“A few days” can have several interpretations. If one is retelling events of a few
days within the context of a summer vacation, the listener may well perceive that there is
indeed a range of days inferred in “a few.” This fuzzy descriptor, however, will not
suffice in the context of a courtroom examination. “A few days” is too broad, and it does
not serve the purposes of an attorney’s concerns: the specifics of the time in question.
Thus a change in setting forces one to change the way he hears “a few days.” In a similar
fashion, the genre of a biblical work and its purpose must be weighed in interpreting the
details expressed within the work. Expositors generally recognize the inappropriate
hermeneutic of reading every statement in Paul’s letters to Timothy as a propositional
command; indeed many of the details in the work are seen in light of the letter’s personal
nature and purpose.
It is unfortunate that the Revelation of John does not receive the same treatment
of genre and purpose in contemporary evangelical circles. In the noble endeavor to
preserve the inspirational dignity of this difficult work1, many evangelicals insist that no
detail can be seen as a metaphorical, allegorical, or symbolic expression.2 Allis suggests
that “the only number in Scripture which is declared to be symbolic is 666, which is the
number of the beast.”3 The desire to preserve a literal reading of the text of Revelation
Vern Sheridan Poythress, “Genre and Hermeneutics in Rev 20:1-6,” Journal of the Evangelical
Theological Society 36 (March 1993) 43, 51.
Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, The Bible Speaks Today, ed. John R. W. Stott
(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977) 357-8.
Oswald T. Allis, “Numerology,”Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1984) 782.
has caused many...