Deciphering the Book of Revelation
By Matt Abbott
The Book of Revelation is perhaps the most mysterious book in Sacred Scripture. And there has been much speculation about it --some of it bordering on off-the-wall, but some of it serious and scholarly.
The following is the forward and a portion of a chapter from a forthcoming book which, in my view, falls in the latter category. The 333-page book, titled The Apocalypse-Letter by Letter: A Literary Analysis of the Book of Revelation, is a compilation of notes and letters written by the late Steven Paul, a Catholic scholar who died of cancer in 2000.
It has been put together by Paul’s brother-in-law, Steve Bowler, of Hudson, Mass.
“The book is not one of fancy or speculation, but rather an exegesis of what the Apocalypse means based on the Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers,” says Bowler. “It is an analysis of the Apocalypse, from a Catholic perspective, for those who are serious about Bible study.”
Bowler provided me with the following excerpts.
The last words of the author of this book were, “I understand now.” Steven Paul was much older than his sister, my wife. I met him at their parents’ home for one of many family gatherings that they held through the years. Steve would always start into a discourse, a debate, or a discussion depending on your point of view. Nearly every time it would turn to the Apocalypse and Steve would try his case with anyone who dared to challenge him. Steve would passionately quote from the Bible, from classical literature, history books, and books by the Church Fathers such as, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Tertullian, and others. As a casual Catholic by upbringing, I was astonished at the depth and breadth of the argument. One book that really struck Steve was The Book of Destiny, by Rev. Herman Bernard Kramer, [Tan Books, 1954], and this book owes much to it. Steve once said that Rev. Kramer was on the right track but missed some important clues.
As time went by, I began to look forward to these oratories. I’d never heard anything like it. How did he gain such knowledge and insight? My wife related that Steve had attended Our Lady Queen of Angels Seminary in the Los Angeles area but then enlisted in the Marines and served in the Vietnam War. He picked the toughest unit he could. While serving his country, he was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy saved his life but required a long convalescence. Though given a short life expectancy, Steve beat the odds. During this period, Steve read many books. Literary analysis and the use of language became his passion. This infl uence will be evident in the book.
He studied religion, history, and classical literature and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from Boston University. In the evenings, he volunteered to teach English to refugees from South Vietnam. He also shoveled snow at the local parish and served as lector. We didn’t see him much over the first dozen years we were married. An occasional barbecue or holiday gathering was about it. Then we got word that his cancer had recurred and he was undergoing chemotherapy. He seemed to be improving but then disaster hit. While I was working as a consultant about three hour’s drive from home in 1996, I received a message from my wife. She was shaken and had trouble explaining to me that her brother, Steve, had been brought to the hospital with a ruptured colon and was not expected to survive the day. “He’s not going to get out of this one,” she said. Apparently, a thinning of the intestinal walls is one complication from the cancer treatment. I jumped in the car for the long three-hour drive home with a deep sense of sadness and remorse. The nagging feeling in the back of my mind was what a waste it would be if the knowledge Steve had of the Apocalypse and his faith would not be passed on, especially to my children.
And so I began to pray as my wife and children had been doing ever since Steve had become sick. I asked that if it were possible, for “with Him all things are possible,” [cf. Lk. 1:37], to spare Steven so he could pass along what he knew to my children and they in turn could preserve it. Due to my weak faith, I assumed this was folly but there was nothing else to do. I continued my drive and my conversation with the Lord.
When I got home, I expected to be greeted with the news of Steve’s passing but instead was informed by my wife that he was hanging on by a thread. The doctors were in a dilemma. He was too weak to operate on and too sick not to. His vital signs were unstable. They decided to operate and by some small miracle, he survived the night. The next few days, I watched the children while my wife and her family went to the hospital. They arranged for the sacrament ...
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