Revelation in the Christian Canon

The book of Revelation had some trouble gaining acceptance as a work of Scripture. Our knowledge on this subject is limited, but from what resources we do possess, two observations stand out.

First, Revelation appears to have met with initial acceptance and then came to be questioned later on. In our earliest list of canonical writings, the Muratorian Canon (ca. 170–200), Revelation is listed as a book that is to be received as Scripture. But about a hundred years later (ca. 311), when the church historian Eusebius prepared a list of writings accepted by Christians as Scripture, he indicated that Revelation was a “book that some reject but others judge to belong.”

Second, Revelation appears to have been endorsed by certain official spokespersons but challenged at other levels. In 367, Athanasius, the prominent bishop of Alexandria, included Revelation without any hesitation in his list of twenty-seven books to be regarded as Christian Scripture. And in 393, a regional council, known as the Third Synod of Carthage, ratified that list, declaring those books to be the canon of Christian Scripture. Nevertheless, a Christian poet from this same period, Amphilocus of Iconium, refers to Revelation as a book “that some approve, but most say is spurious.”

What was the problem? There seem to have been a few difficulties with the book: