Joseph Trafton was concerned that much of the popular understanding of Revelation was based on traditions of interpretation and not on the book itself. Having done his masters thesis on Revelation, Trafton came to see how crucial it was to view the book in its historical and conceptual contexts. He reveals the Jewish thought-world that underlies the book and shows how the various sections of the book fit together with one another. His goal in writing the commentary on Revelation is that the book will “make sense” to the reader. He believes many interpreters inundate their explanations with extraneous ideas that actually prevent or get in the way of a clear understanding of the text. Trafton hopes that Reading Revelation will help readers see what is actually there.
“An overall assessment of the situation of the seven churches in John’s day is not a pretty sight. Pressures to accommodate themselves to the surrounding culture, including emperor worship, were strong; church leaders were divided in their counsel; vibrant commitment to Christ had waned. One might even dare to suggest that the seven churches were in dire need of a prophecy from God.” (Page 8)
“What is important is that the reader recognize that Revelation is a literary presentation of John’s experience.” (Page 9)
“What is significant about this ‘testing for ten days’ is that the issue is not one of persecution but of accommodation. This may well be the situation at Smyrna. It is not so much that Christians are being persecuted for their faith; rather, they are being pressured to accommodate themselves to pagan practices.” (Page 36)
“The ability to identify and oppose false teachers is meaningless if it is not matched by a fervent love for God” (Page 33)
“In the superscription the author provides a twofold classification for his book: it is a ‘revelation’ (1:1) and it is a ‘prophecy’ (1:3). Any proper reading of the book must take into account these two terms of self-designation, which are closely related (see Introduction). A ‘revelation’ involves the uncovering of something that is hidden; ‘prophecy’ is the communication of a message from God. Hence, the author claims to have received a communication from God of something that has been hidden. His task is to pass along what has been revealed to him to those for whom it is intended.” (Page 15)
Joseph Trafton has produced a clear, understandable, insightful reading of the book of Revelation—not an easy task for a book that has left many readers puzzled and confused. One of the particular strengths of Trafton’s commentary is his close attention to the structure of John’s work and the internal connections between various passages of the book. Readers will also benefit from Trafton’s identification of John’s extensive indebtedness to the Hebrew Bible for much of his imagery and ideas.
—Mitchell G. Reddish, O.L. Walker Professor, Christian Studies; Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Stetson University
Joseph L. Trafton is Distinguished University Professor of Religious Studies at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He teaches courses on “Second Temple” Judaism and serves as a contributor to the Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls Project. He is a regular speaker at churches, campus groups and civic groups.