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Authorship of Revelation

There have been endless writings on who wrote the book of Revelation. There are some who say that it is the work of John the Apostle. The evidence that supports the author is John the beloved disciple (John 20:21-25) is mostly based on the use of similar themes and imagery in Revelation, the Gospel of John and the Johannine Epistles. The shared imagery between these are identifying Jesus as the Word of God, the Lamb, the light, and living water. The second argument for Johannine authorship is the early Church support of this theory.

However, the primary argument against the authorship of the apostle John is that Revelation’s writing style is much different than all the other works John the apostle produced. The Greek in the Gospel of John and the Johannine Epistles is flawless, while some have said that the Greek in Revelation is barbaric. The second theory includes John's other canonical works. This theory states all four of his books were at least partly written by him, and then passed down, finished, and edited by his later disciples. This would explain the difference in style because different people from the same circle of thought are working on the books.

The third theory, which is the most likely correct theory according to modern scholarship, is that John the Elder, otherwise known as John the Seer, wrote Revelation. John was a Messianic Jewish prophet who traveled around preaching to the early church communities. There are few convincing arguments against this theory other than no clear connection to an apostle.

The fourth theory I am only mentioning because of how intriguing it is. This fourth theory is that John the Baptist wrote Revelation 4-11 and that his later disciples wrote 12-22 and then Christian editors later on added chapters 1-3 and various verses in chapter 22. This last one is particularly interesting, because this argument says that Revelation 1-4 actually was passed down through oral tradition from John the Baptist himself, dating all the way back before Jesus' public ministry. Meaning that Revelation would have been the first book written (at least partly written in the New Testament).

There have also been countless pages written on the date in which Revelation was composed. Authorship only has a slight effect on the date here. Those who favor an earlier date would automatically favor Johannine authorship because the earliest date would be during the reign of Nero (54-68 CE), when it is said John was exiled to the island of Patmos by Emperor Nero. Any later than this date, then the authorship could be John the Apostle or John the Elder, since after this date would not be directly connected to John the Apostle's exile. There is very little support, if any, for this early of a date. The date with the most support is 80-100 CE.

Many people who argue for an earlier or later date look into exact events and try to put those into the book of Revelation when John is never focused on specific events, but social patterns of life under the rule of the Roman Empire as a follower of Jesus. Craig Koester, one of the most authoritative voices on Revelation, said in his commentary, “The portrayal of the beast and Babylon critiques aspects of political and economic life that were part of the social fabric of this time.” What he is talking about here is the general time period. Rather than looking for signs of the exact time, we just need to read to understand what the early church was experiencing.

The meaning of Revelation does not change depending on what Emperor was sitting on Rome’s throne. The only throne that matters in this book is God’s throne.

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