October 2nd, 2009


Bushwhacking through Scripture

Our Wednesday Bible study group wanted to do Revelation, so I dusted off my notes and am helping them disentangle that beautiful but complicated book. I first led a study of Revelation fifteen years ago. collinsmom has been after me to write up my notes in book form ever since. Well, I'm finally doing that. I don't know that a commercial publisher would be interested, but at least I'll have the whole thing available to share.

I have always found Revelation to be deeply moving and soul-satisfying. The Gospels -- especially the synoptics -- leave me a little cold. When I started out in ministry, a lot of clergy liked preaching from the Prophets (so they could talk about their political agenda) and the Gospels (so they could moralize). Revelation doesn't lend itself to either.

I outgrew the breathless anticipation and puzzle-solving that keep so many prophecy-mongers going. Revelation seems more, well, liturgical to me. It's full of the language that we employ in our worship. Also, in Revelation things of cosmic and personal significance are demonstrated, not explained.

It helps to have a background in language and literature when studying the Bible -- especially Revelation. The first thing you've always gotta do is to OUTLINE the book. When you know how the structure supports itself, you've got a guide to understanding the contents. Then, too, you have to know your Old Testament, how the ancients used symbols, how poetry is made, ancient history, etc. Explaining all that is my job: part Professor of Ancient Literature, part Pastor.