Bruce Chilton, professor of religion at Bard College, on HuffPo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-chilton/americas-apocalypse-armag_b_4195199.html
Yep, it’s Americans’ fault. Seriously.
The pilot of Sleepy Hollow presented us with a host of ideas and assumptions about the devil and the book of Revelation. Most of that comes from earlier such stories — earlier fantasy/mystery/thriller/romance stories that drew on those symbols, reinventing or elaborating as required by the story being told. Kurtzman and Orci aren’t really starting with the biblical book of Revelation, then reinventing it for their purposes. They’re starting with the pop-cultural mythology of the book of Revelation and then further reinventing it for their purposes. And their reinvention will, in turn, influence future revisions and reinterpretations.
That same endless cycle is also at work in other aspects of this show. The starting point for Sleepy Hollow’s “George Washington” isn’t only the historical George Washington, but also all the previous “George Washingtons” from all the previous popular stories invoking his name and image. Or consider the “witches” of Sleepy Hollow and the near-impossibility of trying to sort the popular mythology of such “witches” from any actual women who may or may not have been anything at all like what the show means by that term.*
When it comes to “Revelation,” there’s a century-old industry feeding off this endless cycle of storytelling appropriation and reinvention. The “Bible prophecy” business involves thousands of speakers and writers, many of whom are guilelessly ingesting all manner of popular reimaginations while themselves imagining that all those stories are somehow a part of the actual text. Others seem to do this intentionally — the “Bible prophecy” biz is highly competitive, so you need an edge. If people like The Omen, then they’ll enjoy it if you work that into your shtick and start pretending that Revelation has something to say about Damien Thorn.—
“Today’s TV show, tomorrow’s ‘everybody knows’ ” (Fred Clark at Slacktivist).
Clark is really good at pointing out that more people get their information about the Bible and Christian doctrine from what popular culture says about the Bible and Christian doctrine than from actual study of the Bible and Christian doctrine.
By the fifth century, though, the two Revelations experienced very different fates. John’s Revelation succeeded, at least in the church’s Western territories. Today, it survives in hundreds of millions of copies of the Bible worldwide, including in several million hotel nightstands. Peter’s, in contrast, effectively disappeared after the Early Middle Ages, although scattered references surface through the thirteenth century.
This example shows that alternative scriptures and texts could vanish when they lost church approval, even if they contained nothing viewed as grossly heretical.—
“Peter’s Apocalypse" at the Anxious Bench.
What’s worth noting about this piece is that people who’ve studied Bible scholarship understand that the idea of apocalypse was floating around at the time, and John’s Revelation, on which so much fundagelical Armageddon belief is founded, was one among many—none of which were taken literally by their original readers.