Many of our favorite writers, like their creations, are fictional – at least as far as their names are concerned. Writers often write and publish under a nom de plume, or pen-name. Contemporary writers do this for a variety of reasons. If they are well known, they may choose a pseudonym in order to publish in a different genre. Or perhaps previous work was not well received and they want a fresh start with the public. Some may have a common name shared with a famous copyrighted author. But more typically, authors use a pen-name because discretion or social bias prevents them from publishing under their own name.
Probably, some of your favorite authors have written under a false identity. Famous pseudonyms include Mark Twain, James Herriot, George Elliot, and even Dr. Seuss. Pen names are hardly a modern innovation. Voltaire, the Enlightenment skeptic, was a cover for François-Marie Arouet. And in the early centuries of the Christian Church, there were a many works purported to be written by biblical patriarchs or New Testament characters.
Written centuries after the canonical books of the New Testament, these pseudopigrapha, are constantly appearing on the cover of grocery store tabloids with the headline, “New Books of the Bible Found!” Yet there is nothing new about them. These writings, such as the Gospel of Judas, have been well known as frauds since they first appeared. Often their authors assumed an apostolic identity to gain authority or credibility. But the church has never been fooled. These works of religious fiction never passed the litmus tests of apostolicity, orthodoxy, or catholicity demonstrated by the accepted books of the New Testament. More than that, the works themselves bore no resemblance to what we know of the supposed authors from Scripture and early church history.
Paradoxically, when writers attempt to gain credibility by assuming a respected identity, this only exposes their fraud. When a real author writes under his own name his life authenticates his work. It is impossible for the life of the writer not to express itself in his work. This is what makes the Bible so powerful. Though God worked through human agents by the process of inspiration, the thoughts and the words are His thoughts and His words. The Bible is no mere human creation. And its human authors, even when known, never claimed otherwise.
When we come to the Book of Revelation, this is seen explicitly. The human writer, the Apostle John, does not claim the work as his own in any way. Right from the outset, he gives complete attribution to the one from whom the word is received.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.Revelation 1:1-2
John is merely seer and scribe. But the content is the Lord’s. Written in the form of a letter to comfort and encourage ancient Christians, this word is also for us. Its comfort flows not only from its vivid imagery, but from the character of its author. As John pens the greeting, he is careful to describe the letter’s Divine Author. And the Author’s identity lends power and assurance to the letter’s challenging words.
Join us this week as we continue our survey of the book of Revelation, examining Revelation 1:4-8 to consider how the letter’s greeting gives us key insights into the letter’s divine sender – insights which give needed comfort when our faith is challenged.
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