“America is not in the Bible,” Pete Enns writes. “In no way, shape, or form. Not a hint. Not a whiff. America is not in the Bible.”
Dr. Enns has a PhD from Harvard and he’s an actual professor of biblical studies who’s written a bunch of serious books and whatnot. So he’s a certifiable expert.
But we shouldn’t need a certifiable expert, PhD, professor type to remind us that “America is not in the Bible” because, well, duh.
Of course America is not in the Bible. The Bible is a collection of ancient texts, all written and compiled and intended to be read by people who lived a very long time ago on the other side of the world. The Bible was written by and for people who had no way of knowing that North America even existed. America is not mentioned or imagined in the Bible for the same reason that America is not mentioned or imagined in the works of Marcus Aurelius or of Dante or Chaucer or Confucius.
More specifically, the United States is not in the Bible for the same reason that the New York Yankees and the iPhone and the 1975 release of Born to Run are not in the Bible. All of those things may be important and impressive in their own right, but none of them yet existed in the world or the imagination or the concerns of anyone involved in the writing of the Bible. That’s just how time and chronology work.
Even if some fluent-in-Hebrew time traveler journeyed back to the Iron Age to tell, say, the prophet Amos all about the existence of the Western Hemisphere and the eventual founding of the United States, none of that would have changed one word of the book of Amos because none of that has anything at all to do with what the author of that book was trying to say or what that author wanted their readers to understand.
“That’s all very interesting, Mr. Time Traveler,” Amos would say, “but what does any of it have to do with the price of eggs in Bashan? Sorry, but I have to get back to writing about the coming judgment on the northern kingdom and … Wait, before you go, can you just play that sax solo in ‘Jungle Land’ one more time?”
When 21st-century American Christians go looking for 21st-century America “in the Bible” they’re approaching the text in a way that ensures they’ll never see what it actually says. Their problem isn’t merely a howling anachronism, but a narcissism that won’t allow them to seek or to find anything but their own reflection. What were the authors saying? Who were they saying it to? What for? When? Where? Why? If you think you’ve already got the answers to those questions — and the only answer you’ll accept for any of them is “Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.” — then you’re suffering from a form of narcissism that renders you functionally illiterate.
Speaking of functionally illiterate narcissism, here is Rob Kerby, “senior editor” of BeliefNet, with a long series of Wrong Answers to Even Wronger Questions: “Why Don’t Bible Prophecies Mention America?”
Kerby’s subhed is impressively bonkers: “Ever wonder why the Bible’s End-of-the-World prophecies say nothing about the U.S.A.? Couldn’t Seal Team Six, backed up by our F-22s, F-35s and A-10 Wart Hogs, just take out the Antichrist? Well, scholars don’t agree on much on this topic and one answer is not what you might expect.”
To appreciate where this comes from and where it’s going, you have to understand that the word “scholars” there doesn’t mean what it usually means in other contexts. He’s talking about “Bible-prophecy scholars,” referring not to people who have devoted their careers to studying, but people who have devoted themselves to selling. What they’re selling is the notion that the Bible is, above all else, a collection of “End-of-the-World prophecies.” Which it ain’t.
Actual scholars — people who study things rather than sell them — are entirely absent from the text of this piece and from the imaginations of its author and its intended audience.
That leads, predictably, into a delirious attempt to parse the wilder apocalyptic parts of Daniel with its visions of beasts including an eagle, a big cat, and something with horns. A few determined “Bible-prophecy scholars” squint really hard and torture this text to interpret it as a reference to the major world powers of the mid-20th century, but none of this is as convincing or as much fun as deciding ahead of time that it’s really all about the career of Nick Foles. (Go ahead, try it. It works.)
I find the overall lack of imagination here disappointing. It’s stunted not just by the parochial narcissism of seeking “America” in “Bible prophecy,” but by the chronological narcissism that insists on seeking today’s America there. Hence that business about 2019 weaponry — F-22s, F-35s, and such. More fun, I think, to seize on Ezekiel’s “wheel within a wheel” as a description of the F-238 War Saucer the American Space Force will unveil in 2077, which employs technology recovered from the crash at Roswell. Or maybe try having the forces of the Antichrist crushed at Armageddon by future American mecha pilots — pew, pew, kapow! That’d be cool, right? After all, it’s not hard to twist all those apocalyptic beasts of Daniel and Revelation into “biblical” kaiju, so “biblical” mecha fighters shouldn’t be that much of a stretch.
That would be cool. And it’s fun to imagine. It just doesn’t have anything to do with anything that’s actually in the text of the actual Bible. Sorry.
Because, again, “America is not in the Bible.” And neither is “The Antichrist,” for that matter. (Go ahead, look it up. I’ll wait.) You don’t need “scholars” to confirm that for you. You just need to set aside the blinding narcissism that prevents you from being able to read.