Who was this John, the writer of the Book of Revelation? We know he was exiled on a small penal colony on the Isle of Patmos for his testimony of Jesus Christ. Was he John, the beloved apostle, or John Mark, or some other John, known or unknown to modern Christendom?
Modern-day Biblical scholars, so-called, continue to quibble over who the writer of The Revelation was. However, it is generally accepted by most Christians that he was the apostle whom Jesus loved. Modern Bible scholars choose to believe otherwise.
Following is a representative sampling of what scholars of the twentieth century have said of John:
. . . from the beginning of the church’s history much speculation has been rife about him. It was the almost universal belief of the ancient church from the middle of the second century that the author was the apostle John. Justin and Hippolytus at Rome, Tertullian in North Africa, Clement and Origen of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyons, all spoke of this John as one of the Lord’s apostles (or disciples). Modern scholarship, however, has remained unconvinced, preferring to identify the John of Revelation rather with John Mark, John the Elder, an otherwise unknown John, or a pseudonymous writer claiming for his work the prestige attaching to the name of the apostle. (The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, p. 60.)
. . . it cannot be said that John the seer of Revelation has been identified with any known John in the first century of the church’s life. There must have been many Christians of this name in those early days, and there is no internal proof that the church’s tradition identifying the seer with the apostle of the same name is correct. We know the John of Revelation only as the seer or prophet and shepherd that he claims to be. (ibid.)
. . . the author could have been one of several people having the common name John (JOHN THE APOSTLE; JOHN THE BELOVED DISCIPLE; JOHN THE DIVINE). (The Family Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 17, p. 3216, Curtis Books, Inc., New York, 1972.)
Was St. John the apostle and evangelist the writer of the Revelation? The evidence adduced in support of his being the author consists of (1) the assertions of the author, and (2) historical tradition. (1) The author’s description of himself in the 1st and 22d chapters is certainly equivalent to an assertion that he is the apostle. He names himself simply John, without prefix or addition. He is also described as a servant of Christ, one who had borne testimony as an eye-witness of the word of God and the testimony of Christ. He is in Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. He is also a fellow sufferer with those whom he addresses, and the authorized channel of the most direct and important communication that was ever made to the Seven Churches of Asia, of which churches John the apostle was at that time the spiritual governor and teacher. Lastly, the writer was a fellow servant of angels and a brother of prophets. All these marks are found united in the apostle John, and in him alone of all historical persons. (2) A long series of writers testify to St. John’s authorship. Justin Martyr (cir. 150 A.D.), Eusebius, Irenaeus (A.D. 195), Clement of Alexandria (about 200), Tertullian (207), Origen (233). All the foregoing writers, testifying that the book came from an apostle, believed that it was part of Holy Scripture. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, pp. 562-563, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984.)
So, what it comes down to is this:
- We have modern-day Biblical scholars, who lived some two thousand years after the fact, arguing over who did and who did not write The Revelation; and
- We have near contemporary Christian authors’ assertions that John, the beloved apostle, wrote The Revelation.
Who am I therefore to believe? Who would you believe?
Setting my own prejudices aside, I would still have to believe the near contemporaries who were closer to the situation than our modern-day scholars. One would have to believe their knowledge exceeds the knowledge of those up to two thousand years removed. At least, I am convinced.
Therefore, it is my conclusion that John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, was indeed the author of the Book of Revelation.