Saturday, January 1, 2011
The Torment of a Scorpion
The absolute best thing about 1/1/11?
Only two more years until the world doesn't come to an end.
I, for one, intend to ridicule conspiracy theorists the rest of their lives -- which, hopefully, will be short, because they should all commit suicide out of embarrassment. Or go on Thorazine. I don't really care which.
Ok, so the Mayan calendar ends in 2012. And...?
The Mayans don't need a calendar anymore, Sherlock.
Even if a Mayan happened to show up, I'm pretty sure he (or she) would shrug and say, "Oh. Well, just start over then."
The real problem is those darn 2012 people are such a distraction that people don't realize the world is, in fact, coming to an end on Oct. 21, 2011 -- exactly five months after The Rapture gets underway.
That's right, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the advertisements on billboards and benches.
And if you actually want to see Christ when he returns, click here.
To learn, at such a late date, that the world is going to end sooner than anticipated, is particularly disconcerting because it leaves me with considerably less time to get Scarlett Johansson into bed.
The belief that Jesus is returning to Earth to kick off The Rapture is based on the rather tortured mathematical calculations of Harold Egbert Camping, who owns about 150 small television and radio stations and who will turn 90 this year on July 19 -- assuming, of course, the Lord doesn't snatch his righteous soul out of his body during the first two months of The Rapture (or, more mundanely, that Camping doesn't have a heart attack or get hit by a bus or something between now and then).
At any rate, Camping explains the whole thing better than I can, in this religious tract -- and, if you can stop playing Farmville long enough to take a look, it makes for rather fascinating reading. Seriously.
Camping, unfortunately, doesn't fully grasp the concept of television. Most of the stations he owns broadcast only audio.
The guy is a total nutball, of course, but he has really given this whole thing a lot of thought. His research, although extensive, is based entirely on numerical clues "hidden" in the Bible -- and, of course, his own logic.
Creation, according to Camping, occurred in the year 11,013 BC.
And he can prove it!
Well, not really, no.
"Since this Bible calendar is given by God in His Word, it can be trusted wholeheartedly," the tract explains.
Not only do you have to have faith that every word in the Bible is true, but also faith that Camping has solved the puzzle and that his addition and subtraction are correct.
That's a lot of faith.
And, at the end of the day, faith still isn't proof.
The closest thing we have to actual evidence of an impending Apocalypse is the fact that Mobile, Alabama, welcomed the New Year by dropping a giant Moon Pie last night.
For those who don't have time to read Camping's important tract -- and you may have less time than you realize -- the Reader's Digest version is that the Great Flood occurred in 4990 BC, and since 2011 is exactly 7000 years later, we've just welcomed in our last New Year.
The Rapture begins May 21, and lasts for five months, then, on Oct. 21, the world comes to an end. Which is really bad news for those of us who were hoping to get rid of the rest of all those leftover Scarrots this year.
(It's really too bad we've already had our last Halloween, because I bet you could scare the shit out of everybody with a Harold Camping costume -- although, on second thought, in order for that to work, they'd have to know who he is and you'd have to be able to figure out something to wear to make people realize you're supposed to look like him, and, well, that would probably be very hard to do -- even with the help of my mom, who once sewed a homemade Robocop costume. I guess, instead, you could dress up as Jesus, who, if you believe Camping, is going to be pretty scary himself this go 'round, and would be a much easier costume to make. Of course, this is all academic, because by Oct. 31, everyone on Earth will have been dead for 10 days.)
In reading (and enjoying) Camping's tract, I did come across a somewhat vexing Biblical passage:
"And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man."
The verse is Revelation 9:5, as translated in the King James version of the Bible -- which, as I recall, is The Right One.
(A copy of The King James Version of the Bible, with my name embossed on the cover in gold type, was presented to me in Sunday School at Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church in East Point, Georgia, in the early 1960s. I have it in a cedar chest that belonged to my grandmother when she was alive. Sometimes, I open it -- the cedar chest, not the Bible -- just to smell, because it reminds me of her. She kept albums full of old family photos in the cedar chest, certainly didn't own a Bible, and went out of her way to avoid anyone overly religious. But, as usual, I digress.)
As an English teacher, I'm trying to decide whether to subtract 10 points for bad grammar in Revelation 9:5. Having no particular desire to be sacrilegious, and conceding that God is perfect, I'm inclined to give the low grade to King James.
What is the antecedent of the word "torment" in the phrase, "their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man."
I know what God meant to say here, but the way the sentence is constructed, He's actually talking about the scorpion rather than the man.
As best I can tell, a scorpion is not particularly tormented when he striketh a man or anything else.
Scorpions do not lose their stingers, nor do they die, as a result of stinging something. In fact, they can and do use their stingers repeatedly, all their lives -- to kill prey and for defense.
(Unlikely as this seems, I suppose it's possible a scorpion experiences great pain each and every time it uses its stinger. And, of course, God would know. Also, in order for a scorpion to striketh a man, he'd have to be pretty damn frightened, which one also might interpret as torment, in the mind of a bug. So, unfortunately, I can't totally be sure we're not meant to ponder the torment of a scorpion. But, you know, that's really kind of stretch.)
I think what King James intended to say is something more along the lines of "their torment was as the torment of a man, when he is struketh by a scorpion."
Either way, the sentence could be clearer. If I was still a City Editor and King James was one of my reporters, I'd put him on the obit desk for awhile, and let him ponder Strunk & White.
A scorpion strucketh my grandfather once, by the way. Both of them lived. I believe there was some pain involved, but I don't recall that it rose to the level of being described as torment. However, that was a long time ago, and I was a child, so it's possible I've forgotten all the details.
My grandfather was born dirt poor in Macon, Georgia, in the late 1800s, the youngest of eight children, and he lied about his age in order to attend pharmacy school at 14. Consequently, he had a job throughout the Depression, and later opened his own drug store just north of Palm Beach, Florida -- the only one in the area for many, many years. If the phone rang in the middle of the night, it was because someone in Jupiter or Tequesta had an emergency. He would get up, get dressed, drive 1.6 miles, turn off the burglar alarm and unlock Jones Tequesta Pharmacy, then fill a prescription in the middle of the night. I would go with him whenever I was in Florida, and I can remember the gratitude of people with sick children at 2 or 3 in the morning.
Although he never attended high school, my grandfather was one of the smartest men I ever knew. He was interested in nature and history, loved trivia, and kept several different almanacs by his easy chair for quick reference. If he was still alive, and this conversation was going on in the room, he'd already have pulled out one of those thick books, and would be reading us some interesting facts about scorpions.
For instance, he's probably point out that scorpions have been around for at least 400 million years and then say, "I bet you didn't know that, did you?"
Obviously, Harold Camping doesn't know that. According to him, Earth was created 13,023 years ago.
But, hey, who are you gonna believe?
I'm sticking with my grandfather and his almanac. They always gave me good information, and I trust them.
Posted by The Newsman at 8:23 AM