Revelation and LitRPG

Remember this passage from Revelation?

“I was shaking and trembling, and I fell. I looked again at my vision, and, behold, another door opened in front of me. This was a great house and all was built with tongues of fire. It was all worth more in glory and honor and greatness such that I am not able to point out to you its glory and its greatness. Its foundation was of fire and its upper part was lightning and the spreading out of stars, and its roof was burning fire.”

In all of its otherworldly strangeness, there really is nothing like the Book of Revelation—except for the fact that there is. Indeed, the quote above is taken from the popular Jewish work, 1 Enoch. But if you’re not paying close attention, you could probably be convinced that this quote is from Revelation because it carries a similar taste and smell. Much like a waiter might try to pair your meal with a specific fine wine, 1 Enoch and Revelation feel like they can be paired together in some ways. This is because both books are written in an ancient genre known as revelation, or apokalypsis in Greek. You’ll find glimpses of this genre in the prophetic books of the Old Testament.

If you want to understand how to read a book, you must first understand its genre. For example, there’s a genre of literature growing in popularity these days known as “LitRPG.” If you have ever played Dungeons and Dragons, you will understand what LitRPG is doing immediately. But if you haven’t, then you’ll need to learn how Role Playing Games work first. Sure, you could read LitRPG in an attempt to understand how Role Playing Games work, but unless the book was written for that kind of teaching purpose, you’d be coming to the book backward.

To write his apocalypse, John had to read other apocalypses. You cannot write in the already existing genre of sci-fi or fantasy if you have never read sci-fi or fantasy. You need to see how others have used the genre before you put your own spin on it. Readers of apocalyptic literature would have heard the text fall on their ears differently than we do today. Yes, the genre is intentionally mysterious and we are purposely incapable of understanding all of it until it actually happens, but some of its mysteriousness is simply because we’re unfamiliar with the genre. And on that front, Bible scholars and historians (not weird Christian soothsayers) can help us comprehend it better.

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