Vol. 6, No. 5
~ Page 4 ~
The title of the earliest known copy, from the 4th century, of the last book in the Bible is The Revelation of John.
In the 8th century a copyist enlarged the title to The Revelation of John the Theologian, a title reflecting non-inspired words about God, and does not teach that John was Spirit-inspired to write the book (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4).
In the 17th century the 54 scholars, giving us the King James Version, changed the title to The Revelation of St. John the Divine, an erroneous title in two ways: (1) the "St" (an abbreviation for "Saints") leaves the impression that John had been set apart from other Christians by his having attained sainthood, and (2) leaves the impression that John had been set apart from other Christians by becoming a "Divine," a "man skilled in divinity; a theologian" (Webster).
As to the first error, all Christians are "saints" from the day of their baptism (Acts 18:8; 26:10; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 16:1). The word simply means in the New Testament that a sinner has "set himself apart" (hagiadzo) to live for Jesus.
Theologians formulated the idea that one cannot reach sainthood until an announcement comes from the pope at least 25 years after the person's death. Biblically, if one does not reach sainthood in this life, he is doomed, for only the Judgment comes after this life, not a second chance (Hebrew 9:27).
As to the second error, a "divine" (a theologian) writes "in words which man's wisdom teaches," while John wrote only that "which the Holy Spirit teaches" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13).
In the 19th century, the Book of Revelation was printed with the title: "The Revelation of the all-glorious Evangelist, bosom-friend [of Jesus], virgin, beloved to Christ, John the theologian, son of Salome and Zebedee, but adopted son of Mary the Mother of God, and Son of Thunder (cited by Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition, p. 662).
The 19th century book called John a "virgin," a word not commonly used to describe a man "who has not had sexual intercourse" (Webster). But since John was married (1 Corinthians 9:5), he was not a virgin.
The 19th century book called John the "adopted son of Mary the Mother of God." Indeed, John is to be complimented, after Jesus' death, for taking Mary into his own home (John 19:27). But the title "Dei Genetrix," the "Mother of God," is of human origin. John himself only called Mary "the mother of Jesus" (John 2:1, 3).
Actually, it is idolatry to call Mary the "Mother of God," for only a goddess can give birth to a god. Furthermore, if Mary was the Mother of God, she gave God a beginning. As a human being she gave birth to the human baby Jesus, but actually the deity residing in that baby never had a mother: "his goings forth were from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).
In the 20th century, many writers would have prefixed a title of the book's author as "the Reverend John" or "the Right Reverend John" or "the Very Right Reverend John." When the "R" is capitalized in the word "Reverend," it refers to "a clergyman," a "title of respect" (Webster).
Some have said that no human name is reverend, but only the Lord's, because the word "reverend" is found only one time in the Bible, and there it refers to God's name: "Holy and reverend in his name" (Psalm 111:9, KJV, ASV). Indeed, God's name is reverend, that is, "worthy of reverence; entitled to respect mingled with awe and affection" (Webster). Similarly, the name of every good Christian ("salt of the earth," "light of the world," Matthew 5:13-14) is reverend, that is, "worthy of reverence; entitled to respect mingled with awe and affection" (Webster); "blameless and harmless" because they "shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15), serving "God pleasingly, with reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28).
As the word "reverend" written with a capital "R" is out of place among Christians, similarly the word "father" written with a capital "F" is out of place. To speak of physical fathers with the small "f" is of course correct (Genesis 45:9; Ephesians 6:4), and to speak of fathers as advisers or counselors with a small "f" is correct (Genesis 45:8), and to speak of spiritual fathers with a small "f" is correct (2 Kings 2:12; 13:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 4:15). But to speak of spiritual fathers written with a capital "F" is sinful: "Call no man Father on the earth, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven" (Matthew 23:9; 1 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4).
All Christians are "brothers" (Matthew 23:8), but there are Christians who do not speak of fellow Christians as "Brother So and So," or "Sister So and So," but who do speak of a located preacher as "Brother So and So." To make "Brother" a preacher's title is as bad as to make titles of "Reverend" and "Father."
All Christians are "ministers" (Matthew 20:26; 25:44; Hebrews 6:10), but there are Christians who do not speak of fellow-Christians as ministers, but who do speak of a located preacher as "our Minister." To make "Minister" a preacher's title is as bad as to make titles of "Reverend" and "Father" and "Brother."