Freethought Nation

presented by Acharya S and TruthBeKnown.com, online since 1995

It is currently Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:31 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


hello

Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: King of the Ages
PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:44 am 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:41 pm
Posts: 804
Revelation 15:3 – King of the Ages

The Bible text Revelation 15:3 is a verse that clearly illustrates the ancient cultural war within Christianity between Gnosticism and Orthodoxy. The text tells us that seven angels held harps given to them by God. They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the Ages.” (New International Version 1984)

Some readers would find this text surprising, not just for the cosmic symbolism of seven angels celebrating God as King of Ages, but also because many translations do not contain this final word ‘Ages’ but replace “King of the Ages” with “King of the Nations” or “King of the Saints”. Indeed the current NIV has fallen into line with this alternate reading, changing its 1984 text and using “King of the Nations”, relegating “Ages” to a footnote which states “Some manuscripts ages”. But the extraordinary thing about this question is that ‘Ages’ is the original text, and it appears that ‘Nations’ and ‘Saints’ are later changes introduced by Church Fathers to reflect emerging orthodox dogma.

This small textual difference points to an immense political conflict within ancient Christian interpretation. My hypothesis is that an original Gnosticism saw God and Christ as revealed in the natural cosmos. By this view, the description of God as ‘king of the ages’ refers to the observed movement of the heavens measured in the slow precession of the equinox through the twelve signs of the zodiac over the course of the Great Year, forming a perpetual cycle of twelve Ages or Aeons. However, in the early church a usurping political orthodoxy suppressed the original natural vision that had linked God to the perceived structure of time, in favour of the supernatural Christian doctrine that separates spirit from nature. So, the dogmatists replaced the natural term ‘ages’, respecting the cosmic immensity and eternity of God, with the anthropocentric terms ‘nations’ or ‘saints’, emphasising their much more limited historical and political vision.

To justify this reading of Ages as the most likely original text, we can look to the discussion of this verse at a website promoting the inerrancy of the King James Version of the Bible. http://www.kjvtoday.com/home/saints-or- ... lation-153 analyses the claims for the different readings. It notes that the Textus Receptus, the source for the King James Bible, shows Latin Church Father support for the reading of "King of Saints”. From this fundamentalist viewpoint "King of saints" and "King of the nations" are seen as “fitting titles for God in the context of Revelation 15:3”, with "King of the nations" found in CEV, ESV, HCSB, NASB, NIV 2011, NLT, TNIV.” The various translations can be compared at http://bible.cc/revelation/15-3.htm

Despite the common use of ‘saints’ and ‘nations’, the first very good reason why “Ages” has support is that it is the original text. As the supporters of the KJV acknowledge, “the problem, however, is that the oldest manuscripts have "King of the ages". The two earliest extant manuscripts of Revelation 15:3 are Papyrus 47 (250 AD) and Codex Sinaiticus (350 AD), both of which have "King of the Ages". The earliest manuscript for "King of the nations" is Codex Alexandrinus from 400 AD. This is an example where modern textual critics do not always follow the earliest manuscripts for any given passage if that early reading does not support their views. … King of the ages is a very ancient reading.”

As noted, ‘ages’ predates ‘nations’ by 150 years in the extant records, but does not support the views of ‘modern textual critics’.

The KJV inerrantists present the feeble argument that "ages" (αιωνων) and "saints" (αγιων) look very similar, and ages is a simple mistake in the earliest documents, despite the supposedly inspired status of the text. They add the letter gamma (γ) to aion to produce the KJV reading, removing a key Gnostic idea. These supporters of the KJV are explicit about their support for the altered text as a political move: “As for why scribes may have changed "King of the ages" to "King of the nations" … the meaning of "King of the Aeons" … may have given uncomfortable Gnostic undertones.”

What are these “uncomfortable Gnostic undertones”? Basically, it is that the Bible contains a theology grounded in accurate observation of nature, with the idea that events on earth are reflections of the observed cycles of the heavens. Contrary to the view of dogmatic supporters of KJV inerrancy, Gnostic ideas pervade the book of Revelations, and the Gospels. Suppression of this one mention of Ages does not remove the Gnostic cosmology from the canon. The idea of Ages promotes a natural cosmology, readily observable in ancient times, that explains the real framework of the Biblical understanding of time and space based on accurate long term observation of the precession of the equinox.

For example, the holy city described in Revelation 21 is totally Gnostic, with its twelve jewels representing the twelve Aeons of the Ages of the Zodiac, listed in reverse as per precession by old Babylonian tradition. The river of life in Rev 22 is the Milky Way galaxy, while the tree of life growing on both sides of the river, with its twelve fruits, one for each month, is the zodiac. The handing of ‘power, seat and authority’ from the dragon to the leopard-bear-lion in Rev 13 is an allegorical description of the precession of the North Celestial Pole over historical time. King of the Ages in Rev 15 fits perfectly with these Gnostic cosmic themes.

We see therefore that “Ages” was replaced by Latin scribes in ancient times to serve their secular theological agenda of promoting the miraculous and mysterious power of the church, favouring an alienated transcendental vision which required the church as the intermediary between community and God. The church was in conflict with Gnostics who promoted a natural theology, and saw discussion of aeons as a key marker for the debate over orthodoxy. Even though 1 Timothy had used the phrase King of the Ages, it sat uncomfortably with Orthodox views of canonical dogma.

This textual change raises the question of the extent to which such censorship was successful more broadly. How many ancient texts were originally far more natural and cosmic in intent like this one, only to be altered to make them acceptable to the supernatural doctrines of orthodoxy?

The fundamentalists say that King of the Ages does not fit the context. But consider the line “They sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb.” A Gnostic reading of the myth of Moses and the ‘song of the Lamb’ can readily support the idea of God as King of the Ages.

There is support for this argument from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where verses 10:2-3 state that the Israelites “were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” Paul's idea of the pre-existence of Christ as a ‘spiritual rock’ in the time of the Exodus opens the spiritual idea of a mythical eternal Christ as the content of the song of Moses. The description in Numbers 21 of the snake on the pole, cited in John 3:14 as the model for the cross and basis of eternal life, provides further support for the Mosaic Gnostic idea of the cross as a cosmic symbol. For a Gnostic cosmic reading, this idea of the snake can readily be linked to the vision of the centrality of the north celestial pole concealed in Rev 13, and the idea of the four corners of heaven as marking the points of the cross and the four living creatures in Ezekiel 1 and Rev 4:6. And the seven angels who sang the song of Moses and the Lamb make good sense as referring to the sun and moon and five visible planets.

Church father Clement of Alexandria helped to explain the use of such natural symbols in scripture, saying: "All who have treated of divine matters have always hid the principle of things and have delivered the truth enigmatically, by signs and symbols, allegories and metaphors." http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... book5.html

The analysis therefore suggests that discussion of the song of Moses in Revelation is allegory for cosmic wisdom.

So too the ‘song of the Lamb’. Ancient astrology, well known to spiritual seers including the authors of Revelation, observed that the spring point, the position in the sky of the sun at the March equinox, moved out of its old position in the constellation Aries the Ram into the constellation of Pisces the Fishes at the time of Christ. Astronomical software shows that the precise date when the equinox crossed the first fish of Pisces was 21 AD, providing a marker for the New Age, the turning point at the beginning and end of time, at the purported time of the ministry of Christ. This date, and the decades around it, was a unique time when the constellations of the sky matched the seasons of the earth precisely, so that earth was in tune with the heavens, on earth as in heaven.

It is entirely fitting in Gnostic terms that this moment of cosmic attunement gave rise to the myth of the incarnation of the anointed saviour Jesus Christ. In terms of natural reason, the pre-existent logos described by Paul as appearing to Moses and the prophets indicated the time before the alignment of the seasons and the stars, while the moment of alignment indicates the descent of God from heaven to earth, mythologized as the incarnation of Christ.

The ‘song of the lamb’ described in Revelation can therefore be interpreted as both the beginning of each new year in the sign of Aries the Ram, and also the end of the previous age and Great Year in the Age of Aries. Jesus Christ as beginning and end, alpha and omega, is therefore a cosmic symbol who can be understood as the song of Moses and the lamb, pointing to the unity of father and son as king of the ages, within an entirely natural theology.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: King of the Ages
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 7:32 am 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:41 pm
Posts: 804
The plot thickens.

The Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the mid fourth century AD, is available at an excellent website (link to Codex Sinaiticus Rev 15:3).

As shown in the screenshot from this link below, and as I mentioned above, the old document states AIONON (αιωνων - Ages) at Revelation 15:3. The photo of the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript clearly shows AIONON (ages). However, the translation uses AGIONON (saints - from αγιων), a completely different word, with a letter added. The interpolation of the G (gamma - γ) for the translation is blatant. This mid fourth century manuscript clearly says God is king of the ages, not nations or saints. It is as though I was reading a book which had the word 'star', and thought to myself, I would prefer the meaning if it said 'stair', and then tried to get all editions of the book changed to accord with my whim, because star supported the views of people I disagreed with.

This King of the Ages example shows the power of convention to ignore inconvenient evidence. The compilers of the website have ignored the clear text in front of them, and instead chosen to use the KJV mistranslation, an error which the fundamentalist bullies have now imposed on the New International Version of the Bible as well, which has now corrupted its correct 1984 translation of this verse. There is in fact an Orwellian dimension to this story - who controls the past controls the future - Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, just as Orthodoxy has 'always' been at war with Gnosticism. The facts differ from the propaganda.

One can well imagine the attitude of the scribe who first changed Ages to Saints in the fourth century. With heresiology rampant, and the Gnostic doctrine of the Ages seen as a core theme of heresy, the word Ages was altered to Saints to make the text more congenial to orthodoxy. But that is no excuse for a modern website to contain an obvious error, unless they are cowards in the face of fundamentalist bullies, who continue to insist the text in front of their eyes is wrong, and centuries of clerical politicians are right. That is the nature of blind faith.

So much for Biblical inerrancy. The fundamentalist theologians obviously regard their own dogmatic opinions as inerrant, and have shown themselves willing and able to unscrupulously censor and manipulate the original source documents of the Bible to advance their baseless views.
Attachment:
Aionon in Codex Sanaiticus Rev 15.3.gif
Aionon in Codex Sanaiticus Rev 15.3.gif [ 67.97 KiB | Viewed 1189 times ]


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: King of the Ages
PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:40 pm 
Offline
Hercules

Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:46 pm
Posts: 79
Thanks Robert! Good article. I had not noticed the King of the Ages line in the song of Moses in Revelation, and I do have a 1985 NIV that has it interpreted as that.

So the term "ages" was/is a stumbling block for some interpreters. Interesting.

I'll be sure to hold on to this little nugget.

_________________
I am the Wind that blows over the Sea;
I am the Wave of the Deep;
I am the Bull of the Seven Battles;
I am the Eagle upon the rock;
I am a Tear of the Sun;


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: King of the Ages
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2012 2:01 am 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:41 pm
Posts: 804
Was the alteration of Rev 15:3 from the original term Ages to the alternatives Saints or Nations an error or a deliberate change?

The alteration of the original text King of the Ages to King of the Nations or King of the Saints at Revelation 15:3 presents a useful case study to help reconstruct the political debate in the early church about the purpose and intent of the gospel story.

Why did Orthodoxy reject Gnosticism? This is essentially a practical question, turning on the experience of the early church regarding the utility of different doctrines. Orthodox Historicism regarding Jesus centres on the idea of an interventionist God who cares personally about the world and the salvation of every individual. If God did miraculously intervene in history in the person of Jesus Christ, it presents a simple believable message to prove that our world is not really as it seems, but that a hidden force of goodness is working to transform the political situation towards an ethic of love and truth. The church is the representative of this hidden force for good, working against the evil pagans to transform the world, justified by the claim of historical intervention in Christ.

This Orthodox attitude clashes with the Gnostic idea of the evil demiurge who made the world, and with the Gnostic doctrine of a spiritual escape as the only path of salvation. Orthodoxy says we can explain God in real historical terms that are fairly easily comprehensible, whereas Gnosticism says that extensive scholarship and retreat from the world are needed for salvation. The contrast between the ethical ideals of transformation and escape reflects the difference between Christianity and Buddhism, which seems to have been a strong influence on Gnosticism.

As king of nations or saints, God relates directly to human history, as revealed in the story of the incarnate Christ, who is `One with the Father' in this kingly role. God's relation to saints and nations becomes a personal matter of care and concern. But as king of ages, God is purely transcendent and eternal. To relate to such a God requires an acceptance of sublime indifference on God's part towards our personal cares, and an eschatological sense that the gulf between humanity and God can only be bridged through a total cultural change, not to be expected through temporal works and timeframes. The king of ages provides no traction for the growth and power of the church in the secular world.

King of Nations or Saints supports the Augustinian theology of realized eschatology, the idea that the Kingdom of Heaven has begun in history with the work of Christ as its cornerstone. King of Ages presents a far more bleak picture for hopes of immediate redemption, setting atonement and reconciliation with the divine in a far more remote context.

Against this practical framework, we can begin to understand why an early Gnostic picture of the identity of Christ as spiritual myth did not serve the ongoing needs of the church. In constructing a building, the builder uses cranes and platforms that are removed when the building is finished. King of Ages worked for Orthodoxy like a construction crane, putting the components into place, but of no apparent use once they had the finished product. Keeping formwork and cranes on a building site is useless after they are needed. They are taken away, and the end users of the building, if they had the interest, would face a very difficult task to reverse engineer the construction process.

Like rubble on a building site, texts like the King of Ages and its alteration help us to reverse engineer the process of construction of the New Testament, from an original spiritual cosmic mythology to the historical fable of an interventionist God.

Current apologists for the historical Jesus, and in this case for the inerrancy of the KJV version of this verse, look rather like people who claim a building was miraculously constructed without cranes or formwork.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: King of the Ages
PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2012 11:20 pm 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:41 pm
Posts: 804
Further conversation with Nigel Chapman

Nigel Chapman wrote: "Your claims are coherent with your meta-narrative, but each seem to depend upon the other."

Thanks Nigel for recognising this coherence, which it seems most people have a distinct resistance to, however simply I try to explain it. The essence of the `meta-narrative' is the hypothesis that Christian myth originated in efforts to explain how events on earth parallel the observed motion of the sky as part of a great unity.

Nigel: "Certainly, neither the claim nor the meta-narrative are clearly established by Rev 15:3."

I agree. But we can't consider this one verse in isolation. The meta-narrative of cosmic unity is present throughout the earliest Christian ideas. If we start from the hypothesis that the New Testament is essentially cosmic allegory, a great many mysterious verses such as this one become clearer.

For example, the miracle of the loaves and fishes appears six times in the Gospels, more than any other miracle. It makes no sense as an actual event, but abundant sense against the astrological vision of precession, with the New Age marked by the slow shift of the equinoxes at the time of Christ into Virgo (loaves) and Pisces (fishes). The idea that miraculous abundance is available from cosmic attunement appears to have been at the core of a secret mystery. This reading explains also why Jesus lambasts the disciples so vigorously in Mark 8. In an incident punctuated by the utterly contradictory statement "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it" (Mark 8:12), Jesus explains the sign of the loaves and fishes miracle in terms of the cosmic numbers seven (planets) and twelve (months). Jesus then says "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?" He is not talking about bread, but about cosmic understanding based on accurate observation.

Nigel: "There seems no support for reading 'saints' before the Vulgate, by which time Gnosticism was no longer a threat to orthodoxy."

When Gnosticism actually ceased to be a threat to orthodoxy is a very good question. On the surface you may be right that by the late fourth century Gnosticism was vanquished. However, if Gnosticism was the real origin of the Christ myth, and many people were aware of this suppressed fact, but hid their knowledge due to Christian tyranny, then the underground River Alph (which surfaced again with Coleridge) of Gnostic mysticism persisted as a voice of esoteric conscience which still had to be suppressed. It is analogous to how Trotskyism remained a bogey for Stalinist paranoia long after Trotsky was dead. The hydra has many heads.

Nigel: "Revelation was hardly established as a canonical text in the time when Gnosticism was an issue."

Again, we have an extremely partial view of ancient culture around these topics, much of which was conveyed through secret mystery teachings. The process of writing Revelation could well have involved assumed knowledge of Gnostic ideas having very ancient provenance, going back to sources in Egypt, Babylon and further east. If the early Gnostics were either committed to solely oral transmission of teachings (cf The Apocalypse of Adam "the words they have kept of the God of the aeons were not committed to the book, nor were they written"), or if their writings were systematically hunted down and burnt, then we are likely now to have only distorted evidence about exactly when `Gnosticism was an issue'.

Nigel: "So no-one would have read "ruler of the emanations" and had a spack attack; "king of the ages" would have been read "eternal King"."

Possibly, but if the successful suppression of overt Gnosticism still faced the need for sporadic mopping-up operations to deal with hidden defiance, then this spark of dissent in Rev 15:3 could have been seen as worth snuffing out. You can't be too careful if you are paranoid. The authors of the Sinaiticus website are a bit 'spacky' in translating Aionon as Saints.

Nigel: "Orthodoxy asserted transcendence and immanence, so an assertion of transcendence was no threat to it."

In my previous comment I was thinking of the rather complex idea of natural transcendence, as distinct from the absurd orthodox idea of supernatural transcendence. Natural transcendence looks to the pleromatic stability of the infinite eternal reality surrounding the visible world of the here and now. By contrast, supernatural transcendence invents imaginary entities. Supernatural ideas crept into later Gnosticism as a form of corruption seeping through from the pervasive orthodoxy. If the original enlightened framework was a vision of natural reality, then the available Gnostic texts, like the extant orthodox texts, should be assessed as a fragmentary reflection and distorted memory of this high wisdom.

Orthodox immanence only works by reference to a complementary entified transcendent being, who is beyond nature but displays finite unity and intentionality. This contradictory paradox of the finite infinite being helps reveal the absurdity of orthodoxy. Entities are finite, and the idea of God as an infinite entity is a contradiction in terms. The Gnostic sense of how the whole is revealed in the part is far more realistic and complex than the literal incarnation doctrine at the centre of the orthodox view of immanence.

Nigel: "But if "king of the ages" was so disagreeable, why wasn't 1 Tim 1:17 fixed as well? "Now to the *basileus ton aionon*, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory etc...""

There are many Bible texts with natural cosmic references for which the "fix" was not applied. These things have an element of accident. Just one scribe finding "Ages" offensive in Rev 15 would have been enough to open up the contrasting tradition by deftly adding the gamma. Perhaps Timothy lacked the surrounding Gnostic imagery of Revelation that the scribes thought needed a bit of toning down. Perhaps they wanted to protect the text by compromising the language to make it less vulnerable to fanatical bigots who wanted Revelation out of the canon.

Nigel: "And if we're working in Latin, why not say that "king of the saeculum" -- the age and things of this world as distinct from the transcendent -- connotes immanence?"

Good point, which opens up the ambiguity within the meaning of immanence. From a modern panentheist orthodoxy, the whole universe is immanent, present as material reality of general revelation, while God remains fully immanent only in the special revelation of Christ. My understanding is that from an ancient viewpoint, the sublunary world of historical change on earth was the locus of immanence, while the unchanging celestial spheres of the superlunary universe were transcendent. The transcendent does not have to be immaterial. The saeculum, commonly a human lifetime, is one thirtieth of a zodiac age of 2148 years, a period which serves as a bridge from time to eternity.

As I see it, the debate between Gnosticism and Orthodoxy turns significantly on the comprehensibility of transcendence. The original Gnosticism that I am postulating as the source doctrine for Christianity, a real Quelle, says that transcendence is in principle comprehensible, visible in the slow shift of the heavens. This was unacceptable to the essentially magical and supernatural outlook of pious orthodoxy, who insisted that transcendence could not be comprehended in any natural observation, no matter how vast.

This question of the nature of transcendence and immanence feeds into the contrast between King of Ages and King of Nations in Rev 15. The Gnostic idea of Ages supports an immense but still finite vision of God, stretching across thousands of years and the vastness of the visible stars. The Orthodox idea of Nations starts from the essential paradox of piety that an infinite God displays finite care. This paradox is not one of those word tricks like `the last shall be first', but rather a genuine logical breaker for the coherence of Christian dogma. King of Nations requires the assertion that nature is not as seen by science, because it postulates a personal God for whom there is no evidence, whereas the Gnostic reading of King of Ages is compatible with a scientific understanding of God revealed in nature, deus sive natura.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: King of the Ages
PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:30 pm 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Sat Mar 28, 2009 8:41 pm
Posts: 804
I have raised this topic at a thread at the Free Thought and Rationalism Discussion Board on the Majesty of Christ. What is the source of any real majesty, the pneumatic vision of Christ as King of the Ages or the hylic vision of Christ as King of the Saints or Nations? I suggest Ages.

'spin' made the following comment, indicating some doubt on what was the original text, and suggesting it may have been 'nations'.

Quote:
Sinaiticus doesn't/didn't have "saints" or, more correctly, "holy" (αγιων). It originally had "nations" (εθνων), but was corrected in the 7th c. to "ages" (αιωνων). This information is from Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. Your complaint is misplaced in Sinaiticus. In fact no early text had αγιων. It was the text that was available in Erasmus's time, which was the basis for the KJV. It is only the morons who can't face the KJV being wrong that stick to "saints" here. And as to what the original form of the verse was, it is hard to say whether it was αιωνων or εθνων, though Nestle-Aland, on the basis of the manuscript evidence, favour εθνων.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: King of the Ages
PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:36 am 
Offline
Thor
User avatar

Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:44 am
Posts: 24
Location: Boston, MA
Very good stuff, thank you for your insight!


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group