Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review of Reading Revelation by C. Marvin Pate

Reading Revelation: A Comparison of the Four Interpretive Translations of the Apocalypse
C. Marvin Pate
ISBN 978-0-8254-3367-2
Kregel Academic and Professional
Reviewed by Clint Walker

No part of the Bible is more debated on its meaning that the book of Revelation. Several pastors, teachers, and leaders have avoided the text because it is fraught by so much interpretive diversity and controversy. Even Luther said of Revelation that he could "in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it." (see Wikipedia on the Luther Bible)

C. Marvin Pate takes the challenges of understanding Revelation head on with his bookReading RevelationThe text begins with an introduction to the four major schools of interpretation (preterist, historicist, idealist, futurist). The rest of the book is goes verse by verse through the book of Revelation.

The bulk of the book Reading Revelation is presented as a spreadsheet. On the far left is the Greek text. Then there are four more columns for each of the methods of interpreting the text. Each of these interpretations has an expanded translation of that verse, amplified to express that specific perspective's interpretation of what is being said. Some times the entire text says the same thing. At other points, the diversity of interpretive viewpoints becomes more clear. 

I thought this text was intelligent and informative. The author's point of view is not played out in the text--he does not push you toward his point of view. Instead, each way of reading the text is handled evenhandedly. I tend to be, for the most part, a partial-preterist and a partial-futurist. But, as I read, I came to value some of the other insights that other ways of looking at this text might have to offer.

Furthermore, as I read the introduction and then read through the book, I was impressed at Pate's passion for the study of the book of Revelation. He obviously loves the complexity and challenges that reading revelation holds, and wants to share that joy with others.

If you are curious about how to understand the last book of the Bible, this book is a must-have for you. I am glad it sits on my bookshelf.

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