APOCALYPSE LATER: If Revelation was pop culture for the ancient world, ours has to be Mass Effect, right?

Adam Gopnik reviews Elaine Pagels “”Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” this month and asks some big questions about the purpose of the book. Nearly shunned from the canon (but resurrected by a pugilistic saint named Athanasius), Revelation is one the least understood and most well-known books in the bible.

But Pagels argues that John was merely describing the times of his day and the war over the future of Christianity, not the end of the world. With popular culture in mind, Gopnik suggests this about the book’s long-lasting appeal:

Pagels may also underestimate the audience appeal of pure action: it’s possible for a popular narrative to be susceptible to an allegorical reading and still be engaging mostly for its spectacle. Some patient academic of the future will, on seeing “Transformers 2,” doubtless find patterns of local topical meaning-portents of the Arab Spring in the fight over the pyramids, evidence of the debate over the future of the automobile industry, and a hundred other things. But people just like violent otherworldly stuff, and give it a lot of non-allegorical license to do its thing. The fact that a religious book has a code in it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also have an aura around it. Spiritual texts are the original transformers; they take mundane descriptions of what’s going on and make them twelve feet tall and cosmic and able to knock down pyramids.

Given the cataclysmic ads that have accompanied Mass Effect 3, I’m curious if historians in the future will read a similar type of divination from our obsession with world-ending events. Perhaps BioWare is seeing something in our modern context that we’re not.

-Jamin Warren

[via The New Yorker]