TheoThought 300

David W. Hegg

 

Canonicity

 

Introduction: That Scripture claims to be God’s Word is evident. As well, both logic and church history testify that God’s Word must be both inerrant and infallible. But the bigger question then is this: What makes something “Scripture?” Who decides? The answers to these questions fall into the theological area of canonicity.

 

1. Definitions:

 

Canon: This word derives from an ancient Hebrew form of qaneh meaning “reed or stalk (see 1 Kings 14:15; Job 40:21). Reeds were often used as “measuring sticks” and one use of the word came to mean “rule” or “standard.” The Greeks incorporated this word (kanon) into their language using it to mean any kind of standard or guideline.

 

Today, in theology, canon refers to a “collection or list of books accepted as an authoritative rule of faith and practice” (R. N. Soulen, quoted by Wegner in Journey, pg. 101) and describes that collection of books considered Scripture.

 

Canoniziation: The process by which an ancient book or writing is determined to be part of the canon; that is, is affirmed as divinely inspired Scripture.

 

Canonicity: The inherent quality of Scripture by which it is self-authenticating as divinely inspired.

 

Summary: The process of canonization has, as its purpose, the affirmation of the canonicity of texts that come to be included in the canon of divinely inspired Scripture.

Excursus: The Self-Authenticating Nature of Divinely Inspired Scripture:

 

Since the Reformation the idea of a self-authenticating canon has been foundational in the Protestant church although the doctrine itself can be traced back to the early church fathers. This doctrine is known as autopistic (auto = self; pistic =  from Greek pistis, faith).

 

Calvin: God alone is a fit witness of himself in the Word … Scripture is indeed self-authenticated.” (Institiutes, 1.7.4,5).

 

(For an excellent treatise on this important doctrine see:

Canon Revisited; Michael J. Kruger; Crossway, 2012)

 

“The argument of the self-authenticating model so far is that we can know which books are canonical because God has provided the proper epistemic environment where belief in these books can be reliably formed. This environment includes not only providential exposure to the canonical books, but also the three attributes of canonicity that all canonical books posses – divine qualities, corporate reception, apostolic origins – and the work of the Holy Spirit to help us recognize them.” (Kruger, Canon Revisited, pg. 113)

 

“We may well believe that those early Christians acted by a wisdom higher than their own in this matter, not only in what they accepted, but in what they rejected. Divine authority is by its very nature self-evidencing; and one of the profoundest doctrines recovered by the Reformers is the doctrine of the inward witness of the Holy Spirit, by which testimony is borne within the believer’s heart to the divine character of Holy Scripture. This witness is not confined to the individual believer, but is also accessible to the believing community; and there is no better example of its operation than in the recognition by the members of the Early Church of the books which were given by inspiration of God to stand alongside the books of the Old Covenant, the Bible of Christ and his apostles, and with them to make up the written Word of God.” (Bruce, The Books and The Parchments, pg. 104).

 

“It seems to follow from what has been said, that the Bible contains in itself the fullest witness to its Divine authority. If it appears that a large collection of fragmentary records, written, with few exceptions, without any designed connexion, at most distant times and under the most varied circumstances, yet combine to form a definite whole, broadly separated from other books; if it further appears that these different parts when interpreted historically reveal a gradual progress of social spiritual life uniform at least in its general direction; if without any intentional purpose they offer not only remarkable coincidences in minute details of facts, for that is a mere question of accurate narration, but also subtle harmonies of complementary doctrine; if in proportion as they are felt to be separate they are felt also to be instinct with a common spirit; then it will be readily acknowledged that however they came into being first, however they were united afterwards into the sacred volume, they are yet legibly stamped with the Divine seal as ‘inspired by God’ in a sense in which no other writings are.” (Westcott, The Bible in the Church, pg. 15).

 

2. Two Views of Canon and Canonization:

 

Protestant View                                    Roman Catholic View

• Inspired Texts were re-                       The Church determined which

cognized by the church as such.         books were divinely authored.

 

• The Bible and God’s Word                 The Church created the Bible.

created the church.

 

• The Bible alone is inspired.               The Bible & Church Tradition

                                                               are equally authoritative.

 

• Revelation has ceased.                      Revelation is ongoing through

                                                               the Church.

 

• The Apocrypha is not inspired.         The Apocrypha is accepted as

                                                               authoritative.

 

Summary: The primary difference (and it is significant!) is that Protestants believe Scripture comes with its own self-authenticating nature as divinely inspired, and is recognized as such by the church. This means the Bible has authority over the church (though sadly it must be admitted that too often human leaders assert their opinions above the truth of Scripture.)

 

Roman Catholicism believes the church determines what is Scripture, and therefore, shares the authoritative platform equally with the Bible. In practice, however, church hierarchy often is recognized above Scripture.

 

 3. The Idea of Canonicity and Canon in Scripture:

 

The central element in canonicity and canon is the recognition on the part of those receiving communication is that it is inherently recognized as coming from God and therefore, divinely inspired, inerrant, and authoritative.

 

Deut. 4.2 You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

 

Deut. 12.32   “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

 

Jer. 26.2 “Thus says the LORD:  Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD  all the words that I command you to speak to them;  do not hold back a word.

 

2Pet. 3.15 And count  the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as  our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you  according to the wisdom given him,  16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.  There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction,  as they do the other Scriptures.

 

Rev. 22.6   And he said to me,  “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of  the spirits of the prophets,  has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” 7   “And behold,  I am coming soon.  Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book. 8   I,  John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them,  I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me,

 

Rev. 22.18   I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book:  if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,  19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in  the tree of life and in  the holy city, which are described in this book. 

 

 

 4. Three Important Occasions in Old Testament History

There are 3 times when certain writings were recognized as having divine authority:

 

1) Moses: When Moses brought the Book of the Covenant down from Mt. Sinai the people recognized it as from God:

 

Exodus 24:7: Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said,  “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”

 

2) Josiah:  When the young king discovered the Book of the Law of God all the people recognized it as from God:

 

2Kings 23.3 And the king stood  by the pillar and  made a covenant before the LORD,  to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.

 

3) Nehemiah: When Ezra read from the Book of the Law, the people recognized is as from God:

 

Neh. 8.1, 2, 5, 6, 9: 1   And all the people gathered as one man into the square before  the Water Gate. And they told  Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel.  … 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.  6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered,  “Amen, Amen,”  lifting up their hands … 9 And Nehemiah, who was  the governor, and Ezra  the priest and scribe … said to the people  “This day is holy to the LORD your God;  do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.

 

5. Formation of the OT Canon

 

There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding when the Old Testament canon was formed. Scripture itself is almost silent regarding how or when the books were assembled … What can be pieced together of its history is gleaned from the few references found in Scripture and other literature. (Wenger, pg. 104,105).

 

• Oral Transmission: At first, God’s Word was transmitted from one generation to the next orally:

 

Deut. 4.9    “Only take care, and  keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.  Make them known to your children and your children’s children—  10 how on  the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me,  ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words,  so that they may learn to fear  me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’

 

At some point the orally transmitted material was committed to writing for broader study and to ensure accuracy. Scholars agree the oral tradition of the Hebrew people was incredibly accurate. (e.g. Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah is almost identical with Masoretic text dating hundreds of years later.)

The Collection Process: There are several biblical texts that show at a very early stage various books and parts of God’s Word were recognized as from God, treated with reverence, and gathered together for safe-keeping. Further, they were forbidden to add to, or subtract from, the books that came from God:

 

Ex. 17.14   Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of  Joshua, that  I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”  15 And Moses  built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner,  16 saying, “A hand upon the throne  of the LORD!  The LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

 

Ex. 24.3   Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and  all the rules.  And all the people answered with one voice and said,  “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”  4 And  Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve  pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel … 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said,  “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”

 

Ex. 25.16  And you shall put into the ark the  testimony that I shall give you.

 

Ex. 25.21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.

 

Deut. 10.2 And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and  you shall put them in the ark.’  3 So I made an ark  of acacia wood, and  cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand.  4 And  he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments   that the LORD had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire  on the day of the assembly. And the LORD gave them to me.  5 Then I turned and  came down from the mountain and  put the tablets in the ark that I had made.  And there they are, as the LORD commanded me.”

 

1Kings 8.9 There was nothing in the ark except  the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where  the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.

 

Heb. 9.4 having the golden  altar of incense and  the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was  a golden urn holding the manna, and  Aaron’s staff that budded, and  the tablets of the covenant.

 

Deut. 31.24   When Moses had finished  writing the words of this law in a book to the very end,  25 Moses commanded  the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD,  26 “Take this Book of the Law  and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for  a witness against you.

 

Deut. 4.2  You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

 

Deut. 12.32     “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do.  You shall not add to it or take from it.

 

Josh. 24.26 And Joshua  wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And  he took a large stone and set it up there  under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.

 

1Sam. 10.25   Then Samuel told the people  the rights and duties of the kingship, and he wrote them in a book and laid it up before the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people away, each one to his home. 

 

• The Destruction of the Temple: It seems certain the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586BC caused the collection and safe-guarding of Israel’s sacred texts to take on greater urgency.

 

It was because of the cataclysmic event of the destruction of the First Temple that what we now know as the Law and the Prophets first came to be collected and galvanized into the shape they now have.

 

• The Division of the Hebrew Canon: The Hebrew canon, or Old Testament was made up of 3 Sections:

 

The Torah (Law):  = Genesis – Deuteronomy (5)

The Prophets: = Joshua – Esther; Major &Mi nor Prophets (29)

• The Writings: = Job – Song of Solomon (5)

 

Luke 24:27, 44, 45 And  beginning with  Moses and  all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself … 44   Then he said to them,  “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,  that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then  he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

 

• Evidences of the Old Testament Canon:

 

The Septuagint: (LXX: 250-100BC) This Greek translation of the Hebrew canon stands as very early evidence that an OT canon was already in existence.

 

The Prologue to Ecclesiasticus: (2nd century BC). This ancient book was translated into Greek in 130BC and refers to the Old Testament several times using the 3-fold division described above.

 

The New Testament: Several times in the New Testament the Hebrew canon is mentioned and described:

Matt. 23.34  Therefore  I send you  prophets and wise men and  scribes,  some of whom you will kill and crucify, and  some you will  flog in your synagogues and  persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all  the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous  Abel to the blood of  Zechariah the son of Barachiah,  whom you murdered between  the sanctuary and  the altar. (Note: the historical reference is to the first and last murders recorded in the Hebrew canon, and implies that biblical history spans from Genesis to Chronicles, likely the last book in the original order of the Hebrew Bible).

 

Luke 24:27, 44, 45 And  beginning with  Moses and  all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself … 44   Then he said to them,  “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,  that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then  he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

 

Philo (c. 20BC – AD 50): This learned Alexandrian Jew quotes extensively from the Hebrew canon, but never from the Apocryphal books.

 

Josephus (37 – 100AD): “We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for them.” quoted by Wenger, Journey, pg. 117)

 

• Criteria: It appears the following were the criteria by which the Old Testament Canon was affirmed:

 

1. It does not contain contradictions.

2. It was written by a prophet or someone recognized as having divine authority.

3. It originated through inspiration from God.

4. It was accepted by the Jews as authoritative material.

    (taken from Wenger, Journey, pg. 117)

 

Of these, the last is the most important for it shows divinely inspired material comes with its own self-authenticating ethos. The Spirit who inspired Scripture makes its acceptance as Scripture guaranteed.

 

6. Formation of the New Testament Canon

 

The early church, having already recognized the Old Testament collection as canon, was no stranger to the need to gather, clarify, and affirm those new writings that came with a self-authentication canonicity, and gave witness to their being divinely inspired Scripture.

 

The issue of the New Testament canon is much more difficult than that of the Old Testament simply because we do not the strong history of the Israelite people in their receiving and securing divinely inspired texts. However, this does not put the NT canon in doubt, as we will see.

 

• New Testament Evidence: Already in the NT itself we have evidence that the writings of the apostles had been received as divinely inspired Scripture:

 

1 Timothy 5:18: For the Scripture says,  “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and,  “The laborer deserves his wages.”

 

Notice: Paul here quotes from “Scripture”. The first quote comes from Deut. 25:4, but the second is from Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7. This means Paul considered the Gospels (either Matthew or Luke) to be Scripture already by 50-60AD.

 

2 Peter 3:15 And count  the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as  our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you  according to the wisdom given him,  16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters.  There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

 

• The Role of the Holy Spirit: When Jesus told his disciples he was returning to heaven, he also promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would bring to their remembrance all he had taught them. We also find it was this Spirit who was responsible for superintending the writers of the New Testament insuring what they wrote to be a “one-for-one” with what God had breathed out.

 

John 14.26 But the  Helper, the Holy Spirit,  whom the Father will send in my name,  he will teach you all things and  bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

 

John 15.26   “But  when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father,  he will bear witness about me.

 

John 16.13 When  the Spirit of truth comes,  he will  guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but  whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

 

2Pet. 1.20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  21 For  no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God  as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

 

Note: God the Spirit was instrumental both in the production of Scripture (through his superintendency of the human writers) and the reception of Scripture by the church (whom he indwells individually) as divinely inspired. Simply put, the author recognizes and receives that which he was instrumental in producing.

 

• From Oral Transmission to Written Material: the beginning of the NT era the church learned from eyewitnesses (e.g. The Apostles and their companions, etc). But as these began to pass away the need became apparent to record the doctrines and sacred traditions of the church to safeguard their accuracy. Thus, the church set about to collect and secure those writings the various churches had received and affirmed as divinely inspired.

 

During the first century the Apostles began writing the New Testament, and there is strong evidence many of their writings were immediately copied and distributed to the churches. These books were received, affirmed, collected and added to the authoritative collection of Scripture that already contained the Old Testament canon. It seems very unlikely that the Apostles would have written fabricated accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings while there were still eyewitnesses around to refute them.

 

• Dating the New Testament Books: All of those books now included in the NT canon were written between 48AD and 100AD. Yet, while these books were certainly copied and distributed, some were more widely known than others. It seems each church maintained its own collection of divinely inspired books but collections varied according to which letters/books each church had received.

 

• The Rise of Early Heresies: It became clear, as rival movements attempted to undermine Christianity, that written materials would help solidify the church’s doctrinal stance and defend the truth against error. These included Gnosticism, Docetism, and Montanism. More than anything else, it was the rise and spread of error that galvanized the early church to formalize the canon of the New Testament.

 

Montanism: Montanus (late 2nd Century) was a convert to Christianity from the mystical religion of Cybele. He claimed to be the “Promised Paraclete and began declaring his words to be divinely inspired.

 

Chadwick states “The chief effect of Montanism on the Catholic Church was greatly to reinforce the conviction that revelation had come to an end with the apostolic age, and so to foster the creation of a closed canon of the New Testament.” (The Early Church, Henry Chadwick; Penguin, 1990, pg. 53)

 

•The Process of Canonization of the New Testament: There are great similarities between the processes of canonization of the OT and NT. In both cases, the texts were written by those understood to have divine authority. In each case the texts were received as God’s Word, divinely inspired, and as such were treated with reverence as authoritative. There is good evidence that, already by the mid-2nd century many of the NT books were already being collected into some form of canon.

• Early Church Fathers:

Clement of Rome (c. 60-100AD), Ignatius (c. 60-117AD), Polycarp (c. 69-155AD) all quote from NT books asserting their divine origin and authority. While no definitive collection is mentioned, already by this time the books that would later be affirmed to form the NT canon were being accepted and affirmed as divinely inspired. To this list could be added Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, and Eusebius – all of which quoted extensively from NT books as divinely inspired and authoritative. In their writings we can find various lists of books which they accepted.

 

• The Muratorian Canon:

An 8th century Latin manuscript that contains an early list of NT books containing 20 of the 27 now recognized as canon. Its beginning is mutilated and so Luke is seen as the first book although it is said to be the “third Gospel.” It is probable that Matthew and Mark were originally part of the list. It does not list Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, or 3rd John.

 

The author of this fragment speaks throughout it of these books being received through general affirmation of the church.

 

 • Athanasius (c. 296-373AD); While Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius is credited as being the first to list all 27 books of what we now know as the NT canon. He listed them in an Easter letter to his congregation in 367AD.

 

• Church Councils: During the 4th and 5th centuries the rise of heresy continued unabated. The deity of Christ, the nature of man, and other essential issues threatened to divide the church. The ecumenical councils were called to allow the church leaders to affirm biblical doctrines and identify error. This necessarily led to the discussion of what books made up the NT canon of divinely inspired and authoritative Scripture.

 

While the majority of the NT was already widely accepted as canonical by the mid-2nd century, there remained uncertainty concerning the General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1,2 Peter, the Epistles of John, and Jude).

 

Questions about the authorship of Hebrews, James and Jude, the vocabulary of 2 Peter, and the brevity of 2nd and 3rd John caused some hesitation concerning their canonicity. Yet, over time these difficulties were resolved as those who had initially received these writings as divinely inspired were able to answer the questions posed.

 

Note: As the Canon came to be recognized, some books were left off of some of the lists of the early church leaders. The best explanation is some of the shorter books, and some with more targeted audiences, had a much narrower distribution. As such, they were not included in many of the individual churches’ collections. Being less widely distributed and less widely used and affirmed, they took longer to gain general acceptance.

 

In A.D. 363, the Council of Laodicea affirmed the 27 books of the New Testament were to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo (A.D. 393) and the Council of Carthage (A.D. 397) also affirmed the same 27 books as authoritative.

 

• The New Testament Canon:

 

“It is important to remember that the Christian church did not canonize any book. Canonization was determined by God. But the early church needed to know how to recognize canonicity.” (Wenger, Journey, pg. 147)

 

From the writings of the church fathers, and leaders up through the 5th century, we can derive the criteria by which the early church determined the canonicity of the 27 books that now make up the New Testament Canon:

 

1. Was the book written by an apostle, or by someone associated with an apostle, and recognized as an authority?

2. Did the writing agree with the canon of truth (The OT Canon and the oral witness of the early Christians)?

3. Was it received by the church generally?

4. Was it recognized as having a self-authenticating divine nature?

 

“In fact, no body of literature has been subjected, over the past two centuries, to more intensive and critical analysis than the New Testament writings  in general and the four Gospels in particular. it is on the basis of such scientific enquiry, not in despite of it, that such a credible account of Jesus as that given by C. H. Dodd … is constructed.” (quoted by Wenger, Journey, pg. 132).

 

7. Is The Canon Closed?

 

It would seem clear that, if one of the criteria by which the Spirit enables the church to discern the inherent canonicity of Scripture is authorship by an apostle or apostolic assistant, then with the death of the apostles the writing of divinely inspired Scripture has ended.

 

Thus, we can conclude the New Testament canon was completed by the end of the first century, even though it took considerably longer for the church to recognize the canonicity of the 27 divinely inspired NT books.

 

“The earliest documents in the New Testament are letters written by apostles to their converts and other Christians imparting this teaching and applying it to the various situations that arose in the infant churches. As the apostles did this, we believe, they experienced the fulfillment of their Lord’s promise that his Spirit would lead them into all the truth. But it is a remarkable fact that there is no teaching in the New Testament which is not already present in principle in the teaching of Jesus himself. The apostles did not add to his teaching; under the guidance of the promised Spirit the interpreted and applied it.” (Bruce, The Books and The Parchments, pg. 97).

 

Given that neither Paul or the other NT writers claimed to offer new revelation but asserted only that they wrote and taught what God had already revealed in the OT and finally, in Jesus Christ.

 

1Cor. 15.3   For  I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died  for our sins  in accordance with the Scriptures,  4 that he was buried, that he was raised  on the third day  in accordance with the Scriptures,

 

2Tim. 1.9  who saved us and  called us to  a holy calling,  not because of our works but because of  his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus  before the ages began,  10 and which now has  been manifested through  the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,  who abolished death and  brought life and  immortality to light through the gospel,  11  for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher …

 

This means that those, such as Muhammad, Joseph Smith, and Sun Myung Moon, who lay claim to bringing new revelations from God to man are false prophets, and are to be pointed out and opposed as harmful to the church and the testimony of God.

 

Gal. 1.8 But even if we or  an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you,  let him be accursed.

 

 What if another book was discovered …

 

It is possible an ancient book could be discovered, perhaps authored by Paul. After all, we believe the Epistles to the Corinthians we have in our canon are actually 2nd and 4th Corinthians! If a copy of Paul’s first letter to Corinth was to be found, it could be recognized as Scripture if:

 

• it were verified as authentically Pauline (apostolic authorship)

• it aligned with canonical truth

• it garnered widespread acceptance by the church

• it bore the marks of self-authenticating divine inspiration.

 

Given all this, such a situation occurring is extremely unlikely. It is far better for us to concentrate on reading, studying, understanding, and obeying the canon as we now have it rather than speculate on the possibility of divinely inspired Scripture remaining hidden for 2000 years.

 

 

Resources

 

Books:

 

• Canon Revisited; Michael J. Kruger; Crossway, 2012

This is one of the best resources on the subject, and chapter 3 on Canon as Self-Authenticating is certainly worth the price of the whole book. But all of it is top notch.

 

The Journey from Texts to Translations; Paul D. Wegner; Baker, 1999.

This very helpful and accessible book is a magnificent study of both the canonization of the Bible, and the transmission of the ancient text up to the present day. It has many illustrations, lists, and other helpful material, including information on English translations of the Bible.

 

The Bible in the Church; B. F. Wescott; Baker, 1864.

This is a classic of Christian scholarship that claims to be “a popular account of the collection and reception of the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Churches.”

 

• The Books and The Parchments, 2nd Edition; F. F. Bruce; Revell, 1950.

Written by the “father” of modern textual criticism, this is the standard text on the transmission of the biblical text from its production to the first English translations.

 Other Resources:

http://jamesmgrier.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/self-witness-of-scripture.pdf

This article, while deep and philosophical, is an excellent treatise on the autopistic nature of Scripture.

 

 http://www.bible-researcher.com/canon.html

This site has several articles and lists that are helpful in studying and learning about the canon, and the process of canonization. Highly recommended.