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Dec 14

The Plural of Apocalypse

Armageddon outta here!

Its beginning to look a lot like the end of the world, everywhere you go.

Or so people would have you believe. When its your self appointed task to look for media on the internet about religion you get your fair quota of crazy in a day; but stories about the End of Days are nothing new. The above article points you six of the "crappiest." As always, of course, its just a matter of interpretation.

First, let us define some terms. Apocalypse does not mean "the end of the world", it means "unveiling" or "revelation." If the ancient world had Barnes and Nobles you would have been able to walk in and find a big section labeled "Apocalyptic Lit." That is, if it wasn't already filed under "Best Sellers." These particularly show up in times of cultural change, with the most famous ones in the Western World showing up about the time the Greek Empires were falling apart to about a century or so into the Roman Empire. Daniel, the Revelation of John, and all of their counterparts. We tend to think of them as Judeo-Christian works, but share common features with those of other faiths, particularly Zorastrianism. They all claim to be "secret" revelation to a seer or prophet, who is almost always a famous historical figure and not the actual author. They are all in code and use highly symbolic language, often misinterpreted by moderns due to cultural shifts. (For Example: In the first century the color white was associated with victory, not purity, and death was the color of rotten meat, called "pale" in the KJV, not black.) They also all have a view of history in which the present age is bad, God or the gods will act, and the future age is good. Its that change of ages, not necessarily needing to be the end of the world, that characterizes them.

So off the six listed what can we say.

1) Zand-i Wahman Yasn is not the oldest on the list by far. Although Zoroastrianism predates Christianity, and heavily influences a lot of popular theology if not actual theology in pre-Roman Judaism, the work mentioned is a product of the middle ages, around the same time as Christopher Columbus' voyages, but based on an older work that we cannot accurately date. In Zoroastrianism there are two forces ready to battle it out, one good and one evil, and their conflict will end the world as we know it. Lots of Judeo-Christian imagery comes from Zoroastrianism, not the least of which is elevation of "the satan", a figure in God's Court, to SATAN, the personification of evil.

2) The "Age of Kali" is some bad stuff, and here we are in it. It began around midnight, January 14, 3102 BCE (depending on your calendar), so basically almost all of recorded human history. That was when Krishna left this world. It is supposed to last 432,000 years. So we are really just in the early days.

3)Buddha is supposed to have said, Buddhists are divided on this, that about 5000 years later his teachings would be forgotten. That is around 4600 CE/AD for those keeping track. A series of suns will appear in the sky and burn everything away, eventually. Like our previous candidate, we are not particularly worried about immanentizing the eschaton on this one.

4)Ragnarok would make the best high budget action movie of all of these. Gods fight monsters. Loki gets whats coming to him. Two humans are left to restart to world. Fun bloody spectacle for everyone.

5)Hopi myth talks about a series of worlds that are destroyed while the Hopi move on to the next. Here are the signs of the Blue Star Kachina, all of which have already happened:
This is the First Sign: We are told of the coming of the white-skinned men, like Pahana, but not living like Pahana, men who took the land that was not theirs. And men who struck their enemies with thunder
This is the Second Sign: Our lands will see the coming of spinning wheels filled with voices. In his youth, my father saw this prophecy come true with his eyes.
This is the Third Sign: A strange beast like a buffalo but with great long horns, will overrun the land in large numbers. These White Feather saw with his eyes.
This is the Fourth Sign: The land will be crossed by snakes of iron.
This is the Fifth Sign: The land shall be crisscrossed by a giant spider's web. (Internet?)
This is the Sixth sign: The land shall be crisscrossed with rivers of stone that make pictures in the sun.(Interstate Highways?)
This is the Seventh Sign: You will hear of the sea turning black, and many living things dying because of it. (Oil Spills?)
This is the Eighth Sign: You will see many youth, who wear their hair long like my people, come and join the tribal nations, to learn their ways and wisdom. (New Age Movement?)

Hmmm...maybe that Russian "scientist" is right about the mountain sized rock on its way to earth.

6) Last but not least we have our good old Armageddon. Which means, BTW, "harm meggido" or "the Mountain of Meggido" or a reference to the plain below the mountain that was the traditional battel field of large armies in Palestine. Popular conceptions of the Christian Apocalypse have less to do with the Bible than with Tim LaHaye and John Darby, the first for the literarilly and theologically abysmal Left Behind series and the second for the his influence on the Scofield Study Bible. Oh what merry havoc I could play here, but will not vent myself at this time on the subject. But I will point a few things out. First, the word "rapture" does not appear in the vast majority of English translations of the Bible and is instead based on a non-standard translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (A book, ironically enough, about how you should stop worrying about the end of days and get on with your life). Second, the word "antichrist" only appears in one (1) book in the New Testament, 2nd John, it is plural in that context, and specifically refers to all of those who teach that Jesus did not come in the flesh (a statement refuting early docetism, the belief that Christ was a spirit who only seemed human.) It does not appear in any apocalyptic context. Third, John borrows heavily from the imagery in use in apocalyptic literature common in the first century, but twists expectations every time. The Lion of Judah of chapter 5? It is a slain lamb. The weapon of the armies of heaven? The testimony of the faithful and the sacrifice of Christ. The weapon of the victorious rider in white? The word of God. It is a parody of an apocalypse.

Those are just religious end time scenarios. Pop culture is rife with them as well.

The thing is, if you are so worried about the end of the world you are probably going to forget to live in it.

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