Thursday, February 23, 2012

John the Revelator

Listen to Blind Willie Johnson sing John the Revelator

I attended Catholic school for 12 years, 5 of those under the piercing gaze and wicked intellect of the Jesuits. I studied the bible pretty rigorously. King James, Douay-Reims, and other, more modern and more accurate, translations. Now, we all know that there were lots of writings in the early days of Christianity but canonical decisions were in place by the time of the Council of Nicea. The first one. There’s been a lot of change, however, between then and now. We’ve discovered more, and more accurate, manuscripts, the Dead Sea scrolls, better translations, and so on.

The most fascinating one to me is the recent discovery and translation of scrolls hidden in caves in the Dodecanese dated to the first century CE (AD) which seem to be the most original version of John’s (Feel free to decide for yourself which John. Does that make you feel uncomfortably like a hooker? ) “Revelations,” especially the passages concerning the horsemen. To wit:

Revelation 6

[1] And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, the first of the five beasts saying, Come and see.

[2] And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.

[3] And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see.

[4] And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.

[5] And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

[6] And I heard a voice in the midst of the five beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

[7] And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

[8] And I looked, and behold a corpse-green horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

[9] And when he had opened the fifth seal, I heard the voice of the fifth beast say, Come and see. And lo I beheld a rainbow horse; and he that sat on him was Fabulous. And authority was given to him to lively up the place and the other horsemen who were most depressing and dullsome. And he did.

[10] And it was good.

I guess there's gonna be some theological tussling happening in our future.

P.S. Yes, I just made this up but who knows?


  1. Thanks, Frank! No some point all that was made up by someone...

  2. Yeah, Matt, like whichever John it was who wrote that stuff wasn't trippin' his brains out.

  3. In my mind the Fabulous horseman is played by Alan Cummings.

    Also, this totally made me want to re-read Good Omens (by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman). Are you a fan by any chance?

  4. Catherine,

    "Floop" as "Fabulous!" I like it! I admire Terry Pratchett but don't really like to read him. I like Neil Gaiman pretty well but my daughter Chloe is the serious fan of both authors. She has both the black and the white cover versions of Good Omens and the black version is signed by Neil Gaiman!