E. S. Constantinou, Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse

Eugénia Scarvelis Constantinou (Jeannie Constantinou): Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse In the Ancient Church of the East. Part 1: Studies on the Apocalypse Commentary of Andrew of Caesarea. Part 2: Translation of the Apocalypse Commentary of Andrew of Caesarea. Ph.D.-dissertation, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada, 2008. 271 + 242 pp. Available as an ebook in PDF-format.

I just learned about this Ph.D.-thesis, which is a very welcome work. It is very fortunate that Constantinou has made it available online. We should all be very grateful for that.

Part 1 “consists of an analysis of the commentary and an explanation of the Book of Révélation in the history of Eastern Christianity”, while part 2 “is an English translation of the commentary with extensive explanatory footnotes” (p. i and ii).

Andrew’s commentary, which according to Constantinou, was written in 611 A.D., is preserved in eighty-three complete manuscripts and “countless abbreviated versions” (iii). Andrew preserved the “totality of ancient Greek tradition for the interpretation of the Apocalypse”, which was independent of the Latin tradition (ibid.). Thus, Andrew’s commentary is extremely important. For this reason alone, it is very welcome that Constantinou has analysed and translated it. It was also very influential as regards the very text and the canonicity of Revelation.

Constantinou shows how important it is to have a complete translation of the entire commentary. Both Averky and Weinrich attributes the interpretation of Oecumenius on Revelation 1:4 to Andrew, but erroneously so. While Oecumenius interpreted Revelation 1:4 as a statement about the Trinity, Andrew attributes this formula to the Father (pp. iv-v). Constantinou also informs us that Andrew “was attempting to quell apocalyptic fears through his commentary, not inflame them” (p. v). I look forward to study this Ph.D.-thesis!

Constantinou’s translation is based on Josef Schmid\’s work. It will be published in the series The Fathers of the Church (according to this page, accessed October 1st, 2009).

Here is Constantinou’s own abstract:

Part 1, Studies on the Apocalypse Commentary of Andrew of Caesarea, consists of an analysis of the commentary and an explanation of the Book of Révélation in the history of Eastern Christianity.

Chapter 1 is an introduction to the commentary and to the historical context, audience, purpose and motivation for its composition.

Chapter 2 discusses the Book of Révélation in the canon of Eastern Christianity through an historical overview of the place of Révélation in the canon of the East from the second century through the présent day. The chapter considers which factors accounted for the early and immédiate appeal of Révélation, examines the attitudes toward it as revealed in primary sources, and demonstrates that the Apocalypse was consistently recognized as an apostolic document from the second century through the early fourth century. Révélation eventually came under attack due to its association with controversies such as Montanism and chiliasm. Doubts about its authorship were raised to discrédit it in order to undermine the controversial movements which relied upon it. It remained in an uncertain canonical status until relatively recently and is now presumed to be part of the New Testament by most Eastern Christians but the question of its status in the canon has never been “officially” resolved.

Chapter 3 explains the importance of the commentary from a text-critical perspective and for the purpose of studying the history of the Apocalypse text itself. A large percentage of Apocalypse manuscripts contain the Andréas commentary, which has preserved a text type of its own, and the study of the Andréas text type facilitâtes the analysis and évaluation of other text types by comparison. This chapter also discusses the dual textual transmission of the Book of Révélation, unique among the books of the New Testament, since manuscripts of Révélation are found both in scriptural collections as well as bound with a variety of spiritual and profane writings.

Chapter 4 discusses Andrew’s commentary in the context of the trajectory of other ancient Apocalypse commentaries, East and West, and how the interprétative history proceeded along a dual stream of tradition. The first commentators greatly influenced those who followed them, but only those who wrote in the same language. The Latin tradition did not influence Greek interpreters, nor vice-versa, and commonalities between Greek and Latin writers can be traced back to the earliest Fathers and to the perspectives, Scriptures, exegetical techniques and traditions common to both East and West from the first centuries of Christianity.

Chapter 5 commences an évaluation of the commentary itself, including Andrew’s purpose, motivation and orientation, as well as a discussion of the structure, style and characteristics of the commentary. This chapter also explains Andrew’s methodology, techniques and use of sources.

Chapter 6 explores Andrew’s theology, including his doctrine, view of prophecy, history, eschatology, angelology and salvation.

Chapter 7 reviews Andrew’s influence on subséquent Eastern commentators, the translation of his commentary into other ancient languages, its impact on the réception of the Book of Révélation into the Eastern canon and the commentary’s lasting prééminence and importance.

HT: Andrew of Caesarea, Commentary on Revelation online and Tommy Wassermann @ Evangelical Textual Criticism

Irena Backus, Reformation Readings of the Apocalypse

backusreformation.jpgBackus, Irena Dorota. Reformation Readings of the Apocalypse: Geneva, Zurich, and Wittenberg. Oxford Studies in Historical TheologyOxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. xx + 182 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0195138856.

About the book

Backus, Professor at the Université de Genève, Institute of Reformation History, shows that most important sixteenth-century reformed commentators of Revelation”remained heavily indebted to their patristic and medievas sources and were conservative in their estimation of the text’s eschatological significance.”

“… reformed commentators paid much greater attention to the trials and tribulations of the church, past and present, than to the imminence of the Last Judgment. Lutheran commentators, on the other hand, were more overtly future-oriented and emphasized the importance of the text for their era.”

“Backus also offers new and significant information about methods of commenting on [Revelation] …”

Backus focuses on the commentaries of

  • Antoine du Pinet
  • Leo Jud
  • Theodore Bibliander
  • Heinrich Bullinger
  • Nicolas Colladon
  • David Chytraeus
  • Nicolaus Selnecker

Table of Contents

The Problem of Canonicity  3
Antoine du Pinet and His Models  37
Augustin Marlorat and Nicolas Colladon  61
The Apocalypse and the Zurich Reformers  87
The Lutheran Counterpoint: David Chytraeus and Nikolaus Selnecker  113
Conclusion  135
Notes 139
Bibliography 169
Index 175


This book is, so says the publisher, “essential reading for scholars of theology, Reformation history, the history of biblical exegesis, and anyone interested in the Apocalypse of John and its reception in the West.” Indeed.

The author

Irena Backus is D.Phil. from Oxford University (1976) and Dr.theol. Hab. from Bern (1988). She was awarded a honorary Doctory of Divinity-degree from Edinburgh (2001) and a Doctor of Divinity from Oxford.

Beckwith, Apocalypse

Beckwith, I. T.: The Apocalypse of John. Studies in Introduction with a Critical and Exegetical Commentary. The Macmillan Company: New York 1919. Reprint. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock publishers, 2001. xv + 794 pp.

Also reprinted 1992 and by Baker Book House in 1967.

This commentary with more than 800 pages is divided in two parts: the introduction and the commentary. It is well argued on both linguistic, historical and theological issues and is – in my view – one of the more valuable English commentaries.

Isbon T. (Thaddeus) Beckwith (1843-1936), Ph.D. and D.D., was professor of Greek language and literature at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut (see a photo).

Swete, Apocalypse

Swete, Henry Barclay: The Apocalypse of St. John. London: Macmillan, 1906. Reprint. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock publishers, 1999.

The second edition was published in 1907 or perhaps already in 1906. The third was published in 1908 and reprinted several times at least until 1917. The commentary was also reprinted by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids, 1954, and by Kregel in Grand Rapids in 1977 and 1978 under the title Commentary on Revelation.

This is one of the major commentaries ever written – and a good one that should be regularly consulted despite its age.

The commentary
The commentary proper, which comprises more than 300 pages, consists of the text, text-critical notes and “notes” to the text.

The introductory chapters – about 200 pages – deals with:

  1. Prophecy in the Apostolic Church
  2. Apocalypses, Jewish and Christian
  3. Contents and plan of the Apocalypse of John
  4. Unity of the Apocalypse
  5. Destination
  6. Christianity in the Province of Asia
  7. Antichrist in the Province of Asia
  8. Purpose of the Apocalypse
  9. Date
  10. Circulation and reception
  11. Vocabulary, Grammar, and Style
  12. Symbolism
  13. Use of the Old Testament and other literature (parallels are listed)
  14. Doctrine
  15. Authorship
  16. Text
  17. Commentaries
  18. History and methods of Interpretation

The back matters include an Index of Greek words used in the Apocalypse and an Index to the introduction and notes. Illustrations include Coins of the Apocalyptic cities.

The list of commentaries includes the important commentaries from the entire history of interpretation (pp. cxcii-ccii).

In his summary of the doctrine of Revelation, Swete discusses monotheism, Christology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, soteriology – apparently, Swete finds a synergistic notion of salvation, repentance and faith (p. clxiii-clxiv) – angelology, and eschatology “in the widest sense.” The purpose of Revelation is “to inspire Christian hope. But incidentally, it instructs, and the teaching, so far as it goes, is fresh, strenuous, and suggestive” (p. clxviii).

Swete was inclined to the traditional view that the author was the apostle, but desired “to keep an open mind upon the question” (p. clxxxi).

As to his own approach, Swete states that he is convinced that John was “what he claimed to be, an inspired prophet” (p. ccxii). Due to the special character of Revelation, one must compare Revelation to the apocalyptic portions of the OT, especially to Daniel, and to the non-canonical Jewish apocalypses (p. ccxiii). Revelation is not “directly prophetical,” but one must recognise that “[a]nother important landmark for the guidance of the interpreter is to be found in the purpose of the book and the historical surroundings of its origin” (ibid.). “The prophecy arose out of local and contemporary circumstances; it is, in the first instance at least, the answer of the Spirit to the fears and perils of the Asian Christians toward the end of the first century” (p. ccxiv). Accordingly, Swete explicitly rejects the world- and church-historical approach (ibid.). An interpretation based on these principles “will have points of contact with each of the chief systems of Apocalyptic exegesis” (p. ccxiv).

Swete concludes his introduction with a word of caution: “No attempt to solve the problems of this most enigmatic of canonical books can be more than provisional …” (p. ccxv).

Swete’s purpose was “simply to contribute whatever a personal study, conducted in the light shed upon the Apocalypse by many explorers, may be able to offer towards a true appreciation of this great Christian prophecy” (p. xxcv).

The author
Henry Barclay Swete (1835-1917), was educated in London and at Cambridge. He succeeded Brooke Foss Westcott as Regius Professor at Cambridge where he served 1890-1915. Swete was an Anglican clergyman and a textual critic, famous for his The Old Testament in Greek.

See much more at The Life and Works of Henry Barclay Swete (1835-1917) website, which include on-line editions of biographies as well as bibliographies and many on-line texts.

The Apocalypse of St. John is also available electronically as part of Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament and as a separate volume.

Johannes Munck, Petrus und Paulus

Munck, Johannes. Petrus und Paulus in der Offenbarung des Johannes: Ein Beitrag zur Auslegung der Apokalypse. Teologiske Skrifter, 1. København: Rosenkilde & Bagger, 1950. 125 pp.

Johannes Munck (1904-1965) was professor of New Testament at Aarhus University from the very beginning.

The Danish professors Peder Madsen and Holger Mosbech had both written on the history of interpretation of Revelation. With this volume professor Munck added his name to this list.

More to follow later.

Peder Madsen, Johannes’ Aabenbaring

Madsen, Peder. Johannes’ Aabenbaring: Indledet og fortolket [The Book of Revelation: Introduction and Commentary]. 1st ed. København: G. E. C. Gad, 1887. 2nd ed. 1896.

Both editions were published in two parts, the two first volumes in 1885 and 1894. The libraries disagree as to the number of pages. The first edition consists of either x + 730 pages or viii + 727/728 pages (the first 286 pages were published in 1885); the second of x + 731 pages (the first part being published in 1894).

Peder Madsen (1843-1911), a Danish theologian, was professor of systematic theology at the University of Copenhagen (1875-1909) and the Bishop of Zealand (1909-1911). As a postgraduate theologian, Professor Madsen studied with the professors Gottfried Thomasius, Johann Christian Konrad von Hofmann, Franz Hermann Reinhold Frank, and Gerhard von Zezschwitz in Erlangen, but he was no pupil of any theologian.

According to Frederik Torm, who as professor of New Testament was Peder Madsen’s colleague and later his biographer, Peder Madsen has written more thoroughly on the history of interpretation than any other (Biskop Peder Madsen [1936], p. 100f). Fifteen years later, Torm published his own – popular – commentary on Revelation.

Peder Madsen himself singled Th. Kliefoth out as the one he had learned very much from, although he was from time to time very critical of him. As the first interpreter (so Torm), Madsen discusses the fundamental interpretive questions of Revelation as a prerequisite for the interpretation of the many details.

More about this commentary later …

S. J. Davis, Introducing an Arabic Commentary on the Apocalypse

Davis, Stephen J. “Introducing an Arabic Commentary on the Apocalypse: Ibn Katib Qaysar on Revelation.” Harvard Theological Review 101 (2008): 77-96.

Here is the abstract from the publisher’s website:
“Ibn Katib Qaysar’s long-neglected Commentary on the Apocalypse of John is a veritable treasure trove for those interested not only in the early transmission of the biblical text and its history of interpretation, but also in the way ancient definitions of prophecy and vision were reconceived in Arabic Christian theology.

“Written in Cairo by a thirteenth-century Egyptian author, it is one of only two large-scale medieval commentaries on Revelation produced in the Arabic language. The other such commentary was composed by a fellow Copt, Bulus al-Bushi, who was a near contemporary of Ibn Katib Qaysar. Together, these two works provide a compelling witness to the currency of this apocalyptic biblical text among Christians living in Islamic Egypt.”

If you want to see the names with Unicode fonts, go to the publisher’s website.

Hattip: NT Gateway Weblog

Lücke, Einleitung

Lücke, Friedrich. Versuch einer vollständigen Einleitung in die Offenbarung Johannis oder Allgemeine Untersuchungen über die apokalyptische Litteratur überhaupt und die Apokalypse des Johannes insbesondere. 2nd ed. Commentar über die Schriften des Evangelisten Johannes, 4:1. Bonn: Eduard Weber, 1852. xviii + 1074 pp.

The classic introduction to Revelation and the apocalyptic literature in general by Friedrich Lücke (see here and here) is now available at Google Books, also for download as a pdf-file.

Book I: The Concept and History of Apocalyptic Literature (pp. 9-342)
Book II: The Johannine Apocalypse. Especially its Literary Characterisation and Canonical Evaluation (pp. 345-1070; look for a separate file at Google Books)