Q&A: Canon Closed

Canon Closed

Question

Couldn't one argue that Revelation closes the canon of Scripture (e.g., how it says do not add to this book, implying the Bible as a whole, and closes talking about the second coming of Christ as "next" - "Come quickly" and so forth, Amen, etc)?

Answer

I know that some people have argued that Revelation closes the canon so that no further revelation can follow, but I don't think this is a compelling argument. The biggest problem is that "this book" clearly refers to Revelation, not to the Canon: "the words of the prophecy of this book" (Rev. 22:18); "the words of the book of this prophecy" (Rev. 22:19).

Besides this, there was no unified New Testament Canon when Revelation was written. The fact that Revelation now stands at the end of the Canon does not change the context of Revelation 22:18-19. Nor does it change the fact that Revelation's place in the Canon was a fallible and much later publishing decision, not a result of divine inspiration.

The bit about "come quickly" was a typical idea in the New Testament church. They wanted Jesus to come back soon, so they probably prayed it often (e.g. 1 Cor. 16:22). Revelation itself expresses this idea in a number of places (e.g. Rev. 2:16; 3:11; 22:7,12,20). But the speed of his coming does not have any relation to the continuing or discontinuing of revelation. In relation to this, we are not sure when Revelation was written (as early as 60 AD, as late as the late 90s), and your argument depends on canonical books not being written after it. Without knowing these things, we cannot know whether or not this interpretation of Revelation would exclude other now-canonical books from the Canon. Another concern is that the same theme you mention shows up on Zephaniah 1:14 -- if that were to mark the end of canonical writings, it would exclude the entire New Testament.


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.