Apocalypse Illustrated: an Educational Primer

| November 4, 2010

The blog BibliOdyssey, if you don’t know it already, is a sort of book-porn for scholars. Or perhaps you are just pretending not to have heard of it…

I bring your prurient attention to the Beatus Apocalypse spread:

The term “Beatus” identifies a particular medieval manuscript, generally of Spanish origin, that contains a collection of textual comments on the apocalypse of Saint John. The aim of the author, Beato of Liébana, was that of indoctrinating and educating the clergy, although, in some cases the manuscript was also used for certain rites and rituals.

Revelations Illustrated. Detectable in these images is the typical mix of dire warning and perverse pleasure that comes with educating people on the end time. And above all we should recall that this message was for the denizens of the city, fallen from grace. Urban Education.

Witness the fate of Babylon:

Destruction of Babylon

And I saw another angel descending from heaven, saying: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. And she has become the habitation of demons, and the keepsake of every unclean spirit, and the possession of every unclean and hateful flying thing.” For this reason her afflictions shall arrive in one day: death and grief and famine. And she shall be burned with fire. And the kings of the earth, who have fornicated with her and lived in luxury, shall weep and mourn for themselves over her, when they see the smoke of her conflagration, standing far away, out of fear of her torments, saying: “Woe! Woe! to Babylon, that great and strong city. For in one hour, your judgement has arrived.” And the businessmen of the earth shall weep and mourn over her, because no one will buy their merchandise anymore.” [Revelations 18:1–11]

How much of this strikes us as being antiquated and excessive? But perhaps we have just learned to be more circumspect. What of our educational discourse and practices still cleaves to this strategy? Still even revels in the notion that the warnings will go unheaded. Is this not the paradox of teaching Revelations? We should just be careful to not think that, today, this is the domain only of religious radicals.

Education: the thing we love to lament the lack of.

Alright, now go, you scholarly gawkers : http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.com/.

I know, I know, you just read it for the articles…