Garrow, Revelation (NT Readings)

Garrow, Alan J.P.: Revelation. (New Testament Readings). London & New York: Routledge, 1997. 156 pp.

Garrow’s book is a refreshing reading of Revelation which was originally submitted as a M Phil thesis at Coventry University. His aim is to locate the “story” (the content of the scroll in Rev 5) in Revelation, i.e. to answer where and what the story is, using insights from film analysis (Chatman). Garrow especially draws attention to John’s use of “foreshadodwing” and “suspense”. Garrow is to be credited for this part of his book.

His overall conclusions are that Revelation’s story deals with a short reign for Domitian after Titus and Domitians defeat as well at the return of Christ with all the associated events, and that the reason why John told this story was to overturn some opponents who had competings views of the future. His means was to provide the true interpretation of the present state which decides the future. Thereby John made it clear that his opponents’ arguments concerning the future were faulty.

Some of these insights may be accepted, but too many unsubstantiated assumptions and claims invalidate his overall thesis. Firstly, Garrow argues that Revelation was designed to be read in six installments. The reason Garrow gives as to why it is necessary to propose this theory seems to be that Revelation is simply too long to be read during service because it takes about two hours to read aloud. This “problem” is not obvious, however. It remains an open question whether there is need for this solution at all.

Secondly, his identification of the cliffhangers needed to identify the divisions between the various instalments is problematic and does not easily conform to any recognised analysis of Revelation’s structure. This means that his structure and function analysis of the whole text of Revelation is based on problematic assumptions. I cannot accept, e.g., that 17:1-18 should be labelled “commentary on bowl judgments”.

Thirdly, I doubt that his dating of Revelation and its story (based on his previous conclusions) will find much support among Revelation scholars.

However, although these critical remarks are serious with regard to Garrow’s overall thesis, the book should be read because of its introduction of narratological analysis. Story analysis (or: narratological analysis or narrative poetics) may very well be very helpful. (4 Jan 1998)

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