Friday, November 19, 2010 Review

As the semester has progressed, I find myself drawn away from Witherington more and more, not because of the heavy nature of his writing, but because I occasionally feel preached at when I read his work. As I’ve worked on my WikiBook entries, I always try to consult several different commentaries before culminating them into a mashed up version that is distinct, yet representative. For this website evaluation, I’ve decided to examine a commentary written by four men which is advertised as a “dynamic commentary” on the Book of Revelation.

At, there are three separate and distinct headings—The Revelation About Jesus Christ, A Dynamic Commentary, and Premillenial/Prewrath in Perspective—and then a paragraph describing how the website is a “beneficial study tool.” Shortly after, there are biographies on all four contributors—Robert van Kampen, Rev. Bill Lee-Warner, Rev. Charles Cooper, and Gary Vaterlaus—which are short, but contain enough information that one can gather they are well-educated people who are likely to write well. The page is not exactly eye-catching, but I don’t know that that was a major selling point for this website anyway.

Following the biographies of the contributors, there is a section where a PDF version of the commentary is available for free to download. This is a really nice feature that not many other sites have. They also have a version that can be downloaded to a Blackberry or other PDA so you can take their commentary on the road with you. While that doesn’t sound like something I need to do, I’m sure that would tickle someone’s fancy. Back above the biographies, there is a short paragraph that makes a few suggestions about what to read first, namely the Introduction, followed by the Overview, and then the Hermeneutical sections before starting in on a full reading, so as to understand the framework of the website before the reader delves in unprepared.

Finally, there is a table of contents that has each chapter in hyperlink format. I do wish that when I click on a hyperlink, it would open in a separate tab or window so I don’t have to keep pushing the back button, but alas, I did not design this website. The font is large and easy to read on the entire webpage, which is helpful when I am studying late at night and my eyes are about to fall out. Although there is nothing fancy, it is also good that it’s not overwhelming with the colors, fonts, and graphics.

So, on to analyzing the commentary. This website has an unusual way of presenting their information. They will have a quote from the book (which they do go through verse by verse) and there will be numbers interspersed throughout. Following each individual verse, the writers have a list of numbers that correlates to the numbers throughout the verse. Then they will explain the meaning for each indicated number. Here is an example:
Revelation 1:5A
and from (1) Jesus Christ, (2) the faithful witness, (3) the first-born of the dead, and the (4) ruler of the kings of the earth.
1. Jesus Christ = the third well-wisher indicated by John and described with three important phrases.
2. The faithful witness = the one who has shown his testimony through death. Therefore, Jesus is faithful in His communication of the Revelation.
3. The first-born of the dead = Jesus is the first member of a new people who have triumphed over death, (1 Cor. 15:23).
4. Ruler of the kings of the earth = depicts the Lord’s universal sovereignty.
John presents Jesus as the One whose death, resurrection and exaltation is sure.
I find this commentary quite refreshing because it is easy to read and understand and I don’t feel like I’m reading a chapter book about each verse. Another thing that I like, is that the way it is written is not preachy or in-your-face—it presents historically accurate facts, translated phrases and words, and interpretations that are fairly basic and not outwardly biased. The most interesting information to me are the translations from the original Greek, partly because the Bible has been translated so many times that it has departed in some instances from its original meaning.
The only place I’ve found straight-out opinion is after the numbered sections are completed, but before a new verse is mentioned. Here is an example:
While some would argue that Revelation 1:7 is a reference to the Lord’s return at Armageddon, a closer examination supports the parousia of Christ. This is when He gathers His church to heaven and begins to punish the wicked on earth with His Day of the Lord’s wrath. John uses the future tense to refer to the mourning of the wicked, i.e. they will mourn. John indicates that the wicked begin to mourn when the Lord is seen coming with the clouds and not before. Question: wouldn’t the wicked have already experienced God’s wrath in the form of the trumpets and bowl judgments if this were an Armageddon return? It is inconceivable that the wicked have experienced the wrath of God before the Lord’s return at Armageddon, but have not mourned. The only indication in the book of Revelation of the wicked mourning occurs in Revelation 6:15-17, which depicts the beginning of the Day of the Lord. (See later discussion on Revelation 6:12-17.) John indicates that the response of the wicked to the trumpet and bowl judgments is either a lack of repentance or men blasphemed God, but no mourning.
Even though these are examples of personal preference and interpretation coloring the writing, it’s set off from the factual writings so that the reader knows it is an opinion. The other thing about these personal opinions is that they are not preachy nor do they seem to scream what specific sect of Christianity the writers are.
Another interesting feature of this website is that the writers will sometimes compare excerpts of the Book of Revelation to other books in the Bible. This is helpful, especially when it’s a comparison to Daniel, the other semi-apoalyptic book in the Bible.
After all their commentary is done, they have a link to email them with any questions or comments. I find this website to be more of a factual re-stating of information than a shove-my-opinion-down-their-throats web commentary. I really appreciate this about because it’s something that isn’t very common in today’s world were everyone is trying to make their opinions known to the universe. The easy-to-read text, the table of contents, the slightly strange, but eventually very helpful numbering system, and the way personal comments are separated from professional ones make this website very helpful in my opinion. While not an in-depth commentary like Witherington, it is still beneficial to read, if only just to clarify details.

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