Archive for the ‘Nero’ Tag

The Woman, the Red Dragon, and the Two Beasts   Leave a comment

Above:  The Death of the Dragon, by Evelyn de Morgan

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART XII

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Revelation 12:1-15:8

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THE SHADOW OF KING ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES

Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163 B.C.E.) was notorious.  He persecuted Jews and became the chief boogeyman of First, Second, and Fourth Maccabees.  The Daniel apocalypse (chapters 7-12), composed in the first century B.C.E., referred to him.  Revelation added more references to le roi terrible.  For example, the three and a half years (forty-two months) before the fall of “Babylon” (Rome) called back to the time King Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and persecuted Jews.

Revelation 12 and 13 unfold during those symbolic forty-two months.  The vivid accounts, replete with symbolism drawn from regional mythology, the Hebrew Bible, 2 Esdras/4 Ezra, 1 and 2 Enoch, and 2 Baruch, among other sources.  For example, the following sources are germane to Revelation 12-15:

  1. 1 Enoch 40:7; 54:6
  2. 2 Enoch 7; 18; 29:5
  3. The Ascension of Isaiah 7:9; 10:29
  4. 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 6:49-42; 12:22-25
  5. The Sybilline Oracles 4:119-127, 137-139; and
  6. 2 Baruch 29:4.

THE EVOLVING THEOLOGY OF SATAN IN JUDAISM

Revelation 12:7-9 reflects a relatively late development in the theology of Satan.  Careful study of the evolution of Jewish and Christian theology reveals that, until the Persian period, “the Satan”–“the Adversary”–worked for God, usually as a loyalty tester.  Satan as a free agent is an idea imported from Zoroastrianism, in which Ahriman is the chief evil force, and the opposite number of Ahura-Mazda.  One may conclude that Jewish and Christian theology finally arrived at the correct theology of Satan.  Regardless of what one decides regarding this theological matter, the historical record remains objectively accurate and not subject to dispute.

HIGH TREASON

If the Roman censors had understood Revelation, they would have correctly identified chapters 12-15 as treasonous.  The woman (12:1-6), resembling the goddess Isis, is the Church.  The great, red dragon, with dominion in the known world, is Satan.  The dragon pursues the woman, but she survives.  The Archangel Michael defeats the dragon in Heaven and casts him down to the Earth.  That is bad news for the Earth.  Horns represented power.  Ten horns represented complete power.  So, in Revelation 13, the beast rising out of the sea had complete power.  The horns were Emperors of Rome.

Can you say “treason,” O reader?

One emperor–Nero (d. 68)–received special attention in 13:3.  He had supposedly not died–not really.  He would supposedly return to life and lead an army out of Parthia and ravage the Roman Empire.  Nero was the original figure of the Antichrist.

Revelation 13 labels the Roman Empire a force of evil.  When civil authority becomes an expression of evil, the only proper Christian response, in Revelation, is to disobey it and to obey God.

666

The number “666” is symbolic.  Seven is the number of perfection.  Six, therefore, is less than perfect; it represents evil.  “666” represents ultimate evil.  “666” is, as Donald Richardson said:

godless political power allied with godless religion.

–Quoted in Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 75

Stoffel offered:

There is also a warning here for Christians and for any who would speak in the name of God.  Any church or religion that allows itself to overlook injustice may have the number of the beast.  This speaks to me as an individual Christian.  In order to prosper I might be tempted to condone or overlook injustice, and so be wearing the “number” myself.

–76

We read in Revelation 14 that all who followed God in Christ will find redemption and that all who worshiped the Roman Empire and its value system will find damnation.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.  Those damnable values include exploitation and militarism.  These have no place in the Kingdom of God.

Revelation 15 includes praise of God.  The chapter concludes by setting up the next few chapters with seven bowls of judgment.

What are our contemporary Roman Empires?  To what extend to we buy into their erroneous value systems?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 24:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CHARLES GOUNOD, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BIRGITTE KATERINE BOYE, DANISH LUTHERAN POET, PLAYWRIGHT, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BOWRING, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MCSORLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, PROFESSOR, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Deceptive Appearances   1 comment

Above:  Nero

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 16:1-15 or Nehemiah 9:5-38

Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24

Revelation 13:11-18

John 12:1-11

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As I wrote in the previous post in this series, the author (“John,” whoever he was) of the Revelation depicted the Roman Empire as being evil.

When we–you, O reader, and I–turn to Revelation 13:11-18, we read of the Antichrist–perhaps Nero (“666” in Greek), originally.  Anyhow, the reference is to a Roman Emperor.  To make matters especially confusing, some of the Antichrist’s works are legitimate and wondrous.  In other words, appearances can deceive.

The reading from Nehemiah 9 speaks of faithful acts of God and of faithless, oblivious people.  It also mentions penitent people.  Genesis 16 follows up on the covenant in Genesis 15.  Genesis 16 sets up a series of unfortunate events in subsequent chapters.  One may draw the conclusion the text invites one to make:  Wait for God to fulfill divine promises.  Do not act to make them happen.  Have faith.  Trust God.

Yet one may also wonder how to know which works come from God.  Appearances can deceive, after all.  Besides, one may not expect God to act in a certain way (such as the Incarnation or the crucifixion).  Therefore, one may see God act and fail to recognize what God has done and is doing.

I offer no easy answer to this difficult question.  I have only one answer:  pray.  Prayer consists primarily of listening and watching, actually.  The best definition of prayer I can muster is the heightened sense of awareness of being in the presence of God.  As Psalm 139 tells us, we can never leave the presence of God.  We can, however, be oblivious to it or be aware of it.

May God help us to identify correctly all that is of God.  And may we pay attention.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/25/devotion-for-proper-21-year-d-humes/

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The Paths of the Righteous   1 comment

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Above:  Thro’ the Woods, Sagamore Hill, Circa 1904

Photographer = Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952)

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cph/item/2009633600/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-23820

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you hold together all things in heaven and on earth.

In your great mercy, receive the prayers of all your children,

and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 9:8-17 (37th Day)

Deuteronomy 5:22-33 (38th Day)

Deuteronomy 31:1-13 (39th Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Acts 27:39-44 (37th Day)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (38th Day)

John 16:16-24 (39th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-thursday-year-1/

Deuteronomy 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 31:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-29-30-and-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Acts 27:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/devotion-for-august-4-5-and-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-1-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-december-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-first-day-of-easter/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/devotion-for-june-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

–Psalm 93:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The theme of covenant unites the Old Testament readings for these three days.  Covenant indicates an agreement and a relationship between God and human beings.  There are rules and consequences for violating them.  Many of these rules are specific to a particular culture and level of technology, so one ought to focus on the principle of which the rule is a concrete example in such cases.  The Law of Moses, with its communal focus, is clearly not a product of modern, individualistic Western culture.  Some parts (such as stoning people for a variety of infractions) we should never enforce, I propose, but bringing a communitarian ethos to Western culture would improve it.

A second unifying theme–one which runs through the New Testament lections–is that, sometimes, one’s suffering benefits others.  St. Paul the Apostle  was on the way to Rome as a prisoner.  He died there, a martyr during the reign of the tyrant Nero.  But he converted many people along the way.  The death of our Lord and Savior was certainly for the benefit of a countless number of people.  And, as 1 Peter 3:8-12 reminds us, suffering presents opportunities to exercise potentially reconciling holiness.  Reconciliation, by definition, involves more than one party agreeing to it, so sometimes one offers it and nobody accepts.  Yet the offer itself is valuable.

That reconciling spirit is one of confidence in God, not one of uncertainty and of the quest for vengeance and justice, such as we read of in many of the Psalms.  No, reconciliation overlooks justice sometimes and chooses mercy and forgiveness instead.  It is the way to peace and community building, not reaffirmation that an aggrieved individual is correct.  Reconciliation is a difficult calling, one with which I struggle, but at least that knowledge of my spiritual weakness regarding it is a good place to start.

When we are more concerned with doing the right thing for the right reason than with appearing to be correct, we are on a positive spiritual path.  When we care more about the welfare of others than with our own, we are moving in the right direction.  When we realize that we cannot be at our best if others cannot be at theirs, we see reality clearly.  When we favor community wholeness (without coercion, which is contrary to wholeness anyway) over personal gain, we grasp the fact that we humans need each other, with our differences and similarities.  And we are in a prime position to seek reconciliation (or just conciliation, in some cases).  Then, instead of pursuing selfish, destructive ends and harboring grudges, we will build each other–and therefore ourselves–up, confident that God watches over the paths of the righteous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/devotion-for-the-thirty-seventh-thirty-eighth-and-thirty-ninth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part VII: The Triumph of Faith Over Physical Strength   1 comment

david-and-goliath-gustave-dore

Above:  David and Goliath, by Gustave Dore

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:1-23 (July 31)

1 Samuel 17:1-19 (August 1)

1 Samuel 17:20-47 (August 2)

Psalm 65 (Morning–July 31)

Psalm 143 (Morning–August 1)

Psalm 86 (Morning–August 2)

Psalms 125 and 4 (Evening–July 31)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–August 1)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–August 2)

Acts 25:13-27 (July 31)

Acts 26:1-23 (August 1)

Acts 26:24-27:8 (August 2)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 16-17:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Acts 25-27:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-eighth-day-of-easter/

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I was small among my brothers,

and the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

But I drew my own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away

disgrace from the people of Israel.

–Psalm 151, New Revised Standard Version

Saul knows David at the end of 1 Samuel 16 yet has not met him at the beginning of Chapter 17.  This is a major narrative discrepancy, evidence of the weaving together of different documents.  That is a scholarly matter, and I like such things.  But this is a devotional blog, so I focus my attentions in that direction.

A note on page 592 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) begins

The story of David and Goliath demonstrates the triumph of faith over physical strength.

That excellent sentence provides a means for understanding not only 1 Samuel 17 but the life of St. Paul as a Christian.  One man proved crucial to Christian and world history.  The might of the Roman Empire, which executed him, proved powerless to quash Christianity.

As for St. Paul in Acts 25:13-26:32, he stood before Herod Agrippa II, the last of the Herodian Dynasty and a client ruler for the Roman Empire.  Herod Agrippa II’s realm shifted according to Roman imperial decisions, but he did reign from 50 to 100 CE.  He, considered a religious leader, appointed the High Priest yet carried on an incestuous relationship with Bernice, his sister.  Yet this was the man who noted that St. Paul, if he had not appealed to the Emperor, could have gone free.  Unfortunately, the Emperor was Nero.

Yet, as Psalm 125:3 (The New Jerusalem Bible) reads,

The sceptre of the wicked will not come to rest

over the heritage of the upright….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/devotion-for-july-31-august-1-and-august-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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