What are we to make of the book of Revelation, with all its dramatic events and rich symbolism? Get an authoritative guide to this extraordinary work in 24 thought-provoking and enlightening lectures, divided into three parts: the historical and intellectual background of the Apocalypse; a close reading of John's text, focusing on the meaning of its images; and the wide-ranging impact of the book on Christian and Western history.
Throughout these lectures, Professor Koester focuses on what John actually wrote in the Apocalypse, what his situation tells us about his meaning, how that meaning can be applied to our own lives, and how contemporary biblical scholars relate Revelation to the modern world. He also introduces major figures in history who have been powerfully drawn to the Apocalypse, among them St. Augustine (who saw it as timeless and symbolic rather than literal), Martin Luther (who decoded it to reach a remarkable theological insight), and Sojourner Truth (who was inspired by the book to work tirelessly for women's rights and the abolition of slavery).
Describing the Apocalypse as a roller coaster that hurtles you down into the abyss amid scenes of monsters and plagues, only to send you flying upward toward views of pure light, Professor Koester stresses that if you are reading Revelation and want to despair, then you've stopped reading too soon. You need to turn the page and look to the next chapter, because there will be a wonderful message of hope waiting for you. And as you learn with this lecture series, you'll find that the Apocalypse you've heard about pales beside the real one.
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Good material, not enough of it
This lecture series takes on an important set of topics and handles them well. Professor Koester clearly knows his stuff, and his insights into the Book of Revelation and it's history of interpretation are a helpful corrective to the reigning popular approaches to this important biblical book. That said, Koester's lectures rarely fail to disappoint with the threadbare amount of material that is covered in each. There are several reasons for this. First, Koester's style of speaking is slow, and he pauses often. Second, his presentation of the material wastes a lot of time in belabored explanation of the obvious. He often fails to get to the meat of a particular subject because he has made a point of giving a well defended argument about everyday experience. For instance, he will spend five minutes trying to convince his listeners that troubled political times cause people to be afraid and need to hear a message of hope. Who would doubt that? Finally, he repeats himself a great deal. This pattern becomes the most frustrating in the two lectures that discuss musical interpretations of Revelation through the ages. In all, these two lectures contain about 5 minutes worth of actual material; and the listener is forced to wait through 60 minutes meandering narratives for a point that never comes. In short, this lecture series is not at a collegiate level. I imagine that Dr. Koester is more accustomed to teaching at a masters or doctoral level and has attempted to adjust his style to the college level and undershot the mark. Or perhaps the college level is not what I remember.If you're looking for a lecture series with a lot of meat, I would suggest that you buy a different lecture series from The Great Courses (they really are great) and just go read one of Koester's books on Revelation.
Absolutely. I am currently listening to The Great Courses' lecture series, "The Other Side of History," and it is fantastic.
He could have prepared the series for a more advanced audience.