Top critical review
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Eloquent summation of current opinion
on 22 June 2012
For centuries following the Reformation, protestant theologians were almost unanimous in believiing that the book we call "The Revelation" forecast the overthrow of the Papacy and the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church. Today, most scholars see it as a prediction about the ultimate overthrow of all pagan empires. Tom Wright's book provides a concise but valuable and eloquent summation of this view. However, I believe that it must be mistaken.
Contrary to Professor Wright's interpretation, it seems to me that the references to the Temple, the "holy city" and the "great city" where our Lord was crucified in Chapter 11 plainly indicate that this section of "The Revelation" must have been written when the Temple was still in existence, prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. So what it is really predicting is the imminent collapse of the ancient Temple-based Mosaic dispensation in Palestine and the inauguration of the world-wide Chrisian era. Not only that, but it forewarns the early Jewish Christian converts for whom it was written of the destruction not only of Jerusalem but of the entire Jewish state in Palestine, which did indeed happen.
An entire book could be written in support of this thesis, but I will refer to just one other matter. On page 164, Professor Wright seems to be saying that, because slaves - human bodies - are included in the goods traded in the great city (called Babylon in "The Revelation"), this proves that the city concerned was Rome. But slave trading was not confined to Rome - it was world-wide. The largest slave market was in Ephesus (one of the cities specifically addressed in "The Revelation"). The economies of most ancient societies were built upon slavery just as today's Western economies are built upon 'employment.' The Jews themselves were permitted to employ slaves (Leviticus 25:44-46) and it is not unreasonable to suppose that Jewish merchants in Jerusalem may have played a part in this lucrative trade. The high priest himself employed at least one slave, Malchus, whose ear was cut off by Peter (John 18:10 NRSV). Moreover, the general prosperity of Jerusalem in New Testament times was such that a 'new city' or suburb called Bezetha had to be built outside the second wall.
Although I am convinced that John saw his 'Babylon' as a symbol for Jerusalem, I do not rule out the possibility that, through God's divine inspiration, it may not also have some other eschatological signification, whether John himself was consciously aware of this or not. And Tom Wright's book does provide many valuable insights into the interpretation of the earlier parts of "The Revelation."
Addendum 23 December 2012
Upon re-reading my review above, it occurs to me that some readers may think it is anti-semitic. This was truly not my intention. In referring to the destruction of the Jewish state in Palestine in AD 70 I was only referring to a fact of history which, I believe, was powerfully predicted in "The Revelation ".