How the Canon Came to Be…

Last night in the NT Backgrounds class I am teaching we got into a discussion concerning the nature of authoritative and inspired texts, how “choose” the books of the Bible, why some Christian traditions recognize certain OT Apocryphal books as having some weight and authority. The discussion took us a bit away from what we were supposed to be covering in class, nevertheless I felt it was important enough to merit some time in discussion. But given our constraints I promised the class I would give them some resources for further reading. Below you will find what I sent to my students.

latin-bible

Last night I promised that I would post something about the reliability of the canon and how/why it is authoritative. Below you will find a quote from Michael Kruger, President of Reformed Theological Seminary & a NT Scholar, on the recognition of the the 27 NT texts as canon. Also, under the quote are some links to some web resources that address this question.

Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves. 

It may bother us to think that God trusted his church to simply “recognize” what was divinely inspired, after all isn’t that a bit risky? Doesn’t that make it possible that we would make some mistakes? But in another post Kruger makes a great point about this. He says:

Whenever someone shows angst over these early canonical disagreements, I often ask a simple question: “What did you expect the process would be like?” It is at this point, that people often realize they have an overly-pristine expectation about how God would deliver his books—an expectation that is entirely their own and not derived from Scripture or from history.

Anyway, here is a link to a series of posts by Kruger regarding the canon. He addresses topics like:

  1. Apocryphal Writings
  2. Canonical Lists which have 22 vs. 27 books
  3. Early Christian use of non-canonical writings
  4. Disagreement over certain canonical books
  5. The self-authenticating nature of Scripture

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions feel free to comment below.

 

Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves.  – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/can-the-new-testament-canon-be-defended-derek-thomas-interviews-michael-kruger.php#sthash.cq8bmTks.dpuf
Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves.  – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/can-the-new-testament-canon-be-defended-derek-thomas-interviews-michael-kruger.php#sthash.cq8bmTks.dpuf
Our belief that we have the right 27 books is certainly founded on the fact that God providentially worked in the early church.  But, our answer to the question of how we know we have the right books can go further than just saying “God’s providence.”  I argue in Canon Revisited that God has provided a reliable means by which God’s people can recognize his books (through the help of the Holy Spirit).  Part of that means is the fact that God’s books bear divine qualities; they have attributes that reflect God’s power and character. Historically speaking, Christians have always believed there is something inherently different about these books due to the fact that they are inspired by God. We do not believe that they are just ordinary books that God simply chooses to use (a la Barth), but that they are qualitatively different–they are living and active, shaper than a double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).  For this reason, the Reformers believed that God’s people could rightly recognize these books and distinguish them from others.  Thus we could say, in a sense, that these books chose themselves.  – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/can-the-new-testament-canon-be-defended-derek-thomas-interviews-michael-kruger.php#sthash.cq8bmTks.dpuf
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