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30th March, 2016


Nick Page

Revelation Road: One Man’s Journey To The Heart of the Apocalypse And Back Again

Hodder & Staughton, UK, 2015

ISBN-13: 978-1444749670

"This book is like a treasure chest of sorts, filled with an eclectic collection of items that will take a while to properly look through."

Part travelogue, part exegesis, this is the fascinating and humourous account of Nick Page’s wrestle through the pages of the much-storied Book of Revelation, a text which he points out that as well as being the youngest book of the Bible, is also its “oddest”.

Tired with people using Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse of St John) to (so far, wrongly) predict the date of the end of the earth, Page decides to dig deeper and find out what the book’s really all about. To do so, he embarks upon a trip to where it all began, visiting what remains of each of the seven cities mentioned in the first few chapters of Revelation before finishing up on Patmos, the island where John wrote it.

Page starts with some basic notes on the book but it’s when he starts visiting the remains of the seven cities that we find some real meat as he explores what the messages delivered in Revelation may have meant to the churches they were directed at (and hence what they still mean to us today).

Throughout the book, his eyes remain firmly focused on the context of the times in which Revelation was written (including a fascinating look at the ‘John’ who wrote it and the history of the Greek island – Patmos – on which it was written) and it’s this historical detail – overarched by the slap-in-the-face that the book represents to the Roman Empire’s all pervasive emperor worship – that’s one of the key strengths of Revelation Road.

We’re told, for example, that the reference to Pergamum being the “city where Satan has his throne” (Revelation 2: 13/NLT) is possibly a reference to the fact that it was home to a famous altar dedicated to Zeus Soter (Zeus the Saviour) as well as being the place where emperor worship first took root.

Meantime, who knew that the reference to the “lukewarm” church at Laodicea (quoted in Revelation 3:15-16) is not about the church’s ambivalence but rather about it being “useless", similar to the city’s lukewarm and, thanks to mineral build-up, undrinkable water supply?

Or that the reference to Jesus as “the One who holds the seven stars in his right hand” at the beginning of the message to the church in Ephesus may well have been used in direct response to a coin depicting the son of the Emperor Domitian – aka, the "divine" son – holding seven stars in his hands?

It would wrong, however, to see this book as a dry tale about the observed facts and the archaeology that Page encounters on his travels and through his very detailed research. It’s also very much a book about his own spiritual journey – after all, as the title suggests, this is a pilgrimage of sorts.

So we’re with Page as he wanders around the ruins of ancient Smyrna (located just next to a block-like multi-storey carpark) and we’re with him when he catches a ride with the local postman to reach the acropolis at Pergamum (having first tried to walk to the top after somehow not seeing the cable car).

We’re also with him when he encounters something mysterious – an “air of tranquility”, a sense of timelessness – in the cave on Patmos where John allegedly received the vision outlined in Revelation; we’re with him when he’s shouted at by a monk at the Monastery of St John; and we’re with him as he tromps up and down the island before he has to say goodbye to Shakira the horse as he departs.

Throughout the book, Page isn’t shy about expressing some strong opinions, several times using capital letters to underline the point he’s making (foremost among them is the idea that symbols should not be taken literally and hence that Revelation cannot be read literally). But whether you agree with him on everything or not doesn’t really matter – surely its the discussion of the ideas that counts?

This book is like a treasure chest of sorts, filled with an eclectic collection of items that will take a while to properly look through. And while that means you will come away from this book the richer for reading it, you may also find yourself hungering not only to return to read the book itself but also for your own pilgrimage to the lands John brings to life in what is without doubt, one of the most endlessly fascinating books of the Bible.

Follow this link to buy this book – Revelation Road.

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