Revelation for Everyone
Easy to get your mind around. Your pastor may not get it, but you should!
November 16, 2012
Wright interprets much of the book of Revelation symbolically. For example: Regarding the thousand years of Revelation 20:1-6, Wright says we should interpret this symbolically (p. 179), and then asks, Ã¢ÂÂBut what is the actual reality to which the symbol points?Ã¢ÂÂ (p. 180). He offers several suggestions, none of which he fully endorses, and concludes, Ã¢ÂÂ... [I]t doesnÃ¢ÂÂt do to be too dogmatic. We must hold on to the central things which John has made crystal clear: the victory of the lamb, and the call to share his victory through faith and patience. God will then do what God will then doÃ¢ÂÂ (p. 181). In other words, the book of Revelation is symbolic (or allegorical) and does not tell us what the Ã¢ÂÂactual realityÃ¢ÂÂ is, i.e. what really and literally takes place on earth during the last days. All that Revelation tells us is that Ã¢ÂÂGod will do what God will do.Ã¢ÂÂ WrightÃ¢ÂÂs conclusion here epitomizes his treatment of Revelation.
Wright is inconsistent in his interpretations. Regarding the battle of Gog and Magog of Revelation 20:7-10, he says, Ã¢ÂÂThe whole thing is a set of pictures, of shifting, kaleidoscopic images, pointing beyond themselves to the deepest and darkest mysteries of iniquity. The same is true for the geographical symbol of the nations surrounding ... [Jerusalem] ... This has nothing ... to do with a location in the Middle East, or indeed elsewhere ...Ã¢ÂÂ (p. 183). Here Wright is clearly saying that this account cannot be taken literally. Yet in the next paragraph he discusses the event as if it actually happens as described, saying that, Ã¢ÂÂsatan summons the nations for a battleÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂon this occasion ... fire comes down from heaven and consumes them. Then, and only then, the devil is thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, along with the monster [beast] and the false prophetÃ¢ÂÂ (p. 183). Wright is contradicting himself. Is the account a set of Ã¢ÂÂshifting, kaleidoscopic images, pointing beyond themselves to the deepest and darkest mysteriesÃ¢ÂÂ which have Ã¢ÂÂnothing to doÃ¢ÂÂ with any geographical locations, or is it an actual event taking place at a real location with real characters? Wright leaves us confused.
I would not recommend this book. Wright's method of interpretation is unsound, and his explanations are inconsistent and muddled. His interpretations are as mysterious as the passages which he is trying to explain; by his own admission, he provides no information about the Ã¢ÂÂactual realityÃ¢ÂÂ of the apocalypse.
September 14, 2012
Accessible introduction to the book of Revelation
This brief introduction to the book of Revelation is part of a series which has the rationale that the books of the Bible should be available for everyone and not just Biblical specialists. Tom WrightÃ¢ÂÂs uses his own translation of the text, which is straightforward without dumbing down the text or being patronizing to the readers.
There is a useful glossary of the key theological terms that appear throughout the book. In the early sections there are paragraphs on context. However, there is none of the background material on context or authorship you would expect to find in an introduction to a New Testament book.
Wright splits the text of Revelation into bite-sized chunks following a fairly standard division of the text. Each section begins with his translation of the passage, which is generally followed by a scene-setting story. Then he spells out what he sees as the central message of the section, offering his interpretation of the text with no space being devoted to alternative readings. You will not find any references to other approaches to the interpretation of the text. The overall feel is very much that of a series of short sermons.
As you would expect of a leading Anglican evangelical, Wright takes the text seriously. He demonstrates that the Revelation of John is as relevant to us as it was to its first readers because it presents us with a clear vision of GodÃ¢ÂÂs ultimate purpose for the whole of creation: the overthrow of evil and the victory of God. But he sees it very much as a unified vision, rather than a history of the future, and the various episodes of the text are understood as different symbolic perspectives on that single vision.
My main reservation is that it lacks any guidance for readers who wish to take their study of Revelation any further. At the very least, it could have included a short guide to further reading. That apart, this volume is accessible, interesting and helpful.
November 6, 2011