29 November 2008

revelation about Revelation

I was just listening to Matthew Gallatin and he was talking about sola scriptura. He mentioned the use of Rev. 22:18-19 as support for sola scriptura and then read the passage. As he was reading, before he said anything more, the light bulb went off in my head and I practically gasped from surprise at the obvious:

Revelation 22:18-19
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophesy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city and from the things which are written in this book."

Advocates of sola scriptura heavily rely on this passage: to them "the book" mentioned is the complete, Old and New Testament Bible--the complete canon. However, the book in question is plainly "this prophesy" of St John and not the entire New Testament canon (which did not exist at the time). In fact, the book of Revelation almost didn't make it into the final New Testament canon.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that ALL the important doctrines and traditions that Christians are to follow are spelled out in the letters written by the apostles to the churches (esp in those specific ones that made it into the complete canon). And nowhere does it say that any practice not specifically spelled out in the Scriptures is to be rejected (unless Rev 22;18-19 is misinterpreted).

One must presuppose sola scriptura to be true in order to interpret the passage to be referring to the complete canon of the Bible as we know it today.


Tony-Allen said...

I read this similar argument (that the end of Revelations refers to all the Bible) in a book by a Protestant scholar recently. Of course you're right - the Bible as we know it today didn't even exist. The phrase "New Testament" did not even exist until the dawn of the 3rd century.

Some may point to early collections such as the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates to the mid 4th century, as evidence that early Christians had a Bible. While it is evidence of a move towards canonization, the problem is that Codex Sinaiticus included among its text the Shepherd of Hermas and Epistle of Barnabas, neither of which are considered canon by any church today. Those Protestants who attempt to use Revelation for the Bible entire also forget Revelation almost didn't make it into the Bible: at the Council of Laodicea in 363 AD, the eastern churches listed what they considered canon, which was all the books we had today EXCEPT Revelation.

Chuck said...

I used to be a "chapter and verse" type of Christian but how can you understand the scripture without the commentaries of the early church fathers? It seems to me that after studying the Bible and see it reference other books that are not in the protestant canon you have to wonder about the logic one has to make in order to understand and interpret scripture. It is OK to read a commentary by a modern scholar but it is a big no no to quote a first century Saint. This allows for distortions in our Christianity so much that a great saint is now turned into a fat man holding a bottle of Coke and people look at you weird when you try to tell them about the real saint.

Removing tradition was a bad mistake but I understand why there was a need for purification in the church, however I don’t think that they realize that the Iconoclasts and Reformists were heavily influenced by the Islamic belief called Ijtihad (the Islamic concept of interpretation of religion and law not limited by tradition) around the 10th century by western scholars believed to be educated in Spain and other parts of the Islamic world. They wanted to prove that Christians only worshipped Jesus and stopped the veneration of Icons or statues and relied on the misinterpretation of scripture to back them up. The newly printed Gutenberg Bible and the original King James Version was another cause for a stir but both did contain the apocrypha which was later taken out. That contradicts the theory of Sola Scriptura’s use of Revelation 22:18-19 because they took the books away.

A good case against Sola Scriptura is located at http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/sola_scriptura_john_whiteford.htm

In Christ’s love,