Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BETS 11:2 (Spring 1968) p. 102
BETS 11:2 (Spring 1968) p. 103
The Apocalypse of John. By Isbon T. Beckwith. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967. Pp. xv plus 794 including index. $8.95.
Reviewed by John Skilton, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pa.
This reprint of Beckwith’s noteworthy study of the Apocalypse is an addition to Baker’s Limiter Editions Library. The author, whose academic career included service as Professor of Greek in Trinity College, Hartford, and as Professor of the Interpretation of the New Testament in the General Theological Seminary, New York, brought exceptional learning and scholarly competence to the interpretation of the book of Revelation. More than four hundred pages of this work are devoted to introductory studies in which material still of value is to be found. Somewhat less space is given to the commentary proper, which is based on the Greek text and which takes account of textual and other problems of criticism.
The defects of Beckwith’s approach to Scripture prevent his commentary from being altogether satisfactory. Cordiality to negative criticism is a grave deterrent to enlightened exposition. Truly successful exegesis of Scripture requires a Scriptural approach to exegesis. It is requisite, for example, that the interpreter of a book which contains predictive prophecy should have a right conception of such prophecy. This, among other things, Beckwith lacks. He finds that many of the predictions of the Old Testament prophets were not fulfilled (p. 296). He will not allow for a figurative or allegorical fulfillment of these prophecies nor will he grant that they may be fulfilled in the future (p. 298). For him they represent the limited foresight of the prophet: “.. . while his prophecy of the final outcome of God’s will is infallible, his picture of future historic events in which he looks for this realization of the divine purpose belong to his circumscribed vision. The frequent failure of such historical predictions therefore cannot cause surprise, or raise real difficulty in the interpretation of prophecy” (pp. 299f.). He is likewise untroubled by the fact that, in his judgment, prophecies in the Apocalypse have not been fulfilled and will not be fulfilled (pp. 300f.) He finds indeed little practical value in certain eschatological particulars: “We have not sufficient data for affirming positively that Christian prophecy is wrong in attributing the final establishment of the kingdom to signal acts of God’s intervention. In any event the question as to God’s manner of working out a result in a future, which seems immeasureably remote, is not one of pressing practical importance” (p. 304).
Beckwith would take due account of the unity of the Apocalypse...
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