You CBS: A Complete Mispronunciation Guide

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Atrocious Mispronunciations, Audio Version
Guilty As Charged

Up front, a recommendation: If you’re reading this, I hereby suggest you listen to the audio version. Then you can hear all my pronunciation mistakes and my attempted corrections. 

My wife frequently corrects my pronunciation of words. Admittedly, I do need it, since I am frequently messing up words. Even worse, I often revert to an erroneous pronunciation of a word after hearing the correct way to say it. In my defense, I just say it how it looks in print. They taught me to read using phonics, circa 1975-76. Nevertheless, although I am never a quick study, my wife patiently corrects and re-corrects my mispronunciations, as need be.  

To misquote Shel Silverstein’s poem Smart, “She just closes her eyes and shakes her head, too proud of me to speak.” 

Now I need to make a mispronunciation confession and correction. On May 11th I posted a blog entry entitled The Mark. If you happened to listen to the audio version, you were therein subjected to a repetitive and odious mispronunciation of the name Decius. Throughout, I kept saying DC-us, because that’s how it looks in print, thank you. But the correct pronunciation is actually Dee-schus or Day-schus. It’s something like the word delicious with the middle removed. My apologies, then, to Emperor Decius and everyone who may have suffered the trauma of listening through that unedited recording. So sorry.

The word quintessential serves as another sad example of my mispronunciation tendency. The right way to say the second syllable is “tuh” not “tee.” Invariably, I say “tee” — quin-TEE-sen-schull, because that’s how it looks. Simple phonics, but oh-so wrong.  It’s “tuh” not “tee.”     

May I introduce to you a couple more phonics-unfriendly Graeco-Roman names? One is Josephus, the other, Eusebius. Not Jo-sep-hus and Eww-seb-i-us, but Joe-C-Fuss and You CBS. If you don’t already know their names, you do now. These two rank way up there as very important historical historian dudes. In future posts, I will necessarily reference them. Both of them were historians who wrote shortly after the New Testament was written and circulated. Both of them wrote in Ancient Greek, but lived during the Roman era.

If you’re American, it might be helpful to think of Josephus as a Benedict Arnold. He switched sides to save his skin. Many of his people consider him a loathsome traitor, even now. During the Jewish rebellion against Rome, Josephus received a commission as a Jewish general. Galilee was his to defend. However, he failed miserably. In his final battle, General Josephus and forty of his men were cornered by the Romans in a cave. Rather than surrender, they decided to take turns killing each other. The last man was supposed to then commit suicide. Josephus was the last man standing. But he did not commit suicide. Instead, Josephus left the cave and surrendered to the Romans. He offered them his services. As low as that may have been, Josephus went on to become a first-rate historian. Most of what we know about the Jewish rebellion and Jewish history of that era comes directly from Flavius Josephus. He was an eyewitness to the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD. That’s all super-important stuff, if Revelation is an interest of yours. So please remember Josephus. I will refer to him on occasion. 

Chronologically, Brother Eusebius comes not long after General Josephus. Eusebius was both a theologian and a historian of the early Church. Like Josephus, Eusebius fills in gaping historical chasms with crucially important accounts. A whole lot of what we know about the first several centuries of Christianity comes from Eusebius, and Eusebius alone. Without Eusebius’s writings, a lot of early Christian history would be formless and void. Significantly, Eusebius was also familiar with Josephus’s work. Eusebius accurately quotes Josephus, which makes Eusebius all the more credible as a historian. So please do remember Brother Eusebius. I will refer to him on occasion.                

Two final historical connections ought to be made here. First, a quintessential character in the Book of Revelation is the Beast. The Beast is the second person of Revelation’s pseudo-trinity, and thus Christ’s direct diabolical opposite. General Josephus gives us information about an indisputable forerunner of the Beast. His name is Antiochus Epiphanes. He was a Seleucid Dynasty Monarch who desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and tried to stamp out Judaism.  

Parenthetically, yes, I find his name hard to pronounce. A professor of mine once laughed aloud at my mispronunciation of Antiochus. Phonics — I am forever hooked on and thrown off by phonics. 

A second connection I will make is to point out some additional Revelation-qualified beasties. Brother Eusebius gives us essential information about the Roman emperors who persecuted Christians. In so doing, these emperors behaved much like ferocious arena animals and so qualified as symbolic beasts. These beasties would especially be Nero, Domitian, and Decius. 

Not everyone agrees with me that Antiochus, Nero, Domitian, and Decius are forerunners and prototypes of an ultimate end-times Beast. However, if they studied Church history, they probably would. I will try to convince you of the validity of my position in future posts.

Thank you for your patience with my atrocious mispronunciations, and please stay tuned.     

The Mark

Monday, May 11th, 2020

The Mark of the Beast
The Mark, Audio Version

In January 250AD the newly-proclaimed Emperor Decius issued a do-or-die decree, an urgent edict. Decius decreed that everyone in the empire must make a patriotic public offering. Each and every inhabitant of the empire was required to appear in person before a local magistrate in order to make an offering to the gods, for the new emperor. The wording of the edict really matters here: the offering was to be made to the officially recognized gods, for the emperor. Anyone who refused to make the required offering could face the consequence of torture and execution. Only Jews were exempted from the edict, not Christians.

This posed a real dilemma for the empire’s Christians. To comply with an order to pray to their own God for the emperor — that they could do. To appear before a local magistrate and offer their patriotic service or support or money — that they probably could do. But to make a public offering to the pantheon of traditional gods — no, they could not do that, at least not in good conscience. It was a clear violation of a sacred command. God alone was to be worshiped. The emperor’s decree and God’s command were thus irreconcilable. They could obey the emperor or they could obey God; but they could not obey both in this. Christ is Lord, not Caesar, not Emperor Decius, nor his pantheon of officially-sanctioned gods. 

Was Decius Foretold? See Revelation 17:10-11.

Nonetheless, for fear of severe punishment and loss, some Christians reluctantly complied with Decius’s decree. They capitulated and made the required offering. Others, though, held fast to their convictions and refused to make the offering, knowing they were likely to be subjected to torture and execution. And many of them were indeed tortured and martyred, including Fabian, the Bishop of Rome. 

By Revelation’s reckoning, anyone who did comply with the edict thereby took the mark of the beast. Even if they made the offering reluctantly, they yielded to an early version, or prototype, of the mark of the beast. Was it forgivable? Probably so, at least back then. It might not be in the future.

Do recognize that my last paragraph makes a couple of very strong claims. To some of my readers, they may seem completely wrong, or at least too sweeping. How is making a coerced pagan sacrifice equal to taking the mark of the beast? That is a good question, and worth pursuing.

Those who made the sacrifice for the Emperor Decius were given an official certificate called a libellus. Copies of such certificates have survived through the centuries. Those who made the sacrifices would have kept their certificates on hand. They would not have literally kept the certificates strapped to one of their hands. But they would have kept the certificates with them, as a means of ready self-protection against accusation. They kept official certificates that notarized their participation in a pagan ritual where? They kept them on hand, in case they needed them.

Now, fast forward many centuries to the Third Reich and the Nazis. How were Germans taught to show their loyalty to their Führer? With their extended right hand. To avoid any suspicion and to show expected allegiance, they need only raise their right hand in salute of their leader and say two words. Was their salute actually the mark of the beast? Well, it leaned in that direction. It was not necessarily the mark of the beast for everyone who ever did it, because it did not require a deliberate choice against Christ. However, if someone did make a deliberate choice against Christ, such a salute might constitute something akin to the mark of the beast.

From my reading of the Book of Revelation and history, I submit that the ultimate mark of the beast is to be conveyed in a public ceremony, rite, ordeal, or trial. It indicates to all that the recipient has consciously and deliberately repudiated Christ and given his or her allegiance to another master — even if that decision is coerced and made in duress. The mark thus functions as an anti-baptism. It might involve a literal, physical brand or distinguishing mark of some sort, but not necessarily. Whatever form it takes, it is to be avoided absolutely, even if that means enduring a painful death. We see precursors of it now, whenever someone must officially repudiate faith in Christ in order to get ahead, stay afloat, or save their skin. Yes, the prospect of being in such a do-or-die situation is a scary thought. But Christians are called to count the cost, and stay faithful, even unto death.