Which I shall now explain.
Current scholarship on the introduction to the Apocalypse of John (ie. chapters 1-3) seems to be mainly concerned with two areas: the situation of the text within traditional religious categories, and the analysis of the intent and purpose behind the so-called ‘letters to the seven communites’ which constitute the introduction. The first concern has been more or less put to rest by David Frankfurter’s conclusive demonstration as to “how anachronistic this term [‘Christian’] is as an historical category and how confusing its use can be when one is tackling the perspective of a figure like John of Patmos,” a statement easily extended in the same context to the term ‘Jewish’. The second is significantly more complicated, with a variety of different interpretations being offered by scholars. However, these interpretations seem to fit two basic molds, describing the relevant chapters as pertaining to either internal or external disputes. Paul Duff, for example, argues that they represent an internal dispute framed through the language of witchcraft and the unusual forms of othering such a medium allows, while Stephen Friesen, noting the generally positive tone John takes towards his recipients, constructs the chapters as part of a rhetorical attempt to unite against an external opponent. While these arguments and others like them are well-constructed, offering unusual insights into the text from diverse perspectives, they both suffer from being placed on an insecure foundation, one which applies to the historical-critical approach to the apocalyptic genre in general: there is no evidence that the chapters in question refer to a historical reality.
As apocalyptic literature is often vague, talking in metaphor and allegory, there are few instances where scholars might identify apparently concrete references to historical fact, a problem which varies in scope with different texts. This relative scarcity of references within the text, combined with the relative scarcity of such texts from Antiquity in general, has resulted in the uncritical acceptance of what appear to be obvious ties to historical certainty. The seven letters that constitute Revelations 1-3 have universally been interpreted in such a way, despite the fact that there has been little to no discussion as to why this might be the case, particularly considering their location in a textual genre known for stating things obliquely. The concrete naming of places and plausible descriptions of apparent events has led scholars to run in and fight among themselves, like starved animals at scraps, without considering what precisely they were fighting over.
With the first three chapters of Revelations, the need to justify a historical interpretation of the text as opposed to a metaphoric or allegorical one is particularly great, as there are indications that the text was not meant to be read literally. An often overlooked fact is that the seven letters are not, contrary to common usage, actually sent to the seven communities in the seven cities. Rather, they are sent “To the angel of the community” in the relevant location, and the text explicitly rejects any conflation of the angel with the community. After John receives the vision of the seven stars and seven lampstands, the vision is explained to him: “This is the secret meaning of the seven stars you saw in my right hand, and of the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven communities, and the seven lampstands are the seven communities.” The seven letters in these three chapters must therefore be understood as not being sent to the communities themselves, but to the angels of those communities. The standard use of angels in apocalyptic literature as we see them in both Enoch and Daniel is as judgmental observers, guardians, or as interpreters of divine revelation. It is thus it is well within the realm of possibility that the seven letters would require interpretation in order to be properly received by the community, and it consequently borders on impossible to convincingly assert that any part of these letters must be understood literally as pointing to a concrete historical reality.
The only defense which might be raised in objection to this reading within the context of the first chapters of Revelations is the instruction to John that he is to “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven communities.” However, this passage cannot in fact be related to the seven letters. The passage specifically says “what you see,” and the figure in John’s vision does not give him the contents of the letters as a vision, but rather as a dictation, beginning each with the command “write this.” The command to “write on a scroll what you see” must therefore be understood as referring to the main revelation only, and not the prefatory letters. Therefore, the visions which John sees are to be sent to the communities, but what he hears, namely the seven letters, is to be sent to their angels.
An allegorical reading of the seven letters helps to solve another problem which has been quietly swept under the rug, namely how John was to have acquired a rather impressive degree of localized knowledge of each of the seven communities while theoretically remaining on Patmos. Such a reading also serves as a basis to approach the broader critique of the historical-critical approach to apocalyptic literature, specifically in terms of its functionalist approach to the texts. There is the underlying assumption that there is an equation involved in the creation of apocalyptic texts, such that a judaic community plus stress equals the production of an apocalypse, and so if an apocalypse exists there must be a judaic community plus stress. From this premise we the quite easily arrive at the assumption that any fact that seems to be a nugget of historical reality is thus a product of this stress, and interpret it as reflecting historical truth rather than having an allegorical intent, almost by default. As this short analysis of the first chapters of Revelations shows, this approach is profoundly problematic on a fundamental structural level.
 Most notably in: John W. Marshall, Parables of War: Reading John’s Jewish Apocalypse, Studies in Christianity and Judaism 10 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2001). Marshal seeks to redefine the Apocalypse as a fundamentally Jewish text.
 David Frankfurter, “Jews or Not? Reconstructing the ‘Other’ in Rev 2:9 and 3:9,” The Harvard Theological Review 94, no. 4 (October 1, 2001): 424. Indeed, Frankfurter only uses Judaism “in a tentative sense,” (ibid) thereby rightly raising the issue, more or less ignored in a great deal of scholarship, that such definitions have little to offer as analytical tools for the historical reality they supposedly describe, and have, perhaps, been seen as ends in and of themselves by ideologically invested parties.
 Paul B. Duff, “‘I Will Give to Each of You as Your Works Deserve’: Witchcraft Accusations and the Fiery-Eyed Son of God in Rev 2.18–23,” New Testament Studies 43, no. 01 (1997): 116–133, doi:10.1017/S0028688500022529.
 Steven J. Friesen, “Satan’s Throne, Imperial Cults and the Social Settings of Revelation,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27, no. 3 (March 1, 2005): 351–373, doi:10.1177/0142064X05052510.
 A problem which is perhaps most acute in the Book of Enoch, as has been noted in: T. M. Erho, “Internal Dating Methodologies and the Problem Posed by the Similitudes of Enoch,” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 20, no. 2 (November 23, 2010): 83–103, doi:10.1177/0951820710391229.