The Book of Revelation: How Difficult Was Its Journey into the Canon?

by Michael J. Kruger

The story of the New Testament canon is a fascinating one, with many twists and turns.  There are books that were accepted very quickly, almost from the start (e.g., the four gospels), and there are other books that struggled to find a home (e.g., 2 Peter).

And then there is the book of Revelation. 

Few today would contest the claim that the book of Revelation stands as one of the most controversial, complicated, and esoteric books in the New Testament canon.  Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that its reception by the early church was equally complicated and controversial.

But, the story of the book of Revelation is not what one might expect. Other debated books tended to have a lukewarm reception at the earliest stages, only to gain more and more acceptance over time. Revelation, on the other hand, had nearly the opposite experience; it had a very early and positive reception in many parts of the church, only to run into serious challenges at a later point.

Lately, I have been doing a good bit of research on Revelation’s canonical history in preparation for writing an academic piece on the subject.  Here are a few highlights about Revelation’s journey:

1. Revelation’s early reception was Outstanding.  Perhaps as much as any other NT book, we have evidence for an early, widespread, and consistent reception of Revelation.  Our evidence goes back as early as Papias (c.125) and also includes Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, the Muratorian Fragment, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.  That is an impressive list.

In addition, it is worth noting that almost every one of these…


The Book of Revelation: How Difficult Was Its Journey into the Canon? – Canon Fodder