Eight reasons against John the apostle as the author of Revelation

1. The author never claims to be an apostle

One response would be that the churches to which he writes would know which John was writing to them, so he did not need to specify which John he was, nor did he need to emphasize his apostolicity.

2. The style and vocabulary of Revelation is markedly different from the Gospel of John and the letters of John.

This is indeed a strong argument. But one response would be that the vastly different content explains the change in style and vocabulary.

3. The quality of Greek grammar is far inferior to that of the Gospel and letters of John

This is perhaps the strongest argument. But some respond by saying that John is writing in his second language from a prison island with no amanuensis (secretary) to clean up his Greek. Others believe that the author writes deliberately in slightly choppy Greek in order to slow down his readers and force them to notice the details in his work.

4. The theology of Revelation can be said to differ from the theology of the Gospel and letters of John

Some say that John’s God is love, but Revelation’s God is judgment. This is a naïve idea, as in the entire Bible we see both the love and the justice of God.

Some say Christ is portrayed as revealer and redeemer in John, but as warrior and ruler in Revelation. Again, there is no necessary tension between these various roles of Jesus.

Some say that John’s Gospel focuses on ‘realized eschatology’ (the changes the gospel makes in people here and now) whereas Revelation focuses on future eschatology. But this contrast is unfair. John’s Gospel is filled with references to future eschatology.

5. There is a tradition that claims that John the apostle died early as a martyr. He would not have lived long enough to write Revelation.

But many from the early church believed that John the apostle wrote, and that he wrote in the time of the emperor Domitian, toward the end of the first century. So the tradition was far from universally accepted.

6. Revelation names its author, whereas the Gospel of John is anonymous, written by “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

This is indeed a surprising difference, but does not rule out the possibility that the author wanted, out of modesty, to exclude his name from the Gospel but felt it important to include his name in Revelation, to substantiate the prophecy he received from Jesus.

7. Nothing in Revelation indicates that the author knew Jesus personally. This is surprising if the book was written by one of the twelve apostles.

The author is reporting a vision, not writing a treatise. He would have no reason to mention whether or not he had met Jesus during the latter’s earthly lifetime. And anyway, why must we assume the apostles would feel the need to mention their having met Jesus in every single work that they wrote?

8. Some people in the first centuries of the Christian church (Gaius, Dionysius, Marcion) did not believe John was the author.

Gaius and Dionysius, both from the third century, had a theological motive for not wanting John the apostle to be the author of Revelation:  they wanted to stop the millenarian movements that used Revelation 20 for support. Marcion was a heretic that rejected many portions of the New Testament that didn’t support his unorthodox beliefs.


Sources: David Aune, Word Biblical Commentary: Revelation 1-5. (Waco, TX: Word, 1997); Carson, Moo and Morris, An Introduction to the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992)

10 Comments »

  1. Roger Said,

    April 18, 2013 @ 8:35 am

    Very helpfulll article,

    Bart Ehrman should read it:)

  2. Shores805 Said,

    May 9, 2013 @ 11:53 am

    Example 2: the most obvious and concrete reasoning behind the differences in grammar and writing style have been left out. The reader needs to look no further than the subject of History to see that most authors of John’s time, including John himself, employed the use of scribes to pen their words. The words in the book of John, as well as his other biblical letters prior to the Revelation were almost surely recorded by such scribes, which would be of course explain the variation in style. In Patmos, John was banished, all alone, where he received the vision.

  3. Dave Gifford Said,

    May 9, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

    Very true, shores805.

  4. Daniel Miles Said,

    July 14, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    Here’s my reasons Paul is Author:
    1. In KJV* the last verse is Paul’s “token”, always written by his own hand to sign-ify it’s Paul’s epistle. *sadly modern versions remove “Christ” from last verse.
    2. KJV Title is “The Revelation (Uncovering) of St John The Divine”, so it’s Paul uncovering John who turned back to law.
    3. Apokalypsis is never used by John, only by Paul x14 & Peter x3.
    4. John = “servant” in Revelation 1:1, but “servant” = know not in John 15:15.
    5. “Lamb” in Revelation = ‘arnion’. “Lamb” in John 1:29 = ‘amnos”. Obviously John would know that.
    6. What the Spirit saith “unto the churches” x7 in Revelation is found in Galatians = only book written “unto the churches”, also written by Paul.
    7. Revelation format is that of Paul’s epistles. It has Greeting … Discussion … Salutation. Revelation is now thought of as an epistle.
    8. Revelation = allegory. Paul = allegory: Galatians 4.
    9. Paul is always a JC writing to CJs, so Rev 22:21 KJV clarifies the grace of JC be with you all.
    10. Seven angels who accompanied Paul into Asia to establish churches are mentioned in Acts 20:4.

  5. Charles Jackson Said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 12:55 pm

    Point 2 – The subject matter of the Gospel is a narrative biography of the First Advent in descriptive prose; the subject of Revelation is the Second Advent written in figurative poetry and prophetic symbolism. Obviously, the vocabulary would be different. But does this “prove” that there are two different authors, or simply two different subjects?

  6. Charles Jackson Said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 1:02 pm

    Point 3
    The Apocalypse of John by Charles C. Torrey should establish that it was originally written in Aramaic poetry, not Greek prose, which should satisfactorily explain why Revelation’s Greek is “inaccurate, disfigured by unusual or foreign words, and even at times a solecism”, but evidently it doesn’t.

  7. Kim Mark Lewis Said,

    May 25, 2016 @ 3:10 pm

    Concerning point 3:

    I feel that the book of Revelation is an unfinished product written in a way that would produce portions of good and bad grammar.

    Imagine writing a book in which you want to form parallels between two or more separate sections. Now imagine that each section has other sections forming a parallel. For example the seven trumpets and the seven bowls can be placed side by side forming a parallel. The first four trumpets also form a parallel with the four attacks by Satan in chapter 12 (a Chiasmus).

    When one is writing using parallels, the emphasis is not on the writing the storyline from beginning to end but in forming parallels with other sections. One will not use write perfect prose in parallel formation because there will be more parallels formed with that section. It is only in the final stages that the story will be corrected.

    The way that Revelation uses ‘kai’ is good evidence for the correcting process. In the first chapter, ‘kai’ rarely begins in a verse where as after chapter 2 ‘kai’ rarely does not begin a verse number. That shows that at one time someone was cleaning up the book by removing the unnecessary ‘kai’s

  8. Dave Gifford Said,

    May 25, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

    Thanks Kim Mark, for your comments. I had not heard of the parallel between the trumpets and chapter 12. Now you make me want to investigate! I think your idea about parallels is helpful, though I don’t think of John as a creative writer writing several drafts so much as a reporter of visions that he actually saw.

    The argument about kai is interesting. Though it strikes me as strange that someone would not start correcting at the beginning but start at chapter 2. I would be more inclined to think John was using kai out of bad habit, then realized what he was doing, and stopped doing it to conform to better Greek usage. But since writing was so costly, didn’t consider it worth it to go back and start another scroll just to be a little more consistent. Writing back then did not really allow for ‘removing’ words as it does now.

  9. Kim Mark Lewis Said,

    May 26, 2016 @ 4:31 pm

    For the parallel think in terms of compliments and opposites (forgive me not citing references I am doing from memory):

    4th Trumpet: Third of stars Struck
    1st Attack by Satan: Women clothed with the sun, moon and stars — third of the stars swept by the Dragon’s tail.

    3rd Trumpet: A great star falls to the earth and poisons all the water and many killed.
    2nd Attack by Satan (Rev 12:7-9): Satan thrown to the earth and goes to deceive the world.

    2nd Trumpet: A great mountain thrown into the sea (absorbed by).
    3rd Attack by Satan: He tries to flood the land — The land absorbed the water.

    1st Trumpet: All the green Grass and third of the trees burned.
    4th attack by Satan (Rev 12:17) He went after those who obeyed the commandments and followed Jesus (I believe it is the Jews and the Christians).

    I wrote a book detailing how John wrote Revelation. In it I make the case that John used wax tablets as the writing medium. I show how he moved them around to form parallels as well as how he used sources such as Ezekiel, Isaiah, Deuteronomy-Joshua, Exodus, and Daniel. The book is over 300 pages in length with hundreds of charts. In it I show what the first three drafts of Revelation looked like. The last chapter is 58 pages long showing many more parallels such as the first three churches and the beast in chapter 3. The two stories of Satan, one where he is victorious and the second where he is defeated.

    The title of the book is: How John Wrote the Book of Revelation: From Concept to Publication by me.

    You can find it on Amazon or see http://www.RevelationDraftHypothesis.info for the high level view in a poorly maintained site.

  10. Dave Gifford Said,

    May 26, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

    Hey thanks for that information and that resource, Kim Mark!

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