Revelation 7:13 KJV

13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

The elder asks John about the multitudes in white robes who stood before the throne. John profess ignorance, then the elder goes on to explain to him who they were.

Revelation 7:14 KJV

14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb

Why does the elder ask John something he already knew?

  • 1
    It was the standard rabbinic method of teaching - ask a question and then supply the answer. Modern schools still do the same.
    – Dottard
    Jun 30, 2020 at 10:35
  • Jesus sometimes asks his disciples questions to which he already knows the answer. He is trying them and teaching them : causing them to think for themselves.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 30, 2020 at 12:12
  • See Socratic method, Socratic dialogue, and dialectic. (John's writings are, in general, permeated by Hellenistic influences; e.g., the concept of Logos, taken from Platonism).
    – Lucian
    Jun 30, 2020 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


In Rev 7:13, 14, the elder does not ask John the question in order to seek the answer. The elder asks the question in order to teach and draw attention to something that may have escaped John's attention. Thus, the purpose of the the elder's question appears to be:

  • A method of instruction as per both the Rabbinic methods and the Socratic method. For example see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socratic_method
  • Asking a question about a scene is a courteous method for drawing attention to elements of a very busy scene that an observer might otherwise miss.
  • Asking a question recognizes that merely providing fact does not teach - one learns by first creating a question in the mind of the student so as to prepare the student for the reception of the information in the answer. This is fairly basic pedagogy.

From the elder's question and answer we also learn the point of why John was shown what he was seeing at this point. John is shown people in white robes that have come through the great tribulation and have apparently done so on the basis of their robes that are white precisely because they have washed them in the blood of the Lamb.

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