AN INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by A H McNeile. Copyright A H McNeile - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1927. 2nd Edition revised by C S C Williams 1953. - This Edition prepared for Katapi in Arial Unicode MS by Paul Ingram 2003.

Chapter VIII - Part 3


HOME | Jude  (pages 239-244) | 2 Peter  (pages 244-250) | The Apocalypse (pages 250-266)


 Nature & contents | Date & authorship | Bibliography

nature and contents.

This short writing is a tract or pamphlet rather than an epistle.
It is addressed to no particular Church or locality, but quite generally to 'those who are beloved in God the Father and Jesus Christ, kept, called',
[The punctuation is doubtful and the text probably corrupt, though the only omission, that of 'and kept for Jesus Christ' is not well attested (om. 630 and the Harklean Syriac).]
though perhaps it was primarily intended for the circle of Christians of which the writer was the pastor or a leading prophet.
It presents a combination, which has not been without its modern imitators, of stern Jewish eschatology and zealous Christian orthodoxy, thus standing in line with the two writings next to be studied, 2 Peter and the Apocalypse.
The writer begins with the tantalizing statement that he was about to write with diligent zeal 'concerning our common salvation' (an expression which suggests that he was a Jew writing for Gentiles), but thought it necessary instead to utter a warning to his readers 'to strive for the faith once for all delivered to the saints' in opposition to certain heresies that were creeping into the Church.
We are thus left without the information, which would have been valuable to us, as to what 'the faith', 'your most holy faith' (v.20), and the truth about 'our common salvation' meant to him.
In what he does give us, his Christian standpoint is seen in the fact that he speaks of 'God the Father' (v. 1), of Jesus Christ (whom he names six times) as 'our Master and Lord', and of himself as His 'slave' (v.1); and it is seen especially in the closing doxology (vv.24 f.), which has the sonorous effect of a liturgical form, an ascription to God of glory, majesty, power, and authority from everlasting and now and to everlasting through Jesus Christ, thereby implying the eternity of Jesus Christ.

No particular order can be seen in the contents.
The denunciations of the heretics are enforced by examples of punishment drawn from the Old Testament and from Jewish tradition, and by eschatological warnings inspired by the Jewish apocalyptic of his age.
The punishment awaiting the heretics is compared with that of the Israelites, who after being saved from Egypt believed not and were destroyed
[The text is doubtful, since the v.1. Ἰησους for Κύριος - Iesous for Kurios, though intrinsically improbable, has some strong support.
See Westcott and Hort, The N.T.", in Greek, App., p. 106.]

(v.5), and of the fallen angels who were 'kept with everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day'
[Cf. Enoch x.5f., 12 f.]
(v.6; cf. v.13b), and of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbouring cities steeped in immorality, whose burning was an example, i.e. a figure or symbol, of the eternal fire which awaits all sinners (v.7).
The behaviour of the heretics is contrasted with that of Michael the archangel: they speak evil of the 'glories' (i.e. probably the angelic powers) and of all the supernatural things which they cannot understand (vv.8, 10), but Michael, meekly quoting Zech.iii.2, did not dare to speak evil against the devil himself when disputing with him concerning the body of Moses
[This strange legend occurred, according to Clem. AL, Orig., and others, in a Jewish apocalypse of the first century ad, probably entitled the Testament of Moses, itself perhaps the epilogue of the book of Jubilees.
The extant Latin fragments, which bear the name Assumption of Moses, do not contain it, but some similarities of language with iv. 8; vii. 4, 9, 3; i. 10 are to be found in Jude vv. 3, 12, 16, 18, 24. See edition by R. H. Charles, pp. 105 ff., and Bp. Chase in Hastings's D.B. ii. 802.]

which Satan claimed as Lord of matter and because Moses, having slain the Egyptian, was a murderer and deserved no burial (v.9).
And their behaviour is likened to 'the way of Cain', 'the error of Balaam for a reward', and 'the gainsaying of Korah' (v.11), and characterized by a series of rhetorical similes (vv.12, 13).
That the wicked shall receive punishment is stated not on the authority of the Old Testament, but of a work which the writer seems to have regarded as no less inspired, the book of Enoch, from which (En.i.9) is quoted the prophecy of Enoch the seventh from Adam, 'Behold the Lord [i.e. God, Yahweh] came with His holy myriads' [Westcott and Hort, who refer only to the Old Testament (Deut.xxi.2, Zech.xiv.5), print i'8ou as though it were not part of the quotation, but it occurs in Enoch.]' (vv.14, 15), and of the language of which Jude contains a few reminiscences.
After denouncing the character of the heretics (v.16) he adds Christian tradition to Jewishthe prediction of 'the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said unto you,
At the last time there shall be mockers, &c.' (vv.17, 18).
Over against their unchristian condition (v.19) he enjoins faith, prayer, love of God, and the hope of eternal life (vv.20, 21), the saving of doubters, and the pitying of those who dispute [The verse is corrupt.] (v.22)'.
Their 'fawning upon' others suggests a sense of inferiority producing the desire both to attack spiritual beings above them and to indulge in sexual depravity; by satisfying this desire a victim attains for a time a compensating sense of mastery and of power in fantasy which he does not possess in real life.
The association here of being 'agin' the government' with moral laxity and daydreaming seems true to life and not merely to be a pleasantry of theological vituperation.

Thus his eschatology is concerned wholly with punishment at the hands of God when He comes.
The Parousia of Christ is not mentioned, but it is implied that He takes part in the judgement: those who are true to their Christianity 'look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life'.
The author of Jude is steeped in the Apocalyptic literature of the Pharisaic school, the Assumption of Moses, dated by R. H. Charles c. ad 7-30, the Book of Enoch, dated by Charles 200-64 bc, and perhaps the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, dated by Charles between 130 bc and ad 10.
There is nothing here to preclude a first-century date for Jude.

date and authorship.

The writer describes himself as 'brother of James', i.e. probably of the Bishop of Jerusalem; he and St. Jude were of the number of the Lord's brethren.
It is not easy to determine whether the writing is pseudonymous or genuinely the work of St. Jude.
The deeply Jewish colouring and the use of apocalyptic literature point to the author's having been, before his conversion, a member of the pious Jewish class to whom the apocalypses were dear.
And to such the Lord's family belonged.
But it is open to question whether St. Jude is likely to have lived, and to have been able to write with the nervous force of this fervid appeal, at a date as late as is implied by the development of heresy and of Christian thought which the writing presents.

Bp. Chase [Op. cit., p. 802.] gives some not very striking parallels of language and thought with St. Paul's epistles, and says further:

A Christian dialect has arisen.
Certain words, e.g. κλητοί, σωτηρία, πίστις - kletoi, soteria, pistis, [But πίστις  - pistis is not used with the distinctive meaning that St. Paul usually gives to it (see below).] have attained, largely through the teaching and writings of St. Paul, a fixed and recognized meaning among Greek-speaking Christians.

The 'psychic' or natural is opposed to the 'spiritual' (v.19), cf. 1 Cor.ii.14, James iii.15.
This use of an accepted Pauline vocabulary would forbid a date before c. 65.
But more significant is the affinity with 1, 2 Timothy and Titus.

The errorists whom both writers opposed were of a similar type, and both speak of them in the same severe tone of authoritative denunciation without argument, and with the contemptuous οὗτοι - outoi (vv.8, 10, 12, 16, 19; cf. 2 Tim.iii.8, where the reference to the apocryphal story of Jannes and Jambres is in the same vein as our author's references to apocalyptic literature).
Both use the epithets μόνος - monos, 'only', and σωτήρ - soter, 'Saviour', of God (v.25) to oppose the prevailing dualism, and the claim of the mysteries to lead to salvation.
Both speak of 'the faith' as a recognized body of Christian belief (vv.3, 20; cf. 1 Tim.i.19; iii.9; iv.1, 6; v.8; vi.10, 21; 2 Tim.iii.8; iv.7).
And both understand the appearance of the heretics to be a sign of the near, approach of the End.
The writer of the Pastorals, speaking in St. Paul's name, expresses this as his own prediction (1 Tim.iv.1; 2 Tim.iii.1; iv.3); our author, who makes no claim to apostleship, gives it as a prediction of the apostles who had previously taught his readers (vv.17 f.) [A. H. McNeile's N.T. Teaching, p. 202.].

Reasons have been given on pp. 195-9 for thinking that 1, 2 Timothy,
Titus were built from a Pauline nucleus by a later writer.
They may have influenced our author, or vice versa; but it is quite possible that the writers were independent of each other, and that their similarities are due to their having written at about the same time, in similar surroundings, to meet similar dangers.

The only suggestion of date in the epistle itself is that in vv.3, 17, where the-writer looks back at the apostolic age as past.

In the light of these considerations the epistle can hardly be dated earlier than ad 70-80, and if the author was not St. Jude, it may be placed at any time within the generation of those who had heard the apostles (v. 17).

The date of St. Jude's death is not known, but an indication is perhaps afforded by the story of his grandsons related by Hegesippus [Ap. Eus. H.E. iii. 20], though some have doubted its trustworthiness.
Having been tried before Domitian and released, 'they were leaders of the Churches and lived till the reign of Trajan'.
Their trial, therefore, appears to have taken place some time before the reign of Trajan, probably not very late in that of Domitian (81-96).
At that time they were making their living by working a plot of land, and were therefore grown men.
And they were 'those who survived of the Lord's family'; that is, their father and their relatives of his generation were already dead, and their grandfather presumably at a considerably earlier date.
Nothing can be concluded with certainty, but under ordinary circumstances the story suggests that St. Jude had died long before the year 70.
With this would agree the 'Epiphanian' view, accepted by Lightfoot [The Primitive Church, p. 180.], that the brethren and sisters of our Lord were children of Joseph by a former wife.

B. H. Streeter [Galatians, p. 272.] suggests that the author was not an apostle but could write authoritatively.
He was therefore probably a bishop of some important see.
Streeter points to the Apostolic Constitutions, vii. 46, which gives the name of the third Bishop of Jerusalem as 'Judas of James', who succeeded Symeon, the successor of James the Lord's brother. C. H. Turner's [J.T.S. i, 1900, p. 540.] comment on Epiphanius's list of bishops at Jerusalem, taken no doubt from tradition there, was 'I imagine that the Jerusalem list may have run Ἰουδαῖος Ἰοῦστος - 'Ioudaios 'Ioustas or more probably Ἰουδᾶς Ἰοῦστος - 'Ioudas 'Ioustos.'
The third name occurs in later lists either as 'Judas' or 'Justus' or both.
Streeter suggests that the original opening of Jude was 'Judas of James, a servant of Jesus Christ'.
If so, the author was Bishop of Jerusalem early in Trajan's reign (98-117).
Streeter, like Harnack before him, thinks that 'brother of (James)' was a late addition; the latter took the letter to be aimed at Syrian Gnostics c. 100-30.
Other suggestions of a still later date are confronted with the difficulty that Jude is largely incorporated into 2 Peter, the date of which is probably ad 125-50 (see below).


C. Bigg (1901), J. B, Mayor (1907), J. W. C. Wand (as on I Pet.).

5. 2 PETER

Nature & contents | Authorship | Date | Bibliography

nature and contents.

This is the latest writing in the New Testament, but it is studied here both because its main concern is eschatology, and because it is very closely connected with Jude.
The same two characteristics are prominent stern Jewish eschatology, and zealous Christian orthodoxy in opposition to heresy; and the denunciations of the heretics are enforced in an exactly similar manner by examples of punishment in the past and apocalyptic warnings of the future.
Like Jude also the writing is a tract or pamphlet, addressed to no particular Church or locality, but to those whom the author, writing under the name of Simon Peter, describes as 'those who have obtained a like precious faith with us', as though he were a Jew writing for Gentiles.

In fulminating against heretics, or 'false teachers' (ii.1), he writes a passage (ii.1-17), which is closely parallel with Jude vv.4-12.
Apart from similarities of language he speaks, with the writer of Jude, of the fallen angels imprisoned in darkness and kept for judgement (v.4), of Sodom and Gomorrah (v.6), of defiance and evil-speaking of the 'glories', in contrast with 'angels greater in strength and power' who 'bring not against them a judgment of evil accusation before the Lord' (vv.10 f.), and of 'the way of Balaam' (v.15).
Compare also v.13 with Jude 12: σπίλοι - σπιλάδες, ἀπάταις
[The original text may have been ἀπάταις  (C א A* Syr.hl Arm) and ἀγάταις may have been introduced from Jude into B Acor. Ephr. Lat(m(vg.) hl. mg. .
If so, is this one of the several instances of a misunderstanding of Jude by the author of 2 Peter?]
[?ἀγάταις] - ἀπάταις and v.17 with Jude 13 οἷς ὁ ζόφος τοῦ σκότους ... τετήρηται.
The relation of the two passages will be studied below.

On the other hand the rest of the epistle, except for certain words and expressions, stands apart from Jude.
The writer's main object was not warning against heretics, but insistence on the coming of the End as a reason for living a good Christian life.
In Jude the heretics are libertines first and last, whose future punishment is sure; in 2 Peter they are at the same time scoffers who deride the idea of the coming of the End; but that End, with its cosmic convulsions, is also sure, and therefore Christians must be zealous to be found spotless and blameless in peace.

The epistle falls into four parts:


i. 1-11.

Be zealous in the Christian life, 'for so shall the entrance be richly supplied to you into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ'.



For this teaching the readers have two sources of authority.



Firstly, the apostles: 'we made known unto you', i.e. including St. Peter (with whom the writer identifies himself)



who was privileged to receive the personal prediction of his death from our Lord,


vv.17 f.

and to behold His glory in the Transfiguration.



Secondly, 'something even surer, the prophetic word' of inspired men of old.



With these inspired prophets must be contrasted the false prophets and teachers, who are denounced in the manner of Jude.



The Christian prophets and apostles foretold that scoffers would come,


vv. 1-4

denying the Parousia of Christ.


vv. 5-7

But the world will be destroyed by fire, as they wilfully forget that it was once destroyed by water; and though to men the End appears to tarry, it will come, and the heavens and the elements and the earth will be burnt up,


vv. 8-13

giving place to new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwelleth.


vv. 14, 15

Wherefore they must strive earnestly to be found spotless, remembering that St. Paul himself taught in his epistles that the delay was due to the Lord's long-suffering, that men might have a chance of salvation.


vv.17, 18

Some wrest his words to their own destruction, but the readers must guard themselves from error, and grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ.



It is as certain as any conclusion drawn from internal evidence can be that the author was not St. Peter.
Bp. Chase [Hasting's D.B. iii. 809.] concludes a careful study of the style and language (to which the reader is referred for details) with the following cautious words:

We have no right to assume that an epistle of St. Peter would be written in good Greek, or even that it would be free from offences against literary propriety and good taste.
But style is an index of character.
The epistle does produce the impression of being a somewhat artificial piece of rhetoric.
It shows throughout signs of self-conscious effort.
The author appears to be ambitious of writing in a style that is beyond his literary power.
We may hesitate to affirm that the literary style of the epistle in itself absolutely disproves the Petrine authorship.
But it must be allowed that it is hard to reconcile the literary character of the epistle with the supposition that St. Peter wrote it.

The irresistible impression produced by the style and language is felt in its full force, as the Bishop points out, only when the epistle is read in Greek, not in the English of the AV, the beauty of which tones down much of its ungainliness.

Whether St. Peter could have written in this style or not, it is inconceivable that he wrote both our epistle and i Peter. '2 Peter is more periodic and ambitious than i Peter, but its linguistic and stylistic efforts only reveal by their cumbrous obscurity a decided inferiority of conception, which marks it off from 1 Peter' (Moffatt [Introd. Lit. N.T., p. 364.]).
Whatever part Silvanus may have played in the production of that epistle, he could not have improved it out of anything of the style of 2 Peter.
Further, the epistle contains no allusion to the facts of the Gospel history, except two incidents relating to St. Peter (i.14 and 16-18) introduced to support the adoption of his name, as is also the allusion to a First Epistle in iii.1.
It is wholly improbable that the apostle, if he were the author (or authority behind the writer) of 1 Peter, having in the First Epistle laid stress on our Lord's Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, on the Christian Church as the true Israel, on Faith in the sense of hopeful trust, on Prayer, and on Baptism, wrote another which hinted at none of these things.
Or that Knowledge should play no part in the First, but be represented as one of the principal aims of the Christian life in the Second (i.2, 3, 6; ii. 20; iii. 18).
And many other differences might be noted.
It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the two writings are expressions of two different minds.


To these arguments must be added the decisive indications that the epistle was written at a date in the second century, eighty years or more after St. Peter's death.
It is uncertain whether Clement Alex., in his Hypotyposes, commented on it. [The conflicting evidence is given in Bp. Chase's article, op. cit., pp. 802 f.]
In no extant work does Clement cite it or name the author, though there are some possible echoes of its language and thought. If he knew it and commented on it, it must have been written by c. 175-80.
There are a few doubtful echoes also in the Epistle of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons (177), and in Justin Martyr's Dialogue (c. 155) [See Moffatt, op. cit., p. 372.].
If the last shows a knowledge of it, its date cannot be later than 150.
But there is no evidence at all that it was known earlier than that.
The same terminus ad quern is probably provided by its close connexion with the Apocalypse of Peter, dated c. ad 135-50, the parallels with which may be seen in Bp. Chase's article, cf. M. R.James, The Apocryphal New Testament, 1924, pp. 505-24. Sanday [Inspiration, 1893, p. 347.] and others have even suggested that both writings were the work of the same author.
At any rate it is probable that, if there is dependence of one writer upon the other, the apocalyptic work was dependent on the epistle, and not vice versa. (See Spitta, Zeitschr.f. d. mutest, Wiss. , 1911, p. 237.]
But two different writers of the same school of thought may have composed them, at about the same time.
Still later 'Petrine' apocalyptic works are Fragment ii of the Gospel of Peter (M. R.James, op. cit., p. 507), The Preaching of Peter (ibid., pp. 16-19), and the Acts of Peter (ibid., pp. 300-36), with which 2 Peter compares very favourably especially in its reference to the Transfiguration.

The latest certain terminus a quo is the date of Jude.
Some have thought that the author was dependent upon the Antiquities of Josephus (ad 93); but this can hardly be considered proved, although 'a number of the coincidences of language and style occur not only in the compass of two short paragraphs of Josephus, but in a sequence and connexion which is not dissimilar' (Moffatt).
But the connexion with Jude, as we have seen, is unmistakable.
Attempts have been made, in the interest of the Petrine authorship, to prove that 2 Peter is the earlier; but the evidence to the contrary is too strong:
(1) Passages in Jude, which are simple and straightforward, are elaborated in 2 Peter.
(2) If the writer of Jude was the borrower, why did he make such full use of a single passage of 2 Peter, ignoring the Christian appeal in the rest of the epistle?
That a single passage in 2 Peter bearing on the heretics should have been based on practically the whole of Jude is quite natural.
(3) The sentence in Jude about Michael disputing with the devil (v.9) appears in 2 Pet. ii.11 in a vague form, which requires the other passage to explain it.
The author of 2 Peter may not have read Enoch and so he misunderstood Jude.
In Jude v.13 the blackness of darkness is reserved for the wandering stars, a natural and suitable conception; in 2 Pet.ii.17 the picture is much less suitable, the blackness of darkness being reserved for the heretics who are likened to wells and mists.
And if Jude v.10 is compared with 2 Pet.ii.12 it will be seen that 2 Peter has missed Jude's point.
Jude referred to the order and harmony of the angelic hosts uncomprehended by false Christians with their lower appetites, what they understood naturally (φυσικῶς - physicos) being expressed and corrupted: 2 Peter expands the verse unintelligently, taking Jude's adverb as though it were a neuter plural, τὰ φυσικά - ta physika, 'mere animals' who in seeking to satisfy their appetites are captured and destroyed.
Bp. Chase [Op. cit. ii. 803.] is justified in saying: 'All the expressions in Jude (except ὅσα ... ἐπίστανται - hosa epistantai) have something corresponding to them in 2 Peter, and it is almost impossible to conceive that the ill-compacted and artificial sentence of the latter should have been the original of the terse, orderly, and natural sentence of the former.'

Some have tried to explain 2 Peter as an original work by the apostle with later interpolations [See Moffatt, Introd. Lit. N.T., pp. 369 f.]; but none is in the least convincing.
J. W. C. Wand has shown how weak are Ac arguments brought by Spitta, Zahn, and Bigg in favour of the priority of 2 Peter compared with Jude (op. cit., pp. 131-3).

There are other signs of a later date:
(a) The reference in iii.16 to 'all the epistles of St. Paul', in such a way as to place them on a par with 'the other Scriptures' (τὰς λοιπὰς γραφάς - tas loipas graphas), implies that the Pauline epistles were known in a collection, and that they were canonical,
(b) 'Your holy prophets and apostles' (iii.2) describes the sacred two-fold collection of the Old and the New Testaments,
(c) The Christians of the first generation are called 'the fathers' (iii.4), implying, with the whole context, that they have long passed away.

We may see in the heretics denounced an early Gnostic sect of the second century, c. ad 125-50.
There is no sure evidence for identifying the false teachers with the ascetic teachers denounced in the Pastorals for condemning meats and marriage, or with the Carpocratians or any other similar sect like the Ophites [J. B. Mayor (Jude and a Peter, 1907, pp. clxvii ff.).], to whom in particular the Fathers gave the name Gnostic.
[R. P. Casey, 'The Study of Gnosticism', J.T.S. xxxvi, 1935, pp. 45 ff.]
They illustrate the tendency in all periods of Christian history for certain Christians to claim intellectual and spiritual enlightenment, as though they were superior in knowledge to their fellows, while in fact they deny by their tacit assumptions and by their whole way of life the meaning of the Incarnation and of the Sacraments of the Church and the fact that the spiritual makes use of the material as its instrument and for its self-expression.
In connexion with the denial by these heretics of the Parousia, F. C. Burkitt's [Church and Gnosis, 1932, pp. 146 ff.] words are most valuable:

As I understand it, what is commonly known as 'Gnosticism' was a gallant effort to reformulate Christianity in terms of the current astronomy and philosophy of the day, with the Last Judgement and the Messianic Kingdom on earth left out.
It failed.
The Church decided still to wait, to let the old beliefs fade or survive, and meanwhile to organise itself for an extended career on this earth, and to put its trust less on constructive theories than on tradition, on the annals of what God had done in the past. ...
The science and sociology of the ancient world in the Roman Empire of the second century of our era was not sound ... a too close alliance of Christianity with that science would have proved a burden and not a bulwark ... when the Church of the second century rejected what seemed to be a scientific account of Religion and clung to an annalistic account it was taking a course that was appropriate to the time and therefore truly scientific.

Gnosticism was a Christian heresy, as Burkitt has shown; Gnostics were the 'modernists' of their day, trying to fit their religion into a structure based on an undeveloped science and philosophy, neither of which had sure answers to the deepest human problems.


C. Bigg (1901), M. R.James (1912), J. B. Mayor (1907), J. W. C. Wand (1934), H. Windisch (1951).


Purpose | Method of interpretation | Plan | Date | Authorship | Bibliography


St. Peter exhorts Christians in northern Asia Minor to be joyful through hope and patient in tribulation because trial leads to glory.
The writer of the Apocalypse exhorts Christians in western Asia Minor with the same message, but spends a wealth of imagination on descriptions of what the glory will be, and of the divine means to bring it about.
All Jewish apocalyptic had the same object, to offer encouragement under trials, which were so great that this life, the present order of things, could provide no adequate compensation.
This bent of mind, which belonged exclusively to the Jewish race, is found with some frequency in the New Testament; but the writing now to be studied is the only Christian work admitted into the Canon which professes explicitly to be an apocalypse: 'The apocalypse of Jesus Christ which God gave Him to show to His servants the things which must come to pass shortly, and signified it by sending through His angel to His servant John' (i.1).

In form the writing is an epistle to 'the seven Churches which are in Asia'.
After an opening proemium it begins with an epistolary salutation (i.4, 5).
It addresses each of the Churches by name, with suitable commendations and rebukes (chs.ii, iii), and ends with the Grace (x.21).
The encouragement that the writer offers is on a plane different from that of any Jewish apocalypse.
It is not only that the Messiah will come, but that the Messiah has come; that He has conquered death and redeemed men by His own death: that He is now reigning, however loudly the blatant power of scarlet Rome may appear to contradict it; and that therefore His servants are potentially kings.
With a series of supernatural and destructive judgements Rome will be annihilated, Christ will come back to reign with the martyrs in a new and heavenly Jerusalem on earth for a thousand years, after which there will be a final conquest by Christ of all enemies, a final judgement by God, a final destruction of all evil men and evil powers, and the establishment of the kingdom of God and Christ in which the saints shall reign for ever.

methods of interpretation.

The book has at all times proved an enigma, and many writers, finding themselves ' unable to arrive at any satisfactory interpretation, have contented themselves with studying its language philologically.
This must, of course, form part of its study, but by itself it is barren of results.
Those who have tried to interpret it have followed in the main three methods:

1. Allegorical.

This was the method adopted first by Alexandrian scholars.
The spirit of Philo still lived in Clement and Origen, who went far to obscure the true meaning of the whole of Scripture by allegorizing everything that they could not understand, and a great deal that they could.
The mature Christian was thought to have advanced beyond the literal interpretation to the spiritual, and the results differed ad infinitum with the imaginative vagaries of each writer.
As regards everything chiliastic in particular the method was adopted even by such Latin scholars as Tyconius, Jerome, and Augustine; and this threw back the true understanding of the book until the saner methods of earlier fathers were revived at the Reformation.

2. Literary.

Along this path the modern study of the Bible has made some of its greatest strides.
But the method, especially if pursued by itself, is always open to the danger of hyper-criticism, and to mistaken conclusions drawn from a priori assumptions of what a writer must have written, or could not have written.
In the case of the Apocalypse it has taken three directions:
(a) It is supposed that the original work was alteredand spoiltby interpolations, rearrangements, and 'corrections', at the hands of a succession of editors or redactors.
Probably no book in the Bible has entirely escaped such manipulation, certainly not the Apocalypse; but the method has been carried to extremes in the unsuccessful attempt to use it to explain all the difficulties of the book.
(b) Attempts are made to find a variety of independent sources, Jewish and Jewish-Christian, strung together.
Some of these are given by Swete [The Apocalypse of St. John, p. xlvi (and ed., 1907).], others by Moffatt [Introd. Lit. N.T., pp. 489 f.].
And the use of sources cannot be altogether denied.
According to R. H. Charles [Commentary, pp. l-lxv. SchopJung und Chaos.], they include vii. 1-8, xi. 1-13, -i, (xv.5-8?), xvii-xviii.
The book was written in the last years of the reign of Domitian, but it contains material which presupposes events under Nero and Vespasian.
(c) The sympathetic student, however, is not satisfied with literary dissection.
He realizes that it is not a case of the mere stringing of passages together.
The writer has employed his sources with skill and deliberation to produce a unity which shall serve his purpose; so that the meaning of events and symbols in the sources is sometimes quite different from the meaning with which he uses them.
Swete rightly says, 'The book has clearly passed through the hands of an individual who has left his mark on every part of it; if he has used old materials freely they have been worked up into a form which is permeated by his own personality'.
But the recognition that he did use old materials is essential to the understanding of the book.
And Gunkel [Schöpfung und Chaos] is probably right in maintaining that his incorporation of sources was not merely a literary use of them; he was attempting reverently to determine the true and ultimate meaning of the expectations in traditional apocalyptic.
Sometimes, indeed, it is possible that there are 'details which have no meaning at all for him, but which he retains as parts of the picture'. (F. C. Porter [Hastings's D.B. iv. 244.])
He was trying to do for the material before him what numberless students have since tried to do for his writing.
Gunkel goes very far in tracing the apocalyptic tradition to Babylonian mythology; but though many of his resultsdue to a 'pan-Babylonian' tendency in vogue at the time that he wrote have not been accepted, his 'tradition-historical' theory accounts for many of the phenomena of the book.

3. Literal.

But though these theories of literary compilation contain elements of truth, they fall far short of explaining the book.
It is of the utmost importance to realize that, while the writer made use of imagery and metaphor, and worked upon earlier apocalyptic material, he was endeavouring himself to express something quite concrete and literal.
'No obscurity which confronts the modern reader was either intended by him or caused through any uncertainty in his purpose', writes M. Kiddle. [The Revelation of St. John, 1940, p. 18.]
Modern psychological studies are rendering it increasingly probable that some of his material was shaped by visions or trances, which he experienced in ecstasy; and the basis of those experiences was the actual happenings of his day.
On the one hand he makes use of facts as they were during the period c. ad 64-94, the condition of Christians, as it appeared to him, under persecuting Rome with its power, luxury, and sins.
On the other he had before his mind a more or less definite outline of the course of events immediately to comethe punishment of Rome, and the salvation of God's people; he expected literal plagues and destructions, and a literal millenium.
That his ideas were largely alien to those of the modern mind constitutes our chief difficulty in understanding him.
But historically and eschatologically he meant what he said.
The strange notion is still, unfortunately, alive, and dies very hard, that he was predicting, not single events, but events which would take place successively in the world's history century after century in the future, so that each prediction would have countless different fulfilments.
'No one who realizes that the prophecy is an answer to the crying needs of the seven Churches will dream of treating it as a detailed forecast of the course of medieval and modern history in Western Europe' (Swete).
The supernatural events that would arise out of the contemporary conditions would occur 'shortly' (i.1; x.6; cf. ii.16; iii.11; x.7, l0, 12, 20), and he meant 'shortly'.

That does not mean that the book is not of permanent spiritual value.
It emphasizes the great truths that sin inevitably brings its awful results, that Christ the King of glory is reigning now, that He has wrought salvation for His people, and that the kingdoms of the world will one day become the kingdoms of God and of His Anointed.


After centuries of study there is still no approach to a general consent as to the plan of the book.
The most useful analyses for English readers are those of Swete [Apocalypse, pp. xxi-xxxix, cf. R. H. Charles's Schweich Lectures on the Apocalypse, 1919.], Moffatt [Introd. Lit. N.T., pp. 485-8.], and Charles [Revelation, vol. i, pp. xxv ff.].


divides the book into two parts, chs.i-xi, and -x.5.
These form distinct prophecies.
'The theme of the second prophecy is the same on the whole as that of the first, but the subject is pursued into new regions of thought, and the leading characters and symbolical figures are almost wholly new.
The Churches of Asia vanish, and their place is taken by the Church considered as a unity, which is represented by the Woman who is the Mother of the Saints.'
He sums up the scheme of the book in its briefest form as follows:



Part i.


Vision of Christ in the midst of the Churches


Vision of Christ in Heaven


Preparations for the End


Part ii.


Vision of the Mother of Christ and her enemies


Preparations for the End


Vision of the Bride of Christ, arrayed for her husband





brings into prominence the arrangements of seven:

seven churches


plagues of seven seals

vi.1-17; viii.1,

of seven trumpets

viii.6-ix.21; xi.15-19,

of seven bowls


These are followed by two sets of visions:


of doom on Rome the realm of the beast



on the beast and his allies



on the dragon or Satan and his adherents



of the great white throne



the new heaven and earth



the new Jerusalem



The seals, trumpets, and bowls are introduced by visions of heaven

iv.1-v.14; viii.2-5, and xv.1-8.


The seventh trumpet introduces threefold war: in heaven with the dragon or Satan



on earth with the beast from the sea, the dragon's vice-regent



and with the beast from the land, the ally of the former beast



And there are three 'intermezzos':



after the sixth seal: the sealing of the redeemed on earth



and the bliss of the redeemed in heaven



after the sixth trumpet: episode of angels and a booklet



and the apocalypse of the two witnesses



bliss of the redeemed in heaven



episode of angels and doom on earth


Moffatt does not discuss the movement of the drama, but he holds that its action is not continuous; e.g. the white horse (vi.2), the demonic cavalry (ix.13-21), and the drying up of the Euphrates (xvi.12-14) all refer to the Parthian invasion.
The plagues and woes are described in recurring cycles each more terrible and ornate than the last.
But while he sees a 'general unity of conceptions and aims', he recognizes that many of the strange features of the book require the theory that it is composite, and 'show that source-criticism of some kind is necessary in order to account for the literary and psychological data', while at the same time the general unity arises from the fact that the writer has incorporated sources and written them up himself; they were not strung together by an editor.


recognizes the general unity, together with the incorporation of sources.
But he differs from the above writers and from most English commentators in rejecting any theory of 'recapitulation', maintaining that the action of the book is continuous.
Not, however, of the book as it stands, since it has been seriously interfered with by disarrangement, alterations, and interpolations [Interpolations include i.8, viii.7-12, xiv.3e and 4a, b, xiv.15-17, x.180-19, according to R. H. Charles.] at the hand of a redactor, whom he charges with incompetence and dishonesty.

When the necessary corrections are made his result is as follows:







John writes to the Seven Churches to tell them that he has seen Christ and been bidden by Him to send them the visions written in this book





Problem of the book set forth in the Letters to the Seven Churches, which reflect the seeming failure of the cause of both God and Christ on earth

ii, iii.




Vision of God, to whom the world owes its origin, and of Christ, to whom it owes its redemption

iv, v.






First Series:


The first six seals



Second Series



Sealing of God's servants as a security against the Three Woes



[Proleptic vision of a vast multitude of the faithful in heaven, i.e. of those who had just been sealed and had died as martyrsa vision subsequent in point of time to the visions in i.]


The Seventh Seal, and silence in heaven during which the prayers of God's servants on earth for security against the Three Woes are presented in heaven

viii.1, 3-5, 2, 6, 13.


First and Second Woe

ix.1-21; xi.14a.


[Proleptic digression on the Antichrist in Jerusalem a vision contemporaneous in point of time with i.



Heralding of the Third Woe, and two songs of triumph



Third Woe: the climax of Satan's power; all the faithful are martyred

, i.


[Proleptic vision



of the Church triumphant on earth in the Millenial Kingdom and the conversion of the heathena vision contemporaneous with xx.4-6




of the judgement of Rome and of the heathen nations a vision contemporaneous with and summarizing xviii; xix.11-21; xx.7-10

xiv.8-11, 14, 18-20.]


Vision of the martyred host



Third Series




Seven Bowls




Successive judgements affecting the several powers of evil:



Destruction of Rome

xvii, xviii);


Thanksgivings of the angels and martyrs

xix.1-4; xvi.5b-7; xix.5-9;



Destruction of the Parthian hosts (lost),



Destruction of the hostile nations, the beast, and false prophet



and Satan chained





Millenial Kingdom:


Jerusalem come down from heaven to be its capital; reign of the martyred saints for a thousand years

xxi.9-x.2, 14-15, 17; xx.4-6.


Final attack of the evil powers: destruction of them and Satan





Heaven and earth having vanished, the dead are judged before the great white throne





The Everlasting Kingdom

xxi.5a, 4d, 5b, 1-40; x.3-5.



xxi.50, 6b-8; x.6-7, 18a, 16, 13, 12, lo, 8, 9, 20-21.

There is much that is illuminating in this.
But it is doubtful if the recapitulation theory has really been disposed of.
Proleptic visions contemporaneous with later material are not unlike recapitulation in an inverted form.
And it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Last Day is described in vi.12-17.
The earthquake, the turning of the moon into blood, the falling of the stars, the removal of the sky 'as a rolled-up book', and of every mountain and island from their places, the panic of the mighty and of slaves 'because the great day of their wrath is come', are all signs of the End, and a long series of subsequent woes is impossible, and Charles's explanations hardly remove the difficulty.
The theory also requires that all the first four Trumpets (ch.viii) be assigned to the troublesome redactor.
The most successful part of it is the rearrangement of the material in xx.4-x. Some rearrangement is clearly needed, and Charles makes it probable that the New Jerusalem which comes down from heaven is not that in which the saints live for ever, but the scene of the Messiah's temporary, millenial reign on earth with the martyrs only, during which Satan is bound, and spiritual work is carried on for the conversion of the heathen.

A theory of a different kind was proposed by

 J. W. Oman,

[The Book of Revelation, 1923.] i.e. that the present arrangement of the book was due to the accidental transposition of sheets.
He supposes 'a codex of seven quires of double sheets, with the last page left blank as a cover and protection of the writing, so that the last quire consists of three and the others of four sections.
In such a codex one sheet was laid above another, then both were folded, then all the quires were sewn together through the fold.'
But an editor found the sheets in confusion, and in transcribing them made many additions, enough to fill between three and four sheets, his work being frequently vitiated by his misunderstanding of the writer's meaning.
The editorial additions being omitted, the rearrangement of the book is as follows:

Previous Order

New Order










x.i-xiv.5, transposing x.6-8a to follow x.10, & omitting xi.14-19.



xv.5-xvi.16, omitting xi.14-19.



xix.11-21, transposing xiv.19b, 20 to follow xix.16.









xxi.9-x.17, omitting x..6-9.



xvi.15; xix.9b, 10; xx.1-10.

5, 6

20, 21







xi.14-19; xiv.6-11.



xiv.12-xv.4, omitting xiv.19b, 20.




This order Oman arrived at by putting the sections of the Greek text on separate sheets, and arranging them simply in what appeared to be their natural sequence.
But the remarkable result was reached that, when the editorial glosses were omitted, nearly every section [19 is one line, and 25 more than a line and a half, too long, 20 and 26 being short by the same amounts.] occupied, within a word or two, one sheet or more of thirty-three lines in Gebhardt's text.

The reader's first feeling is that the result is too good to be true.
That, however, would be an unjust criticism if the result were substantiated.
But there appear to be three objections to the theory:
(1) Oman's sketch of the course of thought of his rearranged text is a more consistent and coherent whole than 'it actually yields.
(2) Too much manipulation seems to be required.
In some cases the editorial glosses appear to be due to the theory, and are not always self-evident.
(3) It is psychologically improbable that a seer, writing in the heat of his spirit, fitted his sections so exactly (with two exceptions) to his sheets.
And if he had really done so, would he have allowed himself the two exceptions?
[See a criticism by A. E. Brooke, J.T.S. xxv, 1924, pp. 303-9.]
The same objections can be urged against Oman's [The Text of Revelation. A Revised Theory, 1928.] revised theory, according to which 'glosses' were all 'doublets', 'that is to say, repetitions by the original editor from his author'.

Compared with the 'New Order' above,




remain the same;


x.10-12, x.1-11;




is intentionally omitted by Oman (pp. 5, 34).






i.11-18, xiv.6-12;


xv.5-6, xvi.2-16, viii.6-11 with passages from viii inserted;


xix.11-15, xiv.19-20, xix.16-21;










i.7, iv.1-v.2;








viii.1-5, xvi.4-7, viii.6-13, ix.1-7;




xi.14-19, xiv.1-5, 13-14;


xiv.14-19, xv.1, xv.6-xvi.1, xv.2-4;




xxi.24-x.5, 6, 8, 9, xvi.15, x.14-17, 20, with passages from xix.10;


i.3-6, xx.1-10;


xx.11-xxi.1, 3-8, x.18, 19, 21;

the rest being doublets.
According to this theory the text runs more smoothly but the manipulations to achieve this result are even greater than before.

According to

A. M. Farrer

[A Rebirth of Images, 1949. See his chart facing p. 348.], the structure of the Apocalypse, rightly understood, provides the key to its interpretation.
At first the Ariadne thread seems based on the number seven, as seen in the letters to the seven Churches, the Sabbath, and the Christian week culminating in worship on Sunday.
The thread changes and is drawn from Jewish liturgical custom, and from the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, New Year, Tabernacles, and Dedication.
The thread again changes, being drawn from astrology, leading us through the maze of the signs of the zodiac [Cf. C. E. Douglas, 'The Twelve Houses of Israel', J.T.S. xxxvii, 1936, pp. 49-56.], the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve stones of the High Priest's breastplate, and the twelve Apostles.
But as Dr. T. W. Manson [J.T.S. 1, 1949, pp. 206-8.] has shown, 'the various schemes do not fit the facts without a considerable amount of adjustment, not to say forcing'.
Where a scheme breaks down, an explanation is always forthcoming.
Then with regard to the method by which correspondences in detail are established between St. John's text and the text of the Old Testament, 'time and time again one can hardly resist the conclusion', says Manson, 'that by using the methods of exegesis used in this study it would be possible to establish connexions between almost anything in the New Testament and almost anything in the Old. ...
The book is full of curious learning and ingenious conjecture ... to one reader at least it is completely unconvincing.'
But the book remains the most stimulating and original one on the Apocalypse that has been written in the last quarter of a century.

According to

R. J. Loenertz

[The Apocalypse of St. John, trans. by Hilary J. Carpenter, 1947.],

the main part of the work relates two visions, i.9-iii.22 and iv.1-x.5, which together make up seven 'septenaries'.

Each septenary has an opening introduction and in the second vision the seventh part of each septenary breaks out into the following septenary until the final one is reached, which has its seventh element complete.
If seven is the number of completeness and perfection, Loenertz's book would suggest that the work was in a sense incomplete till the final septenary, xix.6-10 to xxi.1-x.5, crowns the whole.
If Loenertz is correct, the author, though a seer, worked according to a careful plan and his sources have been completely assimilated into the structure of his work.

On the other hand,

M. E. Boismard

[Revue Biblique, 1949, pp. 507-39, especially p. 528.], impressed by the 'doublets' in this book, finds two parallel series of prophetic visions in it, though the same style now in both does not point to two different authors.
One series [x. (1), 2a, 3-4, 8-11; -xvi; xvii.10, 12-14; xviii.4-8, 14, 22-23, 20; xix.11-20; xx.11-l2; xxi.1-4; x.3-5, xxi.5-8.] he dates in Nero's time,
the other [iv-ix; x.1, 2b, 5-7, xi.14-18; xvii.1-9, 15-18, xviii.1-3; xviii.9-13, 15-19, 21-24; xix.1-10; xx.1-6; xx.7-10; xx.13-15; xxi.9-x.2, 6-15. (Appendix: xi.1-13, 19.)] after ad 70 under Vespasian or at the beginning of Domitian's reign,
while the Letters to the Seven Churches are later still.


(a) External evidence.

The incorporation in the book of sources belonging to different dates is probably one reason for the variations in the patristic tradition,
(i) Trajan.
This date is given by two late writers. See Swete, Apocalypse, p. xcvi, who suggests that this may have been due to the statement of Irenaeus (II. x.5) that John 'remained with them till the time of Trajan'.
Other traditions favour a date before Domitian.
(ii) Nero (54-68).
Jerome (adv. Jovin: i.26) understands some words of Tertullian to mean that the exile in Patmos was in Nero's reign.
The same is stated in the title prefixed to both the Syriac versions of the Apocalypse.
And Theophylact (Praef. in Joan.) rather confusedly says that John wrote the Gospel in the island of Patmos thirty-two years after Christ's Ascension, i.e. c. 64.
B. W. Henderson [The Life and Principate of the Emperor Nero, 1903, pp. 420, 443.] accepts a date shortly after Nero's death in 68, when the first pseudo-Nero threatened Galba.
(iii) Claudius (41-54).
This is the date twice given by Epiphanius (Haer. li.12, 33).
(iv) But the best evidence points to the reign of Domitian (81-96).
Iren. (, Eus. H.E. iii.18; iv.8): 'almost in our own generation, towards the end of Domitian's reign.'
[But F. H. Chase argued that Irenaeus's evidence can be taken to point to a date earlier than the close of Domitian's reign, J.T.S. viii. 1906/7, pp. 431-5.]

Victorinus (in Apoc.x.11; xvii.10).
Eus. (iii.18) relates it as a tradition (κατέχει λόγος - katechei logos) that John escaped from Patmos after the death of Domitian.
Similarly Jer. (De vir. ill. 9). See also Clem. Al. Quis dives, 42.

(b) Internal evidence.

Some of the writer's sources seem to belong to the reign of Nero, or at least to a date before the fall of Jerusalem.
In xi.1, 8 it is assumed that the temple and city are still standing, though the writer probably gave his own spiritual interpretation to the words, .14-16 seems to refer to the escape of Christians from the city, and their safety during the 'time, times, and half a time' of Antichrist's rule.
(This, however, might belong to Vespasian's reign.)
In the reign of Domitian, which our author regards as the time of Antichrist, all escape would be impossible.
The thought of the approaching fall of Jerusalem as being the imminent coming of the End, pictured by the author, led Lightfoot, Westcott, and Hort to date the book before 70.

Vespasian is probably referred to in xvii.10: the sixth emperor who 'is' seems to be Vespasian, reckoning from Augustus, and excluding Galba, Otho, and Vitellius who were little more than insurrectionary leaders: unless with M. Kiddle [The Revelation of St. John, 1940, p. 350.] we take 'seven' to have here only symbolical force, intended to convey the complete number of the emperors.
And some have thought that xviii.4 'Go forth, My people, out other ... that ye receive not of her plagues' is an isolated fragment from the time of Nero or Vespasian, because it is held that after ch.i the plagues are poured upon a wholly pagan world, all Christians having been martyred.

But the book in its complete form is probably to be dated in the reign of Domitian.
The spiritual deterioration of Ephesus (ii.4-6), Sardis (iii.1-3), and Laodicea (iii.15-19), and the development of the Nicolaitan party (ii.6), suggest a date some time after St. Paul's death.
The Church of Smyrna, which did not exist in St. Paul's day (Polyc. Phil. xi), had apparently been developing for some years. The emperor-worship described in the terrible picture of the two beasts (ch.i), with the persecution inflicted on those who refused, were features of Domitian's reign, of which there is no evidence at an earlier date.
Above all there are clear references to the expectation that Nero would reappear.
This took two forms: at first the belief was current that he was not dead, but had fled to Parthia whence he would appear with the Parthian forces; and between 69 and 88 three pretenders appeared in the East.
This belief appears in the Sibyll. Or. v.143-8 (ad 71-74), and the Parthian invasion is probably spoken of in; ix.13-21; xvi.12-14, also, according to Charles, in the Jewish source lying behind xvii.12-17.
Then the myth of Nero redivivus became fused with the myth of Antichrist.
He was expected to appear not as a man but as the beast from the abyss.
This idea was impossible till after the last pretender appeared in 88, and therefore the passages that reflect it in chs. i, xvii must belong to the latter half of Domitian's reign. Charles is probably right in holding that Domitian is not identified with him; the part was to be played by a supernatural monster. vi.6 may well allude to Domitian's short-lived decree of ad 92, as E. Huschke [Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln, 1860.] suggested.
Such a date is confirmed by the use made of Matt., as well as of Lk., 1 Thess., 1 and 2 Cor., Col. and Eph. (Gal.?), 1 Pet., and James [R. H. Charles, Lectures on the Apocalypse, p. 74, cf. his Commentary, pp. xxi-lxxxvi.].


The tradition of the apostolic authorship is met with from the middle of the second century.
Justin speaks of the author as 'one of the apostles of Christ', Dial. 81; cf. Eus. (H.E. iv. 18).
Tert. (Adv. Marc. iii. 14) 'The apostle John in the Apocalypse describes a sword proceeding from the mouth of God'.
Hippol. (Lagarde, p. 17) 'Tell me, O blessed John, apostle and disciple of the Lord, what didst thou see and hear concerning Babylon?' Orig. (in loan., torn. i. 14) 'John the son of Zebedee says in the Apocalypse'.
Victorinus [De fabric. mundi) [Routh, Reliquiae Sacrae2, iii. 461.] 'The angels... who are called elders in the Apocalypse of John the apostle and evangelist'.
To these must be added Irenaeus, who three times assigns the book to 'John the disciple of the Lord' (iv.xx.11, xxx.4; v.xxvi.1). This does not call him an apostle, but throughout his pages he appears to know (apart from John the Baptist) of no other John than the son of Zebedee.
He uses the same expression of the author of the Fourth Gospel (e.g. v.xviii.2).

Further, i.9 implies that the author belonged to Asia, to the Churches of which he was writing; and tradition tells of a John of Asia who was banished to Patmos and returned to Ephesus.
Eus. [H.E. iii. 20) gives it as a traditional statement of 'the ancient men amongst us' that in Nerva's reign (i.e. c. 96) 'the apostle John after his flight to the island took up his residence at Ephesus', which is probably based, as Lawlor [Eusebiana, pp. 51 ff.] shows, on the Memoirs of Hegesippus (c. 150-80). It is supported by Clem. Al. (Quis dives 42), and Ada loh. Orig. {in Matt. xvi. 6) says that the Roman emperor, 'as tradition teaches', condemned him to the island of Patmos; Tert. (Praescr. 36) that he was banished to the island after being plunged, at Rome, into boiling oil.
And Victorinus (in Apoc. x.11) says that 'when John saw the visions he was in the island of Patmos, having been condemned in metallum by Domitian Caesar'.

But there were many Johns in the early Church; and against the uncritical assumption (for it is probably no more) that an inspired writer named John must have been the apostle there are serious objections.
As early as Dionysius Alex. (c. 240) criticisms were heard.
He could not assign the book to the apostle John who wrote the Fourth Gospel and 'the Catholic Epistle' (i.e. 1 John) for three reasons:
(1) The writer's use of his own name, which the evangelist avoids;
(2) the difference of ideas and thoughts, and the absence of some which are markedly characteristic of the Gospel;
(3) the linguistic eccentricities, barbarisms, solecisms, provincialisms, which are completely lacking in the smooth and flowing Greek of the Gospel and Epistle (Eus. H.E. vii. 25).
The last point is abundantly illustrated in Charles's study of the grammar [Commentary, vol. i, pp. cxvii-cv.].
Even if the book was written at the earliest date claimed for it, it is psychologically impossible for the same author afterwards to have written the Gospel.
And this difficulty is greatly increased if it was written in the reign of Domitian, very shortly before the Gospel.
Burney [The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel, p. 149.] suggests that while the Fourth Gospel was written in Aramaic, and translated by someone well acquainted with Greek, the Apocalypse, which also reflects an Aramaic mind, was written by the same author in such Greek as he could compass, after he had gone to live in Asia.
To identify the author of the Apocalypse with that of the Gospel is not, indeed, the same as to assign it to the son of Zebedee.
Apart from any other considerations, the latter is rendered practically impossible by the words of Rev.xxi.14.
Could the apostle John have written of the twelve foundations of the walls of the city, upon which were written 'the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb'?
But the book cannot, in fact, have been written by any immediate associate of Jesus, despite the evidence of Justin, which M. Kiddle [Op. cit., pp. xxxv f.] stresses.
There is not a sign that the author had been His companion, or that he had a first-hand knowledge of His words.
He does not reproduce a trace of His teaching on the Fatherhood of God, or His spiritual Kingdom.
The whole idea of his ordered eschatological scheme is alien to the thought of Mk.i.32: 'Of that day and hour knoweth no man' (cf. Acts i.7).
In xi.1 the temple, as distinct from the court (v.2), is measured for protection against destruction, in contrast with Mk.i.1, 2.
In iii.21 Christ says, 'I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne', a prerogative which Jesus Himself disclaimed (Mk.x.40).
The improbability that the author was the son of Zebedee is extreme, apart from the tradition that the latter suffered martyrdom at a date long before the reign of Domitian (see pp. 287-90). Dionysius, dissenting from the idea that the author was John Mark, makes a vague suggestion that it was 'another of those who were at Ephesus, since people say that there are two tombs at Ephesus, and each is called John's'.
And we must content ourselves with being similarly vague.
The writer was a prophet, as he claims himself (i.3; x.9), and evidently a Palestinian who had lived in Asia, to which he could write with the spiritual authority which prophets could always exercise in the first century.

Many would therefore agree with E. F. Scott that the author of Revelation was an unknown Asian Christian, not the apostle nor the author of the Fourth Gospel, nor of the three Johannine epistles.
However, it must be added that whereas in 1897 Harnack was almost alone among Protestant scholars in holding the view that the author of Revelation was that of the Fourth Gospel, this view has gained currency, largely owing to E. Lohmeyer's commentary in which he supports the view that both works were written by the 'Elder'.
It would not follow from this that one must accept the whole of H. Preisker's [Theologische Blotter, 1936, pp. 185-92.] argument that the Fourth Gospel was the 'first part of an Apocalyptic twin-work'.


H. E. Boismard,

Revue biblique, 1949, pp. 507-39.

R. J. Brewer,

'The Influence of Greek Drama upon the Apocalypse', Anglican Theological Review, xviii, 1936, pp. 74-92.

J. E. Carpenter,

The Johannine writings, 1927.

R. H. Charles,

Lectures on the Apocalypse, 1919. Studies in the Apocalypse, 1913.

A. M. Farrer,

Rebirth of Images, 1949.

J. Freundorfer,

Die Apokalypse und die hellenistische Kosmologie und Astro-logic, 1929.

H. L. Goudge,

The Apocalypse and the Present Age, 1935.

J. F. Gunkel,

Schopfung und Chaos in Urvit und Endyit, 1895.

R. J. Loenertz,

The Apocalypse of St. John, trans.

H. J. Carpenter, 1947. J. W. Oman,

The Book of Revelation, 1923.


The Text of Revelation, 1928.

A. S. Peake,

The Revelation of John, 1919.

F. C. Porter,

The Message of the Apocalyptic Writers, 1905.


in Hastings's D.B., iv. pp. 239-66.

Sir W. M. Ramsay,

Letters to the Seven Churches, 1904.

J. Sickenberger,

Erkldrung der Johannes-Apokalypse, 1942.

E. Vischer,

Die Offenbarung Johamis (2nd ed., 1895).

J. Weiss,

Die Offenbarung des Johannes, 1904.


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