When I made the choice to go back to grad school to earn a second masters degree, I wanted to find my niche. I knew in a broad way that it would include the intersection between early Christianity the Roman Empire, but I struggled to narrow to a best possible focus. Revelation was in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t sure. And of course, you are thinking: everyone wants to study blood moons and raptures. But actually, I’ve purged all of that stuff from how I understand apocalyptic literature. I let all that get left behind. 🙂
During my first quarter at the University of Washington, I took a course that focused mostly on the development of Jesus movements from the second century CE forward. However, Professor Williams decided that we’d also turn our attention to one piece of literature from the late first century CE: Revelation.
This was already a profound area of interest, so I was overjoyed when it came up in class. In fact, I spent that first quarter mapping out Revelation in two different research papers.
Although I eventually migrated my interest over to the Apostle Paul, my interest in Revelation remains strong. I’ve spent the past couple of years, in whatever spare time I could muster, following the rabbit trails necessary to get my hands on the most innovative, helpful, and reliable commentary resources on Revelation.
Not every resource that I list here will be a “commentary” in the proper sense (meaning, a study that systematically walks through a biblical text section by section). However, everything in this list will be helpful in understanding this mysterious apocalyptic text, in its late-first century historical context.
In other words, these will not focus on fancy theories about the rise of an antichrist, a future seven year tribulation, rapture, or blood moons. Context matters when we read apocalyptic
In the following two lists, I will use a [*] to note resources that use a bit more academic language.
The Best Commentaries on Revelation
Here are my favorite commentaries on Revelation. Of course, there are other great Bible commentaries on this book. But hopefully my list will get you started:
- Revelation (commentary) by Ben Witherington III*
- Revelation (NCCS) by Gordon Fee*
- Revelation (Interpretation) by Eugene Boring*
- Revelation: Believers Bible Commentary by John Yeats
- Revelation for Everyone by N.T. Wright
The Best Books About Revelation
- Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins by Steven J. Friesen*
- Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now (Bible & Liberation) by Wes Howard-Brook, Anthony Gwyther*
- Reading the Book of Revelation: A Resource for Students (Resources for Biblical Study) by David L. Barr*
- Seeing Things John’s Way by David deSilva*
- Crisis and Catharsis: The Power of the Apocalypse, Adela Yarbro Collins*
- The Book of Revelation: Justice and Judgment, Elisabeth Schèussler Fiorenza*
- In the Shadow of Empire (See Greg Carey’s chapter, “The Book of Revelation as Counter-Imperial Script”) edited by Richard Horsley*
- Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation by J. Nelson Kraybill*
- New Testament Cities in Western Asia Minor: Light from Archaeology on Cities of Paul and the Seven Churches of Revelation, Edwin M.Yamauchi*
- The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts by Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald*
- The Theology of the Book of Revelation (New Testament Theology), Richard Bauckham*
- The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation, Richard Bauckham*
- God’s Timetable: The Book of Revelation and the Feast of Weeks, Daniel F. Stramara Jr. (offers a Jewish perspective)*
Best Introduction Level Resources on Revelation
- Reading Revelation Responsibly by Michael Gorman (Stop all research and start here)
- The Good News of Revelation by Ed Cyzewski and Helyer (and also start here)
- The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, Barbara R. Rossing (then go here…. one of the best resources!!!)
- (FOR PREACHERS) – Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey Through the Book of Revelation, Darrell Johnson
- Three Months with Revelation, Justo L. González
- Reversed Thunder by Eugene Peterson
- Unholy Allegiances: Heeding Revelation’s Warning by David deSilva
- Seven Deadly Spirits: The Message of Revelation’s Letters for Today’s Church, T. Scott Daniels
- Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, Elaine Pagels
So which commentaries or other resources do you find helpful? Leave a comment and let us all know!
Author: Kurt Willems
Kurt Willems is a pastor, author, and spiritual director. His first book, Echoing Hope: How the Humanity of Jesus Redeems our Pain, releases in March 2021. Kurt is also the host of the Theology Curator podcast. He has a master of divinity degree from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and a master of arts in comparative religion from the University of Washington.
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