G.B. Caird’s The Revelation Of Saint John would have to be my favourite commentary of any book of the Bible (Gordon Fee’s The First Epistle to the Corinthians would be a close second!) Caird does something entirely unexpected in this commentary: he manages to make sense of a complex and controversial book and he does it in a surprisingly non-scholarly way. Many (most?) commentaries are difficult to read; you only delve into one when you have to. You don’t generally sit down with one of an evening as part of your ‘reading for relaxation’ regime. Not so with Caird’s little classic! This commentary is quite readable, almost conversational in style. You can just read it through, from cover to cover, like a novel. And like a novel, the story he brings out from the pages of the book of Revelation is really quite gripping.
Caird comes at the text from the perspective of what did it mean for the people who first read it. To that end he places the book firmly within its historical context: sometime during the last decade of the first century, at a time when Christians were experiencing increasing persecution from the civil authorities. The other major interpretive tool Caird brings to the text is an awareness that much of the imagery used in Revelation comes from the Old Testament. Much of the time, we can have a good idea about what is going on in the text by seeing how the original author is using stock imagery from various OT prophetic books, but applying them to a new situation.
I first read this commentary during my years in Bible college. There were a couple of events that led me to want to write The Ephesus Scroll (see here for more details). However, once I had the idea, one of the central components was that the novel would be a disguised commentary of the book of Revelation, much like a rather well-known series. But in my case, the commentary that would be being disguised would be Caird’s. So in much of the novel, I am paraphrasing Caird to a greater or lesser extent. It is my hope that if the reader cares to explore this particular way of approaching the book of Revelation they will start with Caird’s commentary. I don’t think they will be disappointed.