Q&A: John and Patmos

John and Patmos

Question

Why was John the Revelator on the island of Patmos, and how did he get there?

Answer

We are not told specifically why John was on Patmos, but the Roman Empire used the island as a place for exiles. In Revelation 1:9 John related that he was on Patmos as a "fellow partaker in the tribulation," and that he was there "because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus." These statements, especially in the context of the mention of Patmos, strongly imply that John himself was an exile on the island. We do not know why John was exiled there, but the proximity of Patmos to Ephesus (about 40 miles) may indicate that it had something to do with John's ministry in Asia Minor (tradition places John in residence in Ephesus in his later years). Eusebius attributed the exile to the emperor Domitian in A.D. 95. The apocryphal Acts of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John also attributed the exile to Domitian. Many modern scholars, however, suggest an earlier date for Revelation, and/or believe that John was sent to Patmos by a lesser Roman official than the emperor himself. Scripture does not record the specifics for us.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.