A historically astute approach to unearthing the meaning of the Bible.




A new reading of the Book of Revelation that draws its interpretive principles from the work’s historical context.

Revelation has proven one of the most confounding sections of the Bible, resisting a consensus analysis for thousands of years. Debut author Wells argues, though, that Revelation was never intended to be an unsolvable mystery, but the articulation of a message from and about Jesus Christ. To properly excavate that message, he says, one must understand the text in light of its historical design, using the perspective of a first-century writer addressing a first-century audience, which was occupied by first-century concerns. That basic rule grounds Wells’ entire exegetical approach; for example, he asserts that each of the seven letters in Revelation specifically addresses a particular church’s congregation with a message from Jesus, making an understanding of each group’s needs the only secure path to textual clarity. He then assesses all of the famous seven sets of seven—letters, bowls, seals, trumpets, and so forth—by the same standard. Throughout the text, Wells attempts, with painstaking care and thoroughness, to apply his ideas to the symbolism of Revelation, and he unearths deep, if oblique, references to the Old Testament. Overall, he ably offers an alternative to the two prevailing schools of interpretive thought, which either reduces Revelation to an anticipatory history of the church or sees it as a prophecy regarding the end of time and the judgment to come. Instead, Wells sees it in a different way: as a source of hope for a downtrodden and oppressed people, who may one day find the freedom to follow Jesus. Ultimately, he says, the meaning of Revelation is contingent upon the moral station of those who heard it—for those who threw their lot in with wickedness, it was a warning, and to those ready to embrace Jesus, a promise of hope: “The first-century readers would certainly have understood it to mean that God was going to judge the Roman Empire and that he was going to establish his indestructible kingdom,” he writes. “That coming spelled certain doom to the world’s most powerful empire, but it also offered a certain future for those who had been oppressed by that Roman juggernaut.”

A historically astute approach to unearthing the meaning of the Bible.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-6182-5

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.


New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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