Rev. Fred Gilley
The past supposedly is 20/20 vision, but that assumption can be overly-optimistic. Eyewitnesses to the same tragic event often reach different, even opposite conclusions. Was the police shooting victim reaching for what was or might have been a concealed gun?
Only the most arrogant, brutal, and uncaring police officer would shoot a mentally deranged woman, but how can a cop know the woman charging him or her with knife-in-hand is mentally ill?
The bible’s Book of Daniel, an apocalyptic prophesy (bible versions in English) or writings (Jewish bibles), also is interpreted differently. However, fewer scholars insist Daniel and friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were among Jewish males herded from Judah toward Babylon from 597 to 586 B.C.E. More scholars agree the author(s) chose Babylon to begin reporting Daniel’s dreams, visions and symbols, basic staples for apocalyptic literature.
In Revelation, the New Testament’s major example of apocalypse, readers can substitute Rome wherever Babylon or a few other words appear. Place names and symbols are coded to preserve heads, but early Christians knew intended meanings, as did the readers of Daniel. The book probably appeared after 200 B. C. E., probably during the revolt led by Judas Maccabees, after Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the temple and was trying to eliminate the Jewish religion.
Apocalypse features the struggle between good and evil, an idea that seems to have come from Persian Zoroastrianism. Persian apocalypses offer good and evil as opposing equal forces. Evil is subservient to good in the bible, but divine intervention is essential for good to triumph. The Maccabeean revolt was seen as God’s intervention…until the Romans came along and prompted the puzzling terrors of Revelation.
Daniel dreamed (7:3ff) of four “great beasts” rising from the sea, interpreted to be kings or kingdoms of Babylonians (Mesopotamia or modern Iraq), the Medes (various, including Northwest Iran), the Persians (Iran), and the Seleucids (Greek-speaking Syrians). In the troubling visions of verse 17, four beasts rise from the earth, interpreted as four kings by another witness at Daniel’s request. Descriptions point to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 175-163 B.C.E.
“But the saints of the most High shall…take and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Verse 18)
Yesterday (November 1) was All Saints Day and Sunday (November 6) will be All Saints Sunday in many churches. When I was an active part- or full-time pastor, transitions from October to November provided more than enough liturgical frustration. Protestants and Roman Catholics remember October 31 as the anniversary of Martin Luther tacking his 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Reactions to his debate offers surprised Luther.
All Hallows Eve is almost totally exempted by Halloween, and All Saints is sometimes the following day. I escaped some frustration by using October’s last Sunday for Reformation emphasis and the first Sunday in November for All Saints. All Hallows Eve was attached to All Saints, if mentioned at all.
I would not have chosen the Old Testament lesson by selecting verses this year from Daniel 7, and I would have chosen a lesson other than Haggai 1:15b – 2.9 for November’s first Sunday and All Saints Day. However, I am willing to acknowledge in most instances the Revised Common Lectionary “knows best.” I like Daniel’s chapter 7 conclusion with verse 26:
“Hitherto is the end of the matter…my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed…but I kept the matter in my heart.” (King James Version)