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. Steve

    This is April Fool's day, right? Anyone who believes this report of The Book of Revelation is the fool. Why not just pray about what YOU personnally think this scripture means to you? Too hard to actually "pray". Sad.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • SkipJunkman

      yeah........ no

      April 1, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  2. TedArbo

    Notice how polarized we are? How each of us is in one camp or the other no middle ground, no compromise? That is the enduring legacy of 'fundamentalist' religion, "my way or the highway, buddy!" Such a basis in fear.

    This current "diablogue" is excellent. It casts light on our predicament: a meme so presumably powerful as the example of Jesus' life has divided all the people on earth as right/wrong, correct/mistaken, enlightened/deluded. The whole discussion spurs me to find out about the actual historical Jesus (and Buddha, Mohamed, and Confucius for that matter) and why, in terms of human/crowd psychology, what he did or said impacted that part of the world 2000 years ago, which reverberations are still forming our societies and belief systems, which in turn account for our horrible inventions of war, as well as all that is good perhaps unique about Christianity, generosity and selfless love, to name two traits I see.

    I'm NOT a believer. I'm a thinking man who acknowledges his free will and rational mind, and MY "faith" is in these very gifts. These are what I am allotted to navigate the treacherous reefs of this world. I don't BTW know who allotted them. But....

    It's fascinating to try and account for Jesus' impact. Love the discussion. Think I will pick up the author's works.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  3. Bonnie

    One who writes a book about the Word of God, found ONLY in the Bible, is clearly confused and confuses others while making much monetary profit. The Apocalypse is God's war against His enemies and it will come to a finish when ALL of His and Jesus' enemies are destroyed; Most of them are in "churches". The image of the beast in Revelation 13 is the CROSS, and the 666, is Greek numbering, read from right to left: Sixty-six, 6. Please see Isaiah 66:6. The "trinity" lie has made many false prophets rich, and facilitated the spiritual genocide of many souls.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  4. jake

    Wow..judging by the replies it reaffirms my belief that religion is a sickness and indeed has made many people mentally unstable!!! Why dont you "believers" get on with the business of living a good and happy life. If there is a god with the attributes that we claim he has he certainly does not need puny humans wasting there time fighting over him nor indeed worshipping him.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • SkipJunkman

      Christians believe they are obligated to spread the gospels. It's a total zombie outbreak scenario.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • plucky

      And it makes it a funny scene because they don't even know they've been duped into spreading the "disease".

      April 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  5. SkipJunkman

    Jesus is fake. Sin is not real. Morality is natural. The bible is immoral

    April 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • betterthanthat

      The Lord warns us of people like you.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  6. the longer my message, the more devout I am

    Ha ha. False.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  7. Bonnie

    Anyone who writes a book about the Word of God, found ONLY in the Bible, is clearly confused and confuses others while making much monetary profit. The Apocalypse is God's war against His enemies and it will come to a finish when ALL of His and Jesus' enemies are destroyed; Most of them are in "churches". The image of the beast in Revelation 13 is the CROSS, and the 666, is Greek numbering, read from right to left: Sixty-six, 6. Please see Isaiah 66:6. The "trinity" lie has made many false prophets rich, and facilitated the spiritual genocide of many souls.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  8. A

    Patmos is in Greece, not Turkey.

    Get your facts right.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  9. Mark

    Someone has yet to prove to me that there is NOT a God....I'm waiting.

    I want 100% "scientific" proof.

    The burden of proof also lies with atheists, you simply cannot say "God does NOT exist"...when noone in history has proved that to be true.

    But of course some people (mostly atheists) are feeble minded and ignorant. From what I've seen in my lifetime, the less educated are atheists. So take out a loan, enroll in university, learn from other people's perspectives...you'll never learn anything if you don't appreciate other opinions in the world. Learn as much as you can and then make an educated decision as to what to believe in.

    This goes for religious people too.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • bloat

      The burdon of proof lies with those making the claim. Otherwise you and I would have to spend all of our time prooving that Santa Clause, the tooth fairy and Captain America don't exist!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • jake

      The proof lies in the fact that you can't prove there is a god!!!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Gregory Faith

      Stallen was athiest

      April 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • proof.

      What can't be measured nor observed, doesn't exist. There. proof. Now shut yer pie hole.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Godfrey


      Haha. Good one.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • sybaris

      Mark, what's more likely, there is or isn't a purple unicorn in my closet?

      There is just as much evidence for any god.

      Your call.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Godfrey

      Hehe... if you had the level of education you are wishing for others, you'd know that "science" is not constructed in such a way as to address non-falsifiable claims. You'd also know that the burden of proof is always on the claimant – the more far-fetched the claim, the heavier the burden.

      Also, most atheists say "I don't believe in gods" (or some variation thereof) not "there is no god".

      April 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Someone has yet to prove to me that there is NOT a God....I'm waiting. """

      Logic is clearly not your strong suit. When reasoning, you do not – you can not – prove a negative.

      Prove to me that UFO's do not exist. Prove to me that fairies do not exist. See where I'm going with this?

      The burden is actually on you, because you believe in a mythology that defies logic, reason, and all that we know as sentient human beings.

      You believe what you do because this is what you have been taught from an early age. If you had been born in Saudi Arabia, chances are excellent you'd be Muslim. If you'd been born in India chances are you'd be Hindu. It's more an accident of birth than anything which determines the religious system you are indoctrinated into.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Rich C

      Mark, I'll provide you with 100% scientific proof that God does not exist as soon as you provide me with the same level of proof that ALL of the other gods who have ever been worshiped on this planet do not exist. I'm waiting. 😉 Most atheists are "agnostic atheists", meaning that they don't believe any gods exist, but they aren't 100% certain of that. Many theists make the mistake of thinking that the atheist label means that the person is declaring with certainty that God does not exist. That's not correct. We're simply withholding believe until there's sufficient supporting evidence to make such a belief reasonable. It hasn't happened yet. Also, most atheists are much more knowledgeable about religion than theists are. Why? Because we DO study the subject, unlike most theists. The vast majority of Christians I personally know actually seem to be proud of their ignorance of their own religion.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Mick

      Mark, if I tried to disprove God's existence by saying no one has ever seen him, you'd say he's invisible. If I said no one has ever heard him speak (no, accounts from an ancient book containing a story of a talking donkey don't count), you'd say he never does that. If I said he can't be touched, or detected with any type of instrument, you'd say it's not possible to do that. So, you tell me: How could one possibly disprove such a far-fetched concept? Any attempts that a logical person could make to disprove such a being's existence have been blocked in advance by a ten-foot thick wall of b.s. excuses.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Bob

      Jake: The same logic would produce the statement, "The proof that there is a God lies ie the fact that you can't prove there isn't"

      April 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Mick

      On the other hand, Mark, I'm sure that you have mountains of evidence to prove the existence of the invisible magician...evidence that would hold up in court or a scientific journal.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  10. Teejmc3

    You kind of lose some credibility in your journalistic ability when you screw up your geography from the get go. Patmos is and has been a quite little Grecian island. Aren't you supposed to get your facts right before you write a piece? Oh that's right, That's for real journalists not for the journalistically compromised hacks at CNN. Is your desk next to that scion of integrity Solidad Obrien? Maybe you could swap notes.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  11. Andrew

    She's correct about 666. The first part of the verse reads "let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast," and if the number referred to someone who didn't exist at the time, it would have been a lie for the past 2000 years, because nobody until now would be able to understand it. Also, the earliest copies of the Bible state the number was originally 616, which adds up to the earlier false God/emperor Caligula.

    None of that means there isn't a real God, of course.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • primatica

      but you can see where if that is true then the rest is also code for that time and thiere situation

      April 1, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Bob

      Except that one of the early chapters of Revelation states that it deal with what would occur 'hereafter.' This includes a description of the rise to power of the beast-ruler. Since this man was to come to power after the book was written, the reference could not have been to any current or previous ruler.

      April 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    Christ is at hand

    Revelation 1, 1-8:

    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; 5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

    The great topic of the Bible beside salvation is the suffering of the Christian Church, which she has to bear in an antichristian world. A man, who remains in his redeemer Christ, will face hostility in this godless world.

    However, Jesus Christ, who has suffered like no one before him and after him, has overcome the demonic world. Christ had a free human will and a divine will (two wills). Despite cross, rejection and suffering Jesus remained "in God". The great merit of Jesus was it that he remained in God, although he had to bear superhuman sufferings. Christ has rolled back the Fall of Adam.

    Adam abandoned God voluntarily, although he was made in a blissful state. Jesus remained "in God" despite infinite sufferings. Hence, Jesus is a "new Adam" or the first born of a "NEW MANKIND", a mankind, which has returned to its Creator and loves him on every condition, even if she has to suffer. Jesus is the beginning of a new creation, a creation in God.

    Jesus Christ is yet in the "Future of the Lord". Jesus has overcome the profane world by the Holy Spirit and God has honored him and confirmed him with the resurrection from the death and has made him ruler of the universe. The meek and humble Jesus, who sweat blood in the garden Gethsemane, because of endless trouble and horror, is ruler of the universe right now and his dominion can manifest very soon.

    "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

    God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, for the sake of our sins. He raised him from the dead for our justification. Everybody, who believes that and gets sacramentally baptized, becomes righteous: His sins are forgiven and he lives a life of practical righteousness. Despite the attacks of the godless world, the believer remains within his saviour and does works of righteousness. The meek and humble people on earth living in righteousness, will finally manifest as kings and priests of the Most High. God will reward them with very high ranks, because they kept the faith on a hostile, godless earth.

    The majority of the mankind will never believe in Christ, at least not in the true Christ. The majority will believe in the false Christ or Antichrist (The Wicked, Mohammed, the popes and others).

    The revelation is nothing else than an account of the intergalactic war, which blusters on earth between the true Christian Church and the profane world (secular society, churches, which have turned apostate, false religions like Islam, cults like Mormons).

    God tells the true believers through the Revelation: "Don't become worldly again, but remain faithful; I have overcome the world and will come soon and raise you to glory!"

    April 1, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • jake

      Just for the record many people have suffered for more than Jesus did . He was not starved near to death then placed in gas chambers to die a slow, agonizing death, as many of the Jewish faith can attest!!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  13. Rob

    And the #1 misconception, "there is a God", followed closely by "The Bible is real".

    April 1, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  14. Top_News

    How about writing about what's in the Quran, John Blake? The contents and teachings of the Quran would be more of a shock to people.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • thoughtful

      Let's look at the founder of Islam. If you were given the choice to change your religion or die, which one would you take? Moahmmed was a killer of thousands!!! Do a little research!!! How many people did Jesus kill? hmmmmm. Why don't you just follow Charles Manson, he's at least still alive and you could talk to him and get real answers......not that his answer would be kind and loving, helpful......if you were to ask the founder of Islam, his answer would be like Charles Manson, if they don't agree with you, kill the whole village......and again, would you change, encourage everyone in the village to change in order to save your life............I wouldn't want to follow a killer......

      April 1, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  15. Voice of Reason

    I challenge the believers to view this video and come back to comment. I bet you can't because I know you won't!


    April 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Bob

      Or, "If there is an all-powerful, all-knowing God who created the universe, why doesn't He act exactly like I think He should?"

      April 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Bob

      I looked at this link. Not all of it, but some of it. The section on Jesus, for example, is built on distortions of what the Bible says, not giving all the Bible says, and assumptions for there is no basis. I don't have space here to address all the points, but I'll answer a few.

      "[O]ne of Jesus' most famous lines is, "Love your enemies," as he says here in Matthew 5:43. . .Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned [to hell].

      This is "good" news? Jesus doesn't love his enemies at all. In fact, you don't even need to be an enemy - even those who would rather not "believe in" Jesus are condemned to eternal torture in a lake of fire."

      Suppose a judge sentences a bank robber to jail? Does he do so because he doesn't love the bank robber? No. Any love the judge feels or does not feel for the bank robber is irrelevant. The bank robber goes to jail because he robbed a bank. Similarly, 'the condemned' are not condemned because Jesus doesn't love them, but because of their actions. The good news is that people do not have to remain condemned.

      "For further examples of hypocrisy and contradiction, try comparing Matthew 5:16 with Matthew 6:1..."

      These verses are complementary, not contradictory. Mathew 5:16 states that one's actions should be to bring glory to God. Mathew 6:1 states that one's actions should not be to bring glory to oneself.

      "Mark 11:24: Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. . . .You can pray for all sorts of things and nothing will happen. We all know that."

      God does answer prayer, but he is not a sugar-daddy or Santa Claus. James 4:3, although not the words of Jesus, explains, "Ye have not because ye ask amiss, that you man consume it upon your own lusts."

      "What if Jesus tells stories that are completely untrue? For example, take Matthew 4:8 as an example: Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. The problem with this story is that the earth must be flat for it to work. From a tall mountain it is impossible to see "all the kingdoms.""

      It's impossible if you are using physical sight. But Jesus is God and Satan was originally a exalted angel. Why would they habe been limited to physical sight? Those who find contradictions in the Bible insist on choosing interpretations that give contradictions and reject those that do not.

      Another easy way to see that Jesus is a jerk is to recognize his bigotry. In Matthew 15:22-26 we find this telling conversation: A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." Jesus calls this woman a dog because she is not the right nationality."

      As Paul Harvey would have said, "And now for the rest of the story." The women talks back to him. Does he slap her down, as he would have done if he were a bigot? No, he commends her for it. And then He heals the woman's daughter. Again, He would not done that if he were a bigot. So why did He make the comment? Obviously, we don't know His mind. But it seems to have been to test her determination, to see if she would give up at the first difficulty, or would persist.

      "In Mark 11:1-3 we find this transaction: As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'" [I]f you search the scriptures you find that they never bother to return it."

      No you don't. The scriptures don't explicitly say they returned it, which is not even remotely the same thing. The scripture don't say that the disciples ate or slept on that day. But do you assume they did? It is equally reasonable to assume they returned the colt.

      "The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it. Later we learn that the tree is dead. Let's see. The son of God is hungry. He approaches a fig tree. The tree is out of season and has no fruit. Jesus wants fruit. So he kills the tree."

      I'd have to check this, but as I remember, on a fig tree. the fruit appears before the leaves, so a tree with leaves should have had figs. Essentially the tree was promising what it did not deliver.

      "What a total jerk! Why didn't he wave his all-powerful hand and cause figs to appear? Or how about borrowing a raisin from someone and turning it into a 5,000 baskets of figs?"

      Because His purpose in coming to earth was not to use his abilities as God to gratify His own wants,

      "Only a true jerk would kill something out of spite."

      It wasn't spite. It was an object lesson in how god views hypocrisy (promising what you don't deliver).

      Then in Luke 10:25-28 we find another requirement: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

      Is that true? If you do this, will you have eternal life? Actually it is not true. In Luke 18:18-22 Jesus says: A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

      The answers in Luke 10 and Luke 18 are totally different."

      No they are not. Again, consider 'the rest of the story,' In Luke 18, the man goes away and does not follow Jesus. He does not "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" as stipulated in Luke 10. He loves his riches more.

      "The most amazing part of all this is that "eternal life" is a total fantasy. No one gets eternal life, because what Jesus is peddling is a scam. Every biologist will tell you with certainty that all of life is a chemical reaction."

      Every biologist will tell you with certainty that all of physical life is a chemical reaction. Since the soul is, by definition, not physical, no biologist can tell you anything about the soul.

      "Therefore, the whole idea of a "soul" is a figment of human imagination."

      Saying that the soul is a figment of imagination because biologists have not discovered it is like saying that the human cell is a figment of imagination because astronomers have not see it with their telescopes.

      "When you add all of these examples up, the truth is completely obvious. Jesus wasn't "the son of God." Jesus was a total jerk."

      When you add all these examples up, you see that any resemblance the Jesus presented here as a jerk and Jesus as described in the Bible is coincidental.

      April 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  16. Brian

    CNN, seriously? All this article does is enflame the religious debate once again, without any real journalistic quality. You post something you know would make Christians angry, and make non-believers mock every faith out there.

    If your goal was to get comments on your posts, congratulations. But, if you're goal is to be a reputable news source, then you failed.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Top_News

      I totally agree with you, Brian!!

      April 1, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Godfrey

      Reputable news source? They hired Nancy Grace!

      This hasn't been a news site for a long time.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • primatica

      faith in deities lends itself to mocking

      April 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  17. SkipJunkman

    Agnostics are winning.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Dave

      I dunno........

      April 1, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Rich C

      SkipJunkman, agnostic whats? Agnostic theists, or agnostic atheists? "Agnostic", by itself, doesn't say anything more than "I'm not 100% certain about this topic." I would argue that anyone who is being honest with himself and others would have to claim agnosticism on this particular topic. What I want to know is what they believe, not what they know.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  18. Haydon

    I question how many of you non-believers have actually read the Bible?? Probably not many. You just cling to others ideology because it's convenient. Whatever makes the most sense without accountability is the answer. Well I have news for you. God is real. The Bible is real and accurate. Better get your facts straight and think for yourself a little before making the biggest mistake of your life!

    April 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • SkipJunkman

      I have a bible by my bed. Lemme check.. yep, it's still lies.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Godfrey

      Actually, many of us nonbelievers have studied the Bible intently. I, for one, have a shelf full of scholarly (and not-so-scholarly) books about the Bible, its writings, its origins, its possible authors.

      I find that it's the Christians who haven't read it, except for a select few verses fed to then through their church or their favorite television pastor.

      Nope... the ignorance tends to be on the part of the believers.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Observer

      Here's news for YOU. A recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know more about the Bible than the average Christian.

      "Better get your facts straight"

      April 1, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • yenewok

      grew up with it and read it front to back and never believed a word of it because man wrote so people would support his control over others and that is all its ever done. It has caused as much death and destruction as natural disasters and still does. There is always religion t the bases of all evil,but if it makes you feel better to think you have heaven to go to instead of your life force going back into nature along with your body sobe it just don't force your antiquated ideas on the rest of the human race especially women.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Mackie Messer

      "You just cling to others ideology because it's convenient". You got to be kidding...Oh, April fools, you almost got me.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Braaq

      You have been brain washed your whole life. How about you listen to reason and realize that the Bible was a formed by men trying to form their own version of Christianity for their own agenda? It's propaganda. It has it's place in history but for you to take it so literally and not to see that fact, well you're just naive.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Nii

      SKIP. The fact that u have a Bible by ur bed says nothing. Billions of people have read de Bible while sticking 2 their own religion. Agnosticism, Atheism, etc r not bad religions @ all but attacking another religion 4 things u barely understand like Miss Pagel is bigotry. You can do better.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Not convinced

      And you know this how? Maybe I believe in Bigfoot and UFO's. They are real too. They have been seen for thousands of years and reported and written about and pictographs made of them. The bible has been retold and rewritten for thousands of years and translations get lost. So many of the original books were left out of the bible because religious fanatics wanted people to only read what they wanted them to read. Forcing their beliefs on you. Religion sucks. There has been so much killing and so much hatred over who is right that I do not believe in any of it.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Anita

      Read it 6 times, it's still a fairy tale.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Jeff Williams

      """I question how many of you non-believers have actually read the Bible??"""

      Ahh, yet another misconception to be torn asunder. There was a poll not too long ago that showed nonbelievers to be more knowledgeable of the bible than the believers.

      For me personally, I was raised in a very conservative church. I know the bible. I have also read portions of the qur'an. I regard each as written by man, not by any god.

      It should be equally obvious to you, but it's not. If your god intended the bible to be your holy book, he couldn't have been less clear about its meaning. If that is the word of god it is sure a sloppy way to get his word out, because you ALL have your own interpretations of what it all means, don't you? If it really was the word of god there would be no question, no debate.

      In addition, Christians need to understand that if god is writing these books (Torah, Bible, Qur'an) then the Qur'an is the latest version of his word. So why are you still Christians? You should be Muslim.

      Technically, if we believe the Mormons, they actually have the latest word of god. So maybe you should be Mormons instead.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Mick

      I recently read Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, and was amazed at what an evil, egotistical monster the Old Testament God is. He sends plagues against an entire population, then later kills them, because he's mad at their leader. He spends most of the time on Mt. Sinai not on delivering the Ten Commandments, but laying down rules regarding how much gold and what type of fine tapestries are to be acquired to create a lavish temple for his worship. Haydon, if you really want to win people over to your faith, the last thing you want them to do is read the Bible!

      April 1, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Rich C

      Haydon, I'm going to guess you don't actually know any atheists. Certainly, there are atheists who haven't read the Bible, and even some who are complete morons. Every group has them. The atheists I know are actually quite well read and knowledgeable on the subject of Christianity (if not other religions). I have read the entire Bible (and, more importantly, understood it) and parts of the Book of Mormon (I'll finish it some day) as well as books by Christian apologists (like "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist"). I have also read books in which the author tries to be educational in a neutral way, like "Jesus, Interrupted". And, of course, I've read books with a decidedly atheist tone by people like Victor Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. When I read the Bible, it struck me as exactly what I would expect from an ancient culture with little scientific understanding making an attempt at explaining the world. It's a lot like listening to a 5-year-old try to explain how a computer works. And being an atheist is hardly convenient. We're constantly fighting to keep Christians from forcing their religion on us through laws and government agencies, because apparently they view that as part of their "religious freedom." Do you have any idea how inconvenient it is for me to bite my tongue so I won't offend my grandma whenever she starts telling me that I "need to settle down with a good Christian girl."? LOL. The reason most atheists are atheists is BECAUSE they think for themselves. It's the leaders of the various religions that don't want people to think for themselves. The single biggest factor in determining a person's religion is where they were raised. That alone should tell all believers that there's a flaw in their belief system.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  19. Reality


    Thomas Jefferson omitted Revelation along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

    Martin Luther "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

    April 1, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Brian

      Reality: Martin Luther also retracted that statement later in life. He was for the Book of Revelation before he died. Look it up.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Reality

      Martin L. was confused about a lot of things. His followers still are. Jefferson and Calvin did not retract their thinking about Revelation.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  20. Moonshadow

    John's Letters could have served Athanasius just as well against his critics. You know, the writings that actually use the term "anti-Christ" for former members of the community.

    April 1, 2012 at 11:41 am |
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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.