Looking for a book recommendation to study Revelations
July 22, 2009 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Been reading the Bible in One Year...and nearing Revelations. Can anyone recommend a book on Revelations that comes from a Reformed perspective that is for the layperson? If not Reformed, other perspectives will do if you have any suggestions. In the end, I am sure nobody understands it but I have been putting of reading it and reading about it for years.
posted by snap_dragon to Religion & Philosophy (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For starers, it's Revelation.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2009

That helps! Oh, and it's "starters". ;)
posted by snap_dragon at 7:56 AM on July 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

There's a lot of variance within the Reformed theological perspective: here are two books from a biblical scholarship point of view.

Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation by Bruce Metzger. The late Bruce Metzger was professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary (so you have a Presbyterian/Reformed connection). His perspective is that of a biblical scholar's reading, rather than from a specific theological perspective.

Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig Koester, Lutheran New Testament professor.
posted by apartment dweller at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2009

I think you'll find that most Reformed types, unless they're deliberately doing a commentary on Revelation, don't tend to limit their eschatology to just that book. On the contrary, eschatology tends to be woven throughout Reformed teachings, with the focus constantly on the overarching narrative of salvation. The idea that one can take a single book of the Bible and wring a complete theology out of it is pretty strongly contrary to the basic character of the tradition. Calvin taught on eschatology almost constantly, but never actually wrote a commentary on Revelation.

For books about Revelation per se, start with More than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation by William Hendriksen. It's a fantastic example of the "historic amillennial" position which has been the dominant eschatology in most Reformed traditions since about the middle of the twentieth century. You'll still find a few postmillennial types knocking around, postmillennialism having been the dominant Protestant eschatology from about 1550 to 1900, but precious few premillennialists. These days we're mostly amillennial. Postmillennialism seems to have sort of lost itself in social concerns, and the theologically robust branches of the traditions have already or are in the process of abandoning it.

If you don't those terms, here's a good place to start. That page describes the basic evolution of eschatology in the mainstream Reformed tradition.

Hendriksen is basically the work to start from for the Reformed take on Revelation, but if you're looking for something else, try The Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation by Dennis Johnson out of Westminster West. Or The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation by Vern Poythress. That last one in particular is going to be particularly accessible; I highly recommend it. Poythress is also something of a legend in Reformed circles, so if that's what you're looking for, you won't do better.

But I think you might do well to look for broader works on eschatology rather than focusing directly on Revelation. Try The Promise of the Future by Cornelius Venema. A slightly more involved work would be Michael Horton's Ph.D. thesis, published as Covenant and Eschatology.

In general though, any serious Reformed theological treatise will touch on eschatology at some point.

Oh, and roomthreeseventeen, "Revelations" is an accepted way of referring to the book.
posted by valkyryn at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Poythress book.
posted by adjockey at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2009

I've many friends who love Horton's "Covenant and Eschatology."

NT Wright isn't Reformed, but you might want to see if he has anything on Revelation. He is a NT scholar and widely respected historian, and as the historical context is critical to understanding Revelation, he might be worth checking out.
posted by scunning at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2009

Wikipedia actually has a decent primer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Revelation.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2009

I like Asimov's Guide To The Bible as a companion text when I read the bible. He takes a very secular view, giving a historical context.
posted by torquemaniac at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2009

Well, there's always the Skeptic's Annotated Bible.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:41 AM on July 22, 2009

I wouldn't say that no one understands it. I think the main problem is we aren't used to reading apocalyptic literature, so without the background of stuff like 4th Enoch and the Testament of Abraham, we're missing the literary tradition that Revelation is building off of. Having said that, my two favorite and accessible books about Revelation are:

Richard Bauckham's The Theology of the Book of Revelation


Howard-Brook & Gwyther's Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now

I also liked Eugene Boring's Revelation commentary in the Interpretation series.

None of those are from a Reformed perspective, though. Kenneth Gentry is Reformed, although an outlier, since he's a preterist. Still, I remember being impressed with him when I read "Before the Fall of Jerusalem" a while back. His stuff is worth a look.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:46 AM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Following up on Pater Aletheias' suggestions, see also The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature by John J. Collins (since Revelation is part of that genre). Wes Howard-Brook wrote, in an Amazon review of Collins:

John Collins is probably the leading scholar of apocalyptic literature, as well as other intertestamental Jewish writings. This volume remains the best, basic introduction to the scope of the vast literature and how it developed over several hundred years. Collins takes just enough of a close-up to intrigue those who want to know more, but not overwhelm those who are just beginning.

As I was doing my initial research on what became my own "Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now" (1999) this book was a steady guide.

posted by apartment dweller at 11:19 AM on July 22, 2009

Thanks everyone! I appreciate all the input.
posted by snap_dragon at 11:21 AM on July 22, 2009

The commentary in the Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd edition is just about the best starting point for any biblical study from a scholarly point of view. Since this edition is the standard for serious study it is quite often available on the cheap in used book stored near universities (it is often required reading and students tend to sell their books back after the course is over). I got a new one the other day for $12, but even new it shouldn't be more than $40.

Now if you are more interested in the whole "faith" side of things as opposed to a more evidence-based historical approach then not so much.
posted by Riemann at 11:24 AM on July 22, 2009

Could someone please give a quick precis on the "Reformed" perspective to an ignorant member of The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church? Thx.
posted by whuppy at 11:52 AM on July 22, 2009

Have you checked out Apocamon: The Final Judgement?
Its Revelation animated like pokemon and as literal as possible.
posted by Iax at 12:50 PM on July 22, 2009

New on The Brick Testament site ("The world's largest, most comprehensive illustrated Bible" - in Lego blocks): Revelation.
posted by apartment dweller at 1:36 PM on July 22, 2009

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