Revelation – Episode Twenty-one

Angel with Seven Plagues, adapted from Folio 38, the Bamberg Apocalypse, early 11th Century. Bamberg State Library, Bamberg, Germany
Angel with Seven Plagues, adapted from Folio 38, the Bamberg Apocalypse, early 11th Century. Bamberg State Library, Bamberg, Germany

The episodes of Revelation: An Idealist Interpretation get harder to do as St. John moves toward the concluding chapters.  The subjects become more complex and include new images.  Episode Twenty-one, completed and uploaded earlier today, is focused on Chapters 15 and 16.  I suspect they may well have been a single set of thoughts, since there is no separate introduction for Chapter 16.

Watch Episode Twenty-one

Listen to the Podcast version

I hope viewers will agree that the illustrations from the Bamberg Apocalypse are very special.  And I also hope they won’t be put off by the length of this episode (35 minutes).  I felt that discussing these two chapters separately would have not have been helpful for viewers.

The First Three Vials, adapted from Folio 39, the Bamberg Apocalypse.
The First Three Vials, adapted from Folio 39, the Bamberg Apocalypse.

Chapter 15 begins with a “great and marvellous sign” (Greek:  semeion, which St. John used to describe the seven miracles Jesus did in his Gospel).   This is his account of the angel with seven plagues.  Note how the artists represent the “pouring” out with the red fluid coming out of the horn of the leftmost angel and the “sea of glass” which John describes (second use of the term in Revelation).   The text includes the several songs, including the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb; and a Doxology to Lord God Almighty (Pantokrator in Greek).

The Fourth to Sixth Vials, Folio 40, Bamberg Apocalypse.
The Fourth to Sixth Vials, Folio 40, Bamberg Apocalypse.

Where the King James Version calls them “vials,” the NKJV text uses the more accurate word “bowl.”  The original Greek word describes a bowl-like vessel rather than a text-tube style glass container.   In Folio 39, the First Three Vials, each of three angels is pouring out their burden from a pale blue horn.  The effects of the three plagues are shown in the three subjects in the bottom half.  I explain how each relates to an Old Testament plague in Egypt, as I do with the remaining bowls/vials.    The illustration for the 4th-5th-6th bowls/vials shows the two beasts (one with seven horns and one with two horns) spewing out small frogs!

There are numerous allusions to Old Testament understandings concerning the powers of God, including the smoke which filled the tabernacle, leaving the angels unable to complete their work until it diminished, the “wrath of God”, and St. John’s standby image:  lightnings and thunderings and earthquakes; plus repeated use of numerology (7 angels, 7 plagues, 7 bowls of the wrath of God, 4 living creatures).

The Seventh Vial, adapted from Folio 41, the Bamberg Apocalypse.
The Seventh Vial, adapted from Folio 41, the Bamberg Apocalypse.

The final bowl/vial is represented in a different manner, a half-size image that is horizontal, a golden background, and depiction of the splitting of the city into three and the flattening of mountains.  The text describes the falling of hail weighing 1 talent, the modern equivalent of which is 75 pounds!

Episodes Twenty-two through Twenty-five are complete except for the recording of the sound track and the coordination of the sound track to the images.  I expect to release one per week during September.

As the book comes near its end, St. John, the great dramatist that he was, brings back many, many images, ideas, and allusions to Old and New Testament verses which he had used in earlier chapters, sometimes several times. At the same time, the focus intensifies on main themes.   The challenge for me is to sort each of these and cross-reference them to earlier Chapter/Verse citations and Episode numbers, showing these annotations in the slides and repeating material only when repetition (based on John’s own work) helps make the text more comprehensible.

Thanks each of you for interest in and your support of this series.  I am looking forward to turning the completed text into a book with color illustrations, a glossary of terms, and a bibliography.

Published by

Anglican Internet Church

Fr. Shibley retired from pulpit ministry at Epiphany A.D. 2014. Since then he devotes his spare time to this online ministry producing videos, podcasts and books explaining traditional Christian theology and liturgy in layman's language with a minimum of technical or theological terms, and making them available either free or at reasonable cost.

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