Monday, November 17, 2008

More light on the Apocalypse

Well, there's no shortage of interest in Revelation! A big thank you to all who've commented - very helpful suggestions.

I remember looking at the spine of a CUP monograph that read 'The sayings of Jesus Boring'. It is the spine of Eugene Boring's book on the synoptic gospels but it's a tad unfortunate that a designer didn't notice! I've not read Boring on Revelation. I have read Bauckham - both his books are indeed excellent, as is Petersen's Reversed Thunder (though it is currently out of print).

I guess my recommendations are for easily accessible books for church members who will want to read Revelation after our two studies. My concern is that they read John's text with a good, reliable tour guide.

The Apocalypse, it seems to me, is one of those books where the gulf between the academy and the pew is as wide as it gets. Scholars debate the finer points of Revelation's literary structure and highlight the social background of John's original hearers. Meanwhile people in the pews either ignore the book altogether (apart from reading the letters to the seven churches) or fall prey to the lurid speculations of Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye et al.

It's possible that next year we'll tackle Revelation as a church, probably in a series of mid-week Bible studies. so, if anyone has pointers on how to do this well; or notes that they can email me, I'd be grateful...


Simon Woodman said...

I think it's a tricky one. I mean, Revelation is never going to be a 'beginners' book...
I've preached through it a couple of times in different churches (Counterslip, Bristol; and Ararat, Cardiff) and this sermon material found a reworked home in part 3 of my book. When I was writing, I tried to have my Mum in mind - an intelligent, long-standing church member, but with no formal theological education... Probably about the same level as many Uni students (!) But whether I hit the mark or not remains to be seen...
You're absolutely right about needing to strike a middle line between the overly-academic (but sensible) and the populist (but bizarre).
I tend not to engage the Left Behind / Hal Lindsay stuff overtly when I'm teaching Revelation to church groups - those who love it will take more than a sermon to convince them otherwise. And for everyone else, who has a gut feeling that Revelation must be saying something more useful than Lindsay et al claim, a couple of sermons pointing to helpful ways of applying the text today can do wonders in terms of opening up their interest to learn more.
Keep us informed how you get on...

simon said...

Thanks Simon, that's very helpful. I agree with what you said about engaging with the Left Behind approach. Last week those who love the books were nonplussed by what I said but those just looking for a way in to Revelation found it really helpful.
I'll check out part three of your book which at first glance looks really helpful and keep you posted!

Jonathan said...

One of the issues we faced at Mount Pleasant when we preached through Rev. was cutting through all the junk that people had been reading.

One of the key issues that we had to address is the whole understanding of what Israel means post-Jesus.

We both know that there are plenty of folks in both our churches who will hold unshakingly to a view that it is a geographical location, or a genetic inheritance.

With that and other issues as a "given" for so many, bringing a fresh understanding can seem a real uphill task.

God bless you in it though - how is the book going?

simon said...

Thanks for that Jonathan. Yes, the place of ethnic or geographical israel in God's future is a key one. I'll find out what people here think about that next week when we're touching on it at our second mid-week focus on end-times stuff.
I think the publisher is meeting today to make a final decision on the book - it's looking promising at the moment. So perhaps by Christmas I'll be mapping out what it'll look like.

Les (Endlessly Restless) said...


We tackled Revelation with our Nurture Group (secondary school age) a couple of years ago - and it seemed to work very well. I found Ben Witherington's book very useful for preparing the material; and some of the leaders enjoyed Richard Bewes "The Lamb Wins!"

I'd be happy to share the material if you were interested - even just to get some feedback from you! You know - quid pro quo.

After years of putting it off, I wouldn't hesitate to do it again - and I've been suggesting it for the adult housegroups as well.

simon said...

Thanks, Endlessly restless - I'd love to see material produced and would be happy to offer some feedback.
Having finished our series on hope yesterday, I'm thinking that Revelation would be good to tackle - I just need to find the appropriate vehicle and time and do it.
Thanks again.