ago, and you in at the beginning of the book, give a kind of a quick overview of the four main options for interpretive frameworks that are commonly applied to Revelation. So I'm hoping maybe you can just give a quick overview of those and maybe say what you think the strengths and weaknesses of each are, and maybe where you land
Preterism most of these categories tend to be almost entirely shaped by time, when are these things going to happen? So it tends to get stilted in the direction of prophecy, predictions, the preterist think that everything has happened, that right now, when we look back, everything in the book of Revelation was about the first century. So a lot of preterist will date the book before the destruction of Jerusalem in the 60s, pretty hard to prove, I think. And when you need that, for your interpretation to be true, you're you're skating on very thin ice, in a warm in warm weather. So, so, and I think that the book itself is addressed to a first century set of churches, seven churches, and it was about them, but it is making use of something that I would call timeless. And that the so that's the preterist. It's about the first century, and it's all over in the first century. The historicist. I don't know why they they're called this, I think people didn't have a good term for it. I heard this when I was in college the first time. And it just seemed hokey to me. So so the weakness of this one is that it's hokey. Right? It it, it looks at each of the seven churches as a distinct period of the church. So the first church emphasis, let's say, is the first century and then Laodicea is is at the end. And it's the it's, it's the one we're almost into, you know, and I remember, hearing people say, we're in the Philadelphia church, and we're on the edge of entering into the final days. So that's the historicist view, it's sort of a sliding picture of the history of the church in these different churches. The weakness of this is everyone who's done this has almost always predicted that they're on the verge of the last group, and they've been wrong.
Everyone has ever thought where it's like two or three.
Yeah, nobody thought we were that early. Now. The and the other thing is, it's the breaking up of the churches has been so weak in understanding those periods in church history that it just cannot. This view, I don't think is held by hardly anyone these days that I didn't read anybody recently that believes this. The third view is futurists. And this I think is characteristic of the dispensational view, in some ways, is that everything is in the future. So even if you take the seven churches, as first century, from Revelation four on, it's all about the future. And that future, is still future to us, or at least it's on the edge of fulfillment. And that tends to be the people who really get into the book of Revelation as prediction. Now, the final view is idealist. And I think this term was created for people that they didn't like, but the time people didn't like, and so they, they say it's, it's just a set of ideas and images that are, say, large stereotypes of periods in the church. Judgment is always occurring, there's the New Jerusalem is heaven, et cetera. And there is no real predictive power to it. In my view, the skewing of types of interpretation to time, distorts the message of the book. So I'm with I don't know exactly how Michael Garmin describes himself. I don't remember if he identified himself in one of these, but I would call what what coding match it and I did in this book, a seal political reading of the book of Revelation, it's about understanding politics, the powers of this world, in terms of how God sees them, and leading to a form of the Christian life that is consistent with the way of the Lamb. So I I think people will call me an idealist some you know, I got into it this weekend with some guy and not in an argument but he started saying set my say, you know, my my views pretty close to Preterism in In thinking that it's about the first century. Wow, he said, I wouldn't have thought that. But he had a very kind of strange view of Preterism. I think that the book is about the first century. But it conveys a Thiele political hermeneutic, that becomes significant for us over time so that the book of Revelation is timeless as well. So a sort of combination of Preterism and idealism that I want to call a co political reading of the book of Revelation.
How long would you say that the political interpretation or lens of seeing revelation has been around that you share with Michael Gorman and Roland and Volcom? And a lot of you in that space? Is that a new kind of lens or is his have been around forever?
There's a lot of weird interpretations of book rotation. The speculation approach has been, I would say, the dominant approach. But it's a 20th century apocalyptic, once apocalyptic literature became more common. And people began to read it, more and more people began to make the connections, that the book of Revelation is mostly a timeless set of images that discern the politics of empire, and give us categories for discerning empire.
And this is just a side question that I'm interested in. How much did you have to study the book of Daniel in order to understand the book of Revelation?
Well, yes, I mean, it's, it's, there are things in Daniel that show up in the book of Revelation. But I'm nervous about thinking that John sees himself sees what he's writing as the fulfillment of what was predicted in the book of Dan. He's baronial, isn't it? Yeah. That's what
he's borrowing imagery, right.
John, I tell my students that John, when John saw something, he I don't know that he saw some thing right here, but it like he was dreaming or in his head. So it's a visionary experience, but I don't know that it would be a palpable material thing, apart from his body. And when John saw those things, he had to use words to describe them. And the words that John had, are just like, someone who was so soaked in books like Daniel zekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zachariah, so soak in those books and Jewish apocalyptic literature and some Greco Roman stuff. So soaked in that, that when he described it, he used language from those texts. But that doesn't mean he thinks this is a fulfillment of a prediction. It's just the way he did. And here's the way I would describe it. I grew up in a Baptist church, where we all read the King James Version of the Bible. And I can remember, and I learned to do this, I can remember older people who could virtually carry on conversations in Elizabethton, or Shakespearean English, because they were so familiar with the Bible. We all pray in the King James English. And I remember, dating my girlfriend in high school is now my wife, that when she prayed, she used common English. And it was it was weird. You don't know people don't talk like that when they pray. They're supposed to use kingdom. But we could we could talk to the King James English, and I could read the King James Bible, I still can read the King James Bible very easily, because of all the familiarity I had with that. But my father died just a few years ago, 91 years old. And he still prayed in the King James he when he turned to prayer, it was always King James English hath and Deus and all those sorts of words. So that's, that's what John does. He reverts to biblical language when he describes it. And he expects people to pick up those resonances at times. I know, some people think they're some 300 echoes of the Old Testament in the book of Revelation to others up to 600. What's amazing is John almost never quotes the Old Testament. So his, his mind is so filled with those visions of the Old Testament, that that's how he describes it doesn't know any other way.
So a recurring theme in the book is that the audience of Revelation is what you call dissidents or dissident disciples. So can you describe for our listeners, what that is and how it's relevant to us trying to read Revelation today,
very simple. These are skinny jeans people. That's all you need to know. Please say more. Okay, man, write a book about that. Revelation, chapter 17. Through 19 is the secret to reading the book of Revelation. Revelation to 17, didn't it? He describes Babylon it's Rome, city of seven hills, the great city. But it is Babylon because Babylon is language of the Old Testament for tyranny, empires, oppressors dominating empires that that oppress the people of God. And the book of Revelation, castigates Babylon with strong, vivid image of destruction and defeat. And glorying by the merchants of the earth, who are thrilled to see Rome lose its power, because now they get to have their merchandise back and all the cargo that they've been shipping to Rome, and not making much money on the book of Revelation then, is teaching the readers of the book of Revelation that Babylon, Rome is going down, it's going to fall. And it gives the people who read the book, categories for understanding the moral failure and the bad things, the bad marks of Babylon. And in the, in that whole sweep of understanding Babylon. Suddenly, the believers of Western Asia Minor, understand what's wrong with political powers. And all of a sudden, we gain our hermeneutic for understanding the characteristics of empire and political corruption. And that's the, the people who believe that, who live that become people who resist and become dissidents, of Babylon. And one of the very, one of the most important teachings of the book of Revelation is that believers in Western Asia Minor are taught to resist to resist what I call Babylon creep. Babylon getting its way into the church and into society and having the categories to recognize when it's present. dissident.
Yeah. And I think at the beginning of the book, he dedicated to Beth Allison bar and Kristen COVID Su Mei, and you describe them both as modern dissidents, right.
Christian dissidents, that's right. Yeah. It was really fun to write that. I thought, This is gonna be fun. I'll get some of those those WAGs criticizing me, or dedicating it to and I thought, well, that's let him do it. I think that they're a perfect example. Yeah. Oh, yeah. of people with keen eyes to discern the presence of corruption. Both Kristen and Beth see things niggle? That's wrong. And they they're not afraid to say it. And that's a dissident that's a Christian dissident.
Yep. And it drives the Theo bros nuts.
You say in the book, if I recall correctly, the the use of Babylon in that way is not unique to Revelation at all that it's kind of a trope actually, in ancient Jewish literature. So can you explain that larger context and what's going on there with Babylon as an image? Because obviously, it's not, you know, Babylon hadn't existed for a long time by the time Revelation was written. So what's going on there?
Yeah, Babylon is in Jeremiah is in Isaiah. It's a city that were Jews were exiled to. And they experienced exile from their country, and a longing to return and they got to return in 516 BC. But in Jewish literature, from that point on, well, give it a few 100 years, Babylon started to become like, like Antietam, to an American historian about civil war, or to Vietnam for someone of my age, or D Day, it became an image of evoked a time it evoked an event. It evoked judgment. It evoked the opportunity to return to the land, so Babylon becomes an image. And we have even in the first century, Jewish texts that are apocalyptic calling the city of Rome, Babylon, and identifying Nero himself in the text, as an embodiment of someone who lives in Rome, and corrupts the people of God and of course, Babylon, Nero, burns the city down, blames a Christian. And Claudius had already kicked out the Jews at one point, they returned under narrow, but then everything turned again Nero was of the bad emperors in the first 100 years. Nero ranks right up there at the top of idiots in the world. And it's really you know, he's his suit toniest his biography of Nero's just description of this disgusting human being.
So in chapter three, Scott, you is fascinating chapter talking about engaging our imaginations. But as we engage with the Book of Revelation, and you even said, The Book of Revelations should be read more like the Lord of the Rings more than the Paul's letter to the Roman church, for instance. So can you tell our listeners a little bit about how the the apocalypse how the rebel book of Revelation would have been presented to the original churches, and how that might influence the way we engage with the book of Revelation? This
is a good way to get yourself in trouble if you're a pastor of the church, and you're preaching. But what happens to the book of Revelation divisions of chapters six through 16, including then and adding the Babylon pictures of 17? Through 19? What happens if, if you say to readers, this is fiction? What happens to their reading? I'm close, I'm close to saying that. I do think that it's fiction not in the sense of, of Hemingway, or Fitzgerald, or I'm reading Francois Mauriac, some of his novels right now, where they're just completely making up an entire world. There's something about this literature that is telling truth, that is realer than the real, that sort of thing. But it is. I tell my students, I tell people who will listen to me, the way children respond to Laura Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, the way we respond to the Chronicles of Narnia, the way we respond to Lord of the Rings, I have not read a word in Harry Potter. So whatever is going on, in Harry Potter, I'm assuming I'm told that it's very much like this is that we, it's fiction, in the sense that we are called to enter into the story, not to enter into the story of any kind of fiction requires imagination on the part of the reader, because that's what the author wants you to do. Your, the author wants you to leave your world and enter into this narrative fiction that the odd of this narrative world that the author has created. And to live in that, that environment. And then when you put the book down, you enter back into your world, in some way impacted the way the provinsi children have been into Narnia, and they get popped back out of the threshold of what's it called the wardrobe, back into the the old house. And all of a sudden, they're back to reality, and things aren't as cool as it was in Narnia. That's what I think the book of Revelation is designed to do. And if you realize that this book was read aloud, and fact, experts in the ancient world of reading performance, would even say that the reader, the so called left door in Latin, would probably have had the whole book memorized, and would have read it or performed it seven different times for each of the seven churches. And every time that the author or whoever the Elector performed it the lectern or would have looked at the audience, and adjusted what he was, or she was saying, in accordance with the author of the audience responding to it. So it's a small house church, they're listening to this. And they're just stunned because they are very capable of listening to someone read a story and go right where that author wants him to go. And they got all these questions. They're raising their hands, or they're shaking their head or they're given a sign on their eyes that they don't quite understand. And the lector would have seen that and next step, rainiest Lee clarified what was being said. So, I remember, when I was young boy, my mom and dad took me to the library at times on Saturday morning, and that's when I didn't have baseball games or something to do, because they just wanted to get me out of the house. And, and our librarians name was Mrs. Pop. And she would read a story to us and we would sit there and we would be totally mesmerized by the reading of the story. That's what John wants us to do. It requires imagination. To understand the book of Revelation, you've got to go where the author takes you.
It's brilliant in the next chapter, I believe is, I think one of the most brilliant, just simple ways of understanding the book of Revelation as you're heading into your idea of basically, Revelation kind of needs a playbill of the characters of the book of Revelation. Otherwise, you're gonna have just zero chance of understanding it. So can you describe it that idea we're like that Bring our listeners into that world. What's a playbill for revelation? And why is it helpful?
I was Chris and I went to Hamilton, you'll be back King George said it was so it was so good. We loved it just couldn't believe how good it was. But when we get there, you know, they give you this little thing. It's called a playbill, and you open it up and you see the actors and where they're from, and everything else like that one of the actors in in Hamilton was the son of a brother of one of my students. From the Bahamas, it was pretty cool. So I got to text with him and write to him, but introduces the basic characters so that when they start appearing on the scene, you know a little bit about what, what, who they are, what they do, and where they've performed. So there's a little bit of biography there. Well, I was reading Dave Christiansen, Dave Mathewson, his book on the book of Revelation. And he went through I believe the characters and I don't know if he used the word drama, I haven't looked at the book in a little while. And it was at that point that I thought this is a playbill, we need to, and I don't believe I put this on my, when I was summarizing Dave's book on my sub substack, or wherever it was at the time CT. I don't believe I called it a playbill. But I knew at that point that that's the way I wanted to describe it, if I ever wrote about it. And so I actually envisioned a little bit better artwork for this, you know, to be yellow or something like that. But you know, they don't want to put color. The bizarro did a nice job of putting these in, into columns. So it gives the impression of a playbill that you would get at a theater. And the book of Revelation is filled with an John, this is characteristic of John as a writer, whether you think he wrote all the books or not doesn't matter to me at this point, but jot the Gospel of John Light and Darkness first, John, you have to love God, you hate God. John likes almost like dualistic thinking, it's either this or that. It's dichotomous, you either choose team Dragon, or you choose team lamb, you know, and that's the way it is you you have to make your choice. And that's, that's the characteristic of the book. So I listed out the characters, this is really kind of fun. Reading the book of Revelation saying who who's on team, Dragon who's on Team lamb. And it's not hard to figure them out Babylon, the dragon, the wild thing, we translate, or I translate the beast as wild thing, the Greek word theory on means a wild animal, one from the sea, and one from the land or the earth. And then 666 That's Nero, and others that come up in the book or on Team dragon or Jezebel, Nicholas balem. All the sinners in the world who line up in the battle of Armageddon. And then the team lamb has God on the throne. So it's a Trinitarian thinking, but not quite Trinitarian language, God on the throne, the seven spirits which is the Holy Spirit, the lamb, which is the son than a legion witnesses, the woman, which is one of the most important images in the entire Book of Revelation, because she corresponds to Babylon in chapters 17 through 19, the angels, the 24, elders, for living things, Mary adds the people and the New Jerusalem so there's Babylon, there's new Jerusalem. There's the woman of revelation 12. There's the woman of revelation 17 and 18. So it's just, oh, as Randy Harris said, God's team wins, choose your team. Don't be stupid. That that's sort of the book of Revelation in a nutshell, three lines. I've never found a better summary of the book, Revelation that right there.
There's this famous, you know, in the first the actual chapters of Revelation that are preached in churches, they're only the first two chapters of the book of Revelation, unfortunately, right. The letters to the churches are the easy thing to preach into nugget controversial about. And there's this famous bit where Jesus is addressing the church and Laodicea, I believe, and he says, You neither hot nor cold. You're lukewarm. And I want to spit you out of my mouth. And you say That's a very very mistranslated idea of what Jesus is trying to get across there. The length the original language, can you tell us what's a better reading and why is that a mis translation?
The like, is the like is river which is runs by Colossi which you can still see it's a stream, just outside the tell of Colossi is cold, fresh, brilliant water. The students that I take their will put their feet in it and just can't believe how cold it is. Well, then you go up to Hierapolis and Hierapolis is filled with the Is mineral deposits you can see Hierapolis from miles away. It's almost like Hollywood with all these white lines on the wall on the thing on the hills. And that's warm water with all these mineral deposits and people are up there are in their skivvies in their bikinis in. What do men wear that are short? Speedos. A lot of the, you know, the Russians love to go to Turkey for vacation, and they come up on bus trips. And they all go to this Laodicea. And all the Christians are there to see the sights and Russians are there to dip in the water. But later sia is right there in the middle. And the water has come from both places. And the water is neither the cold water that's refreshing, nor the warm water that's healing. So the water will do neither of these things. And that's John's image that he says it's not good for healing and is not good for Slaking, our thirst. It's useless. What's it for? And so I think that's the category that we have in the book. I haven't looked at that for a while. And it's not anything that I've lectured on. So I think that's what we cover.
So I remember when my dad sort of converted to Christianity, he got very into dispensationalism, because that was in the Bible that he was given when he was a convert as a Scofield Study Bible, it was on the, you know, the radio preachers he was listening to and whatever. And we were attending at the time, a denomination that's actually fairly liberal. And so I remember my pastor, that church saying something very much along the lines of what you said a few moments ago, which is that the point of revelation essentially is that Jesus wins. And my dad was very bothered by that. And I think what bothered him about it, and it was one of the things I think that ended up pushing him into, like Southern Southern Baptist denomination. And I think what bothered him most about it was that it wasn't like, specifically vengeful enough about, you know, the people in the world that he thought were really screwing things up, particularly, you know, Bill Clinton at the time. And so what I want to ask you is, can you talk a little bit about the role of militarism, and vengeance and justified violence, in interpretations of revelation and where do you think they go wrong? Like, how do we understand the seemingly bloodsoaked portions of that book? If not that specific vengeance way?
Well, Kyle, you're you're right. You've you've touched a very sensitive spot. And it's a sensitive one for me as well. You know, I, if you read Chronicles of Narnia, there's some battle scenes there that are, okay, you read them, the good guys win and the bad guys lose? It's okay. You read the Iliad, and it's a little bit gory. But it's okay. Because it's fiction. It's supposedly it should. It is fiction, but they some people think can happen, as described. But the book of Revelation chooses to be an apocalypse. And it chooses cosmic language of a battle between God and the dragon. So we have sort of cosmic figures in a cosmic battle, turning the whole world into a cosmic battlefield. This as fiction, I don't think we should be as bothered by the imagery as we would be if we actually thought this is what is going to happen on planet Earth. So the biggest problem for the violence in the book of Revelation, I'm not saying it's not a problem anyway. But the biggest problem for the violence in the book of Revelation is that we had we read it literally, and some of the critics of dispensationalism, who sort of ridicule their literal interpretation when they turn into criticizing what the Bible says, like Bart Ehrman, they suddenly think that literal reading is the only way to see it. And therefore, all these bodies are going to be in the Valley of Armageddon, or the ark in Armageddon, that's a part of valley, the valley of mosquito, it is there's going to be blood up to up to the shoulder up to the miles of bridles of the horses. Well, if you've ever been there, you know, there are enough valleys coming out of it that the bloods gonna leak, and it's not gonna get that high. It's impossible, but that's the point. The point is, this is fiction, and it is describing victory over evil. And so, this helps me with the gory scenes, but at the same time, it is connected to God in the book of Revelation. And so I have a generous interpretation of the book of Revelation, as a first century document that the minute the author chose to use apocalyptic language, he put himself into a position of using language like this. If you if if John had chosen a letter, he would never have used this kind of violence. He chose instead, this kind of cosmic battlefield. And when you do that, you gotta have a winner and a loser. And in the first century, you're gonna describe losers and pretty gruesome scenes,
and perhaps one year and oppress people group, you feel like you're in a at war, almost right off.
In fact, my I had a student who was a pastor in Yugoslavia, before breakdowns of you know, these sorts of socialist communist countries, Pastor 27, churches, very small churches, and he traveled and he was always getting put into police stations and ask questions. And I asked him in class one day, what are the what's the favorite book, in the New Testament for your Christians, for your people? He said, The Book of Revelation. I said, Why says because God's people when and and I have found that oppressed people love the book of Revelation, not because they like violence, but because they like justice being established. And it's okay for those kinds of people to describe difficult, bloody scenes, especially in the first century, because they know that it symbolizes that God is going to win. They like that. Only the privileged people of white suburban suburban life, are the ones who get a little nervous about this kind of language, the people who are oppressed want to see justice systems.
So one of the things I appreciated that you said in the book is that framing is about the millennium, right? And so you often hear the framing of are you a pre millennial, or a post millennial or an A millennialist, or whatever. And you make the point that framing it that way. And even if someone takes the position of a millennialism, it makes it seem like kind of a response to one of those other ones rather than the majority position of most interpreters in history. And that, that that's kind of a problematic framing from the beginning because it still centers the millennium and you think that's an interpretive error? So can you explain that?
Okay, this is That's right. Is that call someone are millennial is to say you're not? You don't have a millennium? Well, that's the point. There is no Millennium for those people. But I saw that someone else calls it realize Millennium that it's, it's it's our live. Okay, here's here's, I don't believe the way evangelicals dispensationalists premillennialists. Talk about the millennium, I don't believe that's accurate at all. Okay, and here's why. The book of Revelation has one section on the millennium, and it is for martyrs and martyrs alone. And they've had to translate martyrs into all believers. And that's just wrong. Okay. And what is described in Revelation 20 is not in what's what people talk about the millennium, which is an earthly kingdom. All right, here's the other problem. Everything they talk about in the millennium in the dispensational. And these other schemes preme millennial scheme is not in Revelation 20. So what most people believe about revel about the millennium, has nothing to do with what the Bible actually says about the millennium. And what the Bible says about the lamb has nothing to do with what those people are talking about. So I think it's wrong. And Richard Baucom basically says this, I don't know what basically I think I I think it's fair to say, I don't know what to do with this when it comes to chronology. It doesn't fit anything else that I know how to make sense of in the book of Revelation. I think that's pretty wise by one of the greatest scholars in the history of the Church on the book of Revelation, Richard Bach. But it's for martyrs. It's for those who were put to death because they bore witness to the Lamb of God.
Scott, just a quick break. It's a 25 How many how much more time do you have? Five minutes? Five minutes. All right. All right. We'll each get one
I'll try to stay away. All right.
Oh, shoot, I got only he can ask one question. Okay, I want to ask you, okay, here's my 1.5. Is revelation, a bit of a theodicy? We talked about the Odyssey in the problem trying to solve the problem of evil. Would you say in any way shape performance at the Odyssey? Yes. Okay. Good enough, right there. Real question, though. So in the end of the book, you talk about Christian nationalism. And I don't think we have many Christian nationalists, if any, listening to the podcast, if we do welcome, I'm glad you're here. But we do have a lot of people who maybe think, and are in some way, shape or form patriotic love this country, love, love, love America, we have listeners abroad, but mostly in America. And as I read, as I studied for a sermon series that did a couple of years ago and studied, you know, Michael Gorman and Richard Bauckham. It got at my idea of patriotism so deeply that like, just for example, I can't bring myself to say the Pledge of Allegiance anymore. Since I studied the book of Revelation, because I think that Jesus is the Lamb was calling for all of my allegiance. And I don't want to, I don't want to pledge something to a nation of this country of this world. How do you reconcile patriotism in the book of Revelation?
Well, you you've, you've touched something that really reflects the heartbeat of this book, is it is about allegiance to Jesus as the Lamb. I would say patriotism is different than Christian nationalism. And I would say patriotism is someone who is let's just say a good citizen of the country in which they live. And that's entirely fine. But John did not know that world. This is not the world of John. I mean, Paul knows it in Romans 13. Fetal theatre, written a letter four years later, when Nero started going nutty. He wouldn't have said that, Peter, in first Peter two verses 11, to 12, and then 13, to 17. He knows a slightly different strategy. It's the world is tough, but we, we have to try to do good. The pastoral epistles are arguing for people to have civilized piety, a respectable religion to practice in such a way that they don't hurt to church. But the book of Revelation has a completely different angle, that the Roman Empire Babylon is corrupt, it's very negative, it's almost cynical, these people are so corrupt, they're starting to creep into our church, we need to resist them. That's the message of Revelation. It teaches us that patriotism has a limit. It is you can be a good citizen, but you should never surrender. Okay, you should never give to Caesar what is God's. Now that's a coin from Jesus. It's slightly different. But that's the point. I think Jesus is calling people to follow Him, in spite of the opposition to the gospel and to the people of God. And that in that situation, absolute allegiance is absolutely necessary. In a different context where it's okay to be a Christian. I think patriotism has a slightly different sense.
Most important question in the night, Why does every television show and movie get it wrong and say revelations instead of Revelation? Where does that come from? Well, there
are revelations of the book aren't there? But the interesting thing is, when John uses that word, it's a revelation of Jesus Christ. So it's not really, it's not all these visions that are called revelations. So, but yeah, I've heard it my whole life. And I don't even correct my students when they say it. Now. I used to correct college students, but my seminary students who say revelations, I just go, okay. I hope someone in the class heard that and says, It's not Revelations is Revelation. But yeah,
brilliant. Well, the book, again, is revelation for the rest of us. And it's a must read, if you're not familiar with Revelation. If you're scared of Revelation, you've been traumatized by the way it's been delivered. Or if you're a pastor, and you've never preached a sermon series on the book of Revelation, you must get this book by Scot McKnight and read it and then do a sermon series on it. Because it revelation might just be the book that can save the American church. If we took it seriously.
There's a lot of truth to that, you know, in John's Revelation, he thinks there's two primary other than discernment of Babylon. He thinks people have to be witnesses to Jesus, and worship. And I would say this, the biggest problem for Christians who are so entangled in the political process in the United States, and have become drunk in an adulterous way with Babylon in our world today is they don't worship. The more we worship the lamb, the less we're attracted to Babylon The more time we spend in New Jerusalem, the more we can discern Babylon.
Yes. Brilliant. Mic drop right there. Scot McKnight. Thank you so much for for being a friend of the podcast and journeying with us. We appreciate you. We'll look forward to maybe talking to you after your new translation comes out that that'd be like the Bible really hard to read. Yeah.
Kyle and Randy, thank
you for having me. It's good to see you again. Thanks, Scott.
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