John of Patmos
Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos by Hieronymus Bosch, 1505
Venerated in
Major worksBook of Revelation

John of Patmos (also called John the Revelator, John the Divine, John the Theologian; Ancient Greek: Ἰωάννης, romanizedIōannēs) is the name traditionally given to the author of the Book of Revelation. Revelation 1:9 states that John was on Patmos,[1] an Aegean island off the coast of Roman Asia, where according to most biblical historians, he was exiled as a result of anti-Christian persecution under the Roman emperor Domitian.[2][3]

Nicolas Poussin's Landscape with Saint John on Patmos (1640)

Christian tradition has considered the Book of Revelation's writer to be John the Apostle, purported author of the Gospel of John. A minority of senior clerics and scholars, such as Eusebius (d. 339/340), recognize at least one further John as a companion of Jesus, John the Presbyter. Some Christian scholars since medieval times separate the disciple from the writer of Revelation.[4][5]

Island of Patmos

John is considered to have been exiled to Patmos during a time of persecution under the Roman rule of Domitian in the late 1st century. 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)[6]

According to Tertullian (in The Prescription of Heretics) John was banished after being plunged into boiling oil in Rome and suffering nothing from it.[7]

Book of Revelation

The author of the Book of Revelation identifies himself only as "John".[8] Traditionally, this was often believed to be the same person as John the Apostle (John, son of Zebedee), one of the apostles of Jesus, to whom the Gospel of John was also attributed.[8] The early-2nd-century writer, Justin Martyr, was the first to equate the author of Revelation with John the Evangelist.[9]

Other early Christian writers, such as Dionysius of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea, noting the differences in language and theological outlook between this work and the Gospel,[10] discounted this possibility, and argued for the exclusion of the Book of Revelation from the canon as a result.[11] The early Christian writer Papias appeared in his writings to distinguish between John the Evangelist and John the Elder,[12] and many biblical scholars now contend that the latter was the author of Revelation.[13][14][15]

The majority view of modern Bible scholars is that the Book of Revelation was written by John of Patmos (neither John the Apostle, nor John the Evangelist).[16][17][18]

See also


  1. ^ Revelation 1:9
  2. ^ Souvay, Charles. "Patmos." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 12 Jan. 2009
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Stephen L Harris, Understanding the Bible, (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985), 355
  5. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford. p. 468. ISBN 0-19-515462-2.
  6. ^ Adela Collins. (1985). "Patmos" [In] Paul J. Achtemeier [Ed.]. (1985) Harper's Bible Dictionary. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row. p. 755.
  7. ^ Litfin, Bryan. After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2015
  8. ^ a b "Revelation, Book of." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  9. ^ Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 81.4
  10. ^ Ben Witherington, Revelation, (Cambridge University Press) page 2.
  11. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2000). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 432. ISBN 0-19-515462-2.
  12. ^ Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006)
  13. ^ Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Wm B. Eerdmans Publications) page 10.
  14. ^ Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 355
  15. ^ Ehrman, Bart D. (2004). The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford. p. 468. ISBN 0-19-515462-2.
  16. ^ Hart, David Bentley (2023). The New Testament: A Translation. Yale University Press. p. 575. ISBN 978-0-300-27146-1. Retrieved 1 January 2024.
  17. ^ Hodgkins, Christopher (2019). "15.2". Literary Study of the Bible: An Introduction. Wiley. p. unpaginated. ISBN 978-1-118-60449-6. Retrieved 1 January 2024.
  18. ^ Fletcher, Michelle (2017). Reading Revelation as Pastiche: Imitating the Past. The Library of New Testament Studies. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-567-67271-1. Retrieved 1 January 2024.