[Disclaimer: I was not at my best mentally when I attended this session, so this is from my own perspective of and understanding of Paul’s lecture; all errors in reporting are solely mine. For more information on Anderson’s view of the Johannine situation, see FOR FURTHER READING below.]

Last Wednesday was part two of Paul Anderson’s lecture at Trinity Episcopal on Revelation. The beginning focus was on the villainization of various groups as the Beast and/or the Antichrist throughout history. We examined this from the perspective of art and various writings. I found it quite interesting how each side did a great job at portraying the other groups as the Beast/Antichrist: for the early church, the Roman emperors were the heads of the Beast; during the Crusades, Islam was the Antichrist for the Roman Church – and vice versa; for the Protestants, the Roman Church was the Babylon; etc. These caricatures, of course, were often connected with one particular group’s interpretation of Revelation, which was often quite speculative.

Anderson posed the question of whether the imagery of the Beast and Antichrist had some significance to John’s audience(s) in their historical context. That is, for the Johannine community, did they understand “antichrist(s)” to refer to something in their time? Anderson answered this question in the affirmative from various aspects. I will only recount one of those aspects: the compositional theory.

It is widely held that the writings attributed to John went through stages of composition. Going with a minimal theory of two editions, the first dealt with various tensions, particularly in regard to Jewish leaders and the synagogues; the second is the finalized edition and complements other legitimate Jesus traditions, like those found in the Synoptics. Between these two editions is the writing of the epistles, which deal with those leaving the church for the synagogue and those coming into the churches with gnostic-docetic doctrines, along with certain institutionalizations of Christianity. As mentioned in the first post, it is these groups that are precisely identified as “antichrists.” The historical situation of the Johannine community is important for determining who these terms were applied to in the writer’s and the audience’s minds.

At this point, I have trouble recalling the rest of the aspects and how they related to the broader imagery of Revelation—that would be reason enough for one to attend the sessions oneself.


Paul Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel: Its Unity and Disunity in Light of John 6: With a New Introduction, Outlines, and Epilogue, 3rd printing (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), lxiv-lxxiii.

———, The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered, Library of New Testament Studies Series 321 (London: T&T Clark, 2007).

———, “The Having-Sent-Me-Father: Aspects of Agency, Encounter, and Irony in the Father-Son Relationship,” Semeia 85 (1999): 44-48.[Back to Top]