Chapter One

 I.i: Author, Introduction and Blessing:

That it is John the Apostle Who Wrote the Revelation

   That John the Apostle is indeed our writer has been doubted, both in our time and in earlier times.[1] The text does not directly say that it is John the Apostle who is writing, so that it might be some other, an “elder” though not an Apostle. Yet this John who receives the revelation does seem to be the same as the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee. The ancient church assumes that John the Apostle is the author, from the earliest traditions, of those who knew first hand, having seen and known him. The primary reason for the doubt, which arose in the Fourth Century, is the strange character of the Revelation. This strangeness is the first aspect to appear among those who read books in the present age. The strangeness is due not only to the animal imagery of the vision, but also to the shift of emphasis, from love and forgiveness to the divine wrath of the Day of the Lord. The word love barely occurs (1:5, 3:19), and the compassion of the statement that he will wipe away every tear (21:4) is the only alleviation of the theme of divine wrath throughout the vision. The familiar teachings of the love of the neighbor, mercy and forgiveness are lacking, while the saints are shown to call for the avenging of the blood of the martyrs. This shift of emphasis, applied by Christians to more human vices and opponents has resulted in grave misunderstanding. The depth of evil, in tyranny and in twentieth century totalitarianism, makes such wrath more understandable, if it remains difficult. This depth is usually beyond the limits of the human imagination, and so when more common things are understood in light of the things said about apocalyptic evil, these things are misunderstood.

   As Aune relates, “Some ancient Christians regarded the theology of the Revelation as false, and for this reason they could not consider the book to be apostolic” (1997, p. liii). While twenty of the books of the New Testament were generally in use among the Christian Churches through the second century, seven were questioned but finally included in the Canon. The Revelation, with James, Hebrews, 2 Peter and 2 and 3 John, was among the questionable books that were included. Elaine Pagels notes that the Revelation was omitted from the lists of New Testament works drawn up by St. Cyril, a council of Bishops, Gregory of Nazianzus and Amphilochius, and was included only in the 365 A.D. list of Athanasius (Revelation, p.161). By 376, the canon of scripture was settled, as we have in writing from the 39th Festal letter of Athanasius.[2] The book was not held to be canonical in the Armenian Church until the Twelfth Century, and is absent from the Syrian canon, though it was always a part of the Egyptian canon (Aune, 1997, p. cliv-clvi). It is assumed that if the work was written by John, it ought to be canonical, and if it was not written by John, it probably ought not to be canonical. That the book is especially strange, and that it does seem to have been written by John the Apostle, indicates the difficulty and wonder of the work of reading before us.

   John is unique among the Apostles, and outstanding in a number of ways. He was the one loved by Jesus, as is mentioned in answer to the question posed by Jesus to Peter (John 21:7, 20). He is the author of the Gospel of John, and arguably the most authoritative of the Apostles, surely among those remaining in the later third of the first century. After collecting up the details of the story of his life, we will consider why he does appear, to us, if only to a few remaining, to be the author of the Revelation.

   John was the only apostle present at the crucifixion, one of few who escaped being martyred to die a natural death, and the last survivor of all the apostles.[3] It is surprising how little biographical material remains of John, though he may be the Apostle best known to history. Amid persecution, the early church did not have leisure to record much of its history, nor to preserve texts. Much is lost. The Apostles emphasized oral teaching, and some did not write, as Eusebius relates (Church History, III, xxiv.3). Matthew and John wrote their own gospels, while Mark and Luke recorded the teachings of Peter and Paul, respectively. Thomas seems to have recorded 114 sayings of Jesus without a gospel. There are works purporting to have been written by Phillip and James which may be authentic. After the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke, early Church history is not chronicled in writings that have come down to us, until Eusebius, writing in the early and mid fourth century. Eusebius cites a writer Hegesippus, working in the third century, and we have stories of martyrs from the early second century.

   Yet some of the life story of John can be pieced together. He was a fisherman with Zebedee his father and James his brother (Mark 1:19-20). Jesus surnamed these two “sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). They were partners with Peter and Andrew, on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:10), just east and a bit north of Nazareth. According to tradition Jesus worked in carpentry with Joseph in the city of Nazareth. Capernaum was the hometown of John. When John the Baptist was seized, Jesus left Nazareth and “dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region of the shadow of death, a great light has dawned” (Matt. 4:14-16; Isaiah 9:1). In Galilee, Jesus first taught “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

   John may have been a cousin of Jesus, if his mother Salome was, together with Elizabeth, a sister of Mary.[4] This would mean that when Jesus was gathering the Apostles, he was not meeting all of them for the first time. Yet there is strangely no reference to their having known one another as relatives. Salome appears in the gospel of Matthew, asking that her sons sit at the right and left hands of Jesus in his kingdom (Matthew 20:20), just as a relative might, upon hearing that there might be political fortunes in the family. This scene also demonstrates the limitation of the imagination regarding the Kingdom. It was not then commonly thought to be a spiritual kingdom, but the restoration of Israel.

   The early life of John is obscure. He was not at first especially educated or skilled in writing. Luke describes Peter and John as “uneducated, common men” (Acts 4:13). He did not marry because of a distinct calling. The Acts of John presents itself as having been written by an eye witness, one who knew John. This work cites John as saying that the Lord appeared to him and said he was in need of him, and a third time said to him “John, if you were not mine, I would let thee marry.”[5] With Andrew, he was a follower of John the Baptist (John 1:35-40), indicating a serious Jewish faith nearer to the Essenes or the Jews of the desert than to the temple.[6] He was there with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry, and may be the most complete witness, staying with Him until the end. With Andrew he began to follow Jesus when John the Baptist said “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). In the Acts of John, it is related that when he first called John and James, from their fishing boat, he appeared to James first as a child, then a beardless young man. But to John, he appeared as a beautiful and cheerful man, and then as an old man (88-89). John was present when the first miracle occurred at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11), and at the transfiguration.[7] With Peter and James, he was present when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, a principal of the synagogue (Luke 8:51). He is probably the “other disciple,” known to the High Priest, the disciple who went in with Peter when Jesus was taken to the court of the High Priest (John 18:15-16). He was, again, the only Apostle present at the crucifixion, when the rest had scattered, and Peter denied Jesus. He witnessed the blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus, as he writes: “He who saw it has borne witness– his testimony is true and he knows that he tells the truth that you may believe” (John 19:35). Mary Magdalene first reported the empty tomb to John and Peter. John refers to himself as the “other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved” (20:2). This is probably similar to best friend, as young people have, though they may not have known each other very well before Jesus was baptized. John describes outrunning Peter to the tomb, then going in after Peter had seen the shroud and the rolled napkin. The Apostles then went home, and Mary Magdalene stayed. She then spoke to the two angels, and then the one she thought at first to be the gardener. Mary Magdalene is the first to see the risen Messiah. She holds the place a wife would hold were Jesus like other men, and it seems he loves her in a unique sense. He appeared to her first. It may be that as Mary represents the Church as Mother, Mary Magdalene represents the Church as Bride.

   After the crucifixion and resurrection, John continued for a while in Jerusalem, probably with Mary the mother of Jesus, since from the cross he was entrusted with her care (John 19:26-27). They may have had a home in Galilee in Capernaum or Nazareth. John was present on three or four of the five or six recorded occasions of the appearances of the risen Christ. Over a period of forty days, He appeared, once on the road to some, including Peter, when he opened the scriptures regarding the Messiah, and became evident to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24; Mark 16:12-14). He then appeared to eleven of the Apostles gathered (Luke, 24:33; John 20:19-23), and then eight days later to the Apostles including Thomas (John 20:26-29). Then he appeared to Peter, John and others in Galilee, on a mountain to the eleven gathered (Matthew 28:16-17), and to some seven while they were fishing (John 21).

   In the Acts of the Apostles, John is not a prominent figure, as are Peter and Paul, and is nothing like a leader of the Apostles. He at first went around with Peter. He was going to the temple with Peter when Peter healed a lame man (Acts 3). He is present again when Peter is arrested and answers for his preaching and healing before the High Priest (Acts 4:13). Eusebius (History, II.1), citing Clement of Alexandria, writes that James was chosen first Bishop of Jerusalem, and then relates:

   But Clement in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes writes thus: “For they say that Peter and James and John after the ascension of our Savior, as if also preferred by our Lord, strove not after honor, but chose James the Just bishop of Jerusalem.” But the same writer, in the seventh book of the same work, relates also the following things concerning him: “The Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the Apostles, and the rest of the Apostles to the seventy, of whom Barnabas was one. But there were two James: one called the Just, who was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple and was beaten to death with a club by a fuller, and another who was beheaded.”

   The one beheaded is James the brother of John. James the Just was not an Apostle while Jesus was alive, but was converted after the resurrection. This James may be the stepbrother of Jesus, a brother by law rather than blood, as we assume, a son of Joseph from a previous marriage, who like Paul was converted after seeing the resurrected Christ (I Corinthians 15:7). He was called the righteous because of some prominence among the Jews, which is not unusual for this family. In one story, the parents of Mary dedicated her to the temple, and Joseph was chosen by lot to be her husband like a legal guardian, and to look over her.[8] Joseph seems to have been older, and to be gone by the time Jesus is baptized and begins his ministry. So Joseph may have been the father of James the Just, or James may have been a cousin called a brother in the sense of kinsman. There is another James, the son of Alpheus (Acts 1:13), who may be the father of Jude. After the stoning of Stephen and the persecution that arose against the church in Jerusalem, John went with Peter to Samaria, and there met Simon Magus (Acts 8:14-24). His brother James was beheaded by Herod Antipas (Acts 12:2), in 44 A. D. Claudius was then Emperor.[9] The troubles of the Church in Rome had barely begun under Caligula. Claudius expelled the Jews, including Apelius, from Rome in 49 A. D. It is not clear how long John stayed in Jerusalem, but he did not move to Rome, so that he was not there when Peter and Paul were martyred under Nero in ‘62. John is apparently at Jerusalem about 54-55 A. D., when Peter, James and John gave Paul the hand of fellowship, and agreed that he should go to the Gentiles and they to the Jews or the circumcised (Galatians, 2:9). He went to Ephesus, apparently about 69 A.D., some years after the letter of Paul had been circulated from there (54 A. D), and the Ephesian Church was established. The Ephesian Church began when Paul and Apollos gathered certain disciples of John the Baptist who were already at Ephesus (Acts 19:1), about 49 A.D. Mary may have come with John to Ephesus, though she would then have been at least 76, and perhaps into her eighties. There are separate traditions of her death in Jerusalem and Ephesus.

   After the killing of James the brother of Jesus (son of Joseph), and the dispersion of the Christian church in Jerusalem, John is reported to have been assigned this area of the world, in Asia, to spread the gospel, when the Apostles were each sent to different places. This area of Asia Minor was colonized by the Greeks and called Ionia, after their war with Troy, which is just to the North. Homer was apparently from Smyrna. Paul went to churches from Jerusalem to Illyria, Peter to five Asian cities and the Jews of the dispersion, Andrew to Scythia, and Thomas to Parthia or India (Eusebius, III.1). It is thought that James, before ‘44, may have gone to Spain and even to Britain, Bartholomew to Armenia, Thaddeus to Edessa,[10] and Phillip to Hierapolis and Gaul. By the ninth and tenth decade, John seems to have functioned as a sort of Bishop over the seven Eastern Churches addressed in the Revelation. According to one apocryphal account, in the Acts of John,[11] he performed many miracles and converted many upon his arrival in Ephesus, curing Cleopatra the wife of Lycomedes and raising both from death, curing a whole theater of aged women, and demonstrating the truth of the Spirit in the temple of Artemis at Ephesus. While this account is not entirely trusted, there is apparently no other account of his activities upon his arrival in the East. He also visited Smyrna and Laodicea, establishing the churches there. His early associates at Ephesus were apparently Verus, Andronicus and Drusiana, and the unnamed author of these Acts. Whether these stories have any basis in oral tradition, at the least they draw attention to the lack of any other historical account of the work of John in Ephesus prior to his banishment to Patmos. The letters of Paul to the churches around Ephesus are written from prison under Nero, in the early 60’s. It does not seem that John is there in Ephesus yet, and he may then still have been in Jerusalem or Capernaum. This leaves questionable the story of these churches being established by John, and if John did establish the churches, it would seem to have been prior to the letters of Paul.

   The letters of John included in the scriptures seem to have been written late in the first century, after a heresy had appeared in the churches which denied the divinity of Jesus. Their authorship is of course doubted by recent scholarship, though it is quite possible to read them as written by John, as Carl Jung does in his Answer to Job.[12] The second letter, from “The elder,” and from one church or “elect sister” to another, “the Elect Lady,” may be from John in Asia to another church in Asia, or it may be to the Church in Jerusalem, or even to Mary. The letter addresses some who denied “that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” There is a suggestion that these were Pharisees who had converted to Christianity, but who had separated from the Jerusalem church, holding the Jewish teaching that the son of God could not possibly have come in the flesh. One wonders why the instruction is to not receive, rather than to try to teach and persuade, any who come to them and “do not bring this doctrine” (2 John 1:10). In the third letter, John blames another, Diotrephes, for not welcoming the brethren, and not acknowledging the authority of John, called “the elder.” In an Apocryphal story from Spanish legend, James defeated and converted two heretical magicians, before being beheaded by Herod Agrippa.[13] Philip converts the magician Simon, and Peter rebukes him, with some success (Acts 8:9-24). While it may be that these are two different sorts of heresy, it may be that James and Philip have a contrasting way with magicians. This contrast, and the question of the regard of John for heresy and heretics, may be the only hint of any possible human imperfection in what is known of John. He did seem to go along with the plan of his mother for his advancement, but once cured of this ambition and wrong imagination of the Kingdom, he appears very near to perfection. He seems not to have held even an official position in the Asian Churches, setting an example of moderation, as the Apostles did when James the Just was chosen first Bishop of Jerusalem. He appears different for example from Peter and Thomas in this near perfection of man, and might be among the first of a few figures, such as John the Baptist, that Christendom could stand beside Socrates of the Greeks as showing the peak or fulfillment of man.

   We have suggested that the regard of John for heretics may be an imperfection.[14] There is some question as to whether the appearance of heretical teachings is the Antichrist (2 John 7). Early in the history of the church, it was important to keep the teaching pure, especially regarding the central more unbelievable aspects, such as the divinity of Jesus. It may be, for example, that John is right, that the heresy denying the divinity of Jesus is the crucial heresy, and that the Antichrist did emerge two millennia ago, in the same sense as that in which the end times began with the incarnation. It may characterize the apostasy of the end times. Yet when the anti-Christian things appear, the various slightly diverging doctrines, such as failed attempts to think out the trinity, then appear to have quite a bit more in common than appeared when the Antichrist was not yet on the horizon. When, for example, the Nazis appear, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics and Greek Orthodox suddenly appear nearer to being brothers and co-sufferers under the same persecution.[15] It is the same for Christians and Jews, who, appear to be fundamental opponents, until the genuine adversary appears. It is also the same for Islam, when the atheism of the antichristian becomes apparent, and they wish to follow the law from Moses and the monotheism of Abraham, and justice. Those who try to obey the commandments, or those who follow the teachings of Jesus but are skewed in theory, these are not the enemy in the same sense. John saw Nero, and so he had access to the differences indicated, and yet he still wrote what he wrote. Could he have written the letters before having seen Nero and the persecutions to follow? And would he have written the same things after seeing the Revelation? For we hold that the Antichrist is not some one whose name was forgotten two Millennia ago, but the worst one of all time: not some local Pharisee or Gnostic competing with John for disciples, but one at least as bad as Antiochus, Herod, Caligula and Nero. Could the Johannine regard for heretics have been imperfect, and could this error, in combination with the power of Rome three centuries later, have had a part in the disastrous consequences of the medieval persecution?

   Is it not possible to grow in the faith from a small beginning, and must these intermediate places, like Augustine’s Manichean phase, not be shunned or punished? Is it not possible to progress, as Augustine did from early Manichaeism? And would it not be absurd to not allow the student to receive the teaching in parts, ascending toward the full import of what is being said? Must not every thought then become the log in the eye of another? Soon all the faithful would be afraid to think, and thought itself might go uncultivated, even for centuries at a time. For, as is said of things astonishing, the Christian teaching is “incredible” or “unbelievable.” This– that Jesus is the Messiah and the Messiah in some sense is God– does seem to be what is being said, the gospel or news, as is indicated by the instances in scripture where Jesus is worshiped (Matt 2:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9; Mark 3:31;5:6; 11:9; Luke 4:11; 5:8; 24:52; John 5:23; 9:38; Phil 2:10; Hebrews 1:6; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 5:8, 14). Further, what he says is blasphemy if it is wrong. He says he is “The son of God,” and when the Jews go to stone him, had said “I and the father are one” (John 10:30-32). He tries to explain this by referring to the psalm of David (82: 6; John 1:12-13; 3:7), “I said, you are gods …,” and the psalm continues “… sons of the Most High, all of you,” yet we will die like men. These instances indicate that the Arian teaching denying the divinity of Jesus is not the teaching of scripture. When Peter answers Jesus that he is “the Christ, the son of the living God,” Jesus tells him that he, Peter, is blessed because “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my father who is in heaven.” The Church is built on this rock, but the hidden truth is revealed by the Father. And so it seems that we cannot presume upon it, nor is it “proper to insist”[16] upon it: What if, in a particular instance, the revelation is coming but has not yet arrived? But do we truly know, for example, what it means to say he is the son of God, and how this is the same and different from saying he simply is the Father? Jesus himself also distinguishes himself from the Father, when he asks, “Why do you call me good? How the “equal” or “same substance,” when one is beyond substance, and with the logos (John 1:1)? “No one is good except one, God” (Matt. 19:17; Luke 18:19-20). From this, we call Him the Good One, or simply the Good. “Beyond being” is a Platonic formulation attributed to Socrates (Plato, Republic, 509b). We can see this directly, for example in the way that good man or good doctor is related to man and doctor. The good of things is what it is even without particular embodiments. Or is not the case with divine things, that, just as Socrates tells the Athenians, we are ignorant regarding the most important things? He claims a sort of human wisdom that is “worth little or nothing” compared to the wisdom that is that of “the god” or divine wisdom. He might say that we do not have knowledge of this, our ignorance, and further that he, Socrates, is the only one who seems to know this (Apology, 23 a-c; 29b), that he does not know the first things. This ignorance, though, is at the beginning of philosophy, as it emerged out of the wisdom of nature of the pre-Socratics. Philosophy brings to Christianity the ability to transcend opinion, addressing the very problem that has led to the splintering of the churches.

   Philosophy is often thought of as the championing of a particular metaphysics by reason, and these “philosophies” or “systems” indeed may be in conflict with revelation. Then philosophy and Christianity will be incompatible. Philosophy also appears as an attempt to know by reason “unaided,” and to begin in the complete rejection of all images and stories, and hence of revelation. This is as though philosophy depended on the atheistic assumption unexamined, as an article of faith. But if Philosophy begins in ignorance, and proceeds essentially by ceaseless inquiry, then the entire tradition of metaphysics from Plotinus, or even Aristotle on might be something of an error, at least when thought of as the essence of philosophy, and surely of Socratic philosophy. The Socratic teaching is that we cannot know these things directly (Phaedo 99), so that when we say for example that being has a natural articulation or logos, or that He is the Good One, it is somewhat playful. Though these may be the best thoughts available to us, we really do not have full or certain knowledge of what we are saying. The name “Most High” points in a direction, but refrains from saying a what. Philosophy begins in the recognition that we do not have knowledge of the first things, and so it is of primary importance that we undertake the quest. Following the Socratic turn, Being is seen by its reflection in the human things, indirectly.[17] And this is just what we would expect if the soul or man is the image of God. In place of even our best thoughts on Being or God might be the study of man as the image of God. So the traditional contrast of the two ways of reason and revelation presupposes a certain understanding of what reason is and what it means to receive revelation. It is fitting first to turn these two definitions into questions, asking what we mean by “revelation,” and what we mean by “reason.” Do we mean the way John saw the vision, or the way we have it through the work he has written, or the way that Peter knew that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God? It may be that the highest faculty, called intellect or eye of the soul, is rarely opened, and its fulfillment extremely rare.

   We should perhaps not forget what a thing this is to say, and not be surprised if some who like the teaching of Jesus do not receive this gospel. Thomas Jefferson, based firmly in the science of the Enlightenment, apparently did not believe the stories of anything miraculous, but recognized the superiority of the ethical teaching of Jesus. The word “supernatural” or super-nature does not occur in scripture, though there is reference to the “divine nature” (Theos physis, 2 Peter 1:4). But it is the one who has this ethical teaching, a teaching of astonishing philosophical consistency, who also does miraculous things and teaches things that are scientifically incredible, like the resurrection. Can we truly assume to understand the soul and physics of one who speaks such a teaching? What if these miracles are possible, and our scientific incredulity indicates that we do not truly understand the fundamental causes in nature? Time and time again, things once thought impossible or miraculous are shown to be natural, once the causes are shown. Or might there be some comprehensive causes that have escaped our instruments, especially regarding the human soul and how it fits in nature? Do we truly know ahead of time that it is impossible for him to heal? It is the teaching about the human things and man, as distinct from the natural and cosmic things, that indicates the truth of the Christian teaching, and this is directly accessible. We see for ourselves the life, for example in the healing of repentance, forgiveness and mercy, while we can only marvel at the cosmic implications of these truths. His words are the bread of life.

   And is it possible that there is a diabolic influence in the schisms, sects and doctrines, since humans are involved? Watching the play The Crucible, about the Salem Witch Trial, the possibility appears that there was a satanic influence at Salem, even in the very madness that led to the persecution, of some ignorant children, and of others completely innocent.[18] And here we can see a difference between what we will refer to as mythic and genuine diabolism. In Salem, the latter lacked visible horns, but had the more cruel effect. The early church lacked political power, and so did not punish heretics, but only sent them away or went away from them. But when joined with political power, this assumption would become the basis for the making of martyrs by the Church, and this development is astonishing. The early church, including John himself, never suspected the coming union of the church with the authority of the Roman Empire. Yet the problem is implicit: The churches are to be tested by holding political power, and the unregenerate character is to be revealed. What is made by man and the visible appearances are revealed to be just that. The whole question of the relation of the Christian teaching to law both religious and political is addressed not by Jesus, but by the church, of necessity and by accident. The Church was not prepared for political office. There was no cultivation of the tradition of political philosophy, much of which was lost to the West with the burning of the library at Alexandria. The works of Plato were not accessible in the West for over one thousand years, translated into Latin only by the Fifteenth Century, from texts from Byzantium. Paul, most famously, speaks against Athenian philosophy, (I Corinthians 1:18-2) and warns against being preyed upon by philosophy, according to human tradition and elemental spirits (Colossians 2:8). But Paul never mentions Socrates, and has not read Plato. Nor does John seem to have read Plato, despite the obvious similarity between the opening of his gospel and the things said by the Platonists. Socrates is not otherwise boastful, nor is Platonic philosophy a worldly wisdom based on elemental spirits, nor a wisdom of the present age, though what they do, in Athens in the fourth and early third centuries B. C., is different from witnessing or preaching Christ crucified (I Cor. 2:2). While there are teachings and inquiries that do fit the description of Paul, the pursuit of truth and the following out of the natural articulation of things is the following of the word, and will always be in tension with convention. Socrates and the philosophers generally are the only group outside of Abraham to think through the principles of the Greek and pre-Biblical poetic imagination regarding the gods, or, to reject idolatry, on the basis not of Abraham, but of reason. Justin Martyr seems to be the first Christian to encounter the works of Plato, and he is both a Platonist and a Christian. In his Apology, Justin writes:

   We have been taught that Christ is the first born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably (meta logos with, following, or after reason), are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; among the barbarians, Abraham…Elias…

We hold that there is this great similarity between the teaching or way of Jesus and the teaching or way of Socrates, so that in the most important way, the Bible and Socratic philosophy are mutually confirming. Both Socrates and Jesus are in conflict with the city, in Athens and Jerusalem, and both are killed, though the death of Socrates is not for the salvation of all mankind, nor as horrible as Roman crucifixion. The Socratic philosophers are also especially like the Christians in their teaching of what can be called a transcendent metaphysics, of what is always, beyond and above the world of the changing and the visible things. The Most High is not within, but above and beyond, the created or the changing things, and the cause of these. It is in the Bible and Socratic philosophy, and perhaps nowhere else, that the Highest is addressed as what is, so that, in language, what was a verb, “to be,” becomes like a noun. When Socrates teaches that Astronomy is not for the sake of the “decorations in the heavens,” but for the sake of seeing things that are intelligible, he points to what is always, and to an eternal logos. Hence Socrates, as in Book II of Plato’s Republic, questions the idolatry of the Homeric Greeks even more than we do when we read Homer. We may be surprised to find that Socrates and Abraham have more in common with one another than with us and Homer. Socratic philosophy gives us a picture of inquiry independent of Christian custom, and so allows us to separate the two, and see what man is like without Christianity. It also allows the cultivation of certain crucial studies, the neglect of which has allowed for the great failures of the Christian churches. It is the service to the good one to cultivate the good of each thing in the world and in thought, as much or more than right doctrine. But the churches rarely help one another. There is a good of each thing, as in the good of education, of the nation and of each person, and devotion to this is a work different from that of the promotion of right doctrine that happens to be our own, or the promotion of human institutions. The service to the Good is the service to the Father, and takes precedence over the service to the church, being of greater dignity by nature. It is the service or work of the Church. It does not have a name, and so is better off to not appear in the world.

   It is especially the Gospel of John that makes possible the teaching that Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1; 14), and that others could have found this way. When we say that Jesus is the only way to the father or the only way of salvation (John 16:9; 12:48; 20:29), it makes a great deal of difference whether we remember or forget that the way and the word are eternal, prior to our names for it. Some held to be atheists according to the visible appearances, rejecting the stories about the gods and turning to impersonal being, might in truth be nearer the Biblical God than those who believe in God in the same way that the pagans believed in the many gods, even if these are painted over with Christian images.[19] So, Enoch, Elijah, Abraham or Moses might have found salvation through the savior while they lived, because He is always there, while those who have the appearance yet miss Him.

   The beginning of Christianity occurs while Galilee and Judea are provinces of the Roman Empire, and the events, beginning with the promotion of those like Herod and Pontius Pilate, can be understood in their place in the Roman world, intersecting the Roman history of the first century. Judea was conquered by Pompey and subjected by Julius Caesar, given provincial governors and subjected to puppet kings like Herod. Josephus reports that Herod bought the Kingship of Judea from Antony and Caesar (Antiquities, xiv, xiv). Grateful Jews attended Caesar’s funeral (Seutonius, I. 85). Elaine Pagels reports that Augustus allowed the Jews to revere the emperor without violating their religion, praying to their own God for the welfare of the emperor.[20] It is not usually noticed that the Church was not in obvious conflict with the Roman Empire very early, under the emperor Tiberius, and for the first few years after the crucifixion. Eusebius reports that there was even a proposal to make Jesus one of the Roman gods, but that the Senate declined because the religion had arisen without the approval of the Senate (Eusebius, Church History, II.2).[21] This is significant, because it shows that the conflict that later emerged between Rome and Christianity was not so necessary, when the emperors demanded to be worshiped as gods and were refused. Had Rome not gone mad, beginning late in the reign of Tiberius or with Caligula, the conflict may not have occurred at all. According to Josephus, Tiberius expelled the Jews from the city of Rome because of a particular fraud, and because they refused military service (Antiquities XVIII, iii). According to Seutonius (The Twelve Caesars, III), Tiberius:

…abolished all foreign cults at Rome, particularly the Egyptian and the Jewish, forcing all citizens who had embraced these superstitious faiths to burn their religious vestments and other accessories. Jews of military age were removed to unhealthy regions, on the pretext of drafting them into the army; the others of the same race or of similar beliefs were expelled from the city and threatened with slavery if they defied the order. Tiberius also banished all astrologers…

Tacitus too reports this expulsion, about 19 A.D. (Annals, II. 84).

   According to Seutonius, “Tiberius’ first hostile action against his own family was when his brother Drusus the elder wrote to him privately suggesting that they should jointly persuade Augustus to restore the Republican constitution” (III, p. 138; Tacitus, I.33). Germanicus, his adopted son, the greatest hope for Rome, was poisoned by Piso. His son Drusus the younger was poisoned by Livilla and Sejanus, allowing for the succession of Caligula. After the deaths of Germanicus and Drusus, about 28 A. D., Tiberius retires into a world of private lust and cruelty, leaving Rome for the island of Caprae. The retirement of Tiberius to Caprae is a great turning point in the history of the Roman Empire, and nearly coincides with the ministry of Jesus and the crucifixion. Tiberius is overcome by fear of execution, destroys his whole family, and corrupts the succession, as Gaius or Caligula accompanied Tiberius into his world of lust. The future emperor Vitellius was even there, as one of the boys (Suetonius, ix, p. 269). This sets a pattern that would recur four times in the first century. Here the tyrannical soul crowns the Roman Empire, and four times, in the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero and Domitian, emperors who began as cruel but able generals and administrators would subject Rome to the worst tyrannies ever known. These emperors gave rise to the saying that it is absolute power that corrupts. The seizure of the law leaves a cesspool of bad appetites unrestrained, where lust and cruelty are joined. These tyrannies are the destruction of Rome, from which the city never recovered. It is argued that the Romans could no longer govern themselves as free political persons, having been corrupted through the civil wars that led to Caesar. An attempt to restore the Republic could hardly have done more harm, and may have avoided the abuses caused by men unequal to the position of a prince.

   As Josephus reports, Caligula caused a disturbance when he ordered his statue placed in the temple in Jerusalem, though he died before the issue came to battles (XVIII, vii). Caligula had deified himself and instituted his own cult, complete with priests and mysteries (Tacitus, Annals, xv. 41). Seutonius writes that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because “They caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Crestus” (The Twelve Caesars, V). This is the first mention of Christians at Rome, about 49 A. D., They may have been there since the Day of Pentecost, as Christopher Drewes reasons from Acts 2:10.[22] It is to these that Paul writes his letter to the Romans, about 54-58 A. D. Nero, of course, had Peter and Paul killed around 62 A. D. The Acts of Luke goes silent at this point, as Paul has appealed to the Roman emperor and is in Rome awaiting a hearing. The scene is lost to history, but is likely to have been extraordinary–the meeting of Paul and Nero. Nero then blamed the Christians for the fire in Rome, beginning the very terrible persecutions by Rome, about 64 A. D. This is the first of ten persecutions of Christians through that of Diocletian, the tenth and most widespread. Seutonius, on the suppression of public abuses during the reign of Nero, writes: “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.” Tacitus writes:

   To suppress reports that the fire was deliberately set, Nero fabricated scapegoats– and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they are popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capitol.

First Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned, not so much for incendiarism as for their anti-social tendencies. Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animal skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be lighted after dark, as substitutes for daylight. Nero provided his gardens for the spectacle, and exhibited displays in the circus, at which he mingled with the crowd or stood in a chariot, dressed as a charioteer. Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’s brutality rather than to the national interest.

                                                                                                           Annals, xv. 41

   The report of the acts of Christians goes silent at this point, when the persecution under Nero begins. John barely refers indirectly to the martyrdom of Peter (John 21:19). It is the most common opinion among the scholars that John was intentionally commenting on Roman politics in his visions of the beast, though none of the numbers correspond. Nero is either fifth or sixth, not seventh or eighth, etc, and there is every indication that John is being shown things in the future, from the reign of Domitian. Like the conflict of Rome with the Jews, the conflict of the Christians with Rome centers on the refusal to worship the emperor, though this is never mentioned by the Roman historians. The conflict between the Christians and the Jewish temple, though, seems to have been continuous, until James is thrown from its pinnacle in 66 A. D. The temple was then destroyed in 70 A. D under Vespasian, by his general the future emperor Titus, and the Jews dispersed.

   Domitian himself promised to be a second Nero, and was nearly as terrible for a time, executing people and senators at whim. He was the first emperor to set up images of himself in places of worship throughout the Roman Empire, and the first to demand that the people address him as “Our Lord and God,” as Jack Macarthur relates (1973, p. 18; Seutonius, xii, p. 309). This deification of humans began with Caesar and Augustus, (Seutonius I.88; Tacitus, I.9). If it leads to Nero, the Romans do not seem to understand its significance. The custom very curiously coincides in history with the incarnation.

   Early in the reign of Domitian (81-96), under a general order that Christians be put to death, John was called from Ephesus to answer for his rumored teaching that the empire of the Romans would be quickly rooted out, and the kingdom of the Romans given over to another. The soldiers sent to bring him in were impressed by his eating only a single date on the seven day journey. In one version of the Acts of John,[23] he assured Domitian that his reign would continue “many years,” with numerous successors, but that…

when the times of the things upon earth have been fulfilled, out of heaven shall come a king, eternal, true, judge of the living and dead, to whom every nation and tribe shall confess, through whom every earthly power and dominion shall be brought to nothing, and every mouth speaking great things shall be shut. This is the mighty Lord and king of everything that hath breath and flesh, the Word and son of the living one, who is Jesus Christ.

As a sign, John drinks poison and is not harmed. The poison is then tested on a criminal, who dies from it and is then raised by John. Domitian is impressed and so removes the decree of death to all Christians. He does not kill John, but banishes him to Patmos. How John escaped being killed by Domitian is indeed an enigma. Domitian killed many for accidental reasons, as Seutonius reports (xii, p. 306). In another story, John is set in a vat of burning oil, but is unharmed, and Domitian, giving up trying to kill him, banishes John to Patmos.[24] Before he leaves, John raises a servant girl of the house of Domitian who had died.

   Another story confirms the character of the persecution under Domitian. According to Hegesippus, Domitian commanded that the descendants of David be slain, fearing the second coming of Christ, as Herod had feared the first. An inconvenience of hereditary monarchy is the extreme interest given to some in the deaths of others, and it is this that representative democracy replaces with the principle of popular election. In the first century, political assassination was so common it was nearly assumed, for example that Tiberius would begin by murdering Posthumus, and stepmothers conspire to kill the offspring of their rivals. The heavenly kingdom being misunderstood, political kings find the teaching about it to be a challenge to their sovereignty. When the grandchildren of Jude, called a “brother” of Jesus, were brought before Domitian, and questioned about the coming of the kingdom…

…they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom but a heavenly and evangelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give to everyone according to their works.

Domitian dismissed them, and at this time stopped the persecution of the Christians, just before Nerva succeeded as emperor.

   John was, then, exiled to the island of Patmos by Domitian. Victorinus, in his Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, writes that John worked in the emperor’s mines there on Patmos, and did not expect to survive, but when Domitian died and he was freed, he then delivered the writing.[25] This would be about the year 96 A. D. He may have been on Patmos for as long as twelve years, and probably did not receive visitors or smuggle out instructions to the churches from 83 or so until 96 A. D. He returned to Ephesus after the death of Domitian, when Nerva reversed the decrees of the previous emperor. On the writing of the Gospel of John, it is written in The Muratorian Canon[26]:

When his fellow-disciples and bishops exhorted him he said, ‘Fast with me for three days from today, and then let us relate to each other whatever may be revealed to each of us.’ On the same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the Apostles, that John should narrate all things in his own name as they remembered them…

This story could also have described the writing of the Didache, if the gospel is written later. Andrew is thought to have been martyred in Patrae in Achaia in 69 A. D (McBirnie, p. 83). It is also said that John wrote his Gospel late in his life, after his return from exile. According to St. Jerome, John was asked by the churches in Asia to write a gospel “against Cerinthus and other heretics and especially against the then growing dogma of the Ebionites, who assert that Christ did not exist before Mary.” From Polycarp it was heard that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe in Ephesus and seeing Cerinthus within, ran out of the bath-house without bathing, crying, `Let us flee, lest even the bath fall, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.’ (Eusebius, IV,xiv.6). Victorinus writes: “…for when Valentinus, and Cerinthus, and Ebion, and others of the school of Satan, were scattered abroad throughout the world, there assembled together to him from the neighboring provinces all the bishops, and compelled him himself also to draw up his testimony” (p. 353-354). One wonders if he could not be involved in the writing of the work called the Didache, or even the earlier Epistola Apostolorum.[27] The latter presents itself as a letter from the council of the Apostles, shares a number of elements in common with the Gospel of John, and lists John first among the Apostles by whom the letter claims to have been written.[28] John may have had the luxury of being able to review the other gospels when he wrote his, though he seems to have drawn even the sayings and teachings of Jesus from his own memory, rather than from the previous writings. It is not even obvious that he had letters of Paul, though one would assume he had seen the letter to the Ephesians. It is difficult to find any direct evidence of the other three gospels in the Gospel of John or the Revelation. Eight instances have been collected by Louis Vos, as cited by Aune (Revelation, p. cxxvi), such as the saying that all who take up the sword will perish by the sword (Matt. 26:52; Rev. 13:10). All eight are fragments of sayings that might have been collected by any of the Apostles directly from Jesus. They do not demonstrate that he used any of these texts in composing either his gospel or the Revelation. It is said that he read and approved of Matthew, Mark and Luke, yet noted that these treated only one year, that from the beheading of John to the crucifixion. John relates earlier events, accounting for the apparent discrepancy between the gospel of John and the others.[29] He sometimes corrects the others regarding the sequence of events, like the overturning of the moneychangers in the temple. This occurs one year earlier in John (2:13-20), rather than after the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the year of the crucifixion. He has the last word among the writers, and might have corrected anything that seemed a significant error.

   His gospel is known for its distinction, among the four gospels, of addressing the hidden nature of the Christ as the logos or word of God (John 1:1-4; Revelation 19:13), synonymous with the light that is the light that enlightens men (1:9). This is very nearly the same as that described in the sixth and seventh books of Plato’s Republic (507e-509c), and the word for word is Greek. The thought may be implied in Genesis, as at creation God speaks, each of the first six days, and so the orders of being, as distinct from the beings that inhabit them, each come to be by a word of God. Here, rather than in the genealogy that opens Matthew, is the new beginning of the New Testament, implicit in the old. His thought is the only significant counterweight to the teaching of Paul, verifying Paul on points sometimes thought to be peculiarly Pauline inventions, such as the mission to the Gentiles and the divinity of Jesus. The Apocalyptic thought or prophecy of Paul, as for example concerning the rapture (1 Thess. 4:17) and the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2), may be in agreement with the Revelation of John, and a supplement which allows the picture to appear more clearly, though these elements are not explicit in the writings of John.

   The life of John is easily the most important part of church history from the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD throughout the end of the first century. By 70 A. D., Paul, Peter, James and others had already been martyred, though Matthew may have remained. It is likely that Thomas has already died in India.[30] Eusebius cites Irenaeus, who writes that John lived among the elders at Ephesus into the reign of Trajan (98-117), presiding over the selection of bishops. As the famous A.D. 112 letter of Pliny to Trajan indicates, persecution under Rome continued even under less despotic emperors. Torture and execution are routine, while the faith continued to spread, in Bithynia, “in cities, and villages and rural districts as well,” while “the temples…have been almost deserted.”[31]

   Some of those known to history who knew and heard John were Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna martyred in about 155 A.D., Papias, whose five volume work on the sayings of Jesus survives only in fragments, and St. Ignatius. Eusebius includes a story about John’s stealing back a man who had become a robber. An aged and vigorous Apostle John gets himself captured by thieves in order to shame their leader, a former student of the priesthood, into returning.[32] The story occurs when John was quite old, after his return from Patmos. It is interesting as an action of an Apostle, and would be an interesting subject for drama, showing the Apostle as the robber of robbers. Jerome relates the story that when John was very old, and carried into church each time, he would say only “Little children, love one another!” When finally asked why he always said only this, he answered: “It is the Lord’s command. And if this be done, it is enough.” The account in the Acts of John concludes with the possibility that John ascended, as did Enoch. This would also fit the saying of Jesus to Peter: “What is it to you if he remain until I come.” McBirnie notes that unlike the other Apostles, no bones of John have ever been found. Eusebius cites an epistle of Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, which identifies the burial place of John at Ephesus.[33] There it also says that being a priest, he wore the sacerdotal plate,” though it does not seem that he was a Levite. The tribes of the Apostles are, interestingly, not mentioned, though it is clear that John the Baptist was a Levite, and related to Mary through Elizabeth. But the tribe of Zebedee and the tribe of Simon bar Jonah are not emphasized. Most of those that return from Babylon are of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi (Ezra 1:5).

   Our writer, then, would seem to be John the Apostle, first because the thought of John in his gospel is arguably the highest thought of any of the Apostles to which we have access through writing, and may well be the highest Christian thought. Paul would be the other of these two peaks, of which none can see the top. According to Maimonides, prophecy presupposes an intellectual perfection (Guide, II. 36-38), and it would seem sensible that the revelation should come to the most perfect, the most constant, the most intelligent among the Apostles. He is not formally educated, but as Jesus was born in a manger, this perfection arises from simplicity. To receive the Revelation would also provide a purpose that he should remain, rather than be martyred (John 21:23).

   The text of the Revelation seems to identify which servant John is its author by saying it is the John “who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” This could be read as referring to all that he saw on Patmos. Yet it may mean that this John is an eyewitness of the teaching and passion of Jesus. There seems to be no reason that this could not refer to the things told in the Gospel of John, and to all that he saw while he went about with Jesus through his life, death and resurrection. As the one Apostle present at the Crucifixion, he is the fullest witness. The same statement, “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” occurs at 1:9, referring to the reason John was sent to Patmos to begin with, that is, prior to the vision. And again the phrase occurs referring to the reason that the martyrs are beheaded (20:4), as was his brother James. The Apostles are the eye witnesses of the Gospel. John is the last of the Apostles, the only one alive in the last decade of the first century, and the only John sent to Patmos. So the end of the Gospel of John (“this is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things…”) seems to lead into the beginning of the Revelation (“…John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw”).

   One reason, as was said, that the gospel of John and the Revelation seem to have been written by the same author is that while the other three gospels have an apocalyptic section, recalling the teaching of Jesus on the coming of the Kingdom, the gospel of John does not, so that the two fit together quite nicely. For unlike Matthew, in Chapter 24, Mark in Chapter 13 and Luke in Chapter 21, the Gospel of John does not contain a late section of the words of Jesus regarding the end times. It is just as if the author left these things to be discussed elsewhere, or was content with that discussion. His apocalypse will be that of the risen Christ.

   The Apocalypse section in the Gospel of John is very brief, occurs early, and describes the resurrection of the dead (5:28-29) as in the twentieth chapter of the Revelation. It begins

The one who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life…

Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God, and those who hear will live…Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Together with the passage in Luke, the kingdom is not coming with signs to be observed, the kingdom is present. And so these passages are the basis of the reading that these things are entirely spiritual, and not coming at all in the sense in which we read it, “with signs to be observed.” “…But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). The things of the revelation, like the incarnation, describe how being is, always, and what is always true: The Kingdom of heaven is accessible now, and in the most fundamental sense, is present, though we do not come into it. The hour is now when the dead will hear his voice and rise. This is the sense in which the coming of the Kingdom begins with the incarnation, like a mustard seed. It may be because being is this way that human history and the world in time unfold in this way, and this would be the most fundamental source of prophecy: It is because things are the way they are that their unfolding in time can be foreseen. The resurrection is both present and future, though in John it is emphatically also future: “And I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40; 44; 12:48). The future kingdom is assumed but not addressed in the gospel of John. Though the statement is an attempt to write what Jesus said and not what John said, still, it is very interesting to wonder whether the Apocalypse could have been seen and written yet when John wrote his gospel. The above passage reminds of those in Chapter 20 of the Revelation, those over whom the second death has no power (20:6). The Revelation, then, seems to fit together with the Gospel of John as the missing apocalypse obviously authored by the Apostle.

   Of John, Jesus said to Peter “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:22). Some then said, wrongly, that this meant John does not die (21:23), and would remain until the second coming. John seems to suggest that he simply meant that it is not his concern, and no more. In the Acts of John, at the end of the days of John he is presented as disappearing, like Enoch and Elijah, possibly to remain in this way until the second coming. There is another possibility. In the text, Jesus has just told Peter what is taken, in hindsight, as a prediction of the martyrdom of Peter (John 21:18-19). If the statement to Peter is serious, the remaining may be John’s not being martyred, and the arrival, when Jesus comes to John on Patmos. In this sense, it is clearly true that John was to remain “until I come,” in order to receive and transmit the vision of the Revelation.

Wilbur Smith (Holy Bible, 1881, p. 28) gives a fine summary of the reasons that it is obvious that John wrote the Revelation:

…The evidence in favor of St. John’s authorship consists of the assertions of the author and historical tradition… The author’s description of himself in the first and [last] chapters is certainly equivalent to an assertion that he is himself the apostle. He names himself simply John…He is also described as a servant of Christ, one that had borne testimony as an eyewitness of the word of God and of the testimony of Christ–terms which were surely designed to identify him with the writer of the verses John 19:35; 1:14, and 1 John 1:2. He is in Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. It may be easy to suppose that other Christians of the same name were banished thither, but the Apostle is the only John who is directly named in early history as an exile at Patmos. He is also a fellow sufferer with those whom he addresses, and the authorized channel of the most direct and important communication that was ever made to the seven churches of Asia, of which churches John the Apostle was at that time the spiritual governor and teacher. Lastly, the writer was a fellow servant of angels and a brother of prophets, titles which are far more suitable to one of the chief Apostles, and far more likely to have been assigned to him than to any other man of less distinction. All these remarks are found united together in the Apostle John, and in him alone of all historical persons.

The theory that John was not the author may require that the text is lying or misrepresenting itself. While this is possible, and not unheard of, there is no reason to think that is what is occurring here. Similarly, in the face of the admonition not to alter the text (22:19), it seems unlikely that followers of John did much editing, let alone writing on it, though it would not be surprising if John himself did some work on it.

   The same reason as that which shows why the revelation would come to John is involved in the blessing to the one reading the words of the prophecy (1:3). An alternate reading of the third sentence is: Blessed is the one (singular) recognizing,” since the word for reading (anagignoskon) is also the word for recognizing, with nous in the root.[34] And “keeping” can also be “watching” for that written in it. Line 1:3 might then read: Blessed is the one recognizing, and those hearing the words of the prophecy and watching for that written in it, for the time is near.” The blessing here is the first of seven blessings in the work. Those too are blessed (2) who die in the Lord prior to the reaping, after the call of the third additional angel (14:13). Also blessed are (3) he who is awake and keeps his garments so that he is not exposed, (16:15), (4) those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb, (19:9), (5) he who shares in the first resurrection, over whom the second death has no power (20:6), (6) the one keeping the words of the prophecy of this book (22:7), and (7) those who wash their robes, that they might “eat from the tree of life and enter the city by the gates” (22:14). The alternation of singular and plural references, combined in the first and reversed in the final two, is noteworthy. The singular are those who read or recognize, who are awake and clothed, who share in the first resurrection, and keep the words of the prophecy. Those who hear, who die after the call for endurance, and are invited to the marriage supper, who wash their robes to prepare to eat from the tree of life and enter the city, are plural or many. The reading of the Revelation may not be for everyone, not even all those saved, though it is not unimportant, nor is it important only for the fascination with the time and imminence of the end. The reading of the Revelation is a cultivation of the highest perfection of the intellect and imagination together, and so a cultivation or an invitation to the highest blessing. In this blessing, we who consider and comment on it hope to share.

[1] References to ancient authors are to text and section number, and occasionally to the modern texts where these can be found, while modern authors are indicated by referring to the author and the year of publication, the full title being available in the bibliography at the conclusion below.

   Contemporary readers think it to be conclusive that the Revelation could not have been written by John the Apostle (David Aune, 1997, pp. xlviii-lx). And so this question has seemed to us a good place to begin. The tradition seems otherwise to always have assumed that John the Apostle is the author, beginning, in preserved writings, in about 155-160 A.D., with Justin (Dialogue with Trypho, 81). It is not clear whether Justin cites the book or an oral report of the teaching of John, or how widely circulated the book was. It may have been a secret work in the first half of the second century, or the preserve of the churches in Asia. Dionysius the Great, Bishop of Alexandria, writing in the fourth century, seems to be the first of preserved writers to doubt that the apostle John wrote the Revelation. Dionysius suggests that the apocalypse was seen by a different John (Roberts, A., and Donaldson, J. The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Vol. VII, pp. 82-84). One reason for his doubt is that in the gospel and first letter, John the Apostle does not refer to himself by name. And so it is thought, since the John of the Revelation does call himself John, that this is likely to be another John. Yet surely John might identify himself in one writing and not do so in another, and this is less an argument than a hunch. Dionysius also comments that in the Revelation, none of John’s characteristic “phrasing or diction” appears to be present. The writings “share hardly a syllable in common,” and unlike the gospel and letters, the Revelation employs “barbarous idioms” and a dialect and language that are “not of the exact Greek type.” We will consider in place below certain symbols, such as the door, the way of speaking about being, and about the divinity of Jesus, that seem nearer to John than anyone else known in history. A characteristic phrase is “to prepare a place,” in the Gospel of John 14:2-3 and Revelation 12:6; Aune, 1997, p. 691). Modern linguistics notes that the rate of the use of words unique to the text is similar to the Gospel of John, and the use of the preposition ek is similarly higher in the Gospel of John and the Revelation than in any other Greek Biblical text (Aune, ccvii; cixxix). The identification of Jesus with the Word, though, is the most obvious similarity (Revelation 19:13; John 1:1), and it may even be safe to say that no one else in the history of humanity is able to speak and write in this way. The “Lamb of God” is another characteristic name from John the Baptist, as reported in the Gospel of John (1:29). There is, though, quite a difference between the Gospel of John and the prophetic vision of the Revelation. One wonders how much of the difference might be due to the dictated and descriptive character of the Revelation, or to John having been told what to write. He is simply shown what he saw, and told to write this. We need not presuppose that it is impossible for these things to have occurred just as they are written. So in the dictated letters to the churches, there are different concerns, for example regarding heresy and idolatry, than in the three letters of John. If one compares, for example, the writing preserved of Polycarp and Papias, or even Justin or Irenaeus, it is difficult to believe that anyone capable of the height of thought in receiving the Revelation was alive in the first or second century other than the author of the Gospel of John. Jung believes John to be the author of the gospel, the Revelation and the letters as well, writing that “psychological findings speak in favor of such an assumption” “Answer to Job,” in The Portable Jung, p. 625.

[2] Cradock, Fred B, and Tucker, Gene M. “Bible,” in Microsoft, Encarta Encyclopedia, 2004.

[3] According to the list of Hippolytus, Jude, Simon the Zealot and Matthias are other apostles to fall asleep rather than be killed (Roberts and Donaldson, p. 255). There is a Greek legend that Matthew died a natural death, in contrast with the Western tradition that he too was martyred. The Search for the Twelve Apostles. McBirnie, William Stuart, p. 180.

[4] Ibid, p. 108. Upon return from Egypt, Joseph goes to Galilee instead of Judea, to the area of the relatives of Mary (Mt. 2:22-23), who include her Aunt or Great Aunt Elizabeth (Lk.1:39, 65) and sister Salome. Elizabeth seems to have lived across the great plain in the North of Judea, so that John and Andrew would be disciples of John the Baptist. She may have been the sister of Ann the mother of Mary, except that John and his parents are Levites, while Jesus is of the tribe of Judah. How Elizabeth is the kinswoman of Mary is then a question.

[5] The Acts of John, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers edited by Roberts, A., and Donaldson, J. Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1985-1987. (Vol. VII, p. 563).

[6] Ibid, p. 108.

[7] William Stuart McBirnie, The Search for the Twelve Apostles, p. 108.

[8] The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, in Roberts and Donaldson, The Ante-Nicene fathers, vol. pp. 384-387.

[9] The Roman Emperors, following the death of Caesar in 44 B. C., are: Augustus until 14 A. D.; Tiberius from 14-37, Caligula (37-41), Claudius (41-54); Nero (54-68), Four in (68-69) (Galba, Otho, Vitellus and Vespasian (69-79), Titus (79-81), Domitian (81-96); Nerva (96-98), Trajan (98-117)…

[10] The Acts of the Holy Apostle Thaddeus, Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

[11] The Acts of John, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Vol. VII, pp. 560- 564). This seems to be the first seventeen sections of another book called the Acts of John, which also contains numbered sections. The book is said to be written by Leucius, a companion of John. Sections 85-105 were uncovered in 1896 in a Greek manuscript copied in 1324. It is said to be Docetic, and was condemned as heretical in 787 (Ron Cameron, editor, The Other Gospels, pp. 87-98). This condemnation, possibly of the thought or emphasis of a companion of John, may have led to the rejection of the stories of the generation that knew John and the lack of historical material about the life of John, for there is very little otherwise. The clearest statement of what has occurred regarding the Acts of John is the suggestion that the apocryphal acts of the second century in general were later condemned and purged of some of their content, retaining the accounts of the deaths and portions of the original acts of the apostles (Oxford Bible Commentary, p. 1322). The purged content was later restored, leading to the possibility that the sections of the three Acts of John may somehow fit together. M. R. James, ed. The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1924) prints what are called sections 18-115; Cameron prints sections numbered 87-105, while Roberts and Donaldson print the story of John’s appearance before Domitian and his speech at his death. The first section here may be sections 1-17 of the original Acts of John by Leucius.

[12] Jung, C. G. The Portable Jung, edited by Joseph Campbell, pp. 624- 625.

[13] McBirnie, 1973, p. 91-93.

[14] Similarly, since this is to be philosophic reading, we can wonder whether the teaching of Paul that members of the church should avoid association with sinners is the same as the teaching of Jesus, that he came not to save the righteous but the sinners (Matthew 9:11-13; 11:19; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27). Jesus some times speaks against those who “drink with the drunkards.” This may be a difference of emphasis, suited to the different persons and their different circumstances. But it is a difference. He himself is like one who scorns the contempt of public opinion, while Paul uses this opinion to preserve purity among the flock. Here again, it is important too that the church be kept pure, and not be “yoked unequally with sinners” (II Cor. 6:14-16). But it is a different teaching, pointing toward a different concern. We wonder whether we ought not go among mankind, if we can avoid corruption, embrace humanity, bring light, lead out, even without regard for reputation, as Jesus was with Mary Magdalene, despite her seven demons (Mark 16:9). He did not say “Let us not be yoked with prostitutes.” The tradition that she was a prostitute has become unfashionable, thought to be a chauvinistic invention. The Apostles do not otherwise record it, because she was their friend. But the whole point of this tradition is that he receives penance, forgives sins, and received this saint into holiness. That he even taught women was a novelty, questioned by Peter in the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Mary Magdalene. But after Mary and Mary Magdalene, women become saints.

[15] The Witnesses were the leading sect to face Nazi persecution directly, and they have also been at the forefront of legal cases to assure the observance of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Because religion is based on custom or convention, religion is not always the first to oppose the tyrannical imposition of authority if this holds certain conservative principles and opposes enemies they have in common. The Witnesses are also leaders in a certain part of carrying out the things we were told to do, namely, spread the gospel. But if we would settle for doctrinaire assumptions of authoritative opinion, or first principles that equate one’s own, man-made group with the elect, we should have remained simple Catholics. The same would seem to hold for the Baptist argument that the whole congregation should sing the same song, or say the same things, for example regarding alcohol prohibition. But Jesus is not a legislator, and the Jews know no such law. The wine of the wedding at Cana, and the new wine, are turned back into grape juice, miraculously making the miraculous mundane. Their own separation from the Roman Church is undermined, and it becomes clear that each sect is impelled to repeat the Roman error.

[16] Alvarez, Leo Paul S. de. of the University of Dallas is the source of this particular metaphysical formulation.

[17] Leo Strauss, The History of Political Philosophy, edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey, p. 5.

[18] Increase Mather, the father of Cotton Mather, arrived at the same thought (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 82-83, note 116 below).

[19] Consider the bulk of the Christian things appearing on Television, and the percentage of time spent asking for money. Why do the genuine programs or the teachings not succeed in this media?

[20] Elaine Pagels, Revelations, p. 109.

[21] Eusebius, History, II, 2, citing Tertullian, Apology for the Christians, writes:

And when the wonderful resurrection and ascension of our Savior were already noised abroad, in accordance with an ancient custom which prevailed among the rulers of the provinces, of reporting to the emperor the novel occurrences which took place in them, in order that nothing might escape him, Pontius Pilate informed Tiberius of the reports which were noised abroad through all Palestine concerning the resurrection of our Savior Jesus from the dead. He gave an account also of other wonders which he had learned of him, and how, after his death, having risen from the dead, he was now believed by many to be a god. They say that Tiberius referred the matter to the Senate, but that they rejected it, ostensibly because they had not first examined into the matter (for an ancient law prevailed that no one should be made a god by the Romans except by a vote and decree of the Senate), but in reality because the saving teaching of the divine Gospel did not need the confirmation and recommendation of men. But although the Senate of the Romans rejected the proposition made in regard to our Savior, Tiberius still retained the opinion which he had held at first, and contrived no hostile measures against Christ.

[22] Christopher Drewes, Introduction to the Books of the Bible, p. 154.

[23] The Acts of John, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Roberts and Donaldson. p. 561.

[24] This story, related in Jesus Freaks, pp.162-165, is probably from the Book of Martyrs by John Foxe.

[25] The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p. 353.

[26] In Documents of the Christian Church, edited by Henry Bettenson, p. 28. Also, McBirnie, p. 116, citing Eusebius.

[27] In The Other Gospels, edited by Ron Cameron, pp. 133-162.

[28] The work opens with the mention of Cerinthus and Simon, two opponents of John. It includes miracles and gospel elements that are also in the Gospel of John.

[29] Jerome, The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, p. 364-5; McBirnie, p. 117. The Reverend “The lives of the Holy Apostles and Evangelists,” In The Holy Bible; Rockford, Illinois; Chandler brothers, 1881.

[30] Consummation of the Apostle Thomas, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Roberts and Donaldson, Volume VII, pp. 550-552.

[31] Pliny the Younger, in Bettenson, Henry, ed. Documents of the Christian Church, pp. 3-4.

[32] Eusebius, History of the Church, III. xxiii.

[33] Eusebius, History of the Church, III, xxiii. 1, 4; III, xxxi. 3; Irenaeus, On Heresies, III.

[34] The first saying of the “Gnostic” Gospel of Thomas may also indicate a connection between “anignoskon” and blessing.

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