Supernatural Revelation Allusion

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The idea of the apocalypse has always captivated people, including the apocalypse of Revelation. This interest in the end times has shown up everywhere, especially in pop culture. Supernatural is one of example of this, seeing that it has two whole seasons dedicated to the end of the world, and much of it alludes to events that occur in Revelation. Megan (red) and I (blue) are both huge fans of the show, so we decided (with Mrs. Foster’s permission of course) to do an allusion super-post for seasons 4 and 5 of Supernatural. Season 4 mainly focuses on the breaking of the seals that leads to the apocalypse, while season 5 focuses on the actual end of the world. Here’s a summary of seasons 1-7 of the show in case you’ve never seen it, but be warned: if you don’t like the song Carry On My Wayward Son, I highly suggest NOT watching it (the summary for season 5 ends at 6:50).

 

Season 4: The Seals

Season 4 begins with Dean Winchester being brought back from Hell by Castiel, an angel of the Lord. After being reunited with his younger brother Sam and their friend Bobby Singer, Cas warns them that Lilith, the demon responsible for sending Dean to Hell, is trying to break the seals that keep the fallen archangel Lucifer imprisoned in order to bring on the apocalypse. Later it is revealed that there are around 600 total seals, but Lilith only needs to break 66 of them in order to spring Lucy from his cage.

Although in Revelation there are only 7 seals, these 66 seals ultimately bring on the apocalypse just as the 7 Revelation seals do. In Revelation, the first six seals can be found in chapter 6, with the final seal being opened in the first part of chapter 8. Even though the seals don’t exactly match those found in Revelation, it does help the view to understand the consequences of the seals being broken if they have read that book of the Bible. By understanding what happens after the seals are broken in Revelation, it’s easy to see why the brothers want to stop Lilith.

 Some of the seals in the show, such as the Rising of the Witnesses (which happens in episode 2 – “Are You There God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester”), mirror other events that happen in Revelation. Revelation chapter 11 tells of the final trumpet, but before this, it mentions two prophets that are killed by the beast, and hold great power during the end times. Like with the seals, the Rising is not exactly the same since the “witnesses” are people who Sam, Dean, and Bobby were unable to save, but having knowledge of Revelation does help to better understand what’s going on. The witnesses are still a sign that the end is near and they also hold a great power over the trio, since they all feel guilty about the people that they haven’t saved from the monsters that they hunt. 

Along with the seals, there are several other allusions in this season, including Sam and Ruby, a demon who is “helping” to stop Lilith, being portrayed as Christ figures. In episodes 9 (“I Know What You Did Last Summer”) and 10(“Heaven and Hell”), the group manages to find a girl who can hear angels named Anna. It turns out that she is angel who gave up her grace in order to be human, and as a result is being hunted by both demons and angels. In episode 10, Ruby seemingly betrays the group by meeting up with a group of demons to turn Anna in. Since Ruby is also viewed as a traitor by the demons, she ends up being tortured for Anna’s location. Eventually she cannot take the pain anymore and tells the demons where to find Anna, Sam, and Dean. Later, it’s revealed that it was all a trick to get the demons and angels to battle and ignore Anna, which is an amazing sacrifice considering that Anna and Ruby practically hate each other. By offering herself up to be tortured in order to save Anna, Ruby can be viewed as a sort of Christ figure; this is reinforced in the scene where she is tortured, where she is strapped to a table like this:

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 Sam can also be viewed as a Christ figure for different reasons. Throughout the season, Sam struggles with his addiction to demon blood, which gives him the ability to exorcise demons with his mind, and gives him more strength than normal. After Dean was sent to Hell at the end of season 3, Sam was intent on killing Lilith to get revenge, but he was not strong enough to do so. Ruby steps in and tells Sam about something only he can do that will help him stop Lilith: drink demon blood. However, when Dean finds out, he is horrified, and demands that Sam stops. Eventually, Dean and Bobby have an intervention with Sam and lock him in a vault under Bobby’s house to help him break the addiction (episode 21-“When the Levee Breaks”). During this time, Sam hallucinates that Alastair, the demon who was in charge of torturing Dean while he was in Hell, is torturing him. Even though this is merely a hallucination, it feels real to Sam. He has sacrificed much in order to stop the Lilith and the apocalypse, including his brother’s trust, and his own sanity and health. Like Christ, Sam suffered not only to save those he cared about, but also those he had never met, something that he has been doing for most of his life. Like with Ruby, Sam’s positioning during this scene also reinforces the idea that he is a Christ figure:

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Season 5: The Apocalypse 

In the beginning of Season 5, now that Lucifer has been set free, the main goals have become 1) Send Lucifer back to the pit and 2)Stop the world from ending (This is pretty much a major theme in the entire series).

One of the main allusions to the Book of Revelation in the Season 5 is the introduction of the Four Horsemen.

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“Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.” (Revelation 6:1-8 ESV)

The general idea for the Horsemen is that the first one is Conquest, the second is War, the third is Pestilence, and the fourth is Death.

In the television series, the Horsemen are still meant to herald the oncoming “end of the world”, but the writers do make some changes from John’s original script. The order in which the Horsemen appear is different than the order given in Revelation. Also, Conquest is changed to Pestilence, and from doing a teensy bit of side research, that is actually a fairly common change when it comes to pop culture and the like. For this series, I feel like the change probably had something to do with the writers not wanting Conquest to be so similar to War.

The Horsemen play a crucial role in the plan to lock Lucifer back in the pit, and the key lies in their rings; once united, they can open the door to the pit. Like demons, the angels needs vessels to walk around in human form, and Sam has been destined to be Lucifer’s vessel. He plans to allow Lucifer to possess him, take control over him when he is inside his body, and throw himself back into the pit. 

The first Horseman to make an appearance in Season 5 is War. The episode is titled “Good God, Y’all”, and in it, Dean and Sam are sent by Bobby to help his friend Rufus, who has sent a SOS from the town of River Pass in Colorado. When they get there, Rufus is nowhere to be found, but they do meet up with their friend Ellen Harvelle and her daughter Jo, both of whom are fellow hunters. Jo soon dissapears just like Rufus does, and when they find them both, they both appear to be possessed by demons, at least to Sam, Dean, and Ellen. Oddly, Rufus and Jo seem to think that the others are the ones being possessed. It turns out that there aren’t any real demons, that everything is an illusion caused by War to trick people into killing each other. In the following fight with the Horseman, they cut off his finger which contains a very powerful ring and War disappears.

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The next Horseman to appear is Famine, who makes his debut in episode 14, “My Bloody Valentine”. The Winchesters investigate several murders which involve the two victims literally eating each other to death. After this, people begin dying from alcohol poisoning, binge eating, etc. This leads them to believe that all of the strange activity is caused by Famine, whose power results in people giving in to their deepest desires, and literally consuming what they want the most. Because of this, Sam starts to have an intense craving for demon blood and Castiel’s desire for red meat leads him to consume raw hamburger meat from the restaurant that Famine is in when they attempt to kill him. With Famine destroyed at the end of the episode, they take his ring of power also.

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In episode 19, called “Hammer of the Gods”, the archangel Gabriel, who has been masquerading as a Trickster, explains that there is no way to kill Lucifer, but there is a way to trap him back inside the pit that he was released from. He tells them that by uniting the rings of the Four Horsemen, they can open up the pit to throw Lucifer inside. At the end of this episode, it is also revealed to them that Pestilence is now on Earth. The gang finally takes Pestilence’s ring in episode 21, “Two Minutes to Midnight”. Sam and Dean are nearly killed by the diseases thrown at then by the Horseman, but Castiel is able to use the last of his angelic powers to resist them and get Pestilence’s ring.

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They are finally able to track down the fourth Horseman, Death, after Bobby sells his soul to Crowley (a crossroads demon who sold his soul for a larger penis) in exchange for the location of Death. As it turns out, he is in Chicago, which is about to be hit by a colossal storm. He isn’t riding a pale horse, but he does arrive in style and in one of the coolest entrances for any character in the series: 

Death and Dean have a brief meeting over pizza, which Death really seems to like. The Horseman tells Dean that he will freely hand over his ring if Sam goes through with the plan of allowing Lucifer to possess him. Dean agrees, and Death hands over his ring and gives instructions on how to open the pit.

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The season comes to an end in the next episode, titled “Swan Song”. Sam allows Lucifer to enter him as a vessel, but is far too weak compared to the fallen archangel to take control again. It seems as if nothing can stop the final battle between Lucifer and Michael (who is using Sam and Dean’s half brother Adam as a vessel since Dean turned him down), but Dean decides that he has nothing to lose. After an entrance into the designated “battle ground” that manages to top Death’s in the previous episode, Dean (with the help of the Impala) helps give Sam the strength to break through Lucifer’s hold and throw himself, along with Adam/Michael, into the pit, effectively saving the world.

With all the other elements of Biblical prophecy incorporated into the 4th and 5th seasons, I suppose that the writers didn’t necessarily have to include the plotline with the Four Horsemen, but I’m so glad they did. The Horsemen allowed the story to tie the oncoming apocalypse even closer to the Book of Revelation and gave the Winchesters a means to open back up the pit, and throw ol’ Lucy back in.

In this season, there are several episodes revolving around other characters introduced in the Book of Revelation. In episode 6, “I Believe the Children are out Future” the boys investigate strange happenings that turn out to be the work of a little boy who is discovered to be an Antichrist, meaning a being that is half-human and half-demon. He could have been used as a major weapon against Heaven in the hands of the Demons, but he is allowed to escape, since Sam and Dean believe that he will not become an agent of evil is he is kept out of the hands of the demons. Also, in episode 19, called “99 Problems”, the Winchesters encounter a figure that turns out to be the Whore of Babylon, who is falsely leading a church congregation into committing as many deadly sins as possible.

 

While several changes have been made from the original version of the apocalypse in Revelation, it’s clear that some elements remain the same in Supernatural. By having read Revelation prior to watching the show, it’s easy to see how a viewer would have a better understanding of what’s going on in the 4th and 5th seasons.

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Who were the Nicolaitans?

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As I was reading the Book of Revelation this week, a multitude of questions came to my mind for a blog topic. Although it was very difficult to pick just one question to do a blog on, I decided to figure out just who the Nicolaitans mentioned in Revelation 2 were, and why they were hated.

“Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6)

“So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” (Revelation 2:15)

Let’s start with the word Nicolaitans. The Greek word for Nicolaitans is a combination of three other Greek words (Bible Study). The first part of the word is “nikos,” which means “a conquest, victory, triumph, the conquered and by implication, those who are dominate over the defeated.” The second part is the word “laos,” which means “victorious over the people.” The final part is the word “ton,” which simply means “the” (Bible Study). So, put together, the word Nicolaitans means “one who conquers and subdues the people” (LightSource).

Several sources agree that the Nicolaitans were “one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum” (Theopedia). So it’s clear that the Nicolaitans were a problem in two of the seven churches John was commanded to write to. But what exactly were the teachings/works of this group of people? There are several different theories as to what exactly these people did to inspire the hatred of the Protagonist.

One source states that Nicolaitans are the ones to blame for Christianity’s acceptance of several holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, along with other “unbiblical practices” (Nicolaitanism Today). The same sources goes on to claim that when viewed as a much broader philosophy, Nicolaitanism can be blamed for “the organized and systematic removal of God’s law as a center pillar of the Christian way of life.” So through this, it is easy to see why the Protagonist would be angry with this group of people, and warn about their teachings to those who followed him.

Another source states two different theories. The first is that the group followed the teachings of Nicolas, who was mentioned as possibly being one of the first deacons of the church in Acts 6 (Got Questions). But why would this be a bad thing? Several people seem to agree that Nicolas later went dark side and abandoned his faith in order to join in on the worship of Balaam (Got Questions). As we all know, the Protagonist is not fond of those who worship other gods, as it has been a cause of several hardships for the Hebrew people for hundreds of years by this point. Even more interesting is the “doctrine of Balaam,” which taught followers to “sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality” (Got Questions). This makes it even more apparent as to why Christians are to avoid the Nicolaitans. Personally, I feel like this theory is extremely plausible as to the source of hatred towards the Nicolaitans, especially considering that Balaam is mentioned in the letter to the church at Pergamum. The second theory mentioned is that the Nicolaitans “were not called so from any man, but from the Greek word Nicolah, meaning ‘let us eat,’ as they often encouraged each other to eat things offered to idols” (Got Questions). Whether you believe that they are named after a singular figure or not, it is clear that these teachings went directly against the teachings of the Protagonist, and were to be avoided and hated.

After reading about how the Nicolaitans could have possibly been followers of Balaam, I looked more into what exactly these people did, other than eat food offered to idols and practice sexual immorality. It turns out that the Balaam mentioned here could be the same one mentioned several times in the Old Testament, specifically in the Book of Numbers. By going back and reading a few chapters of Numbers, we learn more about Balaam’s teachings. In Numbers, it is said that Balaam is “a seer who was hired by the king Balak to put a curse on the people of Israel as they were threatening to move into the Holy Land” (National Catholic Register). Interestingly enough, Balak is also mentioned in the letter to the church in Pergamum. Although at first in Numbers Balaam isn’t that bad of a person, later on in Numbers 31:16 it’s said, “Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came along the congregation of the LORD.” Now what exactly is this incident of Peor? Back up to the beginning of the chapter and it is made clear that, upon the command of the Protagonist, the Hebrew people went to war against the Midian people, which resulted in the death of many important Midian people, including Balaam. However, after the battle they decided to bring back some things to Moses and the rest of the Hebrew people, including the women and children of Midian. Because they spared the lives of the Midian women and children, Moses was extremely enraged, as he had told them that the Protagonist had commanded that in order to secure the land that was given to them, they must utterly destroy all of those already in the Holy Land. Since this action of the Hebrew army was blamed on Balaam, it is clear that following his teachings was not exactly a good thing to do, even if it seemed harmless.

So it’s clear that the Nicolaitans mentioned in Revelation are bad news, just like several other groups that were tempting Christians to go the wrong way at the time. Even though there are several different beliefs as to what the Nicolaitans taught and did, they were against the teachings of the Protagonist, so it makes sense that John is commanded to warn the two churches threatened by these teachings.

Supernatural Allusion

Over the past several months, I have developed an obsession with the television show Supernatural. For those of you who haven’t watched/heard of this show: 1) You need to watch it; and 2) It basically follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they battle supernatural creatures. Each season has a central storyline (for example, the first season involves the brothers trying to find their missing father and the demon that killed their mother), and throughout all of the seasons, there are several Biblical allusions. Since I have recently started watching the series from the beginning with my dad and boyfriend, I’m going to focus on the allusions that are in the first three seasons.

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Season One

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In the fourth episode of the season, “Phantom Traveler,” the town of Nazareth is mentioned after a plane is crashed in a field near the town after being in the air for 40 minutes. As we know from reading the gospel accounts, Nazareth is the town that Jesus grew up in. While this seems to have no significance, it is interesting that the show deliberately points out this town in an episode that focuses on a demon that causes planes to crash. When Sam and Dean are forced to exorcise the demon while on a plane, it becomes evident that this is a very vague reference to how Jesus rid people of demons in order to save people. While this is seems to be insignificant, if you’re familiar with the fact that Jesus is from Nazareth, and banished demons, it becomes clear from this point how the brothers are to save the innocent people on the plane from a terrible death. Also, throughout reading the Bible, the number 40 seems to have a great significance. In the Bible, the number 40 typical symbolizes a “time of testing, trial and probation” (Bible Study). The fact that the demon finds a way to crash the plane after 40 minutes seems to be significant, as this time period can be seen as the demon testing to see if any of the passengers can find a way to stop it.

 

Season Two

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In episode 13 of the second season, “Houses of the Holy”, several Bible verses are mentioned, including Luke 2:9, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” In this episode, people are claiming to be visited by an angel that commands them to kill certain people. The people chosen for death all go to the same church, and each have a horrible secret that goes against what their image portrays. Early in the episode, Sam and Dean question Father Reynolds, who quotes the mentioned verse while discussing different portrayals of angels in the world. While Sam believes that the angels are terrifying to humans, like it’s mentioned in the Bible, Dean is skeptical due to how angels are frequently shown in modern culture. The Father mentions that the angels were actually warriors for God, which helps to promote Sam’s theory that an angel is behind the string of mysterious murders. However, it is actually a spirit who thinks he’s an angel that is behind the events. After re-watching the episode and thinking about why this specific verse is mentioned, it becomes clear that this quote disproves Sam’s idea that an angel is involved early on as the people who are visited by the angel are not terrified.

 

Season Three

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 As I was watching the third season of Supernatural with my dad over the break, one particular line stuck out to me from the first episode, “The Magnificent Seven.” In this episode, Sam and Dean, along with a long time family friend, Bobby Singer, and another hunter couple, Isaac and Tamara, must face the demons that personify what we know as the “Seven Deadly Sins.” When the team is questioning the person possessed by Envy, the demon states, “I am Legion, for we are many,” which is almost a direct quote from Mark 5:9, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” While it is never mentioned that this line is from the Bible, if one is familiar with this verse, it reveals just how extreme the situation is. In the end of the second season, Jake (one of the special “soldiers” chosen by Azazel, the yellow-eyed demon) opened a Gate to Hell and released a multitude of demons into the world. While the number of demons release is not known, from this line it is clear that the world is in deep trouble. The word “legion” means “the principal unit of the Roman army comprising 3000 to 6000 foot soldiers with cavalry” (Merriam-Webster). By using this word, it is clear that not only were there thousands of demons unleashed, but that it was an army that was released. This also hints at the events that are to come to pass later on in the series.

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These three examples are just a few of the many Biblical allusions that appear throughout Supernatural. While these allusions may not seem relevant at first, after re-watching the episodes it becomes evident why they were included if one is familiar with the Bible. By understanding the Biblical allusions, the viewer is able to gain deeper insight to the series, and if they catch on before re-watching the episode, it foreshadows the ending of that episode.

Who was Phoebe?

The portrayal of women in the Bible is a fascinating subject to me. This is especially true when women are cast in a positive light, which is something that doesn’t really happen that often in literature from a time where women were viewed as either property or untrustworthy. One particular woman mentioned in Romans chapter 16, Phoebe, really caught my attention this week. In the closing of his epistle to the Roman church, Paul begins:

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever way she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.” (Romans 16:1-2) 

It’s apparent that Paul thinks very highly of this woman. But who was this mystery woman who had the respect of Paul? 

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Most people seem to agree that Phoebe hailed from the seaport town of Cenchreae, a major trade center just east of Corinth (Cenchreae). This would put her in close proximity to Paul at what most people believe to be the time that he wrote his epistle to the Romans. Many sources also agree that Phoebe was a businesswoman, and one source takes this idea further and states, “Phoebe used both her financial means and her own person to minister to the sick and distressed of her city. She was a useful worker and co-laborer with the Apostle Paul” (Women in History). So not only was she a seemingly successful businesswoman, she was also a generous woman who helped those who needed it, including Paul during his many journeys. This explains why Paul described her as being “a patron of many and of myself as well.”

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The most interesting thing that I found concerned the word servant mentioned in the first verse of our text. In the original manuscript, the Greek word “diakonos” is used, which could have several different meanings, one of which is in fact “servant”; this word is also the one that Paul uses to describe his own ministry  (Society of Biblical Literature). However, when “diakonos” is combined with “ousa,” as it is in the original manuscript, a more appropriate translation would be “minister,” as the phrase “points to a more recognized ministry” (SBL). This leads many people to believe that Phoebe was in fact a deaconess of the church in Cenchreae, and maybe even the “first recorded ‘deacon’ in the history of Christianity” (SBL). Personally, I think this is a very plausible explanation, as it is often hard to translate words exactly, and it would help to explain why Paul held Phoebe in such high esteem. Plus, it’s really awesome that not only did a woman hold a position of power in the early church, but also she may have been the first deacon, even before a man.

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With Phoebe’s position of power in the church and her status as a businesswoman, it is generally believed that Paul charged Phoebe with delivering his epistle to Rome. It is also believed that she was trustworthy, dependable, and dedicated to service, which would have made her a perfect choice for completing this task for Paul (Phoebe the Helper of Many). To add to this, it is very possible that Phoebe herself would also have business to tend to in Rome, which could be why Paul asks the Roman church to help her out in any way possible (Women in History). But Paul’s request for Phoebe to transport his epistle to the Romans goes beyond simply handing the Roman church the epistle. Along with this, Phoebe was also expected to answer any questions that the Romans had concerning what Paul wrote and to make sure that they understood the message correctly (Phoebe the Letter Carrier). Since whoever brought the letter to the Romans would have to have a deep understanding of Paul’s intent, it makes perfect sense for him to send Phoebe on this mission.

 

It’s amazing to see how some women were portrayed as important people in literature, especially a work that has such a huge impact on our society. Not only was Phoebe a successful businesswoman, she also held a position of power in the early church and she was greatly respected by Paul. 

Game of Thrones Allusion

Recently I have developed a slight obsession with the television series Game of Thrones. (I may or may not have finished the whole series in less than 2 weeks…) For those who don’t know about this fantastically amazing series, Game of Thrones is based off George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series. As with most things, Biblical allusions can be found in this TV show, even if they aren’t completely obvious at first.

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For those of you who haven’t watched the series, here’s a quick summary of first two seasons:

The Whore of Babylon

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Revelations 17:1-4

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Melisandre, or the Red Woman, can be seen as a direct example of what most people refer to as the whore of Babylon, who is mentioned Revelations chapter 17. In the show, “Melisandre is a Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, a deity little-worshiped in Westeros. Hailing from Asshai, a county located in the far east of the continent of Essos, she claims to wield powerful magical abilities, particularly the power of prophecy. Some years ago she crossed the Narrow Sea and came to the court of Stannis Baratheon on the island stronghold of Dragonstone, to preach her faith. Stannis and the majority of his household have now converted to her religion, and she has become a close adviser to Stannis himself.” (Melisandre). Throughout seasons 2 and 3, she frequently uses her mysterious powers as a priestess to seemingly help Stannis Baratheon, the brother of the dead king. There are several instances where she does several questionable or outright terrifying things. One case is where she convinces that in order to win the war, Stannis must betray his wife and impregnate Melisandre in order for her to birth a mysterious shadow thing that will ultimately kill his other brother, Renly.  She also has many people burned as sacrifices to the Lord of Light that she claims to serve, convinces Stannis to arrest anyone who questions her, and kidnaps Stannis’ illegitimate nephew in order to use his blood to kill his enemies. In the series, it is clear that she has clouded Stannis’ judgment, although her true motives are not known at this point in time. But, if she has any connection to the woman mentioned in Revelations, she will more than likely ultimately betray Stannis at some point.

The Slaughter of the Innocents

“The Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” Matthew 2:16

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After the death of his “father” Robert Baratheon, Joffrey takes the throne, much to everyone’s dismay. As Joffrey begins his role as king of Westeros, it becomes apparent that his is cruel, ruthless, and merciless. After hearing rumors about his true parentage, Joffrey, afraid that he will lose his throne, orders the City Watch to murder all of Robert’s illegitimate children (Joffrey Baratheon). This can be seen as a direct allusion to Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents. This allusion goes even further, since one boy, Gendry, manages to escape the slaughter, as does Jesus. It is unclear at this time whether or not Gendry will be any threat to Joffrey.

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Judas

After reading through all four gospels, by this point we all know who Judas was and why he’s important. While there are several betrayals throughout the series, one of the most prominent ones is Petyr Baelish’s betrayal of Eddard Stark. After realizing that Joffrey is not Robert’s true heir, Eddard enlists the help of Petyr in order to install Robert’s brother Stannis on the throne instead of Joffrey. However, when Eddard makes his move after Robert’s death, Petyr, who is in control of the City Watch, turns on him, kills Eddard’s guards, and holds a knife to Eddard’s throat (Petyr Baelish). He then convinces Joffrey to imprison Eddard by telling him that he plans to take away his throne. This betrayal ultimately leads to Eddard Stark’s execution. Like Judas, Petyr betrays someone who seemed to be a friend in order to gain something. However, unlike Judas, Petyr betrays Eddard in order to have a chance with his wife, who was his childhood crush.

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There are several other Biblical allusions in the series other than the three I mentioned. From Melisandre as the whore of Babylon, to Joffrey’s version of the slaughter of the innocents, to Petyr’s Judas-like betrayal of Eddard, Biblical allusions add a deeper understanding to the plot of the series.

Who was Joseph of Arimathea?

This week concludes our readings of the Gospels in the New Testament. Although they all have many things in common, one particular person stood out to me: Joseph of Arimathea. For some odd reason, this name seemed familiar to me; after doing some research, I finally figured out that Joseph of Arimathea was mentioned in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After learning this, I didn’t really expect to find anything else interesting. However, as I started reading more about Joseph, the more intrigued I became. This led me to this week’s blog question: who was Joseph of Arimathea?

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John 19:38 states, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission.”

So Joseph was the man responsible for properly burying Jesus. But why would Pilate listen to a supporter of Jesus? According to the BBC, Joseph of Arimathea was a “wealthy man who came from Arimathea in Judea,” and a member of the Sanhedrin (BBC). This shows that Joseph was an influential member of society, making it easy to believe that the Roman govern of Judea would grant his request. Other than his appearance in the Gospel accounts, there are no other mentions of Joseph of Arimathea (at least not in the Bible we’re using). Naturally, I was curious as to what he did after this scene in the Bible. This is what I found…

“Apocryphal legend…supplies us with the rest of his story by claiming that Joseph accompanied the Apostle Philip, Lazarus, Mary Magdalene & others on a preaching mission to Gaul. Lazarus & Mary stayed in Marseilles, while the others travelled north. At the English Channel, St. Philip sent Joseph, with twelve disciples, to establish Christianity in the most far-flung corner of the Roman Empire: the Island of Britain. The year AD 63 is commonly given for this ‘event’, with AD 37 sometimes being put forth as an alternative” (Britannia). Another source confirms this, and goes even further to suggest that Joseph is an ancestor of many of Britain’s monarchs (Early British Kingdoms). Along with this, it is also said that Joseph built the first church in England (or maybe the entire world) (BBC). So not only did Joseph play a prominent role in the spread of Christianity, he also was important to the British monarchy. It’s amazing to see how a man who appeared a total of four times in our reading could have been so influential.

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Along with Joseph’s importance in Britain, several sources seem to agree with another apocryphal legend, one that states that he is a not so distant relative of Jesus. One site states that the “Jewish Talmud records that Joseph was the great-uncle of Jesus, a younger brother of Mary’s father” (Joseph of Arimathea). This familial relationship with Jesus could have been another contributing factor to him using his prominent position to try to obtain Jesus’s body after the crucifixion.

Joseph of Arimathea is also a prominent figure in another type of legend: the legend of the Holy Grail. Yes, the very same Holy Grail that King Arthur sets out on a quest to find in both Arthurian legends and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Joseph of Arimathea is actually believed to be the original guardian of the grail (Joseph of Arimathea, Keeper of the Holy Grail). What is the Holy Grail you ask? Generally, the Holy Grail is believed to be the “cup that Christ used at the Last Supper and that Joseph held to collect Christ’s blood at the crucifixion” (Joseph of Arimathea, Keeper of the Holy Grail). According to legend, Joseph hid the Holy Grail in a well in Glastonbury, and to this day the well is called Chalice Well (BBC). However, there has never been any concrete proof of the existence of the Holy Grail, despite all of the legends that revolve around it.

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Another legend states that Joseph was in England before he went with St. Philip; on this early trip, it is said that he might have taken Jesus to England as a teenager (BBC). Personally, I find this hard to believe. The Roman Empire was massive, and although they had a fairly advanced road system, a trip from Galilee to Britain would likely take several months.

Although Joseph of Arimathea may seem like an insignificant character in the Gospels, historically he played a very influential role in the spread of Christianity. Many legends surround his existence; while some may seem a bit unbelievable, others seem like they could very well be true.

Lord of the Rings Allusion

So instead of a blog on Luke this week, I decided that it was time for an allusion, specifically a Lord of the Rings one. LOTR is one of my favorite movie trilogies, and I’m *hopefully* going to start reading the books soon. In case you didn’t know, The Lord of the Rings is a book trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien and consists of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. If you haven’t read the books or watched the movies, or if you just want to brush up on the plot, here’s a musical summary of the trilogy:

 

Now, there are several ways that LOTR alludes to the Bible, some more obvious than others. For this blog, I’m mainly going to focus on temptation and the transfiguration.

Temptation                                                          

“One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them” – J.R.R. Tolkien

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The One Ring mentioned in this well-known passage is essentially all powerful, and has control over the other 19 Rings of Power forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. This ring has the ability to give the wearer an unnaturally long life, but unfortunately wearing/having this ring for too long has detrimental side effects, as we can see with Gollum:

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In The Fellowship of the Ring, the current owner of the One Ring, Bilbo Baggins, gives the ring to his nephew, Frodo Baggins. After learning of suspicious events occurring in Mordor, Gandalf entrusts Frodo with the task of destroying the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. Along the journey to Mount Doom, Frodo, as well as his companions (specifically Boromir), are tempted by the ring.

The temptation of the ring begins in the movies when Bilbo is reluctant to leave behind the ring as he journeys to Rivendell to finish his book. It’s apparent in this scene that the One Ring has a negative effect on his personality, especially when Gandalf begins to insist that Bilbo leave the ring behind. After Gandalf assures Bilbo that he does not want the ring for himself, Bilbo finally relinquishes the ring and begins his journey to Rivendell. Later, Frodo is tempted to put the ring on his finger while hiding from a Ring-wraith. If Frodo gives in and puts the ring, he would be revealed to the Ring-wraiths, which would lead to his capture. Although not in this instance, Frodo does eventually give in to the temptation (multiple times), and as a result he eventually sees the Eye of Sauron, which is Sauron’s way of seeing where the ring-wearer (Frodo) is, along with alerting any nearby Ring-wraiths of his whereabouts. Boromir’s temptation by the ring occurs near the end of the movie, when he tries to convince Frodo to give him the ring. Boromir wants the ring so he can use it to restore his homeland, Gondor, to what it once was and to defeat Sauron once and for all. He even goes as far as threating to kill Frodo, but quickly realizes what he has done and asks for forgiveness, and ultimately sacrifices himself for the others.

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Just like Jesus was tempted during his forty days in the wilderness, Bilbo, Frodo, and Boromir, (along with many others), were tempted by the power of the ring. Each character faces the temptation in their own way, and has different results. As we all know, Jesus manages to resist the temptation, as does Boromir. For the most part, Bilbo manages to resist the power of the ring, although he does use it irresponsibly so he can end his 111th birthday/going away party with a bang. As for Frodo, he fails to resist temptation, and although he ultimately ends up destroying the ring, he must suffer the consequences, like when he is dealt an almost fatal wound by a Ring-wraith. In this series we can see how powerful temptation can be, even to those who have no desire of power.

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The Transfiguration

“And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” Luke 9:29

This verse really stood out to me as I was reading, especially since we had discussed the LOTR transfiguration in class Monday. During this scene from the Hebrew narrative, Jesus, along with his disciples Peter, John, and James, travel up a mountain and is recognized by the Protagonist as the chosen one. While on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, as seen in the verse above.

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Likewise, Gandalf the Gray also undergoes a transfiguration of sorts. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf sacrifices himself so the rest of the Fellowship can escape the Mines of Moria. As the group is trying to flee from orcs and a Balrog (fire/shadow demon) hidden in the mines, Gandalf turns and shouts “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” He then falls to what you would think would be his death as he battles the Balrog. However, in The Two Towers, he makes his return as Gandalf the White, with the purpose of defeating the other white wizard in the series, Saruman, who has become corrupt and is in league with Sauron.

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Both Jesus and Gandalf must go through a transfiguration in order to step into their full power and potential. For Jesus, it serves as a confirmation of who he really is. For Gandalf, it is proof that he is still needed in Middle Earth.

While there are several more allusions to the Bible in this amazing trilogy, these are the two main ones that seemed to really connect with what we’ve read so far. Like Jesus, Bilbo, Frodo, and Boromir all face temptation and must either overcome it or learn how to overcome the consequences of giving in. Gandalf and Jesus also must undergo transfigurations in order to step into their full potentials. It’s amazing how one book can have such far-reaching effects, even in this day.

(All specific information used in this blog came from The Lord of the Rings wiki)

Also, here’s a completely irrelevant and funny Legolas video 🙂