Eusebian Canon – Revelation Almost Didn’t Make it…

I’m on a kick about the book of Revelation – It almost didn’t make it, which explains why (first) so few early commentaries exist and (second) why the true meanings may be hidden under the dust of Tradition. For a ‘new’ way of reading Revelation, check out T.C.’s blog.

This is from Eusebius’ book 3. He, and he wasn’t alone, simply didn’t know what to do with Revelation:

1. Since we are dealing with this subject it is proper to sum up the writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned. First then must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles.

2. After this must be reckoned the epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings.

3. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name.

4. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books.

5. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books.

6. But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers— we have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles, which no one belonging to the succession of ecclesiastical writers has deemed worthy of mention in his writings.

7. And further, the character of the style is at variance with apostolic usage, and both the thoughts and the purpose of the things that are related in them are so completely out of accord with true orthodoxy that they clearly show themselves to be the fictions of heretics. Wherefore they are not to be placed even among the rejected writings, but are all of them to be cast aside as absurd and impious.

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6 Replies to “Eusebian Canon – Revelation Almost Didn’t Make it…”

  1. If I may let my inner heretic out for a walk…

    When I cared more about the integrity of the canon, I sometimes leaned toward throwing Revelation out, or at least treating it as Catholics do the apocryphal books.

    But nowadays, I lean more toward recognizing the whole shebang as representative of early Christianity in its varying forms. Sure, I’d like to have a list of more eyewitness stuff, but even the Gospels are hard to bring back to eyewitnesses — let alone the deutero-Pauline and non-Pauline epistles (Paul himself never met Jesus). I don’t know that we can take any of the NT books as “Gospel” so to speak, but we can learn from them all as historical testaments to early faith.

    I don’t think we should base our gradation of authority on only dating, as even later surviving works might be representative of very early strands of belief. But the thing with Revelation (and Jude and 2 Peter) is that they are probably not even as early as other, better Christian writings from the earliest Church Fathers, and it’s not very difficult to see why the traditions responsible for those books’ creation did not influence the earliest Church Fathers very much.

  2. You have an inner heretic too? They should meet for coffee one day…

    I do care about the integrity of the canon, however, I recognize that political forces may have kept books out or in whether we like it or not. Revelation, for me, is a fifth gospel, another witness to Christ, although one in which it is difficult to decipher especially when it is so laden with so many bad interpretations.

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