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The Canon of the New Testament


Derived from the Greek 'Kanon' Early meaning a measuring rod ... Synod of Laodicea (365) Synod of Rome (382) Synod of Hippo (393) Synod of Carthage (397) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Canon of the New Testament

The Canon of the New Testament
  • What Books Belong in the Bible?
  • Robert C. Newman

The Term "Canon"
  • Derived from the Greek Kanon
  • Early meaning a measuring rod
  • Later meanings
  • A standard by which something is judged
  • A list
  • Our interest here
  • The list of books that belong in the Bible

Various Views on the Extent of the Canon
  • Traditional Protestant View
  • OT 39 books
  • Matching the traditional Jewish view
  • NT 27 books
  • Matching the traditional Christian view

Various Views on the Extent of the Canon
  • Larger Canons
  • Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox add books to
    the Old Testament
  • The Apocrypha
  • Mormons accept three additional collections
    besides the Bible
  • Book of Mormon
  • Doctrines Covenants
  • Pearl of Great Price

Various Views on the Extent of the Canon
  • Smaller Canons
  • Marcion c150 AD
  • Only Luke 10 Letters of Paul
  • Swedenborgians
  • NT only 4 Gospels Revelation
  • OT only 29 books
  • Theological Liberalism
  • A canon within the canon

Divergent Views of the Basis of Canon
  • Recognition by a church council
  • Old books are canonical
  • Valuable books are canonical
  • Books which agree with previous revelation
  • God-inspired books are canonical

The Recognition of Canon
  • The importance of time-perspective
  • Information is lost with the passage of time.
  • So later people (typically) have less information
    on which to make a judgment.
  • An important distinction exists between
  • Soon after writing
  • Long after writing.

Recognition of a Work Recently Written
  • How recognize inspiration?
  • Use arbitrary principles?
  • Use God-given principles?
  • God-given tests for inspiration
  • Connection with supernatural phenomena
  • Connection with earlier inspired books
  • Agreement with earlier inspired books

A Bible Survey of the Application of These Tests
  • Mosaic period
  • Old covenant established
  • Prophetic period
  • Old covenant developed
  • Ministry of Christ
  • New covenant established
  • Ministry of Apostles
  • New covenant developed

Connection with Supernatural
  • Mosaic period
  • Moses gives signs to Pharoah Israel
  • Plagues, exodus, Sinai
  • Prophetic period
  • Prophets attested by miracles short-term
  • Ministry of Christ
  • Miracles, short-term prophecy
  • Ministry of Apostles
  • Miracles, short-term prophecy

Connection with Earlier Revelation
  • Moses
  • Rescue predicted to Abraham (Gen 1513)
  • Prophets
  • Prophets predicted by Moses (Deut 18)
  • Christ
  • Predicted by prophets (e.g., Isa 53)
  • Apostles
  • Chosen by Jesus

Connection with Earlier Revelation
  • Who is expected now?
  • Jesus at his return
  • The two witnesses
  • The Antichrist
  • False prophets false Christs

Agreement with Earlier Revelation
  • Cannot contradict
  • See Deut 131-3 no other gods
  • See Acts 1711 responsibility to test
  • See Gal 18-9 no other gospel
  • Can explain and clarify
  • Otherwise, why more revelation?
  • Looks like book of Revelation designed to close
    the canon.

Revelation to close canon?
  • Like a blimp, the Bible closes off on the back
    end as it opens on the front
  • Creation
  • Sin death
  • Tree of life
  • Garden
  • God dwelling

Recognition of a Work Written Long Ago
  • We cannot easily re-do what was done long ago.
  • We suggest the following as a check that the
    Bible is what it claims to be
  • Christian evidences point to Christ and to
    salvation through Him.
  • Christ endorses the Bible
  • OT explicitly
  • NT implicitly

Recognition of a Work Written Long Ago
  • Canonicity then reduces to two historical
  • What writings had Palestinian Jews come to
    recognize as Scripture at Jesus time?
  • OT canon
  • What Christian writings did Christians come to
    recognize as Scripture in the few centuries after
    Jesus time?
  • NT canon

Old Testament Canon
  • We pass the buck to our OT professors
  • Vannoy, Putnam
  • But see my paper The Council of Jamnia and the
    OT Canon
  • Westminster Theological Journal (Spr 76)
  • IBRI website (

New Testament Canon
  • Stimuli to recognize NT Scripture
  • NT evidence for preparation recognition of
  • Indications of recognition in
  • The Apostolic Fathers (95-130 AD)
  • Early Heretical Writers (before 150)
  • Late 2nd Century (to 200)
  • Towards formal recognition (to 400)

Stimuli to Recognize Scripture
  • Need for revelation
  • Problem of persecution
  • Priorities of translation
  • Threat of heresy

New Testament Evidence
  • Selection of materials for inclusion
  • Protection from error
  • Public reading in the churches
  • Circulation among the churches
  • Collection
  • Quotation as authoritative

New Testament Evidence
  • Quotation as authoritative
  • 2 Peter 315-16 Distort Pauls letters as they
    do the rest of Scripture
  • 1 Timothy 518 refers to OT and NT (Luke 107)
    under the heading Scipture says.
  • Judes citation of 2 Peter 2 3
  • Concept of Scripture applied to NT by NT itself

Recognition in the Apostolic Fathers
  • Many allusions to NT writings
  • Three explicit references to NT as Scripture
  • 1 Clement 47 (c95) to 1 Corinthians
  • Polycarp (c110) to Ephesians 426
  • Pseudo-Barnabas (c130) to Matthew 2214

1 Clement 47
Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the
Apostle. What wrote he first unto you in the
beginning of the Gospel? Of a truth he charged
in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas and
Apollos, because that even then you made factions.
Polycarp to Philippians 12
For I am persuaded that you are well-trained in
the sacred writings, and nothing is hidden from
you. But to myself this is not granted, only, as
it is said in these scriptures, Be ye angry and
sin not, and Let not the sun set on your wrath
Eph 426
Pseudo-Barnabas 4
  • Very allegorical
  • In an exhortation, the author quotes Matthew
    2214 many called, but few chosen, under the
    heading, As it is written.

Recognition in the Early Heretical Writers
  • Basilides
  • Ophites
  • Marcion
  • Valentinus
  • Summary
  • They applied concept of Scripture to NT
  • Cite all Gospels but Mark, all Pauline epistles
    but Pastorals

Recognition in the Late Second Century
  • Justin Martyr
  • Irenaeus
  • Muratorian Canon
  • Tertullian
  • Clement of Alexandria
  • Some problem books
  • Hebrews
  • Revelation

Towards Formal Recognition
  • Origen (230) two categories
  • Eusebius (325) four categories
  • Athanasius (369) Festal Letter
  • Decisions of Church Councils
  • Synod of Laodicea (365)
  • Synod of Rome (382)
  • Synod of Hippo (393)
  • Synod of Carthage (397)

Summary on Canon
  • Final details seem to have been providential, as
    with OT Canon.
  • The early scholars and councils seem to have made
    good use of historical information.
  • Questions were raised for Hebrews, Revelation and
    a few of the shortest books.
  • Category of Scripture applied to NT writings
    already in apostolic period.
  • Nearly all the NT canon seen as authoritative in
    early 2nd century.

Summary on Canon
  • We dont have all the information we would like
  • but it is clear that these books came to be
    recognized as Scripture.
  • God has retained control of history in His hands.
  • He will carry out His word whether we believe it
    or not.
  • So we might as well trust Him and seek to be on
    His side rather than on the other.

The End
  • We need not fear that God has botched up the
    choice of books to go into the Bible.
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