BIB525: The Revelation to John: Course Syllabus


            Course:  BIB525—The Revelation to John—July 2002

     Instructors:  Loren L. Johns and J. Nelson Kraybill

              Email: and

Course Description

A study of the Revelation to John. Emphasis will be placed on the text itself with a two primary foci. First, what was the author’s original intent for his readers in the first century c.e.? Second, what can and does this book mean for the Christian church today? Themes discussed will include:

(1)   the nature and function of apocalyptic literature in John’s day;

(2)   the life setting of the seven churches of Revelation;

(3)   how interpreters today in situations of oppression have found hope, encouragement, and empowerment in Revelation;

(4)   how Revelation speaks to the issue of allegiance to church and state; and

(5)   what Revelation has to say about the past, the present world, and the future.

Goals and Objectives

1. Gain first-hand knowledge of and familiarity with the text of Revelation.

2. Learn about the life situation of the people living in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, the seven churches to which this book was written.

3. Learn and practice several interrelated skills:

(a)  the skill of critical thinking (the ability to articulate and evaluate alternative solutions to a problem, assessing the statements and opinions of others, and articulating the reasons for the preferred solution);

(b)  the skill of inductive Bible study (including the joy and excitement of self-directed study with minimal secondary guidance); and

(c)   the skill of theological hermeneutics: how to articulate the meaning of an ancient writing for people of faith today.

Strategy: Course Requirements

Required Reading

Bauckham, Richard. The Theology of Revelation. New Testament Theology Series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Boring, M. Eugene. Revelation. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989.

Howard-Brook, Wes, and Anthony Gwyther. Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1996.

[Three-hour students must also read the introduction to Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s Proclamation commentary; her article on Revelation in The New Testament and Its Modern Interpreters; Tales of the End, by David Barr; Comfort and Protest, by Allan Boesak; and Engaging the Powers, by Walter Wink. (Those students who have already read Engaging the Powers may substitute Triumph of the Lamb, by Ted Grimsrud; and The Choice Between Two Cities, by Barbara Rossing.) Students will be asked to report at the end of the class how much of the reading they have done.]


Recommended Reading

Barr, David. Tales of the End: A Narrative Commentary on the Book of Revelation. Polebridge Press, 1998.

Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.

Grimsrud, Ted. Triumph of the Lamb: A Self-Study Guide to the Book of Revelation. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1986.

Rossing, Barbara. The Choice Between Two Cities: Whore, Bride, and Empire in the Apocalypse. Harvard Theological Studies 48. Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1999.


Research, Writing, and Presentation

1. An exegetical and theological notebook. This notebook will form the heart of your work for this class and will count for 50% of your grade (40% for three-hour students). It will consist of your thoughts and reflections on your reading, on the text of Revelation, sermons, and especially your answers to the assigned questions for that day. The notebook (or at least the relevant section) will be handed in daily. All entries should be dated. Portions handed in late will be subject to a one-grade reduction for every day late.

2. A five- to eight-page research paper (20-page research paper for three-hour students) on one of the images of Revelation (i.e., lamb, lion, angel, stone, two witnesses, keys, beast, etc.), analyzing the origins of that image in the cultural and religious traditions of John’s day, as well as the force of that image as it is used in Revelation. Topics for this paper will be negotiated between the students and the professors. This paper is due Aug. 2.

3. Student presentation. Two students will cooperate in doing a ten-minute introduction to the exegetical discussion the second hour of class each day.


Attendance and Participation

Essential to the success of this class will be regular attendance and participation in class. Students should come prepared to discuss the readings assigned for each day as well as the passage assigned in Revelation. Students should come ready to share with the rest of the persons in the class their insights, questions, surprises, excitement, and even confusion about what is going on in the text, even when they are not on the schedule to present. Class participation will be a factor in the final grade.


Be careful not to copy anyone else’s work without documentation or to represent anyone else’s work as your own. This applies not only to published sources, whether printed or electronic (such as works on cd–rom or on the Internet), but also to the work of your colleagues. For further explanation about what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, see Rules for Writers: A Brief Handbook, by Diana Hacker, 4th ed. (Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000), pp. 392–394, 399–402, available in the seminary bookstore.

A Note about Work Load

            The nominal work load for courses at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary is that the average student should figure on three hours of work outside of class for every hour in class in order to get an average passing grade for the course. Although some time can be spent before the first day of class in reading as well as after the class in reading and writing, you should consider this class a fulltime job. If you know now that your summer is too full to invest this sort of time in this course, you might consider whether you would get more out of the course if you were to take it at a later time.


Approximate Grade Weighting

  • Two-hour students: Exegetical and theological notebook, 50%; paper, 25%; class presentation and participation, 25%.
  • Three-hour students: Exegetical and theological notebook, 40%; paper, 40%; class presentation and participation, 20%.


The Revelation to John: Class Schedule


   Date                Readings                                Theme

Before July 15       Revelation, by Boring, 1–62        [Interview church members about Revelation]

                               Unveiling Empire, by Howard-Brook

                              and Gwyther (300 pp.)

  July 15                                                                      Introduction to Class [LLJ walks thru syllabus]

                                                                                    Introductory Lecture [JNK]

                                                                                    Jewish & Christian Apocalyptic Literature [LLJ]

                                                                                    Discuss interviews (The Book of Revelation in the Church) and Unveiling Empire [JNK]

  July 16                Boring, 63–85                              Revelation 1 [LLJ]

                              Revelation [in one sitting]        The “Imminent End” as a Theological Problem [LLJ]

                                                                                    The Purpose of the Apocalypse [LLJ]

  July 17                Boring, 85–101                            Revelation 2–3 [LLJ]

                                                                                    Revelation 2–3 in Literary Perspective [LLJ]

                                                                                    The Seven Churches in Historical Perspective [JNK]

  July 18                Boring, 101–119                          Presentation by Greg Buchner and Jared Jennette

                                                                                    Revelation 4–5 [LLJ]

                                                                                    The Lamb Christology of Revelation [LLJ]

  July 19                Boring, 119–149                          Presentation by Penny Sharky and Todd Lehman

                                                                                    Revelation 6–11 [JNK]

                                                                                    Worship in the Book of Revelation [JNK]

  July 22                Boring, 149–172                          Presentation by Jay Conn and Matt Flinner

                                                                                    Revelation 12–14 [JNK]

                                                                                    Revelation and the Emperor Cult [JNK]

  July 23                Boring, 172–189                          Presentation by Jeremy Garber and Karen Weldy Kaufman

                                                                                    Revelation 15–18 [JNK]

                                                                                    Spiritual and Scriptural Resources in Times of Persecution [TK]

                                                                                    Revelation and Empire: The Spirituality of Consumerism [JNK]

  July 24                Boring, 191–231                          Presentation by Mike Dixon and Donna Goings

                                                                                    Revelation 19–22 [LLJ]

                                                                                    Revelation and Hope: What Are We Waiting For? [LLJ]

  July 25                Bauckham (164 pages)              Presentation by Ezra Tice

                                                                                    Wrap-up [JNK]

                                                                                    Dealing with Revelation’s violent imagery [LLJ]

                                                                                    The Theology of Revelation

  July 26                “666 and All That,” by              Revelation and Popular Eschatology

(all-day event)    Paul Boyer (in Apocalypticism

                              and Millennialism, ed. L.L. Johns)


Post-Class Due Dates

   Aug. 2                                                                      Papers and notebooks due [two-hour students]

   Aug. 9                                                                      Papers and notebooks due [three-hour students]