In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Revelation (Apocalypse)

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Collected Essays
  • Author and Date
  • Addressees
  • Literary Features
  • Social Science Perspectives
  • Roman Empire
  • Political Readings
  • Theology
  • Use of the Old Testament
  • Temple
  • Christology
  • Church
  • New Jerusalem
  • Eschatology

Biblical Studies Revelation (Apocalypse)
Daniel J. Harrington
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 June 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0105


The book of Revelation is an apocalypse or revelation (1:1) and a prophecy (1:3) in letter form (1:4). It was intended to be read aloud in a communal setting (1:3). It is written in a Semitic Greek style of poor quality and is full of allusions to the Old Testament, which the author knew very well. Its structure features a series of “sevens”—seven letters (2:1–3:22), seven seals (6:1–8:6), seven trumpets (8:7–11:19), seven bowls (16:1–21), and seven end-time events (19:11–22:5). The communities in western Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) addressed in Revelation (see chaps. 2–3) had certain internal problems and were also facing persecution for their Christian faith. This persecution was a limited program promoted by a local political and/or religious official. It focused on Christians refusing to worship the Roman emperor as a god and the goddess Roma as a personification of the empire. The author was a Jewish Christian prophet named John, most likely not the apostle or the evangelist, in exile on the island of Patmos for his witness to Christ (1:9). It is presented as his own visionary experience of the risen Christ on “the Lord’s day” (1:10). Its composition is usually placed late in the emperor Domitian’s reign (95–96 CE), although it may contain some earlier material from Nero’s time. Its original purpose was to give hope and perspective to Christians who were already suffering or expected to suffer soon for refusing to worship the emperor or the empire as divine. The author insists that the risen Jesus is the only “Lord and God” worthy of their worship.

General Overviews

A wide range of resources is available to facilitate an initial orientation to or a refresher for the book of Revelation. These resources include the Greek text and modern translations of it, annotated study Bibles, short commentaries found in one-volume expositions of the whole Bible, introductions to the New Testament, and books focused on Revelation.

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