The Christian Humanist iPod Broadcast, Episode #63: Apocalypses

General Introduction
– Welcome to November, from October
– Michial’s one-man war on portmanteaux
– Buy our mugs! (I mean energy, not internet—we record early in the morning)
– Listener mail from a stranger
– Mad Dog! Mad Dog! Mad Dog!
– English accents
– What’s on the web log?

Defining the Apocalyptic
– Apocalyptic and prophetic
– The end as the beginning
– Post-apocalyptic as the really important thing
– Refuting Mad Max
– The prophetic voice and the unveiling

Biblical Apocalypse
– Prophecy or apocalypse?
– And apocryphal apocalypse
– Visionary, narrative, and eschatological
– Christ or violence

Apocalypse in the Ancient Near East
– Prophecy but not apocalypse
– Cyclical time
– The importance of monotheism
– Cyrus plays the system
– Zoroastrian apocalypse

Literary Apocalypses
– Dante gets the date wrong
– Ragnarok kills off the gods
– Giving Norse mythology a happy ending
– The Red Crosse Knight in the House of Holiness
– Dem bones rise up against Henry V
– Eliot and Yeats and how we misread them
– The modern American apocalyptic novel

Songs About the End of the World
– “The End”
– “Gimme Shelter”
– “Four Winds”

Final Thoughts
– Don’t get too hung up on interpretation
– Pay attention to literary form
– What comes after the end? . . .
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ciuba, Gary. Walker Percy: Books of Revelations. Athens, GA: 1991.

Collins, John J. The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

Dante. Purgatory. Trans. Mark Musa. New York: Penguin, 1985.

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Eliot, T.S. Collected Poems, 1909-1962. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.

Frost, Robert. The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged. New York: Henry Holt, 1969.

Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems, 1931-2001. New York: Ecco, 2003.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spake Zarathustra. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Penguin, 1978.

Percy, Walker. The Last Gentleman. New York: Picador, 1999.

—. Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World. New York: Picador, 1999.

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods. Trans. A.S. Byatt. New York: Grove Press, 2012.

Shakespeare, William. King Henry V. London: Arden, 1995.

Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story. New York: Random House, 2011.

Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene. New York: Longman, 2006.

Sturluson, Snorri. The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology. Trans. Jesse L. Byock. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Yeats, W.B. The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. New York: Scribner, 1996.

6 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist iPod Broadcast, Episode #63: Apocalypses

  1. I would also recommend “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn.” I found the ending to be satisfying. It is technically a trilogy, but in paperback, the third book is split in to two massive books.

    Regarding the teaching of Revelation in a congregation:
    The accepted lens through which to read Revelation that I most encounter is, “What God said literally, he will fulfill literally.” While dates are not as much speculated upon as Camping, every other detail is and to do otherwise is often seen as doubting the authority of scripture. Because I don’t have as much Mad Dog in me, and when I do I save it for other issues, I have never taught through the book of Revelation, only mentioning the last chapter, the worship scenes, and showing in chapter 5 that the lion is a lamp (as opposed to the lamp becoming a lion).

    My question is, what are my students missing by my weakness in not teaching the whole of Revelation and the apocalyptic part of Daniel?

  2. I don’t know what Michial’s problem with portmanteaux is, I think they’re splentacular.

    I share your reservation in teaching (or even talking about) Revelation, Boethius. Personally, I do find the overly literal approach to interpreting it to be woefully disregarding of literary genre. If I could throw my two cents in, I think the gain you get from Revelation is connected to the way you interpret it. If you see it as more or less fulfilled, it informs historically as well as theologically. My (limited) understanding is that it is also connected intertextually in helpful ways, paralleling and building on sections in Isaiah and the Minor prophets. I’ll leave anything more specific to those more qualified.

    One last thing; I do find it interesting that both blessing and curse are assigned to those who do and do not read the Book of Revelation. Sometimes I think that’s the only thing motivating me to want to understand it better. Ah well.

  3. I’ve been lucky enough, I suppose, to teach groups of folks in church contexts who don’t come with slogans in hand. The way I tend to frame things is that, before we shift twenty centuries into the future, we need to be able to say what a first-century Christian hearing the Apocalypse read in church would hear and imagine. Once we make that move, to put ourselves on the sideline, folks seem fairly content to pay attention to context and genre and such.

    I also make the point as often as possible that I’m not trying to replace the class members’ favorite interpreter of Revelation; I just want a seat at the table so that Hal Lindsey (or whoever) can have his say on the matter, and then I can have mine.

    So far (and “so far” means “having taught Revelation three times at fairly conservative Georgia churches in the last six years”), folks have been willing to work with me, given those two starting points.

    Also, although it would be a fun thing to speculate, given the origin stories of Narnia, what it would mean for a lion to be a lamp, I think that Boethius meant the lion is a lamb. 😉

  4. “Revelation is the strange uncle we have to explain to strangers”

    Yeah, that’s me. After reading Thessalonians my good friend says “Oh, end times stuff.” I was a bit confused and he clarified 1 Thess 4:13-17 were clearly references to end times. (I don’t particularly find this argument very convincing but it’s needed to point the way to how I read Revelation for the first time.)

    He points to this idea that all these passages throughout the Bible read in light of Revelation clarify God’s plan for the end.

    I finally read through Revelation and these were my thoughts. We have this fellow John who’s pretty upset about how Rome is treating people and he probably hasn’t been very tactful in expressing his disapproval.

    Rome becomes annoyed with him and ousts him to Patmos. While on Patmos he wants to continue rebel-rousing and writes this poorly ciphered letter, shaking his fist in fury from across the sea.

    I wasn’t impressed by the book and I feel that God is depicted as someone who takes great satisfaction and perhaps even joy in the punishment of his creation. Add on top of that all the pageantry involved and I become suspicious as to who’s interests are being expressed.

    on a side note, i was a bit shocked to hear Bright Eyes on the podcast. not a favorite but it was on my ipod for about a year.

  5. Chris, I spent most of my time on that question talking about eternal-return stories and why they’re not, properly speaking, apocalyptic. Michial pointed out that the Mad Max movies also weren’t, properly speaking, apocalyptic because they didn’t hold out any hope for an eschatological renewal of creation.

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