Saturday, February 11, 2012

Apocalyptic Cavalry

Viktor Mikhajlovič Vasnetsov. Воины Апокалипсиса (Warriors of the Apocalypse). 1887. St. Petersburg
Popularly the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are: Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death; all not good. But, when one reads the Apocalypse only Death is named outright. The colors of the horse are clearer: white, red, black, and sallow (pallid, yellow-green); almost the colors of the four humours. The first rider wears a crown, and is a conqueror armed with a bow; the second a great sword, the third grocer scales. The fourth is not a reaper, but a commanding killer of several methods including famine and war.

Of all that is not to be read with certainty in the Bible, it is this book. It is a great misfortune that some so much preach from this book, and let their fancy fly, but demand your attention. We need John, himself, to explain it to us. If people understood in the generation that he wrote, no record of their understanding is known. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, this was the last to be accepted.

Third rider is dearth, the scarcity and costliness of food, that leads to famine. The second is deadly, bloody war.

The first is confusing. Many exegists have confounded him with Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. That makes little sense [to me]. The lamb opens the seven seals of the book, the first four release the horsemen. [The fifth seal is of those already martyred. The sixth opens up the Day of Wrath. The seventh brings seven angels with trumpets.] The lamb is usually identified with Jesus. The four horseman, on at least one solid strain of logic, are companions and members of the same marauding band. Now, the first is a conqueror. There are wars to conquer, and some just to kill. The second rider may be the avatar for that sort of war. Those who separate this first horseman from the other three, have him spreading the Gospel/Christianity. If that is correct, it is a very mixed metaphor. A very powerful metaphor, the Spaniard, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, writes a novel of World War I in 1916, 'Los Cuatro Jinetes del Apocalipsis' (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), a debauchery of war and greed.

The quartet is serious, the most grave. Their activities are violently gruesome. It is difficult to imagine the four not being fearsome, cavalier, and most deadly.

The American Catholic bishops ought to devote some time, and intensity, preaching for the end of war and scarcity. Rather, they have deposited insured birth control as a jockey on these steeds. One should be able to contemplate the entirety of horse, instead of just the ass.

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