John to the Seven ChurchesRevelation 1:4-5Theme: Who, what, when, where, and why.This week’s lessons teach us the various theories concerning the authorship and date of the Book of Revelation.
LessonRevelation is a number of things wrapped up in one. On the one hand, it is a prophecy; secondly, it is an apocalypse, and third, it is a letter. Its formal beginning as a letter is found in chapter 1, verse 4. In the ancient world there were ways in which one introduced a letter, and most of the New Testament letters began with those customary introductions.
First of all, the name of the author is given; secondly is found the name of those to whom he is writing; third, there is a greeting; and then, fourth, a blessing or a doxology. We have the first three of those elements in these verses. The author of Revelation is John. He introduces himself in verse 4. He is writing to the seven churches in the province of Asia. And then his greeting is “Grace and peace.” A doxology follows in verses 5 through 7.
The author of this mysterious, last book of the Bible introduces himself as John. He does it not only here in verse 4, but also later in verse 9 of the same chapter and in Revelation 22:8. We ask the question: Who is John? Anybody who has done serious study of the New Testament will not be surprised to learn that there is a great deal of discussion over who this John actually is.
The early church fathers unanimously identified the author of Revelation as the son of Zebedee – the disciple of the Lord who became an apostle. These early church fathers include Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. Justin Martyr referred to John as “a certain man whose name was John,” one of the apostles of the Christ. Irenaeus called him “John, the Lord’s disciple.” Another early witness to the authorship of Revelation, is a document which bears the title “The Apocryphon of John.” It was discovered as recently as 1945 in Upper Egypt, and it says that “Revelation was written by John, the brother of James, those who are the sons of Zebedee.” It wasn’t until the mid-third century, through the writings of a man named Dionysius, that any doubt was even cast upon the matter. Dionysius suggested that this is not John the Apostle but another John, a presbyter, who lived in Ephesus. In time, this was picked up by Eusebius, who was the first real church historian, and so it passed on to our time. There are some reasons for thinking that the author of Revelation might be other than the Apostle John. One is certainly the fact that Revelation is so different from the other Johannine books – either his Gospel or his Epistles. A lot of that can be explained by the fact that it’s an apocalypse. After all, a dream is quite different from a gospel. On the other hand, there are some differences in the language that need to be taken seriously. The Gospel of John is written in flawless, even elegant Greek. Even when you read it in English, it just flows along beautifully. But the Greek of Revelation according to this view is not only bad Greek, it’s barbarous. One of the scholars, whose name is R. H. Charles, said that it has a grammar of its own, unlike any other grammar. Now we see an example of that in this passage, which is why I bring it in at this point. It’s where John sends blessing from Jesus. What John actually wrote was this: “From he who is, and he who was, and he who is to come” – barbarous grammar indeed.
What three types of literature are found in Revelation?
How did the early church identify the author of Revelation?
Who was the first church historian?
Why do some people think that Revelation was written by someone other than John the Apostle?
Further StudyReview the opening verses of several New Testament epistles and locate the elements that were customarily included in the introduction of ancient letters.