Revelation by the Numbers

Revelation by the Numbers August 21, 2015

Ian Paul shared this chart a while back, suggesting that it provides evidence for the unity of Revelation. I’m not so sure – I’m not entirely persuaded by redactional proposals, but I definitely see why such solutions to the puzzles of Revelation appeal to some. What do readers of this blog think? Is the Book of Revelation a unity, or can we detect multiple hands involved in its composition and editing?


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  • Andrew Dowling

    I haven’t read much scholarly work focusing on Revelation, because I actually find it one of the least interesting works of the NT (I know I’m probably in a minority there) but what I have read has always seemed to assume a single author.

    • Michael Wilson

      I find it very interesting, not for its prophesy of the future, but for its window on early Christianity. I think it opens a window on Jesus and his first followers views of the kingdom of God, mission, and theology.

      • Andrew Dowling

        I’m not sure that a document likely composed in the 90s (post Fall of Jerusalem) will give much insight into the beliefs of the “first followers” of Jesus. It’s very much a document of its own time and place.

        • Michael Wilson

          It is from the 90s but I suspect it’s author was closer to the Palestinian Christians than Paul’s Christians. In fact I think he thought Paul was a heretic for being ok with eating food sacrificed to idols. His viewpoint I think reflects the ideas of the Palestinian church at the time and I think he has closer links to Jesus and Peter and co. than other conservative writings like Mathew and the letters psudopeter.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I concur that its milieu is likely more Judean than a lot of the other later NT stuff (like the Petrine epistles, Luke, and pseudo-Paul) but still, it’s reflecting Jewish-Christian beliefs circa the 90s; I don’t think in an apocalyptic text clearly referencing that era’s concerns (the Fall of Jerusalem, the increasing hostility of the Roman state towards Christian sects etc.) will necessarily tell the reader much about what Jewish-Christians would’ve been exclaiming some 50 years earlier. What apocalyptic material we do have that’s earlier (the apocalypse in the Didache, or even Paul in 1 Thessalonians for example) is fairly different from Revelation.

          • Michael Wilson

            In specifics it differs as the precise events of the end would have changed over tine as would emphasis on particular issues. But I think Revelation gives a more detailed look at the thought process of a Jewish apocalyptic preacher. While Jesus did not write apocalypses he believed that an apocalyptic event was coming and was probably familliar with the theologies and cosmologies if the apocalyptic thinkers. The Apocalyptic material in the Gospels, Paul, and Didache are brief and seem to me as referencing in brief what would have been a larger body of conversation on the end. I think there is a tendancy, and I may be wrong here, to see Revelation as having a late and very developed Christology, theology and cosmology but I suspect that if you listened to people talk with Peter or even Jesus in depth on these issues we might see very similar ideas. John of Patmos, I suspect, isn’t just a Christian seeking to ape the style of other Apocalyptic works but someone who us part of a community of thought in Judaism that is deeply concerned with mysticism and a idea of a messianic new age. For this community works like Enoch and Daniel aren’t just works purported to sacred from antiquity but products of their teachers and mystic communities. Preachers like John and Jesus, and other messianic figures of the time may have been products of a loose community of esoteric enthusiast and thinkers rather than just average Joes that felt the urge to embark on Charismatic missions out of the blue.

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    Why is it that, when people want to simplify Revelation, they make a ludicrously obtuse chart? Anyway….

    My personal take is that evidence points to a single author who is John. However, Revelation almost entirely consists of repurposed OT and inter-testamental apocalyptic. In that sense, John is serving as both redactor and reintepreter, which I think explains why it feels like multiple hands were involved. In a very real sense, there were “multiple authors” because of the variety of source material.

    One of my friends has said, and I agree, that you could probably reconstitute most of Revelation from the Old Testament alone.

  • Michael Wilson

    I’ve read theories of Revelation being a composite, but other than the introduction and closing I lean toward it being a single author. However one scholar said something that I found enlightening, that it was probably composed over a long period. If the author is trying to compose a complex prophesy related to current events and then back date it as a revelation given to him at one time, there may be inconsistencies. I had imagined this composed on Patmos then sent to Asia for circulation, but the author may been forming this over a long period and wrote it as though it were received years earlier on Patmos. The messages to the churches, which I thought were probably thought to be written contemporary with events may hsve been imagined to be prophetic. I think it clearly presents its self as written shortly after Nero’s death but may not have been composed till years later.