John and Gloria BEN-DANIEL, The Apocalypse in the Light of the Temple: A new approach to the Book of Revelation. Jerusalem: Beit Yochanan, 2003. pp. 266. UK £14.00 pb. ISBN 965-555-134-2.
Reviewed by Dennis HAMM, S.J., Creighton University, Omaha, NE 68178

The "new approach" to the Apocalypse, as advertised in the subtitle, is not so much the authors' attention to the Old Testament quotations and allusions, nor their effort to let the text explain itself; commentators have long analyzed Revelation from these diachronic and synchronic perspectives. What is new here is the special attention the Ben-Daniels give to the way the temple and its services inform and unify the imagery of this, the strangest of the New Testament books.

Although the NT term for the temple complex, hieron, does not occur in Revelation, the word for "sanctuary" (naos) occurs sixteen times, along with plenty of other references to temple services and implements. The Ben-Daniels' reading of the Apocalypse demonstrates a fresh coherency in all this "temple-talk." For example, they argue that the underlying model of the sanctuary has two parts; the Holy of Holies (or inner sanctum) is the site of the ongoing heavenly liturgy, while the "outer sanctum" is the Church on earth.

The liturgy is the self offering of the Lamb that was slain; and the model here is not the offering of the Passover lamb but rather the daily Tamid offering, especially as that Whole Offering occurs within the setting of the annual Yom Kippur service. Thus harps, golden altar, incense, trumpets, and lampstands are not free-floating elements in a mysterious dream-vision; rather, they are all to be understood as components of that heavenly liturgy described on the model of a familiar temple ritual.

This end-time temple needs no veil because the actual separation of heaven from earth serves that purpose. It is a separation already transcended by Jesus' sacrifice, and it will be fully overcome by the ultimate descent of the heavenly Jerusalem, when the (earthly) Church fully becomes the sanctuary of God's presence. The Ben-Daniels rightly resist the "preterist" interpretation of Revelation—i.e. the understanding that the book refers only, or primarily, to the early church at the end of the first century C.E. They are surely right in emphasizing the document's focus on ultimate judgment and salvation, while the past victory of the Lamb informs the present heavenly liturgy, in which the earthly church participates by its current prophetic witness. It seems to me, however, that nothing is lost if one takes seriously the historical context in which the text was written, something that the Ben-Daniels choose not to do in this study.

Any serious student of the Apocalypse will find something to disagree with in this volume. For example, I was particularly startled by this assertion on page 163: "This survey of the remaining information in the text concerning Babylon does not by any means contradict her identification with the administrative centre of the Catholic Church at Rome, that is to say, with the city of the Vatican." This statement seems curiously out of character in a study that makes frequent reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, no serious student of the Apocalypse will fail to learn from this meticulous reading of the Apocalypse in the light of the temple. The authors have convinced me that the temple is indeed the organizing principle of the final book of the New Testament. Any future conversation about the Apocalypse must include the voices of John and Gloria Ben-Daniel.

The book is clearly organized, with conclusions for each of its three parts. An index of references to the Bible and other ancient sources, a representative bibliography of English and Italian sources, and an ample index of subjects enhance the usefulness of this volume.

TO ORDER BOOKS: - Continuum - Crossroad - Eerdmans Publishing - Liturgical Press - Orbis Books