Bible Review 19:2, April 2003

Asking the Right Question

To get the most out of the New Testament, you need to know what kind of books you’re reading.

By Ben Witherington III

Bible Review

In the late 1960s, my car broke down in the mountains of North Carolina, and I had to hitchhike home to the middle of the state.a I was picked up by an elderly couple driving an ancient Plymouth. After a little conversation, I discovered they were “Flat-Earthers,” by which I mean they did not believe the world was round.


I pressed them on this and asked, “Why not?”

The elderly man’s response was, “It says in the Book of Revelations [sic] that the angels will stand on the four corners of the earth. The earth couldn’t have four corners if it was round.”

The problem was that the gentleman had made a genre mistake. He though the Book of Revelation was intending to teach cosmology, but it’s not. It’s a piece of apocalyptic literature that teaches theology, history and ethics, and involves prophecy. In this particular passage (Revelation 7:1), the author, John of Patmos, is simply indicating that angels would come from all points of the compass.

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