Those who have studied religion in general -- and the history of monotheism in particular -- may have come across the writings of the British poet, Robert Graves. His is a name well known to the neo-pagan movement, including Wiccans, and all manner of earth religionists, especially for his witchy study of nature symbolism in mythology and poetry, The White Goddess. During a decade's involvement with the occult, I was told that I must read Graves' breathtaking book, but no one mentioned that the most important passage happens to be a footnote, such was the breadth of Graves' genius.
In the footnote, he utters a heresy that should shake the socks off Christian fundamentalists, including the "evangelical" movement. (Evangelical is in quotations because it is a euphemism for strict interpretation of the Bible, and especially the gospel of John of Patmos, but more on that momentarily. Certain elements in our society love to employ euphemisms such as "intelligent design," "pro-life," and "evangelical," when they want to avoid the obvious: that the stinkweed still smells as sour no matter what name you give it. In other words: creationism, anti-abortion, and fundamentalist.)
Graves's apostacy boils down to his argument, supported by his source material, that John "the Divine" (a Greek exile, to the island of Patmos) wrote his Revelation in a form of code similar to what Kabalah fans call gematria, the manipulation of letter/number correspondences to unearth occult insights. The Greek form, isopsepia, was John's version of the Nazi enigma, only in his case, it was used for "good" purposes.
Why bother? Well, most of Western civilization at the time was Roman. The Romans were intercepting messages, having put into place a pre-Patriot Act security system that often exposed those who secretly worshipped the Pale Galilean. The current culprit, Nero Caesar, used Christians as lion-bait in the Colosseum, and when someone set fire to Rome, guess who got blamed? (It was an early dress rehearsal for the Kristallnacht.) Intercepted gospels were grounds for torture and death. Hence, the necessity of writing in isopsepia.
Drawing from his sources, Graves wrote that by isopsepia, the number/letter correspondence for "the Great Beast" (666) happens to be Nero Caesar. Duh! John was writing about current, not future events. The Book of Revelations was never meant to draw such foregone conclusions as a Rapture, Armageddon in the Holy Land, or any of that nonsense. The entire interpretation is a fabrication of people who emulate Jebus about as much as Nixon emulated Gandhi. If Jebus were here today, he'd be pissed. All of the greedy, contemptible snake oil being sold in his name. He would consign all evangelicals to the bowels of Hell, where he's reserved a special place for televangelists.
Acknowledgment of the historical basis for John's gospel would completely demolish evangelical (and especially dominionist) notions of an eschatology that includes the rise of the Anti-Christ, the establishment of a Zionist state in the Holy Land, and the coming of the Messiah, with the Rapture and all the rest of the science fiction horror story Christers have fashioned of a false interpretation of the New Testament. That would hurt book sales of the whole silly "Left Behind" sort and make people like Sarah Palin look like the Dangerous Lunatic she is. Not only did Senator McShame show poor judgment in selecting a running mate, he got more than he bargained for: a woman who believes in witchcraft and witch hunting; whose tortured and sexist interpretation of Christer dogma would have us take the lives of a loved one rather than help her have an abortion, and whose record at home in Alaska included inquiry into the censoring of books inconsistent with her narrow minded fundamentalist religious beliefs.
Where is Luis Buñuel when we really need him? A Buñuel could have fun with the themes that are presented in the theocractic farce that is thrust upon us. Fundamentalist Christers live in an alternative universe, that much is for sure. They believe so strongly (and misguidedly) in Armageddon, they'll do anything to bring it about. For them, the Final War is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I just wish they wouldn't take all the rest of us along for the ride. After all, some of us have enough imagination to dream up alternative universes of our own. For example, I happen to think that the Anti-Christ might be McShame, and Palin is his Scarlet Woman.
Makes just as much sense as fundamentalist Christeranity. All of the fundamentalist religious movements are the same in their resort to hysterical means to illogical ends, as witness the Muslim mistranslation of the Koran, a word meaning "grapes" having been mistranslated as "virgins." Yes, all of those lunatics playing martyr with plastic explosives won't find 72 virgins in Paradise, but 72 grapes! Theocratically, the only difference between Sarah Palin and Osama bin Laden is that one doesn't wear lipstick.