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The Christian Scriptures: Revelation

Dispute over Revelation 22: 18-19

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An unresolved dispute over Revelation 22:18-19:

There is a debate whether this passage refers to only the book of Revelation itself, or to the entire Holy Bible.

This passage lays an evil curse on anyone who tampers with the wording by adding to or subtracting text from the prophecy "of this book."

It is translated, in the King James Version:

18: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:"

19: "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, 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."

This is perhaps the most serious curse that could be made, because other passages in the Bible imply that if if a person's name is not in the book of life, then they are destined to never attain heaven after death. They would spend eternity in the torture chambers of Hell.

There are slight variations in various translations of the Bible. Looking at the first phrase in Revelation 22:19, it has been translated as:

  • American Standard Version: "the book of this prophecy."
  • King James Version: "the book of this prophecy."
  • New International Version: "this scroll of prophecy."
  • New Living Translation: "this book of prophecy."
  • Young's Literal Translation: "the scroll of this prophecy"

Debate exists about the precise meaning of the phrase "this book" which is repeated four times in the above verses:

bullet Many conservative Christians, noting that the passage is located within two verses of the end of the Bible, conclude that "this book" is in fact the entire Bible itself -- both the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).

bullet Others note that there is a general consensus that Revelation was written very late in the 1st century CE, perhaps circa 95 CE. However, the first known individual to specify a list of books that matches our present Bible was Pope Damasus, (304-384 CE). 1 He proclaimed this list in 374 CE. His canon was later approved by Council of Rome in 383 CE and reconfirmed at the Councils of Carthage in 393, 397 and 419 CE. 2 Thus, at the time that Revelation was written, the Bible did not exist as a book, and would not be created for almost three centuries into the future. Many theologians have concluded that the phrase "this book" refers to the book of Revelation only, and not to the entire Bible.

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The book of Revelation contains massive amounts of prophecy about the end times. Thus the references to both "book" and "prophecy" would fit Revelation well. However, the references would likely not refer to the entire Bible because its 66 books contain information on many topics in addition to prophecy.

Also, the word "scroll" -- at least before the widespread distribution of personal computers -- referred to a roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper containing written text and/or drawn images. When the book of Revelation was originally written down and later copied during the early years CE, it would presumably be recorded on scrolls. Scrolls had a limited capacity. One scroll would be sufficient to hold Revelation. 1 and 2 Chronicles originally were written on a single scroll and later divided into two books. But the entire Bible -- both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures -- would require many dozens of scrolls. Thus, it would seem that when Revelation 18 and 19 refers to "this" or "the" scroll, it would only be referring to the Book of Revelation itself and not to the entire Bible.

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References:

  1. "The Canon of the Bible," at: http://www.catholicapologetics.org
  2. "The Canon of the Bible," at: http://www.lumenverum.com/apologetics/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-DEC-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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