Book Write-Up: All Things New, by Brian J. Tabb

Brian J. Tabb. All Things New: Revelation as Canonical Scripture. Apollos/IVP Academic, 2019. See here to purchase the book.

Brian J. Tabb teaches biblical studies at Bethlehem College and Seminary and edits the online journal Themelios. As the title indicates, this book is about the biblical Book of Revelation.

Here are some thoughts:

A. Where the book is especially strong is that it shows how Revelation echoes or alludes to the Old Testament, in order to make its own point. For instance, the Book of Revelation alludes to themes in the Book of Exodus, and Revelation, like Exodus, is about the deliverance of God’s people from an oppressive despot. Others have done this, as Tabb himself acknowledges. But Tabb further solidifies this argument by demonstrating verbal parallels between the Book of Revelation and the Septuagint. The book also has helpful information about Revelation’s possible allusions to pagan motifs of its time.

B. Like other books in the NSBT series that I have read, the conclusions are not mind-blowing or earth-shakingly new, but they are safe. In evaluating the idealist, preterist, and futurist approaches to the Book of Revelation, for example, Tabb states that they are all true. Overall, Tabb contends that Revelation is about the supremacy of God over all other powers. That is a rather obvious conclusion.

C. As another example of (B.), Tabb in a couple of instances attempts to interpret the phrase “testimony of Jesus” in the Book of Revelation. This phrase has loomed large in my own religious background, since I attended Seventh-Day Adventist churches for some time. In light of Revelation 19:10, an SDA pastor interpreted the “testimony of Jesus” as the “spirit of prophecy,” which he said was God’s provision of prophets, particularly the prophetess Ellen G. White. I doubted this interpretation in my mind, for I thought other explanations were plausible. Maybe the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy in that the message about Jesus’s work and supremacy is the point of Old Testament prophecy, I thought. Tabb surveys scholarly interpretations of the “testimony of Jesus,” and he concludes that the testimony of Jesus is the Book of Revelation itself. In addition, he effectively disputes the idea that “spirit” means “point.” Tabb’s argument is convincing, for he looks at the occurrences of the Greek word for “testify” and “testimony” throughout Revelation. The conclusion itself was rather lackluster, though. This is not to suggest that Tabb should have tried to be sensationalist or gone with the more intriguing view rather than the view that he thinks is correct, based on the evidence. It’s just that, when I am determining whether I “love” or “like” a book, whether the conclusions are interesting to me factors into my own subjective judgment, rightly or wrongly.

D. One especially helpful point was Tabb’s interpretation of Jesus’s statement in Revelation 2:5 that he will remove the lampstand of the church of Ephesus, if she does not repent. Does this imply a loss of salvation? Tabb argues that Jesus is saying that the church of Ephesus will no longer be a light to others, if she fails to repent. In this scenario, it does not necessarily relate to a loss of salvation.

E. In reading other NSBT books, I often think that the arguments that the authors critique and dismiss are more interesting and intriguing than the arguments of the authors themselves. In reading this book by Tabb, my response to some of the arguments that Tabb critiques was, “How can anyone possibly believe that?” On page 17, for example, Tabb states: “Royalty provocatively charges that ‘Revelation swallows the biblical subtext’ and ‘subversively reinscribes the Hebrew Scriptures to effectively eliminate the prophets as authoritative texts’ in order to control John’s readers and condemn his opponents.” Tabb interprets R.M. Royalty to be saying that John was claiming to replace the Old Testament prophecies with the Book of Revelation, and Tabb’s response to that is that John still deems the Old Testament prophecies to be authoritative.

F. Related to (E.), I initially thought that Royalty’s conclusion looked bizarre and eccentric, and I wondered why Tabb even felt a need to address it. On second thought, though, I am curious as to whether Royalty’s argument can inform my own struggles with the Book of Revelation. In Old Testament prophecies, the focus is on God’s restoration of national Israel, and there often seems to be an implication that this dramatic, eschatological restoration would occur soon after the prophets’ own time. The Book of Revelation, however, does not obviously speak to the restoration of national Israel. In that case, was John faithful to the Old Testament prophecies? Did he see himself as faithful to them, and, if so, how? One proposed solution is that John regards Christians as the new Israel, but could another possible solution be that John believed Revelation was God’s final eschatological plan that supercedes previous eschatological plans, even if it resembles them, in areas? Royalty may not engage those questions explicitly, but I wonder if his analysis could shed light on them.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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