The Revealtion Draft Hypothesis


The Revelation draft hypothesis (RDH) is a theory that John constructed the book of Revelation in five successive drafts based on the Hebrew Scriptures as follows: (1) the Ezekiel-Isaiah draft (EID), (2) the Zechariah draft (ZrD), (3) the Deuteronomy-Joshua draft (DJD), (4) The Exodus draft (ExD), and finally, (5) the Daniel draft (DnD). Each draft that John constructed followed a consistent and distinct method that John used to construct the book of Revealtion

The RDH in essence is that John created Revelation by parallel formation from the Hebrew Scriptures and other works. The process of parallel formation was to construct a different type of parallel within each of the draft. For example, in one draft John formulated the source material to create a simple parallel, while in the next he formulated the previous draft to resemble a complex parallel with the source text. Each subsequent draft was not just limited to reshaping the previous draft into a new pattern, it also included new imagery which expanded the story. The structural changes and content enhancement provided John with a serendipitous approach to the production of Revelation in which the process dictated how he would write it. Due to this, it is very possible that John never knew what the final text of Revelation would have looked like when he first started.

The Drafts

Each draft is a product of three literary actions starting with the form and content of the previous draft, with the exception of the first draft. First, each draft varies due to the different mechanical processes used to construct it. Second, a new draft adds content that will be used to extend the previous draft, focusing on a major point in the previous draft. Third, John consistently maintains imagery from previous drafts, and rarely drops them, so in some cases he stretches or adapts the meaning to the new material. This, as we shall see, causes some images to have multiple meanings; i.e. the sum of the previous drafts. T hus we need to look at each draft in its entirety, to see how it is formulated and what content is added, so that we may develop an understanding of the “revelation” that John was attempting to show.

The Mechanical Process The Content Added in Revelation

The Ezekiel-Isaiah Draft (EID)

John leveraged the simple parallel between the bulk of Ezekiel and Isaiah 6:12 - 29:21.

The Ezekiel side of the Ezekiel-Isaiah parallel were judgments against Jerusalem.

The Isaiah side of the Ezekiel-Isaiah parallel was the restoration through Jesus.

  • The encounter in heaven.
  • The bulk of the judgments.
  • The destruction of Jerusalem and Tyre.
  • The defeat of the great dragon.
  • Gog and Magog.
  • The New Jerusalem.
  • Hope through Jesus the son.
  • The saints in heaven scenes.
  • Specific content to some of the seven churches.

The Zechariah Draft (ZrD)

John rearranged and rewrote the Ezekiel-Isaiah Draft to conform to the reverse order of Zechariah 1:1-12:10.

  • Jesus as the high priest.
  • Satan.
  • The judgment passages, four horsemen (first four seals), four winds (first four trumpets) and the four horns (first four bowls).
The Deuteronomy-Joshua Draft (DJD)

John started at the end of the ZrD and inserted content from Deuteronomy 29:1 to Joshua 6:27 in between the wax tablets.

  • Jesus as the military leader.
  • Depicted the destruction of Jerusalem with the same significance as the destruction of Jericho in Joshua.
  • The expansion of churches, seals, trumpets and bowls from four to seven.
  • The roles of the priests were given to angels.
The Exodus Draft (ExD)

John used the servicing of the tabernacle as a way of organizing the Joshua Draft.

  • The making of all believers into priests and kings.
  • The seven candlesticks as the Menorah.
  • The 24 elders as two sets of the bread of presence (the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles).
  • The burning of the incense for the trumpets and the bowls.
  • The Height of the New Jerusalem to form the Most Holy Place.
  • The earthquakes imagery on the seventh seal, seventh trumpet, and seventh bowl.
The Daniel Draft (DnD)

John used material from Daniel to describe and identify the beast.

  • Many new descriptions of Jesus.
  • The defining of the beast.
  • The addition of the book of life.
  • The second death.

The following sections name and provide a brief description of John’s drafts in the order of construction according to the RDH. Each draft will be discussed in depth in its own chapter. Each draft will also show how John formed literary connections in the form of simple and complex parallels to connect material from various sources of the previous completed draft into what would have been, at the time of its completion, the completed book of Revelation. What we call the book of Revelation today is the final published version of the RDH process.

The Ezekiel-Isaiah Draft (EID)

The EID is in essence a simple parallel between the whole of Ezekiel and the bulk of the content within Isaiah 6:1 - 29:24, and forms an opposite. The Ezekiel side of the parallel was the story of judgment against God’s people for having abandoned the commandments of God. The Isaiah side of the parallel was the story of God raising a new holy people, beginning with Jesus. In order to portray Jesus, John took all the people or personifications found in Isaiah that fit John’s idea and conveyed them as descriptions of Jesus. One example of this is the portrayal of the woman with child, in how the child is taken to heaven before he can say “mommy” or “daddy,” as well as the imagery of this child ruling and being called God () . Perhaps two of the most unusual descriptions of Jesus that came from Isaiah is his being identified as the bright morning star, which came from Isaiah’s description of Babylon. The second is the two-edged sword that came from the rod of Jesus’ mouth, conflated with a synonym of the “great sword” from Isaiah’s account of God defeating the great dragon.

The nature of the EID was not to become a finished product but a finished parallel. In it John made numerous tweaks and a few content shifts to provide the best parallel for the ZrD. Therefore the EID should be considered not only a draft but the first phase of the ZrD.

How John Created the Ezekiel-Isaiah Draft

The Zechariah Draft (ZrD)

For the ZrD, John took the EID and rearranged it to form a complex parallel (the reverse order) of Zechariah 1:1-12:10. In constructing the ZrD, John drastically rearranged the previous drafts into the form we have today. This process was a lengthy one. John made many changes, and the nature of these changes required him to create a specialized notation that he used to document the shifts in material. I refer to these notations as “author’s notations” and discuss them in depth in later chapters. It is largely due to John’s consistency in how he did this that allows us to see how he created the entire work.

With the ZrD John added a great deal of content and structure to the EID by focusing on the rewards for those who serve Jesus and those who “pierced him.” Jesus was given a coronation similar to that of Joshua the high priest of Zechariah, where people would come from all corners of the world to serve in the temple being built in heaven.

The origin and placement of the judgments came from the ZrD, however there were, at this time, only three sets of four judgments; the four horsemen, the first four trumpets and the first four bowls. The later three were added in the DJD.

The ZrD was also the first draft to include Satan, portraying him as being kicked out of heaven and attacking a woman in Revelation 12:1-17. The imagery of Isaiah 14:12-7 is where the King of Babylon is trying to make himself higher than God and thus he was thrown out of heaven and placed into Sheol. The ZrD simply takes the imagery of Satan being kicked out of Jerusalem and conflates it with Isa 14:12-7 where we have the imagery of Satan kicked out of heaven and placed in the abyss.

How John Created the Zechariah Draft

The Deuteronomy-Joshua Draft (DJD)

The DJD is the opposite of the ZrD in that John starts from the end of the ZrD and reads Deuteronomy 29:1 to Joshua 6:27 forward. As he reads forwards in the selected Deuteronomy and Joshua passages he is looking for places to put them in as he goes backwards in the ZrD. Sometimes, John can make adjustments while other times he inserts wax tablets between the ZrD to form new content.

When John arrives at the coronation of Jesus from the ZrD, he then goes forward making the four horsemen and the four winds into the four seals and the four trumpets. After that, he expands the seals to seven judgments with the seventh containing the seven trumpets. By arranging the seven trumpets nested in the seven seals John is recreating the seven marches around Jericho and the seven priests blowing the seven trumpets prior to the destruction of Jericho.

After John imported the texts from Deuteronomy and Joshua, he then began the procedure of making everything in the DJD link to other passages via multiple parallels. Each parallel allowed John to add more content within the DJD and also revealed the passages that he thought should be connected together. In this phase John must have created hundreds of parallels. As each parallel was created, unfortunately, a previous parallel would become malformed, which reveals the process of his writing methodology.

How John Created the Deuteronomy-Joshua Draft

The Exodus Draft (ExD)

For the ExD John uses the story of the coronation of Joshua (the high priest from the book of Zechariah) and attributes it to Jesus. He then uses material from Exodus which details the duties of the high priest in servicing the tabernacle (and later the temple). He expands this by taking God’s promise to Moses that the Israelites will be a kingdom of priests, to making all believers kings and priests. From this we get the phrase “the kingdom of the world is now the kingdom of God.” Exodus 19:6 was specifically used to extend the DJD by equating the destruction of Jerusalem with the destruction of Jericho.

The ExD takes the imagery of the lightning, sounds, thunder and earthquake which are present when Moses receives the ten commandments on Mount Sinai and uses them in the seventh seal, seventh trumpet and seventh bowl. However, since John had already used the trumpet as a symbol (the seven trumpets) he used hail and the earthquake to increase the intensity of the judgments.

How John Created the Exodus Draft

The Daniel Draft (DnD)

The DnD was the last draft and added two key items: identification of the beast and clues to the date of the vision and subsequently the book itself. The DnD added the majority of the beast’s imagery as well as many of the descriptions of Jesus found in both the beginning and end of the book. Daniel became the source of all texts dealing with eternal punishment as well as a few of the references to the Lamb’s Book of Life, which became the primary encouragement to remain faithful to the message of Revelation.

One of the most intriguing additions was the clues about the beast’s identity, and therefore the urgency of the events that were to unfold for the contemporary readers of Revelation. John creates this urgency by incorporating the imagery of Daniel into the mighty angel passage in Revelation. It is there where the angel swears that the events which are foretold in Revelation will happen in the near future if not immediately. It is the placement of Revelation 10:6 before the destruction of Jerusalem (Rev 11:8) which enables us to correctly identify who the beast is in Revelation 13:8; 17:9-12.