By following their strict interpretive criteria, the early leaders of the Church compiled the New Testament bit by bit, and in doing so, many popular – albeit non-canon and contradictory – books of the time were abandoned.
As the clear image of the New Testament became more accepted, copies and translations of it abounded. Originally each of the books would have been circulated throughout the Church individually, likely written on papyrus, while later, those with common themes, such as the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), were collected into bound groups. Eventually the various books and groupings were compiled within a codex format, and evidence demonstrates that this arrangement was utilized within the early church by 100 AD. After this, the spread of the Christian Bible intensified.
One book that seemed to stand apart from the rest is the Book of Revelation. Often regarded as dark and strange, full of deep symbolism and a great, final retribution against a sinful world, the Revelation of Jesus Christ has been the subject of much debate since its advent, and even now finds mention as often from television and popular media as it does the pulpit. It may not surprise you that its history is a controversial as its modern interpretations.
Originally, the book was widely welcomed amongst the canon of the New Testament, especially since it was believed to have been penned by the Beloved Disciple, the Son of Zebedee, John. The book was seen as a fitting end to the Word of God, and it boasted an impressive number of early commentators, including Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Origen, and others.
Early leaders across the board were very much in support of the book, declaring it authoritative in its origin and message. Later though, by the Third Century, critics had come to bear, claiming that the work was a heretical piece of fiction, a forgery. These perspectives were not borne of physical evidence or even historical contradictions though, but rather from apparent displeasure at some of the themes revealed within the pages of the Revelation.
While the inclusion of the book within the canon of the New Testament was challenged in some circles, the matter was eventually resolved, and today may still be found in all it’s prophetic glory within the last pages of the Bible.
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