Bruce Seaton
Essay #4 of 4
Final Exam
ENGL 202: Biblical & Classical Literature

Several books of both the Old and New Testaments make use of prophetic and apocalyptic language and imagery. Most notable of the New Testament books in this regard is the book of the Revelation to John, and the book of Daniel in the Old testament is similarly the most wholly apocalyptic, although it draws a great deal on the language and imagery of Ezekiel.

Both Daniel and Revelation contain long passages describing visions received by the protagonists. These visions share several common images, including beasts with numerous horns (ten, in fact, in several cases in each text), strange figures adorned with riches whose bodies seem to be made of gemstones, and visions of terrible destruction and death. They also share similar linguistic styles, probably because the writer of Revelation would have been familiar with the book of Daniel, and knew that his audience would have some degree of familiarity as well.

In both cases, the prophet to whom the visions are given become astounded and confused by the scenes they are shown, and in both cases, they are forced to ask angelic figures for help in deciphering the events they witness. The prophets are both already men who have been persecuted for their beliefs, but are seen as strong in the eyes of God, and as such are given visions of the future and of the destruction that is in store, and instructed to deliver The Message to the people of their worlds who are seen as naughty in God’s eyes.

The use of terrifying imagery by both writers suggests a “scare tactic” by both men. The followers of God are being led astray, and the writers (or maybe God) feel that it is necessary to use horrific images of the apocalypse to frighten the “flock” back into the “fold.” Both texts reference a great flood to come, frighteningly evil beasts, seemingly grotesque, yet powerfully good “living creatures,” the names of the saved written in the “Book of Truth,” and the purified being dressed in white. Both books depict a similar figure (who in Revelation is almost certainly Christ) who is close to God and knows intimately of the world and all that is (Dan 7:9-14 / Rev 1:13-15).

These books work to frighten unbelievers, and simultaneously give courage to believers that their way is the right way, and that in the end, the faithful will be rewarded for their obedience. In both stories the world is destroyed and a new one set up, one in which those who have been faithful will “arise to their destiny.” (Dan 12:13) The passages of both of these books could be taken literally, as tales of fantastic destruction and the rising up of a New World, or they could be taken as allegory, as symbolic encouragement of the Jews in one case, and of the new Christian churches of Asia Minor in the other case. Both books contain lines of poetry and song, and both books center on images, creatures, and situations that defy the imagination.

The interpretation is up to the reader, but it is easy to believe that the writers of both of these texts did indeed have some kind of vision, though the source of the vision continues to be a source of debate by the “faithful” and the “cynical.”


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