Investigator 38, 1994 September
A A LANG
27 January 1993
Comment Interpreting the Mark of the Beast.
With regard to the interpretation of Apocalypse of St John the Divine. (Robert L Hamilton letter, Investigator May 1992)
Of course reading of Revelation with regard in the philosophic outlook of the first century is, as Hamilton puts it, "simply the views of certain individuals". As is reading it from the viewpoint of twentieth century Millenniumism, or assuming it has no understandable meaning whatsoever.
Mr Hamilton is probably correct in his opinion that the text of Revelation provides no support for the view that the Anti Christ is an identifiable individual (who, according to Jeanne Dixon, celebrates his thirtieth birthday this February.
However, Hamilton also says "there is no reason to say that the number is anything other than what the text is saying". The question is what the text is saying. Given the general imagery of Revelation, it would be dangerous to assume that anything in it has a straightforward literal meaning, free from metaphor or allegory.
The text does not say that "the mark is some form of exchange" (eg United States Dollar). It says that those who do not bow down and worship the Beast (are marked as followers) are deprived of the right of commerce.
I cannot agree with Mr Hamilton's view that the prophecies of Jesus given are "beyond logical dispute."
The statements about the fall of Jerusalem were all written down after the actual event and cannot be regarded as definitive evidence of prediction.
The only "prediction" about the woman who anointed Jesus (Mark 14: 3-9; Matt 26:6-13) is that the account will endure as long as Mark and/or Matthew do, which is merely a self-evident tautology.
There are differences between the Mark/Matthew account and the account in John. John (who makes no prophetic claim) gives details and names not present in Mark/Matthew, so either Mark/Matthew has forgotten parts of the story, or John has added to it, neither alternative suggests that the story is immune from history. In his tale of Jesus's ministry, Luke felt free to move this incident to a different time and location.
The claim that a human government would make fire come down out of the sky (Rev 13:13) was given as an identifier ("great sign") of the end-time government ruling over "every tribe and people and tongue and nation", not something to be within the power of every minor nation on the planet.
To suggest that this verse is a fulfilled prophecy only supports the view that the meaning of Revelation (if any) is so obscure that the actual wording can be interpreted as variably as Nostradamus can.
Mr Lang's letter was passed to me because the prediction about the unnamed woman who anointed Jesus was discussed by me in Investigator No. 20.
Two days before Jesus died an unnamed woman poured ointment on his head in the village of Bethany. Jesus then said: "Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." (Mark 14; Matthew 26)
When the Bible goes to new languages Mark is among the first books to be translated. "What she has done" is therefore now being told in about 2,000 languages.
Mr Lang calls this "a self evident tautology". Mr Lang is mistaken. Jesus said "the whole world". In the previous chapter (Mark 13) he said the gospel would be preached "in all nations". This is done not just by distributing Bibles but also by speaking and preaching. The book of Mark is also available in all nations but this fact does not make the prediction a tautology.
Mr Lang alleged "differences" in details between Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The answer is that we are dealing with similar events at different times.
The report in John 12 referred to Bethany 6 days before Jesus' death. The story in Luke 7:36-50 was set in Capernaum some time earlier. The Matthew/Mark report of an unnamed woman applied 2 days before Jesus died and both agree in detail.
The question of whether or not Jesus' prophecies about Jerusalem were written before the fulfilment needs a separate article. At least some were written prior to being fulfilled. For example:
"Jerusalem will he trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24
As regards Revelation being "so obscure". Dozens of different interpretations are competing and so I sympathize with Lang's complaint.
However, for Revelation to be indeed a revealing or "revelation" it should have been understandable to 1st & 2nd century Christians. An initial test for any interpretation, therefore, is to ask: "Could 2nd century Christians have come to these conclusions?"
A clear prediction in Revelation is that Christianity would continue until Jesus returned. The scope of Christian preaching is given as: "to every nation and tribe and tongue and people." (Chapter 14) Isn't this talking place? By comparing Acts 2:17 with 2 Peter 3:8 we get an idea of the time scale involved - thousands of years.
Skeptics, humanists and atheists versus Bible defenders: