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Talons bared for conflict The Book of Signs and “the Jews”, John 2—12

In Tolkien’s stories, Numenor is an Atlantis-like land blessed by Iluvatar (God) which overreaches itself and turns to evil. Its doom is presaged first by eagle-shaped clouds and then by eagles themselves; few repent, so Iluvatar destroys it (The Silmarillion, Unwin, 1977, pp. 277–280). The eagle was also a symbol of judgement in the Old Testament. Eagles have a strong grip in their talons and they can carry away an animal from the flock; a foreign nation called by God to punish Israel ‘swoops down like an eagle’ (Deut. 28.49) – and the image is even applied to God himself coming in judgement‘ (Jer. 48.40; 49.22). John’s portrait of Jesus is not all soaring full of grace: both the gospel and the epistles of John bear the wounds of bitter conflict, and are not afraid to respond with beak and claw…

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