The Oracular Phenomenon
In the first volume in this series we presented an overview of the Apocalypse and the profound issues raised therein by the prophet John. In the current work, we have attempted to plumb the depths of the Seer’s visions in greater detail, especially the nature and origin of what we have termed the Oracular Phenomenon.
This event, which Luke associates with the giving of the Mosaic Law [Acts 7:38], is dated by many scholars around -1450. In all probability the most unusual phenomenon in the extraordinary history of the Greek people must surely be the birth and manifestation of the prophetic oracles. Although we do not know exactly when such proceedings first arose in Greece we do know that they were old in the time of Homer, who himself sought knowledge from the Muse, and whose writings reflect both the extent and the influence of such occurrences. The vast sway of the prophetic “class” continued to increase after Homers time. This is a theme that permeates the works of the Dramatists that followed him, and no student of Classical literature is apt to forget the blind Seer Teresias or the “crazed” prophetess Cassandra. It is important to notice that the prestige of the Greek oracles reached their perigee in the period known as the Golden Age -a time that was for centuries considered to be the wisest age in Western Civilization.
“Collier-priestess of Delphi” by John Collier – Art Gallery of South Australia
Harry Carter, in his “Introduction to the Histories of Herodotus,” offers an amazing description of the period.
“Apollo’s oracles taught the Greeks behavior and law. He persuaded them to give up blood feuds and be satisfied with compensation for killing, to purge themselves of guilt by religious ceremonies, and in general to honour moderation and self-control. Through the mouth of the Pythian prophetess Apollo appoints lawgivers, settles the succession of rulers, directs the planting of colonies, advises war or rebukes breaches of peace. The power wielded by the priests at Delphi, who made up the oracles, was the only power in the nature of a federal government of Greece.”
What Carter has described here, with a casualness that belies its importance, is a phenomenon so fantastic that is impossible for our jaded generation to even conceive its effects! For what is really being stated is that the whole Greek world, at the very time of its intellectual flowering, responded blindly and magically to the ravings of an enchanted priesthood. This is a truly astonishing fact!
But the greatest Oracles, in both quality and quantity, are found in the pages of the Scriptures. The works of Joel, Micah, Nahum, Hosea, and Habakkuk, are forceful, concise, and imbued with a richness of language concerning the Last Days. But it is Isaiah who describes it all – enormous changes in the sky, enormous changes in the sea, and the earth in constant upheaval!
The closest Prophet to John by far, however, would be Daniel, whose visions resemble John’s in several ways. Consider the similarities between their visions of the Son of Man.
“As I watched:
Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was snow bright, and the hair on his head as white as wool;
His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him.
The court was convened, and the books were opened. I watched, then from the first of the arrogant words which the horn spoke, until the beast was slain and thrown into the fire to be burnt up. The other beasts, which also lost their dominion, were granted a prolongation of life for a time and a season.”
“And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”
But the most interesting of the Oracles center on the mysterious Seven Churches, whose central themes are especially directed to the members of those churches, who are roundly admonished to “Listen.”
“LET HE THAT HATH AN EAR LET HIM HEAR”
It is these profound Oracles, which John holds to be “living,” that speak directly to us. But more of this anon.