There are many things in the Bible that theologians debate over. Who is the beloved disciple? Are we living in the end times, or have they already happened? On a larger scale – is the Bible literal or is it just a book of symbols of metaphors? Everything in the Bible at one time or another gets put under the microscope so to speak. The book of Revelation is probably the most debated book of the Bible. It provides plenty of material to be debated such as when is the seven year tribulation, what are the trumpets, lampposts and other things mentioned throughout the book. One of the biggest debates is over who actually wrote the book of Revelation. Was it John the apostle, or some other man named John? The author introduces himself in the first chapter, ninth verse “I am John your brother in Jesus. We are partners in suffering and in the Kingdom and in patient endurance. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and speaking about Jesus” (New Living Translation). Who is this exiled John writing the book of Revelation?
The traditional view is probably the most common viewpoint when it comes to Revelations authorship. The traditional viewpoint believes that the author of this book is none other than John the apostle. The same apostle many believe to be the beloved disciple. If John was in fact the beloved disciple, then it could be possible that he received the visions. A lot of the traditionalists base this theory on the usage of symbols like the lamb to represent Jesus, as well as referring to Jesus and the Word of God. But there are those who oppose this viewpoint, who ask the question could it be another John?
When the author introduces himself, he does not say John the apostle, but just John, your brother in Christ. There is no other actual place in the book of Revelation that points to John the apostle as the author of Revelation. Some believe that John may have written some of the book, and then maybe dictated to someone else as his years grew and he grew unable to write. Revelations’ main focal point is the wrath of God, death, whereas in John and the epistles of John the focus is on the teachings of Christ. Some say this is because someone else wrote it. Yet the different focal points could be because the theme is different. The theme of Christ’s love wouldn’t need to have anything about God’s Wrath and vise versa.
Another viewpoint about the authorship of Revelations comes from the early church fathers who were the first bishops. Leaders like Dionysius, Origen believe that the book of Revelation was written by someone other than John the apostle. There are theories that the authorship may belong to a disciple of John’s. It was tradition to attribute one’s writing to that of the teacher. If John had a disciple, that man could have written the book, and said it was John. The Church father believe John the apostle, John the Epistle, and the John of Revelation could be three different Johns. In fact John was just as common a name in Biblical days and time of Christ as it is today.
Some of the church fathers like Eusebius believed the phrasing of the books differentiates the gospel and epistles of John from Revelation stressing that two different people wrote them. One of the biggest arguments is that John has no flaws in the Greek, yet Revelations has many flaws. Scholars say the differences in style, vocabulary, and theology all add to the idea that John the apostle did not write Revelation as the common view thinks. But what if the differences are there because John was growing old? As we grow older our command of any language becomes harder and we make mistakes that we didn’t make when we were younger.
Many scholars look at the themes of the books written by John, or claimed to be written by John and there are slight differences. The gospel’s major theme is eternal life, the resurrection of Christ, and belief. The three epistles’ magathemes were sin, love, truth, faithfulness all within each other. Then lastly Revelation’s focus was on judgment, Christ’s return and hope. Many say the big difference between Revelation’s theme and the theme of the others point to the authorship being that of someone other than John the apostle. John’s gospel focused on belief and eternal life, not the wrath of God for our sins. Though some may say that the resurrection of Christ and his return are interconnected.
Another thing that has some people questioning the authorship is the fact the Revelation is based on prophecy and visions, where as the epistles of John and the gospel of John have no mention of visions and prophecy. Could it be possible that John the apostle never had a vision which is why he never wrote of one? And if this is the case, then there is the possibility of another John or a disciple of John writing Revelation because of the attention to visions. If John had any visions or feelings from God the way Paul did in his letters, wouldn’t he have written about them instead of leaving them out only until the end? Makes you wonder, was John the apostle really the author of Revelation as so many people think?
Many different biblical scholars debate on who wrote the book of Revelation. Was it John the apostle, or some other man named John or was it a disciple of John who wrote the book and gave John the credit? The answer we will never fully know and can only speculate and study each of the books to get a better understanding.