bible blog 871

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal readings for the day, along with a headline from world news:

Storm leaves disater in Haiti

Revelation 12:1-6

The Woman and the Dragon

12A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.2She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.3Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.4His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.5And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule* all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne;6and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

woman clothed with sun and dragon: Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland

This is one of the transforming visions of The revelation so we’d best be clear what it is:

 1. The woman clothed with the sun is the true Israel, the “heavenly mother” of the Messiah. (She is not the Virgin Mary)

2. She is giving birth to the Messiah who is not just Jesus or any single figure, but all who serve God’s rule in the world.

3. She is depicted in the pain of childbirth because this represents the “birth pains of the Messiah” which were a feature of prophetic and apocalyptic writing in the first century AD. Paul speaks of “all creation groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8)  There was a belief that the birth of God’s rule in the world would be painful to those who were bringing it about, perhaps even to God himself. The Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus crucifixion with this perspective. The labour pains of the woman in this vision therefore include the all the pain of God’s servants noted in the other visions of this book.

4 The red dragon is the power of evil, probably associated with Rome  but also drawn from the book of Daniel 7:7. It waits to devour the Messiah child who is however snatched away to heaven, meaning God protects the child, while the mother waits in the desert as Israel waited before entering the land of promise.

I’ve only noted the most salient points here but enough to show that the author’s visionary images bring together a wealth of biblical and other religious ideas in a vivid  way. The point of the vision is not to present one happening in the history of God’s rule, but to provide an image of something that is still happening: the true Israel is still giving birth to the Messiah (cast out our sin and enter in/ be born in us today) and the power of evil is still threatening the children of God.

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