Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Store Now - Revelation

Another commentary on Revelation?  Do we really need it?  Of course we could ask this of any commentary but on Revelation it is particularly important.  I did a couple of studies of Revelation years ago but was quickly discouraged by them when I saw they were nothing more than wildly subjective interpretations based on no evidence at all.  Even when I went to Moody and Trinity I avoided discussions of Revelation because I didn't want to get involved in useless discussions of the meaning of 666 or the 144,000.  I didn't realize there was a much saner approach available.  When I saw this new commentary by Joseph L. Mangina I wasn't sure what to expect.  First of all it is a "theological" commentary on the Bible.  My impression of the Brazos Theological Commentaries has been mixed.  Some of them I love while others have been a disappointment.  Such is the case with any series (although to date I've been very happy with the BECNT and Pillar series).  Anyway, I have been skimming this commentary and the more I skim the more I'm impressed with what I see.  This is one of those commentaries that I've put on my "read all the way through" list.  Here's a sample of why I'm so happy with this commentary. 
“Yet when all has been said, it must be admitted that these middle chapters [6-18] remain rough going. Revelation is disconcertingly unsentimental in its portrayal of both God and evil. Indeed, much of the therapeutic force of the Apocalypse may well be to purge us of some of our fantasies concerning God. Rowan Williams writes that if one such fantasy is that of God as the classic Freudian father, ‘an authority figure who could sort out all our problems, who is always there on hand to help us out of situations where we would otherwise have to take responsibility,’ the opposite danger might be that of ‘projecting on to God the characteristics of an idealized mother, always accepting and soothing.’ On the other hand, God the ultimate daddy, endowed with the magical power to make everything right; on the other hand, God the great mommy, accepting us ‘just the way we are.’ It should be evident that both fantasies are grounded in a mixture of fear, self-love and the seemingly infinite human capacity for self-deception."
"The genius of Revelation, we might say, is that it helps to purge us of these and other such fantasies concerning God. God is not whatever we would like him to be. God is God. He is the Creator and Pantokratōr glimpsed in the heavenly worship—power indeed, but not power at human disposal and control—and he is also the Lamb, slaughtered victim-as-victor. If the image of the all-powerful God should free us from our sentimentalism concerning God, the image of the Lamb of God should free us from our fear. If there is a hermeneutic for interpreting the violent passages in Revelation it can be only the cross. ‘How could it be said more clearly,’ writes Jacques Ellul with penetrating insight, ‘that all that is read afterward [i.e., in the judgments of the seals, trumpets, and bowls], all these abominable things, are under the cover, under the signification, under the embrace of the love of the Lamb. And nowhere else. That all is situated in the cross of Jesus Christ, that these texts must not be read in themselves but only by relation to that love which sacrifices for those who hate it.’” (97)
And this,
“The wrath of the Lamb! This is indeed an unexpected twist. That the Father should be wrathful is not a totally unfamiliar idea, especially in the kind of theology where ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’ stands between sinful humanity and the Father’s judgment. On this reading, Jesus is the purely passive and human victim who absorbs or deflects the Father’s anger. The problem with this view is the sharp tension it seems to posit between the divine anger and the divine love, as also between the persons of the Trinity. It is much better to say that the divine wrath is the form that God’s love assumes when it encounters resistance on the part of the creature; it is the divine ‘no’ to the plight of humanity in this ‘present evil age’; and so Christ appears on the same side as the Father, as equally the agent of God’s love and his judgment. Jesus Christ is the judge—what conviction could be more fundamental to the whole New Testament witness?—and therefore, inevitably and necessarily, the executor of the wrath and judgment of God.” (106)
This is "theological" commentary at its best.  Do we need another commentary on Revelation?  When they're this well written and with such depth I have to say yes.  Revelation is from Brazos Press with 288 pages and sells for $29.99. 

Joseph Mangina, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, has taught at Wycliffe since 1998. Born and raised in New Jersey, he began his theological studies at Yale Divinity School. Two years of church work in the divided city of Berlin were followed by a return to Yale, where he completed a Ph.D. in systematic theology in 1994. His theological interests run the gamut from ecclesiology, biblical interpretation, Christianity and culture, to ecumenical theology. He serves on the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue commission for Canada.

No comments: