The Book of Revelation appears to be an account of things that take place beyond the earth where Jesus of Nazareth lived and died as well as where John’s community was living. It is a vision of events in the heavens or the sky. If we do not assume that all the details about the sky and those who live in the sky were immediately and supernaturally revealed to John, then John and his readers could have become familiar with these details from two types of persons in the Mediterranean society who devoted themselves to knowledge of the sky.
One type of person was those called “the wise men, the learned, the scholars.” These people were in awe of the sky and insisted that no one could really grasp the greatness and magnificence of the celestial spheres. The best posture was to stand in awe of the creator. They thought that as far as celestial phenomena were concerned, one need only pay attention to traditional lore about weather, farming, sailing, and the like.
On the other hand there was the type that believed one could surely get to understand what impact the sky and celestial beings had on human societies. This group included Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Israelite astronomers, astrologers, prophets and or seers. This group sought information about their human groups from and concerning those living beings that controlled the skies. Of course their perception of the sky and their descriptions of those perceptions followed from their ethnic stories and ideologies. But for Israelites in the Hellenistic period, there would be God and a whole range of living sky beings, good and evil, never labeled as deities even if they performed the functions of deities. For the others, there were God, gods, lesser deities, and demons. Everyone who read and experienced sky phenomena perceived the various servants of God and the range of celestial forces, as well as thunder lightning, earthquakes, sky rumblings, hail, rain, sulfur rain.
So John wasn’t the only one with all of these details about the sky. There were other sources where you would be able to find such information as just explained above.
John and his readers would think that events in the sky were significant for people on earth because they believed that the events or sky beings were commonly believed to be in control of human social realties: life and death, war and peace, climate and fertility, and the like. Therefore if the sky was perceived to be all of the human social realties then obviously this is why it would be so significant on earth. All of these events are important to the every day way of living and if these events were coming from visions of the sky then with out any doubt they would be extremely important on the earth and to everyone one on the earth. They believed that the events in the sky were significant for the people on earth also because only people of high ranking or status were able to view these sights. So if a king, priest, princes, or Roman senators say that they saw visions in the sky then people of lower elite’s would believe what they say and if they said things that happened in their visions the people on earth would follow because to them it is coming from a higher position in life so they must be correct in what they are saying.
People today consider events in the sky that impact on the earth and its inhabitants as atmospheric phenomena. Lightning, tornado thunder, sudden cloudbursts, and the like are simply all part of the weather. However the ancient Mediterranean’s perceived the sky and considered such events as signs and sought social meanings in them. For the ancients, nothing could possibly happen in the sky that did not in some way impact the earth and its inhabitants. For example the account of Moses’ meeting with God on Sinai is replete with the atmospheric phenomena. Smoke is interpreted as indicating God’s presence (“because God came down upon it in fire”); thunder is interpreted as God’s voice (“ God replied to him in thunder”). So the ancient Mediterranean’s perceived the sky as having total power on earth and the people that were on it. The sky to them was the all mighty everything that the sky did like lightning, thunder etc. they would right away put it in relation to something. They would always think of a reason for why it happened. They would never take anything for what it was meaning they would not just say okay it is noise coming from the sky. They would automatically start to make assumptions of what it could possibly be in reference to.
Many historians also figured out another way in how the ancients perceived the whole sky and earth perspective. The model required to imagine the scenes in the ancient Israelite creation story, the earth was flat and stable, rooted in place by means of solid pillars, surrounded by water and containing some underworld within. This flat earth was covered by the vault of the sky that was stretched out something like half-circular tent. The vault of the sky separates the waters above from the waters below. And the stars are affixed to this vault, while sun and moon make their way across it. The sky was an immense region, variously imagined by persons in antiquity. But no matter who described the sky, there was one feature all agreed on: the universe was a closed system, closed in by celestial vault of firmament.
Yes, their cultural assumption that favors lineal or hierarchical patterns of personal relationships influence the interest in the sky and sky beings because back then they followed tradition. So if their ancestors believed and followed sky beings and if they had an interest it automatically was inherited so the next generation would follow the same concepts. Their interests would be from lineal patterns because they wouldn’t know any better. If their ancestors believed that there was great power in the sky then so would they. They would be following custom. It is kind of like being born into a religion. When you are born you automatically fall into the group that your parents belong to so as you get older you follow your beliefs because that is how you were brought up to think. So culture had a great impact on the way people though back then. Their personal relationships with each other and their surroundings played a huge part in their interest in the sky and sky beings. Back then you followed what the majority of people were doing because that is what you thought was the right thing to do.
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