The anti-Christ! The Battle of Armageddon! The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Welcome to the drama of the end of the world. Um, not so fast. According to leading biblical scholar Elaine Pagels in her book Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation, it was less visionary prophecy and more propaganda. Written in the aftermath of 60,000 Roman soldiers storming Jerusalem in 70 AD in order to put down armed Jewish revolt, Revelation was meant to incite people to action in much the same way that Winston Churchill did during the dark depths of World War II, taking to the radio to give people some hope. Spreading the message that God would return and the Roman soliders would be destroyed, Revelation is "an anti-Roman tract and a piece of war propaganda wrapped in one. His primary target is Rome,” explains Pagels about the book’s author, John of Patmos (the Greek isle where he was eventually exiled). A devout and mystic Jew, he was also known as Saint John the Divine. “He really is deeply angry," continues Pagels, "and grieved at the Jewish war and what happened to his people.”
And to help them know thine enemy, he warned them about "the number of the beast." The demented Roman emperor Nero. Obviously it wouldn't have been save for John to just come right out and accuse Nero by name, so he used the system of Jewish numerology to spell it out instead. Thus, the "mark" of this human beast could have refered to the official stamps, tattoos and images of the emperor used throughout the empire on documents, stamps and coins in order to conduct official business. However, the way John communicated his message, using “the language of dreams and nightmares” sparked the popular imagination and gave rise to the enduring myths and tales of the End Times.
A cool book of almost 170 illustrations of End Time art from the Renaissance was recently published by Taschen. The Book of Miracles dates back to the mid 16th century and the Bavarian region of modern day Germany, in the Swabian Imperial Free City of Augsburg. The original book was acquired at auction by a London-based dealer. Who commissioned the book or why is a mystery, but the creepiness of the visions within remain undiminshed. There is the scaly-skinned "Tiber" monster, a kind of horse-headed Frankenstein on two legs, one hoofed and one a giant bird leg, an arm resembling a cannon and its torso covered with weird scaly skin. From its booty emerges both a human face (!) and the spindly neck and head of a dragon. Elsewhere, giant multi-headed sea monsters threaten, fire rains down from the sky and beasts feast on human carcasses, spewing blood a particularly vibrant shade of fuschia.
Whether or not you buy the events of Revelation, there's no denying how awesome these color palettes are. Very bright and modern, methinks. Compare them to some other color palettes I analyzed recently - also from realms where dragons, fantastical creatures and End Times rule - video games!
Music: Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech.com
The Book of Miracles is available as a hardcover from Amazon.com.
(Note: both this link & the one to Elaine Pagels's book are affiliate links.)
You might also like Color Palettes from the Top 20 video games ever - like this one (left) from Final Fantasy X.