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4 big myths of Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation has terrified and confused readers for centuries. Few agree on its meaning, but many have opinions.
March 31st, 2012
10:00 PM ET

4 big myths of Book of Revelation

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) – The anti-Christ. The Battle of Armageddon. The dreaded Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

You don’t have to be a student of religion to recognize references from the Book of Revelation. The last book in the Bible has fascinated readers for centuries. People who don’t even follow religion are nonetheless familiar with figures and images from Revelation.

And why not? No other New Testament book reads like Revelation. The book virtually drips with blood and reeks of sulfur. At the center of this final battle between good and evil is an action-hero-like Jesus, who is in no mood to turn the other cheek.

Elaine Pagels, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, first read Revelation as a teenager. She read it again in writing her latest book, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation.”

Pagels’ book is built around a simple question: What does Revelation mean? Her answers may disturb people who see the book as a prophecy about the end of the world.

But people have clashed over the meaning of Revelation ever since it was virtually forced into the New Testament canon over the protests of some early church leaders, Pagels says.

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“There were always debates about it,” she says. “Some people said a heretic wrote it. Some said a disciple. There were always people who loved and championed it.”

The debate persists. Pagels adds to it by challenging some of the common assumptions about Revelation.

Here are what she says are four big myths about Revelation::

1. It’s about the end of the world

Anyone who has read the popular “Left Behind” novels or listened to pastors preaching about the “rapture” might see Revelation as a blow-by-blow preview of how the world will end.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation was actually describing the way his own world ended.

She says the writer of Revelation may have been called John – the book is sometimes called “Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine” but he was not the disciple who accompanied Jesus. He was a devout Jew and mystic exiled on the island of Patmos, off the coast of  present-day Greece.

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“He would have been a very simple man in his clothes and dress,” Pagels says. “He may have gone from church to church preaching his message. He seems more like a traveling preacher or a prophet.”

The author of Revelation had experienced a catastrophe. He wrote his book not long after 60,000 Roman soldiers had stormed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., burned down its great temple and left the city in ruins after putting down an armed Jewish revolt.

For some of the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem was incomprehensible. They had expected Jesus to return “with power” and conquer Rome before inaugurating a new age. But Rome had conquered Jesus’ homeland instead.

The author of Revelation was trying to encourage the followers of Jesus at a time when their world seemed doomed. Think of the Winston Churchill radio broadcasts delivered to the British during the darkest days of World War II.

Revelation was an anti-Roman tract and a piece of war propaganda wrapped in one. The message: God would return and destroy the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem.

“His primary target is Rome,” Pagels says of the book’s author. “He really is deeply angry and grieved at the Jewish war and what happened to his people.”

2. The numerals 666 stand for the devil

The 1976 horror film “The Omen” scared a lot of folks. It may have scared some theologians, too, who began encountering people whose view of Revelation comes from a Hollywood movie.

The Omen” depicted the birth and rise of the “anti-Christ,” the cunning son of Satan who would be known by “the mark of the beast,” 666, on his body.

Here’s the passage from Revelation that “The Omen” alluded to: “This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six.”

Good movies, though, don’t always make good theology. Most people think 666 stands for an anti-Christ-like figure that will deceive humanity and trigger a final battle between good and evil. Some people think he’s already here.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation didn’t really intend 666 as the devil’s digits. He was describing another incarnation of evil: The Roman emperor, Nero.

The arrogant and demented Nero was particularly despised by the earliest followers of Jesus, including the writer of Revelation. Nero was said to have burned followers of Jesus alive to illuminate his garden.

But the author of Revelation couldn’t safely name Nero, so he used the Jewish numerology system to spell out Nero’s imperial name, Pagels says.

Pagels says that John may have had in mind other meanings for the mark of the beast: the imperial stamp Romans used on official documents, tattoos authorizing people to engage in Roman business, or the images of Roman emperors on stamps and coins.

Since Revelation’s author writes in “the language of dreams and nightmares,” Pagels says it’s easy for outsiders to misconstrue the book’s original meaning.

Still, they take heart from Revelation’s larger message, she writes:

“…Countless people for thousands of years have been able to see their own conflicts, fears, and hopes reflected in his prophecies. And because he speaks from his convictions about divine justice, many readers have found reassurance in his conviction that there is meaning in history – even when he does not say exactly what that meaning is – and that there is hope.”

3. The writer of Revelation was a Christian

The author of Revelation hated Rome, but he also scorned another group – a group of people we would call Christians today, Pagels says.

There’s a common perception that there was a golden age of Christianity, when most Christians agreed on an uncontaminated version of the faith. Yet there was never one agreed-upon Christianity. There were always clashing visions.

Revelation reflects some of those early clashes in the church, Pagels says.

That idea isn’t new territory for Pagels. She won the National Book Award for “The Gnostic Gospels,” a 1979 book that examined a cache of newly discovered “secret” gospels of Jesus. The book, along with other work from Pagels, argues that there were other accounts of Jesus’ life that were suppressed by early church leaders because it didn’t fit with their agenda.

The author of Revelation was like an activist crusading for traditional values. In his case, he was a devout Jew who saw Jesus as the messiah. But he didn’t like the message that the apostle Paul and other followers of Jesus were preaching.

This new message insisted that gentiles could become followers of Jesus without adopting the requirements of the Torah. It accepted women leaders, and intermarriage with gentiles, Pagels says.

The new message was a lot like what we call Christianity today.

That was too much for the author of Revelation. At one point, he calls a woman leader in an early church community a “Jezebel.” He calls one of those gentile-accepting churches a “synagogue of Satan.”

John was defending a form of Christianity that would be eclipsed by the Christians he attacked, Pagels says.

“What John of Patmos preached would have looked old-fashioned – and simply wrong to Paul’s converts…,” she writes.

The author of Revelation was a follower of Jesus, but he wasn’t what some people would call a Christian today, Pagels says.

“There’s no indication that he read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or that he read the gospels or Paul’s letters,” she says. “….He doesn’t even say Jesus died for your sins.”

4. There is only one Book of Revelation

There’s no other book in the Bible quite like Revelation, but there are plenty of books like Revelation that didn’t make it into the Bible, Pagels says.

Early church leaders suppressed an “astonishing” range of books that claimed to be revelations from apostles such as Peter and James. Many of these books were read and treasured by Christians throughout the Roman Empire, she says.

There was even another “Secret Revelation of John.” In this one, Jesus wasn’t a divine warrior, but someone who first appeared to the apostle Paul as a blazing light, then as a child, an old man and, some scholars say, a woman.

So why did the revelation from John of Patmos make it into the Bible, but not the others?

Pagels traces that decision largely to Bishop Athanasius, a pugnacious church leader who championed Revelation about 360 years after the death of Jesus.

Athanasius was so fiery that during his 46 years as bishop he was deposed and exiled five times. He was primarily responsible for shaping the New Testament while excluding books he labeled as hearsay, Pagels says.

Many church leaders opposed including Revelation in the New Testament. Athanasius’s predecessor said the book was “unintelligible, irrational and false.”

Athanasius, though, saw Revelation as a useful political tool. He transformed it into an attack ad against Christians who questioned him.

Rome was no longer the enemy; those who questioned church authority were the anti-Christs in Athanasius’s reading of Revelation, Pagels says.

“Athanasius interprets Revelation’s cosmic war as a vivid picture of his own crusade against heretics and reads John’s visions as a sharp warning to Christian dissidents,” she writes. “God is about to divide the saved from the damned – which now means dividing the ‘orthodox’ from ‘heretics.’ ’’

Centuries later, Revelation still divides people. Pagels calls it the strangest and most controversial book in the Bible.

Even after writing a book about it, Pagels has hardly mastered its meaning.

“The book is the hardest one in the Bible to understand,” Pagels says. “I don’t think anyone completely understands it.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Church • Devil • End times • Faith • History • Jerusalem

soundoff (8,460 Responses)
  1. larryb

    unfortunately the devout will continue to think of the bible as the word of god with nothing changed since god handed it down just like the 10 commandments. they will never hear how the bible was written by hundreds of different people and edited, and artistically copied and added to hundreds of times...every monk who made a copy probably changed something (even if unintentional)

    April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • mike \b

      you're right larryb...bible is a big fake...

      Increasing of lawlessness and love of the greater number will cool off' (Matt.24:11,12) ....nope can't see this happening in today's world...bible wrong again...right larryB?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • mike \b

      oh larrb....read your history....there were some quite powerful powers that tried to get rid of the bible....but it still manage to be around...

      April 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Ben

      Actually, if you look back at earliest copies of the New Testament writings they are almost exactly the same today as they were then, so those Monks really didn't make many mistakes at all. I agree with the rest of your comment though.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • larryb

      mike b...I do read history ...you read fiction...the bible

      April 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Otto

      Increasing of lawlessness and love of the greater number will cool off' (Matt.24:11,12) ....

      So predicting the obvious becomes proof of the supernatural.......ummm ok.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Anom

      Not sure if that applies to everyone. For me, I thought, why waste my life following something that is not true? I could be out partying it up, being available to many women, to drink it up among many other things. If it is not true, why waste my life following it? I cannot deny not following the Bible does have some benefits. On the other hand, IF the Bible were true, then I would be missing out on it's eternal benefits. Both decisions carried potential benefits and potential consequences. For me, it was worth while studying it out in depth. I spent almost 3 and 1/2 years on this because I did not want to waste my life in either direction. For me, after studying out the Bible and several Biology books side by side, it appeared to me that science and God were not in conflict with each other, in fact there was much more in common than in conflict. For example, the order of creation lined up, and the Bible had it written down thousands of years before Darwin (and the order of creation supporting Darwin and the Bible continues to be supported by findings around the world). The biggest traditional conflict is the time span over which creation occurs. But after reading through the Bible, finding scriptures that help explain it, and understanding that Genesis was not written as a science book, but an explanation of how God initiated a relationship with his people, it made sense to me. Going through everything researched is beyond the scope of a simple posting, but wanted to at least share my experience, I am sure that others have faced similar issues, whether it is concern about the Bible copying process or how many different authors were involved (which I am well aware of and did a fair amount of studying that out as well when making my decision). Bottom line, what ever decision we make about what direction in life we go comes with potential benefits and potential consequences. This one was big enough for me to spend considerable time researching.

      April 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  2. Ben

    I think this article takes a few liberties with the truth... There's no proof about who the John who wrote Revelation was or was not. To just state as a fact that he was a Jewish mystic is just conjecture..

    April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • mandarax

      You can read Revelation and then complain that this article takes some liberties with reality? Wow.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Read it again. Better yet, read the actual book it references. Neither say any such thing. You might need to get someone to help you sound out the bigger words.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Ben

      @SixDegrees It doesn't say it in the article? Then I guess I just copied and pasted this from my imagination?

      She says the writer of Revelation may have been called John – the book is sometimes called “Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine” but he was not the disciple who accompanied Jesus. He was a devout Jew and mystic exiled on the island of Patmos in present-day Turkey.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Ben

      @mandarax Um.. yes? Whether or not the book is a myth is irrelevant.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Peter Grenader

      mandarax: brilliant comment.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  3. soft_whispers_7

    I disagree with the article, Jesus is coming back and we need to be ready. Jesus said in the last days there will be deception. So this is a precursor of the end times, look up people,, Jesus is coming soon!!!!!

    April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • just me

      Does that mean I gotta clean up? Vacuum the floor? Where's he crashing?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Otto

      Jesus is comming.....are you swallowing that?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      Ten bucks says the real Santa Claus will arrive before Jesus.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Boast Busters

      Otto,

      Believers have very weak gag reflexes - they'll swallow just about anything.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • knowledge2power

      Jesus is lord and when he does return I will be ready. I'd rather spend my time on this earth as a believe and be wrong than spend my time on this earth as a non believer and be wrong. My personal testimony is confirmation that God does exist. Many other people feel the same way but many of us don't want to believe because we know how jacked up we are as human beings and the only way for people like that to feel good about themselves and what they do is to rationalize God out of the picture.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      Can anyone name a place or time in which there was no deception? That's as powerful a prophecy as my saying, "when the end arrives, the waves will wash ashore, the sky will darken where it was once light, the stars will become as bright as fireflies, and drug deals will take place in alleys, convenient store parking areas, and other secluded areas that are occulted from the electric eyes born from man."

      April 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • sam stone

      "jesus is coming soon!" – soft whispers

      "Marge, I have something none of those other prophets had. I have a really good feeling about it" – Homer Simpson

      April 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  4. kyle

    How about ALL of it is a myth.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Dinosaur

      Some of the places are real. And some of the events are exaggerated modifications of stories from before the bible that could be slightly somehow based in fact. But all the supernatural stuff.. naw.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • larryb

      very true but good luck with that one

      April 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • mandarax

      Some of the places are indeed real, but you're absolutely right that that doesn't confirm any of the rest of it. New York is real – that doesn't confirm the story of King Kong.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  5. Bibletruth

    The article says:

    “What John of Patmos preached would have looked old-fashioned – and simply wrong to Paul’s converts…,” she writes.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Paul and John are 100% in synch. It is known who the anti-Christ is. It is Known what the mark of the beast is.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • just me

      Is it Santorum?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      They most certainly are not in sync. Paul was quite adamant that gentiles were not required, for example, to shun sacrificial meat or to marry strictly within their faith, while John was just as fierce in his denunciation of such practices and of Paulians as heretics.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Eric G

      Really? You know who the antichrist is? Please, enlighten us all.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • larryb

      your type of bible thumper is the scariest of all

      April 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      Santorum has my Anti-Christ vote.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  6. John the Divine

    Quoting "He was a devout Jew and mystic exiled on the island of Patmos in present-day Turkey."

    Patmos is in present-day Greece – as it was in antiquity and the time of the writing of the Revelation. NOT in "present-day Turkey."

    April 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • tom

      i am a student at a bible school and most scholars understand patmos to be off the west coast of modern day turkey. I disagree with this argument but geography is not the part i disagree with.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • fofo

      Have you heard of Ottoman Empire?

      April 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  7. mike \b

    Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
    Matthew 24:7
    But this is not accurate because they left out them dam tornadoes that's being killing them folks down South...not to mentioned them tsunami....so this bible thing can't be for real

    April 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • mike \b

      no let get back back to my iPad and CNN news.....life goes on...don't need this bible stuff...its 2012 and people are too educated to fall for this stuff.

      Increasing of lawlessness and love of the greater number will cool off' (Matt.24:11,12) ....nope can't see this happening in today's worl...bible wrong again

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      War and famine and hate? That's been going on since the beginning of human history. People have been using these things to claim that it's the biblical "end of times" for 2000 years.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  8. Turth7

    If God has not called you, simply ask Him with an honest heart to let you know He is there. No one else can show you. He can. Then, open the Bible and have Him teach you at home. FOLLOW Jesus. Let Jesus lead you home to the Father. Time is short.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Dinosaur

      Time is long Turth. Much longer than 6000 years. Life is short, though. Too short to give it all up to some imaginary sky daddy.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Bill

      You have the right name Pipe-dreamer

      April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • briffault

      Don't mind Dinosaur, he's one of those fellows who likes to cause trouble. The thing he doesn't understand though is that he has a right to his opinion, so it really doesn't bother anyone.....not the outcome you were looking for, eh Dino?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      Far greater knowledge and wisdom can be derived from reading Newton's Principia and applying the mathematics of change. The value one can derive from that book dwarfs any useful information that may be contained in the Bible.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You kind of have to wonder what he's smoking in that pipe.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  9. Phosphorus

    My god carries a hammer. Your god died shortly after being nailed to pieces of wood. Any questions?

    April 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Dixilogos

      Didn't stay dead, sorry!

      April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Eric G

      @Dixilogos: Please present the evidence that supports your claim for verification. Sorry, but if you make claims of reality, you must provide evidencial support for those claims or they must be dismissed as false.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • The Bible

      It's obvious that the message of love will never get through to your head.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  10. Brian Magee

    According to the first three verses of Revelation, the clock ran out on the Christian religion a very long time ago, with the writer claiming the events were to happen "soon" and the "time is near." Unless someone wants to assert that "soon" and "near" are terms that include 2,000 years, this religion failed before the Bible was even put together.

    "The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near."

    April 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bibletruth

      Check your bible prophecy...specific dates are close to our time

      April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Otto

      Christians including Jesus himself have been saying the time is near for 2000 years.....

      April 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts or goblins

      Bibletruth, not only does your comic book (aka The Babble) say no one knows, not even jesus, but *EVERY* end-time prophesy to date has been a great big fail. But instead of a mystical and ambiguous "check your bible prophecy" response how about you tell us exactly what's going to happen and when. I bet you can't make any more sense than my personal favourite christian idiot prophet Maryilyn Agee (http://prophecycorner.theforeverfamily.com/).

      April 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      @Bibletruth: Your comments remind me of those that followed Harold Camping and his three failed rapture predictions.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  11. Anom

    Very well written Amillienial point of view for being an article. In fact, not once does it state in Revelation anything about an Anti-Christ! Check it out for yourself in your Concordance, or read through Revelation! It's not there! The only reason why the Anti-Christ gets brought up is because some "man" a few hundred years ago decided to start associate it with Revelations, before then, it was never a commonly held view. The only place where it mentions the Anti-Christ is in 1st and 2nd John, read these too (they are quick reads)! It actually confirms that many Anti-Christs have already have come! It goes on to define what the Anti-Christ are. Base on this definition, we have been surrounded by Anti-Christs since the time of Jesus. Once taken out of the associated context to Revelation, it shows the Anti-Christ as ordinary people that reject God. While Matt 28:18-20, encourages us to go and share the good news, these passages in 1st and 2nd John is a warning about the pit falls that may come from sharing the good news. People may change your view to one that is not Biblical, yes even Pastors (some knowingly, and some unknowingly despite being very sincere and caring). Hence the Berean Challenge is probably one of the best challenge I have ever received.. From Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true..... The Challenge, get into the Bible, not just read it, but study it for yourself (Let me be clear, I am not saying go badger your Pastor! Many of them are a great resource, however.) After studying the Bible, some will find that there is many things that seem to be passed around via mouth may not actually be in the Bible. Many more will find so much more knowledge that they never knew before studying the Bible in depth (not just reading it like a book).
    Ok, enough on the side note, while I actually hold many of the Amilleniest views, I will also point out that there were several Psalms and other OT scriptures that were of immediate meaning and use of the time written, that were also prophetic in nature about the coming of Christ. Hence, the widely held Pre-milleniest views may hold water as well (ie. Revelation being Prophetic in Nature, also supporting this view would be showing the result of similar writing styles to Revelation in parts of Ezekiel and Daniel prophesying about the coming of Christ. Hence Revelation being written in a similar style one may also look at this another reason to look into Revelation as a possible prophecy about the future). I am not writing this to tell one what to believe. I am writing this to encourage people to dig in to their Bibles. Seek wisdom and understanding when stuck from God and from people around you that also regularly dig into their Bibles.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • The Bible

      Right – it's because the Revelation is symbolic – and the symbol for the anti-Christ is the beast of the sea <– same as the little horn from the Book of Daniel.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  12. ICBEYONDU

    Can anyone prove that God does not exist?

    April 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Jon

      Of course not. But you can't prove that Zeus, Leprechauns, Pokemon, or any other imaginary character exists or doesn't exist either.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Dinosaur

      No. No one can proves he exists either.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Dinosaur

      Hey now.... hey... pokemon are real..

      April 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • just me

      Sara Palin, Rick Santorum, George W Bush and the Bible. All proof that there is no all knowing and benevolent god.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      It is the burden of proof of the person that says it exists then we can refute it with logic and reason. But they can't prove it so it is a moot point.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • logan5

      I can't prove a supernatural presence of some kind does not exist but I can present a truck load of damming evidence proving the Christian god does not exist.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      No. Because a demand for a negative proof is a logical fallacy.

      Proof of existence is what's required.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • mandarax

      I think it can be proved that the god described in the bible does not exist. It's just that we keep rationalizing and changing our interpretations as parts of the bible are found to be fundamentally wrong. We've used telescopes, satellites, and humans to explore "the heavens" and He was not there.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • ICBEYONDU

      SixDegrees, I was waiting for for someone who actually understood the flaw of the question!

      April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • knowledge2power

      Surely we cannot, nor can we prove he does. That is the beauty of faith and the beauty of the glory of God. His existence is all around us. The laws of physics and thermodynamics are so precise and intricate that they can't possibly be accidental creations. Man and nature are paralleled so well that there has to be an architect behind our creation. Perfection, in terms of the balance of life and the conditions necessary to sustain it as we know it, can never be accidental.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  13. Ken

    The Bible is true get over it. This article is a joke LOL

    April 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Dinosaur

      Now this is how a troll operates.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • logan5

      Classic example of circular logic

      April 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • csnord

      Yes, yes, the Bible is true; just like the Easter Bunny, and the Olympic Gods; and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Your sad devotion to your imaginary sky fairy makes you a pathetic excuse for a human being.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Michael p

      Ignorance in it's raw form. A very strong attribute among Christians.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  14. anoteforauthor

    Quote from the article above:
    "...exiled on the island of Patmos in present-day Turkey."

    Patmos is an island in present-day Greece.

    The author of the article doesn't have basic facts right, I wonder why read the rest of the article...

    April 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • James

      Well said and noted... it is evidence of incompetent fiction but posted to inflict more ignorance, disdain and even blind people to the true meaning that exists, yet which was not brought out so that people would be able form an informed, educated and valuable opinion. Those who propagate hate and the atheists who post and want to outlaw religion, go ahead and try it. It is not religion anyway that people need, they need to know the true Creator. Someday they will have to face the consequences of their cynical judgements, statements and blindness. Yes, spiritual blindness which is the worst of all!

      April 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • pcayce

      I think the "Patmos" problem is with the article writer. I haven't read the book but I've seen other reviews that state that Patmos is an island near present day Turkey (not that it's part of Turkey). You would think that if Pagel had said it, the other reviewers would have made a big deal of correcting her.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The author of the article and the author of the book are two different people. Throwing out the book because the reviewer made a mistake is being rather closed- minded.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Dixilogos

      When I studied journalism years ago, a fact error such as this was an automatic fail. I too have posted fact errors and blame the instant medium as well as the lack of editorial supervision. A good writer can become a great one with a good editor between himself and the reader.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  15. general

    what the heck guys it's 2012 and this fairytale stuff is still going on??

    April 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Toad

      What the hell does heck mean anyway?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • mike \b

      Yes General its sill going on:

      Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
      Matthew 24:7
      But this is not accurate because they left out them dam tornadoes that's being killing them folks down South...not to mentioned them tsunami....so this bible thing can't be for real

      April 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • logan5

      heck is a euphemism for "hell."

      April 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • general

      ok mikey i didnt want to say it but i am god..it will rain, there will be wars, people will die tragic deaths, christians will be mocked deservingly so...not hard

      April 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  16. James

    This article is not authoritative but mere fiction and bias by the author and the comments left are among the worst. Yes, the article is hardy good journalism and yes, there are many misinformed, biased and confused people. The article does nothing more than confus people even more. It is a sad commentary on people who want to say and be someone and speak arrogantly about things they know very little about. No one can interpet the Scriptures unless they have the Spirit of God. Oops, not convinced the writer and comments are from the Spirit of God. Sorry, it's all just fluff and not worthy of any spiritual man's attention. I'm sorry for that.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • James

      Some letters got left out, it is hardly good journalism," yet CNN is eager to post it online. What are the motives behind the editor who permits such worthless items online. I'd better think twice about reading what CNN posts as worthy journalism...!

      April 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Phosphorus

      From my anthropological studies of culture and botany, it would seem as though this "spirit of god" that keeps getting mentioned was either related to schizophrenia or psychedelic substances. One would be amazed of how many prophets there are today in insane asylums that fully believe they are in communication with deities, angels, or aliens, and how many individuals find god after experiencing psilocybin, lysergic acid, salvinorin A, dimethyltryptamine, and other powerful drugs.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  17. JJ

    I began to question the author's knowledge of the book and its history as soon as she said Patmos was part of Turkey ... perhaps she should have checked her geography.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Pagels didn't write the article. She does, however, discuss Patmos' tangled history of allegiances to Turkey, Greece, Rome, period of relative independence and time spent under many other sovereigns in her book.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • logan5

      But did you check to see if Patmos was a part of turkey at that particular time? If so then she was correct.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • JD

      The author of the book didn't say that Patmos is in Turkey; it's the author of the article about the book who makes the mistake. If you want to know what the author of the book actually thinks, read the book; this article is just what someone thinks the author of the book was saying. Does anyone here understand the concept of critical thinking?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • JJ

      I actually listened to an interview with the author on NPR in which SHE also cites the location as Turkey.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  18. abcontador

    The whole book is a myth – I still can't believe so many people actually have "faith" – I think it might be time to make religion illegal so it doesn't cause anymore damage than it already has.

    April 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Toad

      Bring it on atheist filth.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • just me

      Hey Toad. It's already ON and we're winning. Seen the numbers of people fleeing the churches?

      April 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Petey

      Get a date. A fat chick will do. Just interact with the world. Please.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Toad

      YAWN... Just let me know when the shooting starts filth.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • general

      HA Toady a true messenger of christ..anyway one you old delusional fools die religion is gone

      April 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • csnord

      TOAD - So, because I'm an atheist, I'm filth. That is a very loving, tolerant, and inclusive point of view for a Christian. You are a fine example of your religion. Since it is highly unlikely that your low-functioning "intellect" could under stand that, by that statement I mean that your statement violates every principal that you pretend to espouse through your religion. Sorry about that, but there are some words in there that you'll need to look up, but it can't be helped.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • The Bible

      And this is the spirit of the anti-Christ that you are presenting = intolerance towards Christians.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  19. Davren Noble

    This author is obviously slanting the article towards her own bias..Anyone who reads the Bible or studies the Bible knows that John was not a mystic and he was very much a follower of Jesus.

    As far as all the Atheists saying Christianity and the Bible are myths..Science explains alot of what the Bible talks about and Jesus was a historical figure, written about by Roman philosophers. He exists outside the Bible for those actually willing to look.

    Also, stop acting like Atheists are these perfect people. If your Atheists then you follow no code of morality, meaning Dictators, Rapists and Murderers shouldn't bother you because it's all survival of the fittest anyway right? You'll be the same people complaining about the greed of the government...smh..If your so secure in what you believe why keep coming here to try to force people to believe as YOU believe...Give it a rest.

    April 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • abcontador

      quite simply because Christians try to force their beliefs on the rest of the world, and many time they are warped and twisted beliefs - you people interpret the bible the way you see fit

      April 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • general

      uh jesus was "written" about by one guy outside the bible – and that guy died a Jew

      April 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Corbin

      Anyone who reads the bible and studies the bible thinks just like you? That's pretty arrogant.

      Before you wrote your comment did you stop to wonder why you don't hear about roving bands of atheist murdering and raping everything in site? Of course you didn't.

      'Your' and 'you're' don't mean the same thing. For example:

      You share the same morality as Atheist in YOUR country. YOU'RE not going to stone your neighbor to death for being something other than christian, are you?

      Deuteronomy 17:7 [King James]: "The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him [a non-believer] to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you."

      April 1, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • logan5

      Oh my goodness the lack of honesty here! Yes, Jesus probably did exist. But his existence by no means serves as proof that he was of supernatural origin. And what evidence do you have that modern science supports reanimating the dead, walking on water, and changing water into wine. And sorry, but to claim atheists have no "moral code" is just plain stupid. Being this obtuse is no way to go through life. Get it together!

      April 1, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Davren Noble

      @CORBIN You're kidding right..First off, Atheists don't exist. You can't prove God doesn't exist with 100% certainty, even Richard Dawkins realized that. As far as not hearing about Atheists killing people, your very nieve. Everyone has a God, either the God in Heaven or the God of self. If you worship yourself, then you set your own rules. You set your own standard of morality, meaning nothing you do can be wrong. It's survival of the fittest, whatever pleases YOU is right.

      Look at the world, nobody truly following the life of Christ would be corrupting the government, stealing money from its people. Shooting up schools etc. Darwinism and all mindsets of that sort are just as dangerous as uninformed religious people.

      As far as being arrogant, I never said MY VIEW was right, I said the author's view was wrong. That's not an opinion, thats a fact. Read up on it, John was NOT a mystic.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Davren Noble

      @logan I said science explains A LOT of what the Bible talks about, not ALL. That's where faith comes in..and there are many things that happen in this day and age outside the realm of natural understanding. Work in a hospital and you'll see that. The whole basis of Christianity is a risen Christ, who the writers wrote about seeing after he was crucified.

      The book of John was written as an eye-witness account. Other books of the bible as well. The point was to tell of things seen firsthand. Christianity would not exist if these people did not see Christ resurrected. Sure you can say they were lying, but that takes a good amount of faith on your part as well.

      Lastly, Atheist don't have a moral code, because if you are your own God, your own Judge, then you can pretty much make up any system you want to live by that makes you happy...and you can see where that leads.

      Are all Christians perfect...NO...and I PERFECT NO...Do I have all the answers NO..But I'm also not an idiot and I do have an understanding of sociology and psychology and how things work.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  20. jwarino

    wow yet another inconclusive and irrelevant interpretation of the the weirdest book of the bible. time to reevaluate religion and see it for what it is.

    April 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • James

      Yes, religion is worthless, but true faith in a living God, now that makes a difference. Religion changes the outside and we become hypocrites, but when we are changed on the inside, then that is based on true faith and divine intervention into our lives, if you haven't experienced it then you don't know yet what it is... true faith in a living God, a resurrected Christ, now that is spirituality and true spirituality is what is needed. If you're not there yet, then pray, if you are unwilling to search for God, then you are not going to find Him, unless His mercy acts in your life. God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • mike

      Unfortunatly, the world is about to experience some of the things we have been warned about , from Christ and others in the bible...I won't try to convince anyone here...just watch as the worlod unravels and the events that were fortold come to pass...we will have a complete financial collapse, and utter anarchy will reign, we are heading for world war.. the amount of poverty, disease and crime that is coming is unimaginable...

      April 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Mike, you should study some history. War, hatred, famine, disease, destruction - that's pretty much the human status quo. People have been claiming that it's the biblical end of times for 2000 years.

      April 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Sheila

      jwarino, you wouldn't think it was weird if You let me sit with you and show you the meaning of scripture. You would be spellbound.

      April 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.