Paige Patterson’s commentary on Revelation

If you’ve listened to Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson preach for very long, he’ll get around to eschatology. This is reasonable because he considers the subject to be an integral part of biblical theology. He’s also personally fascinated by the subject I think. For that reason I expected his long-anticipated volume of the New American Commentary to be a monster book. It’s not. Revelation is a little shorter than volume one of the NAC—Kenneth Matthews’ great study of just the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

Instead of an academic work that runs down every rabbit trail of criticism and interpretation, as some authors tend to do, Dr. Patterson has produced a succinct volume that reflects his deep understanding of Scripture. It takes more understanding to explain complex matters in fewer words.

Written from an admittedly pretribulational, premillennial (but not dispensational) viewpoint, Patterson’s commentary is charitable with those who hold other viewpoints—with the caveat that expecting a bodily return of Christ is essential to orthodox theology. The introduction is a fine primer on the strengths and weaknesses of the most popular eschatological schemes although, as stated, the author has a viewpoint.

Dr. Patterson’s style is picturesque and appealing. It’s actually pretty conversational. One could almost hear him preaching the material. The commentary is technical enough for scholars without being so tedious as to put off lay users. The work’s primary appeal will be to preachers. It’s a practical study of a biblical book that tempts many to run after impractical theories. Patterson’s point does not seem to be to impress readers with his voluminous knowledge or to fill us up with trivia. Readers are not left with the thought, “that’s interesting but so what?” Neither does he leave his readers speculating about anachronistic interpretations of John’s vision: “Is this a tank John’s seeing?” or “Is this a helicopter gunship?” Gently, we are brought back to what John is clearly saying about light and darkness, good and evil, and the triumph of our King. His handling of the number of the beast, the mark of the beast, and the identification of the two witnesses models similar hermeneutical discipline, steering clear of the more unnecessary imaginings of some interpreters.

Throughout the text are a series of “pastoral excurses.” This is where Patterson preaches to the reader regarding the text under consideration. Of course, this is also where a smart preacher can find an idea or two for application of the text to his own flock. These useful pages are indicative of the book’s tone.

You may have discerned that I like this commentary. The New American Commentary is my favorite series; some of them are the best treatment I have of the biblical books they address. Dr. Patterson’s commentary on the apocalypse is a pleasant surprise to one who already had high expectations.

“Revelation,” in the New American Commentary series, by Paige Patterson, contains 411 pages, is published by B&H Publishing Group, and is available for about $20.

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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