Regarding The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan from Chapter 2 (“The Way of the World or the Narrow Way”), pages 52–53. A quote starting on page 52, the last paragraph at the bottom:

“Then Christian asked. ”May we go into the palace?” The Interpreter took him and led him up toward the door of the palace. There Christian saw a great company of men standing at the palace door, all desiring to go in, but few daring to. A little distance from the door there was a man sitting at a table with a [book open] before him. He was writing the names of those who wished to enter the palace.

My Question: is the book Bunyan referred to "The Lamb's Book of Life" (Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8) or some other book, possibly "The Book of Remembrances" (Malachi 3:16)?

  • I'm just about to dig out my own copy of Bunyans Pilgrims Progress to see if I can answer your question. However, I'm a lady and not a gentleman. I mention this because my name (which is Scottish) is spelt the feminine way, but some people think it's masculine.
    – Lesley
    Mar 2 at 17:31
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2 Answers 2


My copy of the book in question was printed in 1883. It is headed, "The Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is to come - delivered under the similitude of a dream - by John Bunyan, with Mason's Notes." It would seem likely that Mr. Mason added his notes to Bunyan's much older book (originally published in 1678) at the latest some 200 years on, but perhaps his notes were produced close to the original writing of Bunyan's. Some knowledgeable person might care to add a comment on that.

My suggestion is that he would be in closer proximity to grasping Bunyan's meanings that we are, not least because he adds many scripture references on virtually every page. It took me a while to find the section asked about as my book does not have modern-day chapters, or headings. It is found under "Part first", page 39 onward. I detail the scripture references Mason provides.

Acts xiv.22; Phil.iii.14; Matt.xi.12; 1 Thess.v.6; Heb.xii.29; Isa.xxvii.16; Heb.ii.4.

As you can see, Mason does not mention any of the texts you ask about.

Bunyan himself gives many scripture references in the body of his book at that section:

Luke viii.13, xix.14; Heb.vi.4-6, vii.29, x.28, 29; Jn.v.28, 29; 1 Cor.xv.51-58; 2 Thess.i.7-10; Jude 14, 15; Rev.xx.11-15; Ps.l.1-3, 22; Isa.xxvi.20, 22' Mic.vii.16, 17; Dan.vii.9, 10; Mal.iii,2, 3, iv.2.

He refers to Revelation once, chapter 20 which does speak of several Books, including the Lamb’s Book of Life. He also refers to Malachi chapter 3 verses 16-17, then to chapter 4. This means that you are correct to see a connection to the Lamb’s Book of Life mentioned in Revelation, and also to Malachi’s Book of Remembrance.

Bunyan writes about that,

"I heard then a great voice, saying, 'Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment!' and with that the rocks rent, graves opened, and the dead that were therein came forth [Rev. 20:11-15 being one of several references]. Some of them were exceeding glad, and looked upward; and some sought to hide themselves under the mountains. Then I saw the Man that sat upon the cloud open the book, and bid the world draw near. Yet there was, by reason of a fierce flame which issued out and came before him, a convenient distance betwixt him and them, as betwixt the judge and the prisoners at the bar. (Ibid. p.43)

That is where Malachi 3, verses 3-3 is then noted. The reader is meant to get a copy of the Bible and check it out. It is not quoted in Bunyan's book. But that clearly answers your question, from the pen of Bunyan himself, in an edition that has not had his own scripture references cut out. He saw connections with both.

  • Found a copy of Pilgrim's Progress with notes by Mason, Scott, and Burder, scanned and hosted by archive.org, which in this 1817 edition is on page 58. Maybe the OP is using an abridged edition with a more modern translation. Mar 5 at 19:55
  • 1
    @Grateful Disciple Yes, most modern translations of Bunyan's writings are abridged for the modern reader, and the Shakespearean language supplanted by modern speech. A worrying change is how his scripture references have either been relegated to footnotes, or cut out completely. This week I used a children's modern version, with large, colourful paintings of many scenes, to read to a 60-year old lady who has lost her speech after covid and a stroke, and acts more like a child. She loved it! The story has been greatly reduced but what there is serves a good purpose for its readership.
    – Anne
    Mar 6 at 10:43

My copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1998, 320 years after the first publication of Bunyan’s religious allegory appeared. The section to which you refer is in chapter 5, entitled ‘Pilgrim meets the Interpreter’. Each chapter contains copious notes that direct the reader to all the biblical references made in the telling of the story. We start with Christian asking if he and the Interpreter can go inside the palace.

Outside the palace gates, people are too afraid to go inside. A man sits at a table before the entrance, having a book and a pen in order to take the name of any individual who has intentions of going in through the door. Armoured men block the entrance, but one strong man, equipped with a helmet, a breastplate and a sword, fights his way through and gains entrance. He is made welcome. The clue to the book that records the name of any who wish to enter comes later in the allegory.

Later, the Interpreter and Christian see a man shaking and trembling because of a dream he had just awakened from. He had a vision of the dead arising on the Day of Judgment. In his vision he sees “the Man who sat upon the cloud open a book and summon the world to draw near.”

This is cross-referenced to Revelation 20:11-13 where the dead are judged and books are opened. Another book is opened – the Book of Life.

The individual who had the dream continued: “I also heard it proclaimed to those accompanying the Man sitting on the clouds, ‘Gather together the tares, chaff, and stubble and cast them into the burning lake.” This is cross-referenced to Malachi 4:1, a description of the Day of the Lord:

Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire, says the Lord Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left to them.

Other Scriptures are reference in this section. Matthew 3:12 describes the Day of Judgment at the second coming of Christ when the chaff will be destroyed by “unquenchable fire.” Also Matthew 13:30 and the parable of the weeds that will be tied in bundles to be burned, but the wheat will be preserved.

Luke 3:17 is also mentioned. This is where John the Baptist gives a similar warning. The chaff represents the unrepentant. Many Jews thought only pagans would be judged and punished when the Messiah came – but John declared that judgment would come to ALL who did not repent, including Jews.

The final cross reference in the index is Revelation 20:15:

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The man sitting at the table before the entrance to the palace is recording the names of all who wish to enter. We are not told if this is “the book of Life” in Revelation or if it is “the book of Remembrances” in Malachi. What we get from all the cross-references in the index to chapter 5 is a complete picture of the Day of Judgment. Old Testament warnings point forward in time to the New Testament warnings of the Day of the Lord when Christ returns and only those whose names have been written in the book of life will receive their reward.

Revelation 20:11-13 is cross-referenced to Ecclesiastes 12:14:

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

The final point is made in Revelation 20:15:

If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The dream that made the man so fearful is a warning to all who journey towards the Celestial City to be alert. As the Interpreter said to Christian:

Keep these things in your mind so they may act as prods in your sides to poke you and cause you to go forward in the way you must go. May the Counselor always be with you, good Christian, to guide you in the way that leads to the City.

P.S. For decades, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the Bible were the only reading material widely available to people in England. John Bunyan had those two books with him in prison, and he read them over and over for encouragement and inspiration as he endured his own persecution and wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.


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