Commentaries on Revelation

I guess I lied; I’m back posting on Revelation. Having just finished a course on the book, I have a few recommendations for commentary reading:

1. For excellent historical and literary analysis mixed with equally excellent theological reflection, the winner by far is Mitchell Reddish’s commentary in the Smyth and Helwys series. Reddish is especially good at showing parallels in biblical and other ancient texts. A real bonus (and for me, a necessity in the study of Revelation) is his collection of sidebars and graphics (including art images) that highlight both historical and contemporary approaches to the interpretation of Revelation. A goldmine; I told Reddish it was a near-perfect commentary.

2. Also quite excellent–though more concise and without the graphics–is the new commentary by Ian Boxall in the Black’s series. Boxall has previously written on Revelation, and the commentary continues his very good work in combining historical, literary, and theological analysis. Very highly recommended.

3. David Aune’s three-volume, ultra-detailed, historical-critical commentary in the Word series (volume one here) has proven to be a very worthwhile read this term, though it takes patience to work through all the detail without much theological payoff.

4. Eugene Peterson’s theopoetic interpretation, Reversed Thunder, has been worth reading again (for about the tenth time) because he really allows Revelation to do what it’s intended to do: provoke the imagination and inspire worship.

5. Ben Witherington’s commentary in the New Cambridge series has some of the strengths of Reddish’s work but without the graphics and with less material on reception history. At times this commentary is hard to read because it does not deal with everything in the text sequentially, but his treatment of the social context (imperial cult, etc.) is very strong.

6. There are lots of other good commentaries (not to mention more general introductions), but these are currently my favorite. Finally, however, I note the commentary by Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, the commentary version of the “Left Behind” series. It’s worth reading just for that reason.

7. One last resource to mention: a very helpful set of tables on dozens of facets of Revelation can be found in Mark Wilson’s Charts on the Book of Revelation.

What volumes would you add to my list?

12 Responses to “Commentaries on Revelation”

  1. Michael Bird says:

    I’m quite partial to:
    1. Beale’s NIGTC commentary.
    2. Craig Koester’s short intro to Revelation
    3. Chris Rowland’s reception-history volume in the Blackwell series.
    4. G.B. Caird is an oldie but a goodie.
    5. And I am concerned and confused how you could possibly omit from the list Richard Bauckham’s Theology of Revelation which is the first stoping point for anyone studying Revelation.

  2. MJG says:

    Bauckham does not qualify as a commentary. (OK, neither does Wilson’s tables). But you are right: Bauckham’s Theology of the Book of Revelation is absolutely essential for anyone studying Revelation–and I assigned it for reading this term at Duke, along with the reception history by Rowland and Kovacs (a great resource, but not an easy straight-through read).

  3. vht nguyen says:

    I am waiting to see Brian K. Blount’s Revelation (New Testament Library) WJK 2009. I enjoyed his other book, Can I Get a Witness? Reading Revelation through African American Culture.

  4. MJG says:


    Yes, Blount (with whom I went to seminary at Princeton) was just here at Duke and gave a stimulating lecture on Revelation that was very well received. I have used his “Can I Get a Witness?” as a text for students once or twice.

    There are lots of other good treatments of Revelation out there; perhaps at some future point I will run another list.

  5. simon jones says:

    I’m preaching through Revelation with our adult mid-week group and I’ve found Beale, Bauckham and Koester invaluable. I have also found Paul barnett’s small commentary (and one or two articles) very helpful on linking the political focus with the message of the letter for congregations. Wes Howard-Brrok and Anthony Gwyther Unveiling Empire is helpful as is Simon Woodman’s The Book of revelation – neither are strictly commentaries but they do pick up key themes that are essential for getting a handle on this wonderful text.

  6. MJG says:


    Thanks for these ideas. Unveiling Empire is quite helpful (have assigned that to students, too). Koester is very sensible, and his Yale Anchor commentary should be great when it comes out.

    I want to commend to everyone once again Mitchell Reddish’s commentary. Like the series more generally, this volume is not well known;I myself only discovered it recently, though it was published in 2001. It is theological commentary writing, grounded in good historical and literary analysis, at its best.

  7. Greg Smith says:

    As noted above, Beale’s commentary is excellent. Also, as noted, Bauckham’s stuff on Revelation.

    I am currently reading Poythress’ The Returning King which is a short work written at the popular level. I have been looking for something that might work as a entry level attempt at presenting our people with an alternate viewpoint to “Left Behind” theology. I believe I have found it in this book. Of particular interest is his chapter on structure which takes three or four different structural looks at the book. Great stuff written so that all can understand.

  8. MJG says:

    Greg–thanks for the note on Poythress.

  9. Mike Aubrey says:

    I don’t know how he compares to the others, but I’ve greatly enjoyed reading Smalley.

  10. MJG says:

    Thanks, Mike. I’ve not used Smalley in a while, but I have pleasant memories.

  11. Carl says:

    I taught Revelation for an adult Bible study at a friend’s church a while back, and Simon Kistemaker’s commentary was quite helpful in keeping my thoughts pastoral. Also, while I did not agree with their conclusions all the time, the commentaries by Robert Mounce, R.H. Charles, and George Ladd were certainly useful for preparation.

  12. MJG says:

    Thanks, Carl; I’ve not used Kistemaker. I first read Mounce with Bruce Metzger at Princeton in 1980–a fine commentary even when I disagree with some of his eschatology.

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