Patmos. Port of Skala toward monastery at Chora. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Island
Called Patmos

By Ferrell Jenkins

Published in Biblical Insights
March, 2003

With added photographs

The Island Called Patmos. From the port of Skala one may see the town of Chora at the highest point of the island. John was in the island called Patmos toward the end of the first century (Rev. 1:9). Photo Ferrell Jenkins 2003.


John, the writer of the book of Revelation, was "on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Rev 1:9). I am convinced that this was the apostle John. He was there becauseof (Greek dia, on account of) the word of God. Filson says this could mean either banishment, or banishment to hard labor. He points out that the word of God and witness or testimony are used in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4 "in reference to a persecution situation" (Interpreter's Dictionary Bible III:677).

The Romans used the island as a penal settlement to which they sent political agitators and others who threatened the peace of the empire (Tacitus Annals 3.68; 4.30; 15.71). According to Eusebius, John was banished to Patmos by the Emperor Domitian, A. D. 95, and released 18 months later under Nerva (HE III.18.1; 20.8-9).

Patmos is a rocky island off the west coast of Asia Minor in the Aegean Sea, about 37 miles southwest of Miletus. The island is one of the Dodecanese (twelve) or of the Southern Sporades. It is about 10 miles long (N-S) and 6 miles wide at the north end, and consists of about 22 square miles of land area. The island is mountainous and of irregular outline. Some visitors to the island have suggested that the natural scenery "determined some features of the imagery of the Apocalypse" (HDB III:693-94).

Patmos. Cave of the Apocalypse. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The traditional cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos.

Patmos has been a part of Greece since 1947, and may be reached by boat from Piraeus, Samos, Kos, or Rhodes. The ferry from Samos takes about 2 1/2 hours, arriving at the port of Skala. On the way from Skala to Chora, the only other town on the island, one passes the Monastery and Cave of the Apocalypse. This site is marked as the traditional place where John received the Revelation.

Patmos. Icon of Christodulos and John the Theologian. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Icon showing Christodulos presenting model of the monastery to Saint John the Theologian.

At Chora, the monastery of St. John the Theologian dominates the island. It was built by a monk called Christodulos (slave of Christ) in A. D. 1088. The monastery library is noted for its manuscripts, but especially for its collection of more than 200 icons. The oldest book in the library is part of a 6th century codex of Mark (Codex Purpureus). The second oldest manuscript is an 8th century A. D. copy of Job.

This photograph, made from the Monastery at Chora,
looks down on the port of Skala.

Photos Ferrell Jenkins 2003.
The photos may be used by others in teaching, but may not be used commercially or on web sites without permission. High resolution image may be licensed by publishers and others.

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