The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
THE FALL OF JERUSALEM

The apocalyptic view of history, p.221. John the seer, p.223. The Little Apocalypse of Mark, p.224. The revolt in Judaea, A.D. 66, p.226. Prophecies and oracles, p.228. Vespasian in Palestine, A.D. 67, p.229. The War of the Emperors, A.D. 68-69, p.231. The dissension in Jerusalem, p. 233. The destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70, p. 234. The Revelation of St John, p.236.


THE APOCALYPTIC VIEW OF HISTORY

We must now turn to the writings of the Christian prophets for help in our reading of history, and in the first place to the older stratum or strata in the Revelation of John. In these visions the persecuting world-power appears as a 'beast arising out of the sea', an expression which bears witness to the Palestinian origin of the vision, for in Hebrew the word 'sea' is used to mean the west; though of course the sea was a symbol which had important imaginative associations, derived ultimately from the chaos and darkness of the creation myth of the oriental world.

The beast is a horrible monster who wins the worship of the world. He is the devil's champion against the saints of God; he is the opponent of the Lamb of God, or Son of Man, who is the leader of the saints. His general likeness to a leopard, his claws like those of a bear, and his mouth like that of a lion, would remind the Christian reader of the aspects of Roman government which he met with in Nero's garden or in the amphitheatre. Those who follow and worship him are said to have 'his mark, the number of the beast or the number of his name upon their right hand or upon their forehead, just as a pious Jew wore the name of his God upon his left hand or upon his forehead. This mysterious number is six hundred and sixty and six. Those who resist the beast are the 'hundred and forty and four thousand' who stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion, and follow him wherever he goes.

These figures were symbols in their own right, and we can partially unravel their meaning. Twelve is the number of the signs of the zodiac and of the months of the year; of the sons of Jacob and the disciples of Jesus; of the true Israel and of the elect people of God. The twelve tribes or the twelve-times-twelve clans are the full and total number of

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