David E. Aune, Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 496 pages, ISBN 9780801035944.
This volume is a collection of twenty essays (one previously unpublished) from the pen of David E. Aune, Walter Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the University of Notre Dame. Aune’s expertise in the areas of early Christian prophecy and in the book of Revelation is well known, thanks to his publication of a major tome in each area. The essays gathered in the present volume, dating from 1980 and later, represent his developing expertise in both those areas, although the selection is heavily weighted toward studies on the book of Revelation. (There are also discussions of the idea of “holy war”, varieties of eschatology, and sociological investigations of apocalyptic.) All of the essays reveal a scholar at home in his subject matter, never lagging but always presenting something new and relevant to the field. In spite of the often-technical nature of the discussion, all the essays are easily readable. The variety of topics suggests that most will not be equally interested in all the essays, but anyone interested in the topics of apocalypticism, prophecy, and early Christian magic will want to own this volume. We can be thankful to Baker Academic for publishing an affordable edition of a volume that elsewhere (under a different imprint) retails for over $200.
It is always disappointing to read a book and to discover that a lengthy section on one page repeats an earlier section verbatim. In the case of a compilation of previously published essays, it shows that the author does not scruple to recycle previously published wording for an altogether new essay. This is the case here, as we find identical wording on pp. 90 and 169. But this is a minor quibble in comparison to what the volume offers. The book’s principle value rests in its contribution to the study of Revelation. For those interested in Revelation, I highly recommend this book, especially as a companion volume for Aune’s three-volume commentary.
Reviewed by John Poirier
Originally published on the Pneuma Foundation (PneumaReview.com’s parent organization) In Depth Resources index on October 1, 2009.