A brief installment as we continue our response to an Islamic apologetic attack upon the integrity of the canon and transmission of the text of the Bible. Our writers continue to sow seeds of doubt by making reference to canonical discussions at the time of the Reformation. It is very interesting to note how you can misuse a scholarly source by summarizing it inaccurately (something that was done to me just today by a “scholar” as well…more on that later). What you do is pile a few quick statements on top of each other, referenced, of course (unless you are Dave Hunt, anyway), all to create an illusion of overwhelming factual evidence. This is a common form of argumentation, one that is often successful simply because few of us have the time to look up all the references. So, our Islamic writers say, “Zwingli, at the Berne disputation of 1528, denied that Revelation was a book of the New Testament.” So, I checked their source, which, thankfully, sits upon my shelf. The actual citation reads,
Likewise, Zwingli’s denial of the Biblical character of the Book of Revelation was the result of contemporary controversies growing out of what to his eyes was an eruption of pagan superstitions at Einsiedeln. When he condemned the invocation of angels, he was shown the angel in the Apocalypse causing the prayers of the faithful to ascend to heaven with the smoke of incense (Rev. viii. 3-4). Subsequently at the Berne Disputation (1528), Zwingli declared that the book is not a Biblical book. Thus, as was the case also when Eusebius denigrated the Apocalypse because of the excesses of the early chiliasts who favoured this book, Zwingli allowed a purely ad hoc consideration to sway his judgement concerning the character of a book otherwise widely regarded throughout the West as canonical. (Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, p. 273).
One can see that Metzger is talking about the reasons why Zwingli questioned the book, and, in that context, it is an interesting example. But it hardly provides a meaningful basis to the hoped for conclusion that in reality the canon of the Bible was in a state of wild confusion and flux as late as the Reformation. Neither Luther’s inability to see the harmonious nature of James or Hebrews as to their testimony to justification, nor Zwingli’s dislike of the eruption of strange beliefs at Einsiedeln (similar to Luther’s dislike of the Zwickau prophets) could possibly overthrow God’s purpose in the establishment of the canon for the edification of the church. This is why I included a rather full discussion of the theological nature of the canon in Scripture Alone (chapter 5). I would recommend it to the reading of all interested in this particular subject.