John of Patmos

John of Patmos

John of Patmos
St. John on Patmos by Hieronymous Bosch, circa 1489
Seer, Theologian, Eagle of Patmos, and Prophet
Died Patmos (?)
Major work(s) Book of Revelation
A series of articles on
John in the Bible
Johannine literature
Gospel of John · First Epistle of John · Second Epistle of John · Third Epistle of John · Revelation
John the Apostle · John the Evangelist · John of Patmos  · John the Presbyter · Disciple whom Jesus loved
Twelve Apostles · The Early Church
Related literature
Apocryphon of John · Acts of John · Logos · Signs Gospel

John of Patmos (also called John the Revelator, John the Divine, or John the Theologian) is the name given to the author of the Book of Revelation, the apocalyptic text forming the final chapter of the New Testament. The text of Revelation states that the author is called John and that he lives on the Greek island of Patmos, where by some, he is considered to be in exile as a result of anti-Christian persecution under the Roman emperor Domitian.[1][2]

Traditionally, the writer of Revelation was widely considered to be John the Apostle, who was also seen as author of the Gospel of John. However, others identified the author as John the Elder and many modern scholars believe it was written by an otherwise unknown author, to whom they have given the name John of Patmos.[3][4]

Book of Revelation

The author of the Book of Revelation identifies himself only as "John".[5] Traditionally, this was often believed to be the same person as John, son of Zebedee, one of the apostles of Jesus, to whom the Gospel of John was also attributed.[5] The early 2nd century writer, Justin Martyr, was the first to equate the author of Revelation with John the Apostle.[6] Other early Christian writers, however, such as Dionysius of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea, noting the differences in language and theological outlook between this work and the Gospel,[7] discounted this possibility, and argued for the exclusion of the Book of Revelation from the canon as a result.[8] The assumption that the apostle John was also author of the Book of Revelation is now widely rejected.[9] The early Christian writer Papias appeared in his writings to distinguish between John the Evangelist and John the Elder,[10] and many biblical scholars now contend that the latter was the author of Revelation.[11][12][13]

Island of Patmos

John is considered to be exiled to Patmos, undergoing a time of persecution under the Roman rule of Domitian. Revelation 1:9 states: "I, John, both your brother and companion in tribulation... was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Adela Yarbro Collins, a biblical scholar at Yale Divinity School, writes:

Early tradition says that John was banished to Patmos by the Roman authorities. This tradition is credible because banishment was a common punishment used during the Imperial period for a number of offenses. Among such offenses were the practices of magic and astrology. Prophecy was viewed by the Romans as belonging to the same category, whether Pagan, Jewish, or Christian. Prophecy with political implications, like that expressed by John in the book of Revelation, would have been perceived as a threat to Roman political power and order. Three of the islands in the Sporades were places where political offenders were banished. (Pliny Natural History 4.69–70; Tacitus Annals 4.30)[14]

See also


  1. ^ Souvay, Charles. "Patmos." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 12 Jan. 2009
  2. ^ Phillips, J. B. "Book 27 - Book of Revelation". 12 January 1962.  People, Places, Customs, Concepts, Journeys - the New Testament with integrated notes and maps 1962.
  3. ^ Stephen L Harris, Understanding the Bible, (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985), 355
  4. ^  
  5. ^ a b "Revelation, Book of." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  6. ^ Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 81.4
  7. ^ Ben Witherington, Revelation, (Cambridge University Press) page 2.
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003) page 49.
  10. ^ Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006)
  11. ^ Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Wm B. Eerdmans Publications) page 10.
  12. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 355
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Adela Collins. "Patmos". Harper's Bible Dictionary. Paul J. Achtemeier, gen. ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. p. 755.