As the Labo(u)r Day weekend and my personal mini-retreat draws to a close I’ve just finished the book I’ve been chipping away at for the last few weeks: “Coming Soon” by Dr. Michael Barber:
As Seen on TV
Although I’m still not exactly sure how, a while ago I found myself subscribed to the blog Dr. Barber shares with two other professors of Scripture and Theology. It was then that I saw an advert on his blog to be part of a studio audience for a pilot he was recording about the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible with all that scary stuff about plagues, beasts and the infamous “mark of the beast”, 666.
I immediately signed up, for several reasons. Firstly, I had wanted to visit John Paul the Great University (affectionately known as “JP Catholic”) here in San Diego for some time. Secondly, the book of John’s vision has always fascinated me since I read through it cover-to-cover for the first time in my mid-twenties. Finally though, although I had been on the local news as a child, “Get on TV” was still on my “Bucket List“:
The experience of the recording was a lot of fun. They recorded Dr. Barber’s presentation about three times through, so we got to know the material for that episode rather well. Between takes, he would chat with the audience and we got into some really quite interesting discussions, so much so that it was a bit of shame when the camera people interrupted to announce that they were ready for the next take.
See the TV show, read the book…
As a consequence of hearing his presentation (three times!), I decided to order his book from Amazon. I was not disappointed. Out of the commentaries I’ve read on the Book of Revelation this is by far the best. A couple of years ago I had read “The Lamb’s Supper“ by Dr. Scott Hahn and thought it superb, but, as the book itself pointed out, it was not meant to be a complete study of John’s Apocalypse. Dr. Barber’s book finishes what Dr. Hahn’s began in “The Lamb’s Supper”.
As good fortune would have it, when I arrived at JP Catholic to consume the complimentary pizza and soda provided for the audience, I ended up sitting next to Dr. Barber’s mum! And, like all proud mothers, it wasn’t long before I found out more about her son 😉 It turned out that Dr. Barber had actually studied for a time under Dr. Hahn. This really comes across in his writing. Having read most of Dr. Hahn’s books, I could clearly see his influence, most noticeably, I am very pleased to say, in his penchant for word puns, and the worse the better… 😀
Comprehending the incomprehensible
Whereas “The Lamb’s Supper” was a high-level view of the Book of Revelation, Dr. Barber really does go through it thoroughly. He shows the Old Testament context and parallels which are drawn upon in John’s vision and, bit by bit, starts to make sense of those strange symbols.
Unfortunately, over the course of history, many have taken Revelation and read some pretty crazy things into it. It has been claimed that John’s vision concerns the evils of the Roman Catholic Church (“The…seven hills on which the [whore] sits”), China (“the red dragon”) and even Ronald Wilson Reagan! What?! Don’t tell me you didn’t notice that the words ‘Ronald’, ‘Wilson’, and ‘Reagan’ are each composed of six letters? 666! The mark of the beast! Arrrrrgghhhh…. “Coming Soon” offers an antidote to such wild speculative interpretation.
One of the things I would particularly commend Dr. Barber’s book for is its structure. The chapters are certainly nicely broken up. There are detailed notes at the end of the book, although personally I prefer footnotes. Other nice touches include an application of John’s text to our lives today at the end of each chapter, as well as a short multiple-choice quiz and some discussion questions just to make sure that you were paying attention 🙂
So, if you’re wanting to study the Book of Revelation, I really couldn’t recommend a better book and if you’re local to San Diego, please drop me a message because I would love to do a proper in-depth study with a group of enthusiastic people using Dr. Barber’s book. I usually give books away when I’m done reading them, but this one, I think I’m going to hang on to…