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Saint John and the Apocalypse

Item Number: 60747

Catalog Code: SJA-DIS

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Saint John and the Apocalypse

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Catholics tend to shy from St. John’s Apocalypse (or “The Book of Revelation”), and understandably so: perhaps no other book of the Bible has been more abused by Protestants who claim to find in its mysterious symbols the basis for vain prophecies and false teachings. But, explains C.C. Martindale, SJ, there is a right way to read the Apocalypse, and a great reward for those who do:


“[St. John himself] promises special blessings to those who ‘read it aloud’ and listen to and keep its words.…Moreover, it has been loved at all times by Catholic saints; it can be read and re-read with passionate thrilled interest by children; and unlimited consolation and encouragement can be drawn by all from its many passages of incomparable beauty, tenderness, and sublimity.”

Although this brief but brilliant guide to the Apocalypse was first published in 1922, it remains the finest ever written for nonscholars. In six potent chapters, Father Martindale analyzes the book’s structure, explains its many symbols and various levels of meaning, and shows its immediate relevance for our everyday life. Some topics and themes:



  • The ultimate and most important lesson of the Apocalypse
  • Why the Apocalypse, despite its terrors, is hopeful and encouraging
  • Guidelines for studying the symbolism of St. John and avoiding mere conjecture
  • The five levels of apocalyptic consciousness—and how they help guide our interpretation of meaning ? How we can be certain that the “John” who announces himself as the author of the Apocalypse is the same who wrote the Fourth Gospel
  • The danger of trying to date the Apocalypse after events it seems to predict—and why scholars err in doing so
  • How John’s Apocalypse is itself a fulfillment of the prophecy that the Messiah’s coming would be marked by a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit
  • Why “prophecy” means more than just prediction of the future
  • The traditional “Jewishness” of John’s symbolism
  • Why much of the Apocalypse was written to encourage the faithful during, or on the eve of, persecution
  • How historical fact and spiritual truth both find expression here
  • The structure of the Apocalypse: a “singular and complicated plan,” to which St. John adheres closely
  • The book’s four main parts, and what each accomplishes
  • How the apocalyptic episodes are arranged in a literary or symbolic order, not a historical one
  • How the pattern of the Apocalypse argues against the fashionable contention that it was written by more than one person
  • The “progression” of the Apocalypse: one of doctrine, and of understanding, rather than mere time
  • Who are the “Seven Churches” and why is the Apocalypse addressed to them?
  • The special significance of the number seven in prophetic symbolism
  • How St. John’s vision transfers the symbols which the Old Testament consecrated exclusively to God to the Risen Jesus
  • How it likewise incorporates and transcends the apocalyptic visions of Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel
  • What is the “angel” of the Church to whom John is instructed to write? ?
  • The two “prefatory” visions: how they sum up all existence —the Uncreated (God), and the created in all its ultimate relation to the eternal

    “Fr. Martindale…is a populariser in the best and truest sense of the word—a teacher of the people who never condescends but lifts up. …Fr. Martindale forces us to appreciate the importance of knowing the religious and secular background against which St. John writes; he makes us see that it is often the local and national elements in John’s imagery and symbolism which make mysteries for us across the gulf of time, place and race; that it is a good deal easier to understand than we expected. More than this, he catches our interest and awakens in us his own enthusiasm and excitement. And best of all, he imparts to us a little of his own love for and sympathy with his author.”—The Month (1958)

    “It would be hard to find in English a more readable and rational attempt to explain this tremendous Revelation of St. John” —Irish Ecclesiastical Record



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