Reading Revelation: A Thematic Approach

By W. Gordon Campbell

A biblical-theological appreciation of Revelation using the tools of narrative criticism, showing how the complex themes fit into a meaningful whole.

ISBN: 9780227173831


The Book of Revelation can be read in various ways. Where interpretation opts not to venture beyond Revelation or approach the book as a forecast of end-time events, it typically favours either going behind the text, in search of a socio-historical context of origin to which it might refer, or else standing in front of the text and investigating the book’s reception history, or its present relevance and impact. Comparatively little interpretative work has been undertaken inside the text, exploring the mechanics of how Revelation ‘works’, still less how its complex parts might fit together into a meaningful whole.

Gordon Campbell considers Revelation to be a coherent narrative composition that draws its hearer or reader into its text-world. In Reading Revelation: A Thematic Approach, Campbell gives an innovative account of Revelation’s sophisticated thematic content. Mindful of Revelation’s narrative verve, or its architecture en mouvement (as Jacques Ellul once put it), Campbell plots a series of thematic trajectories through the book. On this reading, parody and parallelism fundamentally shape the whole narrative. As a first-ever integrated account of Revelation’s macro-themes, Reading Revelation makes an important contribution to Revelation scholarship. In its light, the book may justifiably be seen as the ‘crowning achievement’ of the Scriptures.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 430

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Gordon Campbell is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and principal of Union Theological College, Belfast, where he is also Head of Biblical Studies. The Book of Revelation has been the focus of much of his research and remains his special interest.


Foreword to the English edition
Preface to the English edition
Foreword to the French edition
Preface to the French edition
Methodological introduction

Part One: God reveals himself
Introduction to Part One
1. Divinity and pseudo-divinity
2. True sovereignty and usurped claims
     Historical detour 1: Is daily life in Asia’s cities accessible?
     Historical detour 2: Is the sea monster decipherable?
     Historical detour 3: Is christological parody decodable?

3. Legitimate adoration and bogus worship
     Historical detour 4: Is political parody detectable?
     Historical detour 5: Is the bogus worship identifiable?

Conclusion to Part One

Part Two: Humanity finds itself
Introduction to Part Two
4. Genuine testimony and counter-proclamation
5. Faithful belonging and counter-allegiance
6. Bride-city and whore-city
     Historical detour 6: Is ‘Babylon’ translatable by Rome?
     Historical detour 7: Is the woman of Revelation 12 identifiable?

Conclusion to Part Two

Part Three: When God and Humanity meet
Introduction to Part Three
7. Broken covenant and new covenant
     Historical detour 8: Is an economic critique of Rome plausible?
Conclusion to Part Three


Index of passages in Revelation
Index of other Biblical references
Index of references to ancient literature
Thematic Index
Author Index


Endorsements and Reviews

[Reading Revelation] provides many fresh insights. What Campbell has offered, is a complete and coherent biblical theology of Revelation, undoubtedly fruitful to use for theological students, teachers and researchers, so that contemporary readers become competent readers.
Rob Van Houwelingen, in European Journal of Theology, April 2013

Gordon Campbell’s impressive study … is a masterful interpretation, detailed and rigorous.
Ian Boxall, in The Expository Times, Vol 125, No 2

Campbell’s approach is to seek an understanding of Revelation from within the text itself, rooted as it is in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures. … He discerns a number of themes running through Revelation which bind the book into a coherent literary work rather than a collection of disparate elements or detailed prophecy of the future.
David McKay, in Reformed Theological Journal, 2013 Issue

… offers fresh understandings of Revelation. Its copious endnotes, rich bibliography, indexes of Revelation passages, other biblical references, ancient Greco-Roman literature, and themes enable the reader to cross-check the meanings of a specific text or a vision or an event. Readers will find this carefully researched work enlightening and rewarding.
Daniel Jeyaraj, Liverpool Hope University, in Theological Book Review , Vol 25, No 1

Gordon Campbell has written a comprehensive and useful analysis of John’s Apocalypse … Campbell’s reading of Revelation is intrusive at many points and will prove useful to students of the Apocalypse who have long pined for a fresh perspective on this perplexing book.
Andrew R. Guffey, in Modern Believing, Vol 56, Issue 1