The USSR was perceived by wide sections of American society not only as a geopolitical, but also a sacred enemy, which was reflected in Ronald Reagan’s speech to evangelicals in 1983, when the American president dubbed the Soviet Union an evil empire.
The restructuring and subsequent disintegration of the Soviet state softened the perception of Russia in many religious communities, but the country’s activity in the Middle East revived old eschatological concepts based on a peculiar interpretation of the Bible.
The interpretation of scripture continues to give some Christian activists in the United States a pretext for detecting apocalyptic threats from Russia. As the modern writer and evangelist Joel Rosenberg states, the collapse of the USSR does not mean the death of the Russian bear, but “Ezekiel gives a clear understanding that he is in hibernation and will soon return with revenge.”
A negative assessment of the USSR among American religious communities has always been based not only on Soviet atheism and destruction of churches, but also on the biblical prophecy of Ezekiel. In accordance with this prediction, “in the last years” the ruler Gog from the northern land of Magog will invade Israel with the Persians, Ethiopians and Libyans, as well as with the wars of Homer and the “House of Fogarma”.
The wrath of God will fall on the invaders, and a great shock will happen in the land of Israel: all living beings will “tremble” and “mountains will fall, and cliffs will fall, and all walls will fall to the ground.” However, the invaders will be defeated after “all-sinking rain, stone hail, fire and brimstone” hit them: Gog and his troops will perish, and God will send fire to the land of the invading ruler.
All this, according to the prophecy, will happen to the glory of the Lord. It is noteworthy that in the New Testament the words Gog and Magog designate pagan tribes that will go to battle with the people of God.
The events from the Old Testament book of Ezekiel were subsequently associated by theologians with the Antichrist and the last judgment. According to the blessed Augustine, Gog represents the enemies of the church, and Magog personifies the devil.
What does Russia have to do with it?
Nevertheless, the allegorical interpretation of the concepts from the prophecy of Ezekiel was never the only one, as early as the 1st century AD the historian Josephus Flavius identified the people of Magog with the Scythians. Later, many readings of the Old Testament words appeared, which were attributed by researchers to different peoples living north of Israel.
The reason for Magog’s connection with Russia was the 1st verse of the 39th chapter of the book of Ezekiel, in which Gog is called the prince of Rosha (which is consonant with Russia), Meshech and Tubala (Tubala). There are no capital letters in Hebrew, which is why Bible translators often had to deal with ambiguous situations. The word “rosh” was given the meaning of a proper name only by the Greeks, while representatives of the Latin faith most often understood it as the adjective “main”.
It was this word that caused the binding of Ezekiel’s prophecy to Russia. At the same time, in the Bible of King James, which Protestants consider canonical, Gog is called “the supreme prince of Meshech and Tubal.”
This version of the Holy Scripture is considered the official one for the English language and is most widespread in the United States, therefore it is very strange when American Christian activists resort to the Greek translation when interpreting Ezekiel.
Freaks and speculators
There is no state church in the United States, and religious policy contributes to the emergence of a wide variety of spiritual communities, which is why Christian denominations are widespread in the country – organizations that are intermediate between the church and the sect. Most often, the preachers of these particular associations declare that Russia is connected with the Antichrist.
Thus, the official website of The Family International movement claims that Russia is Magog, and Meshekh and Tubal are Moscow and Tobolsk. According to supporters of such views, domestic support for Syria could lead to an invasion of Israel, which would mean the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. The founder of the religious movement Koinonia House, Chuck Missler, who announced the beginning of the apocalypse on January 1, 2000, believes that Russia will attack Israel together with Turkey, which will withdraw from NATO.
Joel Rosenberg, mentioned above, interprets the book of Ezekiel as a prediction of Russia’s invasion of the holy land together with Muslim countries, first of all, with Iran, which in the Old Testament is understood as Persians. Typically, people who claim such things have a reputation in the United States as either eccentric or religious speculators.
Each on a different path
Throughout the history of Christianity, many social groups that called themselves adherents of the truth of the faith created their own Antichrist, which, according to the Bible, is covered with good ideas. The Protestants, including Martin Luther and John Calvin, considered the Popes to be his incarnation, the Russian Old Believers considered Peter I in this capacity.
The Bible, in isolation from its canonical reading, provides opportunities for a varied interpretation of reality, not only because of the imagery and volume, but also because of the complexity of translation from ancient Hebrew, which fell out of use in the 2nd century AD.