Apr 172007
 

So… who wrote the book of Revelation?

Both tradition and modern scholarship tend to date Revelation to the latter part of the reign of Domitian, probably 95 to 96 AD. Although it contains earlier material, the condition of the churches mentioned in the seven letters at the beginning of the book indicate a late date. Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake in 62 AD, but is mentioned as wealthy and prosperous in Revelation 3 – indicating enough time had elapsed for the city to rebuild and prosper. The church at Smyrna, which seems long established from the letter, was also established somewhat late. There are, however, earlier elements in the book which have caused confusion and argument over the dating for centuries. But it seems that at least the final hand in composing the book wrote fairly late.

As we saw previously, John the Apostle died fairly early – a martyr in Jerusalem. If Revelation dates to 95 AD, John the Apostle could not be the author. If we assume that John the Apostle was the author of the Gospel of John (which is also somewhat questionable) there are other very serious problems with his being the author of Revelation. Dionysis of Alexandria pointed out these problems persuasively back in the third century. The writing styles of the Gospel of John and Revelation are completely different. The Gospel Greek is refined and cultured while that of Revelation is clumsy and barbarous and full of colloquialisms. They use different words for the same things (different words for “lamb” for example). While the Gospel writer is carefully anonymous, the author of Revelation tells us his name immediately. And yet, the author of Revelation never mentions that he is an apostle, and never mentions any of his personal experiences with Jesus. He speaks of the “twelve apostles of the lamb” in such an objective way that it seems clear he isn’t one of them. None of the themes so popular in the Gospel of John and the epistles are emphasized particularly in Revelation.

So it seems impossible that John the Apostle wrote the book of Revelation. Particularly if we think John the Apostle wrote the Gospel named after him.

Who did write it? Opinions vary. Some attributed it to the heretic Cerinthus. Some suggested that “John the Presbyter” mentioned by Papias might have been the author. This seems a good choice, as John the Presbyter lived later than the apostle, and was known to the churches of Asia minor. In any case, it was not written by John the Apostle.

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