That’s Not Taking Revelation Literally

That’s Not Taking Revelation Literally February 9, 2013

One media outlet described the man who quit his job over a form with the number 666 on it as taking Revelation literally. Fred Clark had this to say, with his characteristic combination of sarcastic wit and religious insight:


No. No, no, no, 666 times no. Believers like Slonopas do not “take the book of Revelation literally” — they take the book of Revelation and cut it up into a thousand tiny pieces, placing those pieces into a hat along with a thousand more tiny pieces taken from Daniel, Ezekiel, parts of Matthew, the screenplay for The Omen, folklore, blood-libels, and urban legends. And then they take those pieces out of the hat one by one, stringing them into sentences to which they accord all the authority of holy scripture.

They take those fabricated sentences “literally,” but not the book of Revelation.



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  • Brian P.

    Dr McGrath, I see you’re coming to understand what “literal” literally means. At this point, other meanings might be etymological and thus quite figurative. Go figure.

  • Phil

    That quote made my day. Thanks.

  • I didn’t follow that. The guy sees the numbers as the mark of the beast and so wants to avoid it. He believes Revelations literally – no?
    I the guy you quote simply trying to make fun of the religious mind set of people who use literal quotes of the Bible by saying they are mixing literal with other stuff? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Taking Revelation (no “s” at the end) literally would lead one to conclude that the Beast is a symbol of rulers including the one in the author’s time, with a focus on one in particular, centered in Rome. It would not lead to superstition about the number wherever it might appear. The modern Left Behind viewpoint takes snippets of Revelation, decontextualizes them, and then builds something quite different from the scraps. To say nothing of the fact at it becomes a story about how tough it is for American Christians in a time of tolerance, instead of a story about people being actually killed by a Roman Emperor.

      • You must love correcting the “no s” thing. I listen to docs similarly correct patients when they say “Lyme’s Disease”.

        Anyway, to your point. Taking lines literally, versus understanding the whole book. So you want to say that liberal Christians like yourself actually take the Bible literally, meaning you know how to accurately translate that literature.

        I think I see what you are saying.

        BTW, I think “Left Behind” should have quotes around it.