The Spurious Book of Revelation
by Steve Santini
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be “cut off” Galatians 1:8, Apostle Paul
There are many questions as to the historical circumstances in which the book of Revelation was written and as to the identity of the author. The content indicates an authorship that was outside the understanding of the Pauline revelation. And history shows an authorship well beyond the finality of Paul’s revelation written in his last days under house arrest in Rome. For one to come to understand these considerations focused comparisons between the two divergent gospels need to be made and subsequent questions must be asked.
When Eastern children were educated they were required to sit in silence and learn from they teachers until they reached maturity. From the time of maturity they were allowed to ask all and any of their remaining questions. In the gospel of Luke, we read that Joseph and Mary took the twelve-year old Jesus with them to Jerusalem for their annual attendance of the Passover feast. During their return to Nazareth they found that He was not traveling in the company of the other children. They returned to Jerusalem and after three days found that Jesus had been with the temple teachers hearing them and asking questions. It says that all who heard Him were astounded at his understanding and answers. The effective quest of a hungering mind follows a similar pattern. The seeker first sits in silent study assimilating truths and searching for a foundation then, as the Spirit leads unanswered questions do come forth. Then answers that lead to deeper understanding and new questions are given.
These are some significant differences between Paul’s revelation of the mystery and John’s revelation of wrath that led me to question whether the book of Revelation has application for the Pauline church. Why does the writer of the book of Revelation focus on the function of angels? He addresses his rebuke to the angels of each of the seven churches. The wrath of the book of Revelation is administered by angels and at the conclusion the author falls to the ground to worship the angel who supposedly revealed the book to him. In Jewish theology angels played a central role. The hand of angels gave the Old Testament Law to preserve the bloodline of Abraham until Jesus Christ came and introduced faith. To the Jews still zealous for the law, angels enforced the law. The Jews believed that each local synagogue had as its final arbitrator an angel as they so named the elder.
In Paul’s gospel, which is based on faith, hope and love rather than law, the administration of the churches, is given to the angelically gifted saints and those mature faithful in Christ Jesus. When he writes to the Colossians he warns the church about those who worship angels when he writes: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up in his fleshly mind.”
Why does the author of the book of Revelation end the book, as no other author in the Bible does, with a judgmental curse upon those who would add anything or delete anything from his writing? Curses were the standard practice of those in Jewish legalism and were believed to be carried out by angels. Paul admonishes the church to “curse not.”
Why does the author of the book of Revelation pay particular attention to maintaining Jewish identity? In the rebuke to the angel of the church of Philadelphia of primary concern are those who say they are Jews who are not. Paul makes it clear in his gospel that there is no longer a difference between Jew and Gentile in Christ. Why then is this such a judgmental issue to the author of Revelation?
Why does the writer of the book of Revelation base rewards solely upon works? Paul, in Corinthians, writes of rewards being based on the building of faith upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
If Peter was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven and if it is Paul’s revelation that fulfills the word of God and, why is the divergent book of Revelation, written decades after the deaths of Peter and Paul, considered by most as the end time’s revelation of the scriptures?
Why hasn’t Hebrews, which was written most likely by Paul and states in the introduction, “and again when he bringeth the first begotten into the habitable world,” been considered more appropriate as the “end-times” revelation?
Why does the author Revelation mention the twelve apostles and not Paul? Paul’s revelation, as written in scripture, fulfills the word of God. (Colossians 1:25)
Why doesn’t the author mention the “out resurrection” or, in other words, the first resurrection that was so important to Paul?
Why doesn’t the author of Revelation mention the eventual salvation of all men? as Paul does?
Why isn’t the role of the saints who lead the church out of wrath highlighted in the book of Revelation as it is in Paul’s epistles?
Of whom was the author of Revelation referring, decades after Paul had said all Asia had turned away from him, when the author wrote to the Ephesians the following: “…thou hast tried then which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars:”? Could the author have been referring to Paul and Timothy who had at one time, years earlier, preached the great mystery of Christ and the church extensively from Ephesus of Asia Minor?
When reading ancient rabbinical letters of the second century it is evident that they made an effort to disrupt the Christian “heresy” with disinformation. Comments written about Peter’s concluding Babylonian ministry are most disparaging. In the fourth century those rabbis in Babylon still boasted that no one had believe his message for three hundred years. This has made me wonder if it is possible that the book of Revelation was purposely written to or purposely directed towards those Jews of belief to cause them to doubt Paul’s revelation of the mystery.
Why, also, did Martin Luther dismiss the book of Revelation? And why was it that in all of John Calvin’s extensive commentaries there is nothing written on the book of Revelation? Even Jerome, the translator for the Latin Vulgate, had doubts about the inclusion of the book of Revelation in the canon. Was there a history of the incorporation of the book of Revelation into the canon that they were more familiar with than we are in this day?
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Our introduction into the text regarding this topic comes from Acts chapter twenty verse twenty-eight through verse thirty-one. The three-year period that Paul spent in Ephesus teaching night and day the fullness of the mystery was the longest period of time that he was able to freely minister of any time spent with a church. It was because of the echoes of his ministry here that all of Asia Minor heard of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result he was rightfully accused of turning the world upside down. In this record in Acts chapter twenty, Paul reminds the church overseers of the accomplishment of the sacrificial blood of Jesus. In his epistle to the Ephesians it is the blood of Jesus Christ that breaks down the middle wall of partition bringing forth the one new man. Paul says that after he is gone that grievous wolves from without shall enter into the church not sparing the flock and that even some among the church would arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves.
The definition of the Greek word for the word grievous is heavy or burdensome not being concerned for the precious nature of the select object. The definition for the word not sparing is from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words and is given as such: not to forego the infliction of that evil or retribution which was designed. Rather than appropriately teaching the in-gatherings of grace and mercy to the flock those who entered in would bring a burdensome legalistic message, which would pronounce the infliction of judgmental retribution in the harvest of wrath.
We look to church history from the text and later secular history to identify those who would enter in with this message. From Galatians chapter two we see that after fourteen years of ministry Paul began delivering a more developed message than Jesus said would be then currently available to James, John and Peter. It was this message that brought him into conflict with those of Israel who had started forward in their gospel of mercy, only, for the most part, to be drawn back into the Mosaic Law. In Romans chapter eleven Paul says that Israel was blind in part until the fullness of the Gentiles would come into his gospel. The part that Israel, as a nation, could not see was the “one new man” expressed in Paul’s later epistle to the Ephesians. In their ignorance many thought Paul a heretic and tried to undercut his work as in Corinth or attempted to have him silenced as in Acts chapters twenty-one through twenty-eight. Some who are now examining the Dead Sea Scrolls are saying they have identified Paul as “the liar” to have been excommunicated by the church in Jerusalem. Historians also say that by the beginning of the second century the Ebionites, who claimed that they were from the original followers of Peter, James, and John, had begun to revile the churches following Paul’s gospel.
After Peter and Paul died and during, and after, the failed Jewish revolt of 64 to 73 AD some fleeing refugees resettled in Asia Minor. One of these could very well have been John, the eventual author of the book of Revelation. John, having the credentials of being a believer from Israel, would have been able to gain access to the Pauline churches of Ephesus as other blinded Jews had been accepted by the young Pauline church of Corinth decades before. From a cursory reading of the book of Revelation is obvious that this book brings the burden of judgment and retribution down upon the church in Ephesus and the churches in the region. Although the book, over time, gained regional recognition in Asia Minor where all had turned away from Paul, it was not until the fifth century after Jerome had completed his standardized version, and Roman secular power was used to force conformity, that the book of Revelation was universally accepted as the final book to be incorporated into what we have today as the Bible. According to the records of the Council of Carthage, even as late as 397 AD John’s book of Revelation was not accepted as a part of the canon by those attending.
It was, I believe, John’s misshapen book of Revelation that gave those who had walked an additional opportunity to arise and speak perverse things drawing disciples after themselves. These are the ones whose god became their bellies and who became enemies of the cross of Christ. In Acts twenty verse thirty Paul says that those who are to arise to draw disciples after themselves would speak perverse things. This word perverse from the definition of the Greek word means to divide and reverse in twisted disarray. The basis for all division is the judgment in the mind of man that separates the supposed good from the supposed evil. What in Ephesus was there to divide? There was the family of God. If you can divide the elements of a family, like commonly done in military strategy with an opposing army, you can drive them back in twisted disarray. If you can muddle and separate mature figurative males from figurative females or visa versa you can cut off the spiritual family just as would be done with an earthly family. From the initial division in Ephesus where Paul had once preached the fullness of the mystery, the truth of the family of God was obfuscated and then buried, I would say, layer by layer over the early centuries of the Christian church.
The fact that it took over three hundred years for the church to universally accept the book of Revelation into the canon of scripture is, though, a testament to the power of Paul’s revelation of the mystery. It is also a testament to one man who out of the rubble of the disarray in Ephesus gravitated to Paul’s message and insured that it was preserved as an integral part of the canon. That man is the so-called heretic Marcion. After a period of approximately sixty years of seemingly mute historical silence regarding the church after Paul’s death, we see a very different church emerging in Ephesus. According to Robert Eisler’s most interesting book, The Enigma of the Fourth Gospel, John, the author of Revelation, is now at the center of the church with a scriptorium. It is into this scriptorium that the young Marcion from Sinope, on the southern coasts of the Black Sea, enters as a copyist. In time there is a deep split between John and Marcion to the point that John would not enter the public baths if Marcion were present. Could the split have been over a differing regard for the Pauline epistles? Could there have been an ongoing orchestrated attempt to sweep Paul under the rug of disrepute that Marcion was resisting? This may have been the case because both the highly respected textual critics Bauer and Goodspeed have commented on the crashing silence regarding the Pauline epistles by the Orthodox Church in the second century. Justin Martyr never mentions Paul or his writings and those that do, as one author has said, “make slight mention of him and when they do it is as ill prepared school boys.” Could Marcion in his comings and goings in Ephesus have run into a small isolated remnant, who, through Timothy’s former pastorate in the years of silence, maintained a regard for Paul’s revelation and preserved copies of his letters? We do not know for sure yet considering the forthcoming events it seems to be most likely.
(We have assumed that the John who wrote the book of Revelation is the same as the John who wrote the gospel of John and the letters of John. If the dating in church traditions of Marcion’s relationship with John in Ephesus is correct, it seems unlikely that they could have been the same. The apostle John had been with Jesus in 30 AD and the relationship between the John of Ephesus and Marcion is dated around 125 AD. Even if John the apostle were a young man at the time of Jesus he would have to have been well over one hundred to have been the same John in Ephesus. It is unlikely that the author could have been John Mark either. John Mark remained loyal to Paul and his message to the end of Paul’s life when most all of his Jewish brethren had turned against him. We also need to realize that in the second century as the church emerges from the historical silence that there were many pseudo gospels coming forth. Could it have been that the names of former spiritual luminaries were placed on these gospels to give them credibility or to hide the true identity of the actual authors? This is another aspect of the disarray that emerges in the second century. So this John in Ephesus was most likely out from among those Jews who were still zealous for the law and Jewish traditions and who ignorantly held Paul and his writings in disdain.)
After the split between John and Marcion in Ephesus, Marcion gathers together the gospel of Luke and Paul’s epistles and begins to establish churches throughout the Roman Empire. He was so successful that eventually his following rivaled the numbers following the Orthodox Church. Marcion is labeled as a facilitator of the so-called Gnostic heresy and through rumor and innuendo attempts are made to squash the rebellion. He persists, though he and his followers endure persecution at the hands of the secular church. Over the following centuries the Marcionite churches dwindle slowly until the sixth century when we have the last historical record of their existence in the East. By placing the Pauline epistles in the hand of the “common” man throughout the Roman Empire at this critical juncture Marcion insured that the responses of each of the later church councils would include the Pauline letters in the canon. It may also be said that his influence was a reason that some churches resisted placing the book of James in the canon and the reason that the majority of church councils rejected placing the book of Revelation in the canon until the fifth century when it was almost universally accepted.
When we take into the account of the conflict between John and Marcion and the differences between Paul’s end times revelation and that of John, we must consider that, at the worst, the book of Revelation was written with fragmented knowledge to purposely reconstitute a legalistic Jewish gospel in order to draw more Christians away from Paul’s revelation of the mystery. At the very best we could consider that the writer of the book of Revelation was a sincere, yet mistaken, believing Judean writing from his limited knowledge and lack of understanding a subjectively laced prophecy to drive those formerly of Israel back to zealousness for the law.
Contrary to what is assumed, Paul did write at length of the end times in his letters. In the introductory section of the book of Hebrews he wrote, “again when he bringeth the first begotten into the world.” When we look more closely at the Greek words in this phrase it becomes apparent that Paul was writing of a period of time that would culminate again with the actual presence on earth of Jesus Christ. The word for into is the Greek word eis that means motion from the center to a point focusing more on the motion than the point. The word bringeth also connotes a time period through which the action takes place. The word is used of a flock driven to market or sheepfold.
The book of Revelation has grasped our attention more so, in part, because of the descriptive and spectacular catastrophic actions of angels. It also has grasped our attention because it is last in the present canon scripture. But, even today some canons used in eastern churches, do not contain the book of Revelation but conclude with the book of Hebrews. Even in the west, the oldest complete Greek manuscript of the bible from the fourth century appropriately places Hebrews after II Thessalonians at the end of Paul’s letters. This is not to say that the book of Revelation is without an aspect of truth since even the book of Hebrews speaks of the heaven and earth being shaken again.
In all of this, we need not be doubtfully confused by the plethora of random interpretations of a book of very questionable overall validity. Nor do we need to be intimidated by the book of Revelation because, in the least common denominator, Paul writes that those who believe in his gospel are to be delivered away from the future wrath that will be directed towards unbelief. (I Thessalonians 1:10)
Eisler, R., The Enigma of the Fourth Gospel, London, Metheun, 1938
Rubenstein, R.E., When Jesus Became God: The Epic Fight over Christ’s Divinity in the Last Days of Rome, New York, Harcourt Brace, 1999
The Lion Handbook to the Bible, Lion Publishing, Herts, England, 1973
Waite, C.B., History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two Hundred, Chicago, C.V. Waite & Co., 1881
Gleason, D. The Historical and Theological Wars that inspired the Book of Revelation
Copyright, Steve Santini, 2002