Glenn Beck went after MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell as well as MSNBC itself when O’Donnell took issue with Beck’s claim that the nuclear crisis in Japan might actually mean “the end of the world” in literal, biblical terms. It was Glenn, of course, who brought up the Book of Revelation. “The Book of revelation was written so you would know what it [the end of the world] would look like.”
To which O’Donnell responded:
The book of Revelation is a work of fiction describing how a truly vicious God would bring about the end of the world. No half-smart religious person actually believes the book of Revelation. They are certain that their God would never turn into a malicious torturer and mass murderer beyond Hitler’s wildest dreams.
“Glenn Beck of course, does still believe the Book of Revelation.”
Beck’s response is typical: “I believe that MSNBC has become the most anti god network ever put on the air in the history of America.”
Apparently Glenn Beck is entitled to his beliefs and Lawrence O’Donnell is not. If Beck has a right to believe the Book of Revelation is literal, O’Donnell certainly has the right to say it is fiction.
Here is O’Donnell’s take on the subject:
He goes on to make some claims you can easily test for veracity by watching their respective discussions. For example, this is Beck’s response:
As Beck claims on his site:
Glenn then tossed to audio from Lawrence O’Donnell, who flat out calls the Bible fiction and twists comments made by Glenn.
O’Donnel begins, “The Book of Revelation is a book of fiction describing how a vicious God would bring about the end of the world. No half smart religious person believes the Book of Revelation anymore.”
We are told:
Glenn certainly didn’t agree with this, as he and Pat both stated that the Book of Revelation was God saying “this is what it is going to look like”. “He’s giving us this in advance to say when you see these things, have hope that I am coming soon. That’s what he’s saying and it’s not the end of the world. The world goes on a thousand years, God time, a thousand years after he comes back. This is not the end of the world. That’s the way people like Lawrence O’Donnell try to twist it,” Glenn said.
Lawrence O’Donnell went on to have some fun at Beck’s expense, as well as to point out some inconsistencies in Beck’s position with regards to biblical literalism (warning: this is about a seven-minute segment but well worth the watching):
Beck treats Revelation as though it were some kind of field manual for apocalyptic Christians. This is something of an afterthought, given that it wasn’t written, or at least not put into its final form sixty or so years after Jesus died and some thirty or so years after Paul died. Jesus didn’t bother to tell Paul about any of this and Jesus sure didn’t mention it – it has an entirely different focus than the Gospels after all; No, God had to wait thirty or so years to tell some guy named “John” who lived in Asia Minor all the stuff he forgot to tell Paul or have Jesus mention.
This is not a god who appears to be “on the ball.”
What is the truth about the Book of Revelation? Revelation was all over the place in the early church. Paul had revelations: I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1.12). Paul himself outlines a typical first century “church” service in 1 Cor 14:26: “When you come together each has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation.” New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman writes of Revelation,
The coming of the end was also the fervent conviction of a prophet named John, who lived near the end of the first century. John was a Christian seer who penned a majestic and awe-inspiring account of the end of the world, an account that has spawned endless speculation and debate among those who have continued to wait for the return of Jesus over the intervening nineteen hundred years.
And of course, it was far from the only apocalypse (others include 2 Enoch, 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra – all Jewish – and the Christian-authored Shepherd of Hermas and Apocalypse of Peter). It was merely the most popular. All these books, as Ehrman points out, “were evidently written in times of distress and suffering, whether real or perceived”, which explains a great deal about the enduring popularity of apocalypticism. Just about every age has had its share of distress and suffering.
The Book of Revelation is also known as the Apocalypse of John. Christians tend to think of it today as an indispensible ande original part of the New Testament but it was not always held in such certain regard. Not everyone accepted the veracity of this book. And even then some Christians understood that the “John” who wrote it was not the John who was a disciple of Jesus. As third-century Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria wrote, “it is not clear which John he was” and his own conclusion was that “there must have been another John living among the Christians in Asia Minor…” Even Dionysius could see that “in neither language nor style” was Revelation and the Gospel and Epistle of John “at all similar.” This is because, as modern scholars recognize, the author of Revelation “was principally literate in a Semitic language, probably Aramaic, and knew Greek as a second language.”
Nor did all Christians accept the book as “canon.” The Syrian Church authorized a 22-book canon as late as the early fifth century which excludes the familiar 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation. Even more difficult to explain is Eusebius’ early fourth century discussion of New Testament canon (HE 3.25.1). The books Eusebius calls “acknowledged” are the four gospels, Acts, fourteen epistles of Paul, 1 John, 1 Peter and “if it really seems right” the Apocalypse of John.
If it really seems right.
Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition (Oxford University Press, 2004)