Lecture 13b: Canonicity “And on the day called Sunday there is a gathering together into one place of all those live in cities or in the country, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader has ceased the president ;[leader or head] presents admonition and invitation to the imitation of these good things” ~Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165). If the Scriptures are indeed inspired by God then a significant question arises: Which books are inspired? Historically, it was important for the people of God to discover which books God has inspired and which ones were not. The Canonicity of Scripture I. Definition of Canonicity II. Canonicity of the Old Testament III. Canonicity of the New Testament: Debate of N.T. Apocrypha. IV. Completeness of the Canon V. Confirmation of the Canon VI. Preservation of the Canon VII. Conclusion The Canonicity of Scripture: I. Definition of Canonicity: A. The word “canon” is used to describe the inspired books. The word comes from the Greek kanon and probably from the Hebrew qaneh, signifying a “measuring rod.” The terms canon and canonical thus came to signify standards by which books were measured to determine whether or not they were inspired. It is important to note that religious councils at no time had any power to cause books to be inspired, rather they simply recognized that which God inspired at the exact moment the books were written. The Canonicity of Scripture: B. Jews and conservative Christians have recognized the 39 books of the O.T. is inspired. Evangelical Protestants have recognized the 27 books of the N.T. as inspired. Roman Catholic have a total of 80 books because they recognize the Apocrypha as part of the Canon. The Canonicity of Scripture “It is not the antiquity, authenticity, or religious community that makes a book canonical or authoritative. A book is valuable because it is canonical, and not canonical because it is or was considered valuable. Its authority is established by God and merely discovered by God’s people.” ~ Dr. Norman Geisler. The Canonicity of Scripture 1. “Incorrect View” presupposes the following: A. Authority of Scripture is based upon the authority of the church B. Places the church over the canon 2. “Correct View” presupposes the following: A. Authority of the church is to be found in the Scripture. B. The Church is under the canon. “It is God who regulated the canon; man merely recognized the divine authority God gave to it. God determined the canon, and man discovered it.” ~ Dr. Norman Geisler The Canonicity of Scripture Authority Relationship Between Church and Canon: Incorrect View: - Church is determiner - Church is mother of canon - Church is magistrate - Church is regulator - Church is judge of canon - Church is master of canon Correct View: - Church is discoverer - Church is child of canon. - Church is minister. - Church is recognizer - Church is witness of canon - Church is servant of the canon. The Canonicity of Scripture “In this affair, then, the Church is a servant and not a mistress; a depository and not a judge. She exercises the office of a minister, not of a magistrate….She delivers a testimony, not a judicial sentence. She discerns the canon of the Scriptures, she does not make it; she has recognized their authenticity, she has not given it….The authority of the Scriptures is not founded, then, on the authority of the Church: It is the church that is founded on the authority of the Scriptures.” ~ Louis Gaussen, Theopnesustia. The Canonicity of Scripture C. Definition of Apocrypha: This word refers to disputed book that Protestants reject and Roman Catholic and others accept into the O.T. The word apocrypha means “hidden” or “doubtful.” So those who accept these documents prefer to call them “deuterocanonical or books of the “second canon.” The Canonicity of Scripture D. Definition of Apocrypha: This word refers to disputed book that Protestants reject and Roman Catholic and others accept into the O.T. The word apocrypha means “hidden” or “doubtful.” So those who accept these documents prefer to call them “deuterocanonical or books of the “second canon.” E. Why Canonicity? ~ Adapted from McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg. 23. 6 Reasons why the N.T. Books were Collected: 1. They were Inspired. ~ Adapted from McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg. 23. Because these books were inspired, written by a prophet or an apostle of God, they were inherently Invaluable. Thus, needed to be preserved, collected, & circulated. 2. The Needs of the Early Church. ~ Adapted from McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg. 23. Assemblies needed to know which books should be read, revered, and applied. 3. The Rise of Heretics and False Teachers. ~ Adapted from McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg. 23. As early as A.D. 140, the heretic Marcion developed his own incomplete canon and began to propagate it. The church needed to counter influence these false teachings by collecting all the N.T. Scriptures. 4. The circulation of counterfeit Writings. ~ Adapted from McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg. 23. The church needed to gather the inspired books in order to set them apart from the counterfeit writings and other religious materials that were being written and circulated. 5. Missions. ~ Adapted from McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg. 23. The need to circulate and translate the Bible into other languages as the Bible began to spread among people-groups. 6. Persecutions ~ Adapted from McDowell’s New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pg. 23. The Edit of Diocletian (A.D. 303) called for the destruction of the sacred books of the Christians. Who would die for a books that was perhaps religious, but not sacred? II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: A. The Masoretic (Hebrew) text of the O.T. divided into three categories: 1. 2. 3. Law (Pentateuch) Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, major & minor prophets) Writings (sometimes called “The Psalms,” including poetry and wisdom books-Psalms, Proverbs and Job; the RollsSong of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; the Historical Books-Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles). B. Originally these 39 books were counted as 24 by combining 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles, the minor prophets, and EzraNehemiah. C. By the N.T. this threefold division was recognized (Luke 24:22). II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: D. Internally: 1. “The Scripture” (John 10:35) 2. “The Sacred Writings” (2 Tim. 3:15-17) suggests a generally accepted O.T. Canon. E. Externally: 1. Josephus (A.D. 37-95), 2. Bishop Melito of Sardis (A.D. 170) 3. Tertullian (A.D.160-250), and others recognized the threefold division. II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: F. The Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90 is considered by many the occasion whereby the O.T. Canon was publicly recognized (while debating the canonicity of several books). Jamnia, a city 13 miles south of Joppa, was the location wherby after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, an assembly of religious Jewish teachers were established. This body was regarded as to some extent replacing the Sanhedrin, though it did not possess the same representative character or national authority. II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: G. There is evidence of the manner whereby the O.T. were recognized as canonical: 1. Moses was recognized as writing under the authority of God: Ex. 17:14; 34:27 cf. Josh. 8:31; 23:6. a The criterion for acknowledging the Pentateuch was whether it was from God’s servant, Moses. 2. Following Moses, God raised up the institution of prophecy to continue revealing Himself to His people (cf. Deut. 18:15-19; Jer. 26:8-15). a The prophets to whom God spoke recorded their revelation (cf. Josh. 24:26; 1 Sam. 10:25; Isa. 8:1); Exek. 43:11) II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: H. Additional Information: 1. Faith of Israel existed independently of a book for hundreds of years between the time of Abraham and Moses. 2. None of the patriarchs before Moses is recorded as having written sacred literature (Ex. 24:4, 7). 3. Old surviving list of the canonical scriptures of the OT comes from about 170, the product of Christian scholar, Melito, who made a trip to Israel to determine both the order and umber of books in the Hebrew Bible. Neither his order not his contents agree exactly with our modern English Bibles. II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: H. Additional Information: 4. During the entire period of biblical history, the Jews lived their faith without a closed canon of Scripture. 5. The books were collected into a canon as an act of God’s providence, historically prompted by the emergence of apocryphal writings and pseudepigraphical literature in the intertestamental period. - Pseudepigrapha (are writings ascribed to someone other than the real author, generally with a view to giving them an enhanced authority; e.g., Book of Enoch). 6. II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: “The law was accorded the respect of the author, and he was known as God’s messenger. Similarly, succeeding prophets were received upon due authentication, and their written works were received with the same respect, being received therefore as the Word of God. As far as the witness contained in the books themselves is concerned, this reception was immediate.” ~ Laird Harris. II. How was Canonicity discovered in the O.T.? “Evidence is obviously not complete for all the OT books. But evidence is clear for the principles of their acceptance. Those written by prophets were accepted, and kings and priests were also sometimes prophets. Any man to whom God revealed His Word was a prophet. Thus David and Solomon were prophets as truly as Joshua and Daniel. There are, of course, some books whose authorship is now not known. These were, however, classified by the Jews and by Christ as among the Prophets, and in the absence of the slightest evidence to the contrary, they may be thus accepted. God gave the Jews no test of an inspired book or list of canonical books. But He did not give them very obvious and practical tests of a prophets, and it is clear that they accepted the writings of these prophets equally with their spoken words.” ~ Laird Harris, “Canon of Scripture-O.T.” Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 303. III. Canonicity of the Old Testament: 1. Test of Divine Authority. This is a question of divine inspiration. Books which were held to be inspired were revered and received, and were collected into a canon. When the question of inspiration was answered, so was the question of canonicity. The test of inspiration was wrapped up in the other tests. 2. Test of Human Authorship: “Is the book written, edited, or endorsed by a prophet or spokesman from God?” Prophetic authorship was the key criterion of canonicity. II. Canonicity of the Old Testament: 3. Whether the book could be traced back to the time and writer from which it professed to come. Was it genuine? 4. Is it a record of actual facts? Is it authentic? This question relates to the contents of the book and its own claims as being from God. 5. Testimony of the Jews and the later church councils and the ancient versions of the Bible. How was the book received? II. Canonicity of the New Testament: A. B. C. 27 books, written by 8-10 human authors over a period of about 2 generations, make up O.T. The books existed at the end of 1st Century A.D. throughout the territory. The N.T. indicates that canonical writings were gathered. Paul encouraged it (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27). N.T. ascribes to its books an authority equal to that of the O.T. Peter placed Paul’s writings on the same level as the O.T. (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul classified passages from Deut. And Luke as Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18). II. Canonicity of the New Testament: D. Three periods in the history of N.T. Canon: 1. Period of separate circulation (A.D. 70170). The writings of Scripture were circulated and read in church gatherings. In principle, the N.T. and O.T. canon was fixed during this time. The extent of the canon took a bit longer, but event his was substantially complete by the end of this period. II. Canonicity of the New Testament: D. Three periods in the history of N.T. Canon: 2. Period of Complete Separation between Canonical and non-canonical writings (AD 170-303). This ended with a civil edict to burn the books of the Bible, which gave Christians added incentive to collect the canonical writings. 3.During the last period councils formally declared (not formulate) the canon: a. b. Council of Laodicea (367AD) requested that only canonical books be read in the churches. Council of Carthage (397) agreed on a list of canonical books identical to those in our Bible, a decision confirmed by the Council of Hippo (419 AD). II. How was the Canonicity of the New Testament Discovered: 1. Looked to the Contents and, esp. at its references to the person and work of Jesus Christ 2. Considered the book’s claim to inspiration and its concurrence with books already accepted. 3. They evaluated the book’s moral and spiritual aspects, its ability to influence and transform people’s lives. 4. They asked those closest to the writings of the book believed about and how it was received by those to whom it was written. 5. Was the book written by an apostle or someone closely associated with an apostle? II. Summary of Discovery regarding Canonicity of the New Testament: 1. Test of Apostolicity. Was the author an apostle or did he have a connection with an apostle? Mark wrote under Peter’s authority, and Luke under Paul’s authority. 2. Acceptance. Was the book accepted by the church at large? The recognition given a particular book by the church was important. By this canon false books were rejected. 3. Content. Did the book reflect consistency with what had been accepted as orthodox teaching. For example, the spurious “gospel of Peter” was rejected as a result of this principle. 4. Inspiration. Did the book reflect the quality of inspiration? III. Debate about the N.T. Canon in view of N.T. Apocrypha: Consider… 1. Unlike the O.T., additional books have never been accepted into the N.T. Canon long after they were written. 2. There has never been any serious longterm debates over the books that were accepted into the N.T. Canon. 3. Nevertheless, there were some questions about some books for some time; these books will be called the N.T. Apocrypha. III. Debate about the N.T. Canon in view of N.T. Apocrypha: List of N.T. Apocrypha (“hidden” books): a. Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas (A.D. 70-79) b. Epistle to the Corinthians (c. 96); c. Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians (c. 108) d. The Teaching of the Twelve [Didache] (c. 100-120); e. Seven Epistles of Ignatius (c. 110); f. The Ancient Homily g. Second Epistle of Clement (c. 120-140) h. The Shepherd of Hermas (c. 115-140) i. The Apocalypse of Peter (c. 150) j. Epistle to the Laodiceans (4th Century?) III. Debate about the N.T. Canon in view of N.T. Apocrypha: List of N.T. Pseudepigrapha (lit. “false writings) which are sometimes also called apocryphal—these books have been and are universally rejected by the Christian church. They include the following: 1. Gospel of Thomas (a Gnostic work), 2. Gospel of Peter (contains Docetic heresies…deny the “real” humanity of Christ); 3. Protevangelium of James (contains early devotion to Mary); 4. Gospel of the Hebrews; 5. Gospel of the Egyptians. III. Reasons for Rejecting the N.T. Apocrypha: 1. 2. 3. 4. Not one N.T. apocrypha experienced more than a local or temporary acceptance; At best some of them had a quasi-canonical status, meaning that they were merely added to various manuscripts (as an appendix) or listed in table of contents. No major canon or church council accepted them as part of the inspired Word of God. Their limited and temporal acceptance on grounds that they were believed wrongly (1) to have been written by an apostle, or (2) to have been referred to in an inspired book (e.g., Col. 4:16). Once this was known to be false they were completely and permanently rejected by the Christian church. IV. The Completeness of the Biblical Canon: There is no evidence that any inspired book has been lost. This is confirmed by the following: 1. The providence of God; 2. The immediate and careful preservation of the church; 3. The absence of any evidence of any other prophetic or apostolic book. Alleged contrary examples are easily explained as either: 4. Uninspired works to which the biblical author made reference, or 5. Inspired works contained in the sixty-six inspired books but with another name. V. The Confirmation of the Canon: Unlike other “holy books” such as the Qur’an & the Book of Mormon, the Bible alone has been supernaturally confirmed by signs & wonders. Consider the following… 1. Only the Scripture were written by prophets who were supernaturally confirmed by signs and wonders. 2. When Moses questioned how his message would be accepted, God performed miracles through him “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their Fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacobhas appeared to you” (Ex. 4:5). 3. When Korah rose up to challenge Moses, God again miraculously intervened to vindicate his prophet (Num. 16). 4. Elijah was verified to be a prophet of God by supernatural intervention on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). V. The Confirmation of the Canon: 6. 7. 8. 9. In the Gospels even the Jewish teacher Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2; cf. Luke 7:22). Luke recorded, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). Hebrews affirms that “God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit through him” (Acts 2:22). The apostle Paul proved his apostleship by affirming that “the things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Cor. 12:12). VI. The Preservation of the Canon: The preservation of these books by the church confirms the Canon: 1. A collection of these books were made from the earliest times; even within the N.T. itself this preservation process was put into action: a. Luke refers to other written records of the life of Christ (Luke 1:1-4), possibly Matthew & Mark; b. In 1 Timothy 5:18 the Gospel of Luke is quoted; c. Peter refers to Paul’s collection in 2 Peter 3:15-16; d. Jude had access to 2 Peter (2 Peter 2:4-6). VI. The Preservation of the Church: The preservation of these books by the church confirms the Canon: 2. The contemporaries of the apostles show a concerned awareness of their mentor’s writings, quoted from them prolifically. Following them the Fathers of the 2nd to 4th centuries made some 36, 289 citations from the N.T., including all verses except eleven. This includes the following: a. 19, 368 citations from the Gospels; b. 1, 352 from Acts; c. 664 from Revelation; d. The Fathers of the second century alone cited from every book of the New Testament except for one (3 John) (this may have been because they had no occasion to cite from 3 John). VI. The Preservation of the Canon: The preservation of these books by the church confirms the Canon: 3. When challenged by heretical teachings, such as that of Marcion the Gnostic (c. 85-c. 160), who rejected all but part of Luke and 10 of Paul’s epistles (all but the Pastoral Epistles) 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), the church responded by officially defining the extent of the Canon. Lists of apostolic books & collection of their writings were made from early times, beginning with 2nd century, which includes the following: a. The Muratorian canon (A.D. 170); b. Apostolic Canon (c. 300); c. Cheltenham Canon (c. 360); d. Athanasian Canon (c. 367); e. The Old Latin translation (c. 200). VI. The Preservation of the Canon: The preservation of these books by the church confirms the Canon: f. This process culminated in the late fourth and early fifth centuries of the Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (410), which listed the 27 books of the New Testament as the complete Canon. g. There has been no significant debate since A.D. 410 regarding the 27 books of N.T. h. The only addition occurred at Catholic Council of Trent in 1546 whereby they added the O.T. Apocrypha as “infallible” (seven books and four parts of books) 29 years later after Martin Luther’s demanded for proof-texts for the selling of indulgences to free souls from purgatory). VI. The Preservation of the Church: The Council of Trent stated: “If anyone, however, should not accept the said books as sacred and canonical, enter with all their parts…and if both knowingly and deliberately he should condemn the aforesaid tradition let him be anathema [forever cursed].” Vatican II repeats the same language affirming the Apocrypha to be part of the inspired Word of God. CONCLUSION: The Bible is the only infallible written revelation of God to man. It is complete, since both Old and New Testaments contain all the books God inspired for the faith and practice of future generations. This is confirmed by the following: 1. The promise of Christ; 2. The providence of God; 3. The preservation by the people of God; 4. The proclamation of the early church.