The Problem With Symbols


John, under divine inspiration, deliberately wrote the Apocalypse rife with symbols and subtleties, so that the book would not be a breeze of a read for anybody.  He understood that the symbols and subtleties constituted a major problem, one that would occasion many a pounding on pate and tearing of hair, and, perhaps, even splitting of wits and spitting of his name--none of which, may I point out, deterred him from his task; yet, it ought not to be thought that the Seer, a man whose mansuetude pervades every page of his epistles, had even one mean bone in his body.  Aye, he intended the problem, but he also desired that the reader overcome it.  John, therefore, designed the symbols and subtleties not merely as individual parts of the problem, but also as integral parts of the solution to it; and he evidenced this by making many of them mutually heuristic.

For example, the “seven heads and ten horns” of the dragon in Chapter 12 are the same chief features of the beast in Chapters 13 and 17.  Each mention of the “heads” and “horns” points to the other two mentions of them; and the complete import of each, as well as the complete import of all three together, cannot be revealed unless each is cross-referred with the other two.  Each depiction of the bizarre “heads” and “horns” should so impinge human imagination, that no one [hopefully] will praetermit what is so clearly a series of correlative clues.

Alas, the disadvantage of a heuristic device is told aptly by an old African proverb, “I pointed at the moon, and all you saw was my finger.”

For another example, John used a four-part formula a total of four times, thus:

Formula #1...[all] nations and TRIBES and peoples and languages... [7:9]

Formula #2...[many] peoples and nations and languages and kings... [10:11]

Formula #3...[every] TRIBE and people and language and nation … [13:7]

Formula #4...[many] peoples and multitudes and nations and languages... [17:15]

John constituted the formula not merely by connecting four nouns with ands, but, mainly, by putting the same three nouns [peoples, nations, languages] in all four instances.  Comparing the four formulas finds that the Seer randomized the order of mention for the four nouns in each instance, and this intimates that their order of mention is irrelevant to secerning the formula's import, individually or collectively speaking.  Hence, attention narrows to the fourth noun, the odd object that does not appear in all four instances.  Before proceeding, however, I reiterate that John did not have a mean bone in his body.