Friday, September 26, 2008

Disappointing documentary

Dean and I watched a strange documentary last night on the History channel. It was part of the "Lost Worlds" series, and was an investigation of the City of Amageddon - actually, the historic fortress of Megiddo. It was quite interesting to see how this site had figured in past battles; it was strategically very important, and had been fought over by the Egyptians, Hittites, Hebrews, Romans - pretty much everyone.

Where the show went a little wonky was when it touched on the visions of St. John in Revelation. It was the strangest thing, to watch people treat a religious text in a purely secular manner. You can see even in the little blurb on the show how they phrase it: "John selected this place" for the setting of the final battle between good and evil. Only a Christian can't think in those terms; they write as if John were writing some sort of futuristic novel. "Hmm, I need a good setting for this battle...I know - Megiddo! It's where, 700 years ago, King Josiah lost the battle that led to the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel! It'll be perfect - full of foreboding symbolism, every Jew will feel the nuances and know what I'm trying to get across."

If that's what John was doing, then what he had wasn't a "vision". It was just a poetic fancy. I believe that he wrote that the final battle would be at Armageddon because that's what the angel showed him. If it were to take place on the plains of Nebraska, John would have found some way of conveying that instead. Dean and I had some fun trying to think of how a 1st-century man would deal with a vision of a battle in Nebraska. It couldn't be harder than describing the scenes before God's throne, or the New Jerusalem, but he'd have still had to struggle with paraphrases and attempts to put into words something no one else had seen: "Across the seas, to a boring land of corn and icy northern winds..."

The whole show was spoiled for me by this inability to accept religion on its own terms, and to try to squeeze it into some safe, uncontroversial frame. To me, it's pointless. If you don't want to talk about supernatural interventions, then there's no point discussing religion at all. The program was fine as long as it was talking about history and archeology, but trying to tie down Revelation with the same rope just made the whole thing ridiculous.


Anonymous Christopher Johnson said...

If you've downloaded Google Earth, check out Megiddo and the surrounding country. Interesting thing to see from the sky.

If there's actually going to be a Battle of Armageddon, that seems to this amateur to be as good a place for it as any. If you're coming from the north to wipe Israel off the map, you're going to come that way. It's a big plain, with room enough for really big armies, and everything seems to funnel down toward Megiddo.

Either a first-century Jewish fisherman exiled to Patmos had an amazing grasp of the land of Israel and an imagination to go with it or John got this directly from the Source.

I'll have to buy this thing when THC brings it out on DVD.

7:28 pm  

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