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The New Testament Canon

The New Testament Canon. Hill Roberts hroblib@aol.com website: lordibelieve.org November 1997 Select “View Show” under SlideShow menu. Then click to advance. Early NT Literature, 100-150 AD. Questioned Hebrews James 2 Peter 2/3 John Jude Revelation broad acceptance ~200AD.

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The New Testament Canon

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  1. The New Testament Canon Hill Roberts hroblib@aol.com website: lordibelieve.org November 1997 Select “View Show” under SlideShow menu. Then click to advance.

  2. Early NT Literature, 100-150 AD • Questioned • Hebrews • James • 2 Peter • 2/3 John • Jude • Revelation • broad acceptance • ~200AD • NT “Apocrypha” • Barnabas • 1/2 Clement* • Shepherd of Hermas* • Didache* • Apocalypse of Peter • Acts of Paul • Laodicean Letter • Gospel to the Hebrews • Polycarp’s Phillipians* • Ignatius’seven letters* • * were genuine • NT Pseudopigrapha • ~280 books now known Accepted Matt, Mark, John Acts-Luke 13 Pauline Epistles R,1/2C,G,E,P,C, 1/2Th,1/2T,Tit,Ph 1 Peter 1 John • 1 Tim 5:18, 2 Pet 3:15,Lk 1:2 • 20 of 27 (Phil. by assoc.) • most by 110 AD !!!

  3. Major Lines of Evidence to NT Canon • Authorship • Matthew, John, 13 Pauline epistles, 1/2 Peter, 1-3 John, Revelation • Authority by association • Luke-Acts, Mark, James, Jude • Intrinsic content • Hebrews • Transformational effect: “inspiring” • all (Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, Jude were short personal notes) • plus some others (Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Shepherd, Didache) • effect is not a uniform testimony, should never be primary basis • Testimony of early Christians is our link to the evidence • connected directly with Apostles: esp. Paul, Peter & John • the gift of “discernment” given to early church, 1 Cor 12:10 • Christians are “the church”, carrier of apostolic tradition, 1 Cor 11:2 • Christians are to “try the spirits”: still our responsibility to the future

  4. Earliest Testimony • Ignatius • 110 AD • enroute to Rome as prisoner, 7 letters • Quotes • Mt, Jn, Rom, 1Cor, Gal, Eph, Phil, Col, 1Thes • Alludes to • Lk, Heb, 1 Peter • Polycarp • disciple of John • bishop at Smyrna • letter to Phillippi, 110 • Quotes • Mt, Lk, Rom, 1Cor, Gal, Eph, Phil, 2Thes, 1/2 Tim, Heb, 1Jn, 1Pet • Alludes to • Jn, Acts, 2Cor, Col, 2Jn Clement of Rome 95 AD to Corinth • Quotes Mt, Mk, Lk, Rom, 1Cor, Gal, Eph, Phil, Heb • Alludes to John, Acts, James, 1 Peter ref: M. Pickup, Canonicity of the Bible, Florida College Annual Lectures, 1990 Combined Testimony of these Three: 20 of 27 Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn, Acts, Rom, 1/2Cor, Gal, Eph, Phil, Col, 1/2Thes, 1/2 Tim, ___, ___, Heb, ___, 1 Peter, ____, 1Jn, 2Jn, ___, ___, ___ Regions Represented: Rome, Greece, Macedonia, Asia, Syria

  5. Timeline for Recognition of NT Canon • References • see Timeline Chart by Roberts, included • supplemental handout by Geisler/Nix, Bible Introduction, pg 286-291 • Most of NT widely recognized as inspired by 150 AD • Entire NT of today recognized as scripture by 200 AD • Stable from then to today, in spite of sporadic challenges • “Officially” codified in 397 AD, Council of Carthage • Rapidity of “canonization” : ~10 years for 2/3 of whole • Precludes the “oral tradition” modernist view of legendary christianity • Instills high confidence in a NT directly connected to Christ’s authority Seminary Exam: “Discuss the history of the second century in relation to the development of the New Testament canon.”

  6. Timeline of NT Canon

  7. 150 AD Justin Martyr Some Second Century Heroes 100 AD 200 AD Polycarp Origen

  8. Origen “Homilies on Joshua” So too our Lord Jesus Christ…sent his apostles as priests carrying well-wrought trumpets. First Matthew sounded the priestly trumpet of his Gospel. Mark also, and Luke, and John, each gave fourth a strain on their priestly trumpets. Peter moreover sounds with the two trumpets of his Epistles; James also and Jude. Still the number is incomplete, and John gives forth the trumpet sound through his Epistles and Apocalypse; and Luke, while describing the deeds of the apostles. Latest of all, moreover, that one comes who said, “I think that God has set us forth as the apostles last of all”, and thundering on the fourteen trumpets of his Epistles he threw down, even to their very foundations, the walls of Jericho, that is to say, all the instruments of idolatry and the dogmas of the philosophers (Hom. In Jos. Vii, I). Circa AD 240 (near end of Origen’s life)

  9. Jerome’sVulgate Latin Bible 405 AD OT translated from Origen’s Hexapla (Gk)

  10. The Questioned Books • 2 & 3 John, Jude, (Philemon) • short, personal notes not widely circulated • Jude mostly drawn from 2 Peter • Their survival testifies to value placed on all apostolic writings • 2 Peter • most widely questioned of all NT books • style difference between 1 and 2 Peter challenged Petrine authorship • difference presumed to be result of amanuensis, not forgery • illustrates how faithful early Christians were to 2 Thess 2:2 • James • a Jew writing to Jews about Jewish perversions of the gospel of grace • not widely circulated outside earliest, eastern Jewish Christianity • not much appreciated by Gentiles in the West (understandable) • Lord’s brother, elder at Jerusalem, high authority, Act 15, 1 Cor 15:7 • shows binding respect for Apostolic authority, in spite of unpopular doctrines: a lesson much needed yet today

  11. The Questioned Books (cont.) • Hebrews • anonymous, generally ascribed to Paul by early eastern church • presents Jesus as the pinnacle of Hebrew life • widely accepted in east (the Jewish region) • viewed skeptically in west, where Paul was known for his anti-Hebrew letters (e.g., Galatians and Romans) • skepticism exacerbated by heresy of Marcion who rejected all things Jewish, including OT, Matthew, Mark and especially Hebrews • in the end, Marcion focused attention on Hebrews so that in defeating his western heresy, the western church accepted Hebrews based on testimony of the eastern Christians who vouched for its genuineness • its elegant content testifying of the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ is its own best witness • Hebrews (and James) illustrate the value of testimony of early local church in the canon process even then (Clement,Polycarp, Ignatius)

  12. The Questioned Books (cont.) • Revelation of John • last book written • isolation • cryptic message • apocalyptic style of book general basis of hesitancy • other books in mid-second century surfacing from the Gnostic heresy: most were very similar in style to Revelation • Authorship of John eventually establishes as canonical • Summary: • personal notes had limited circulation early-on • regionalism (“not invented here” -- the Corinthian problem) • uncertain authorship or authority in secondary region of circulation • concerns over doctrinal issues (Hebrews, James, Revelation)

  13. What about any “Lost Books”? Is the canon still “open” or is it now “closed” ? • How likely is it for God to inspire material meant for use by church worldwide, then leave it lost for 1900+ years? • without so much as even a mention by the early church !!! • But what about the other letters of Paul? • 1 Cor 5:9, 2 Cor 2:2, Col 4:16 • (Some contend these are not other letters but internal references to the same letters we have. I disagree. HR) • Many inspired words are lost -- (ALL the oral words are lost) • God seems not overly concerned with 100% preservation of all His words • But lost without consequence • the truth of those words is contained in the preserved books: in the whole “guide into all truth...word endures forever...thoroughly furnished...once for all” • Truths in Paul’s first letter to C. on immorality contained in 1 Cor • Truths in Paul’s third letter to C. on his authority and their failings are probably contained in 2 Cor • Easy to understand why neither of these books survived: circular filed • Truths of Laodicean letter probably contained in Ephesians and Colossians

  14. Probability of “New” finds? • Probability of finding new biblical manuscripts? HIGH • will be more of the same (NT mss and other pseudopigrapha texts) • will add to existing monumental witness of thousands of NT manuscripts • will possibly clarify or correct mis-translations, insertions or deletions • probably of no impact doctrinally • Probability of finding unknown canonical NT books? NIL • less likely than the unification of Christendom under Bill Clinton • what book could surface now and meet the tests of canonicity? • proven apostolic authorship or inspired authority • historical testimony of the early church to its existence and genuineness • broad acceptance across the spectrum of christianity, such as exist for NT

  15. Value of NT Apocrypha • Provides earliest documentation of majority of the canonical books of the NT (Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius) • Reveals thinking among post-apostolic Christians: both sound and unsound thinking • Forms a bridge to understand Christian literature of later 3rd and 4th centuries • Contains much information about practices and policies of the early church as it implemented the apostolic traditions None of these books ever enjoyed more than a limited, usually localized popularity of any canonical status. The “process” weeded them out. Some explicitly rejected their own canonical status.

  16. Value of the Pseudopigrapha • some insight into traditions of the time • reflect many of the ascetic, doecetic & Gnostic heresies • show similar desires as we to know more about things unrevealed (early life of Christ, lives of all the apostles) • manifest universal tendency of man to attempt to glorify God and Christianity by means of pious frauds • illustrate tendency to “shore up” perceived weaknesses in the canonical texts with human invention • show the desire for apostolic authority for doctrinal inventions (authority of humanism not then pervasive) • illustrates how far Christians can go to embellish simplicity of gospel of Christ: e.g., Mary worship

  17. Status of NT Apocrypha & Pseudopigrapha • 17 NT apocrypha books, ~280 pseudopigrapha • Edwin Yamauchi “ (they) ... are all patently secondary and legendary or obviously slanted. ... The extra-canonical literature, taken as a whole, manifests a surprising poverty. The bulk of it is legendary, and bears the clear mark of forgery. Only here and there, amid a mass of worthless rubbish, do we come across a priceless jewel.” Morton Enslin “Their total effect is to send us back to the canonical gospels with fresh approval of their chaste restraint in failing to fill in the intriguing hidden years.” Never accepted by any council among early churches • No similarity to the overwhelming early acceptance for the 27 NT books across entire spectrum of Christianity

  18. Summary • Two Options: 1) Receive the canon “as is” based on informed faith in God’s providence working through the church (i.e., through Christians) • God’s Word is its own best testimony: what does it say to you? • The story of the Bible itself is a monumental testimony to the power of God’s word • Acknowledges our debt to those who have gone before 2) Study it all out for yourself • can be done, will loan you the books to get started • in the end you will discover that you are still reliant on the testimony of those early Christians • many of whom died to preserve God’s word for us to study, proving their integrity and genuine love for the same Lord we name We truly have “the Word of God made more sure”

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