"The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text" by G. K. Beale

Steven M. Baugh
Tuesday, June 12th 2007
Mar/Apr 2001

G. K. Chesterton expressed the opinion of many when he wrote: "Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators." Too true too often. One antidote, however, would be a judicious, scholarly commentary based on the Apocalypse's Greek text. It must deal with the Greek text, because John often does things which are quite exceptional and impossible to translate. And it must recognize that Revelation's visionary tapestry is woven from threads stretching far back into the Old Testament revelation.

We do have some serviceable commentaries and general introductory texts for Revelation, but nothing that goes into the kind of depth that the Apocalypse deserves. Enter Gregory Beale's 1,245-page contribution to The New International Greek Testament Commentary series. Dr. Beale, until recently Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and now holding the Kenneth T. Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies in the Graduate Theological Studies program at Wheaton College, has produced what is now the best single commentary available on Revelation.

Professor Beale's strengths make him particularly suited for producing a lasting commentary on Revelation. He handles John's Greek with sensitivity and skill. He has already done quite a bit of work on the use of Old Testament texts in the New Testament and some work (including his dissertation from Cambridge University) specifically on the use of Old Testament texts in the Apocalypse. In addition, he has studied ancient Jewish interpretation methods. He also knows the scholarship and the various views on Revelation, with which he interacts fairly but not so much that his own helpful insights get lost in clutter, as so often happens in scholarly works.

Perhaps the best way to judge the usefulness of a commentary is to go to the passages that you feel you already know thoroughly and see if the commentator gives you new insights from the text. I did that with Beale's book and was consistently helped. His knowledge of the ancient Jewish and Rabbinic sources was particularly helpful to me, though I think he would admit that he could add a little more firsthand knowledge of relevant Greco-Roman primary sources. This small caveat aside, this commentary will be a lasting contribution. Obviously, a technical commentary such as this is designed for people who know Greek, but Beale does provide translation of Greek words, so it can be used profitably by anyone.

Tuesday, June 12th 2007

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