Review: Maier recalling The Apocalypse

A review of Harry O. Maier, Apocalypse Recalled: The Book of Revelation after Christendom, Fortress, 2002.

Available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk and direct from Alban Books.

Reading Apocalypse Recalled was a bit of rollercoaster for me. I picked it up with low expectations. Then at times reading the first chapter I thought it might become my top recommendation on the book of Revelation. But the rest of the book never quite delivered. It ends up being a good introduction to the secondary literature on Revelation, but not the book itself. We dip in and out without ever grappling with the central message of the book. Maier’s treatment of temporal references in Revelation promised much, but in the end it was not clear how it was supposed to change the way we understand Revelation or apply it today. The best chapters – on the visual and oral dimensions of Revelation – are those which most engage with the text. The chapter on listening to Revelation alone makes the book worth buying for if you’re doing some in-depth study of Revelation.

Maier believes, as I do, that Revelation is as much written to challenge comfortable Christians who are compromised by participation in empire as it is to comfort afflicted Christians who are persecuted by empire. As Maier puts it, we read as if we are Philadelphians when we are actually Laodiceans. What this analysis perhaps highlights is that Philadelphians, that is those Christians who are marginalized, can legitimately read it as a word of comfort while Laodiceans, those Christians who have comprised by the culture, should read it has a word of challenge.

A potentially strong aspect of the book is Maier’s reflections on reading Revelation in the context to his family’s history as Germans refugees from modern day Poland who fled to Canada after the Second World War to escape the advancing Red Army. But this feature of the book never quite delivers either. The links between Maier’s story and what he was saying about Revelation don’t turn out to be strong enough. Also the ‘after Christendom’ element of the subtitle is never really explored.

Well my top recommendation on the book of Revelation remains Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation (available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk). But Maier does enter somewhere in the top ten. It’s a good orientation to reading Revelation today and a useful summary of a lot of the secondary literature.

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