Interview with C. Marvin Pate, Author of "Reading Revelation"

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Last week I posted my review of Reading Revelation: A Comparison of Four Interpretive Translations of the Apocalypse, by C. Marvin Pate. This week Dr. Pate has agreed to answer some questions about his new book.

Dr. Pate teaches at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas where he is the Department Chair for Christian Theology and the Elma Cobb Professor of Christian Theology. Previous to teaching, Dr. Pate was a pastor at which time he earned his MA from Wheaton and his PhD from Marquette University.

Dr. Pate has spent a lifetime of writing books on eschatology some of which include: The End of the Age has Come: The Theology of Paul; Four Views on the Book of Revelation (contributor); Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy; End Times (contributor); and Doomsday Delusions: What’s Wrong with Predictions About the End of the World.

Share with us what started your interest in eschatology.

Two events drew me to eschatology, both of which occurred when I was 14 years old. First, on a hot July Monday evening in Hampton, Virginia (where I was raised) two U.S. fighter jets collided over the Atlantic Ocean in a practice maneuver and one crashed into the ocean but the other crashed one block from where I lived, in a crowded neighborhood. When it happened, the sky became red, the ground shook, and the noise was deafening. Not knowing what had happened, I thought Jesus was returning! That night made an indelible impression on me about the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. Second, I preached my first sermon at the age of 14, the same summer the jet crashed and my topic was—you guessed it—the second coming of Christ, based on Matthew 24. And so my interest began that summer and intensified in the years to come. I attended Moody Bible Institute as a student and embraced there dispensational pre-millennialism. But later at Wheaton Graduate School I embraced historical pre-millennialism and have pretty much held that position ever since; though technically I call my approach now “eclectic”.

Reading Revelation is a different kind of book. What prompted you to write it?

I wanted to do a book that presented the four major views of Revelation in a way harmonies of the Gospels are laid out. This would give a bird’s eye comparative view of Revelation for the reader. Beyond that, I wanted to translate Revelation according to each perspective for ready-to-hand use for readers.

What was most challenging about writing Reading Revelation?

The most challenging tasks of Reading Revelation were to translate the whole book myself (I taught Greek for years) and then to put myself into the mindset of each view and translate Revelation accordingly. To my knowledge the latter had not been done and so I thought it would be helpful for others to do so.

Generally speaking, what kinds of sources did you use to accurately present each view?

Since my academic experience from my dissertation days on (some 25 years now) has pertained to the eschatology of the Old Testament, Second Temple Judaism, and New Testament I have been privileged to examine many apocalyptic works. From these and wonderful books like George Ladd’s A Theology of the New Testament, along with books written representing the various views (for example, my own edited book with Zondervan, Four Views of Revelation). I have cultivated my understanding of that literature.

What unique contribution does an interpretive translation provide for understanding the text that other books might not?

The interpretive translations that I provide in Reading Revelation hopefully help the reader of the Apocalypse to identify their own reading better while more clearly understanding the other schools of interpretation. And those two goals combine to produce, I hope, humility in how we regard others who take a different view of eschatology from our own.

Did writing this book challenge your own interpretation of Revelation? If so, how?

Not really, because I had already come to my own understanding of Revelation (historical pre-millennial with some influence of the other three views) long before I began this book. But of course I continue to grow in the particulars of Revelation (for example, I now think that Satan and Gog and Magog are sent to Hades at Christ’s return and from there will attack the people of God on earth during the millennium; this solves the problem for pre-millennialists of how non-Christians and Christians can co-exist in the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth—they won’t: one will be in Hades with Satan and the other will be on earth).

Thank you, Dr. Pate, for taking the time to answer these questions about [amazon 0825433673].

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Ed Vasicek's picture

Craig, Thanks for the interview.

I was reached in early 1974 through Cicero Bible Church. Shortly thereafter, C. Marvin Pate became the Assistant to the Pastor. He had to exercise a LOT of patience with me as I found my bearings in the Christian world.

The author is not only a scholar, but a man who lives out his convictions and demonstrates a heart for God. I have always looked up to him.

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