Why You and I Could Not Write the Book of Revelation

Dictation vs. Inspiration

Have you ever wondered if God could use you to write Scripture? Sure, we might say, God can do anything and use anyone. It didn’t have to be Haggai or Paul or John of Patmos; that’s just who God chose.

Right?

Now, I certainly concede that God could in fact use anyone to do anything. But I also believe that God didn’t dictate the books of the Bible to Zechariah, Moses, and the rest. Instead, as Peter puts it, those men “were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20) to write using their own language, style, personal history, and location the words that God has for his people. In formal theological terms we call this inspiration.

550 vs. 400

So why would I say that God couldn’t use you to write the book of Revelation?

Here’s the reason: The book of revelation has about 400 verses, and scholars say those verses contain around 550 allusions to Old Testament passages.

But here’s the thing, John doesn’t include a single quotation of the Old Testament. He only uses allusions. This means that his writing, his thoughts, his spirituality literally bleeds with an deep, abiding knowledge of the Scriptures.

John didn’t just look up passages that supported his point. And he didn’t memorize a few powerful proof texts to argue and impress. He knew the Scriptures. He lived the Scriptures. The words of God were a part of him that couldn’t help but flow from his pen. The Spirit of God used that embedded knowledge and wisdom to enable John to write a book that contains more illusions than verses.

Access vs. Process

But what about us? You and I have access to dozens of English translations of the Bible, and we have the most powerful search capacities the Church has ever known – right in our pocket computers.

And yet, I would wager that we know much less of the Scriptures than any generation of believers. We have access to the Bible, but we do not know the Bible.

Accessible knowledge can be searched, analyzed, and mashedup, but it cannot transform the heart, mind, and soul. The accessible Bible is merely information. That information can only become knowledge and wisdom when it has been memorized, internalized, mediated upon, and lived.

And until we do that, we’ll never be able to write as John wrote.

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John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary. I also write and speak on issues around technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

20 thoughts on “Why You and I Could Not Write the Book of Revelation”

  1. John, did you see the research published in Science magazine? It found that “when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it.”

    This clearly supports your post, but also helps explain why.

  2. I don’t disagree with the general conclusion. However… If John was writing at least some of the Revelation (e.g. the letters) at dictation of Jesus (who had actually been given the Revelation), and if he was just recording what he saw and heard, how many of the allusions show John’s reading and how many show that the vision was specifically chosen to allude to OT?

  3. John,

    Excellent challenge – it goes so well with your motto: “Technology is Fast, but Redemption is Slow”

    Some considerations for us though, along the line of Jonathan’s point:
    – gospel of matthew quotes OT 38 times
    – Mark does it 20 times
    – John’s gospel? 13.
    – None in 1,2,3 John

    Is there a nuance or distinction on our understanding of inspiration when comparing the Gospel of John and Revelation – Jonathan’s point? Would John (apostle) tell us, “hey, I appreciate the accolades brothers, but I don’t know the OT like Jesus does.”

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