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Friday, January 16, 2015

"Revelation" Teach The Text Commentary (J. Scott Duvall)

TITLE: Revelation (Teach the Text Commentary Series)
AUTHOR: J. Scott Duvall
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014, (352 pages).

Continuing a very promising series of commentaries aimed at helping preachers of the Word study, expound, and share the biblical texts more vibrantly, Baker Books have engaged some top scholars and theologians in this amazing last book of the Bible: Revelation. The "Teach the Text Commentary Series" are meant to enable teachers to have the best of both worlds: Comprehending ancient contexts/texts and communicating to modern audiences. The table of contents clearly lay out the format of the entire book, with chapters and verses carefully distinguished and a brief title to help prepare the reader to anticipate what is to come. Like a typical commentary, there are no chapter numbers, only a chapter and verses to distinguish one "chapter" from the next. Each chapter maintains a strict format.
  • A "Big Idea" to drive home the main purpose
  • "Key Themes" to show the main ideas in the passage concerned
  • A very readable "Understanding the Text" that makes the mainstay of the commentary, which comprises contextual description, an outline for teaching, historical and cultural uniquenesses, interpretive and theological insights, plus useful tips for preaching
  • "Teaching the Text" is a gem for teachers as they find the material ready for emphasis and creative communicating
  • "Illustrating the Text" gives preachers and teachers some material to further communicate the biblical principles using stories and illustrations.

Often referred to with some fear and trepidation, the author help to calm such readers by assuring them that Revelation is not that intimidating to study and more importantly, a book that believers would need to hear. Calling it "powerful and provocative," Professor Scott Duvall is a trusted guide to give us the tools and teaching resources in appreciating, understanding, and teaching the book of Revelation. Duvall believes that the authorship is John, the disciple of Christ. He believes that the book was written at a "later date" due to compelling external evidences. Revelation needs to be understood as a time where the believers face a "dual threat of persecution and compromise." It was also to counter an erroneous legend that the cruel Nero who died would be resurrected again. It answers the chief question: "Who is Lord of the Universe?" Even as it warns believers about impending trials, it also proclaims hope and future glory. Revelation as prophecy contains both a predicting as well as a proclaiming aspect, referred to sometimes as "foretelling" and "forthtelling" respectively. This is important because many tend to see Revelation as some sort of a spiritual crystal ball into the future. It is also an "apocalypse" which is essentially another word for revelation.

Duvall does a good job summarising the five major interpretations: preterist, historicist, futurist, idealist, and eclectic. Without judging any of these, he puts forth his interpretive principles as follows:
  • It is a serious message to the original audience, like the seven churches mentioned are actual churches existing then
  • There are limits to literal interpretations here
  • Learn to ask what levels the passage is saying: vision? text? referent? rhetorical? theological?
  • outlining the book according to how the past, present and future are unveiled forward

Duvall gives two helpful outlines, a brief and a detailed one. The former can be used as a preaching outline while the latter can be used for more in-depth Bible study. I like the way he retrains himself fro judging the different interpretations but offer them up as information for the reader. He leaves the issue of premillennialists/amillennialists/postmillennialists toward the end of the book before sharing his own perspective of it.

Just reading the commentary is very enjoyable because of the format and design. There are italics to emphasize the main points, boxes to remind readers of the main themes of the passage, and easy to follow pointers to teach or preach. I like the way the seven churches are contrasted and compared with clarity. The carefully selected pictures complement the texts well though I would appreciate them to be of a higher resolution. Of course, that would mean the digital edition would be much bigger and difficult to load, which is why I recommend getting the printed copy instead.

For teachers and preachers, this work is godsend as it is designed from the perspective of a teacher looking for the best way to teach the Bible. The author truly understands what teachers typically look for, and incorporates many of the pedagogical formats teachers would appreciate. For preachers, the point forms provide some form of a preaching guide. I would caution however, that every preaching needs to be unique, and this commentary to be used as a supplement, not a replacement for exegesis, hermeneutics, and homiletics. For scholars, this work would be underwhelming, but again, it is a commentary meant more for teaching instead of advanced academic work.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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