- "Early tradition is unanimous in its opinion that
the Apocalypse was written by John the apostle. Justin Martyr
was familiar with the
Revelation and held that the apostle John was its author (Dial. With Trypho
lxxxi.15). This is corroborated by a remark in Eusebius
who says that Justin
mentioned the Revelation of John, plainly calling it the work of the apostle (Hist.
Eccl. iv.18). In his work against heresies Irenaeus frequently cites from the
Apocalypse and hold it to be the work of John the disciple of the Lord (Adv.
": Robert H. Mounce, The New International Commentary: The
Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 27.
- The pattern was set for modern methods of interpretation
as early as the mid-third century by Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria. We are again
indebted to Eusebius for the following account: "Dionysius attempted to remove the
Apocalypse from the arsenal of his theological opponents by comparing it with the Gospel
and the Epistles [of John]
concluding that they could not have been written by the
In dwelling on the distinctions in language, style and thought
declares that the Apocalypse contains not
a syllable in common with
[it]. While the former are most elegant in diction, the latter includes
barbarous idioms, and in some places solecisms" (Mounce, Revelation,
29). As G. E. Ladd comments (A Commentary on the Revelation of John [Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1971], 7), "There are, admittedly, serious difficulties in recognizing
Revelation and the Fourth Gospel as coming from the same pen. While there are numerous
similarities between the two books
the style of the Greek is strikingly different.
The language of the Gospel is smooth and fluent and couched in accurate and simple Greek;
the idiom of the Revelation is rough and harsh, with many grammatical and syntactical
irregularities." For an in-depth analysis of the Greek usage in Revelation, see
Steven Thompson, The Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax (Cambridge: University Press,
- "Internal evidence has convinced the majority of
writers that whoever [John] was, there is little possibility that he was also the author
of the Fourth Gospel
On the other hand, the unusually strong and early external
evidence supporting apostolic authorship should cause us to hesitate before accepting
conclusions based on subjective appraisal of internal considerations" (Mounce, Revelation,
- As Raymond Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament
[New York: Doubleday, 1997], 803), summarizes, "The impact produced by the fall of
Jerusalem is important in shaping [Johns] vision, and so the thesis of some scholars
that he was a Jewish Christian apocalyptic prophet who left Palestine at the time of the
Jewish Revolt in the late 60s and went to Asia Minor (probably to Ephesus from which
he was exiled to Patmos) has plausibility. Like an OT prophet he can speak authoritatively
to the Asia Minor Christians, and regard himself as the voice of the Spirit
apocalypse/prophecy is not simply a rereading of the OT but an eschatological message from
God in comment on the present situation."
- Six and eleventh century exegetes (Dorotheus and
Theophylact respectively) have even suggested a date as late as 98-117 CE (the reign of
Trajan). For a complete accounting of all three conjectures, see Mounce, Revelation,
31-36 and Brown, Introduction, 805-806.
- The legend of Neros return was circulating widely
at the time of Johns writing of the Apocalypse. Richard Bauckham dedicates an entire
chapter ("Nero and the Beast") to the imagery presented by this popular myth (The
Climax of Prophecy: Studies in the Book of Revelation [Edinburgh: T&T Clark,
1993], 384-452), which he summarizes as follows: "In order to understand the origin
and various interpretations of this legend, it is important, first, to appreciate the
ambiguity of the historical Neros reputation after his death. The image of a vicious
and murderous tyrant, which later Jewish and Christian sources, as well as the extant
Roman historians, present, was part of this reputation but it was not the whole
On the other hand, Nero was popular with the populace
alienated the Roman aristocracy
but endeared him to the Hellenistic
Given Neros popularity in some quarters, the rather mysterious
circumstances of his death could easily have given rise to the rumour that he was still
The legend of Neros return acquired literary form first in the Jewish
It was the diaspora Jewish authorities
engaged in Jewish
propaganda for the hellenistic world, who took up the popular pagan idea and adapted it to
Jewish eschatological purposes."
- Cf. Mounce, Revelation, 34-35; and the
point-by-point summary of Cassius Dio (225 CE), Melito of Sardis (170 CE), Clement (96-120
CE), Pliny the Younger (90 CE), and Hegesippus (160-180 CE) in Brown, Introduction,
- R. H. Charles (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on
the Revelation of St. John [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1920], xxii) for example,
expresses this view emphatically: "The object of the Apocalypse was to encourage the
faithful to resist even to death the blasphemous claims of the State, and to proclaim the
coming victory of the cause of God and of His Christ
- "Revelation is not a chronological timetable for the
last days. It should not be read as if its purpose were to disclose the exact sequence of
the final events in human history. Revelation is more like an abstract painting than a
blueprint. To interpret figures of speech as if they were literal descriptions is to
misunderstand the intent of the author" (R. H. Mounce, What Are We Waiting For? A
Commentary on Revelation [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992], ix); "the apocalyptists
were not concerned with assigning a date for the end time, but with impressing on the
audience the urgency of the situation" (Brown, Introduction, 776, 809-810,
citing L. Hartman).
- "The prophecy of Revelation goes far beyond any
known historical situation in the first century. While the Rome of Johns day
embodied antichristian tendencies, the portrait of Antichrist in Revelation 13 is far
larger than historical Rome. Concrete references to persecutions in the Revelation are all
illustrations of the hostility the world bears to the church" (Ladd, Commentary on
the Revelation of John, 9-10).
- "The chief theme of the Apocalypse is not just what
God in Christ has done for the world, but what He will yet do, and what the assured
consummation will be
to proclaim the coming of Gods kingdom on earth, and to
assure the Christian Church of the final triumph of goodness, not only in the individual
or within its own borders
but throughout the whole universe" (Charles, Revelation
of St. John, ciii); "The identifications of the eschatological theophany
belongs to the apocalyptists understanding of salvation-history, whereby Gods
redemptive acts in the future are portrayed on the model of His past acts" (Bauckham,
The Climax of Prophecy, 201).
- Brown quotes Collins (in The Literary Genre of
Apocalyptic) to the same effect: "Apocalypses are intended to interpret present,
earthly circumstances in light of the supernatural world and of the future, and to
influence both the understanding and behavior of the audience by means of divine
authority"; see Brown, Introduction, 774-80; cf. Bauckham, The Climax of
- See Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John,
20-21; Mounce, Revelation, 23.
- It appears that the primary OT source of Johns
apocalyptic language and imagery was the LXX of Ezekiel and Zechariah, together with the
Isaiahs Apocalypse and Daniel (see Brown, Introduction, 776-78).
- See Brown, Introduction, 778; cf. Charles, Revelation
of St. John, cix.
- "In its repeated allusions to OT passages and in
its general idiom, the Apc shares in the full, flowing style found in classical Hebrew
prophets" (Thompson, The Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax, 34).
- Thompson, The Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax, 31.
- "This interpretation is borne out by several
objective facts. First: it is the nature of apocalyptic writings to be concerned primarily
with the consummation of Gods redemptive purpose and the eschatological end of the
Second: it is the nature of apocalyptic symbolism, whether canonical or
non-canonical, to refer to events in history leading up to, and associated with, this
eschatological consummation. Third:
the book claims to be a prophecy. We have
already seen that the nature of prophecy is to let light shine from the future upon the
present" (Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John, 14).
- So Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, xi.
- Charles, Revelation of St. John, cxliii.
- "The only systematic treatment of Revelations
relation to the Synoptic tradition is Vos (1965). But Vos hardly engages with the question
of the activity of prophets in forming the tradition, and his general conclusion that
Revelation demonstrates a fixed tradition of the sayings of Jesus
something of an overreaction to the idea of a very fluid tradition, and precludes him from
considering how the modifications of Synoptic logia in the Apocalypse might
correspond to similar processes discernible in the Gospels" (Bauckham, The Climax
of Prophecy, 94).
- "It is worth noticing that this adaptation,
presupposing a difference between the words of Jesus in the Gospel tradition and prophetic
words of the exalted Christ, was thought necessary" (Bauckham, The Climax of
- Cf. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 96-99.
- For a complete index of OT and NT references in
Revelation and a complete listing of extra-biblical material, see Mounce, Revelation,
407-26, or Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John, 301-308.
- "The writer may have included visions and passages
that were already part of Christian apocalyptic tradition, but overall the work is
entirely his own" (Brown, Introduction, 774).
- See, e.g., David Aune, Word Biblical Commentary,
Volume 52B: Revelation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 389; Mounce, Revelation,
45; or Brown, Introduction, 797, who highlights a variety of structural
possibilities (omitting that of Charles), then concludes: "With such a variance of
opinions I have thought it wise not to advocate any particular structure."
- "In terms of literary structure, the book consists
of four visions, each of which is introduced by an invitation to come and see
what God purposes to disclose (1:9; 4:1; 17:1; 21:9). The book is concluded by an
epilogue" (Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John, 14); cf. Kurt Aland et
al.,Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece. 27th ed.
(Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993).
- Brown, Introduction, 796.
- Mounce, Revelation, 47-49.
- Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, xii.
- "Judging from the amount of attention given by many
writers to the first ten verses of chapter 20, one would judge it to be the single most
important segment of the book of Revelation
The tendency of many interpreters at
this point is to become apologists for a particular view of the millennium. Without
denying the significance of this important passage, it should not be elevated above such
basic themes as the return of Christ, the final judgment and the splendor of the eternal
state" (Mounce, Revelation, 351).
- So Aune, Revelation, 389; cf. Bauckham, The
Climax of Prophecy, 6.
- "There were various ways in the ancient world
whereby thunder was interpreted as a communication from the divine world
(1) In the
OT and less commonly in early Judaism, the voice of God is often equated with thunder
(Exod 19:19; 1 Sam 7:10; Job 37:2; [etc.])
(2) Less commonly, the voice of angels is
associated with the sound of thunder (3 Apoc. Bar. 11:3; 14:1; Sepher ha-Razim
(3) In John 12:28-29, a heavenly voice is interpreted by some bystanders as
thunder while others understand it as an angelic revelation" (Aune, Revelation,
560-61). See also the similar language in Ezek 1:24; 43:2 and Dan 10:6.
- "White is the symbol of victory, and everywhere in
the Revelation white is associated with the things of God and the divine victory. The
white horse here represents Christ in his final victory over the evil powers which have
oppressed the people of God" (Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John,
- Cf. Charles, Revelation of St. John, 163-64.
- The angelic host have proclaimed that God has become
King. Both the AV and RSV miss the idea, rendering the word in the present tense: the
Almighty reigns. The Greek verb is a past tense and is what grammarians call an
inceptive aorist, emphasizing the initiation of action. The NEB correctly renders it:
entered on His reign" (Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John, 246).
Cf. Mounce, Revelation, 339.
- "The great prophecy of the Davidic king described
him as one who judges the poor with righteousness and decides with equity for the meek of
the earth (Isa. 11:4). The return of Christ in victory over his enemies will be no act of
personal vengefulness nor an arbitrary manifestation of divine power; it will be an act of
righteousness reflecting the faithfulness of God" (Ladd, Commentary on the
Revelation of John, 254).
- "The metaphor of marriage as expressing the
relationship between God and His people has its roots in the prophetic literature of the
OT. To Israel God said, I will betroth you to me forever (Hos 2:19). Israel in
exile is comforted by the remembrance that the Lord of hosts is her husband and will bring
her back (Isa 54:5-7). This same symbolism runs throughout the NT
Paul portrays the
relationship of Christ and His church in terms of the intimacy of marriage (Eph
5:32)" (Mounce, Revelation, 340). Indeed, Jesus himself frequently employs
this imagery throughout his teaching (e.g., Matt 22:1-14; Matt 25:1-13; Mark 2:19).
- "[It is an] OT convention portraying cities marked
with idolatry or godlessness
as harlots, bedecked with wealth from commerce"
(Brown, Introduction, 793). Cf. the comment of Bauckham (The Climax of Prophecy,
339): "This series of visions and auditions ends with a reference to the New
Jerusalem (19:7-8) which serves to connect the two major sections on Babylon and the New
The key to this structure is found in the clear parallelism
describe the two contrasting cities: Babylon the harlot and the New Jerusalem the bride of
- "A remarkable feature of the composition of
Revelation is the way in which very many phrases occur two or three times in the book,
often in widely separated passages, and usually in slightly varying forms. These
repetitions create a complex network of textual cross-reference, which helps to create and
expand the meaning of any one passage by giving it specific relationships to many other
passages" (Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 22).
- "The picture here is of Christ the warrior and
conqueror of evil, not of Christ the redeemer" (Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation
of John, 254-55).
- These occur at Rev 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7;
- Cf. Rev 6:10, where the righteous souls appeal to God
(alluding to Isa. 63:1-6).
- So Mounce, Revelation, 346.
- Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 135.
- Cf. Mounce, Revelation, 342 (reading the genitive
- "This language looks back to Isa. 11:4: And
He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth
Here is the symbolic
representation of victory by the power of a word which is impossible to be literally
envisaged. The idea goes back to creation. God created the worlds by His word" (Ladd,
Commentary on the Revelation of John, 255).
- "As the shepherd carried a stout rod to fend off
the attacks of wild beasts, so Christ will destroy all the evil forces that have
endangered the church through the ages. His is a weapon of retaliation" (Mounce, What
are We Waiting For? 101).
- Compare the vision of the grape harvest in Rev 14:19,
which similarly expresses "the stern reality of the fierce anger of
God" (Mounce, Revelation, 347).
- Cf. Richard N. Longenecker, New Wine Into Fresh
Wineskins: Contextualizing the Early Christian Confessions (Peabody, Massachusetts:
Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1999), 126.
- "Literally the word ["Almighty"] means
one who holds all things in control
The multitude declares that this all-powerful
being who has entered into his reign is a personal God He is the Lord our
God" (Mounce, Revelation, 339).
- "The two words [faithful and true] are practically
synonymous in meaning, for the Hebrew idea of truth was not basically correspondence to
reality as in Greek thought, but reliability. The God of truth (Jer. 10:10) is
not the God who reveals eternal truth, but the God who can be trusted to keep His
covenant" (Ladd, Commentary on the Revelation of John, 253).
- "The Johannine Apocalypse does not make much of
Jesus status as Gods Son. And where it does bring in this confessional motif,
it emphasizes not so much the functional nature of sonship
as the more ontological
nuances of intimacy and identity with God the Father" (Longenecker, New Wine into
Fresh Wineskins, 128).
- "The Hebrews did not think of a word as a mere
sound but as an active agent that brought about what it declared. In Hebrews 4:12 the word
of God is said to be living and active
sharper than any double-edged
sword. The Warrior-Messiah is Gods final word to man. When God speaks, His
will is actively carried out in time and space" (Mounce, What are We Waiting For?
- "The role of the Messiah in Judaism sometimes
includes the execution of eschatological judgment as the agent of God (Pss. Sol. 17:21-25
[cf. Rev 19:15]; 4 Ezra 13:8-11, 37-38; 12:32-33), particularly in the Similitudes of
[where] the judicial role is clearly depicted
In early Christianity,
Christ is frequently assigned the role of eschatological judge" (Aune, Revelation,
- Cf. Longenecker, New Wine into Fresh Wineskins,
- "The distinctive feature of Revelation seems to be,
not its repudiation of apocalyptic militarism, but its lavish use of militaristic language
in a non-militaristic sense. In the eschatological destruction of evil in
Revelation there is no place for real armed violence, but there is ample space for the
imagery of armed violence" (Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy, 233).
- Brown, Introduction, 800.