Book Review: Apocalypse: A Catholic Perspective on the Book of Revelation

Several people in the news media as well as televangelists have stated that the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is the beginning of the end of the world or is the beginning of World War III.

Protestant preachers have for years said that the end of the world is near and that Jesus’ Second Coming was imminent. They base their prophecies on the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse and other apocalyptic writings from the Old Testament. These preachers though forget what Jesus said in the Gospels that only God the Father knew when the end of the world would be (Mark 13:32-37).

The Left Behind book series, most of which this reviewer has read, also seem to predict the end times, but they are not a possible script of soon-to-be-realized events in our world.

If we trust in Christ and live the life that He calls us to live then why worry about the future? They seem to presume too much!

Father Stephen C. Doyle, O.F.M., provides a Catholic commentary in his book, Apocalypse: A Catholic Perspective on the Book of Revelation (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2005). He explains that people today misinterpret the author’s intention in the Book of Revelation.

Revelation was written for people living in the time of its author, traditionally accepted as St. John the Apostle, although it was common to use a name of a person who was important to add more weight to writings.

It is apocalyptic literature, a style that is full of symbolism and uses codes words or names to hide the real message from the persecutors of those for whom the book is written. The Old Testament contains several apocalyptic books, including Daniel, parts of Ezekiel, Judith, and others. This type of writing was meant to encourage those enduring persecution.

Although the Book of Revelation is not a prophecy for the 21st Century Christian as some preachers would say, it is still useful today as a great source of encouragement and solace for those enduring persecution, illness or the trials of life. The book serves as a symbolic record of the victory of the Church over the world of evil, especially during the days of the Roman Empire.

Fr. Doyle uses the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible in this commentary. He presents the scripture verse(s) and then comments on that. He provides his own commentary, but he also uses other sources like other scripture verses, writings of the Church Fathers, and other sources. He ends each chapter with reflections from various sources — scripture, Church documents or other sources. There are 53 chapters which vary in length.

Fr. Doyle provides a short bibliography which includes some Protestant commentaries on the Book of Revelation. This is followed by an index.

Fr. Doyle’s book clears up much of the confusion over the interpretation of the last book of the Bible. He follows the directives of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on Divine Revelation and other Church authorities.

This book is highly recommended to those wanting a better understanding of the Book of Revelation, but who do not want an overly academic commentary. This book meets those needs.

Fr. Stephen Doyle is the author of A Retreat with Mark (1998), Understanding the New Testament (1989), The Gospel in Word & Power (1982), The Acts of Jesus’ Apostles (1982), 1-2 Thessalonians and Galatians (1980) and Covenant Renewal in Religious Life: Biblical Reflections (1975).

Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., writes from St. Gregory’s University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

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