Was the Book of Revelation Almost Excluded from the Canon?


I was thinking this was the case. Can someone tell me if a particular member of the council was a strong advocate of its inclusion?

Additional information or links would be welcome.



In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius the 3rd-4th century church historian notes this:

Afterward he [Dionysus, Bishop of Alexandria, died 264] speaks in this manner of the Apocalypse of John. “Some before us have set aside and rejected the book altogether, criticizing it chapter by chapter, and pronouncing it without sense or argument, and maintaining that the title is fraudulent. For they say that it is not the work of John, nor is it a revelation, because it is covered thickly and densely by a veil of obscurity. And they affirm that none of the apostles, rend none of the saints, nor any one in the Church is its author, but that Cerinthus, who founded the sect which was called after him the Cerinthian, desiring reputable authority for his fiction, prefixed the name. For the doctrine which he taught was this: that the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one. And as he was himself devoted to the pleasures of the body and altogether sensual in his nature, he dreamed that that kingdom would consist in those things which he desired, namely, in the delights of the belly and of sexual passion; that is to say, in eating and drinking and marrying, and in festivals and sacrifices and the slaying of victims, under the guise of which he thought he could indulge his appetites with a better grace. But I could not venture to reject the book, as many brethren hold it in high esteem. But I suppose that it is beyond my comprehension, and that there is a certain concealed and more wonderful meaning in every part. For if I do not understand I suspect that a deeper sense lies beneath the words. I do not measure and judge them by my own reason, but leaving the more to faith regard them as too high for me to grasp. And I do not reject what I cannot comprehend, but rather wonder because I do not understand it.”

I’m not sure of the council to which you are referring.


From New Advent:

*John wrote Revelation before the year 100, so he could not have had the Bible in mind when he penned this warning, because the Bible as we know it (and as many Protestants think he meant it) would not exist in its present form for three centuries.

The Catholic Church defined the canons of the Old and New Testaments at the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). Before that time Christians weren’t certain exactly which books belonged in the canon because the Church hadn’t yet made a definitive decision on the issue.

Besides, oral Tradition isn’t something added to the Bible. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that Tradition comes to us in two forms, written and oral. He exhorts us to “stand firm and hold fast” to both the oral form and the written form of Tradition. In other words, the Lord gave the Church the Bible and oral Tradition as the two ways of preserving and handing on a single thing, the revealed Word of God.

There’s another reason Revelation 22:18-19 doesn’t disprove the Catholic doctrine of Tradition. Virtually the same warning is given in Deuteronomy 4:2. If we apply there the same principle that you want to apply in Revelation 22, we have a dilemma, because God would have prohibited the adding of anything to his statutes and decrees as found up to and including the book of Deuteronomy. If that were the case, all subsequent books of the Bible, including the book of Revelation itself, would be proscribed because they were added to the Pentateuch. That means Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Paul and John and all the writers of later books would have the aforementioned dreaded plagues “added unto them” because they added to what was already there.

So what was John really warning us about in Revelation 22? Simple. He had written the book of Revelation as a prophetic document for the edification and guidance of the Church, and he didn’t want it tampered with–nothing added, nothing subtracted. He knew that some knucklehead in a later generation might decide he could improve on the message, or, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, twist it to better suit his personal theology. Revelation 22:18-19 is essentially a first-century copyright, designed to discourage people from altering the work.

Unfortunately, the anonymous “emendation” of texts was rife in the early centuries of the Church, and bishops had to exercise extreme caution in verifying the authorship of the many “holy books” that were in circulation.

Even in Paul’s day there were con artists trying to pass of bogus “scripture” to unsuspecting Christians (many of whom only too readily took the bait): “We ask you, brothers . . . not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly or to be alarmed either by a ‘spirit’ or by an oral statement or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the Day of the Lord is already at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way” (2 Thess. 1:1-3).




Thankyou, Thistle. This is very helpful!


Thankyou, Clare, that is information is also helpful!


There was also that curious incident with the Alogians, recorded by Epiphanios of Salamis: they rejected the Revelation in the C2nd because it referred to a church in Thyatira which, they said, had not existed in John’s time. Perhaps the most intriguing part of this is the fact that Epiphanios does not dispute their assertion about Thyatira, instead saying that it merely proves the book prophetic.


LOL, that is…interesting.


No more so than many others. All of the Canonical Books, and many dozens more contenders, were evaluated. It was with much prayer, fasting, study and the guidance of The Holy Spirit that The Canon was established.


Since the Alogians also rejected the entire Gospel of John as the work of Cerinthus, most people didn’t really care what they said about Revelation. (Hence the name “Alogos,” as in not believing that you could call Jesus “the Word.”)

I seem to recall that they didn’t like John’s epistles, either, but I can’t remember where I read that.

Anyway, Epiphanius pointed out that the Alogians argued against the Gospel of John just because it didn’t have the exact same style and stories as the other three Gospels, which he thought was pretty stupid reasoning. He also pointed out that John’s Gospel and Revelation teach the divinity of Jesus, whereas Cerinthus taught that Jesus was just some guy, you know? (John famously refused to stand in the same public building as Cerinthus in case God decided to smite Cerinthus while he was there, so yeah, not very similar theology or Christology.)

Btw, Epiphanius doesn’t have a reputation for niceness and was sometimes a little hypersensitive about orthodoxy (like the time he destroyed a nice iconostasis curtain because it had pictures woven into it). But he had a bad experience with a Gnostic sex cult trying to recruit and abuse him when he was just a teenager, which explains a lot about his attitude toward heresy.


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