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New Testament Canon. Three Important Questions. 1. Why?. Why was a canon needed? 1. Christianity, like Judaism was monotheistic. 2. The canon of Marcion-Bruce ch. 9 3. The reading of the texts in worship. 4. The persecution for withholding holy books-Bruce pp. 216-17. Who?.
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New Testament Canon Three Important Questions
1. Why? • Why was a canon needed? • 1. Christianity, like Judaism was monotheistic. • 2. The canon of Marcion-Bruce ch. 9 • 3. The reading of the texts in worship. • 4. The persecution for withholding holy books-Bruce pp. 216-17
Who? • Who formed the canon? • 1. The first formal list of what today are the 27 canonical books comes from the pen of Athanasius in 367 A. D.-Bruce, pp. 208-9 • 2. This does not mean that he is the one who formed the canon or finalized the canon. • 3. The books were canonical because they were inspired. No one “made them” cannonical.
How? • How were the books recognized as being canonical? • This is one of the most difficult questions in evangelical theology. • It has been met with a number of different answers, as well as often being met with silence.
Evangelical Answers to “How?” • 1. B.B. Warfield • Warfield argued that the primary criterion was that of apostolicity.- cf. Bruce, 256-8 • He stressed that apostolicity was somewhat wider than strictly apostolic authorship. • Thus there were some books that were not written by apostles but were under apostolic sanction.
Warfield, Cont. • God’s authoritative agents in founding the church gave them as authoritative to the church which they founded • Warfield took up the most difficult case: the book of 2 Peter • He then dealt with the most serious objections to the canonicity of 2 Peter.
The objections Warfield dealt with were six. • (1) Peter’s name was frequently forged in the ancient church. • (2) The external support of 2 Peter is insufficient. • (3) The epistle plainly has borrowed largely from Jude, which by some was judged unworthy of an apostle, while others held this to be a proof that 2 Peter belongs to the second century, due to the assumed lack of genuineness of Jude. • (4) The author exhibits too great a desire to make himself out to be Peter. • (5) The author betrays that he wrote in a later time by numerous anachronisms. • (6) The style of 2 Peter is too divergent from that of 1 Peter to have been written by the same individual
Warfield, Cont. • Warfield then showed that the evidence was nowhere near strong enough to overturn the presumption in favor of the truth of 2 Peter. • However, even his colleague and friend at Princeton, Francis Landy Patton, in eulogizing Warfield noted that the rationalism of Warfield’s system of logic was built upon probability which precluded the absolute certainty of his conclusions.
Evangelical Answers to “How?” • 2. R. Laird Harris • Harris painstakingly demonstrates that the crucial question for the early church was, “Was the work written by an apostle?” • Harris states: “We are reminded of Tertullian’s use of the phrase “apostolic men,” referring to Mark and Luke. In both cases it should be noted that these are not mere companions of the apostles but are, as it were, assistants, understudies, who reproduced their masters’ teachings.”
Harris, Cont. • Harris sees Hebrews as written by Paul and translated by Luke, or with Barnabus as his amanuensis. • He also states that there may have been other books which were written by an amanuensis.
Evangelical Answers to “How?” • 3. Geisler and Nix • They propose five principles: • The first of these principles is that of authority. • The second test for canonicity was that of the prophetic nature of the book. • The third test for canonicity which Geisler and Nix contend was operational in the early church was that of authenticity
Geisler, Cont. • The fourth test was one of power. • The fifth and final test was its reception: Was it generally accepted by the orthodox church? • The problems with these criteria is that none of them seem to have been used by the early church.
What Should We Think? • The starting point of canonicity must be a recognition that at the most basic level it is the risen Lord Himself who is ultimately the canon of His church. • A proposed threefold program for determination of the canon:
3 Fold Program • Note that the criteria get more significant and more important. • 1. The Testimony of the Church. • 2. The character of the Scriptures themselves. • 3. The witness of the Holy Spirit. • To the particular writing • By the writing to assure the church • That the writing was part of the whole of Scripture
Conclusion • This does not solve all of your problems or answer all of your questions. • What other ways might you see to answer the question of canonicity?