A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Misconceptions About the New Testament Canon

On his blog Canon Fodder, Michael Kruger, a New Testament Professor, has been writing a series of posts on ten misunderstandings that concern the canon of the New Testament. The ten are:

1. The Term "Canon" Can Only Refer to a Fixed, Closed List of Books

2. Nothing in Early Christianity Dictated That There Would be a Canon

3. The New Testament Authors Did Not Think They Were Writing Scripture

4. New Testament Books Were Not Regarded as Scriptural Until Around 200 A.D.

5. Early Christians Disagreed Widely over the Books Which Made It into the Canon

6. In the Early Stages, Apocryphal Books Were as Popular as the Canonical Books

7. Christians Had No Basis to Distinguish Heresy from Orthodoxy Until the Fourth Century

8. Early Christianity was an Oral Religion and Therefore Would Have Resisted Writing Things Down

9. The Canonical Gospels Were Certainly Not Written by the Individuals Named in Their Titles

10. Athanasius’ Festal Letter (367 A.D.) is the First Complete List of New Testament Books

In his latest post Kruger takes on misconception 5: the belief that the early church widely disputed which books should have been classified as canonical.

He proffers three major points in critique of this misconception:

1. A core NT canon existed very early.

2. Use of apocryphal books is not evidence of widespread disagreement.

3. Instances of disagreement over canonical books are not necessarily evidence that such disagreement is widespread.

Kruger concludes, In sum, there is impressive evidence for widespread agreement over the core canonical books from a very early time. Most of the disagreements dealt with only a handful of books—2 Peter, 2-3 John, Jude, Revelation. But even these disagreements should not be overplayed. We should not be too quick to assume that disagreements over a book are due to the fact that its canonical status is undecided. On the contrary, sometimes disagreements are not so much over what should be included in the canon, but are over which books are already in the canon. As David Trobisch observes, 'The critical remarks of the church fathers can be better interpreted as a historical critical reaction to an existing publication.'

The entire post can be read here.

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