Refuting The Book of Revelation As Canon

I believe that a great deal of damage has been done to the Church because of the tendency to assume what is obviously false — the Book of Revelation as canon. Here are several excellent arguments to depose the counterfeit.

First, the three chapters comprising the outset form a distinct literary type, unique both to the book itself, and to the Bible as a whole. It’s ideal symmetry shows up in the format, reflecting the the near identity of the seven golden lampstands. It vanishes as quickly as it appears, and only when John abandons earth for heaven in 4.1. This postulates the opposite relation between heaven and earth shown throughout the rest of the Bible. Heaven is more ideal, not less, than earth — and more ideal even than Asia Minor (believe it or not). No explanation attends the de novo appearance of the idealized literary construction, nor its abandonment — never to be seen again — after 4.1.

In Acts, we find that the holy Spirit forbids the apostle Paul and Barnabas to preach in Asia Minor.  They then try for the next-door “Bithynia,” and the Holy Spirit forbids this too.  This was probably because of the excessively “syncretistic” (idea-blending) environment of Asia Minor, where the emperor worship actually originated.   The Holy Spirit apparently did not wish the apostles to visit this land because it would simply have assimilated and blended the elements of the Christian Gospel with those of the many mystery religions that dotted its cultural (polytheistic) landscape.

Acts 16 should be taken to mean that the apostles were not to visit Asia Minor.  Papyrus 45 (from ca. EK 250) agrees with this, ending the Book of Acts at chapter 17 in the city of Athens.

Many other excellent and early Greek MSS omit the book of Revelation, showing that the early Church did not believe in its canonical status (e.g. minuscule 33 [9th century, but the greatest of the minuscules, with very early readings], Codex Vaticanos (B), Codex Washingtonianos, etc).

Revelation Chapter 22 verse 3 indicates “there will be no more curse,” which the latter verses of the chapter refute by imposing one whopper of an anathema (Greek “katathema”) against anyone who adds to, or subtracts from, the content of the Book itself.

Chapter 16 shows the complete and final fall of babylon — which collapses into three parts — only to make a sudden comeback, and begin falling again, which second fall lasts the three entire chapters next.

Chapter 19 shows the Lord Jesus riding forth on a white horse to strike down the nations — whose cities have altogether collapsed in chapter 16 (see end) leaving us to wonder what it is precisely that He might strike down — the countryside with its fences, golf courses, and cows?

Then there is the problem of prophecy as canon itself, an impossibility, given that prophecy necessarily comes with an expiration date (like yogurt) while canon is eternal (has no expiration date). They thus belong to complementary classes, and the expiration date for all prophecy books is given by Luke 21.20 and following as the year AD 70.

Finally, the superabundance of unexplained symbols and idioms used throughout — and most do remain unexplained — renders local context useless as an interpretive guide, since its own context is disabled as an acting judge by the same problem — too many unexplained and mysterious symbol uses. This is the problem of nondeliminality.

The Book of Revelation is fundamentally unclear, meaning it cannot be canon. The entire book remains a matter of dispute, blow by blow, two thousand years after its debut. The early Church fathers used it to decipher their outlook that the earth’s history would last 6, 000 years and that the seventh thousand would be millenial. Bishop Ussher’s date of creation, one close to their own, plus 6, 000 came and went unnoticed in 1996. Still no millenium. If the far more educated got it wrong, the saints to whom it was supposedly sent originally — in Asia Minor — could never have gotten its message aright.

If the fall of Jerusalem were immanent — and Babylon of the revelation clearly names Jerusalem Old (lest there would be no new one needed) — the Lord would not have informed the saints of Asia Minor to hurry to be prepared. He would have sent it to Jerusalem instead.

There is no way that the Book of Revelation is canonical now (since AD 70), if it ever was. This means that its retained presence in the Bible represents rank idolatry. It must be ousted from the canon if the Scripture is ever to regain its original purity, and if the saints would be sanctified. Practicing idolatry in the Church only increases the noetic effect of sin, its power to blind the mind and harden the heart so that one cannot read the Word profitably.

We may surely anticipate that the continued idolatry that this represents will only add to the history of run-to-the-hills movements it has occasioned all throughout the history of the Church, its production of cults, its destruction of reputation and finance, its continued practice of bringing shame on the cause, kingdom and Gospel of Christ, and its continued diminution of the credibility which the Evangelical world already desperately lacks in the eyes of the academy.

It is also worth noting that if one compares the core scenarios of the popular Bible prophecy books of the 1970’s and 80’s with their like counterparts today, that one will find that its central outlook has shifted significantly away from its earlier version; and yet both mutually incompatible versions supposedly exegete the same Book of Revelation. This shows that Zondervan commentaries on Revelation have been unpacking the newspapers current events section, not the secret meaning of the Revelation, which has no one meaning because of the problem of nondeliminality — the inability to specify a meaningful local context to arbitrate the one sense of any given passage.

Nor does any of these commentaries tackle the problems listed just above. They simply go on pretending none exists, and the fact that the book was the most hotly contested of all of them in the early Church, and that it was included in the canon formally only as late as 387 at the Council of Carthage, does not bother them in the least. This means that Nicea did not think of it as canonical. Eusebias indicates it as “disputed” by the catholic Church prior to the Council. It’s official status at Nice (325) was “iffy.”

Luke classifies it (21.20ff) as “postcanonical at best,” and its lyrical ballad of chapters 17-19 is just as hapax “weird” as its first three chapters. The Revelation has never brought anything but interpretive angst to the Church and chiliastic tribulation to the saints. In terms of its strict literary qualities, it is best classified as “junk.” Shakespeare and Chaucer write much more clearly.

It’s attending curse, when used within the canon, actually brings a nasty anathema against all the churches since its pronounces a curse for adding to the Word, which is occasioned exactly by its inclusion in the canon, and illegal use in the Church. No real loss of Christology or of any other doctrine ensues upon its excision. This proves it is unnecessary to the canon and to the Christian faith.

Problems with the Noahic Covenant and its Context

Did a Noahic Covenant actually exist?  The constant reflections upon the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants — we rarely stop hearing about them whenever it is possible to mention these — are totally absent in the case of the Noahic covenant.  The New Testament never mentions it.  This is, I believe, best explained in affirming that the Noahic Covenant is a post-original, scribal innovation.

This views is buttressed by the fact that it does not have the ordinary structure of the other covenants found in the Scripture — divine condescension [God comes down to earth], representation [in the representative persons of priests, prophets, kings, etc], stipulations [commands and prohibtions to be obeyed], sanctions [blessings or else curses depending on obedience] and inheritance [or else being cut off].

Why was this covenant necessary? This question is not as easily answered well as one might first suppose.  God could have simply promised it without an oath on his part — letting His Yes be Yes or His No “no” — without a covenant.  This covenant is suspiciously the only one with no stipulations for the other [human] party to keep (or else not).  Where are the stipulations, and when does anyone in the Scripture ever violate them — as we humans are wont to do?  Who are the representatives appointed to administer its terms?  There are none apparently.  This strongly suggests that there was no such covenant.

According to Genesis 8.20, Noah offered a burnt offering BEFORE he was told by God it was “now okay to eat the animals” (9.1-3).  The Lord did not reprove him for it.  Just the opposite. This is highly problematic, just as is the illegal offering of Abel – the illegal execution of an animal (4.4-5) for his offering.  This shows that priestly persons have doctored up the original account.

Recall that the covenant memory of the People holds that Daniel “a man highly esteemed by God” (3 times he is so called in the book bearing his name) eats only vegetables and forbears to eat the Babylonian meat.  Moreover, when the Israelites “lust” or crave meat (quail), the Lord becomes very angry with them.  In the longer “Protestant” New Testament, James identifies the source of their wars as “lusting” and killing — he does not specify killing PEOPLE, but only killling.  It is highly unlikely that James had people in his audience who killed other people, and craving or lust does not go with that idea.  James means that like the Israelites, they lust for meat and unlawfully kill animals.

The Passover scene, known as the last supper, we have seen to be a literary accretion.  This would have falsely lead early Christians to get up, kill and eat what Peter would not — animals.  There is no good proof that Jesus attended the Jewish feasts in a participatory way so as to eat animal meat. And it very well could have been an added innovation to have the Lord miraculously providing “fishes and loaves” instead of merely miraculous bread — like the Joseph of Genesis (prophetically-obtained grain) provided as an early picture of the Messiah.

Early Christians, as Tertullian mocked the practice, were being thrown to the beasts (as a divine judgment which judgment begins with the house of God, sometimes thrown to lions like the apocryphal account of Daniel.  They were eating the forbidden animal meat and killing (as James says), probably following the apocryphal Genesis 9 “animal caveat,” (a fake never mentioned again in the Bible), and the accretive “last supper” account.

The text of 9.3 seems to botch the account it reflects upon, forgetting to mention the fruit trees altogether, but only has the Lord to say that he now gives animals for food as he did the herb of the field.  But this is put together with the fruit trees in the original account, but absent in 9.3.

The many leviticisms (clean animals, 7.2; burnt offerings, 4.4; 8.20) in this account are never explained — either to Noah by God or by the narrator to us.  Another puzzling feature of the Flood Account is that it waxes super-numerical with no precedent or explanation for this “accountant’s revolution” — the calendar excess of mentioning the trivial timing of everything that transpires (stuff never mentioned again in the Bible) and the boring dimensions of the Ark (in case we need to build one?  What happened to the rainbow promise that we won’t need one (?), except in case we need to join the extreme canoeing team.  This quantity overload disappears with chapter 9, never to be heard from again.

Other problems attend the doubtful flood account.   The bizarre prefix of chapter 6. 1-9 ends with God shortening the human lifespan to 120 years, only to be defied by the genealogical longevity foundin Genesis 11.  Ming the quahog clam lasted 450 years and you can too — maybe.

I shall continue my studies in this regard later — if the Lord wills.