The Christian Scriptures
Who was the author of Revelation?
Who wrote Revelation?
||Beliefs of early Christian writers:|
The text of Revelation 1:4 identifies the author as simply "John,"
a very common name in the 1st Century CE
In Revelation 1:9 he said that he was at Patmos, a penal colony of
the Roman Empire.
A number of ancient church fathers, notably Irenaeus,
believed that the author of Revelation was also the author of the
Gospel of John, and the epistles of 1,2 and 3 John. Irenaeus
mentioned that John the Apostle received the visions of Revelation near the end of Domitian's rule.
That would be about 95 CE. Justin Martyr circa 150 CE linked
the author with the Apostle John. 1
Other leaders of the early Christian movement who supported this
belief were Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Hippolytus, and
Some ancient church fathers denied that the author of John also
wrote Revelation. They included John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem,
Denis of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Gregory Nazianzen.
For example, Eusebius wrote of Revelation:
"The phrasing itself also helps to
differentiate between the Gospel and Epistle[s of John] on the
one hand and the book of Revelation on the other. The first two
are written not only without errors in the Greek, but also with
real skill with respect to vocabulary, logic and coherence of
meaning. You won't find any barbaric expression, grammatical
flaw, or vulgar expression in them. ... I don't deny that this
other author had revelations ... but I notice that in neither
language nor in style does he write accurate Greek. He makes use
of barbaric expressions and is sometimes guilty even of
grammatical error ... I don't say this in order to accuse him
(far from it!), but simply to demonstrate that the two books are
not at all similar." 3
||The belief in a common authorship between Revelation and the Gospel of
John was challenged by many Christian heretics late in the 2nd century and
by many orthodox Christian leaders in the early 3rd century. But the
belief prevailed in the early church. If it were otherwise, the Revelation
might not have made it into the official canon. Apostolic authorship was
an important factor in the decisions of which books
were to be accepted into the canon.
||From analysis of the text itself:|
||Biblical scholars point have detected many differences in the
style, vocabulary and theology between Revelation and the Gospel of
Tom Harpur describes the Greek style as
"barbarous" -- quite different from the polished Greek
in the Gospel of
||Martin Luther felt that the messages in Revelation contradicted much of the content of the Gospel of John and the
synoptic Gospels. He relegated the book to an appendix in his German translation of the Bible.
||By individual Christian denominations:|
Conservative Protestants typically believe that
Revelation, the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John and 3 John were written
by John, the beloved disciple of Jesus.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that:
definite linguistic and theological affinities between the two books
[Revelation and the Gospel of John]. The tone of the letters to the
seven churches [Revelation 1:4 to 3:33]... is indicative of the great
authority the author enjoyed over the Christian communities in Asia. It
is possible, therefore, that he was a disciple of John the Apostle who
is traditionally associated with that part of the world." 4
Note that if John the
Apostle was born at approximately the same time as Jesus was -- 4 to
7 BCE -- then he would have been about 100 years old circa 95 CE
when Revelation was written. Reaching that age would have been a
most unusual accomplishment during an era and in a location where
the average life expectancy was about 30 years.
||Generally conclude that Revelation was written by an
unknown author - perhaps a Jewish Christian whose primary language was Aramaic,
near the end of the 1st century CE.
Some have noted that major portions of the text appears to have been adapted from an earlier
apocalypse book called 'Bahman Yasht.' 5
References used, and comments:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
S. MacLean Gilmour, "The Revelation to John," essay in C.M. Laymon:
"The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press,
Nashville, TN (1991)
- "The Book of Revelation: Introduction," The New American Bible,
Catholic Book Publishing Company, (1970) Page 386.
- Eusebius, "Ecclesiastic History," 7.25.
"Revelation: Introduction," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
- Tom Harpur, "America obsessed with future apocalypse," The Toronto
Star, 2003-OCT-5, Page F7.
Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-MAY-06
Author: B.A. Robinson