Reddish, Revelation

Reddish, Mitchell Glenn. Revelation. Smyth & Helwys Bible commentary. Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2001. xxiv + 472 pp and a searchable CD-ROM.

This volume by professor, dr. Mitchell G. Reddish is interesting. Already in 2001, it included CD-ROM with the commentary text and the many sidebars in a fully searchable form and with visuals that this volume includes. The layout is very pleasing to the eye. The primary focus is the theological issues, but potential applications are included as well. These “connections” considers what issues are relevant for teaching and preaching. I have not had access to the commentary itself, but the front matters and the introduction is available in pdf-format here.

I find the many sidebars, special-interest boxes, interesting. They provide: historical information, graphic outlines of literary structure, definitions or brief discussions, relevant quotations, notes, but also various illustrations.

I agree with professor Reddish’s opinion that “the church needs to embrace the Apocalypse because it is a powerful presentation of the message of our faith” (p. 2), although I do want to describe this faith somewhat differently from Reddish.

Reddish defines Revelation as an apocalypse (although with characteristics of other literary genres) and gives a very helpful summary of apocalyptic literature and the origins of this genre (p. 3-7). Included are two sidebars. The first provides “Sources for Understanding Apocalyptic Literature” (omitting, by the way, the contributions of David Hellholm). The second lists apocalyptic writings. Reddish is also the editor of Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader. The publisher gives access to Reddish’s introduction (as well as the table of contents and a sample chapter).

I find Reddish’s discussion of the provenance and social setting of Revelation (pp. 7-11) fair and balanced. Reddish gives a fine survey of the topic “Emperor worship and persecution” (pp. 11-15). “These situations [of persecutions] were likely sporadic, local instances of persecution and martyrdom. But for John, these few instances were enough to cause him to sound the alarm to the churches of Asia Minor” (p. 13). In his commentary, Witherington assesses the social setting quite differently than Mitchell does.

Discussing the date (pp. 16f), Reddish finds a domitianic date most likely, but he notes many arguments are circular (p. 16). Indeed. Reddish rejects apostolic authorship and argues that “The author, then, is best understood as an unknown John living in Asia Minor in the closing years of the first century” (p. 18). This John “viewed himself as a Christian prophet and had possibly functioned in this role among the Christians in Asia Minor, perhaps as an itinerant prophet” (p. 18f). Although Reddish notes that “The authority with which he wrote indicates that he was obviously well known to the Christians in Asia Minor and knew the churches and their backgrounds intimately,” he does not explain why any reliable information about this John is totally absent.

Reddish favours a recapitulation view on the structure of Revelation (pp. 20-22): “the structure of Revelation presents a movement that is spiral” (p. 21). Reddish compares the composition of Revelation to a piece of music: “in which certain themes of the piece are repeated, but with variations and new interpretations, each variation moving the piece forward” (p. 21). I agree. However, when Reddish claims that “Revelation operates impressionistically rather than logically” (p. 22), I disagree. The “expressive language” of Revelation supports the cognitive content (doctrines) of Revelation. J. J. Collins asserts that “The apocalyptic revelations are symbolic attempts to penetrate the darkness, which provide ways of imagining the unknown, not factual knowledge” (The Apocalyptic Imagination, 1984, p. 214; quoted p. 22). I would suggest, however, that Revelation depicts what is, basically, known from the Old Testament and the other New Testament documents.

In his outline of “Theological Themes and Emphases,” Reddish summarizes his view on the sovereignty of God, radical monotheism, exalted Christology, salvation, judgement and warning, non-violent lifestyle, and hope (pp. 26).

I found his discussion of the relationship between God and Christ quite inadequate. Although it is in some sense true that “there is no Nicene Creed in Revelation” (p. 24), I agree with Tremper Longman and others who argue that the Danielic Son of Man is both God and Man, and I also find that there is a broad range of evidence to support the Nicene Christology.

As to his discussion of salvation, judgement and warning, Reddish asserts that “The Apocalypse serves as a powerful warning that those who would be the people of God must be obedient to God” (p. 25). I find it quite lacking that Reddish does not discuss the role of faith and the relationship between faith and obedience.

Reddish does not include any discussion about specific end-time events. I am sympathetic to that. I do miss, however, a discussion of the relationship between Christology, salvation, and judgement.

As to the interpretive approach, Reddish takes issue – very much so – with the the type of interpretation popularised by the Scofield Reference Bible, Hal Lindsey, John Walvoord (pp. 26-29). According to Reddish, one must instead consider the socio-historical setting, the literary genre, the language and symbols of Revelation, and one must read it “imaginatively” (p. 28f). Revelation is open-ended and “does not have one meaning” (p. 29).

There are sidebars on the outline of Revelation, including interludes (p. 23), and on recommended resources (p. 27).

Reddish has also published “Martyr Christology in the Apocalypse,” <Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33 (1988): 85-95.

I found the reference to Reddish’s commentary on one of Dr. Loren Johns’s pages (a review of Loren Johns’s published thesis is in preparation, by the way).

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