Back in January of this year, I became aware (through participation in the Skeptiko discussion forums in conjunction with my interview on Skeptiko with Alex Tsakiris) of arguments by some literalist Christian teachers claiming that the text of Revelation chapter 12 points decisively to a date of September 23, 2017 as the date of a supposed literal "Rapture" (in which Christian believers are supposedly going to be "caught up" to heaven and leave the earth) and the beginning of the period of "Tribulation" described in certain other New Testament texts (note that I do not believe either of these literalist teachings, a literal Rapture or a literal Tribulation, are correct interpretations of the texts themselves).
In response to a question posed to me on the Skeptiko discussion board, regarding my opinion of these interpretations and predictions, I replied that those arguing in confident and authoritative tones that Revelation 12 points indisputably to September 2017 are deeply mistaken in their interpretation. They have correctly perceived that the figures and events described in Revelation 12 are celestial in nature -- but because their overall interpretation of the ancient scriptures (in this case, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, so-called) is based upon a deeply flawed paradigm (the flawed literalistic paradigm), they have wrongly interpreted a celestial text based upon their literalistic paradigm, instead of seeing that the celestial nature of everything described in Revelation 12 should cause them to question the validity of their literalistic interpretation of the rest of scripture.
If they were to take their insight that Revelation 12 is describing celestial figures and apply it to the rest of Biblical scripture, they might realize that all the other events and characters found in the Bible are also based on the heavenly cycles, just as the characters and events in Revelation 12 can be seen to be based on the motions of the heavens.
My initial reply to the Revelation 12 question (and accompanying video from a literalist Christian teacher) submitted on the Skeptiko forum can be found in post #89 on page 5 of the discussion board related to my interview.
Later, I repeated most of my reply in a blog post here, as well as creating a video in which I refute the attempts to wrest the scripture of Revelation 12 into a prediction of a literal "Rapture" on September 23 of this year.
Above, I have created an "infographic" which attempts to present (with accompanying images and description, but contained in a single jpg file) some of the most important evidence and arguments refuting the manipulation of Revelation 12 as an argument for a literal Rapture and Tribulation beginning in September of 2017. Here is a link to the infographic file.
The main points presented in that infographic include the following:
1. The literalist connection of Revelation 12 to September 23 of this year rests upon a perception that the figures described in Revelation 12 are heavenly figures -- namely, that the "great wonder in heaven" describing a "woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet" probably corresponds to the constellation Virgo (Revelation 12: 1).
2. This connection to Virgo is a good insight -- myths in which a woman is giving birth should always be suspected to have a connection to Virgo, because the outline of the constellation itself suggests a woman in the act of childbirth. Revelation 12 verse 2 and following makes it clear that the woman described in this text is in the act of giving birth.
3. The connection to the specific date of September 23, 2017 comes from a speculative interpretation of the "crown of twelve stars" described in Revelation 12 and verse 1. In late September, the sun moves into the constellation Virgo (this is a function of earth's orbit around the sun -- the stars "behind the sun" change as we go through the year, because the "line" between the earth and the sun points to a different part of space depending on where we are in our orbit; for some visual discussion of this phenomenon, see an early video I made using the "metaphor of the dining-room table"). The Revelation passage says that the woman is "clothed with the sun," and that she has the "moon under her feet." The moon moves through the zodiac each month, because it makes an orbit around the earth each month, along roughly the same ecliptic plane (slightly offset), it makes its way through each zodiac sign in roughly two-and-a-half days (thirty divided by twelve). Thus, the conditions for the woman in childbirth being "clothed with the sun" and having the "moon at her feet" occur each year, during the time of year that the line between earth and the sun points towards Virgo (in late September through early October, in the current epoch). To try to force the passage into indicating 2017 specifically, interpreters need to come up with an explanation for the twelve stars in the crown upon her hear -- and this is where their interpretation becomes extremely manipulative, in my opinion.
4. The explanation you will see in a host of literalist videos which declare that Revelation 12 is being "fulfilled" in September of 2017 rests upon the identification of the stars in the crown as belonging to the zodiac constellation of Leo, which precedes Virgo in the annual rotation (and in the daily rotation across the sky). Without fail, those trying to force Revelation 12 to line up with September 2017 declare that the stars in Leo are nine in number -- and thus the passage will not be fulfilled until three additional "stars" appear in Leo. In September 2017, the planets Mercury, Mars and Venus pass beneath Leo in late September. Note that Mercury and Venus, being "interior" planets orbiting the sun inside of the orbit of the earth, are always seen in the proximity of the sun from our perspective on earth, because in order to "look towards" Mercury or Venus, we must "look towards" the sun -- and thus it is relatively common for Mercury and / or Venus to pass through the region of Leo when the sun is passing through Virgo. Because Mercury, Mars and Venus are all in Leo on September 23 of this year (when the sun is entering Virgo in the region of the constellation's head, and the moon is exiting Virgo and located "beneath her feet"), literalists who want to declare a correlation to 2017 have decided that Leo must have nine stars, and that the three planets thus bring the count to twelve -- and correspond to the "crown of twelve stars" described in Revelation 12: 1. There are several problems with this interpretation.
5. First, it is by no means conclusively proven that the "crown of twelve stars" on the head of the woman corresponds to the constellation Leo. There are other possibilities, including the stars in the head of the constellation Virgo itself (which has a rather elongated head). The close-up in the info-graphic which shows the stars of Leo and the head of Virgo should enable you to see that there are a number of stars in and around the head of Virgo, and that it is possible to count them up and make them add to twelve, if one so desires.
6. The confident declaration that Leo contains exactly nine stars is also extremely tenuous. Even if we grant that the stars of Leo somehow represent the "crown" described in Revelation 12: 1 (a somewhat dubious assertion), then the number of stars that we assign to the constellation will have a huge impact on any "date-setting" interpretation foisted upon the text. As you can see from the star-chart above, there are actually countless stars in just about any constellation, which means that the number of stars one settles upon as the number of stars belonging to that constellation is a completely subjective endeavor. There is one outline for Leo used in all the numerous literalist videos trying to match Revelation 12 to September 2017 -- and that outline conveniently counts nine stars for the constellation. However, that is not a very good outline for Leo (the outline for Leo envisioned by the brilliant H. A. Rey, presented above, is far superior), and even if we grant that outline for Leo, it is debatable as to how many stars it should have in it (that outline, for instance, conveniently does not count the star between the rear hip and the front shoulder of the Lion -- but you can see that there is a star between the Lion's hip and shoulder which is large enough to be included in the constellation outline as envisioned by H. A. Rey). If that star (between hip and shoulder) is included in the outline used by the literalist video-makers, then Leo would have ten stars, and their entire argument connecting Revelation 12 and September 2017 falls apart. If Leo has ten stars, then it would need two additional "stars" to get to twelve stars (and thus to fit the description in Rev 12: 1) and we'd have to find a completely different year, when two planets are in Leo instead of three during the month when the sun is in Virgo and the period when the moon moves to the point beneath Virgo's feet.
7. As noted in the infographic above, of course, we don't even need to use planets to get the number of stars in Leo to be twelve in number. Leo has plenty of stars (especially if we use the far better H. A. Rey outline shown above), and depending upon the way one decides to count, could have enough stars to sum to twelve without the use of any planets whatsoever. After all, planets are not really "stars" to begin with. In short, the entire argument of the literalists who want to connect Revelation 12 to September 23, 2017 is based upon a dubious assertion that Leo corresponds to the "crown of twelve stars," plus the extremely dubious assertion that Leo has exactly nine stars (no more, no less) and thus requires some planets to bring the total to twelve (even though planets are not stars). It should be quite evident at this point that the entire interpretation is ripe for manipulation. If we wanted to, we could argue that Revelation 12 will be fulfilled in a year in which only one planet is passing through Leo during the month that the sun is in Virgo and the day that the moon moves beneath Virgo's feet: all we would have to do is argue that Leo has eleven stars of its own, instead of nine. This is what rhetoricians in previous centuries called a "wax nose" -- meaning you can mold it into whatever shape you want, in order to suit your argument. In other words, it is an argument that is not based upon following the evidence and letting it dictate the conclusion you reach, but rather is based upon manipulating the evidence in order to shape it into something that suits the conclusion that you want to reach.
8. Teachers who are using this argument can thus be seen to be manipulating their followers -- which is something that the scriptures themselves warn against in no uncertain terms, and with extremely pointed language. Some of them are no doubt sincerely convinced that Revelation 12 lines up with September 2017, based upon seeing the same arguments and accepting them as valid. But all of them should exercise more critical analysis, because it shouldn't be too hard to ask whether Leo indisputably has nine and only nine stars (and any familiarity with the constellation itself, as seen in a dark night sky, will answer that question quite decisively).
9. More importantly, literalist teachers who accept the argument that the figures described in Revelation 12 correspond to heavenly figures should realize that this insight opens up a completely paradigm-shifting possibility: the possibility that other figures in the Old and New Testament might also be based upon the sun, moon, stars, and heavenly cycles (with the zodiac constellations playing a leading role, just as they do in this passage). Instead of taking the insight that Revelation 12 refers to constellations to question whether the entire literalist approach to scripture might be wrong, those who make these videos about a September 2017 rapture are taking their flawed literalist paradigm and using it to misinterpret an obviously celestial passage of scripture.
10. As explained in my January 2017 video on this subject, the events described in Revelation 12 are all based on celestial metaphor: the dragon with seven heads waiting to devour the child of the woman in travail corresponds to Scorpio (positioned beneath the upraised legs of Virgo), the child itself which is "caught up unto God, and to his throne" corresponds to Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown), and the passage in which the woman flies to the wilderness and is is nourished "from the face of the serpent," and the serpent casts out water from his mouth as a flood after the woman, all pertain to the constellation Hydra, and the fact that the daily rotation of the earth causes both Virgo and Hydra to disappear into the western horizon. Supporting evidence for these assertions can be found in many other myths and sacred stories from around the globe, virtually all of which can be shown to be employing the very same system of celestial metaphor, which itself is so ancient that it predates ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, ancient India, ancient China, and even the ancient Indus-Saraswati civilization. Supporting evidence can also be found in other passages in the Bible itself, which clothe the same constellations in slightly different settings, but which still contain recognizable clues pointing to the same region of the heavens.
11. I believe it is quite possible that the "wings" given to the woman when she flies into the wilderness (Revelation 12: 14) correspond to the constellations Corvus and Crater on the back of the serpent of Hydra (a serpent also being mentioned in Revelation 12: 14). While it is also possible that these wings (described as the wings "of a great eagle") correspond to the constellation Aquila the Eagle, not far from Virgo and directly above Scorpio in the Milky Way, there are other ancient references in which Hydra is apparently envisioned as having wings. See the discussion and diagram relating to the youth Triptolemus in the myths of ancient Greece in this previous post. Further, there is a well-known episode in the life of the prophet Elijah, described in 1 Kings 17, in which Elijah also flees to the wilderness, where he is given food and water by ravens, beside the brook Cherith which goes before Jordan. Note the clear similarities to the events in Revelation 12, in which the woman also flees to the wilderness and in which a stream (or in this case, a "flood" of water from the serpent) is described. From this, we can see that the brook Cherith is almost certainly Hydra (whose very name indicates an ancient connection to water in some capacity), and that the ravens which feed Elijah are almost certainly associated with Corvus (located on the back of Hydra, and usually described as a crow, although ravens and crows are of course related and not very different in outward form -- and the constellation Corvus does indeed resemble a large crow or raven in the night sky). Note that if the brook Cherith is Hydra, then it is indeed situated "before Jordan," if the heavenly Jordan is understood to be the beautiful band of the Milky Way itself. The rotation of the night sky, from east to west, means that Hydra goes "before Jordan" through the heavens, if Jordan is identified with that river of stars which is the Milky Way galaxy.
12. Similarly, the description of the child of the woman being "caught up" can be shown to relate to another passage in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament), known as the Judgment of Solomon -- in which the king commands that a baby be cut in half, in order to settle a dispute between two mothers. The celestial foundations of this famous incident have been discussed in great detail in previous posts such as this one, as well as in a video here. This important episode is also discussed in even more detail in my 2016 book, Star Myths of the World, Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible). The child in that story is "caught up" by the swordsman, who threatens to cut it in half. The swordsman in that text is none other than the powerful figure of the constellation Hercules, who can be seen to be brandishing a mighty club, sword or scimitar in the heavens. The child, as strange as it may seem, is associated with the arching Northern Crown (or Corona Borealis). Similarly, I would argue that the child who is described in Revelation 12: 5 as being "caught up unto God and to his the throne" is also Corona Borealis -- and that when the passage describes the child as being caught up to God, the passage is describing the same powerful figure of Hercules, this time associated with the Almighty rather than with the powerful human swordsman found in the Judgment of Solomon account. This description of the child being "caught up" is the source of the connection of Revelation 12 with the idea of a "Rapture" among some literalist Christian circles -- the word "rapture" means to "snatch up" (like a raptor, a bird of prey whose name comes from the same Latin word which means "to seize" or "to grab")
Thus we see that the Rapture and Tribulation being described in Revelation 12 relate to constellations in the night sky (Corona Borealis, which is "caught up," and Virgo in the vicinity of Hydra, which is the woman in the wilderness). They are not descriptions of literal future history (although some literalist Christian groups interpret them that way -- mistakenly, I am convinced).
I would argue that not only is the identification of September 23, 2017 as the start of a literal Rapture and Tribulation a deeply flawed conclusion based upon a very subjective interpretation of the "crown" described in Revelation 12: 1 and informed by a basic literalist approach to the scriptures, but that the clearly celestial descriptions in Revelation 12 (and their connections to other myths and other important characters and events in the Bible) cast grave doubt on the entire literalist paradigm out of which predictions of a literal Rapture and literal Tribulation originate.
It is bitterly ironic, in my view, that the very celestial connections which conclusively refute the entire literalistic approach to the scriptures are here being used to try to convince people that a literal Rapture and literal Tribulation are on their way -- terrestrial events imagined by those who believe the stories in the Bible are describing literal and terrestrial events, when it can be conclusively shown that the stories in the Bible are celestial in nature, from first to last.
I certainly do not believe there will be any literal Rapture and Tribulation commencing on September 23, 2017 -- but that does not mean that I exclude the possibility of manipulation of world events around that date by the same powerful forces who study the esoteric aspects of the world's ancient wisdom in order to try to manipulate, dominate, and oppress other men and women (instead of using the world's ancient wisdom in order to bless, uplift, and empower other men and women). There is a long history of the use of "false flag" events to launch criminal wars of aggression (such as the USS Maine incident, or the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to name just two).
While some who are propagating the argument that Revelation 12 points to September 23, 2017 are no doubt doing so out of their own sincere belief in the connection, it should be quite clear at this point that this connection is dependent upon a completely subjective count of stars in the constellation Leo -- and that this fact opens the entire interpretation up to the possibility of manipulation. Those who would manipulate scripture for their own purposes may also be disposed to manipulate other events in order to get their way or accomplish their designs.
There have even been speculations, by very noteworthy researchers such as Dr. Joseph P. Farrell (who has written literally dozens of important books and whose analysis should be very carefully regarded and highly respected, in my opinion), that certain techniques for the modification of weather have been researched and demonstrated for many decades already, and that the recent unusual hurricane which dumped an unprecedented amount of rain on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana might have been manipulated or modified in some way by some technology (we certainly experienced unusual weather in California at the same time that this hurricane was hitting the gulf coast).
It should go without saying that manipulating weather in order to cause death and destruction would be a grave violation of the moral law preserved in the world's ancient wisdom, which teaches that each and every man and woman is a microcosm of the entire universe, connected to the Infinite and possessed of infinite value. It should also go without saying that manipulating the ancient wisdom in order to manipulate men and women is also a grave violation of the teachings of that same ancient wisdom, given to all of humanity as a precious inheritance for our benefit and blessing. I hope that the date of September 23, 2017 will not see any attempts to manipulate geopolitical events in any way in order to violate the rights of men and women anywhere.
It is also my hope that a clear understanding of the way that Revelation 12 is being manipulated and misinterpreted to try to connect it to September 23 of this year will help others to resist manipulation of the world's ancient wisdom, and to be alert to other similar manipulations.
There is no doubt that the arguments connecting Revelation 12 to September 23 are gaining a lot of traction among certain groups (see for example this video, which has nearly 7 million views to date, according to the YouTube view count, and which gets into Revelation 12 most directly beginning at around the 17-minute mark).
If you know people who have been taken in by some of these arguments, and who would benefit from the above discussion, or the infographic, previous blog post, or Revelation 12 astrotheology video below, please feel free to share them.
Ultimately, this entire mania about Revelation 12 and September 23 should be seen as opening a window upon the overwhelming evidence that the stories in the Bible -- as well as the world's other ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories -- are built upon a foundation of celestial metaphor. I believe that this truth, when understood, will greatly increase our ability to hear what the ancient wisdom given to humanity is trying to say to us, and greatly decrease the ability of others to manipulate or distort the message of the ancient myths.