A Review of “Interpreting the Book of Revelation”
It seems that today’s popular culture has been saturated with references and allusion to the Book of Revelation. There are countless television specials, depicting the catastrophes that are to befall the earth at the end of time, and it seems impossible to escape Revelation inspired phrases like “The Antichrist.” This persistent fascination with the gore and drama present in the Book of Revelation might lead one to expect the internet to be overrun with websites proffering any and every wild or biased interpretation of the Book of Revelation that has ever come to mind. The last thing one might expect to discover on the internet is a clear, educational, and impartial website. The Christian Resource Institute’s webpage entitled, “Interpreting the Book of Revelation,” is therefore and exciting and refreshing discovery. The webpage provides clear, educational, and relatively impartial information about how any interested person may read and interpret the Book of Revelation.
When examining, “Interpreting the Book of Revelation,” the first feature that is immediately striking is the clarity with which the webpage presents the information, which in turn, establishes a tone of professionalism and authority. From first glance, it is easy to see that the information that is being presented is highly organized into an outline format. Within this one webpage, there are three headings, all which have been centered on the page, and made to stand out through different colored type and bold type face. These headings include, “Interpreting the Book of Revelation,” “Views of the Time Frame of the Book of Revelation,” and, “Contents of the Book of Revelation.” By providing such clear headings, the reader immediately knows what to expect. There are no real surprises for the reader, which is important because it is this clarity that separates intellectual, professional webpage from other amateur, less credible webpages. In addition to providing broad headings, the author further outlines the presented information under each heading. In the first section, the author includes three sub-headings labeled, “The Nature of Scripture,” “The Nature of the Book of Revelation,” and, “Interpreting the Book”. In the second section, the author enumerates the various time frames before providing an explanation, and then in the third section, the author very clearly outlines the structure of the Book of Revelation itself. By establishing this comprehensible organizational structure, the reader feels much more at ease with the information being provided. This sort of structure is really no different than the types of organization found in academic textbooks. Therefore the reader is able to easily navigate the complicated groupings of information.
The clarity of the webpage is further enhanced by the fact that the webpage responsibly identifies its authorship and provides plainly noted citations for information from sources outside the webpage itself. Underneath the very first heading, as well as under the two subsequent headings, the author of the webpage is clearly identified as Dennis Bratcher. Additionally, Bratcher cites Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart’s book, How to Read the Bible for all its Worth, on two occasions. By taking the time to provide the reader with these pieces of information, the Christian Resource Institute is ensuring that there is no confusion about the authority of the sources. With the names of both the author and the outside sources, any informed reader can investigate the credentials of any of the individuals and further vet the authority and general reliability of this webpage. The result of the Institute’s thoroughness in the construction and attribution of the webpage is a very clear webpage that presents itself in a professional and authoritative manner.
While the webpage’s clarity immediately sets it apart from the vast majority of any group of webpages on the internet, the fact that the information provided on the Christian Resource Institute’s webpage is intended to educate the readers by providing useful guidelines as well as definitions of terminology often used in the interpretation and discussion of the Book of Revelation. Perhaps one of the best examples of the webpage’s educational value is found in section one, under the third Roman numeral, entitled, “Interpreting the Book.” Directly under this heading, Dennis Bratcher explains that the subsequent bullet points are, “Several principles need[ed] to guide any study of the Book of Revelation.” Even from the tone of this statement, it is obvious that Bratcher is framing the presented information in such a way as to educate the reader, or more specifically, provide the reader with the tools to more thoroughly examine the Book of Revelation itself as well as any interpretation the reader may choose to examine. This feature is further substantiated by Bratcher’s principles like, “The rich and varied cultural context of the ancient world must be the frame of reference for interpreting the names and symbols of the book, but also with a sensitivity to how creatively they are used in the book.” In this particular principle, Bratcher is providing the reader with of the most fundamental skills required when reading any piece of literature, including the Book of Revelation. Bratcher is reminding the reader that literature should be read within in its own contexts and with the original audiences in mind. In doing so, Bratcher is equipping his readers to competently examine the Book of Revelation and other interpretations of the work.
In addition to providing edifying guidelines to his readers, Bratcher also takes the time to define some of the terminology common to biblical discussions. For example, when Bratcher is relaying information about the nature of scripture, he takes the time to define the term, exegesis. Bratcher explains that exegesis is a way of understanding, “As much as possible, what the text would have communicated in the context of the time and culture that produced and used it, while still understanding that our questions are conditioned by our own language, culture, and history and so provide only one angle of vision into the text.” In this explanation, Bratcher is not only explaining the actual process that takes place when scholars interpret the Book of Revelation, he is also providing essential definitions to an audience that would otherwise be completely lost in the vocabulary of such discussions, therefore, enabling readers to participate in such discussions. In the very next bullet point, Bratcher includes another definition, this time for the term, hermeneutics. Bratcher defines hermeneutics as an understanding of the text that conveys a message about, “What that community tells us about God, about us, and about how we should relate to God.” Once again, Bratcher is providing a clear definition that eliminates any confusion that might result from a reader being unfamiliar with any of the terminology common to discussions surrounding the Book of Revelation and other biblical texts. In doing so, Bratcher is creating an educated audience that can not only understand the arguments made in any interpretation of the Book of Revelation, but an audience that is capable of examining the Book of Revelation on their own and drawing informed conclusions.
While it is extremely refreshing to find a webpage that is both clear in its construction and educational in its content, the most interesting aspect of the webpage is the overall tone of impartiality. With the multitude of theories concerning how the world will end circulating, it is surprising to find a webpage that does push one single interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Throughout the entire webpage, Bratcher provides only information to the readers to facilitate the audience’s ability to decide for themselves how to interpret the Book of Revelation. For example, Bratcher enumerates and explains various views of time frames through which one can read the Book of Revelation. Bratcher includes everything from a futurist time frame, to historicist and theological time frames, and Bratcher explains each theory without giving any preference to one over the other. In doing this, Bratcher is not formulating an interpretation which he is asking the readers to believe without cause. What Bratcher is really doing, is providing the audience with the simple tools to create their own interpretation: He is creating an informed and aware audience.
The internet is a source of any and all information on any topics, especially the Book of Revelation. Many of these webpages lack credibility and impartiality; however, if one looks hard enough, it is possible to find some webpages that buck this trend. The webpage entitled, “Interpreting the Book of Revelation,” published by the Christian Resource Institute, not only refuses to fit these stereotypes, the webpage establishes its credibility by clearly structuring the included information and clearly citing the sources, and maintains an educational and impartial tone.