- REVELATION IN HISTORY. Diverse interpretations.

Created: Tuesday, 23 September 2014 Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Diverse interpretations.

1. Along history diverse interpretations, applications and manipulations about the Revelation have been given. In first place, let us see the original, the prophetic interpretation. The Revelation is a “prophecy” (Rev 1, 3) “about what already is” (1, 19), “about what is going to happen later” (1, 1). God´s word judges history. The text is understandable in its context. It is necessary to recover Revelation’s  historical background, what John lived. Upon this base we lay out what is today the meaning of the biblical text.
2. In the second century, Revelation is explained as prophecy about what ought to happen, without asking themselves if it had already happened in John´s experience. In this manner does it Ireneo of Lyon (about 130-202), that gathers Papias of Hierapolis literal interpretation (about 69-150), for instance, about new Jerusalem fertility and about the millennium: “Every vineyard will have ten thousand vines, every vine ten thousand branches, every branch ten thousand bunches, every bunch ten thousand grapes” (Against the heretics V, 33, 3-4; Rev 22, 2), “after the dead resurrection there will be a millennium”, “the kingdom of Christ will be bodily established upon the earth.”
3. Eusebio of Cesarea (about 275-339) believes that “Papias supposes all this after having distorted the explications of the apostles, without taking into account that these had said it figuratively and in a symbolic way”. Papias “appears as a man of very scarce intelligence, according to what can be deduced of his books. Nevertheless, he has been the guilty of the fact that many ecclesiastic writers after him have embraced the same opinion than himself, based in the seniority of such a man” (HE III, 39, 12 and 13). In the third century the symbolic interpretation arises, having like highest exponent the alexandrine Origenes (+ 254) defending the moral, spiritual and allegoric sense of the biblical text. According to Hegesipo (+ about 180), church’s corruption came soon, “ when the sacred choir of the apostles reached by different ways the end of the life” (HE III, 32, 7 and 8; IV, 22, 4 and 5).
4. In the year 313, with the Milan’s edict, Constantine decrees the tolerance of the Christian worship. In 380, with the edict of Thessalonica, Teodosio proclaims the Christianism like official religion of the Empire. The pagans and heretics are now persecuted. The Revelation loses interest, it is received with suspicion and it finds difficulties to get into the Christian Cannon established at the end of the fourth century. Some years before, Eusebio of Cesarea places the Revelation among the “spurious” books: “This book is rejected by some and considered among those acknowledged, by others” (HE III, 25, 4). Cirilo of Jerusalem (+ 386) omits the Revelation among the books of the Scriptures: “Let it out, in a second level” (Catechesis 4, 36)
5. Latin church follows the symbolic interpretation. Slovenian bishop Victorian of Petovio (+304) proposes repetition or recapitulation like the interpretation rule: by diverse ways same reality is narrated. The African donatist Ticonius (+ about 390) denies the millenarism and influence in Augustine, who considers the Revelation like the way of the Church in history, from the first arrival of Christ until… his second arrival” (The city of God, XX, 8). In this manner comes out the ecclesial interpretation. Western roman empire, separated from the Eastern after Teodosio death (395), fall before the barbarians (476). Eastern roman empire lasts one millennium and falls before the Turkish  (1453).  
6. In the seventh century the Blessed of Liebana (+798), monk of the monastery of Saint Toribio, writes a commentary to the Revelation. The Christian cannot practice their worship during the day, even there are martyrs (Saint Pelayo, +925). The Beast is now the emirate (later, caliphate) of Cordoba. The Revelation is lived in key of Reconquest. Charlemagne (+ 814) king of the francs and Germanic Roman Sacred Empire founder, is crowned emperor by pope Leon  III in the year 800.
7. With the arrival of the year 1000, the millennium, the Revelation gathers the attention. By then abbot Adso (+992), a Benedictine monk of Motier-en-Der, writes a book about the anti Christ. The literal interpretation comes back and, with it, the millennium, that is not God´s word, but an old wish of the great empires. A Christian king, identified with the francs, would initiate the millennium, conquering the peoples and founding a Christian empire. Against him the anti Christ would fight in a battle in which he would be the winner until the arrival of Christ.
8. In the eleventh century appears the Gregorian application. In its “Dictatus Papae”, Gregory the VII (1085) establishes that the pope may oust the emperor, and that only the pontiff may use the imperial flag. Bruno de Asti, Segni bishop (+1123), explains the Revelation in defence of the papacy before the imperial aspirations. When it talk about the anti Christ and his worshipers, the bishop denounces the emperors that request to be worshipped like deities: “up to the point of obliging the men to kneel down, according to the habit of some emperors, even before their statue” (Book IV, XIII, 677). The basis of the papa-king are laid out.
9. In the twelfth century the Cistercian Joaquin de Fiore (1135-1202) writes his commentary about the Revelation. According to the Calabrian monk, the history is divided into three eras: of the Father (Old Testament), of the Son (New Testament, beginning of the Church), of the Holy Spirit (Church of the spirituals, poor and free): “As the first era had a king called Antioch, more inhumane than anybody, the same the end of the second, that is near,  will have a seventh king from whom John speaks `since have not come yet´ (Rev 17, 10). He will be more terrible that those who preceded him and he will devastate the universe more that would be believable”
10. For many people in the thirteen century the Church and the papacy are Babylon and the anti Christ, respectively. It is the spiritual application. Franciscan Peter of John Olivi (1248-1292) affirms that the anti Christ is working in the carnal part of the Church, the Pope, because of his opposition to the rule of Saint Francis. He believes that the Franciscans, the spirituals will make him fall. Another spiritual, the French friar Nicholas de Lyra (1270-1349), comments the Revelation seeing in the succession of the chapters a lineal narration of the history of the Church. The ecclesial interpretation comes back
11. In 1522 Martin Luther was reticent to accept the Revelation, since, he said: “in it Christ is not taught” (John´s Revelation Preface). Nevertheless, eight years later, in a new preface to the Revelation, he considers the two beasts of the Revelation like symbols of the pope and the emperor, and the fall of Babylon like symbol of the papacy’s destruction. It is the Lutheran application, that recalls the position of the Reformation against Rome´s Church.
12. In the frame of the Counterreformation, in the centuries sixteenth and seventeenth, the roman interpretation considers that the Revelation is not for now, that it has not present incidence. The book reveals the final events of history, not the intermediate. With that a displacement of the last day of history happens. There is no longer deadline.
13. In the eighteen century the masonry emerge, the Londoner Great Lodge, governed by the Anderson Constitutions (1723): “The cathedral that must be built will not be made up any more with stone, but will be the Cathedral of the Universe, it is to say, the Humanity itself”. With the Declaration of Independency (1776), America appears like the land of the millenary. In the state of New York the Church of the Millenary is born (1780). The Mormons (1830), the Adventists (1843) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses (1881) appear. From then on, the millenary appears in the fundamentalist sects, in totalitarian projects (communism, Nazism) and in democratic projects (French revolution, atomic bomb, liberal economy, preventive wars). “Armageddon is near”, Reagan said in the eighties, announcing the end of the soviet empire. The fall of the Berlin wall has brought the liberal economy and the globalization of the money, not of the justice.
14. In the eighteen century, with the historic-critical method applied to the Bible, the Revelation appears as a book that narrates facts and circumstances that happen in the time of the author. In the twentieth century, the Revelation is read in paschal key. Following the liberation theology, many communities denounce the structures that oppress the world impoverished majorities. Additionally, some emphasize the mythical aspect of the Revelation, symbolic expression of the initial myth (fight between the good and the evil), although this becomes too much generic. Other emphasize the astral aspect: in chapter 12 some elements appear (language of the constellations)
*Dialogue: Which interpretations, applications and manipulations about the Revelation had taken place along history?