The Book of Revelation, also called Revelation to John or Apocalypse of John, (literally, apocalypse of John; is the last canonical book of the New Testament in the Bible. It is the only biblical book that is wholly composed of apocalyptic literature. Other apocalypses popular in the early Christian era did not achieve canonical status, except for the 2 Esdras (Apocalypse of Ezra), which is canonical in the Russian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches.
The book is frequently called "Revelation"; however, the title found on some of the earliest manuscripts is "The Apocalypse/Revelation of John" and the most common title found on later manuscripts is "The Apocalypse/Revelation of the theologian".
Many people call The Book of Revelation "Revelations" due to the long series of events which unfold throughout the manuscript. However, the events are part of only one revelation (that of the End Times)
- the first sentence of the book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ... unto his servant John, is also sometimes used as a title.
After a short introduction (ch. 1:1-10), it contains an account of the author, who identifies himself as John, and of two visions that he received on the isle of Patmos. The first vision (chs. 1:11-3:22), related by "one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle", speaking with "a great voice, as of a trumpet", are statements addressed to the seven churches of Asia. The second vision comprising the rest of the book (chs. 4-22) begins with "a door... opened in the sky" and describes the end of the world-involving the final rebellion by Satan at Armageddon, God's final defeat of Satan, and the restoration of peace to the world.
Revelation is considered one of the most controversial and difficult books of the Bible, with many diverse interpretations of the meanings of the various names and events in the account. Protestant founder Martin Luther at first considered Revelation to be "neither apostolic nor prophetic" and stated that "Christ is neither taught nor known in it" and placed it in his Antilegomena. However, he later changed his mind, believing the book to be divinely inspired. John Calvin believed the book to be canonical, yet it was the only New Testament book on which he did not write a commentary.
In the 4th century, St. John Chrysostom and other bishops argued against including this book in the New Testament canon, chiefly because of the difficulties of interpreting it and the danger for abuse. Christians in Syria also reject it because of the Montanists' heavy reliance on it. In the 9th century, it was included with the Apocalypse of Peter among "disputed" books in the Stichometry of St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople. In the end it was included in the accepted canon, although it remains the only book of the New Testament that is not read within the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church. See Biblical canon for details.
Religious skeptics have typically been highly critical of Revelation, often considering it the work of a mentally ill author. Typical in this vein is nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll, who famously branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".
The author of Revelation identifies himself several times as "John" (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8). The author also states that he was in exile on the island of Patmos when he received his first vision (1:9; 4:1-2). As a result, the author of Revelation is referred to as John of Patmos. John explicitly addresses Revelation to seven churches of Asia Minor: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (1:4, 11). All of these sites are located in what is now Turkey.
The traditional view holds that John the Apostle - considered to have written the Gospel and epistles by the same name - was exiled on Patmos in the Aegean archipelago during the reign of Emperor Domitian, and wrote the Revelation there. Those in favor of a single common author point to similarities between the Gospel and Revelation. For example, both works are soteriological (e.g. referring to Jesus as a lamb) and possess a high Christology, stressing Jesus' divine side as opposed to the human side stressed by the Synoptic Gospels. In the Gospel of John and in Revelation, Jesus is referred to as "the Word of God". Explanations of the differences among John's work by proponents of the single-author view include factoring in underlying motifs and purposes, authorial target audience, the author's collaboration with or utilization of different scribes and the advanced age of John the Apostle when he wrote Revelation.
A natural reading of the text would reveal that John is writing literally as he sees the vision (Rev 1:11; 10:4; 14:3; 19:9; 21:5) and that he is warned by an angel not to alter the text through a subsequent edit (Rev 22:18-19), in order to maintain the textual integrity of the book.
A number of Church Fathers weighed in on the authorship of Revelation. Justin Martyr avows his belief in its apostolic origin. Irenaeus (178) assumes it as a conceded point. At the end of the 2nd century, we find it accepted at Antioch, by Theophilus, and in Africa by Tertullian. At the beginning of the 3rd century, it is adopted by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen, later by Methodius, Cyprian, and Lactantius. Dionysius of Alexandria (247) rejected it, upon doctrinal rather than critical grounds. Eusebius (315) suspended his judgment, hesitating between the external and internal evidence. Some canons, especially in the Eastern Church, rejected the book, while most others included it.
Although the traditional view still has many adherents, many modern scholars believe that John the Apostle, John the Evangelist, and John of Patmos refer to three separate individuals. Certain lines of evidence suggest that John of Patmos wrote only Revelation, not the Gospel of John nor the Epistles of John. For one, the author of Revelation identifies himself as "John" several times, but the author of the Gospel of John never identifies himself directly. While both works liken Jesus to a lamb, they consistently use different words for lamb when referring to him - the Gospel uses amnos, Revelation uses arnion. Lastly, the Gospel is written in nearly flawless Greek, but Revelation contains grammatical errors and stylistic abnormalities which indicate its author may not have been as familiar with the Greek language as the Gospel's author.
According to early tradition, the writing of this book took place near the very end of Domitian's reign, around 95 or 96. Others contend for an earlier date, 68 or 69, in the reign of Nero or shortly thereafter. The majority of modern scholars also use these dates. Those who are in favor of the later date appeal to the external testimony of the Christian father Irenaeus (d. 185), who stated that he had received information relative to this book from those who had seen John face to face. He says that the Apocalypse "was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign" (A.H. 5.30.3), who according to Eusebius had started the persecution referred to in the book. However, recent scholars dispute that the book is situated in a time of ongoing persecution and have also doubted the reality of a large-scale Domitian persecution.
Some exegetes (Paul Touilleux, Albert Gelin, Andre Feuillet) distinguish two dates: publication (under Domitian) and date of the visions (under Vespasian). Various editors would have a hand in the formation of the document, according to these theories. The dating of the work is still widely debated in the scholarly community.
Revelation is divided into seven cycles of events, with the number seven also appearing frequently as a symbol within the Book of Revelation. The chapters of Revelation present a series of events, full of imagery and metaphor, which detail the chronology of God's judgment on the world.