Tuesday, January 16, 2007

HOW TO UNDERSTAND THE BOOK OF REVELATION

PBS, of all places, has a pretty good article written by L. Michael White titled "Understanding the Book of Revelation." I really don't mean any offense to those who like PBS, but they are not especially known for their conservative commentary on the Bible. Here is an excerpt from the article:
"Because of intricate and unusual symbolic language, the Book of Revelation is hard for modern people to read. They are not used to this kind of literature. Not so for people in the ancient world who would have been more accustomed to the complex nature of apocalyptic literature. The very fact that an apocalypse was a common type of literature meant that it followed certain conventions of style, and people knew more what to expect from it. Because there were many other examples of apocalyptic writing, these conventions would have seemed less strange and cryptic. Also, apocalyptic literature was almost always a kind of literature for "insiders," that is to say, it was written for people who already knew something of the situation and of the symbols that were used to portray it. So, for the original audience of the Revelation of John, all these strange scenes would have been immediately intelligible. What the modern reader or biblical scholar has to do is to try to read the text with "ancient eyes," by being informed about the way the literature worked and the situation out of which it came."1
Although there are a number of approaches to interpreting Revelation, the best approach is the one that does what White describes as reading with "ancient eyes". The book of Revelation was written to people in the first century and they knew better what the symbolism applied to. And contrary to what some say, the style of writing which the Holy Spirit employed was understandable especially to the people it was first directed to. If you get a chance, click on the link and read the article for yourself. The author also notes that the predominant view is that the beast of Revelation was Rome and was written during the reign of Domitian. Two commentaries on the book of Revelation which I would recommend are "Hallelujah, Anyway" by Richard Rogers and "Worthy is the Lamb", by R. Summers.
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1.White, L. Michael. Understanding the Book of Revelation. Accessed from: PBS and Frontline.

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. The "predominant view" may well be that the Book of Revelation was written during Domitian's reign (81-96). "Predominant views" change but I subscribe to the Book of Revelation being written in the 60's (No, not the 1960's) before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD: Caesar Nero is 666 (Rev. 13:18) and the "Beast" is the Roman Empire in general.

    I'm doubtful, given that many were illeraterate in the ancient world, that the symbols and so forth would be more readily understood back then than today. Even after much scholarship it is a tough read.

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  3. Greetings,
    You are doubtful that the illiterate of the ancient world would understand the symbols. That's obviously true of any age. But it was the Holy Spirit who employed this symbolic style and He expected that plenty of people would understand it. And the Christians who were literate enough to read the Scriptures, we have to assume that they understood the meaning of John's inspired book. And I dare say that they understood it better than you or I.
    Have a good day.

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