On The Reception Of The Revelation Into The Canon

The story of the New Testament canon is a fascinating one, with many twists and turns. There are books that were accepted very quickly, almost from the start (e.g., the four gospels), and there are other books that struggled to find a home (e.g., 2 Peter).

And then there is the book of Revelation.

Few today would contest the claim that the book of Revelation stands as one of the most controversial, complicated, and esoteric books in the New Testament canon. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that its reception by the early church was equally complicated and controversial.

But, the story of the book of Revelation is not what one might expect. Other debated books tended to have a lukewarm reception at the earliest stages, only to gain more and more acceptance over time. Revelation, on the other hand, had nearly the opposite experience; it had a very early and positive reception in many parts of the church, only to run into serious challenges at a later point. Read more»

Michael Kruger |”How Difficult was the Book of Revelation’s Journey into the Canon?” | Canon Fodder | August 18, 2021


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  1. Thank you for linking Dr. Kruger’s fascinating, if brief, article. I was very happy to find the B.W. Bacon book he mentioned is available for free both on Gutenberg and (in Kindle format) on Amazon but would love to see suggestions for more current scholarship on the development of the scriptural canon (including the O.T. and the Apocrypha).

    The Holy Spirit “who spoke by the prophets” guided the process, of course, but I wonder what our Bible would look like were the Canon to be decided today.

    • Gary,

      I resist very strongly the notion that the canon was decided. The history is that the church received virtually all of the New Testament very early on as canonical, i.e., as the rule. I understand that it is widely assumed that the church decided upon or imposed the canon but that is not the history. Indeed, the point of speaking of Scriptures as canon is to say that they are the self-authenticating Word of God. If the church imposed a canon, then the church and not Scripture is the canon.

      There were a few books, e.g., Hebrews and 2 Peter over which the early church debated but even then Hebrews was received as Pauline in the East and once it was received as Pauline in the West the debate ended. Today, virtually no one receives Hebrews as Pauline (I do not) and yet there is no doubt among the orthodox as to the canonicity of Hebrews. As Dr Kruger says, the Revelation only came into question later and then for not very good reasons. 2 Peter was in question for a time because of its similarity in tone and substance to Jude but those doubts were resolved fairly early. The NT canon was received well before the 4th century councils.

  2. R. Scott Clark,

    Check out EUGENIA SCARVELIS CONSTANTINOU’s, doctoral dissertation,
    Abstract, paragraphs 2-4, page i,
    “Part 1, Studies on the Apocalypse Commentary of Andrew of Caesarea, consists of an analysis of the commentary and an explanation of the Book of Révélation in the history of Eastern Christianity.
    Chapter 1 is an introduction to the commentary and to the historical context, audience, purpose and motivation for its composition.
    Chapter 2 discusses the Book of Révélation in the canon of Eastern Christianity through an historical overview of the place of Révélation in the canon of the East from the second century through the présent day. The chapter considers which factors accounted for the early and immédiate appeal of Révélation, examines the attitudes toward it as revealed in primary sources, and demonstrates that the Apocalypse was consistently recognized as an apostolic document from the second century through the early fourth century. Révélation eventually came under attack due to its association with controversies such as Montanism and chiliasm. Doubts about its authorship were raised to discrédit it in order to undermine the controversial movements which relied upon it. It remained in an uncertain canonical status until relatively recently and is now presumed to be part of the New Testament by most Eastern Christians but the question of its status in the canon has never been “officially” resolved.”
    Although, she comes to the conclusion that it was another John who wrote Revelation she still accepts it as part of the NT Canon. Chapter Two of the dissertation is a must read.

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