Chapter 24: The Study of The Revelation

An Introduction to the New Testament
by Richard Heard

Chapter 24: The Study of The Revelation

No New Testament book is so difficult for the Christian of today to understand as the Revelation. Its fantastic imagery and lack of clear order are formidable obstacles to the grasp of its meaning. Yet as the only book of Christian prophecy which was accepted into the New Testament it has a special significance for the understanding of certain aspects of early Christian religion. It is only when the student has read the Revelation and comprehended the way in which a Christian prophet could cast his message into such a form that he can assess the influence of such a type of faith on the moulding of Christian tradition.

The apocalyptic passages in the gospels and the epistles raise fundamental questions as to the place which such teaching had in Jesus’ mind. Was the eschatological expectation of Jesus expressed in the crude material forms of contemporary Jewish apocalyptic, or do such passages in the gospels represent the distortion of his original message under the influence of Christian prophecy? How are the contradictions between apocalyptic and spiritual interpretations of the End in Paul and John to be resolved? To answer these questions a right understanding of the Revelation is essential.

Books for Reading

The best short introduction to the Revelation is perhaps E. F. Scott, The Book of Revelation (S.C.M.). Among larger works the recently published work of A. M. Farrer, The Re-birth of Images, makes difficult reading, but contains much that is helpful for the exegesis of the book. Of commentaries for the reader who knows no Greek those by M. Kiddle (Moffatt) and by A. Hanson and R. Preston (S.C.M.) may be mentioned.

For the study of the apocalyptic element in the New Testament as a whole, Burkitt, Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (Oxford) and the larger work of Charles, Eschatology: Hebrew, Jewish and Christian (Black) are helpful, as are two recent books, H. A. Guy, New Testament Prophecy (Epworth Press) and T. F. Glasson, The Second Advent (Epworth Press).