What evidence is there to back the inclusion of Revelation in the canon of scripture?


Clarify Share Report Asked May 01 2017 Mini Anonymous

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The book of Revelation enjoyed a widespread, positive reception in the early church as a work of inspired scripture. Most also agreed that it was written by the Apostle John, son of Zebedee. 

Among those in the early church who are known to have accepted the book as scripture and wrote of it were Papias (c. 100), Justin Martyr (AD 100-165), Irenaeus (c. 175-185), Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215), Hippolytus (AD 170-235), Tertullian (AD 155-240), and Origen (184-254).

This positive attestation among the early church fathers is perhaps the strongest of any NT book.

"There is no book in the entire New Testament whose external attestation can compare with that of Revelation, in nearness, clearness, definiteness, and positiveness of statement” (-B.W Bacon, The Making of the New Testament, 190).

There is also early evidence given from the Muratorian Fragment, (c. 180). The Muratorian Fragment discusses many books widely considered scripture, including Revelation, and is considered the oldest extant canon list yet discovered:

"For John also in the Apocalypse, though he writes to seven churches, nevertheless speaks to all."

Controversy did arise over the book over the centuries - but not over concrete historical doubt. Rather, Revelation faced attack on theology (such as the millennial kingdom) and it's 'unintelligibility.'

The first known possibly objection to the book of Revelation dates back to the early third century. Eusubius (AD 260-340), in his writings, references a learned churchman 'Gaius,' who lived in Rome at the beginning of the third century. This Gaius accused Cerinthus (c. 100) of forging 'revelations attributed to a great apostle.' He offered no evidence of this forgery other than the teachings of the revelations themselves, which according to Gaius (as quoted by Eusubius), said that 'after the resurrection, the kingdom of Christ will be on Earth and humanity living in Jerusalem will again be the slaves of lust and pleasure. He (Cerinthis) is an enemy of the scriptures of God and in his desire to deceive says the marriage feast will last 1,000 years.'

While the book of Revelation is not explicitly mentioned, it can be inferred that this was probably the revelation that Gaius was referring to.

Later literature, such as the 12th century commentary of Dionysius bar Salibi, shows that Gaius was an early heretic who opposed Johaninne literature, including the gospel of John itself.

This idea that Revelation must be a forgery caught on, at least among some small factions, as Eusebius also records Dionysius (c. 264) as giving the same claim:

"Some indeed of those before our time rejected and altogether impugned the book, examining it chapter by chapter and declaring it to be unintelligible and illogical, and it's title false. For they say that it is not John's...that the author of this book...was Cerinthus...since he desired to affix to his own forgery a name worthy of credit." (Dionysisus as quoted by Eusubius)

It's worth noting that Eusubius, who recorded these claims, did not himself 'dare reject the book...'

Epaphanius (c. 357) also mentions there were some who believed Revelation to be a forgery by Cerinthus. However, he points out that those people also did not believe the *gospel* of John was scripture - showing them to be antichrists trying to attack the credibility of the gospel itself, not believers merely concerned about whether or not Revelation was genuine scripture vs. A dubious apocryphon. He also responded in depth to their spurious 'objections.'

Later controversies, such as Martin Luther's view that Revelation was neither 'apostolic nor prophetic' arose - but these too were based on theological differences with the book and not on any concrete historical doubt.

See also: https://ebible.com/questions/17356-when-was-the-book-of-revelation-written

May 01 2017 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

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