in Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible
Publisher Brazos Press
This commentary, like each in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, is designed to serve the church--providing a rich resource for preachers, teachers, students, and study groups--and demonstrate the continuing intellectual and practical viability of theological interpretation of Scripture. In this addition to the series, Joseph Mangina offers a constructive ecclesiology for the role and mission of the church in the twenty-first century formed by a close examination of Revelation.
Joseph Mangina has written an insightful (but surprisingly brief, at just 288 pages), theological commentary on Revelation. One has to wonder if the editors decided 384 pages on Ezekiel from Robert Jensen was overkill and advised Mangina to be briefer, especially to help set his work apart from others in an era of much larger Revelation commentaries that seemingly take a ‘can’t see the forest for the trees’ approach to the book. Nevertheless, Mangina should’ve been given more space to flesh out the book of Revelation more. Discussion of every chapter of Revelation is succinct and well-written, replete with copious literary illustrations to help bolster the book’s imagery. In some ways, however, Mangina is too succinct, especially in his discussion of the book’s earlier chapters. He largely doesn’t champion any particular interpretative approach and takes a decidedly eclectic approach to the book. Also, he warmly challenges Dispensational Premillennialists, strongly implying that it’s an interpretative grid imposed upon the book of Revelation rather than interpretation derived from exegesis of the text of the book itself. Interestingly, Mangina, like Witherington, only sees the beast in Revelation 13 as a reference to Nero simply because he was the most evil figure to whom John’s original audience could compare him. He allows for a future Antichrist who will manifest himself before the eschaton. He assumes Revelation was written at a later date, sometime during the reign of Domination. There’s virtually no in-depth discussion of the preterist position to be found in this commentary, which is surprising, given Mangina’s expertise being in historical theology. Readers needing to research preterism will need to look elsewhere (e.g. Stephen S Smalley’s The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse). Discussion of Revelation Chapter 17 (The Great Whore) and Revelation Chapter 18 (The End of Babylon) are by far the most thought-provoking chapters in this commentary. Mangina accepts the negative feminine imagery in Chapter 17 as preserved for us in Revelation and doesn’t apologize for it as some commentators, wishing to score points with feminist interpreters, tend to do. His juxtaposition of The Great Whore with Daughter Zion (from Chapter 12) is excellent for preaching or teaching purposes. Mangina’s discussion of Babylon is the most theologically robust chapter in the commentary. He doesn’t telegate it to a first century coded reference for Rome. Instead, he strongly makes the case for it eventually coming to represent a future governmental system beyond the first century. He speaks of the ‘scope of Babylon’ that will be enlarged as the true eschatological end of the age draws closer. His discussion includes several penetrating insights that are particularly good for homiletical or pedagogical purposes. Mangina uses Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine and Jonathan Edwards as his conversation partners for his discussion of the Millennium in Chapter 20 (The Rule of the Saints). This provides a good historical overview of the millennial positions as well as discussion of why they developed. Rather than pick a side in the debate, Mangina looks at the positive aspects of each millennial position. The concluding discussion of Revelation 22 (‘Come, Lord Jesus!’) is a welcome antidote to futile date setting regarding Christ’s second coming. Preachers and teachers would do well to incorporate some of Mangina’s insightful comments on this issue into their own public proclamation and discussion. Throughout this commentary, Mangina develops a robust trinitarianism and ecclesiology, as well as theology of worship. Key Greek words of inherent theological importance found in each respective chapter are transliterated in italics and discussed. This is particularly helpful in helping the reader follow the overall message and narrative flow of Revelation. While Mangina’s commentary is very good, especially for teaching or preaching Revelation, It needs to be supplemented with another resource. For those desiring to bolster the theology of the book, either Richard Bauckham’s classic The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge University Press’ New Testament Theology) or Revelation (The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary) by John Christopher Thomas and Frank D. Macchia would be 2 excellent supplemental resources. While Mangina’s content is as good as Bauckham’s, he doesn’t strive hard enough or dig deeply enough in order to surpass it. This is a unfortunate missed opportunity on the part of both Mangina and the general editors of the commentary series. It’s surprising that Mangina didn’t select one of the larger commentaries on Revelation that were available when his was written (e.g. Aune, Beale, Osborne and Smalley, who endorses Mangina’s commentary) and fully interact with it. During my reading of Mangina, his commentary came across as an abridgment of Brian K. Blount’s Revelation: A Commentary (New Testament Library). Mangina’s commentary would’ve benefited from interaction with Blount, especially in areas where their theological conclusions diverge (Blount essentially replaces Mounce as a more up-to-date mid-level commentary on Revelation featuring full interaction with Beale and limited interaction with Osborne). Inclusion of interaction with Blount or one of the major Revelation commentaries would’ve greatly enhanced Mangina’s work. The biggest caveat with this commentary, about which potential readers ought to be made aware, is Mangina’s adherence to Karl Barth’s Neo-orthodox understanding that Scripture ‘becomes’ the Word of God once it is publicly preached, taught or performed theatrically or sung. Scripture is not inherently said to be the Word of God simply because God inspired it, regardless of whether or not people ever preach, teach or perform it. This doesn’t interfere with his explanation of Revelation as a whole, but it does show up occasionally when he discusses the topic of worship in the commentary. Mangina also does not attempt to decipher the meaning of each symbol in Revelation. Instead, he takes most of them at face value as John describes them. This avoids ‘news headline’ interpretation of the book and minimizes the amount of speculation within the commentary itself.