John the divine, Revelation to

Also called the Apocalypse [[➝ apocalypse]]; the last book in the Bible, traditionally ascribed to John the Apostle, but the language and content make it unlikely that this work could have come from the same hand as the fourth gospel, and no more likely that this John (Rev. 1:4) is the John the Apostle or John the Elder (of 2 and 3 John). Irenaeus (c.190 CE) held that John's vision was put into writing towards the end of the reign of the emperor Domitian, which would give the date of composition as c.95 CE when Christians experienced another round of repression.
Rev. was written to give encouragement to Christians at the end of the 1st cent., not to predict events centuries hence—though the book has been an inspiration to ‘enthusiasts’ of all ages. The images, the visions, the symbols have been a rich field for bizarre interpretations. The work's first three chapters take the form of a letter to seven Churches in Asia Minor whose failings are well known to John and are sternly rebuked.
The book continues in a series of sevens: seven seals (4:1–8:5), seven trumpets (8:2–11:19), seven visions of beasts (12:1–15:4), seven bowls (15:5–19:10), seven further visions, followed by a description of the New Jerusalem (19:11–22:5), and an epilogue (22:6–21). Each set of seven represents a miniature apocalypse in itself, and seems to answer to the six workdays of God in the Gen. narrative of creation, plus the Sabbath. John represents the most extreme form in the NT of a Christianity which is against its surrounding culture. There is no question (as in Rom. 13) of accommodation towards the emperor—Rome is ‘Babylon’ (17:5) with its seven hills (17:9) and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE as the ancient Babylonians did in 586 BCE.
Rev. is heavily indebted to OT apocalyptic writings—to Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel—and with these books in mind the first readers of Rev. would have grasped the seer's message of no compromise with pagan religion. It may have been possible for the Egyptian cult of Isis to be assimilated to the worship of Caesar, but this was unacceptable to Christians, even though the purpose of Caesar-worship was to fuse together a hundred different races into a single state. No exemption from the imperial cult was granted to Christians (as it was to Jews). For they could not recognize the State as the ultimate good, nor that force and wealth were to be acknowledged as the realities before which all must bow. So under cryptograms the Roman emperors are pilloried: 666 (Rev. 13:18) may stand for Nero by transliterating the letters into Hebrew, where their numerical values add up to 666. Nero, the worst of all the emperors, stabbed himself in 68 CE. The beast of Rev. 13:3 may be a reference to Caligula, who had a mortal wound, because he was murdered.
Rev. is a mosaic of a book, exceptionally difficult for modern readers to disentangle, but with a clear message: the Christian life is one of conflict and struggle, in which death has its part, but the resurrection of Jesus enables us to begin to come to terms with suffering and death.

Dictionary of the Bible.

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  • John the Divine — noun (New Testament) disciple of Jesus; traditionally said to be the author of the 4th Gospel and three epistles and the book of Revelation • Syn: ↑John, ↑Saint John, ↑St. John, ↑Saint John the Apostle, ↑St. John the Apostle, ↑John the Evangelist …   Useful english dictionary

  • John the Apostle, Saint — or St. John the Evangelist or St. John the Divine flourished 1st century AD One of the original Twelve Apostles of Jesus, traditionally credited with writing the fourth Gospel and three New Testament epistles. The book of Revelation was also… …   Universalium

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