7 Questions on Revelation in the ZIBBC Commentary Series
Mark Wilson is the director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey, and is the host for BAS’s tours of Turkey. Dr. Wilson received his doctorate in Biblical studies from the University of South Africa (Pretoria), where he serves as a research fellow in Biblical archaeology.
He is currently Associate Professor Extraordinary of New Testament at Stellenbosch University. He leads field studies in Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean for university, seminary and church groups.
Dr. Wilson is the author of Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor and Victory through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language. He is a frequent lecturer at Biblical Archaeological Society’s Bible Fests.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Revelation?
Two things prepared me for writing the commentary. In 1992 I made my first trip to the Seven Churches in western Turkey with several friends from my home church in Virginia. It was an amazing experience to walk through Ephesus, Pergamum, and Sardis for the first time. The Seven Churches were little explored in NT studies at that time, so I determined to focus my research on them and Asia Minor’s early Christian communities. I was also beginning my doctoral studies at the University of South Africa. My thesis, which I completed in 1996, focused on the promise/victor sayings at the conclusion of each of the seven prophetic letters. One of my research correspondents was Clinton Arnold, who had written a volume on Ephesians. Zondervan had asked Clint to serve as the NT editor for a proposed Bible Backgrounds commentary. Clint knew about my interest in the Seven Churches as well as my recently completed doctoral thesis, so he invited me to contribute the volume on Revelation.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
The target audience for the commentary is pastors, students, and interested lay persons. While some of the language may be technical, it is non-academic. Professors unfamiliar with the background of material culture in first-century Roman Asia would also benefit from it.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Revelation?
The commentary series is unique in that it was among the first to approach material culture as a serious background for interpreting the NT. Since then numerous other commentaries, handbooks, and encyclopedias with that approach have appeared. Two decades after publication the commentary is still relevant, being dated only in archaeological research which, of course, has unearthed more discoveries, especially at Laodicea.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Wow, that is a difficult question to answer. To consider the overall structure and message of the book written in twenty-two chapters to Seven Churches in Asia took much consideration and meditation to sort out. Chapter 12 for me is pivotal because it is situated at the book’s chiastic center. Its apocalyptic vision of the male child’s incarnation and triumph is foundational to Revelation’s message. The fall of Satan and his angels is spiritually inaugurated here for the Lamb’s followers and then proleptically announced, with its full realization coming in chapters 19–20 with the return of the Rider on the white horse.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
Christology is taught through names and symbols throughout the book. A pivotal moment occurs in 5:6-8 when the slaughtered paschal Lamb stands and takes the scroll from the One who sits on the throne. The saints then sing a new song declaring the Lamb “Worthy…!” Whenever I sing the worship song based on this pericope, tears come to my eyes. I feel caught up to heaven to join the heavenly chorus ascribing the sevenfold attributes to our Risen Lamb.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Revelation?
My contribution to the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary was my first published volume on Revelation. Since then I have published my revised doctoral thesis as The Victor Sayings in the Book of Revelation (Wipf & Stock, 2007). My Charts on the Book of Revelation: Literary, Historical, and Theological Perspectives (Kregel, 2007) remains unique among resources on Revelation. My topical study called Victory through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language (Weaver 2014/Lexham, 2018) is especially geared to a lay audience. Students and readers have stated that each of these volumes has been helpful for them to understand the book.
For my ongoing research and writing related to Revelation, I still return to the older commentaries of Swete and Beckwith. Among contemporary authors I regularly consult Aune, Beale, Osborne, Koester, Bauckham, and deSilva. When I teach Revelation, my recommended textbook is Stephen Smalley’s The Revelation to John (IVP, 2005). It is the right length, technical enough for scholars and students, yet still readable for non-academics.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
Last year the ESV Archaeology Bible was released with my contribution of the Revelation section. Three articles–Thyatira, Philadelphia, and Patmos– will appear later this year in the Lexham Geographic Commentary: Acts through Revelation. I am also interested in the archaeological history of the Seven Churches so am editing a volume of the earliest photographs of the sites published in 1869 by Alexander Svoboda. Since the publication of Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor in 2010, readers have asked for a condensed version focusing just on the Seven Churches. So I am working on that volume now. I am on the committee for the Revelation Consultation at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meetings. Our consultation will sponsor focused sessions over the next three years toward the goal of an edited volume tentatively called Revelation under Fire: The Apocalypse of John among Its Critics. I also regularly lead study tours to the Seven Churches and am the program chairman for the “Global Smyrna Meeting on the 7 Churches of Revelation” to be held in Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey in June 2020 (http://www.globalsmyrnameeting.com/). All of my published articles are available to read and download at www.academia.edu.
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