Tuesday Review: Moses and the Revelation

Mike Bull’s Moses and the Revelation takes a bold step forward in interpretation of Revelation: letting the core of the Bible interpret the Apocalypse.

For most, the book of Revelation is a mystery. We no longer have the tools to read the book for its intended purpose. It is written in coded symbols foreign to most because we no longer understand the Bible as we ought to. We’ve lost the literacy necessary to the proper interpretation of the text. We’ve also lost the original context of the book, and in its absence, seven unclean make-believe contexts have rushed to fill that gap.

Thankfully, Mike Bull’s Moses and the Revelation is a great first step toward regaining the keys to understanding the book of Revelation. Rather than starting in Revelation, guns blazing, Mike takes us back to the beginning of the Bible: Torah. The Pentateuch, Mike says, is the key to understanding the rest of the Bible, especially Revelation. For those of us who feel that the text of Revelation is foreign, Bull’s work helps us to see the book through the Bible’s eyes.

His approach is twofold: first, he explains the internal structure he identified in the Bible, the Bible Matrix, and how to interpret the Pentateuch in light of the Matrix. Readers unfamiliar with Bible Matrix will actually not be lost in the book, despite his heavy use of the structure. Earlier works may have relied a bit more heavily on previous knowledge of the Matrix, but I am happy to see that has shifted a little. Bull runs through pages of introductory diagrams, willing to take the time to get us acclimated to the system before running us through our paces. Even for someone like myself, more familiar with the system, this was a helpful reminder. Had this been my first interaction with the Matrix, I would have felt familiar enough with it to follow along with the rest of the book. After he re-introduces the Matrix with broad headings, he deals with the text itself. By seeing how the Pentateuch, and eventually adding Joshua and Judges, fit into the structure, the reader is ready to dive into Revelation.

The second half of his approach to Revelation is to apply the Matrix to the text of Revelation. In doing so, he makes careful note as to where the Matrix helpfully points out connections between the Pentateuch and Revelation. Earlier works might be denser in material with far less hand holding. Thankfully, I felt like the material was just as dense, but with more clarity and more guidance than earlier pieces. (For what it is worth, there is room for both in academic, especially theology books.)

I will warn, as Mike does, that this book is not for those interested in every minute detail of the Apocalypse. Most people interested in the Apocalypse might think of books like Beale, Mounce, or Osborne. This book, while an in-depth look at Revelation, is not a commentary in the same sense. Rather, Mike’s aim is to show the broad structure of the book within the Matrix, and under the rubric created by the Pentateuch. While I’m sure Mike has in-depth thoughts on the book itself (which I want to nudge him in the direction of writing a technical commentary, too…), I didn’t feel cheated out of incredible nuggets here. There were plenty of eye-opening details about the whole of the Bible, not just Revelation.

As I mentioned before, the book of Revelation seems to be an unbreakable code. People from all walks of life have tried many different ways of cracking the code. Some look to contemporary events as the referents of the code. One doesn’t have to look too hard on a Goodwill bookshelf to find a book claiming that the USSR is the kingdom of the Antichrist. Others look to history books to find historic referents of the Apocalypse, such as Rome and 1st century Jerusalem. While those are not necessarily entirely wrong, they do start from the wrong place. Mike helpfully points out that the Bible is the primary decoder ring of the book. We understand the symbols first by understanding the Bible; after that, we can do the work of interpreting history.

Moses and the Revelation is a triumph of interpretation. Whereas most commentaries are technical, showing you the nitty-gritty of the text, Mike teaches us how to read it for ourselves. He shows us how the Bible interprets itself, and how the Bible dictates its own structure. New readers of Bull will feel competent enough to read the book; veteran readers of Bull will be confident to read the book, and even preach on it after reading this. As far as commentaries on Revelation go, you will not find one as easily accessible yet intelligently written as this one.

 

This is a book I would love to revisit once in a while on my blog. First, though, I would love for you all to have a chance at reading it yourselves! I was provided a copy of this book by Mike, but I was not required to write a good review, just an honest one.

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