Revelation or Apocalypse (əpŏkˈəlĭps) [key], the last book of the New Testament. It was written c.A.D. 95 on Patmos Island off the coast of Asia Minor by an exile named John, in the wake of local persecution by the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81–96). Tradition has identified John with the disciple St. John, but many scholars deny such authorship. They also disagree as to whether this book has common authorship with the Gospel or with First, Second, and Third John. The book is an apocalypse, comprising visions of victory over evil and persecution and of the triumph of God and the martyrs. Its structure is deliberate, depending heavily on patterns of sevens. It consists of letters counseling and warning seven churches in Asia Minor; the opening of the seven seals on the scroll in the hand of God, four revealing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; the blowing of seven trumpets by angels before God's throne; the seven visions, including a seven-headed dragon (Satan) and the rising from the sea of the Beast, related to the Emperor Nero (persecutor of Christians in Rome after the great fire of A.D. 64), whose name is numerically equivalent to 666; the seven plagues; the seven-headed harlot named Babylon, representing the Roman Empire; and visions of heaven, the defeat of Satan, the judgment, the millennial reign of Christ, and the New Jerusalem. Constant allusion occurs to earlier scriptural prophecies, such as Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah. One immediate goal of Revelation was to encourage persecuted Christians; absolute assurance of interpretation stops there. Every period of Christian history has produced variant explanations of the book's mysteries. See apocalypse.
See studies by G. E. Ladd (1972), D. H. Lawrence (1972), G. B. Caird (1980), L. Morris (1987), A. Y. Collins (1988), J. P. M. Sweet (1990), R. Wall (1991), J. Kirsch (2006), and E. Pagels (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.