July 13: Horsefly apocalypse

Bingo word: Blackflies

As I was cycling out of the prairies today, I was reminded of a little known doctrinal dispute in the early church. The dispute centred around an ambiguity in the book of Revelations. Basically the debate was this. What would the horsemen of the apocalypse be riding? Would they be riding on flying horses, or on horseflies? The Greek is truly ambiguous here, and some early scholars thought that the Apostle John was just enjoying some wordplay at the expense of his readers. Other scholars took it to be a matter of serious doctrinal importance.

Those who supported the horsefly-reading of the Greek had a simple argument: we have never seen a flying horse, but we have seen a horsefly. Those opposed to this view were incredulous…and accused their opponents of a ridiculous equivocation.

As with any scholarly debate, petty politics quickly entered into the mix. Things got so fractious that the early church leaders called a council…the lesser known Council of the Stables.

I don’t want to bore you with the details of the Council, but a spectacular three-part documentary was made about how the flying-horses-reading of the Greek took priority in forming church doctrine. It is definitely worth the watch. Though the documentary itself is not without controversy. The creators of the documentary decided to refer to the flying horsemen as the Nazgûl. An odd choice, for sure, since there is no textual support for that name at all. But for the most part, it’s a good documentary.

For the longest time I was convinced by the documentary. Surely the horsemen would be riding flying horses. That was until today, when I caught a glimpse of what a horsefly apocalypse would look like. Seriously…there were so many of them…and they were huge! I even saw one fly away with a horse. An actual, for real horse! Perhaps if the Council of the Stables had taken place in eastern Manitoba, the debate would still be raging on.

TL;DR – Lots of horseflies. Huge, angry, flesh-eating horseflies. And they swarmed around me as I frantically pedalled east.

One of these things is not like the others!

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