Witherington’s latest work is an 800 page masterpiece. In order to help me keep track of my thoughts on this book, and in part to showcase more of the book than a review, I am posting ‘reflections’ on each chapter.
BW3 starts the chapter on Revelation and 2nd Peter by trying to set the sights right on Revelation, namely by asking the reader to examine it in light of Dante’s Divine Comedy. I am not sure that examining a document by another, especially given the cultural separation of the two, and the fact that the latter was influenced by the former, is the most sound comparison to make.
For Revelation, BW3 doesn’t really tackle the issue of eschatology for the New Testament’s only real prophetic work, but highlights several portions, briefly, as he demonstrates quite succinctly that John is writing primarily to show God controls history, regardless of current or future persecutions. Further, he takes the time to thoroughly highlight what John highlights throughout Revelation – the deity of Christ and indeed, the (con)fusion of OT images and titles for God with Christ. He essentially reiterates Bauckhams’ thesis on the early worship of Christ fitting well within in Jewish monotheism of the time.
He does take up the issue of ethics during persecution, and in doing so, more thoroughly examines Revelation, although not thorough the lens of prophecy. As expect, he spends a considerable amount of time on the second and third chapters in Revelation, which deals expressly with the persecution of the Christian communities in Asia Minor. Witherington, in a short space, speaks volumes about the ‘other’ use of Revelation, and that is to teach Christians patience, redemptive justice, who Christ is, and that through it all, one must maintain a right standing with God.
I don’t understand BW3’s comparisons at times, which seem out of sync. Like comparing Revelation and Dante. Now, he compares 1-2 Clement, 1st Peter and the Shepherd of Hermes to create a synthesis through which he sees 2nd Peter, which he only counts the 1st chapter as Apostolic. That is not to say that he doesn’t treat 2nd Peter with a great deal of apostolic respect, in that he clearly sees more than a pseudonymous attempt to teach the church something in the name of an apostle – instead, the writer, whom he postulates as Linus, takes Peter’s testimony and expounds upon it without claiming Petrine authority. He is successfully able to fuse biblical studies with respect for Scripture.
Witherington, however, does take the very simple passage in 2nd peter 1 and shows with simplicity the ethics contained therein. Further, while he sits on the fence of apostolic authorship, he manages to hold 2nd Peter still in the inspired light and uses it to show that at the time it was written, the Church was moving from apostolic to the post-apostolic age (pg813). BW3 sees a high Christology in 2nd Peter, which is not difficult to see when the author calls Christ God and sees only Christ returning during judgment (pg812).
Closing this volume, he states:
Furthermore, we have seen consistently in this chapter, as in previous chapters, that the ethics is well grounded in the eschatological worldview that these authors are enunciating. It is not the task of this volume to begin to show at length correspondences and similarities among the thought worlds of the various New Testament writers. (pg814)
He promises to get to that in the second volume.