Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Evangelicals and the Book of Revelation

In a recent essay, Adela Yarbro Collins says this:

“[E]vangelical and other conservative Christians of our time who can read or hear the apocalyptic narratives of the New Testament in a way similar to the precritical, realistic mode described by Hans Frei. Some of these readers, like Hal Lindsey, take the texts literally and still work at harmonizing their diverse perspectives and expectations. Others take them seriously, but not quite so literally. The important thing for them is the fulfilment of prophecies about the return of Christ and the last judgement, to be followed by appropriate rewards and punishments.”

Adela Yarbro Collins, “Apocalypticism and New Testament Theology,” in The Nature of New Testament Theology, eds. Christopher Rowland and Christopher Tuckett (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 43.

Question: Is this an accurate depictions of how Evangelicals read the book of Revelation? Would you pin this description on either Gregory Beale, Ben Witherington or Grant Osborne?


Alan S. Bandy said...

This quote, although perceptive, is a classic example of over generalization. Beale, Witherington, and Osborne cannot be so easily pigeon-holed.

Yet, another book to add to my Amazon wishlist.

David Mackinder said...

is the first part of your quotation accurate? The rest of the comment identifies two types of evangelical response, but it is not clear that these are the only two the author envisages, or that evangelicals would necessarily read apocalyptic 'in a way similar to the precritical, realistic mode'.

Andy Rowell said...

Not only is there confusion about evangelicals at the scholarly level. It is rampant in the media. Over the last month CNN and other news channels have been featuring "evangelicals" (actually independent wacky fundamentalists who call themselves evangelicals) who are predicting Armageddon based on the conflict of Israel with Hezbollah. (Hmm . . . I haven't heard so much from them since the ceasefire . . .)
See my post on this with some video of CNN

I would add Craig Keener as another evangelical scholar who would not fit the generalization.

Still, we as evangelicals, bear part of the blame for the confusion because of the varied wackiness done in the evangelical name. When will evangelical scholarship on Revelation trickle down to the local churches?

Andy Rowell
Taylor University
Department of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry
Blog: Church Leadership Conversations

Andy Rowell said...

Michael and Joel,
This is unrelated but I thought you would want to know that Blogger is getting new features:

Blogger in Beta

tony siew said...

Hi Michael,

It is difficult to pin down broad evangelical interpretation of
Revelation though I have read all the three you mentioned plus Keener as well.

Witherington's commentary is not the best compared to some of his excellent commentataries like Corinthians, and books on Paul and Jesus. Beale has interesting insights but often spiritulize what appears to be literal, for example, how can nations trample the holy city/temple if Beale claims the temple is the heavenly temple (Rev 11:2). Osborne is better in many ways at least he is one of the very few that thinks the two witnesses can mean both individual prophets and churches. It is 'both' 'and' and not 'either' 'or'.

It is unfair and will not do justice to these evangelical scholars just to make some brief remarks. In my book I interacted quite a fair bit with all three especially Beale. I hope to post more on this in my blog in the near future.

On Hailey's predictive prophecy - current events approach, I see none of it in Revelation until the very end-time especially in the last 3 and half years.

Nowhere in Revelation talks about pre-tribulation rapture. All Christians will go through persecution and tribulation until Christ returns (Rev 11-14).

The Lebanon war has nothing to do with Revelation. It is Israel's miscalculation to attack Lebanon. The two wars which Israel started they lost. Whenever their existence is at stake (1948, 1957, 1967, 1973), God will come to their rescue. But I will say more on this.

Thanks and keep up the great posts.

Alyosha said...

Michael: Collins is not, I assume, referring to Evangelical scholarship but rather the masses, right?

Most of us tend to fit into the second category described above. We wouldn't go so far as to endorse Lindsey's approach but we still minimize all historically-conditioned content and search for prophecy fulfillment and try to figure out what will happen at the last judgement.

We still don't know how to read "apocalyptic narrative." I would have to echo Andy Rowell: "When will evangelical scholarship on Revelation trickle down to the local churches?"

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

It is not a bad shot coming from A.Y.Collins. Talking about Hal Lindsey in 2006 seems a little odd, do people really read him now? Were J.Walvoord and D.Pentecost evangelicals?

Ken Schenck said...

I would say, first, that the term fundamentalist has gradually disappeared from American use in relation to individuals like Jerry Falwell (who?) and such. Those who might formerly have fit under such an umbrella now call themselves "evangelicals" and the media has followed suit. But I would not categorize Hal Lindsay or, for that matter, Tim LaHaye so much as either evangelicals or even as fundamentalists. Their paradigm is only a little different from the pre-moderns of the sort that Hans Frei himself was describing from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Not that I condemn them--only mean to describe the absence of any distinction between story and history (not even to defend their identity).