Q. Since John was exiled to Patmos, how did the letters to the seven Churches get distributed? While we’re at it, how did the book of Revelation get dispersed and enter the cannon of scriptures? I thought being exiled meant that there was nobody around.
A. According to the dictionary a person who is exiled is separated from his or her country or home, either voluntarily or by force of circumstances. It’s not the same as solitary confinement. John was sent to the Island of Patmos, which was a Roman prison colony in those days. We don’t know how many people were on the small island but John certainly was not alone there.
Ships would have arrived with food on a regular basis, and there was likely some form of mail service, whether legitimate or not. There would also have been administrative personnel there to maintain order and they might have helped. Once off the island it was only a short distance by boat to Ephesus, the closest city, and each of the other 6 churches was within a few day’s journey from there. Since John was the last disciple still alive, his letters would have been treasured by the early church. Copies would have been made for all the churches, not just the seven addressees, and kept for posterity. Shortly after he wrote the letter, he was released and returned to Ephesus. He was about 100 years old at his death, the only disciple to die of natural causes.