Witherington, Revelation

Witherington, Ben, III. Revelation. New Cambridge Bible commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. xviii + 306.

Witherington brings the socio-rhetorical approach, pioneered by Vernon K. Robbins, to Revelation. This volume opens the NCBC series which is edited by Witherington himself.

It is crucial to Witherington’s approach that the socio-historical situation is determined as accurately as possible. As many others do, he identifies the author as “a prophet from the Johannine community operating at a time when there is apparently no apostolic presence left in that community” (p. 3). Witherington recognises that “there is nothing in Revelation establishing John’s personal authority” (ibid.). This author was unknown, and, in fact, still is. But why, then, should the churches then or the churches today accept what he says?

Witherington argues in favour of a late date. He takes issue with the efforts (espcially Thompson’s in Book of Revelation) to rehabilitate Domitian (pp. 5f-7). “We must take seriously the evidence in Rev. 2-3 that it is a document addressed to actual particular congregations with which John had contact …” (p. 7; Witherington refers to Slater, Christ and Michaels, Interpreting Revelation).

Table of Content:

Part I. Introduction:
1. Authorship, date, and audience of the apocalypse (p. 1)
2. The resources, rhetoric, and restructuring of Revelation (p. 10)
3. Revelation in its social setting in West Asia Minor (p. 22)
4. The Christology of Revelation (p. 27)
5. The genre of Revelation (p. 32)
6. A brief tour of the Book of Revelation (p. 40)

Part II. Suggested Reading on Revelation:
1. The genre of Revelation (p. 51)
2. Commentaries (p. 52)
3. Rhetorical studies (p. 53)
4. Sociological and anthropological approaches (p. 54)
5. Classical and archaeological resources (p. 55)
6. History of interpretation (p. 56)
7. Theology (p. 56)
8. Important monographs (p. 57)
9. Articles of interest (p. 58)

Part III. Commentary
1. Rev. 1.1-3: Visionary material: handle carefully (p. 65)
A closer look – Forensic Language and the Meaning of Martyr
Bridging the Horizons
2. Rev. 1.4-1.20: The Heavenly Son of Man (p. 73)
A closer look – God and Christ as the Alpha and Omega
Bridging the Horizons
3. Rev. 2-3: postcards from the edge (p. 87)
A closer look – Prophets in the postapostolic age
A closer look – John and sectarianism
A closer look – The question of Jewish and Christian relationships in Revelation
Bridging the Horizons
4. Rev. 4-5: the throne room vision
A closer look – On ancient scrolls
Bridging the Horizons
5. Rev. 6.1-8.5: The Seven Seals
A closer look – On how to read Revelation 6-16
Bridging the Horizons
6. Rev. 8.5-11.19: The Seven Trumpets
A closer look – Fallen angels in Early Judaism and Christianity
Bridging the Horizons
7. Rev. 12: The woman and the dragon
A closer look – The mythological background of Revelation 12
Bridging the Horizons
8. Rev. 13.1-14.5: 666 and his spokesman
A closer look – 666, Nero, and the ancient art of gematria
Bridging the Horizons
9. Rev. 14.6-14.20: Three angelic messengers
A closer look – The Emperor’s new clothes
Bridging the Horizons
10. Rev. 15.1-16.21: The seven eschatological plagues
A closer look – John’s narrative and narrative logic
Bridging the Horizons
11. Rev. 17.1-19.10: Babylon the Harlot
A closer look – Holy and unholy cities
A closer look – Slavery and the Roman economy
A closer look – John’s eschatology
Bridging the Horizons
12. Rev. 19.11-21.8: The rider on the white horse, redemptive-judgment and the messianic millennium
A closer look – John and radical evil
Bridging the Horizons
13. Rev. 21.9-22.5: The tour of the New Jerusalem
A closer look – Nuptial and city imagery and John’s intertextuality
A closer look – Heavenly Jerusalem or Sky city
Bridging the Horizons
14. Rev. 22.6-22.21: The epilogue
Bridging the Horizons

Part IV. Appendix: A Millennial Problem

The back matters include author index (p. 293), Extra-Biblical texts index (p. 296), Scriptural index (p. 301), and Subject index (p. 307).


Thomas Hieke, in: Review of Biblical Literature (07/2004) (direct link).

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