David Weaver-Zercher, ed., Minding the Church: Scholarship in the Anabaptist Tradition: Essays in Honor of E. Morris Sider. Telford, PA: Pandora Press US, 2002. Pp. 280. ISBN 1-931038-05-8 Reviewed by John Sheriff.
C. Arnold Snyder and Galen A. Peters, ed. Reading the Anabaptist Bible: Reflections for Every Day of the Year. Kitchener: Pandora Press, 2002. Pp. 425. (Price: $29.00 US/ $38.00 CAN, Soft-cover) ISBN 1 894 710 258 Reviewed by Merle Schlabaugh.
Hubert Schwartzentruber, Jesus in Back Alleys: The Story and Reflections of a Contemporary Prophet. Telford, PA: Pandora Press U.S., 2002. Pp. 152. ISBN: 1-931038-07-4 Reviewed by Ardie S. Goering.
John D. Derksen, From Radicals to Survivors : Strasbourg's Religious Nonconformists over Two Generations, 1525-1570. 't Goy-Houton, Netherlands: HES & De Graaf Publishers, 2002. Pp. 294 (143,30 euros) ISBN 90-6194-209-8 Reviewed by Neal Blough.
John R. Yeatts, Revelation. Believers Church Bible Commentary series. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2003. Pp. 521. ($24.99-paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9208-7 Reviewed by John A. Esau.
David Weaver-Zercher, ed., Minding the Church: Scholarship in the Anabaptist Tradition: Essays in Honor of E. Morris Sider. Telford, PA: Pandora Press US, 2002. Pp. 280. ISBN 1-931038-05-8
Minding the Church is a collection of fourteen autobiographical essays framed by an introduction by the editor and three response-essays. The three respondents are intended to represent a view from the pew within the Mennonite church (Harriet Sider Bicksler), the thoughts of an academic person from outside the Anabaptist tradition (David Hoekema), and an "insider" perspective from a leader in Mennonite higher education (Shirley Hershey Schowalter).
The central fourteen narratives are candid and well worth reading. Much of the drama in these essays is due to the struggle of the writers to work out a meaningful professional life in academia and a Christian identity. Many of the narratives are about how the authors first break away and then come back to the stories and people and values with which they had struggled for their individuation and authentic faith. In the words of Eugene O'Neill, they struggle to make the force behind (which for these writers includes Mennonite/Anabaptist communities into which they have been cast by birth, marriage, or other life events) express them rather than being an infinitesimal incident in its expression. Or, in the words of Jeff Gundy, a poet and professor who has the first autobiographical narrative in the collection, they struggle to "disentangle what is truly personal, truly theirs, from the welter of ideas and styles in which we are all immersed." Of course, they all arrive where they started and know the place for the first time, to paraphrase lines from T. S. Eliot's "Little Gidding"; otherwise they would not be in the collection. That is, all have negotiated some relationship with the Anabaptist tradition and the Mennonite church. Faith stories by academics is the true subject of the collection and the reason I would recommend it to readers, especially to Mennonites.
The fact that the book is in honor of E. Morris Sider, professor emeritus of history and English Literature at Messiah College, who is described as having "a long and productive career as a historical biographer," makes the collection of personal narratives especially appropriate.
For further positive remarks about the book, very like those of the three respondents in the text, I invite readers to see Lucille Marr's review in the Anabaptist-Mennonite Scholars Network Newsletter (March 2003: 7-9). I hope there is room in Anabaptist scholarship for some friendly, collegial critique in the interest of continuing the dialogue the book initiates, for that is how I hope the following comments will be perceived.
Whatever the genesis and evolution of this work, the impression this reader comes away with is that the title, introduction, and responses try to impose an agenda onto the work other than the one that is obvious: faith stories of academicians who are Anabaptist Christians. The effort fails. It fails because the introduction is full of theses or questions that need analytical argument and the autobiographical narratives simply do not and cannot serve that purpose. It not only fails in a way that is ineffective in achieving its goals; it fails in a way that alienates some readers. The book's title marks out a large territory for exploration, a territory with widespread ownership and investment, especially when the Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite colleges are in the process of trying to forge a new relationship. Yet, the book fails to give any coherent treatment to or deliver any clarity about any of the subjects mentioned in the title. Moreover, the editor's introduction of the contributors as persons who "devoted their intellect and creativity to the service of the church" is an overstatement at best and hardly prepares the reader for the continuing and sometimes fierce struggle of the writers for personal fulfillment within the particular church and church-related environments that they live. As Harriet Sider Bicksler points out in her response to the work, the dominant common themes are (1) the tension between the writers and the church, especially the Anabaptist church, (2) the feeling that their work is misunderstood, mistrusted, ignored, condemned, even vilified by the church and fellow church members, and (3) the call by scholars for the church and Anabaptists Christians to be less judgmental and to embrace the ambivalence and contradiction that comes with living with partial knowledge. Jeff Gundy sets the pattern that is repeated throughout when he reports that his relationship with the church and that of his artistic Mennonite "compadres'" have been "ambivalent" and "complicated" at best and "torturous" at worst. He speaks of fleeing or being chased to the fringes of the church and beyond. Another theme conspicuous because of its absence is the idea that the relationship between the church and scholarship should be mutually beneficial rather than simply in service to the church.
The essay by Alvin Dueck offers readers the most insight into these tensions and conflicts. He points out that Anabaptist theology and academic ideology and ethnoreligious families of origin are not simply ideas or knowledge that we can consciously categorize and prioritize but are ways of maintaining life, maintaining multiple selves, that shape us without our awareness. All these need to be relativized with humility and gratitude.
To be sure there are multiple definitions of "church" in the various essays ranging from rigidly rule-controlled organizations, to the redeemed community (Christ's body) on earth, to specific worship centers in specific communities. In the autobiographies "minding the church" is often like minding the old and foolish King Lear by his faithful daughter Cordelia whom he mistreats and misunderstands. Perhaps the most hopeful element of the book is that all the writers seem to be Cordelia-like in their devotion to the church. The most depressing element is the image of the Mennonite churches and church leaders (some of them academicians) that inadvertently comes through.
Another expectation generated by the title is that the book will say something about "scholarship in the Anabaptist tradition"--its character, quality, quantity. Not only do we not learn anything about Anabaptist scholarship or what such a phrase could possibly mean, we learn almost nothing about the scholarship of the writers. And even if we had, the sample is so small and provincial that it still would not justify the collection's subtitle. Lydia Neufeld Harder brings the following questions to the biblical canon and to the theological tradition in which she works: "Who was included and who was excluded in the scholarly discourse in which I participated? Were certain people's writings excluded because of race, color, gender, or political commitments?" I suggest she, the editor, and all readers could well apply those questions to this publication. Why are Bluffton, Goshen, and Messiah the only "Anabaptist-related institutions" mentioned by the editor or represented in a collection with this title?
If this book had actually treated the subject in its title ("scholarship in the Anabaptist tradition") or tried to give representative examples of it, I would be unhappy that the scholarship produced by faculty at Bethel College, Hesston College, Tabor College, Fresno Pacific University, Canadian Mennonite University, Conrad Grebel College, Eastern Mennonite University, other Mennonite colleges in Canada, and scholars around the world is not represented in the selection of contributors. Since it does not, the loss is the variety and richness in the stories of the struggles to integrate faith and scholarship that a broader, more representative selection of writers would have provided. In the Western District Conference of the Mennonite Church USA, for example, women would not have been discouraged from studying theology or aspiring to be ministers, but there would have been other inspiring and cautionary tales of faith struggles that would have enriched the book.
The three respondents at the end try to bring the introduction and autobiographies together in a way that gives unity to the work, which means for the most part that the interpretive strategy suggested by the editor guides what they select to treat. We finish the book with no progress on the question with which the books opens: whether there is such a thing as "scholarship in the Anabaptist tradition." Shirley Hershey Showalter in the final response-essay to the collection issues an Emersonian call for pioneering Anabaptist scholarship and simultaneously questions whether there is or should be a distinctly Anabaptist mode of scholarship. I applaud her for both the call and the question and would like to see a cogent analysis of either.
C. Arnold Snyder and Galen A. Peters, ed. Reading the Anabaptist Bible: Reflections for Every Day of the Year. Kitchener: Pandora Press, 2002. Pp. 425. (Price: $29.00 US/ $38.00 CAN, Soft-cover) ISBN 1 894 710 258.
Reading the Anabaptist Bible is a unique publication within the areas of Anabaptist history and theology, mainly because it serves as a daily guide for the spiritual disciplines. The book contains 365 readings, each containing three elements: a Bible passage, a brief explanatory text and an Anabaptist testimony reflecting on the biblical text or teaching.
Snyder and Peters are to be commended for undertaking this project. The Bible passages found in this book were first collected by unknown Anabaptists and published around 1540 in a tiny, thick book entitled Concordantz und Zeiger der namhaffigsten Sprüch aller biblischen Bücher alts und news Testaments. This Concordance contained what the Anabaptist compilers considered crucial biblical texts and the most important biblical topics for believers in the 16th century. The 63 topics run the gamut for living the Christian life - topics ranging from the Fear of God, Repentance, Faith, Baptism, Bearing Witness, Prayer, Fasting, to Reward of the Pious. As Snyder states, the topics are less concerned with doctrine or salvation history, and more with "the biblical direction for life lived in the presence of God, in both its inward and outward dimensions." (12) The uninitiated 21st century reader may be surprised to find the numerous texts from the Apocryphal books of Esdras, Judith, Wisdom, Tobit, and Sirach, used alongside those from the Old and New Testaments, a common practice among 16th century Christians. During their interrogations Anabaptist prisoners often quoted many of these selected biblical passages by memory in response to the accusations and questions of their interrogators, evidence that the small Concordance, capable of being hidden in a boot or small pocket, was read widely by the 16th century Anabaptists.
In addition to the daily scriptural passage, each reading contains a brief explanation or elaboration of the text, followed by an Anabaptist testimonial. These testimonials, selected from such works as the Martyr's Mirror, the Ausbund, the Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, the writings of Menno Simons, Hans Denck, Balthasar Hubmaier, Dirk Philips, Pilgram Marpeck, and Peter Riedemann among others, often include reflections on the daily biblical passage which strengthened and consoled the imprisoned and persecuted Anabaptists. Although the circumstances in which the 16th century Anabaptists found themselves are quite different from our North American culture of the 21st century, many of the texts and testimonials are capable of inspiring today's readers to a life of discipleship. More than seventy-five biographical sketches of these particular Anabaptists are included in the book.
With the seeming renewed interest in spirituality among Mennonites, Reading the Anabaptist Bible might well be an appealing text for those practicing the spiritual disciplines of meditation and prayer. The short nature of the biblical text, explanation, and testimonial may be well suited for subsequent meditation, internalization, and guidance in living a life of discipleship in the 21st century. Although I read the text over a short period of time rather than a year, I found numerous passages and testimonials to be inspirational and thought-provoking.
As in most texts, especially in first editions, there will be errors. However, I wish to commend the editors and publisher for their fine work, especially since I detected only six errors throughout the entire book.
In sum, I would recommend Reading the Anabaptist Bible to Anabaptist scholars and to any persons interested in developing their own spirituality through daily readings and meditations.
Professor of German
Hubert Schwartzentruber, Jesus in Back Alleys: The Story and Reflections of a Contemporary Prophet. Telford, PA: Pandora Press U.S., 2002. Pp. 152. ISBN: 1-931038-07-4
In this collection of one man's stories and reflections, we see not only the process of a mind at work, but something of what abides in Hubert Schwartzentruber's heart and soul also. Jesus in Back Alleys is clearly autobiographical, but the details of his life are not as central to the book as is the articulation of his Christian faith. What Schwartzentruber believes and why is the essence of this small memoir.
Schwartzentruber was raised on a farm in Huron County, Ontario, where the "pace was slow enough to see the beauty in stones as well as the color of the leaves and the new-mown hay." Chapter One describes his early life: the love of his parents, the culture of rural life, and the beginnings of his faith in the Zurich Mennonite Church. He attended Bible school and Bible institute in Kitchener, Ontario before traveling to Harrisonburg, Virginia for his education at Eastern Mennonite College (now University). He married June Lambke; they had two children, Michael and Lorna. After twenty-seven years of marriage, June died, and he later married Mary Rittenhouse, who resides with him in Telford, Pennsylvania.
The majority of the book describes his experiences as a pastor that shaped his understanding of the gospel, "found so often less on Main Street that in a society's back alleys."
Schwartzentruber's first job was to develop a new congregation in St. Louis, Missouri working with Mennonite Board of Missions. He writes, "For a farm boy with Amish roots, fresh out of college and newly married, the inner city seemed like chaos. But what I viewed as disorder was also a new fresh, orderly context for me to hear the Scriptures work."
Schwartzentruber next worked with peace and justice education with Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries; he later served as mission minister for the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada, helping to establish twenty congregations. Interestingly, he takes issue with the phrase "church planting," saying that the church has already been planted, and that "our task is to be a presence in a community, to gather together people ready to join in community with other searching people."
The next leg of his professional career was pastoring a Pennsylvania congregation, in addition to working for Franconia Conference. He was also an overseer for a number of congregations. One of those, Germantown Mennonite Church, was removed from membership in Franconia Conference because of Germantown's welcoming stance towards gay and lesbian members. Schwartzentruber's witness to this sequence of events, a pivotal moment in modern Mennonite history, is compelling and I recommend readers pick up the book themselves to know more.
In contemplating his faith, Schwartzentruber writes that while he is still exploring many complex issues, one idea exists which he is ready to carve on stone. It is a "sin to discriminate against any person for how they were created by God," he writes. Some of his strongest passions emerge when he speaks out against racism and sexism. In this spirit of inclusion, he questions a "hardline position which discriminates against believers who are gay and lesbian."
Such a perspective seems significant in light of how Mennonite Church USA, to which Schwartzentruber now belongs, has put in its forefront the inclusion of people of color while sidelining people who are gay and lesbian.
The last several chapters are more advisory in style, starting with a call for churches to be caring congregations, places where people can freely share hurt feelings and feel supported. He also urges churches to empower prophets, persons who will avoid thinking like "the world" while still involved in worldly affairs.
Plain talk is not always a characteristic of a so-called plain people, but Schwartzentruber is refreshingly candid and blunt. I enjoyed also the perspective of someone who has lived a joint Canadian/American identity.
I like the feel of a slim volume, something that can be picked up and easily read, and then tucked away until you reach again for a few wise words. Jesus in Back Alleys is such a book.
Ardie S. Goering
Albuquerque, New Mexico
John D. Derksen, From Radicals to Survivors : Strasbourg's Religious Nonconformists over Two Generations, 1525-1570. 't Goy-Houton, Netherlands: HES & De Graaf Publishers, 2002. Pp. 294 (143,30 euros) ISBN 90-6194-209-8
Derksen's impressive work is the first book-length study of Strasbourg's sixteenth-century religious radicals since the publication of volumes III and IV of the Täuferakten, Elsass in 1986 and 1988. Previous treatments of Strasbourg's anabaptists, spiritualists and other dissidents have focused on beginnings and developments up to the mid 1530s. Derksen demonstrates how these radicals who wanted to change society in the 1520s became "survivors" in the following several generations.
Chapters One (Strasbourg and the Evangelical Reform), Two (Strasbourg's Radicals to the Abolition of the Mass, 1522-1529) and Three (The Radicals' Zenith and Fall, 1529-1535) are good and helpful summaries of previous research that set the stage for what follows.
By 1532 Strasbourg's religious radicals, at their zenith, were very different from the radicals in 1524. In terms of numbers they had grown from a handful of Anabaptists after the Peasants' War to several hundred in 1528 and perhaps 2000 in 1530-32. In terms of geographic origin, while the radicals of 1524-25 had been Strasbourgers, by 1532 they were overwhelmingly foreign refugees. This helps explain the shifting allegiances within the movement and its rapid decline after 1534; indigenous roots were few. (p. 86)
The Strasbourg Synod of 1533 put an end to the dissidents' zenith, crippled their influence and drove them underground. Surprisingly, in spite of the Synod and the events of Münster, the city council liberalized measures against nonconformists in March of 1535, allowing them to stay if they fulfilled their civil duties and did not criticize the Church in public.
After having previously benefitted from the presence of key people such as Sattler, Scharnschlager and Marpeck, by 1540, non-Melchiorite Anabaptists no longer had any intellectual leaders. Most of them were no longer theologically articulate, leadership fell into the hands of lay people. Artisans and women were actively involved in the life of these remaining communities. Nevertheless, a kind of Anabaptist continuity throughout a several decade period (from 1524 through the 1550s) was assured in the person of Jörg Ziegler of Schiltigheim, the brother of gardener-preacher Clement Ziegler.
Melchior Hoffman's imprisonment and the apocalyptic fervor tied to Münster contributed to a strong Melchiorite Anabaptist component in and around Strasbourg until around 1540, when many joined either the official Church or the Swiss Brethren, a shift which gave the latter new momentum. Numbers remain impressive. "By March 1540 large numbers of Anabaptists were active; one prisoner estimated up to 800 Anabaptists in the Strasbourg area." (p. 126)
The nature of the source material does not allow an extensive narrative of dissident life during this period, except in the cases of some Melchiorites or Schwenckfeldians. As Derksen writes: "Like fish jumping out of a lake at unpredictable times and places, these clandestine dissidents appear from time to time in various contexts. Especially after 1540 the story of Strasbourg's nonconformists is a patchwork of small incidents and brief glimpses." (p. 151) Sporadic sources plus Derksen's organizational methodology leads at times to repetition of names, dates and events in the various chapters.
By the 1560s, second generation dissidence was fairly widespread, while at the same time becoming more passive and expressing itself through acts such as staying away from the official church or from infant baptisms. Opposition came more from church officials than from city officials, who were more pragmatic and cared more about loyalty to Strasbourg's jurisdiction than about theological orthodoxy. In cases when they were living in villages under Strasbourg's authority, dissidents were often capable of playing magistrates, religious leaders and village authorities off against each other, and were thus able to remain.
As already suggested by previous scholars, Derksen perceives a relationship between the presence of dissident communities and their criticism of the official church with Martin Bucer's experimentation with small groups within the larger official parish structure. "…The christlichen Gemeinschaften were Bucer's attempt to remedy ethical failings and silence the radicals' critiques without resorting to a sectarian ecclesiology." (p. 199) Along with the presence of Schwenckfeldians and people such as the Lutheran mystic Johan Arndt (1555-1621) in Strasbourg, Derksen sees a continuing spiritualist tendency that later blossomed in the Pietist movement with Philip Jakob Spener.
Chapter 8 deals with the village of Wangen, from the period of 1532 to 1569. Here it becomes clear that at least in some areas around Strasbourg, religious dissidence "simmered beneath the surface over long periods of time" and that Anabaptists were perhaps more numerous than previously thought. During this period in Wangen, the evidence suggests that "religious dissidents constituted the majority of the population." (p. 220)
Although their numbers always remained small, Schwenckfeldians were the most urban and sophisticated of the various types of religious dissidents in Strasbourg. Several personal portraits of these spiritualist dissidents (lawyers, intellectuals, diplomats, relief workers) make a convincing case that they were useful and valuable citizens, which is probably why they were tolerated by the civil authorities. Derksen also suggests that a longstanding Strasbourg tradition of spiritualism, going back to Meister Eckhart and Johann Tauler, helped paved the way for 16th century tolerance of Schwenckfeldians.
In spite of a major shift from social and religious radicalism to a survival mode, Derksen argues for considerable ideological continuity over several generations, whether it be among Schwenckfeldians or Anabaptists. "…For all its differences, at root the separatist call of 1569 was much like the social-revolutionary call of Clement Ziegler in 1524. Thus the sectarian nonconformity of mid-century may be seen to continue the commoners' revolt in the Peasants' War." (p. 262) Perhaps the main contribution of radicals to the Strasbourg context was their call to freedom of conscience. "But the calls of Strasbourg's …(radicals)….sowed seeds and contributed to a climate of thought that would eventually bear fruit." (p. 264)
This is a necessary book for any scholar or library interested in the history of 16th Strasbourg, as well as 16th century reform movements and religious dissidence. Unfortunately, the high price will dissuade some people from acquiring the book. Starting with chapter two, the page numbers of the text do not correspond with the page numbers of the table of contents.
Director, Paris Mennonite Centre
Saint Maurice, France
John R. Yeatts, Revelation. Believers Church Bible Commentary series. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2003. Pp. 521. ($24.99-paperback) ISBN 0-8361-9208-7
How one interprets the New Testament apocalyptic book of Revelation tells a great deal about one's general theological orientation within the Christian community. Based upon that assumption, John R. Yeatts places himself consistently in the middle, somewhere between the passionate dispensationalist premillenialists who view Revelation as the handbook for contemporary events and those who see Revelation as a first century intellectual historical curiosity. Yeatts cares about this biblical text as a formative document in the life of the church in every age, our own included.
Throughout the commentary Yeatts asks the reader to consider alternative interpretations, especially at certain critical sections. He offers interpreters as diverse as John F. Walvoord and G. B. Caird. Often the author will identify several interpretations, asking the reader to consider and choose among the options. Other times Yeatts will show his own inclination to look for moderation by suggesting a preference for the interpretation in the middle, avoiding extremes.
That is not to say that Yeatts avoids clarity and direction. Countering Lahaye in the series of "Left Behind" novels, Yeatts offers a basic principle of biblical hermeneutics: "the Bible cannot mean what it never meant. Another way of saying this is that the Bible cannot mean what its original author did not intend." (p. 212)
Above all, Yeatts excels as a careful and honest observer of the biblical text. He steadfastly refuses to allow preconceived theological and eschatological systems to determine the meaning of the text. It is the biblical text that must form our larger understandings. When discussing whether the images of the new heaven and new earth have to do with the destruction of the world as we know it or whether this image suggests a restoration and renewal of the earth, Yeatts courageously says: "The Bible seems to support both ideas." (p. 423) That is refreshing honesty not often seen among Christians who cannot embrace paradox and even contradiction.
One expects in a commentary series that intentionally chooses its orientation within the Anabaptist theological tradition some indication of how this biblical text has been interpreted within that tradition and also how it has impacted the tradition. Here Yeatts rightly places the centrality of the Lamb in Revelation as critical to the non-violent interpretation of what has often appeared to some to be a violent book. With the coming of the "Rider on the white horse" in chapter 16, Yeatts writes: "Such transformations from warlike to peaceful images have come to be expected in Revelation." (p. 350)
How Revelation has impacted Anabaptist history is evident in several quotes from Menno Simons and others and in references in the commentary under the section "The Text in the Life of the Church." In the final section after the commentary there are essays, one of which is entitled "Anabaptist Interpretation of Revelation." In this essay Yeatts identifies the manner in which Revelation was interpreted in the 16th century Anabaptist reformation. He also documents briefly the two major historical incidents in which the interpretation of Revelation played an important role: the city of Münster in the 16th century and the Claas Epp trek to Central Asia in the 19th century. Other historical settings in which the use of Revelation ought to be documented are the Russian Mennonite experience of the first half of the 20th century and the African Anabaptist churches in the second half of the 20th century to the present.
Generally the author is familiar with and uses other Anabaptist scholars of apocalyptic literature and the book of Revelation, including Ted Grimsrud, Nelson Kraybill, David Ewert, Loren Johns, et al. However, surprisingly missing is the important volume edited by Loren L. Johns and published in 2000, Apocalypticism and Millennialism: Shaping a Believers Church Eschatology for the Twenty-First Century. Also missing in the otherwise extensive bibliography is the moderate premillenial commentary on Revelation by a Mennonite, J. B. Smith, A Revelation of Jesus Christ.
One of the most important contributions of Yeatts in this commentary is his continuing discussion throughout about the structure of the book. His careful observation of the text brings him to the conclusion that Revelation is not to be interpreted as suggesting a chronology of events, one following the other. For instance, he observes that Babylon is destroyed three times! Another word that he suggests as useful to understanding the structure is reiteration or he quotes Schussler Fiorenza in the image of the "conic spiral." I have used the ideas from Catholic scholar Hubert Richards, suggesting that within the larger apocalyptic document we have what amount to smaller apocalyptic units, each of which are complete expressions of the whole. Another image that Yeatts uses is to read Revelation as "an eschatological art gallery!" Why does this matter? It matters because it helps to unhook us from the natural inclination to view Revelation as a "calendar of end time events" in which we miss its intended purpose as a pastoral book to encourage the church to faith, hope, and love.
Another contribution of Yeatts is that he excels in tracing the origins of the multitude of images and ideas in Revelation to their Old Testament or other origins. A single reading through the text as I did does not allow one to check through all the references that he offers, but there is a wealth of documentation available throughout.
The nature of apocalyptic literature in general and Revelation in particular is such that each person who works with the material develops particular understandings. So I do have questions about some of Yeatts' interpretations. Are the seven seals really "judgments" in the way the trumpets and bowls are? I don't think so. Are chapters 12 - 14 an interlude in the way that interludes play into the seals and the trumpets? I think not; it stands as an apocalyptic section on its own. I also think he misses a key link between the fifth seal where the martyrs cry out: "How long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?" and the answer which comes in the millennial chapter 20.
Another place where I think he does not follow his own earlier interpretations of the text is on p. 348 where he lists the corresponding contrasts of praise and persecution. Generally the sequence in the text is the opposite, moving from conflict to resolution, from crisis to worship! Indeed the worship scenes of Revelation form critical division points.
Finally, there is an unfortunate printing/editorial error on p. 29 in his simple diagram of the major sections of the book of Revelation. Chapters 15 and 16 are missing as evidenced by the blank space.
Overall, this commentary is a fine contribution to the church and to the Believer's Church Bible Commentary series. John R. Yeatts has given us a good, insightful understanding of Revelation that will serve pastors and others who are intrigued by its mystery. His work is alive with the heart of the pastor as well as the competence of a scholar, both essential qualities to those who care about faith in the 21st century.
John A. Esau
North Newton, Kansas
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