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2.10 - Acceptance into the Canon Listen to Acceptance into the Canon

Three factors are difficult to separate in any consideration of the book of Revelation: the uniqueness of its style of writing; the question of its authorship; and its acceptance into the canon of the New Testament. These three factors are interrelated in that each of them depends to some extent upon the others.1 Most frequently, the unique style of writing has been used as evidence against apostolic authorship, which in turn has been used to reject the book from the canon of Scripture. We have already discussed the first two of these interrelated factors and here we spend some time looking at historic attitudes toward the book of Revelation from the perspective of its acceptance into the canon. We need to also be aware of a fourth factor which is the ultimate explanation of many of the attacks upon the authority of the book. “the canonical fortunes of no book hinged more on personal prejudice and theological bias than that of the Revelation of John.”2

In other words, the pattern of events in history has often run in the opposite direction: First, a teaching found in the book is opposed; Second, a desire developed to reject the teaching by rejecting the book; Third, an attempt is made to undermine its apostolic authority by attributing its writing to someone other than John the Apostle; Fourth, differences in writing style between the book and John’s other writings provided a potential means to reject apostolic authorship.

The two teachings of the book which have probably been most opposed have been the millennial reign of Christ on earth (Rev. 20:4+) and the prophetic certainty of a time of great upheaval and judgment coming upon the earth prior to the establishment of the reign of Christ. The former was a key reason for the rejection of the book among some in the early church who viewed any fulfillment of Old Testament promises involving the Jews with great disdain. The latter is more frequently under attack in our own day by those who hold to Dominion Theology or Christian Reconstructionism.3 We touch on Dominion Theology’s attempts to “reinterpret” passages which speak of a future time of tribulation in our discussion of systems of interpretation.

Notes

1 “The determining factor in New Testament canonization was inspiration, and the primary test was apostolicity . . . If it could be determined that a book had apostolic authority, there would be no reason to question its authenticity or veracity.”—Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986), 283.

2 Larry V. Crutchfield, “Revelation in the New Testament,” in Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001), 23.

3 Dominion theology does not undermine the book by explicitly attacking its authority, but by implicitly undermining its teachings through a method of interpretation which denies any application to events of the future.


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