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Tuesday
Jun252013

Theological Term of the Week

inscriptional curse
A warning included in ancient treaties pronouncing judgment on anyone who changed the wording of a covenant document.

  • In scripture:
  • You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2 ESV)

    I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.(Revelation 22:18-19)

  • From Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger:
  • [Meridith Kline argues] that the entire Old Testament structure and all the books therein reflect various aspects of … ancient extrabiblical treaties. In particular, he observes that ancient treaties included an “inscriptional curse,” which pronounced judgment on all those who changed the wording of the covenant documents. Likewise, such an inscriptional curse is evident through the biblical witness from Deuteronomy 4:2 … .
    Kline [also] shows that the New Testament documents themselves, from Gospel to epistle to Revelation, all reflect the formal covenantal structure already laid forth in the Old Testament pattern. Moreover, we again see the “inscriptional curse” in Revelation 22:18-19.
    … Thus, the New Testament canon, at its core, is a covenantal document.
  • From Scripture’s Self-Attestation and the Problem of Formulating A Doctrine of Scripture by Wayne Grudem:
  • Revelation 22:18-19 contains an inscriptional curse, warning of sever punishment from God for anyone who adds to or takes away from the words of “this book.” In the first instance, this book” refers to the book of Revelation itself, and the prohibition against tampering with the words implies that the writer wants his readers to think of the book as words of God (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6).
    But perhaps it is possible to make one further observation about this inscriptional curse. For one who believes that God oversaw the compilation of the New Testament, the fact that these verses occur at the end of this particular book cannot be seen as a mere coincidence. Revelation is the book that primarily describes for us the distant future and it most naturally belongs at the end of the canon, just as Genesis, which describes the distant past, belongs at the beginning.. Therefore, it may not be inappropriate to think of Revelation 22:18-19 as having a secondary application to the whole of the Bible that precedes it. Understood in this way, these verse both close the canon and simultaneously warn all future generation that all the words that go before are God’s very words, and to add to them or take from them is to invite eternal death.

Related terms:

Filed under Scripture

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