A Testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation)

6.2. Different from Apocalyptic Genre

Thomas rightly recognizes that the book is primarily prophetic and that overemphasizing the genre of apocalyptic will result in a distortion of its message:

In light of Revelation’s self-claims (e.g., Rev. Rev. 1:3+; Rev. 22:18-19+) and how well it fulfills the qualifications of NT prophecy, the best overall characterization of the literary style of the Apocalypse is to call it prophetic. A blending of genres such as prophetic-apocalyptic or prophetic-apocalyptic-epistolary is not the best answer because it does not allow for the preeminence of the book’s prophetic content.1

In addition, Mounce mentions a number of dissimilarities between Revelation and apocalyptic literature: the author considers his work to be prophecy; the work is not pseudonymous—John writes in his own name; the writer is not pessimistic but maintains balance; the present age sets forth the redemptive activity of God in history rather than being a meaningless prelude to the end; the moral urgency of the book; and the lack of esoteric knowledge secretly preserved from antiquity.2

Johnson mentions a number of factors which indicate that the Apocalypse should not be lumped in with non-canonical writings of apocalyptic genre.3 He concludes: “the reader would do well to reexamine every method of interpreting Revelation that rests on this assumed similarity. . . . In no case can it be demonstrated that John depends on the assumed knowledge among his readers of the Jewish apocalyptists for clarify of meaning. On the other hand, he is everywhere dependent on the OT canonical books.”4

Our advice is to be wary when encountering lengthy treatments on the apocalyptic genre of the book as they often lay the groundwork for anti-supernatural assumptions which follow. These assumptions often deny the self-claims of the book and fail to see its place within the larger framework of biblical prophecy running throughout Scripture.5


Notes

1 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 28.

2 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 23-24.

3 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 5.

4 Ibid., 6.

5 “There is no inherent harm in a literary genre; there is only harm or danger in how a scholar may use such genre against a document.”—Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation, 3rd rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1970), 144.

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