The Book of Revelation is, according to the Wikipedia entry for it, “one of the most controversial, and hardest to understand, books of the Bible”. Despite hundreds of years of scholarly argument, there is no consensus as to the true meaning of its arcane symbolism.
Such being the case, some might hesitate before attempting to teach this baffling text to children, but Roy Kemp is not one of them. In this unusual self-published volume Kemp sets out to teach Revelation in its entirety, in 52 lessons, a whole year of Sunday School.
Moreover, before the title page of this book Kemp announces that he is planning to produce similar commentaries on the whole Bible. There are 22 chapters in Revelation, out of a total of 1189 in all 66 books, so by a simple calculation it would take something approaching 54 years to complete the lot at the same plodding rate. The “tots” must be nearing retirement age, and still not done.
In Kemp's view Revelation depicts the reality of the “End Times”, which are, as ever, nigh. He is not dogmatic enough to insist that every word of the prophetic vision is to be taken literally, but his interpretation is of course the only correct one. The anti-Christ is coming and all the unbelievers are going to have a terrible time of it: bloody seas, darkness at noon, plague, famine, war and the rest. The faithful meanwhile will be carried safely away to Heaven in the “Rapture”.
Kemp recognises that in teaching Revelation to tinies he has to make it easier to digest. To that end he employs two means: simplified language and a remarkable innovation he calls the “flannelgraph”. The latter is a piece of blue flannel, three feet square, which ingeniously can represent both heaven and earth:
Make a rainbow in a complete circle 28” in diameter at the very top of the piece of blue flannel. Place all scenes pertaining to the Throne of God inside this rainbow. When the lesson pertains to an earthly scene, use the plain side of the flannel for background.
A set of 155 pictures printed on “flannel-adhering paper” is meant to be used with the book, to illustrate the stories as they are told, such as in this extract - which also shows Kemp's masterly reworking of the text for his young audience:
And so on, and on, and on. I like that instruction in brackets to “explain the true God”. Here's another extract, which includes scenes of violence some may find disturbing:
This is followed by a lovely image in which the flannelgraph Christ and his saints are made to wade through the river of blood - “And oh, Look! Their feet and legs are red”, in order to fulfil a prophecy made in Psalms 58:10 - no doubt eliciting a spontaneous round of applause from the little ones.
In this jaundiced modern age it is easy to forget that only half a century ago the weekly promise of the flannelgraph would have brought children running to their Sunday School classes, frothing with anticipation at the thought of more crayoned-in blood. Sadly, I don't have a complete set of pictures, so I can't show you what the Antichrist or the Long Blood Stream look like. You must be satisfied with the rather less exciting ones on the right. Sorry.
(You may also be interested in another example of unusual Bible illustration.)