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Introduction to Revelation

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Authorship & Date:

The importance of understanding genre and how it affects interpretation.

What kind of book is Revelation?

1. Apocalypse ()

This book’s first word, translated ‘revelation’, is apokalypsis in Greek, from which we get the word apocalypse.
Gk: apokalypsis from which we get the word apocalypse. Originally it meant the unveiling of something that was hidden (like the removal of a curtain on a portrait).
Gk: apokalypsis from which we get the word apocalypse.
(Gk: apokalypsis) from which we get the word apocalypse. Originally it meant the unveiling of something that was hidden (like the removal of a curtain on a portrait).
Originally it meant the unveiling of something that was hidden (like the removal of a curtain from a portrait).
It was then used to for a genre of Jewish writings around 200BC to 100AD.
It became a technical term for a popular (but now extinct) genre of Jewish writings around 200BC to 100AD e.g Book of Enoch, Apocalypse of Abraham, Assumption of Moses, Apocalypse of Elijah, Apocalypse of Ezra etc.
These apocrypha books though not regarded by Jews and Christians as inspired Scripture, were considered useful for devotional purposes. Some are even quoted by Scripture e.g in Jude.
Though Revelation is God’s Word, God chosen to speak to His people in a way they can appreciate. So since this was a popular kind of literature during that time, God chose to use it to speak to us.
Freely uses symbols to communicate its message. See , , .
Its more important to get the meaning (esp in mixed metaphors) than force literal realities.
Interpretative issues? Do we assume literal if not explanation? First “literal” is not as simple as we think e.g Jesus said pluck out your eye. If not literal what do they symbolise? Answer: Genre standards but ultimately the OT.
Interpretative issues? Do we assume literal if not explanation? First “literal” is not as simple as we think e.g Jesus said pluck out your eye. If not literal what do they symbolise? Answer: Genre standards but ultimately the OT.
Standard symbols in the genre include e.g horns representing authority/kings/kingdoms. Monsters out of the ocean depict oppressive political powers. (Think modern political cartoons)
Frequent adopting and adapting of earlier prophecies/prophetic language. Not due to lack of originality, but because the authors saw patterns that were waiting an ultimate fulfillment.
Frequent adopting and adapting of earlier prophecies/prophetic language (they saw patterns that were waiting an ultimate fulfillment)

2. Prophecy ()

“what must soon take place” () as well as “prophecy” ()
Prophecy in the Bible functions to reveal God’s future purposes for His people and the world, giving both hope to the former and warning to the latter.

3. Letter ()

From “John” (see below for Authorship)
“To the seven churches in the province of Asia” (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea ().
“To the seven churches in the province of Asia” i.e Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (). They were along the same postal route.
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea ().
Many modern Christians interpret this book in a way that would of made no sense to the original readers. We have to remember the basic principle that thought the Bible was written for us (we do benefit), it was not written to us.

Authorship & Date:

The New International Version. (2011). (). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea ().
The author simply identifies himself as “John” (, ). The general consensus is that it was written by the Apostle John, son of Zebedee, during His exile on Patmos (), towards the end of 1st century.

External testimony:

Justin Martyr (100-165AD)
This apologist quoted Revelation, referring to it as prophecy revealed to
An Introduction to the New Testament Early Christian Testimony

John, “one of the apostles of Christ” (Justin, Dial. 81.4)

“John, one of the apostles of Christ” (Justin, Dial. 81.4)
Its notable that since he’s not persuading Christians but outsiders, it can be assumed that the church was in general agreement over this.
“John, one of the apostles of Christ” (Justin, Dial. 81.4)
Irenaeus (130-202AD)
Carson, D. A., & Moo, D. J. (2005). An Introduction to the New Testament (Second Edition, p. 700). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Writing around 180AD, refers to the author as “John, the Lord’s disciple” (Adv. Haer. 3.11.1, 4.20.11, 4.35.2)
Carson, D. A., & Moo, D. J. (2005). An Introduction to the New Testament (Second Edition, p. 700). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Learned from Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (), and Papias, both who at least personally knew the apostle John.
Learned from Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (), and Papias, both who at least personally knew the apostle John.
Its notable that in both Justin and Irenaeus’ case, they weren’t trying persuade Christians but outsiders. This can imply that the church was in general agreement over this.
Other early sources
Internal testimony: No other John could enjoy such familiarity and authority in that region at that time without needing to establish identity/credentials.
A now no longer extant commentary (c 165AD) by Melito of Sardis (), referenced by Eusebius the 4th century church historian, also attributes this book to the apostle John.
Internal testimony: No other John could enjoy such familiarity and authority in that region at that time without needing to establish identity/credentials.
Neither the Latin father Tertullian (160-220AD) or the Greek father Origen (c184-254AD) gave any indication that this was disputed.
Only notable exception to this is Dionysius, 3rd century bishop of Alexandria, who was not passing down any earlier tradition, and may have been theologically bias against chiliasm. In any case his arguments were based on internal evidence.

Internal testimony:

No other John could enjoy such familiarity () and assume such authority in that region at that time without needing to specify his identity or establish his credentials.

Objections: theology and writing style in Greek is too different from John’s gospel and epistles.

Theological differences
The argument is the gospel emphasizes God’s love, Christ’s redeeming role, realised eschatology while Revelation emphasizes God’s judgment, Christ as conquering King, future eschatology) are exaggerated and based on one-sided interpretations of John’s gospel.
There are also significant theological similarities. Christ as the “Word” (, ), “lamb” (, ), “temple” (, ), darkness vs light etc.
Stylistic differences:
In contrast to the gospels and epistles which were written with clean Greek, this appears to be written by someone who thought in Biblical Hebrew (as opposed to contemporary Hebrew/Aramaic) and wrote in Greek.
The differences could be explained by the difference in genre, or that being in exile John didn’t have access to the help of scribes (amanuensis).

Date

The two most popular dates was at in the 90s under Domitian or in the late 60s after Nero. The former was the majority view of the early church fathers. The latter appeal to the fact that there is not as much concrete evidence for state-wide persecution under Domitian. But there is no concrete evidence that Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome spread to other provinces esp Asia Minor. The tension between Jews and Christians point to a later date too (See , ). So also the conditions of the churches. Spiritual stagnation, wealth of Laodicea (the city was destroyed by earthquake in the early 60s) etc.
which indicates that the current king is the sixth, is not decisive because its not clear who was the first (Julius who first claimed imperial rights, Augustus or Caligula the first persecuting emperor) and who else is included in the sequence.

Historical Setting:

If end of 1st century, the emperor Domitian was more aggressive than his predecessors in claiming divine status. His favourite title was Dominus et Deus noster “our Lord and God”.
This emperor worship was perhaps most popularly enforced/practiced in Asia Minor.
This obviously resulted in the persecution of Christians who only acknowledged Jesus as Lord and God.
Christians initially hid under the umbrella of the Jews who enjoyed exemptions from emperor worship, but Jewish and Christians relationships deteriorated as it became clear they were not of the same faith. See , .
That John himself was exiled to the island likely means that the persecution had only just begun but was getting worse ().
Prior to Domitian, persecution was mainly from local mobs (Jewish and Gentile). The Roman state was largely neutral (see Acts). Nero’s persecution was limited to Christians in Rome. But under Domitian, things would worsen.
Tale of two cities?
Thus this apocalypse portrays the spiritual warfare behind this political/historical setting, setting the pattern for future events, and its final conclusion - Christ and His faithful followers win.

Purpose:

Facing the threat of anti-Christ principles and forces, John wrote to encourage Christians to not give in to compromise or give up under persecution, but to faithfully bear witness for Christ till the end.

Genre

The importance of understanding genre and how it affects interpretation.

What kind of book is Revelation?

1. Apocalypse ()

This book’s first word, translated ‘revelation’, is apokalypsis in Greek, from which we get the word apocalypse.
Originally it meant the unveiling of something that was hidden (like the removal of a curtain from a portrait).
It became a technical term for a popular (but now extinct) genre of Jewish writings around 200BC to 100AD e.g Book of Enoch, Apocalypse of Abraham, Assumption of Moses, Apocalypse of Elijah, Apocalypse of Ezra etc.
These apocrypha books though not regarded by Jews and Christians as inspired Scripture, were considered useful for devotional purposes. Some are even quoted by Scripture e.g in Jude.
Though Revelation is God’s Word, God chosen to speak to His people in a way they can appreciate. So since this was a popular kind of literature during that time, God chose to use it to speak to us.
Freely uses symbols to communicate its message. See , , .
Frequent adopting and adapting of earlier prophecies/prophetic language. Not due to lack of originality, but because the authors saw patterns that were waiting an ultimate fulfillment.

2. Prophecy ()

“what must soon take place” () as well as “prophecy” ()
Prophecy in the Bible functions to reveal God’s future purposes for His people and the world, giving both hope to the former and warning to the latter.

3. Letter ()

From “John” (see below for Authorship)
“To the seven churches in the province of Asia” i.e Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea (). They were, in order, along the same postal route, from Patmos.

Structure:

Depends on interpretation really. And presupposes the reader being familiar with the whole book.
Three series of sevens-seals (6:1-17, 8:1), trumpets (8:2-9:21; 11:15-19) and bowls (15:1-16:21) with side-visions interjected before the last of each series that add perspective.
Seven significant signs ()
a woman who gives birth to a son (12:1–6); a war in heaven between Michael and his angels and a dragon, identified with Satan, who is cast out of heaven (12:7–12); a war on earth between Satan and the woman and her child (12:13–13:1a); the worldwide worship of a beast who comes out of the sea (13:1b–10); the worldwide domination of a beast who comes out of the earth (13:11–18); the praise of the Lamb from the 144,000 (14:1–5); and the harvesting of the earth, done by “one like a son of man” and angels (14:14–20) cf Carson, D. A., & Moo, D. J. (2005)
Carson, D. A., & Moo, D. J. (2005). An Introduction to the New Testament (Second Edition, p. 699). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Interpretative issues:

Why did God choose to communicate to us in symbols? Its not so that we won’t be able to understand but for us to understand things we have no categories for.
To capture our imagination (esp in a visual age) - better than computer game quote.
Its more important to get the meaning (esp in mixed metaphors) than force literal realities. e.g lion and the lamb (slides of the picture would miss the point).
Interpretative issues? Do we assume literal if not explanation? First “literal” is not as simple as we think e.g Jesus said pluck out your eye. If not literal what do they symbolise? Answer: Genre standards but ultimately the OT. In fact Revelation is the NT book that uses the OT the most.
Standard symbols in the genre include e.g horns representing authority/kings/kingdoms. Monsters out of the ocean depict oppressive political powers. (Think modern political cartoons)
Prophecy: It was clearly future to the original readers but what about us?
Even if futurist, see below on “letter”.
Implications of this: Just like Paul’s letter to the Romans, we must understand how those churches would of interpreted and applied this book to properly interpret and apply this book to us.
Many modern Christians interpret this book in a way that would of made no sense to the original readers. We have to remember the basic principle that thought the Bible was written for us (we do benefit), it was not written to us.
In some ways its simpler than we think.
A man says to me, “Can you explain the seven trumpets of the Revelation?” No, but I can blow one in your ear, and warn you to escape from the wrath to come.- Spurgeon
Practical application:
Just read the whole book! Once-through preferably in one-sitting.
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