BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 31, 2015

Cover ArtSimon Gathercole, author of Defending Substitution, was interviewed at Reformed Report.

“There are two key places in the Gospel narrative where Jesus describes his death as a substitutionary atonement. The first is Mark 10.45: ‘For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ This is a key statement because it is Jesus summing up his whole earthly mission. The second is Mark 14.22-24 where Jesus says: ‘this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.’ Again, this is Jesus’ summary of the purpose of his death the night before he died, and this then became one of the most memorable statements of Jesus.”

Revelation, Peter Williamson’s latest addition to the acclaimed Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, was reviewed by Timothy at Catholic Bibles.

“In the past when I was asked to recommend one particular commentary on Revelation, I would usually recommend at least two.  This was due to my desire to offer something that touched both the scholarly and pastoral elements of this book. Now, I will simply be encouraging people to get Peter Williamson’s Revelation.”

Finally, Bishop-elect Robert Barron recently spoke at Baker Book House, drawing from Exploring Catholic Theology.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – June 19, 2015

Cover ArtAt First Things, Peter Leithart discussed Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution.

“Gathercole finds a common theme running through alternatives to substitutionary conceptions of atonement: They emphasize the cosmic and oppressive power of Sin, but downplay the role of specific acts of sin—sins—in Paul’s theology.”

Justin Mihoc and Joshua Mann reviewed the second volume of Craig Keener’s commentary on Acts for RBL.

“[Acts: An Exegetical Commentary] has already become, and will certainly remain for a long time, a standard reference work in Acts studies. His encyclopedic opus is certainly to be praised and valued by scholars as the most extensive study of sociorhetorical exegesis of Acts.”

Johnny Walker, at Freedom in Orthodoxy, reviewed Matthew Levering’s Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation.

“Wonderful in its clarity and in its breadth of engagement with contemporary positions and proposals. His own account deserves a wide-hearing and will be something of a bench-mark I’m sure for Catholic account of the role of Church and Scripture in God’s self-witness to the world.”

Larry Hurtado reviewed Early Christianity in Contexts, edited by William Tabernee.

“For readers who might want to push out their own frontiers of knowledge of early Christianity, this book will be a gold mine.”

Also, Early Christianity in Contexts was reviewed by Peter Head at Evangelical Textual Criticism.

Herman Bavinck’s Essays on Religion, Science, and Society was reviewed by Dayton Hartman at For the Gospel.

The Bonhoeffer Center reviewed Andrew Root’s Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker.

Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament, by Stanley Porter, was reviewed at The Washington Book Review.

Peter Williamson, author of Ephesians and Revelation in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, was interviewed at Catholic Bibles.

Finally, congrats to J. Richard Middleton, whose A New Heaven and a New Earth won the Word Award for the category of Biblical Studies.

Figurative Language and Symbolism – an Excerpt from Revelation

The following is an excerpt from Peter Williamson’s Revelation volume in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture.


An especially challenging feature of Revelation is its extensive use of images, symbols, and figurative language. Contemporary readers may ask, “Why doesn’t the author speak plainly? How can we know what should be taken symbolically and what literally?”

Cover ArtMany people today are more literal in their thinking than ancient peoples, perhaps because of the esteem with which our age regards technology and the exact sciences. The literature and iconography of both Jewish and Greco-Roman culture of the era in which Revelation was written manifests a love for symbolic communication that the early Christians shared with the people of their day.

Revelation makes frequent use of similes, metaphors, and symbols. A simile compares two unlike things by the use of “like” or “as,” while a metaphor attributes the qualities of one thing to another without using “like” or “as.” Revelation employs over seventy similes, beginning with the vision of “one like a son of man,” who is described by using nine similes (1:10, 13–16). These similes illuminate particular aspects of Jesus’ person and role, while conveying that the risen Jesus surpasses anything his readers have experienced.

Among Revelation’s many metaphors is the risen Lord’s diagnosis of the spiritual condition of the church at Laodicea: “lukewarm . . . poor, blind, and naked” (3:16–17). A symbol is something that stands for something else. Although they occasionally function as mere place markers for the things they refer to, symbols can be used to communicate depths of meaning that go far beyond mere reference. The harlot Babylon is a symbol of Rome, but also of every proud civilization that resists God, persecutes his people, and idolizes wealth and pleasure.

….The symbolic language of Revelation engages the reader far more powerfully than it would if its message were stated in literal prose. Some readers find the visions of Revelation so objectionable or frightening that they are eager to seize upon any congenial symbolic or metaphorical interpretation. Others, however, are suspicious of any interpretation of a biblical text that is not literal.

Readers who were introduced to Revelation through a literal interpretation may be reluctant to reconsider what they learned, rightly on guard against rationalist interpretation that undercuts the miracles of the Bible through allegorizing or moralizing. Often younger readers are especially resistant toward nonliteral interpretation, impressed by Revelation’s dramatic narrative and concerned lest symbolic interpretation empty the text of relevance to the real world.

Whatever one’s predisposition, it is best to approach Revelation as objectively as possible, conscious of one’s inclinations, yet open to discovering afresh what John and the Holy Spirit who inspired him are saying through the text.

©2015 by Peter S. Williamson. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


For more information on Revelation, click here.

New Release: Revelation

Cover ArtIn this addition to the well-received Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, seasoned New Testament scholar and popular speaker Peter Williamson interprets Revelation from within the living tradition of the Church for pastoral ministers, lay readers, and students alike.

The series, which will cover the entire New Testament, relates Scripture to Christian life today, is faithfully Catholic, and is supplemented by features designed to help readers understand the Bible more deeply and use it more effectively in teaching, preaching, evangelization, and other forms of ministry


“A balanced, clear, informative, and insightful commentary on Revelation that is both Catholic and catholic. Attentive to the first-century context, the history of interpretation, and Christian liturgy and life, it offers us–like Revelation itself–guidance for the spiritual struggle between the first and second comings of the Lord.” – Michael J. Gorman, St. Mary’s Seminary and University

“Dr. Williamson, drawing on the best scholarship, has done an excellent job making sense out of a book that is notoriously difficult to interpret. Academically sound, pastorally useful, spiritually inspiring. Highly recommended.” – Ralph Martin, STD, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

“Peter Williamson’s commentary on the book of Revelation is well balanced and ….His explanations of the various images throughout Revelation, set within a clear, sensible presentation of the structure of the whole book, allow the pieces of the puzzle of this book to fall into place and enable the reader to better understand its first-century background and its vision of the final victory of God and his Church….I highly commend this commentary.” – Fr. Mitchell C. Pacwa, SJ, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology


Peter S. Williamson (STD, Pontifical Gregorian University) holds the Adam Cardinal Maida Chair in Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of several books, including Ephesians in the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture and Catholic Principles for Interpreting Scripture. He is also the coeditor of John Paul II and the New Evangelization

For more information on Revelation, click here.