Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History

Course No. 6433
Professor Craig R. Koester, Ph.D.
Luther Seminary
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Course No. 6433
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The Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History

Professor Craig R. Koester, Luther Seminary


Exiled to the island of Patmos over 1,900 years ago, a prophet named John wrote a remarkable letter to fellow Christians. That letter is the Apocalypse of John, also known as the book of Revelation, and Christians and non-Christians alike have been debating its message ever since.


The meaning of the Greek word for apocalypse is “disclosure,” and John’s book discloses dimensions of two age-old mysteries: the character of evil and the nature of hope. So influential was Revelation in the early Christian church that it was placed as the final text in the New Testament, and its popularity has intensified in the centuries since.


As a result, its rich language and symbolism pervade Western culture, often in ways not recognized as coming from this unparalleled biblical work:


•     The details of heaven in the popular imagination, with its pearly gates, streets of gold, divine throne, and tree and river of life, are taken from the vision of the New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation.


•     Paintings and sculptures of the Virgin Mary since the Renaissance typically portray her as Revelation’s “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”


•     Revelation contributes some of the best-loved lyrics in Handel’s Messiah, including the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which takes singers and listeners to a realm of sublime mystery, just as John’s text does.


•     The words and images of many popular hymns were inspired by Revelation, including the “grapes of wrath” in “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the lyrics from “When the Saints Go Marching In.”


Revelation is also a touchstone for hopes and fears about the resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment. And its many baffling images have been studied for clues about the end of the world. The Apocalypse is both a terrifying vision of evil and a celebration of God’s ultimate victory over the forces of darkness. It has inspired great thoughts and great misunderstanding.


What are we to make of such a book? The Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History is your guide to this extraordinary work in 24 thought-provoking and enlightening half-hour 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

•     The wide-ranging impact of the book on Christian and Western history


Your professor is a preeminent scholar and teacher of the Apocalypse, Professor Craig R. Koester of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Koester—who has translated the book of Revelation from its original Greek—draws on years of experience with students, pastors, and lay groups to engage you directly with Revelation, examining its meaning in John’s day and how it continues to be meaningful to contemporary readers.


Book of Predictions? Or Work of Literature?


Professor Koester notes that many of the questions people ask him about the Apocalypse are sparked by sensationalistic interpretations that see it as a book of predictions. Explaining that Revelation follows a literary genre with roots in the apocalyptic writings of the Hebrew prophets, Professor Koester discusses the reasoning behind the futurist perspective and why it is problematic. For example:


•     The Antichrist: The word “antichrist” does not appear in Revelation. Instead, it is a term taken from First and Second John in the New Testament, where it refers to those who have left the Christian community, not to any individual tyrant.


•     The Rapture: The idea that true Christians will ascend to heaven while others will be left behind to be ruled by the Antichrist occurs nowhere in Revelation. It is a mix of literal and symbolic readings of passages from other books of the Bible.


•     Number of the Beast: Today’s Internet continues a centuries-old search for the name encoded in 666, the number of the beast in Revelation. But the context of John’s passage and an ancient puzzle technique give the likely answer: the emperor Nero.


•     Armageddon: Now understood as a world-destroying conflict, the battle of Armageddon has a different meaning in Revelation. Instead of missiles and tanks, the only weapon is the sword from Christ’s mouth, symbolizing the power of his word.


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.


Great Minds Struggling with a Great Book


Professor Koester also introduces major figures in history who have been powerfully drawn to the Apocalypse, among them:


•     St. Augustine: Writing in the 5th century in his magnum opus, The City of God, St. Augustine popularized a reading of Christ’s thousand-year reign from Revelation that sees it as timeless and symbolic rather than literal.


•     Martin Luther: Luther’s attitude toward the Apocalypse shifted from dismissing it to decoding it and finally reaching a remarkable theological insight. In his translation of the Bible, he included Dürer-inspired illustrations of Revelation that critiqued the papacy of his day.


•     William Miller: A former Deist, Miller rigorously analyzed the Bible, concluding from passages in Daniel and Revelation that the world would end in 1844. His ideas created a sensation in 19th-century America and sparked the Adventist movement.


•     Sojourner Truth: The African American social reformer Sojourner Truth was also a lay preacher, inspired by Revelation’s vision of a holy city to work tirelessly for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.


Isaac Newton pored over the mysteries of Revelation even as he revolutionized the study of science. D. H. Lawrence’s struggle was so intense that at the end of his life he wrote his own Apocalypse.


The Real Revelation


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’re still in the abyss. 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 read, you will find that the Apocalypse you’ve heard about pales beside the real one. “People tell me time and time again,” says Professor Koester, “that when they actually read the book, study the book, reflect on the book, it really doesn’t look much like all of the impressions that are generated by the popular media, the Internet, the contemporary discussions. You find something much more life-giving.”

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Revelation and the Apocalyptic Tradition
    Professor Koester introduces one of the most discussed books of all time: the book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse. Learn the original meaning of "apocalypse" and the importance of the apocalyptic tradition. Also survey the three-part structure of the course. x
  • 2
    Apocalyptic Worldview in Judaism
    Investigate the world of the Hebrew prophets, whose writings deeply influenced the author of the Apocalypse. First, focus on the themes of evil and hope in such works as Ezekiel and Isaiah. Then, see how these themes are taken up in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the apocalyptic book of Daniel. x
  • 3
    Apocalyptic Dimension of Early Christianity
    Consider how the apocalyptic worldview, with its strong sense of conflicting powers, was taken up and transformed by Christian writers in the New Testament. Apocalyptic themes had an important place in the early church, creating the religious matrix out of which the book of Revelation arose. x
  • 4
    Origins of the Book of Revelation
    Begin your close study of the text of the Apocalypse by looking behind the legends to surmise what can be said about its origins and author, identified only as John. Also examine the peculiar quality of John's Greek, which is not apparent in most translations. x
  • 5
    Issues Facing Revelation's First Readers
    The first two chapters of Revelation discuss the issues facing the Christian communities that first received the book. Delve deeper into the experiences of the men and women addressed by John. What was the nature of the persecution and other problems they faced? Who was this book written for? x
  • 6
    God, the Lamb, and the Seven Seals
    John's distinctive images—his "word pictures"—have captured the imaginations of readers for centuries. Plunge into some of John's most vivid scenes, including the breaking of the seven seals, which unleashes the four horsemen and other startling visions. x
  • 7
    Seven Trumpets, Temple, and Celebration
    Analyze the middle section of the Apocalypse from two contrasting perspectives: first, from the futurist view that Revelation is a book of ominous predictions; then, from the literary perspective that seeks to understand how John organizes his details into a narrative that is surprisingly hopeful. x
  • 8
    The Dragon and the Problem of Evil
    Turn to some of the most dramatic scenes in the Apocalypse, which deal with the problem of evil, personified by Satan, the great red dragon. John's account draws on an ancient fascination with stories of good battling evil, but he gives a bold new interpretation to the conflict. x
  • 9
    The Beasts and Evil in the Political Sphere
    Trace John's depiction of evil through the images of the two beasts. The beast from the sea, whose name equals 666, works in the realm of politics. The beast from the land supports the beast from the sea through practices that serve worldly empire. x
  • 10
    The Harlot and the Imperial Economy
    Encounter Babylon the harlot, one of the most remarkable figures in the Apocalypse. She symbolizes the city of Rome in all its ancient opulence. Two literary forms useful for understanding John's metaphor are satire and the obituary. John is both satirizing Rome's decadence and sounding its death knell. x
  • 11
    The Battle, the Kingdom, and Last Judgment
    Revelation's final chapters feature scenes that have had a powerful effect on the modern imagination, ranging from the battle of Armageddon to the final defeat of Satan and the Last Judgment. Learn the ancient context for these images, which mark the climax of God's battle against the forces of evil. x
  • 12
    New Creation and New Jerusalem
    Conclude your close reading of the text of Revelation with John's vision of the new creation and the New Jerusalem. Professor Koester explores this triumphant ending, which is the source for the popular image of the pearly gates—along with so much more. x
  • 13
    Antichrist and the Millennium
    Start a new section of the course in which you probe the impact of the Apocalypse on Western history. Study the early debates about the nature of the Antichrist and the Millennium, two ideas that drew heavily on writings outside of Revelation. x
  • 14
    Revelation's Place in the Christian Bible
    How did Revelation get into the Bible? Discover that, although it is unlike any other book in the New Testament, the Apocalypse met three broad criteria that early church leaders used to determine which books were authoritative and which were not. x
  • 15
    The Apocalypse and Spiritual Life
    By the 4th and 5th centuries, leading Christians were reading the Apocalypse for its spiritual truths, rather than what it had to say about coming events. Explore three topics that were especially important to this view: Revelation's symbolism, internal repetitions, and timeless message. x
  • 16
    The Key to the Meaning of History
    Trace medieval responses to Revelation through the ideas of several influential thinkers, including the controversial monk Joachim of Fiore, whose struggle with the Apocalypse led him to the mystical insight that it was the key to the meaning of history since the Creation. x
  • 17
    Apocalyptic Fervor in the Late Middle Ages
    See how certain followers of St. Francis of Assisi carried Joachim's ideas even further, styling themselves players in an apocalyptic drama and predicting that the present age would end in the 13th century. x
  • 18
    Luther, Radicals, and Roman Catholics
    Move into the world of the Reformation, where a renegade monk named Martin Luther first rejected Revelation but later used its imagery in his controversy with the papacy. During this period, Catholics discovered much of their standard iconography for the Virgin Mary in John's text. x
  • 19
    Revelation Takes Musical Form
    Explore Revelation from a completely different perspective: its rich musical heritage. There are many songs within Revelation, and much music has been inspired by it. Examine Handel's Messiah, the hymns compiled by Charles Wesley, and gospel songs such as "Shall We Gather at the River?" x
  • 20
    Revelation in African American Culture
    The Apocalypse has played a vital role in African American culture. Its visions of hope inspired the spirituals sung by slaves in the American South and the Dixieland favorite, "Oh when the saints go marching in." Scenes of New Jerusalem caught the imagination of Sojourner Truth and others who worked for social change. x
  • 21
    The Apocalypse and Social Progress
    In the 18th and early 19th centuries, many Americans believed that Revelation outlined a progressive social destiny pointing to the great millennial age of peace on Earth. Meet leaders in this movement, including Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, and Julia Ward Howe, who wrote "Battle Hymn of the Republic." x
  • 22
    Awaiting the End in 1844 and Beyond
    Chart a pivotal end-times crusade in America led by William Miller, who drew on the Apocalypse and book of Daniel to predict that 1844 would see Christ's Second Coming. The heirs to this movement include the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. x
  • 23
    Rapture, Tribulation, and Armageddon
    Turn to today's most popular futuristic perspective on the end times, Dispensationalism, held by those who believe that all true Christians will be spirited up to heaven in an event called the Rapture. Examine the origins of this view, its connection to Revelation, and its mix of literal and symbolic interpretation. x
  • 24
    The Modern Apocalyptic Renaissance
    Finish the course by meeting some of the contemporary theologians who show how dynamic and engaging the study of Revelation continues to be. The book has an unparalleled ability to both challenge and encourage, proving that the Apocalypse is as powerful today as it was 1,900 years ago. x

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Your professor

Craig R. Koester

About Your Professor

Craig R. Koester, Ph.D.
Luther Seminary
Dr. Craig R. Koester is the Asher O. and Carrie Nasby Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary. He attended St. Olaf College and Luther Seminary, then earned his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in New York before returning to Luther Seminary to teach. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, a scholar-in-residence at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey,...
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Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western History is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 66.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an excellent study and presentation. Very informed, culturally and historically. Gracious and reasonable approach with helpful graphics. Really appreciate the scholarship and humility involved in the learning experience.
Date published: 2018-09-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Apocalypse: Controversies and Meaning in Western H Our Bible Study group has enjoyed the DVD. We've had in-depth conversations and look forward to the next sessions. .
Date published: 2018-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative The lectures are informative and the lecturer speaks from his broad study of the book of REVELATION and much to do with it, especially its outworking in Christian history. He does DWELL on points that he makes and labours them too much at times. He sees HORRORS and TRIUMPHS of hope alternating in the book over and over again as being intentional in the vision. To me the book's vision was addressed to a readership of its time about the state of believers and about "things which must shortly take place" (Chapter 1 Verse 1). Chapter 1 Verse 3 one must accept as a reason to take the book very seriously, but it has puzzled many great minds for a long time. Perhaps the vision is addressed in places to the reader's subconscious.
Date published: 2018-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Valuable Addition One of the most valuable additions to my library. His treatment of Revelation is unique in the material covered. The background on the Apocalypse is rarely found in most similar books. Granted, I have not listened or read (I recommend the full transcript) to the last of three sections, but am sure it will also be above the standard. I enjoyed some of his explanations, such as the identity of the writer, John. IAlso, I will look for the author's separate book on Revelation.
Date published: 2018-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from helpful to my descision I liked looking at the historical perspectives and not just specific doctrinal biases
Date published: 2018-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Material on Revelation There is a lot of material on this biblical book, but this is the best lecture series I have ever heard. Dr. Koester gave powerful examples of the impact of this first century apocalypse on music. I also appreciated references to other examples of apocalyptic literature.
Date published: 2018-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview of the text and its history This marks the second time I have listened to this course and I also now bought it for a friend. The course organization is especially helpful. You get the text under your belt first and then turn to the history of its interpretation. The professor remains faithful to the text. He does not stray into idiosyncratic or agenda driven readings of Revelation. His overview of the history of the interpretation of the text really helped me to put the apocalyptic fervor of the mid-20th century into its broader context and to dissect Revelation from the doomsday prophecies so often attached to it. For those looking for a richer understanding of the text and its theological content, this course will not disappoint.
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting course This is an interesting topic and the prof did a great job explaining different positions.
Date published: 2017-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring and changeling! I was not sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised! The lecturer is great and very easy to understand. He has the ability to make the subject come alive. Very detailed and thorough.
Date published: 2017-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very good course! Well worth your time.... I have purchased more than 30 great courses.... but this s is my first review.... For those who look for predictions in Revelation, this might not be the course for you.... but for the rest of Revelation 's fans this is truly a GREAT course... if for nothing else than the pleasure of listening to the rich timbre of the professor's voice I loved the basic organization of the course... discussing what an apocalypse was, what John's first listeners would understand, what is actually written in the book, and finally its multiple impacts through subsequent generations.... The lecture describing the Apocalypse 's influence on western music caught me totally off guard.... I already knew that most of these works were either inspired by the book or directly quoted it.... but hearing this music in this context was quite simply overwhelming.... this experience ALONE was worth the price of the course and certainly every second I had invested in listening to it..... I've already listened to the course in order at least three times on my commute.... but I've lost count of the number of random lectures I just hit while negotiating interstate 880..... If the Bible is of interest to you, you would do very well with this course... run, don't walk, to your audio download button..... Jeff
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from discouraging disappointing and has and annoying manner of speaking
Date published: 2017-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Making Sense of Revelations Once again the Great Courses shines light into the dark recesses of my knowledge base. Revelations always seemed like a spooky if not outright crazy book in the bible. Professor Koester brings sense and clarity to this mysterious work. If you have ever wondered about Revelations and what it might mean beyond late night evangelical preachers, then this is the course for you.
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clarifying the nonesense For so long I have heard every possible story about the apocalypse and always with completely conflicting opinions. This course was so incredibly thorough and enlightening that I bought a bible and read revelations through. It finally made sense. And what was fun, a few days into the course, I ended up in a conversation about Revelations and was able to make some good points and reasonable arguments. Felt great!
Date published: 2017-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good examination of the Book of Revelations I can agree with some of the lower ratings but still found this course of excellent value. It does point out the ways Apocalypse can be interpreted even if not examining all the ways. The discussion of how the book has impacted culture, such as music and art, was very enjoyable. Although the presentation is slow at times Professor Koester's presentation is very clear, concise, and easy to understand.
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Apocalypse Review The professor does a great job of explanations without adding opinions and sticks to the facts known to us from various periods of time. He doesn't talk down to you, is clear and concise. A good course for bible study.
Date published: 2016-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally it makes sense! I had not delved too much into the book of Revelation because it always just seemed fantastical and irrelevant. Through this course I am learning that it is fantastical - by design - and what that fantasy meant to the original readers, readers throughout history and to me, the contemporary reader.
Date published: 2016-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Revealing Revelation This course not only makes the book of Revelation understandable, it links it to prophetic literature and early Christian thought. And as if that weren't enough, the professor examines its impact on history and music. Good illustrations, and a professor with a no-nonsense approach. The very best of all the great courses I've experienced.
Date published: 2016-09-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Expected More Started out slow and though it picked up a little bit when the professor began discussing the impact of the book on western civilization (and the various antichrist predictions) I was never able to fully get into the professor’s style and the course just didn’t engage me. I was hoping the professor would've spent more time discussing the narrative of the book in some type of chronological order. Instead, in each lecture he would seem to pick one event from one of the chapters and spend substantial time analyzing how it may be relevant to today and how there is hope behind even the worse sounding things instead of how it fit in with the other events in the chapter or the overall book. On the surface that doesn't necessarily mean his approach was bad. What was off putting was how he would take that one event and find a way to tie it to a core Christian theological doctrine to the point where most lectures ended with it feeling like he had wrapped the entire conversation into a sermon and I was left wondering: was this just really about the book of Revelation? For example in the lecture in which he was discussing the woman in the wilderness and the dragon he took one line about how Satan was kicked out of heaven and used it to preach how God is always in control and evil's power is limited. It is a good point to make but he spent so much time on it that by the time the lecture was done I had forgotten about the story of the woman in the wilderness, what it really meant, and how that event fit in with the book of Revelation (what preceded it and what came after it?). The sermon feeling did recede when the course entered its third section: the book’s impact on western civilization. There was no sense of how all of these singular events fit in if you are looking to study the book as a full story. In fact he doesn’t even cover the events of some chapters at all. The professor also had a strange style I could only describe as passive-aggressive. He came off as very pleasant and like one who was a bedrock of solid old-school values. Yet there was a condescending tone in his analysis of some peoples’ interpretation of components of the book. I actually agreed with him on his assessments but the way he stated his disagreement was bizarre. Why not just come out and state it plainly rather than try to soften your statement? The tone of his voice betrayed him. If you are a believer and are interested in how the book of Revelation is actually more about hope than an apocalyptic end of the world and want to know how it relates to today (or even what the author was trying to convey to readers of his time) then you could very well love this course. Especially if you're interested in how to pull Christian doctrine and theology from cryptic events in the book. However if, like me, you purchased this course expecting a review of the events in each chapter and how they all fit together (treatment of the book of Revelation as a literary work) I don't think you'll come away satisfied. Since I know a lot about Christian theology already, I was more interested in discussion about the contents of the book itself and the story they tell than sidebars and sermons.
Date published: 2016-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Revelation is a message of hope! I have studied Revelation many times, from many prospectives, and with many teachers. This is, by far, the best and most meaningful study I have ever done. This study with Professor Koester brought all of those studies together, added a prospective that I had never even considered before, and gave me a huge, "AH HA." I now believe that, "I get it" -- it truly is a message of hope! Professor Koester is one of the best teachers I have had the privilege of studying with. Please, please, please, have him do more Great Courses.
Date published: 2015-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent content. Over the years I had read the book of revelation several times and also came across some interpretations of what the content's message is. It is my opinion that this interpretation is excellent and reflects the presenter's deep understanding of the subject..
Date published: 2015-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enlightening Course on a Compliated Topic Dr. Koester's presentation of material dealing with the Apocalpyse is both clear and detailed. This topic, by its very nature, is controversial and his findings (nor those anyone else) will be universally embraced but Dr. Koester does an excellent job of brining out the historic background of the topic. I found his approach refreshing and fair to the numerous viewpoints that surround both the Old Testament prophets and the writings of the New Testament. At the end of the day I felt as though Dr. Koester had covered the topic well and planted the seed for further study. For this I am most appreciative.
Date published: 2015-01-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too little respect The instructor interprets The Revelation from a purely historical point of view. As should be the case for all of the Bible, no book should be interpreted out of the context of the rest of it. It seems as if Revelation is nothing other than political commentary/satire/cartoon. There is absolutely no effort to present the spiritual message. it certainly cannot be exclusively a commentary on the corruption of Imperial Rome, although this could be part of it also. Place it in the context of Genesis where God created the world, people declined to obey God and were thus separated form God. Reunification with God was made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the Creation is still suffering. Revelation brings the Biblical narrative to a logical spiritual conclusion. Believers spend and eternity with God, unbelievers spend eternity without him, just as they want. Creation is regenerated into something good again, without suffering and pain. The instructor does not appear to believe Christianity has a spiritual message, only a psychological and historical message. All it can do is encourage us to become better people, but God has no power. Material on the way society interpreted Revelation through history was good, and in keeping with his views that it can only be interpreted from an historical perspective. It is too bad there is no respect for religion as truth here.
Date published: 2015-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Done This is no ordinary course. Mr. Koester is one of the top scholars in his area of specialization. He wrote the Yale Anchor Bible Series commentary on Revelation. It is clear he has thought through the ideas in his lectures over many years. In addition, Mr. Koester is an excellent speaker and very well organized. You will learn a lot.
Date published: 2014-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course! I would recommend this course for anyone who has been trapped in the fearful wild speculation that goes on about the Book of Revelations and the Apocalypse. While not holding pat answers to everything, he presents logical answers to things that I have not only wondered about, but things that left me in fear. This is a really great course for those who need it.
Date published: 2014-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from better than I expected some of the reviews were a little toxic about this so I wasn't entirely sure how it would go. I am a 58 year old professional, happened to be a religion major in college (concentrated on eastern Religion); studied the Book of Revelation once; i'm an agnostic and Jew. So that's my background. I thought this was pretty good overall. I thought the professor was pretty animated, pretty focused; the content flowed well. I didn't entirely agree with some of his interpretations, but he's a scholar and I'm not, and I'm not bound by much of the exegeses about Revelation. I thought it was an interesting and well done approach - basically you have to interpret the Book in the context of the history and the time. I think that has merit, although I don't entirely agree. Furthermore, I thought the format of the course - the first half was more or less devoted to reviewing the actual history and text, and the second half devoted to reviewing the how the book was interpreted and how it influenced subsequent history and civilization -e.g. Revelation and music, revelation and slaves, revelation and social change in the 20th century....was an interesting take. Ths is not comprehensive, and he obviously has his own bias, but I thought this was worthwhile and recommend it.
Date published: 2013-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding The material here is outstanding. I have studied theology for 4.5 years, and have two master's degrees, and this is one of the finest courses I have ever taken. Dr. Koester does an outstanding job of giving background, and explaining the meaning of revelation to its original readers, which was the reason the book was written. He is an great New Testament scholar, and this course helped me better understand the context of the book, its meaning for its original readers, and its usefulness today to the church. I am very grateful for the course. I am about to finish a Master's in Theology at Duke, and plan to quote Dr. Koester in my thesis. I would gladly listen to any of his courses. I want to read his book on Hebrews also. He communicates very clearly, and has a great balance between the ancient background and the meaning of all the complex images, making it easily comprehensible. Highly recommended!!!
Date published: 2013-11-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Controversies I had previously read "Revelation and the End of All Things" by Koester. I wasn't very impressed by the book, but I couldn't resist 12 hours of lecture on one of my favorite topics. There are three parts to the series. He examines apocalypse in Judaism and Christianity, the text itself in a political sphere, and its impact on western history. Koester acknowledges that Revelation has been looked at in basically two ways, spiritual and historical. By historical he means those who have looked at Revelation as an unfolding of earthly events of the past that usually culminate in the interpreters own time or near future. He notes that historical interpretation has never proved right, but he opts for that method himself by using methods developed in early 19th century Europe. The difference is that Koester doesn't believe the events are happening in his own time, but were part of the first century Roman political situation. It seems unlikely to me that Revelation was written with 19th century theories in mind because the early Christians didn't interpret the Old Testament that way, and they were more concerned with correct doctrine and behavior than with outward persecution. The is evident in the writings of the New Testament and the early church fathers. Early Christians compared scripture to scripture while looking to the Holy Spirit for guidance (Act 17:11, John 5:39). In his interpretation Koester relies heavily on the idea that the beast of Revelation 17 is Rome be cause of ancient medallion that portrays Rome as a woman on seven hills. Technically, Rome never ruled over all the kings of the earth and, Revelation doesn't say seven hills but seven mountains. You'll see that is the way most translations give it. Daniel's beasts have seven heads (ch 7), and the book of 1 Enoch (ch 18, before 200 BC) also has seven mountains associated with the same type of symbolism given in Revelation. It is unlikely that these refer to the city of Rome. The first person to directly associate the woman in purple and scarlet of Babylon with Rome was Hippolytus, and he said the seven heads referred to seven ages. A hundred years before him Hermas said one of the aspects of the tribulation beast was a progression of ages. So we can't assume early Christians identified the seven mountains with Rome. The first Christian writer to identify the seven hills with Rome was Victorinus in the fourth century, over a hundred years after Hippolytus. Koester also blames early church fathers Irenaeus and Hippolytus for the modern understanding of antichrist, but research doesn't bear this out. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD, Dial. c. Trypho, cxx. 14, 15), who wrote before Irenaeus, mentions the Martyrdom of Isaiah, an earlier Christian writing with an apocalypse section. In it the author ties together the writings of Paul, Daniel, the Gospels and Revelation with the Belial/Beliar tradition to describe an evil antichrist type ruler. 1 John 2:18 says that christians were already expecting antichrist before John contrasted the idea by saying there were already many antichrists and a spirit. The church historian Eusebius (Theophania IV.35)confirms that the apostles were expecting an antichrist which Jesus spoke of (John 5:43) and it was the same one Paul spoke of (2 Thes 2:3). Overall I enjoyed listening to the lectures, but I don't recommend the course for accuracy.
Date published: 2013-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from REvelations/Apocalypse This man is very good . He presents the information in an easy to understand format. We are currently doing this course as our adult education at Church and are ready for chapter 9. It has really given us adifferent perspective and understanding of what Revelations is about. A new way of looking at and understanding its meaning. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2013-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Overview This course covered the history of interpretation as well as the book of Revelation itself. The strands Dr. Koester covers are still competing for our understanding of Revelation today. Revelation informed and sometimes inflamed various groups and periods in history, and Dr. Koester offers a "fair & balanced" approach to these competing views and to their effect on civilization. While I generally lean toward an interpretation he does not, I found Dr. Koester accurate in his presentation of the various interpretations. His presentation is clear, organized, concise and continually interesting. I listened to the CD version, and his voice and style kept my interest. I looked forward to my commutes! Highly recommend this course on a highly misunderstood book!
Date published: 2013-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding I probably learned as much on this course as any other and more than most. The church I go to doesn't mention Revelation at all, so I really appreciate The Teaching Company for putting this course out. There is not a bad lecture in this course at all. The beginning talks about Old Testament prophecies. Professor Koester then talks about what is known about the author John and wether or not he was The Apostle John. The rest of the first half of the course talks about the book itself and the chapters. These lectures cover the hidden meanings. The explanation of The Seven Seals and the City of Babylon were very eye opening, and Professor Koester also explains why he believes the end may very well be here. The second half of the course discusses Revelation's impact after it was written over the centuries up until the present time. I really enjoyed the lectures on Revelation being preached in music with Handel's Mesiah, and When The Saints Go Marching In. Lecture 20 discusses Revelation in African American Culture, and Professor Koester also talks about predictions people made about the end of time that obviously didn't happen. Professor Koester is an excellent professor, and is well prepared. I would however go with the DVD because the visual images are well worth the money.
Date published: 2013-03-12
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