Revelation or The Book of Revelation

Book of Revelation

Book of Revelation

photo by Don McCullogh

Revelation or the Book of Revelation is the last book of the Christian New Testament. Also known as the Apocalypse, this text occupies an important position in Christian eschatology. The language used in the book is Koine Greek, and the book takes its name from the initial word used in the text, “apokalypsis” which means “unveiling” or “revelation.” It was authored by a man who identifies himself as John, saying that he was present on the Aegean island of Patmos.  The writer further claims that while in the island, he was visited by a divine, heavenly figure who instructed him to write down all the contents of the vision. Traditionally this John was held as John the Apostle; however, some historical scholars seem to reject this view. Recent suggestions made regarding the authorship of the text include the name of John of Patmos. When it comes to dating the text, most of the modern scholars think it was composed around 95 AD, while some consider an earlier date; i.e. 60 AD.

It covers three distinct literary genres – prophetic, apocalyptic and epistolary. Starting with a comprehensive epistolary address to a reader, it goes on to present an apocalyptic depiction of a complex range of events derived from the author’s prophetic visions. The epistolary address continues from 1:4 till the end of the chapter 3. Between 1:4 and 1:9, John speaks to the reader directly. In the next two chapters, he speaks to each of the 7 Anatolian churches taking on the tone of their bishop.

This is then followed by a bizarre series of images that have been interpreted by scholars in a number of different ways. The text of Revelation mentions angelic beings, evil beings such as the Beast and the Whore of Babylon, declares divine judgment, illustrates ideas about the Kingdom of God, foretells the heralding of a new earth and a new heaven and presents a duality of ages, involving a world present and a world or age to come. The text of Revelation uses prophecy related words like prophesy, prophesying, and prophets for 21 different times, indicating that it is speaking about a time to come in the future. No other book in the New Testament has used these terms so prolifically.

The text of the Revelation has been closely compared with non-biblical Jewish writings composed between 200 BC and 200 AD. However, no clear evidence has been found that would suggest that the author took inspiration from non-canonical Jewish apocalyptic literature. The author of Revelation makes several references to Old Testament texts, notably those of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and Psalms.

Ever since it first came into being, the text of Revelation has been interpreted in numerous different ways. During the early Christian period, the book was thought of predicting future events, and a paradise that would one day prevail on earth. Later on during the time of Protestant Reformation, the church itself was held to be the seat of the apocalypse. The Eastern Orthodox Church held the notion that it was describing contemporary events as well as things that are to come. On the other hand, the esoteric view of the Revelation held that the text carried symbolic representations of complex spiritual matters.