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.

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