Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Interpreting Revelation and Other Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

Interpreting Revelation and Other Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook

Article excerpt

Interpreting Revelation and Other Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook. By C. Marvin Pate. Handbooks for NT Exegesis. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2016, 240 pp., $23.99 paper.

This book, by a notable scholar and prodigious writer in the field of biblical eschatology, is intended to help students interpret biblical apocalypses and related biblical material. Unfortunately, its focus is too broad and its execution too haphazard to be useful for this purpose. Interpreting Revelation is the fourth volume in Kregel's Handbooks for NT Exegesis series and follows the format of all books in the series. As such, it is divided into essentially three parts. The first three chapters discuss the nature and background of the genre of apocalypse and related literature; the next four chapters focus on the pragmatics of interpreting and communicating the message of apocalyptic texts in the NT (including fully developed examples of exposition); and a final chapter and glossary provide the student with a bibliography and vocabulary for studying apocalypses and other apocalyptic literature.

In the first three chapters of Interpreting Revelation, Pate gives an extended discussion of the genre of apocalypse (which Pate calls at times "apocalypticism," "apocalyptic literature," and "prophetic-apocalyptic"), including surveying scholarly discussion on the definition of the genre, on sub-genres within especially Daniel and Revelation, and on the development of apocalyptic eschatology. His primary concern is to argue that the function of apocalypse is to inform the audience that their current suffering is an eschatological experience of the covenant curses of Deuteronomy and that the covenant blessings in the form of the kingdom of God or temporary messianic kingdom would soon arrive if the audience would repent. In this he follows N. T. Wright's contention that the Deuteronomic "story of Israel"-sin, exile, restoration-informs all Second Temple Jewish thinking. Chapter 1 introduces this idea; chapter 2 lays out the primary evidence for the thesis from a variety of proto-apocalyptic texts in the OT and from the Olivet Discourse and Revelation; and chapter 3 applies the idea to a number of common theological themes in seven representative biblical and extrabiblical apocalypses, arguing that the "story of Israel" informs every element of the genre of apocalypse as identified by the Apocalypse Group of the SBL Genres Project.

In the next four chapters of the book, Pate walks the reader through the process of interpreting and communicating an apocalyptic text from the NT. Chapter 4 focuses on preliminaries to interpretation, providing a survey of NT textual criticism (both history and practice) and suggestions for translating a passage from Greek to English. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on interpretation itself, using Rev 1:1-3 as a model. Pate first discusses introductory questions regarding Revelation and attempts to show that Revelation is an ekphrasis on the Arch of Titus. He then does a literary and theological analysis of Rev 1:1-3, linking the passage thematically to "the story of Israel" and structurally to the covenant structure of Deuteronomy. Finally, Pate moves from interpretation to exposition in three steps. "First-century Synthesis" works to summarize the passage in a single sentence, asks about the needs of the first-century audience addressed by the passage, and considers contemporary needs that parallel those of the first-century audience. "Twenty-first Century Appropriation" identifies the connections between Rev 1:1-3 and the modern audience, the corrections that the passage offers to the modern audience, and the commendations that the passage makes to the modern audience. "Homiletical Packaging" considers how to present the material to a modern audience around a central point (in the case of Rev 1:1-3, Pate offers that "God is faithful to his covenant with Israel through Jesus Christ"). Chapter 7 then provides two examples of moving from text to sermon with apocalyptic texts, one from Rom 11:25-27 and the other from 2 Thess 2:6-7. …

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