Sunday, July 24, 2005

Book Review: 'Revelation of Jesus Christ'

Renko Stefanovic's commentary on the biblical book of Revelation is one of the best I have seen for a number of reasons: Firstly, the introduction to the book clearly lays down the approach to interpreting Revelation. This introduction is worth its weight in gold. Stefanovic clearly discusses authorship, place and date of writing, the purpose of Revelation, traditional methods of interpretation, hermeneutical guidelines in studying Revelation, the symbolic nature of the book, objectives of his own commentary, suggestions that have been made for the literary arrangement of Revelation, and finally, the three-fold structure of Revelation that Stefanovic favors. Secondly, for each section of Revelation discussed, there are introductory remarks, the full text being studied, exegetical notes, and expositional commentary. Thirdly, Stefanovic has rigorously permitted the text to reveal its meaning rather than imposing preconceived understandings on the text. He surveys the four traditional approaches to Revelation - preterism, idealism, futurism, and historicism - and recognises the value of each but is a slave to none. His 'slavery' is to the text itself. Fourthly, there is an incredible wealth of information about the Old Testament background to Revelation which scholars agree is fundamental to know in order to understand the book. Fifthly, it is easy to read. Stefanovic writes in a respectfully understandable style, explaining terms clearly. Sixthly, Stefanovic is fair to various views about Revelation. He carefully surveys those he disagrees with and discusses their limitations before coming to his own. Stefanovic is a Seventh-day Adventist. This denomination is known for its emphasis on the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation. This may be of some concern to readers. However, Stefanovic has written for all Christians. There has been a tendency, in the past, for many Adventists to rely on their prophet, Ellen G White, to determine the meaning of Scripture. It is interesting to note that she is only referenced about 30 times in well over 600 pages of commentary. This is encouraging for an Adventist commentary. Stefanovic also draws on a vast range of scholars from many traditions. But the author does not seem to lose his goal of genuinely allowing the text itself to guide interpretation. In my view, there is much of value in this commentary, no matter from what Christian tradition a reader comes. Similarly, like all good books, there will be some things with which individual readers may disagree. But Stefanovic's writing style itself allows for that sort of 'conversation' with the ideas. The back cover of the book describes it thus:
Intended for both scholar and layperson, this verse-by-verse commentary outlines the thematic architecture of the Apocalypse to illuminate the unified message of the book. Providing both scholarly notes and lay-oriented exposition, this landmark work recommends itself for personal study and as a college and seminary text.
It is a landmark work, it is suitable for scholar and layperson, it is thematic in its approach, it does recommend itself for personal study as well as college and seminary study. Without a doubt, it would appear to be the best commentary on Revelation produced by a Seventh-day Adventist. Past works by Adventist authors have failed, overall, to produce a rigorous exegesis of the text. This is most definitely different and worthy of study by anyone interested in Revelation. Related Links

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