Bauckham on Understanding Revelation as Prophecy for Today

“Biblical prophecy always both addressed the prophet’s contemporaries about their own present and the future immediately impending for them and raised hopes which proved able to transcend their immediate relevance to the prophets contemporaries and continue to direct later readers to God’s purpose for their future.

Historicizing modern scholarship has sometimes stressed the former to the total exclusion of the latter, forgetting that most biblical prophecy was only preserved in the canon of Scripture because its relevance was not exhausted by its reference to its original context.

Conversely, fundamentalist interpretation, which finds in biblical prophecy coded predictions of specific events many centuries later than the prophet, misunderstands prophecy’s continuing relevance by neglecting to ask what it meant to its first hearers.

It is important … to understand how John’s prophecy addressed his contemporaries, since they are the only readers it explicitly addresses. This does not prevent us from appreciating but helps us to understand how it may also transcend its original context and speak to us.”

R.Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation (Cambridge: CUP, 1993), 152-3.

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