Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary • Loren Johns and Nelson Kraybill • July 2002
Keep a (legible!) notebook of your reflections on the book of Revelation. The purpose is to produce your own file of insights that may be useful later for teaching, preaching, and further study. Loose-leaf format is ideal, since it permits you to insert additional material. It is more important to engage the text with real questions and provocative reflection than to be “right” (though you need to give evidence of meaningful interaction with other scholars). Date each of your entries.
Give yourself enough time to have fun preparing for class time. Come to class prepared to share your insights, questions, surprises, excitement, or even confusion about what is going on in the text.
Wrestle with the text on your own—and make notes of that—before you consult a commentary. What surprises you here? What words or terms are new to you or seem especially significant in this passage? What appears here that you did not expect or which seems odd? Does the author say anything you find hard to accept? Note that identifying what surprises you is a helpful exercise in discovering what may not fit into your preconceived notions about this passage. Do not use commentaries or other secondary literature as a crutch to avoid your own study. Nevertheless, check Eugene Boring’s commentary and perhaps one other commentary to see what you might have missed in your study of this passage. Do not believe what anyone says (including the professors) without weighing it. Make some notes from that reading, including any observations on how the commentator changed your mind, shed new light, or is obviously wrong! Whenever possible, include the chapter and verse from Revelation that illustrates or locates what you are writing about.
As you read and study, keep the following principles in mind:
a. Look again! Don’t assume: observe what the text actually says!
b. Cite your sources.
c. Use commentaries … not as a crutch to avoid your own work, but to see what you missed. Do your own study, make your own observations first, then consult a commentary or two.
d. Be sure to ask, “So what?” What is the bottom line? What may be some implications for your life or the life of the church today (worth careful thought, meditation, quietness, prayer, and testing with others)?
i. Historical perspective and historical distance. How has this passage typically been interpreted or used in the community of believers?
ii. Canonical context. How does this passage’s place within the Bible as a whole modify our understanding of its message? Do other biblical texts present a different perspective?
iii. Agreement with the life and teachings of Jesus. How should the idea that God is revealed most fully in the life, teachings, and death of Jesus affect how we interpret this passage?
iv. What can we learn about God in this passage? about Christ? about the Holy Spirit? about Christian discipleship? about the church and its mission in the world? about the future hope of Christians?
v. Personal appropriation. How is God speaking to you personally through this passage?
Do not feel limited by the study guides: also ask your own questions and address matters that are of particular interest to you! It often is helpful to look up Old Testament parallels to phrases and images in Revelation. Use the references and footnotes in a study bible, or look up Old Testament references in the textual apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Greek text. Write down questions that surface for you for which you would like answers.
Come to class prepared to put forward your ideas and insights during seminar time.