In a comment to this question What are the 12 names of the the apostles of the lamb? Mark Edward raised the point if the author of Revelation was aware of or concerned with Paul and his claim to apostleship.

One verse in particular stands out:

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars (Revelation 2:2 NKJV)

remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NKJV)

The three characteristics, works, labor, and patience Paul cites in the letter to the Thessalonians are used in the letter to the church in Ephesus and in each case there is a deficiency. Works of faith are simply works; labor of love is only labor; patience of hope is just patience. Ephesus reflects three potential deficiencies in any Christian ministry. It is possible to do works without faith, labor without love, and have patience without hope.

The letter to Ephesus also acknowledges how this church followed Paul's final instruction in Miletus (Acts 20:17-38) to be watchful for false teachers.

Is this evidence the writer of Revelation was aware of the apostle Paul? Is there other evidence the author of Revelation was aware of Paul and his work as an apostle?

  • I find references to the truth revealed elsewhere, but not 'textual dependance', which assumes there is no inspired truth. For example, Mark 11:25/Colossians 3:13 etc & Sirach 28:1-7. – Sola Gratia Jul 27 '17 at 13:52
  • Being an Apostle, and being one of the Twelve, are two different things. Scripture lists many Apostles not from among the Twelve. They are the Seventy. – Lucian Jul 29 '17 at 23:18
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Strong Circumstantial Evidence

Assume for a moment that the author of Revelation is not John the Apostle (my view), as history argues for and who is named (though not directly identified as the apostle as opposed to some other John) in Rev. 1:1.

It would still seriously strain credibility to think that the one who is authoring Revelation, a book specifically written to churches in Asia (chapters 3-4), had not heard of Paul, the one who came to Ephesus (Acts 19:1), at which coming vv.8-10 note (NKJV, bold added):

8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Observe the causal connection that the reason word spread of Jesus to the people of Asia was the two year teaching stint of Paul in the school of Tyrannus. Now even if one took the early, rather than the late, authorship of Revelation, in either case it was written after what any timeline of the Apostle Paul's life (there are slight variations in timelines) would have placed this ministry in Ephesus to Asia, and also after the further follow-up letters of Paul to those churches there.

That the founder and main teacher of churches in Asia would not be known by another who was obviously intimately tied to the Asian churches again, circumstantially, strains credibility.

Exegetical Evidence

Dave Gifford on his blog listed six parallels in Revelation to Paul's writings (which he notes he got from "William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors. [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986]").1 Those six are:

  1. Revelation 1.5 and Colossians 1.18 both refer to Jesus as the “firstborn from the dead” in contexts that speak of his rule.
  2. Revelation 3.3 and 16.15 say that Jesus will come like a thief. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5.2 and 5.4 say that the day of the Lord will come “like a thief in the night.”
  3. Revelation 3.12, 21.2 and 21.10 refer to a new Jerusalem that descends from heaven. Galatians 4.26 refers to “the Jerusalem that is above”.
  4. Revelation 17.14 and 1 Timothy 6.15 refer to Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.
  5. Revelation 18.4 calls its readers to come out of Babylon and not take part in her sins. 2 Corinthians 6.17 quotes Isaiah 52.11, which is also a call to come out of Babylon. In Ephesians 5.11 Paul tells his readers not to take part in the sins of darkness.
  6. In Revelation 21.4, a voice from the throne says that the old order of things has passed away, and in verse 5 God says “I am making everything new!” 2 Corinthians 5.17 says if anyone is in Christ, the old has gone and the new has come.

Gifford also notes there:

Mark Wilson also has a chart containing eschatological topics that Revelation and Paul both write about, such as shouts, trumpets, crowns, and angels at the last day; Jesus coming on the clouds and ruling the nations; a day of vengeance and wrath; the nations being deceived; judgment and reward; exhortations to keep awake and to endure.

The source for Wilson he gives is "Charts on the Book of Revelation. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 36-37."

At the least, the above shows a number of both linguistic and thematic parallels between Revelation and Paul's writings.

P. Richard Choi did a study of parallels to Paul related to Rev 14:7, in which he concluded:2

Therefore, I submit that the proper response to the gospel given in Rev 14:7 is a rather accurate summary of Paul’s understanding of faith expressed in Romans: Living by faith means: (a) to fear God and give glory to him who is an impartial Judge of all humankind and (b) to worship God, who is Creator of the world. (239)

And later he states:

In conclusion, then, the apocalyptic delineations of the gospel found in Rev 14:6-12 are consistent with Paul’s concept of the gospel in Romans. And it appears that the third angel’s message is indeed the message of righteousness by faith in verity.In conclusion, then, the apocalyptic delineations of the gospel found in Rev 14:6-12 are consistent with Paul’s concept of the gospel in Romans. And it appears that the third angel’s message is indeed the message of righteousness by faith in verity. (243)

I have not yet read Choi's evidence, and that he is Seventh-day Adventist, I would not wholly agree on some of his basic theological positions. But he believes a parallel exists there. Now, whether a passage that is communicating what an angel was proclaiming (Rev 14:7) can really help us know if the writer of Revelation knew of Paul may lessen the value of this study for the answer here.

If I have time, I'll work on seeing if I can find any of my own parallels on this.

If John the Apostle was the Author of Revelation

The above points are independent of whether or not John the Apostle is the author of Revelation. But if the Apostle is the author, then there is direct evidence that John was aware of Paul.

Paul had met with at least some of the apostles during the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23). The text is not clear there who, but it is the plural of apostles, so at least Peter and one other. The context implies it was a larger group of the apostles than just two, but no explicit count is given. But that is not the only reference to the council.

Paul mentions this meeting in Galatians 2. He met "privately to those who were of reputation" (v.2), but more importantly he notes in v.9 (bold added):

and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

That this would not be a reference to the apostle John is highly unlikely, given that the apostles were noted to be present at the council and no other John would have held a position as "pillar" of the the church. But the verse before that also gives some indication of whether John would have in any way recognized Paul's apostleship (Gal 2:8, bold added):

(for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles)

The implication is that Paul understood the Jerusalem Council (including then John) to be a recognition of his work with the Gentiles being parallel to that of Peter's apostleship to the Jews.

Conclusion

Certainly the Book of Revelation does not mention Paul, but that does not mean the author was not "aware" of him or his writings. The historical circumstances and some exegetical clues lean, in my opinion, to a highly plausible answer of "yes," the author of Revelation knew of Paul. Whether this knowledge was considered to be of his apostleship is unclear, though if linguistic and thematic parallels between Revelation and Paul are related, then that implicitly recognizes Paul in some authoritative fashion.

If one accepts John the Apostle as the author of Revelation, then the answer becomes 100% certain that John was aware of Paul and also likely that John viewed Paul's work as being on par with Peter's apostleship ministry.


Addendum: A Comment about Relevance of this Question

At first glance, I felt this question was irrelevant with respect to what elicited it—namely, the comment that challenged whether "the author of Revelation was aware of or concerned with Paul and his claim to apostleship." My logic on first glance was that the whole book was a revelation given to the author John (whichever John one holds this person to be) by Jesus (Rev 1:1 , 19), so it really did not matter if he knew of Paul or not. Indeed, in many respects, whatever exegetical parallels do exist between Revelation and Paul's writings need not indicate a dependence precisely because of this book's mode of revelation in which John was showed these things directly by Jesus and the angels that guide him in the visions. But...

Specifically, the question that brought the comment that generated the question here related to what names for the 12 apostles of the Lamb in Rev 21:14 were being referred to (and thus, which people were possibly being referred to), of which one possible option proposed is Paul. Hence the inference is that if the author of Revelation did not know of Paul, or of his potential apostleship, he could not be under consideration as one of the 12 because the author would not have known of Paul and thus not included him (conceptually) in that statement.

This is still most likely true, despite how the book was revealed. In Rev 21:14 John is seeing this New Jerusalem (v.10) and describing it in the writing of Revelation. So as he views the foundations in v.14, it is John who sees the 12 names, and so he likely recognizes them and chooses to describe them by the phrase "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." So whether he would recognize Paul as such or not would be very relevant to answering who the twelve are.

The one caveat of doubt (hence my "likely" statements above) is that in Revelation 21:9 it mentions an angel that came and "talked" (aorist tense) with John to begin the tour of the New Jerusalem. In v.15 John refers back to this angel as "he who talked with me" (present active participle), so more literally "the one talking to me." This could imply that the angel was giving a "running" commentary during the whole tour of vv.10-14. In that case, the angel may have been the one who referred to the names as "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb," in which case John may or may not have recognized them (indeed, they may not have even been written in a language he understood). If this idea of a running commentary is true (and it need not be; the present active participle could be implying other ideas as well), then it may in fact still be irrelevant if John knew of Paul or not with respect to the content of the names listed.


NOTES

1 Dave Gifford, "Six Parallels between Revelation and Paul’s Letters," Giffmex's Blog of Apoca-Lists, Feb. 2010, accessed July 26, 2017.

2 P. Richard Choi, "Paul and Revelation 14," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 20:1-2 (2009):223-243.

  • Thank you for your efforts. If John was the author and if he wrote or was in Ephesus as tradition holds, then there is a potential conflict between John's standing as an apostle over Paul's. Acts is clear about Paul's impact in Ephesus and all of Asia and if John came to Ephesus after Paul left, the future division described in 1 John could be misconstrued (especially by modern theorists) as an internal dispute between John and Paul. By not claiming his position as an apostle, John preserves Paul's position as the "ranking" apostle to the Gentiles... – Revelation Lad Jul 30 '17 at 15:08
  • I believe your observations about the method of revelation are correct and it really doesn't matter to the overall message. However, given the proclivity to question Scripture any direct references to Paul or a direct claim as apostle will open the door to seeing a conflict between "Paul's" Christianity and "John's." By writing as the elder, John not only avoids the dispute, he supports Paul as an apostle while still asserting his position as the "elder" (apostle). The "embedded" references to Paul serve to show he was in agreement with "Paul's Christianity" while presenting a new revelation. – Revelation Lad Jul 30 '17 at 15:15

What a great question! Also notice that these same three elements are famously present in I Corinthians 13:13:

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (NASB)

Thus, Paul reminds us of Jesus, when he was asked about the greatest commandment. Jesus was quoted as replying

"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)

Do references to faith, hope, and love appear elsewhere? How about here:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have (the hope of?) eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. - John 3:16,17 (NASB)

The text in Revelation 2 and 3 were presented as the literal words of the risen and glorified Messiah as dictated to a person named John.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” – Revelation 1:17,18 (NASB)

And what follows is represented as Jesus' word-for-word message to seven churches including an evaluation based on Faith, Hope, and Love.

So, was John aware of Paul's teachings? It seems that the triad was recognized even before Paul's ministry began. So I guess all one can definitely say is that Paul's teaching was consistent with those presented in the gospels of Matthew and John.

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