FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson shared insights from his research experience in connection with his forthcoming commentary on Revelation with a room full of doctoral students and faculty, Oct. 14. Patterson’s presentation and question-and-answer session took place during a colloquium sponsored by the School of Theology’s biblical studies division.
Patterson noted the immense time of dedicated research that must take place in order to write a volume of this magnitude.
“You have to have time to sit down and work through it,” Patterson said. “If you try to stop every few minutes to do something else, then you can’t figure out where you were when you go back to it, so that was very difficult.”
Patterson also noted the seemingly insurmountable bibliography on the Apocalypse. He estimated reading more than 300 commentaries as well as enough journal articles to fill three filing cabinets. Just as he would complete reading one work, he would see that multiple new works had been produced to add to his stack.
“At some point you have to bite the bullet and say, ‘That’s it. I’m not going to interact further with anything unless it’s something that comes up that has everyone’s attention and you have no other choice but to interact with it.’”
Patterson gave a brief overview of his commentary, noting key goals as well as difficult passages he dealt with. On the issue of the genre, he characterizes Revelation as “a prophetic circular letter that makes frequent use of apocalyptic imagery and devices.”
In reference to the great Babylonian harlot referenced in Revelation 17, Patterson said he does not believe it refers to specifically to Roman Catholic Church, although he admitted that it is connected to Rome.
“The problem is something that I choose to call Babyloniansim, the substitute faith for faith in God,” Patterson said.
“Whenever you have an anthropocentric faith versus a theocentric faith, you have Babylonianism. ... I argue that what is happening in Revelation 17 is the last-day ascent of Babylonianism to nearly worldwide prominence.”
Patterson alluded to some of the contributions he hopes the commentary will make to the overall scholarship on Revelation, noting his focus on writing a theological commentary with a pastoral application. He wrote what he calls “pastoral excurses” throughout the book on matters of theology like worship, the atonement, soteriology, and others, which are drawn from the text.
“What I have tried to do is to write a pre-millennial commentary that would be useful to preachers even who are not coming at it from that position,” Patterson said. “I tried to do so without undue contrasting constantly of those various viewpoints and perspectives but rather deal with the text and what it says.”
“I sought to encourage the preaching of the Apocalypse. As you know, almost nobody preaches through the Apocalypse, and if they do, it’s only the first three chapters. So throughout the commentary, I try to keep the preacher in mind.”
Patterson mentioned reasons why pastors should preach through the entire book of Revelation, including the fact that it is the only book of the Bible that explicitly gives a beatitude for those who read and listen to it. He also offers guidelines in his commentary for preaching the book.
“When you’re going to preach through the Apocalypse, you need to set aside some time where you’re going to do nothing but study through it,” Patterson said, “because it is a book the nature of which you can’t be changing back and forth as you go through it on what your position is.
“Secondly, you want to focus on the theological and practical insights that are everywhere in the text. The tendency in preaching Revelation is to get bogged down in the details. … When it comes to preaching it, you are attempting to engender hope in your people. There’s hope all the way through the book. This is the story of the victory of the Lamb.”
Patterson has submitted his commentary on the book of Revelation for the New American Commentary series for publishing, but no release date has been set.