With almost eschatological fervor I am expecting the publication of my commentary Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible. A Commentary on Revelation 1-3 within weeks rather than months. It has been a long journey for my family, for Harding School of Theology, and for me personally. Part of the issue was the major reformulation of the focus of the commentary. The decision I made a few years ago to do a more thorough job of integrating the text of Revelation with theological trajectories from the Hebrew Scriptures and Intertestamental Judaism meant I had to slow down and incorporate and quote not only more Jewish texts, but also a small fraction of secondary literature.
Those who know my other publications are aware that I do not believe that the early church existed within a historical vacuum, devoid of significantinteraction with its pagan environment. This belief requires the incorporation of primary sources, e.g., Graeco-Roman literature, inscriptions, coins, papyri, and architecture. Even if readers of this commentary feel comfortable with the settings and theological perspectives of sacred writers such as Jeremiah or Zechariah, they might not be as comfortable with and knowledgeable of Greek and Latin authors such as Aelius Aristides and Apuleius or, to move beyond the literary elite, Anatolian inscriptions or Roman numismatics. My decision to not only reference Graeco-Roman sources but to also quote them at times and to supply some secondary literature certainly required a significant increase of time, energy, and pages.
In addition to the expansion into Jewish materials, both canonical and non-canonical, and into Graeco-Roman sources, a third area also retarded earlier goals for completion. So many impediments stand in the way of our hearing John as he intended to be heard that the task is always extensive and labyrinthine. Some assistance can be provided by visual materials that literally bring the ancient world to light. So, I have attempted to use some images in the book to enhance the reader’s appreciation for the world of John and his first readers, an effort with a steep learning curve both for me and the publisher.
My first fantasies about this commentary included it being available as an ebook with color images, video, and hyperlinks. Issues such as markets, ebook readers with footnote abilities, and distribution outlets deflated that balloon a couple of years ago. I then attempted to locate a print publisher who would do 4-color images. Some of the obvious publishers embrace views about Revelation totally different from mine. Beyond the initial cost, the idea of self publishing in color seemed imprudent unless I wanted lots of copies sitting in a warehouse somewhere since I have no personal distribution outlets. I was delighted that Wipf & Stock agreed to publish my commentary, but it will be printed with grayscale images, supplemented with color images on this blog, richardoster.com.
As soon as the commentary appears I will have an Amazon.com link to Seven Congregations in a Roman Crucible. A Commentary on Revelation 1-3 on this blog. I have also been invited to present two classes on this at the Pepperdine University Bible Lectureship, April 30-May 4, 2013.