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Spring 2004 · Vol. 33 No. 1 · pp. 113–114 

Book Review


John R. Yeatts. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2003. 523 pages.

Reviewed by Loren L. Johns

In this latest Believers Church Bible Commentary, John R. Yeatts offers a balanced and helpful interpretation of Revelation. Yeatts has taught at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, for more than twenty years. Although his doctoral work was in educational psychology, the commentary itself reflects significant study of the Apocalypse and familiarity with many of the critical issues related to its interpretation.

One of the great strengths of the series, in my opinion, is its structural formula. Each section of text for comment is subjected to:

  1. a preview (or overview);
  2. explanatory notes;
  3. comments on the text in biblical context; and
  4. comments on the text in the life of the church.

The first of these sections places a passage in its literary context within Revelation and identifies important themes in the passage. {114} The second allows the author to discuss critical issues within the passage. The third explores its contribution to biblical theology. The fourth focuses on the application of that biblical theology in the believers church. At the end are twenty-six essays on a variety of issues from “Anabaptist Interpretation of Revelation” to “Astral Prophecy,” and from “History of the Interpretation of Revelation” to “Nero Redivivus Myth,” as well as a glossary of terms.

This commentary engages in dialogue with the biblical text, with the history of the interpretation of the text, and with popular eschatology—especially with premillennial dispensationalism and other attempts to read Revelation “literally.” Many parenthetical citations of texts illustrate this or that point. These citations of parallel texts will prove a boon to students who wish to dig into the biblical and historical background of a text. Thousands of such references sprinkle the book.

Yeatts is not afraid to take on controversial theological issues, such as dispensational eschatology. Although I am sympathetic to Yeatts’s theological critique of dispensationalism, it seems odd that no dialogue with the writings of premillennial dispensational commentators on Revelation within the believers church tradition is to be found in this book. One is left with the misleading impression that believers church perspectives on Revelation or eschatology have always been other than premillennial or dispensational, despite his acknowledgement that some such examples exist. But premillennial dispensational Anabaptist commentators on Revelation, such as C. F. Derstine or J. B. Smith, are not to be found. One finds frequent reference to Menno Simons and other eschatologically moderate radical reformers, but the chiliastic sixteenth-century Anabaptists (e.g., Hans Hut and Melchior Hofmann) are silent.

Although the book will have limited value for the specialist in Revelation or New Testament studies, the comments and essays throughout the commentary are generally balanced, thoughtful, and judicious. Yeatts draws on an impressively wide range of literature, from Allan Boesak to Milton, from Dante to Menno Simons, and from the Dead Sea Scrolls to William Stringfellow and Jacques Ellul. There is much of value in this commentary, and I unreservedly recommend it for use by pastors and readers of Revelation in the believers church tradition.

Loren L. Johns
Academic Dean
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana

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