Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Apocalypse of St. John, The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible, Volume II, Robert A. Sungenis, Ph.D., A Book Review

I just finished Robert Sungenis' new Study Bible on the Apocalypse. I had a lot of questions regarding what it was all about and how it should be interpreted. There appears to be a number of interpretations out there. Robert chose to write the book based on the traditionally accepted Catholic amillenial interpretation, with likely date of writing in the 90's A.D. Robert does explain some of the other interpretations and their ramifications. The basic advice he gives when assesing another book on the Apocalypse is to see how the author interprets Chapter 20:

In light of the above discovery, one of the most important passages in the Apocalypse, and the one passage that will directly set the boundaries for the interpretation of every other passage in the Apocalypse, is Chapter 20. In fact, one can immediately know which of the half dozen interpretive schemes an exegete has chosen for his analysis of the Apocalypse by turning first to his treatment of Chapter 20. It is the exegetical cornerstone for the rest of the book. The main reason for its importance is that it is the only instance in the Apocalypse where the time period "a Thousand Years" or "the Millennium" is mentioned. An exegete must first decide:

· Whether the Thousand Years is a literal or symbolic time period.
· When the Thousand Years begins and ends.

Similar to the many plausible interpretations of John 3:5, the Thousand Years of Apocalypse 20:1-6 has a variety of options. If one interprets the years as a literal time period, he has three possibilities for its placement in history: (1) the past, (2) the present or (3) the future.

After some more explanation, Robert then outlines six common schemes for interpreting the 'thousand years'. These include:

1) Past/Literal
2) Present/Literal
3) Future/Literal
4) Past/Symbolic
5) Present/Symbolic
6) Future/Symbolic

Which he relates to different Biblical events- especially the first and second coming of Christ. Some people choose a literal time from David's reign until the the coming of Christ (or the destruction of the temple), i.e., #1. Many protestant's choose #3, i.e., Christ literally rules for 1000 years after his second coming, etc. The Church, solidly starting with Augustine and through the current Vatican Catechism, have traditionally accepted #5- present symbolic. Though some early fathers held #3, the Church has stated that it "can not be taught safely" (Pius XII).

The importance of the thousand years is that this is the time period in which Satan is bound (in the bottomless pit), and during which the two beasts "deceive the nations" in his stead. In the standard Catholic interpretation, this symbolic thousand years (i.e., a very long time starting at the first coming) is the Church age. Basically, prior to Christ's sacrifice, Satan was able to stand between God and man. It was basically impossible for man to attain salvation. This is why the saints of the Old Testament had to wait in Hades for Christ's sacrifice. At Christ's sacrifice, Satan was defeated, and bound in the bottomless pit. This was God's plan to recover from Adam and Eve's failure in the Garden. This plan was written on the scroll with seven seals, and only the Lamb of God was worthy to unseal the plan and carry it out. And carry it out he is doing, now, in the Church age. At the cross Satan was defeated, but it was not over. Satan was bound in the bottomless pit to allow the Church time to evangalize and spread the gospel to all mankind. Though bound, Satan was still able to act indirectly through his intermediaries- the two beasts. These agents of Satan have acted throughout Church history creating wars and in various ways deceiving the nations. Those who are sealed by God (baptized) have grace to stand firm against the beasts (though not all do), but many who are not will be deceived and follow. For a short while just prior to the second coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead, the dragon (Satan) will be released again from the pit to wage war against the Church. The book says of the beasts:

In Ap 13:14 John says that the pseudo-lamb will demand "bidding them make an image for the Beast which was wounded by the sword and yet lived." We might compare this to similar instances recorded in the Old Testament...John may purposely be trying to stir up these Old Testament scenes in our minds in order to indicate the goal of the Second Beast. After he has deceived the world with pleasantries and pseudo-miracles, his main goal is to have the people give their full allegiance to the First Beast, for he is the one with the seven heads, the brains and muscle behind the Dragon’s [Satan bound in the pit- Mark] false gospel. We could say that each of its heads symbolizes some form of intellectual control over the world. One head could represent worldly philosophy. A second head could represent world politics. A third could represent world finance. A fourth might be atheistic science, etc. This is not to say that these disciplines are evil in themselves or detrimental to man, but only that any discipline that does not incorporate Christian principles at its foundation is essentially anti-Christian or atheistic, and thus will be used against Christianity. Whatever means the first Beast can use to draw people away from the Christian Gospel, he will use. He knows, of course, that the most productive means of swaying them is by intellectual persuasion, the same technique he used against Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In turn, the people of the world "worship" the Beast by sacrificing themselves to its cause. In practical terms, for example, they sacrifice their families to divorce and adultery; their babies to abortion; their bodies to drugs, alcohol and pornography; their homes and property to usury and unjust taxes; their souls to godless art and music; their minds to anti-Christian philosophies and sciences, etc. So successful is the campaign of the Second Beast to bring the people to worship the First Beast that, as John says: "and the whole earth followed the Beast with wonder" and "they worshiped the Beast, saying, ‘Who is like the Beast and able to wage war with him?’" (Ap 13:3-4).

Standing against the beast:

The only institution that will be waging war against the Beast is the Church, and particularly her faithful members. But the Beast will do his best to silence them, either by persecution or death. As John writes in Ap 13:15: "to cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain." In the history of the Christian church, persecution from the world has been the norm. The bloodthirsty emperors of Rome, many of whom deified themselves and required worship from the populace, dominated the first three centuries. After the fall of Rome, the Muslims came into power in the 600s, persecuting and killing Christians for the next 800 years. Afterward, numerous man-made movements sought to replace Christianity as the dominant authority of the world, including the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Communism, Capitalism, Deism, Nihilism, Nazism, Masonry, Militarism, Scientism, and Pan-Religionism. They all played their part in ridiculing and trying to stamp out Christianity wherever and whenever they could. In the last century, there has been more persecution of Christianity than at any time in history, thus, the onslaught of the Beast has not only remained, it has increased, preparing the way for the loosening of Satan for his "little time" (Ap 20:3). This is the reality of life, and John is telling it to us in the starkest of terms. If mankind, perchance, is in a time of peace and there is no persecution in our little corner of the world, this is highly unusual, for such havens do not last very long before they are overtaken by the Beast.

And of the "Image of the Beast":

In Ap 13:15 John tells us that the Second Beast "gives breath" to the image being worshiped. The Second Beast even makes the first "speak." Obviously, this is no ordinary image. Such bodily animations symbolize that the image of the Beast will be an active, functioning, multiplying and growing entity. The image of the Beast will articulate its ideas and have the power of persuasion. Practically speaking, we can see this power of persuasion in the world today as the "image" propagates its anti-Christian message through books, newspapers, magazines, computers, internet, music, art, architecture, movies, television, billboards, speeches, lectures, pamphlets, stamps, memorials, money, libraries, schools, colleges, universities, institutions, merchandise, etc. Almost all of these mediums are anti-Christian at the core and all "breathe" and "speak" as the "image of the Beast."

These brief excerpts make it clear that the traditional Catholic view indicate that we are currently in a spiritual battle against the minions of Satan, and that the "world" is really stacked against the Church and its spreading of the gospel. This is inconvenient for some who want to reach out to the world or who do not want to have trouble with the world. Relegating the Apocalypse to some past event (i.e., Jewish history through Christ's first coming) becomes a more convenient package for such purposes. Fortunately Benedict XVI, who is open to some dialogue, states he wants to do so in "The Spirit of Truth".

The book is 536 pages, which includes the text of the Apocalypse (RSV), plus verse by verse commentary explaining what all the symbols mean. Following the standard Catholic interpretation, the Apocalypse is broken into seven dramas (seven being highly symbolic nunber). Each drama starts with the first coming of Christ and ends with the second coming. Each drama is the same story told from a different perspective. Related Old Testament prophcies- especially Daniel, but also Ezekial, Isaiah, Zechariah, Jeremiah, and others and New Testament prophecies are worked in as appropriate.

I highly reccomend this book to all who truly want to understand [what we do know] about God's plan, and how it is actually carried out on earth and in heaven in the current age.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007  
Blogger JHQuinn said...

I came to your review of Robert's book from your post on AQ, and reading your review I thought I would be interested in buying the book; good review, well done.

But when I saw reference to the "RSV" it reminded me that I once emailed him and asked him why he used these modernist revisions of the Bible when he has the Douay-Rheims at his fingertips. I don't recall exactly what his answer was but I thought it was bogus.

I'll wait for another book interpreting the Apocalypse.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007  
Blogger Mark Wyatt said...


He uses the RSV as a basis, but explores the actual Greek used, i.e., he goes back to the orginal languages (both Greek and Hebrew). He does refer to the DR many times throughout the book.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He was planning to use the Douay, I believe there where certain diocesan stipulations he had to follow or something like that, so he had to use the RSV, someone asked him that question on his website CAI, you should look for it on his q+a section and he explains why. He didnt want to use the RSV, but was forced into it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007  
Blogger Laurence Gonzaga said...

The choice for RSV was purely for the sake of seeking Imprimaturs... That is, his use of the DR in Vol 1 was not the DR really, he revised it, and that's why it failed to get the Imprimatur. Thus, using the RSV made it easier since the translation already had the Imprimatur. Let's not get too picky about "Modernist" translations...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007  
Blogger Laurence Gonzaga said...

I don't "field questions" btw, as an "apologist" for CAI or for Bob Sungenis, since that would be outside of my lowly role as "media technician" :-)... I am simply repeating what I myself have read from Bob's own words... I'd appreciate it if people wouldnt question my ability to comment on these issues, and be reasonably accurate for that matter, in spite of my own limited knowledge of the issues. It's not like I am writing theology books or anything, since I don't have any degrees in that field. Let me quote Bob himself:

"When I applied for the Imprimatur for the Matthew volume, the USCCB determined that my modifications to the DR were a "translation of a translation" and not a true translation, and therefore, I could not get the specific Imprimatur for a "translation." That being the case, I could not get the Matthew volume to the censor librorum for review of its apologetics material, since the "translation" was not first approved. So instead of going through all that rigamarole again, I'm just going to use a translation already approved. Someday, however, we are going to submit a revised DR translation of the whole Bible, and we are working on that now" (Sungenis, Question 73, Nov. 2006)

Thursday, May 24, 2007  
Blogger Mark Wyatt said...

Thanks Laurence, you lowly media technician ;) !

Friday, May 25, 2007  
Anonymous AdoramusTeChriste said...

Have any of you ever read Father H.R. Kramer's The Book of Destiny published by TAN? I thought it was excellent and I would compare any other book about the Apocalypse to it. http://www.tanbooks.com/index.php/page/shop:flypage/product_id/89/

Monday, May 28, 2007  
Blogger Mark Wyatt said...


I will check it out. Thanks.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Book of Destiny is an EXCELLENT book. So good in fact that I recently scanned the entire thing into a referenceable PDF copy for myself so I can search and research it for keywords and phrases when reading the Apocalypse.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mark-
I just wanted to say bravo. I am a freshman currently working on a paper about the Apocalypse and your review saved me. I wanted to let you know that I think you're a great writer and you sound like a Catholic who actually knows what he's talking about, which is hard to find these days. Thanks so much. Hey, maybe you could write an article about the Book of Hebrews, pointing out five places where the author states that Jesus is the true Messiah (hint, hint). :) Best of luck, Mark.

Friday, June 13, 2008  
Blogger Antonio Ruiz Palacín said...

Saludos desde Sevilla (España):

Soy un investigador cristiano e independiente. No basta con defender el geocentrismo, hay que demostrarlo de forma deductiva. He dedicado 20 años al estudio de la Astronomía. Todas las teorías científicas sobre el Universo son falsas. La Tierra solo realiza un movimiento: girar sobre su eje. La explicación al corrimiento al rojo de las galaxias se debe al movimiento orbital de las estrellas, galaxias y nebulosas. Movimientos orbitales conjuntos con velocidades orbitales directamente proporcionales a la distancia. Más información en


Greetings from Sevilla (Spain):

I am a Christian and independent researcher. Not enough to defend the geocentrism, you have to prove. I spent 20 years studying astronomy. All scientific theories about the universe is false. The Earth only makes a move: turn on its axis. The explanation for the redshift of the galaxies is due to orbital motion of stars, galaxies and nebulae. Joint orbital motions with orbital velocities directly proportional to the distance. More information


Antonio Ruiz Palacín

Thursday, August 12, 2010  

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