My friend, Byron, wrote and successfully defended his PhD dissertation on the Apocalypse. After he died, I was given a copy of his work, although before that, he had told me his understanding of what the Apocalypse or the Book of Revelation was all about. There were two points that Byron made to me. The first was that it was a message sent to particular Christian communities at a very definite time in history, a time when they had just survived a terrible persecution and were facing a new one. The second point was that the author wrote of real events in symbolic language that he expected people to understand. They were aware of the events. The symbolism was an attempt to show the invisible divine presence in history. The author encouraged them with the word repeated often, ‘Nike’, which loosely translated means, ‘We shall overcome’ and he also gave this instruction, ‘This wisdom: anyone who has intelligence figure out the number of the beast, for the number is a man’s.’ (Rev. 13:18)
I would like to follow that instruction to figure it out in an attempt to understand Exodus.
Moses, floating as an infant among the papyrus reeds, means he was born to do something with papyrus. We know cuneiform clay tablets have been found in the land where Abraham came from. Presumably, Abraham’s children brought them with them when they went down into Egypt and were welcomed there. After 600 years, Egyptian leaders questioned their religious beliefs and began to persecute them. We have the story of Moses breaking the tablets and giving this people a new law. Does this not tell us that Moses was instrumental in transforming tablets of genealogies and laws (similar to the laws of Hammurabi) as well as the writing down of oral traditions some thousands of years old even then, onto papyrus scrolls. And what did Moses take out of Egypt along with the people? We know well: he took the Ark of the Covenant containing those papyrus scrolls.
They came to a finger of water at the north end of the Red Sea. We Monctonians have a similar geologic formation right here. If, at the time of Moses, someone local knew the times of the tidal bore, and someone did, and told Moses since he knew, then he and his people could safely cross. If someone from away came after them, and someone did, then they might enter just before the tidal bore arrived and they would be in deep trouble. It is not the bore itself that is so dangerous. It is the formidable flood that follows it. So the people were saved. And the story uses imagery to express the invisible presence of the divine. And the manuscript scrolls of Genesis were saved. For some three thousand years afterwards, thousands of people have spent their lives studying these precious words and copying them from old rotting pages onto fresh new ones for future generations to again recopy them. They began ‘ta biblia’ or ‘Holy Scripture’.
Read Genesis, perhaps copy a story in handwriting, and you can experience the Miracle of the Book.