Tag Archives: apocalypse

“Zealot” by Reza Aslan

Zealot

This book is an attempt to construct an historical account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout the book, Aslan emphasizes the distinction between Jesus of Nazareth, the historical Jesus who was a rebellious Jewish preacher during the time of Roman occupation, and Jesus Christ, who was essentially a construct of the founders of the Christian faith.

Early in the book, Aslan clarifies the purpose of Roman crucifixion. This was not a punishment for common criminals, but something reserved for those who rebelled against Roman authority. In fact, the thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus were labeled “lestai,” which was the Latin word for bandit.

“Bandit” was the generic term for any rebel or insurrectionist who rose up against Rome or its Jewish collaborators. To some, the word “bandit” was synonymous with “thief” or “Rabble-rouser.” But these were no common criminals. The bandits represented the first stirrings of what would become a nationalist resistance movement against the Roman occupation. This may have been a peasant revolt; the bandit gangs hailed from impoverished villages like Emmaus, Beth-horon, and Bethlehem. But it was something else, too. The bandits claimed to be agents of God’s retribution. They cloaked their leaders in the emblems of biblical kings and heroes and presented their actions as a prelude for the restoration of God’s kingdom on earth. The bandits tapped into the widespread apocalyptic expectation that had gripped the Jews of Palestine in the wake of the Roman invasion. One of the most fearsome of all the bandits, the charismatic bandit chief Hezekiah, openly declared himself to be the messiah, the promised one who would restore the Jews to glory.

(pp. 18 – 19)

Aslan asserts that the reason that much of what is written in the Bible is historically inaccurate is because people in that time did not differentiate myth from reality the way we do now. Myth expressed spiritual truths and therefore did not need to adhere to historical accuracy.

The readers of Luke’s gospel, like most people in the ancient world, did not make a sharp distinction between myth and reality; the two were intimately tied together in their spiritual experience. That is to say, they were less interested in what actually happened than in what it meant. It would have been perfectly normal—indeed, expected—for a writer in the ancient world to tell tales of gods and heroes whose fundamental facts would have been recognized as false but whose underlying message would be seen as true.

(p. 31)

From a historical perspective, what made Jesus so much of a threat to Rome and the Jewish priests at the time was his alignment with the zealot movement. This movement sought to overthrow the current socio-political system that ruled over Palestine during that period, thereby ushering in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus’s view of the sole sovereignty of God was not all that different from the view of the prophets, bandits, zealots, and messiahs who came before and after him, as evidenced by his answer to the question about paying tribute to Caesar. Actually, his view of God’s reign was not so different from that of his master, John the Baptist, from whom he picked up the phrase “Kingdom of God.” What made Jesus’s interpretation of the Kingdom of God different from John’s, however, was his agreement with the zealots that God’s reign required not just an internal transformation toward justice and righteousness, but a complete reversal of the present political, religious, and economic system.

(pp. 118 – 119)

Aslan spends a lot of time looking at why the writers of the Gospels attempted to present Rome as not responsible for the death of Jesus, laying the blame more on the Jews. Historically, Pilate was a harsh ruler who would never have argued for the life of a peasant Jew. He would have just given the execution order and moved on without a second thought. But the writers of the gospels needed to appeal to Rome in order for their religion to gain acceptance. So instead, they pinned the blame on the Jews.

Thus, a story concocted by Mark strictly for evangelical purposes to shift the blame for Jesus’s death away from Rome is stretched with the passage of time to the point of absurdity, becoming in the process the basis for two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism.

It is, of course, not inconceivable that Jesus would have received a brief audience with the Roman governor, but, again, only if the magnitude of his crime warranted special attention. Jesus was no simple troublemaker, after all. His provocative entry into Jerusalem trailed by a multitude of devotees declaring him king, his act of public disturbance at the Temple, the size of the force that marched into Gethsemane to arrest him—all of these indicate that the authorities viewed Jesus of Nazareth as a serious threat to the stability and order of Judea. Such a “criminal” would very likely have been deemed worthy of Pilate’s attention. But any trial Jesus received would have been brief and perfunctory, its sole purpose to officially record the charges for which he was being executed.

(pp. 192 – 193)

I want to conclude by saying this is a very easy book to read. Although it is history, it reads like a story. It is not just a dry presentation of facts, which makes it an enjoyable read. If you’re at all interested in learning more about the history of that period, then pick up a copy of this book.

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“Sonnet 14: Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck” by William Shakespeare

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well,
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.

This is another one of the fair youth sonnets where Shakespeare entreats the young man to procreate. I really liked this one because of Shakespeare’s use of astrology and prognostication as metaphors.

Here the speaker claims to be able to see the future, although not from the conventional means of divination. The speaker claims to see the future reflected in the eyes of the fair youth, which are described as “constant stars.” The young man is the embodiment of truth and beauty in the poet’s opinion and the poet claims that if the young man would relent and accept his paternal responsibility of fathering children, then those children will also embody truth and beauty. Likewise, should the youth decide against having children, then the poet foresees an end to truth and beauty. It is almost an apocalyptic vision, where the phrase “doom and date” represents doomsday.

I have always been fascinated by the idea of the poet as a seer or visionary. I love that in this sonnet Shakespeare draws from this idea. I also find it interesting that emphasis is placed upon looking within a person, through the eyes which are the windows to the soul, in order to see a person’s future.

This poem works for me. The metaphors and symbolism are inspiring and the words themselves are very fluid and lyrical. It’s definitely one of my favorite fair youth sonnets.

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Millennium: Issue 4

Millennium_04

I really love this series. It truly does justice to the television show which I thought was dark and brilliant.

In this issue, we discover that Jordan Black shares her father’s special abilities, but with a slight difference. While Frank glimpses visions of past events, Jordan glimpses the future. Jordan is now a member of the Millennium Group, and Frank, for obvious reasons, does not trust them or their motives. But when Jordan reveals the common purpose that has reunified the group, Frank appears to recognize the importance of what they are doing.

Our quarry goes by many names. Its role in history, as both a destroyer and a tempter of men, has been alluded to in art and song and campfire tales since humans first crawled from the soup and aspired to dominate the world around them. It has been both worshipped and loathed in many forms under as many names… but it enjoys the title of Legion as much as any these days… and the games it plays in order to secure the corruption it seeks are as legendary as the ruin that follows.

Because this is a spin-off from the X-Files comic, it is not surprising that Fox Mulder is in this issue also (he was in a couple of the previous ones too). But at the end of this installment, Mulder encounters a person who was one of the creepiest characters to ever haunt the television screen: Lucy Butler. If you need a refresher on who Lucy is, or if you have never seen the original series, here are a couple short videos to check out.

Wait. Worry.

 

 

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Millennium: Issue 3

Millennium_03

In this issue, Frank Black returns to Seattle in search of his daughter, Jordan. He fears that the Millennium Group is after her and desperation fuels his frantic quest to find her. In the process, he is captured by Quentin McKittrick, a member of the group. The two have a great exchange regarding the turn of the millennium and the dark forces that exist in the world.

McKittrick: The millennium turned over, Frank. But just because the world didn’t end doesn’t mean nothing changed. There are forces, Frank, dark forces I know you’re aware of, pushing us toward end times and seeking to bargain with those privy to what goes on behind the veil. You still think you saved the world, though, don’t you?

Black: I think the world is fucked beyond saving, if you ask me. I think that parasites like you people will always be there, sucking blood from its rotting carcass until it’s just dust and bones. And I can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t send you straight to hell if you don’t bring me Jordan Black right now.

There is a great twist at the end, which I will abstain from sharing so as not to spoil it for the readers. I will add, though, that this issue has a little comic relief from what is a dark series. One of the characters is depicted wearing a Pixies tee shirt, and there is a part where McKittrick points out that Frank Black shares the same name as the singer for the Pixies. This was something I had noticed, but I’m glad that the writers chose to make a nod to this correlation.

Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to keep reading stuff.

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Afterlife with Archie: Issue #3 (Things Fall Apart… Quickly)

AfterlifeArchie_03

Archie and the gang trying to survive the zombie apocalypse; it just doesn’t get much better than this.

Issue 2 left off with Archie and the gang holed up inside Veronica Lodge’s mansion, but with the revelation that one of them was infected. That one turns out to be Midge. Meanwhile, Archie sneaks out to find his parents and discovers that chaos reigns in Riverdale.

My favorite passage from this issue is spoken by Veronica’s father, Hiram Lodge. After his butler reports on the status of things, Hiram comments: “Good Lord, how did it all fall apart so quickly?” We all like to think that our social structure is so secure, but the reality is that is not the case. Things fall apart, and when they do, it happens quickly. I remember being in Miami when Hurricane Andrew struck. What I witnessed first-hand changed my view of society’s stability forever. In no time at all, people were shooting at each other over water, breaking into each other’s homes to steal food and supplies. It was complete chaos.

Our society has become so digitized, I shudder to think what would happen if there was a collapse in infrastructure. How many people have money or food stores on hand? Very few. If all of a sudden no one could use a credit card or withdraw from an ATM, what would happen? Things would fall apart… quickly.

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The X-Files Season 10: Issue #18 – New “Millennium” Comic Coming Soon

XFiles_10-18

This issue totally threw me for a loop. I was expecting the continuation of Immaculate, but that is not the case. Instead, the story jumps forward and also provides answers as to what happened to Agent John Doggett. Doggett disappeared following a pipeline explosion early in the series. It seems he was held hostage for 18 months by one of the aliens. I expect the details will be revealed in subsequent installments.

The exciting thing about this issue is it confirms what I had hoped for: A “Millennium” comic will be out in January! This is huge for me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, “Millennium” was one of my all time favorite TV shows (see The X-Files Season 10: Issue #17). I also think it will work well as a graphic tale. I am kind of in shock. I’d always hoped there would be a continuation, and now it will happen.

This is who we are.

Millennium

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The X-Files Season 10: Issue #17

XFiles_10-17

Yes! I am so psyched that the writers have brought Frank Black from “Millennium” back and incorporated him into the story. “Millennium” was one of my favorite shows and its untimely end saddened me, although Black did return and was featured in an X-Files episode. “Millennium” is the only TV series that I own on DVD.

Anyway, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Frank Black, he is a retired FBI profiler with psychic abilities that allow him to see visions of what serial killers are thinking and feeling. His investigations are centered around apocalyptic fears and events associated with the millennium.

In this issue, Black comes to assist Mulder in the investigation surrounding Joanie Cartwright. Frank senses that an evil entity is behind the events. After Cartwright and her followers commit a mass suicide, the entity takes possession of a person and the issue leaves you hanging.

I can’t wait to find out what happens. I would really be psyched if they branched out and did a Millennium comic, or a film. I suppose I will have to wait until more is revealed.

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