Friday, November 19, 2010

Munson's Commentary on Revelation 21-22:5

The book of Revelation can often times be confusing to read and interpret. The numerous accounts of symbolism lead many to write false or vague commentaries about the Biblical book. Unfortunately many of these commentaries make it onto the World Wide Web for everyone to read and possibly believe. The purpose of this paper is to clear up some misunderstandings and vagueness in the commentary from the This website provides a commentary for every chapter of the book, I have chose to specifically focus on Revelation 21:22:5. This commentary is sufficient for someone wanting to know the basic facts, but beyond that, it is weak because the author remains on the surface rather than digging deeper into the word, presents opinion derived statements with little facts, and does not make appropriate connections with other books of the Bible. In this website critique I will focus primarily on the author’s depiction of the New Jerusalem, the absence of the temple in the new city, and how the author fails to make connections with other parts of the Bible.

The author of this online commentary is Reverend Herbert Melville Munson, Jr. Munson describes himself as being an everyday man who has two degrees in religious studies. His goal is to write commentaries on Revelation, Daniel, Genesis, and Matthew. His Revelation 21-22:5 commentaries are a part of his book about called Strange Work. This specific segment was written to give a “glimpse beyond our present world and universe to a city He has been preparing for us (John 14:13) and the new creation in which it will reside” (Munson).

While the book of Revelation is open to many interpretations, I feel as though Reverend Munson has over generalized his interpretation of this important chapter. This over generalization makes his commentary easy to read, but it lacks insightfulness and impact on the reader. One generalization appears in 21:2 when Munson describes the New Jerusalem as being “the centerpiece, main attraction, and greatest treasure” (Munson). While these phrases accurately describe the verse, the author fails to touch upon the early Jewish thoughts about this “New Jerusalem.” According to Witherington, the early Jewish people thought this new city would replace the only Jerusalem on Earth, and it would be a place where “the saints would enjoy God forever” (Witherington). By staying surfaced, Munson loses some of the significance of this “New Jerusalem.”

Another problem I see with Munson’s commentary is his lack of connection with the Old Testament. There are numerous times in Revelation in which John refers to events that have occurred in the Old Testament. Sometimes knowing the information about these events helps one to better understand what John is referring to in the Revelation. For example, in 21:22, John explains how the New Jerusalem does not have a temple. Those reading Munson’s commentary could possibly miss this significance because the author does not mention why the absence of a temple is important. Instead, he primarily states, “there is no designated place of worship because there is no need for it” (Munson). This surfaced level answer fails to mention why the temple was so important in the Old Testament. Based on the teachings from my Bible class, the temple was vital because it was said that in this place of worship the “glory of God” resided. This is also where many of the Israelites felt closest to God. According to Witherington, the absence of the temple in the new city means, “there is no more separation of secular and sacred zones, no more separation between God and God’s people” (Witherington 271). Had Munson commented on these facts, his argument would have been stronger.

When discussing the new city without the temple the author also fails to draw a connection between Ezekiel’s visions of the temple. After reading Witherington’s commentary comparing the two, I feel as though this is a significant point that should be touched upon when writing a commentary on these chapters. According to Witherington, the main difference between John’s vision and Ezekiel’s is the size of the area. John’s vision is merely “2,000 times larger.” “Here the city is being measured to show its magnitude. In Ezekiel the measuring if for the sake of showing how much needs protection” (Witherington 270). This proof from Witherington’s book does not go to prove that Witherington is right and Munson is wrong, I just feel as though Munson is vague in his interpretation of this verse and could benefit from Witherington’s thoughts.

Beyond the facts in the commentary, I see one major mistake that the author made when writing. Munson constantly uses phrases like: “I think… I believe… I am sure…” As an outsider reading this, I do not take Munson to be very credible because of the terminology he uses. Not only does his phrasing make him appear questionable, but the author also does not site any sources in his commentary. Therefore, it can be assumed that these are purely his thoughts and there is no research involved. The only source I noticed in this website is the use of Wikipedia. Therefore, the evidence speaks for itself that this commentary is not accurate. (Note: This is not saying that all things on Wikipedia are wrong. Because of course, if this had been written within in the past semester Munson would have obtained information from our amazing class revisions of Revelation.)

Despite the many questionable portions of Munson’s commentary he does do a diligent job describing verse 21:6. In this verse it states, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. I will give unto him the that is a thirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Revelation 21:6). Munson focuses primarily on the latter part of this verse referring to the “fountain of water.” He refers to the Lord’s promises made in John 7:37 (“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”) and John 10:27-28 where John mentions how eternal life is given to us from the Father and allows us to never perish. Drawing these connections helped to strengthen this portion of Munson’s commentary because it gives readers a view outside of Revelation and also allows them to make a connection between Revelation and the gospel of John.

Munson’s surface level analysis of chapter 21 in the book of Revelation makes it hard to extract meaning from this commentary. For someone who is not well versed in Revelation or the Bible, it is possible that this commentary would be useful for him or her to learn basic facts about the chapter, but it is nearly impossible to obtain insightful and meaningful information from this chapter. I would suggest that the author do more in depth research on the book of Revelation and make many revisions to his work.


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