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An introduction to the Revelation including documentary evidence to the antiquity of the Revelation and some of the historical testimony that John the apostle and author of the Gospel bearing that name also recorded the Revelation.
See below for program notes. See also http://christreich.org/content/notes-revelation for program notes, related papers and other information as this series develops.
Like the rest of the New Testament, there are many witnesses to the text of the Revelation which are quite old, however when the Christogenea New Testament translation was created, the concern centered exclusively with those manuscripts which are esteemed to predate the 6th Century AD, which was the time of Justinian and when the Roman church first began to extend its reach and consolidate its power over Christendom. So that the listener has an idea of the age of sources for the text, here are the relevant witnesses to the Revelation which are from that remotest antiquity:
The Papyri (P) designated 18, 24, 47, 85 and 98. The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition (NA27), tells us where these Papyri are located, university, library or museum, and gives a catalog number for each. I will not include the details here.
P-98 is from the 2nd century and contains Rev. 1:13-20.
P-18 is from the 3rd or 4th century and contains Rev. 1:4-7.
P-24 is from the 4th century and contains parts of chapters 5 & 6.
P-47 is from the 3rd century and contains much of chapters 9 through 15.
P-85 is from the 4th or 5th century and contains parts of chapters 9 and 10.
Next are the Great Uncials, which are Koine Greek vellum manuscripts, which – unlike the Papyri – were made from animal skins and were very durable:
The Codex Sinaiticus: From the 4th century, this is the only complete copy of the Revelation from antiquity which predates the 5th century. While no manuscript can be deemed to be perfect with the information that we have, this is probably the most reliable single ancient copy that we currently possess.
The Codex Alexandrinus: From the 5th century, it contains all of the Revelation. It must be warned that I find the manuscripts of the Alexandrian tradition to be unreliable in many respects. Yet out of all the ancient manuscripts, the King James Version is closest to this one.
The Codex Ephraemi Syri: From the 5th century and a manuscript which closely follows the Alexandrian, it contains text from many chapters of the Revelation.
Other less famous codices are know only by identifying numbers:
0163: From the 5th century, it contains Rev. 16:17-20.
0169: From the 4th century, it contains parts of chapters 3 and 4.
0207: From the 4th century, it contains part of chapter 9.
There are many other manuscripts after these, which contain all or parts of the Revelation, which like the rest of the New Testament is attested to rather consistently down through the centuries. There are also witnesses for the text of the Revelation in the manuscripts of early writers such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, Cyprian, and Victorinus of Pettau, who are all from the second and third centuries. However for the Revelation, and only for the Revelation, the medieval Manuscripts known as the Majority Text are divided into two camps. These are those manuscripts of the Revelation known as the Koine tradition, which are of the majority, as contrasted to a minority of manuscripts known to originate from one Andreas of Caesareia. Andreas was a medieval monk, of possibly the 9th century AD or a little earlier, who wrote a commentary on the Revelation. Many of his notes were, apparently, later incorporated into the text, and those manuscripts copied from it created a second camp of Revelation manuscripts that contain many differences and many interpolations. The King James Version of the Revelation is based on one of these faulty manuscripts. One of the more famous interpolations is found there at Revelation 20:5, and reads “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished.” These words of that verse do not belong in our Bibles. They are the opinion of a medieval monk.
The Revelation of Yahshua Christ opens thus: "A revelation from Yahshua Christ which God had given to Him to show to His servants the things which are necessary to happen quickly, and He having sent explained through His messenger to His servant Iohannes, who bore witness to the Word of God and the testimony of Yahshua Christ, as many things as he had seen. "
It is clear from John 1:1 that John believed Yahshua Christ to be God come in the flesh. Where the Revelation testifies that it is written by "His servant Iohannes, who bore witness to the Word of God" that can only mean that this John who wrote the Revelation is the same John who wrote the Gospel, the "Word of God" mentioned here.
The intent here is to demonstrate that John the apostle wrote the Revelation, as the Revelation itself clearly informs us that he did, and that he was indeed confined to Patmos for a time during the reign of the emperor Domitian. After the death of Domitian, John was able to leave Patmos and retire to Ephesus. Since Domitian ruled from 81 to 96 AD, we see that John was indeed quite aged when he wrote the Revelation. Since he was a very young man during the ministry of Christ, I think we could estimate his age to be around 84 years in 96 AD. This destroys Preterism, a view of prophecy adopted by medieval Jesuits for political reasons, since Preterists insist that all prophecy was fulfilled by 70 AD. V.S. Herrell should take note, that while he claims to be a separatist, his doctrine is that of the jews who sought to protect the papacy from the true historicist interpretation of prophecy!
The following excerpts are all taken from The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 from Logos Research Systems. By “Fathers” here they mean all of those early Christian bishops and other writers whose works have been preserved to one degree or another. Some of these writings are, of course, of greater import than others. While we may not agree with all of their doctrines, Christianity at this time was quite different than what the organized Roman church later professed, and the historical accounts found in these documents cannot be lightly dismissed.
From The Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians
This is esteemed to be one of the spurious epistles of Ignatius. We have some which are esteemed spurious by academics, and some which are esteemed to be legitimate. I have not made a study of them for myself. It is nevertheless a document of early antiquity.
From Chapter III.—The True Doctrine Respecting Christ.
And why such facts as the following: Peter was crucified; Paul and James were slain with the sword; John was banished to Patmos; Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews who killed the Lord? But, [in truth, ] none of these sufferings were in vain; for the Lord was really crucified by the ungodly.
From The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians:
Surely I may point out some of the proverbial wisdom of this great disciple, which has often stirred my soul, as with the trumpet heard by St. John in Patmos. In him, indeed, the lions encountered a lion, one truly begotten of “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.”
From the Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus, entitled as part XII. — Fragments Not Given in the Oxford Edition:
From a treatise entitled Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved? [Translated by Rev. William Wilson, M.a.]
XLII. And that you may be still more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale,82 which is not a tale but a narrative,83 handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant’s death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos...
From the Appendix to the Works of Hippolytus in the section described as Containing Dubious and Spurious Pieces.
From a treatise entitled Hippolytus on The Twelve Apostles, Where Each of Them Preached, And Where He Met His End.
John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan’s time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.
From the same, in a treatise entitled Treatise on Christ and Antichrist.
36. For he sees, when in the isle Patmos, a revelation of awful mysteries, which he recounts freely, and makes known to others.
From Justin Martyr, or Justin of Caesareia, who lived from approximately 103-165 AD, a time very close to that of the apostle John's, although he could not have known him. This is from Chapter LXXXI of the Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew:
And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place.
Irenaeus, who lived until 202 BC, was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons in France.
From Irenaeus, from his Against Heresies, Book 3 Chapter 1 Paragraph 1, where we indeed see that it was the Apostle John of the Gospel of that name who lived in Ephesus:
Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect [which does not mean that the Gospel of Matthew we have now was a translation], while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome [this may be the earliest surviving assertion that Peter was in Rome – but is this a Catholic imterpolation?], and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.
Roberts, A. 1997. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. The apostolic fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. (ECF 188.8.131.52.3.2). Logos Research Systems: Oak Harbor
From Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 3, Paragraph 4:
There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” … ”There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles. [Trajan was Roman emperor from 98 to 117 AD.]
Tertullian, who lived from 160 to 220 AD was the bishop of Carthage and a prolific Christian apologist and writer.
From Tertullian, from a lengthy work entitled The Five Books Against Marcion, from Book 4 Chapter 5:
We have also St. John’s foster churches. For although Marcion rejects his Apocalypse, the order of the bishops (thereof), when traced up to their origin, will yet rest on John as their author. In the same manner is recognised the excellent source of the other churches. I say, therefore, that in them (and not simply such of them as were rounded by apostles, but in all those which are united with them in the fellowship of the mystery of the gospel of Christ) that Gospel of Luke which we are defending with all our might has stood its ground from its very first publication; whereas Marcion’s Gospel is not known to most people, and to none whatever is it known without being at the same time condemned ... The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford evidence to the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage—I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew—whilst that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s whose interpreter Mark was. For even Luke’s form of the Gospel men usually ascribe to Paul. [So we see that Tertullian did not, and never does, distinguish between any two men named John.]
From Tertullian, from his treatise entitled The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 26:
How happy is its church, on which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood! where Peter endures a passion like his Lord’s! where Paul wins his crown in a death like John’s where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile!
From Tertullian, from a treatise entitled De Fuga in Persecutione [or Flight in Persecution], section 9:
Accordingly John also teaches that we must lay down our lives for the brethren;40 much more, then, we must do it for the Lord. This cannot be fulfilled by those who flee. Finally, mindful of his own Revelation, in which he had heard the doom of the fearful, (and so) speaking from personal knowledge, he warns us that fear must be put away. “There is no fear,” says he, “in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear has torment”—the fire of the lake, no doubt. “He that feareth is not perfect in love”41 —to wit, the love of God. And yet who will flee from persecution, but he who fears? Who will fear, but he who has not loved? [With this passage, where we see that Tertullian quotes from the Gospel, episltes, and Revelation of John, and attributes them to the same John, he clearly shows that the same John wrote all of them.]
Victorinus (of Pettau, which was Poetovio in Pannonia, and is Ptuj in modern Slovenia, who died around 303 AD) [Translated by the Rev. Robert Ernest Wallis, Ph.D.]
From his Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, in which he maintains without doubt that the author of the Gospel is the author of the Revelation, from the tenth chapter:
“And He says unto me, Thou must again prophesy to the peoples, and to the tongues, and to the nations, and to many kings.”] He says this, because when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labour of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God. This, therefore, is what He says: Thou must again prophesy to all nations, because thou seest the crowds of Antichrist rise up; and against them other crowds shall stand, and they shall fall by the sword on the one side and on the other. [It is evident that part of this may be quoting a now-lost work of the apostle's.]
From the Apocryphae of the New Testament, Acts of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, from the part entitled About His Exile and Departure.
Here at length, after some background history, a meeting and discourse between John, a prisoner, and the Emperor Domitian himself is described, whereafter Domitian decides to exile John rather than execute him. Here is one short paragraph which represents a summary:
And straightway John sailed to Patmos, where also he was deemed worthy to see the revelation of the end. And when Domitian was dead, Nerva succeeded to the kingdom, and recalled all who had been banished; and having kept the kingdom for a year, he made Trajan his successor in the kingdom. And when he was king over the Romans, John went to Ephesus, and regulated all the teaching of the church, holding many conferences, and reminding them of what the Lord had said to them, and what duty he had assigned to each. And when he was old and changed, he ordered Polycarp to be bishop over the church.
While it is clear from the arguments of Tertullian that the second century heretic Marcion disputed the authorship of the Revelation, another early writer who doubted that the apostle John wrote the Revelation was Dionysius of Alexandria. Dionysius was originally a pupil of Origen's, and eventually he was the bishop of the assembly at Alexandria. He lived until around 265 AD. He wrote a lengthy treatise attempting to prove mostly from the appearance of the name “John” in the Revelation that the writer was a different John than the apostle. This is quite sophistic, since the Revelation itself tells us that it was written by the same John who had also written and bore witness to the Gospel. Yet Dionysius notices that, and asserts that John Mark, another John, was the writer. However the style is so much like that of John's, and the opening statements like those of the first epistle of John, that I believe Dionysius' position to be incredible, let alone contrary to so many earlier witnesses. The same John who wrote the Gospel, also wrote the epistles and the Revelation, as we see that the texts themselves attest.