Accessible Scholarly Sources on the Book of Revelation
November 4, 2014 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I recently happened to sit down and read the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Wow, that is some crazy shit! I'm now fascinated to learn more...

I'd particularly be interested in sources that address:

--How Revelation ended up getting voted into/included in the Bible since it has such a different feel from the rest of the text. Was there controversy around including it/keeping it in?
--Historical analysis of the context in which it was written/what the author was trying to get across. Did he really think this was all going to happen, or is there some sort of metaphorical/allegorical story he's referencing?
--Non-literal/non-conspiracy theory interpretations from modern scholars about whether there is anything interesting/valuable to take from this (or, is it just crazypants)

Accessible/engaging sources are preferred since this is just a side interest rather than a primary research project, but more important is that sources be scholarly or legitimate in some other way (i.e. I'm not interested in conspiracy theories/THE APOCALYPSE IS HAPPENING NOW)
posted by rainbowbrite to Religion & Philosophy (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
What you need is a bible concordance. You can get a small one or a multi-volume set.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:11 PM on November 4, 2014


I got a lot out of the Yale OCW New Testament course.
posted by chrchr at 1:15 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation by Elaine Pagels (faculty at Princeton) gets a good write-up in this New York Times article.
posted by jabes at 1:16 PM on November 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also worth pointing out that while it's unusual for the New Testament, it kinda fits in with the books of Ezekiel and Daniel.

(Revelation spoiler: the bad guys are Rome.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 1:22 PM on November 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


You should read the wikipedia page on preterism, the idea that the events in Revelation are historic. This is the mainstream Roman Catholic interpretation, more or less.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:27 PM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Historical analysis of the context in which it was written/what the author was trying to get across. Did he really think this was all going to happen, or is there some sort of metaphorical/allegorical story he's referencing?

It's metaphorical resistance literature against Roman occupation with the Whore of Babylon representing Rome. This is the interpretation I learned at a college level and is also the generally accepted Catholic interpretation. The only people who take it as actual prophecy are some crazypants fundamentalists and they have to ignore all sorts of historical evidence to do that.
posted by Justinian at 1:42 PM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


(The link I provided isn't just the first page, fwiw, if you hit "next page" it starts you on a fairly lengthy annotation of the sort you may be looking for.)
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on November 4, 2014


This strikes a great balance between scholarly and accessible. I have taught from it, and highly recommend it.
posted by 4ster at 1:50 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Human Bible podcast touches on some of the things you're looking for, in a pretty reasonable down to earth way. I don't have specific episode numbers, but they touch on revelation (and Daniel, and Ezekiel quite a bit). I quite like this podcast, because it is scholarly information delivered in an incredibly down-to-earth format. It's a good'n.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:01 PM on November 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


What you need is a bible concordance. You can get a small one or a multi-volume set...

I think cjorgensen means a commentary not a concordance. A concordance is a list of words telling you where those words are used in a text. A Bible concordance is useful (I own one), but not what you're looking for.
posted by Jahaza at 2:24 PM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


mr_roboto: You should read the wikipedia page on preterism, the idea that the events in Revelation are historic. This is the mainstream Roman Catholic interpretation, more or less.
Thank you, because that explains why a History Channel show* casually tossed off the phrase, "... the site of the battle of Armeggedon, recorded in Revelations."

*Back when it showed actual history.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:37 PM on November 4, 2014


I would say preterism is mainstream Christianity everywhere outside of the US, barring some weird English evangelicals. The internalized dread that the world is doomed to end in some kind of fire and brimstone, probably soonish, possibly this afternoon, and that a significant percent of the population is quite looking forward to it is uniquely American, imho.
posted by fshgrl at 2:47 PM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Forgot: if you're delving into the Bible I recommend reading the classic A Catholics Guide to the Bible. It's not the most scholarly guide but it is written from the viewpoint of Catholic orthodoxy, which is very interesting since that's the group that shaped most of the Bible. I think it's critical to understanding it, honestly.

/Am atheist, raised Catholic in the scholarly tradition.
posted by fshgrl at 2:56 PM on November 4, 2014


Oh, dude. I spent a solid year researching Revelation. Feel free to contact me anything and I will hook you up.

Best accessible commentary that I know of us Eugene Boring's. Super helpful, but understandable to people who aren't scholars. You simply must read The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham. In fact, you should probably start there. Short, and great at the big picture stuff commentaries often gloss over. Kenneth Gentry's Before Jerusalem Fell is the book that convinced me of the merits of the preterist view. Outstanding work. A lot of people misunderstand what is happening in Revelation because they are not grounded in the apocalyptic literary tradition the author is working from. John J. Collin's The Apocalyptic Imagination is the best way to catch up.

Finally, at the risk of tooting my own horn, if you are interested, I try to give a big picture of what Revelation is about in this sermon (MP3 link). It's obviously for general audiences, but might be useful to you.

MeMail/email me any time. I seriously love Revelation, and hate how badly it is misused in popular theology.

Oh, and about how it got into the Bible--I don't remember how much it discussed Revelation in particular, but there is no better book about the canonization process I know of than Harry Gamble's The New Testament Canon.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:16 PM on November 4, 2014 [18 favorites]


Revelation and the End of All Things by Craig Koester is another helpful and accessible book.
posted by apartment dweller at 5:48 PM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here's an hour-long podcast about Revelation featuring Dr Robert M Price, host of the aforementioned Human Bible.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 12:42 PM on November 5, 2014


Not sure you need more book recommendations, but in case you do... We read In God's Time (by Craig Hill, a seminary professor) for a Bible study group, and I thought it was great. Definitely recommend.
posted by at home in my head at 5:36 PM on November 5, 2014


Thanks, everyone! I've marked a few best answers of the things I plan to listen to/pick up at the library first, but all of this is super helpful! :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:36 AM on November 6, 2014


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