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The acceptance of the book of Revelation

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Acceptance of Revelation:

During the 1st century CE, Judaism was composed of about 24 separate religious groups. Some of these were the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, various groups within the Christian movement, followers of John the Baptist, etc. One which had a strong political agenda was the Zealot party. The Zealots taught that a military-political Messiah would soon appear, as prophesized in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). He would conquer the world, and rule for a thousand years from Jerusalem.

This concept of millennialism was promoted during the second century CE, by Montanus, a recent convert to Christianity. He prophesized that the New Jerusalem would shortly descend out of the clouds and land in a town called Phrygia. He set a date for the event, thus becoming one of the first Christians to predict when the end of the world would occur. His teachings were rejected by the rest of the Church. At the Synod of Iconium in 230 CE all baptisms performed by the Montanus sect were declared invalid. The Council of Constantinople in 380 CE went further, and declared millennialism to be a heresy.

Because millennialists had traditionally used Revelation as the main source of their teachings, "the Church was slow to  accept Revelation as scripture." 1 Origen, an early Christian theologian, used the term antilegomena to describe those books -- including Hebrews, James 2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation -- whose inclusion in the official canon of the Bible was actively disputed.  In the fourth century CE, when the canon of the Bible was assembled from among the approximately 50 gospels and hundreds of epistles then in use by the Christian movement, Revelation was only reluctantly included. "To this day, Orthodox churches do not use Revelation for scripture readings during worship." 1

Martin Luther downgraded the significance of Revelation. It portrays God as inflicting horrendous punishments on humanity -- a concept that is today sometimes called "Ambush Theology." Luther concluded that he could not readily harmonize the God described in Revelation with the God to whom Jesus prayed to as Abba. When Luther translated the Bible into the German language, he downgraded Revelation by relegating it to an appendix.

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  1. Ken Collins, "Millennialism," at: 

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Copyright 1997, 1999, 2001 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-AUG-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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