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The Christian Scriptures

Who was the author of Revelation?

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Who wrote Revelation?

bulletBeliefs of early Christian writers:
bulletThe text of Revelation 1:4 identifies the author as simply "John," a very common name in the 1st Century CE Palestine. In Revelation 1:9 he said that he was at Patmos, a penal colony of the Roman Empire.
bulletA  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 Tertullian. 2
bulletSome 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. 2 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

bulletThe 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.

bulletFrom analysis of the text itself:
bulletBiblical scholars point have detected many differences in the style, vocabulary and theology between Revelation and the Gospel of John.
bulletTom Harpur describes the Greek style as "barbarous" -- quite different from the polished Greek in the Gospel of John. 4
bulletMartin 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.
bulletBy individual Christian denominations:
bulletConservative 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.
bulletThe Roman Catholic Church teaches that:

"...there are 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

bulletLiberal/progressive Christians:
bulletNote 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.
bulletGenerally 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.
bulletSome have noted that major portions of the text appears to have been adapted from an earlier Jewish Mithraic 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.

  1. 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)
  2. "The Book of Revelation: Introduction," The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Company, (1970) Page 386.
  3. Eusebius, "Ecclesiastic History," 7.25.
  4. "Revelation: Introduction," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, at: http://www.usccb.org/
  5. Tom Harpur, "America obsessed with future apocalypse," The Toronto Star, 2003-OCT-5, Page F7.

Additional information:

bullet"Project Megiddo: Introduction," at Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) at: http://www.cesnur.org/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-MAY-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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