In my Introduction to the New Testament 2: Acts to Revelation class we read three books. The last one was Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation, part of the New Testament Theology series by James Dunn. I normally would not bother writing a review of a school textbook, but I thought this book would be of interest to Christians struggling with how to read the book of Revelation (Pet peeve alert! There’s only one revelation in the book of Revelation. So it’s Revelation, not RevelationS).
Bauckham was the professor of New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews until 2007 where he retired to focus on research and writing. The Theology of the Book of Revelation was written in 1993.
The best thing about this book is that it takes a very scholarly look at the book of Revelation without becoming overburdened with a verse-by-verse commentary. This means it gives a thorough overview without bogging down in the Greek translation. It is organized into seven chapters. Chapter one introduces common problems when reading Revelation. Two through six give a thematic overview of the book, each focusing on a different theme. The final chapter presents (disappointingly, for a book about Revelation) 11 different points for reading Revelation today.
Chapter one, “Reading the book of Revelation,” provides what many forget to do: place Revelation in the context it was written in. Bauckham presents the case that Revelation is both a book about the now (prophecy) and the end times (apocalypse). Understanding that the book is written in both genres helps us avoid many of the pitfalls of interpreting it too close to us (finding prophecies in everyday events) or relegating it to the first century (finding no comparable situations to today).
Chapters 2-6 give four themes: “The One who is and who was and who is to come,” “The Lamb on the throne,” “The victory of the Lamb and his followers,” “The Spirit of prophecy,” and “The New Jerusalem.” The most important and easiest to understand parts of this book are the introduction and conclusion. These chapters become somewhat technical and had a tendency to go over my head. However, they are good for reading through even if you do not understand all that is written.
Chapter 7 “Revelation for today” is Bauckham’s way of encouraging Christians to reopen the book and seek to understand what is there. He gives 11 points as springboards to understand its relevance to today. The best advice is given at the very end, “Revelation can help to inspire the renewal of the doctrine of God which is perhaps the most urgent contemporary theological need” (p. 164).
Overall, the book is interesting due to its ability to take the book of Revelation and allow it to interpret itself. This is something needed by many theologians, especially ones reading the book of Revelation.
Bauckham, Richard. 1993. The theology of the book of Revelation of New Testament theology. Cambridge [England]; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press