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Research Paper
On
The Canon of the New Testament

A Paper
Submitted to Mr. David Pearson
In Partial Fulfillment
Of the Requirements for the Course
Master’s In Biblical Studies
By
Ryan S. Reddie

Submitted on
Friday, November 27, 2014

Table of Contents

I. Introduction……………………………………………………………………………… …………….. 1
II. Setting the Standard…………………………………..……………………..…………………….. 1
III. The Necessity of the Canon…………….……………………….….…………………………… 3
a. Two Threatening Dilemmas: Heresy and Persecution…………….………….. 3
b. Countering Heresy………………….……………………………………………………….…. 4
c. Getting the Word Out……… ………………………… ……………………………………. 5

IV. Criteria for Canonization………….……………………………………………………………….. 5
a. Orthodoxy…………………………………………………………………………………..……. 6
b. Apostolicity… ……………………………………………………………………………………. 7
c. Universality……… ………………………………………….……………… ………………….. 7

V. Universal Recognition of the New Testament Canon………… ……………… …… 8

VI. Is the Canon Closed………………………………………………………….……………………. 9

VIII. Conclusion……………….…………………………………………………………………………… 10

INTRODUCTION
Christians all over the world base their beliefs on the authority of Scripture, it’ is now apparent that the contemporary or modern day Christians must develop a foundational understanding how the New Testament has come to be (why?). It is interesting to note that this very topic (which topic? You have not mentioned it yet.) was indeed a much-debated topic among church fathers and their heretical counterparts, . Thus, the writings of the fathers are invaluable guides in following the evolving process of recognizing the New Testament canon as it stands today. By examining the formation of the New Testament canon this paper will demonstrate that the New Testament writings were thoroughly critiqued and recognized as being elevated above all others, thus proving trustworthy and complete. (This is close to being a purpose statement, but it needs a bit more specificity). In the last century, or more there has arisen a sharp divergence of opinion among biblical scholars which deeply affects questionregarding the question of Biblical canonicity (It would be best to give a brief definition of canonicity here before moving on). In time past most students of the bible believed it to be true and accepted its supernatural teachings. Since the rise of rationalism and its penetration into the citadels of the Christian faith, it has become common to deny the possibility of the supernatural, and with this denial the Bible has been dissected and challenged in many ways. The study of the OT canon in such circles is a study of history of the growth of the error of Biblical acceptance and belief on the part of the Christian church. It is clear that conservative and liberal Christians approach the subject of the OT canon from very different viewpoints. It is more important however, to assess the evidence bearing on the subject with care, and also to judge whether opposition to the historic view of the canon stems from compelling arguments of theories previously adopted on other grounds.

I must mention that the conservative scholar in is not without bias in this matter. He freely confesses that full information on the OT canon is no longer available. He utilizes freely every scrap of evidence remaining. He is also heavily influenced in all these matters by the teaching of Christ. Christ’s teaching and work guarantee to the Church the possibility of a real factual Revelation from God. (Just to mention here that this is an argument from the standpoint of faith. Only if you accept that Jesus was in some way special in his identity as God will this argument hold credence. If, like many liberal thinkers do, you believe that Jesus was a mere man than nothing that he says will have any divine stamp on it. So, when you make these claims be prepared for the backlash to them from those who do not hold your view on particular matters).SETTING THE STANDARD
Canon is derived from the Greek kanon, which originally referred to a reed that was used to test for straightness or length. Canon later evolved to mean “standard”, “rule”, or “norm”. By the fourth century it was used to describe the books we now recognize as the Old and New Testament. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, is the first writer known to have used ‘canon’ in this way. 2 Today the ‘canon’ is recognized as “the closed collection of documents that constitute authoritative scripture .” But the student must press further to appreciate the process that the early church went through as they wrestled with many writings that were ultimately excluded from the New Testament. A major misunderstanding among many people is that the Church formed a council and
simply picked the books they wanted as part of the Bible. But this is a misstep that fails to
Distinguish the difference between determination and recognition of canonicity. J. I. Packer (year and page number)
Nnotes,
The Church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity, by His work of creation, and similarly He gave us the New Testament canon, by inspiring the individual books that make it up.

It is therefore incorrect to view the church over the canon. In fact, the early fathers clearly believed the church was under the canon. Thus, while the church did not determine canonicity, the church recognized the divine origin of the canon by compiling the twenty-seven New Testament writings to the exclusion of many others that did not fit the criteria for being ‘God-breathed’. By the second half of the second century, clear evidence of the concept of a canon appears, although not all the books now included in the Canon were decided upon in any one Church.

THE NECESSITY OF THE CANON

Two Threatening Dilemmas: Heresy and Persecution
Two threatening dilemmas, heretical influence and Roman persecution, led the Church to
produce a clearly defined canon. First, the rise of Gnostic teachers (e.g. Valentinus) challenged the Church to clarify how the Bible should be rightly interpreted. Other heretical works led the early church fathers to answer how the Bible should be correctly identified . Marcion’s canon (A.D. 140) excludes Matthew, Mark, and John. Even Luke, his only recognized Gospel, was purged of elements that were inconsistent with Marion’s beliefs. Consequently, he mutilated Luke by removing all references to Jesus’ birth, genealogy, or Jewishness, which he attributed to Manipulating editors (i.e. Jewish scribes). The irony is that Marion was guilty of doing the same thing he accused Judaizes of doing. While he recognized ten of Paul’s letters (minus the Pastorals), he further abbreviated these apostolic documents, as he believed that an alien hand had corrupted the authentic Pauline teaching. Thus Marion’s canon sounded an alarm for the Young Church. Without a recognized canon it would be easy for future heretical claims to go unchecked, thus establishing the need for an authoritative list.
The second great dilemma faced by the early church was that of Roman persecution. While the Church had been persecuted in various ways and various locations since the days of Nero, it was the imperial edict of Diocletian that required all copies of Christian Scripture be confiscated and destroyed (February 23, AD 303). This brought the necessity for canon clarity to the forefront. Christians needed to know what writings were inspired by God and thus were worth dying for. This focused believers on “the vital role of the scriptures in Christian life and worship”. Thus the Church attempted to answer the fundamental question: What is the Bible?

The Countering Heresy
Without an approved canonical list, different churches valued certain Gospels and Epistles over others. “But Marcion’s list required a response”, and a gradual consensus began to develop among orthodox Christians. Thus by the end of the second century the core of the New Testament canon was established with the recognition of the four Gospels, Acts, and the thirteen Pauline epistles (minus the debatable presumption of Hebrews as Pauline). It is believed that the Muratorian Fragment comes from this time period as it specifically refers to writings that were “forged in accordance with Marcion’s heresy”. This list demonstrates the strong contrast between Gnostic writings and Scripture, saying “it is not fitting that poison should be mixed with honey”. The Muratorian list (A.D.170) reflected a canon much like ours with a few exceptions. This included twenty -one of twenty-seven New Testament writings recognized today. Significantly, Acts is included in the Muratorian list. In contrast to Marcion’s concept of the uniquely faithful apostle Paul, Bruce points out that the book of Acts played a vital role in the New Testament canon calling it “the hinge of the New Testament collection”. Instead of This list includes an Epistle to the Laodicea’s, another to the Alexandrians, and the apocalypse of Peter. It omits one of John’s three epistles. depending Depending on one faithful apostle, the book of Acts demonstrates that the universal message of Christianity is modeled in both the Hebrew leadership of Peter, Paul, and James as well as the Hellenistic leaders like Stephen and Phillip. Thus, as the Muratorian list demonstrates, the four Gospels, Acts, and the thirteen writings of Paul were virtually unquestioned among the early church fathers.
Getting the Word Out
As the gospel rapidly spread to other communities and countries there was a need to translate the Scriptures into other languages like Syriac and Old Latin. Without a clearly defined canon it would be impossible to know which writings to include in these crucial translations for the fledgling churches. Further, as the apostles had passed into eternity and could no longer be questioned face to face, “the emphasis naturally shifted to the written record of their instruction, the Gospels and letters (epistles) they left behind”.

THE CRITERIA FOR CANONIZATION
The early Christians didn’t have the New Testament in a combined codex form, as the separate writings were still yet to be compiled and distributed. They did have the Old Testament, oral teaching about Jesus, an d direct revelation from God through Christian prophets (cf. Acts 21:10-14). As the Gospels and Pauline writings began to circulate, early Christians began to prize these papyrus messages. When the codex form (writings bound more like modern books, developed towards the end of the first century) became available, Christians quickly adopted it to replace the scroll. In this form, there is early evidence “of our twenty seven New Testament documents being bound together in various configurations” (Source?). The four canonical gospels were being circulated together by the middle of the second century and it is generally accepted that the Pauline epistles were circulating before the gospels. Within the next several years the followers of Jesus produced and used many writings outside today’s recognized New Testament canon. Because of this, it became important for the church to sift through these documents to determine authenticity. While several determining factors are mentioned among different authors, the primary tests were those of orthodoxy, apostolicity, and universality.

Orthodoxy
For the writings to be determined to be canonical, they had to The writing must teach principles that the church regarded as correct. Because of “the rule of faith”, heretical writings were quickly jettisoned from the concept of inclusion in the canon. Paul wrote, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8 NIV) Thus writings that stood in opposition to the clear teaching of the apostles were condemned as well. In this way, orthodoxy is closely linked with the next test, apostolicity.
Apostolicity
Apostolicity is certainly one of the most important criteria of recognizing canonical writings. This means, “each book has either apostolic authorship or apostolic teaching . And in either case it possesses apostolic authority”. Eyewitness testimony is essential to authenticate the incredible claims made by Jesus and his followers in the New Testament. To pass the test of apostolicity, the document must be written by apostles or those who had immediate contact with them (e.g. Mark, Luke). As opposed to the Pseudepigrapha writings, “there is good evidence that all twenty -seven books of the New Testament come from the apostles and their associates” (Source?).

Universality
“When a book was received, collected, read, and used by the people of God as the Word
of God, it was regarded as canonical.” Thus the writing must be “accepted by a broad
geographic segment of the church”. Considering the cultural diversities within the churches,
their agreement of which books belonged in the New Testament canon “serves to suggest that this final decision did not originate solely at the human level”. Only the Holy Spirit could lead people from different cultures to universally receive the same writings as canonical.
THE UNIVERSAL RECOGNITION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON
The early church fathers cited the canonical New Testament documents much more
frequently than other writings (now consider non -canonical) circulating during the time.

Eusebius of Caesarea (A.D. 260 -340), who built on the foundation of church fathers Clement and Origen, divided writings into three classes:
1. Recognized Books (four gospels, Acts, fourteen Pauline epistles, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 1
John and Revelation)

2. Disputed Books
a. Generally Accepted (James, Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John)
b. Unacceptable (Acts of Paul, Shepherd of Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, Epistle
of Barnabas and the Didache).

3. Heretical Books (Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Thomas, Acts of Andrew, Acts of John, and
Other similar writings)

Further, many ecclesiastical councils and writings help the contemporary Christian to see how Thorough thorough the process of canon recognition was. The Cheltenham Manuscript (believed to represent North African views in A.D. 360) recognizes all New Testament writings with the exception of Hebrews, James, and Jude. The Festal Letter of Athanasius (A.D. 367), a prescribed canon to The Alexandrian church, is the first document that contains the complete twenty -seven writings of The New Testament alone. The Sixtieth Canon of the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 363) includes all Twenty -seven books with the exception of Revelation. The Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century) contains the entire New Testament (including the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas) and part of the Old Testament. When at last a Church Council, the Synod of Hippo (A.D. 393), listed the 27 books of the New Testament, “it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity”. The Third Council of Carthage (A.D. 397), attended by Augustine, recognized the full New Testament that we recognize today, with little deviation from that time forward. Particular important is the fact that the New Testament canon was not determined by any one Church Council.

IS THE CANON CLOSED?
Most who visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. will be humbled by what they see and hear. One of the most intriguing aspects is listening to the stories of holocaust survivors, eyewitnesses of that awful time. Thanks to technology the audience can visualize some of these atrocities in pictures and movies for themselves, as so become eyewitnesses to the events of World War II. Without the use of this technology, and knowing that some news agencies slant stories to fit their agenda, most choose to listen to eyewitness testimony rather than someone who might attempt to rewrite history. In the same way, today there are many attempts to reconstruct history by those who don’t like where the historical evidence points them. Two thousand years after the historical Jesus, it is dangerous to receive fresh “revelation” from a contemporary writer – knowing that he has not been an eyewitness to Jesus’ life or the first century church. It is this idea of an open canon that leads many into the cultic ideologies.

An open canon could and has produced “an unending stream of revelations about Jesus” that detaches themselves from the Jesus of history. Many within the first century church died to proclaim the message of the historical Jesus to the next generation. There is much less risk and much more reward when we rely upon the eyewitnesses of Jesus rather than contemporary pseudo scholars who change their theories with the wind. Is the biblical canon closed? “To this one should respond that the canon is closed theologically and historically , and is open only hypothetically.”
CONCLUSION

It is clear that no one church or council decided on the New Testament canon. Foakes Jackson (year and page number) makes the interesting observation that, “The Church assuredly did not make the New Testament; the two grew up together.” That multiple churches could agree on anything is miraculous by itself, but the agreement upon the New Testament canon could only be brought out by humble hearts led by the Holy Spirit. It is clear that “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”. These Scriptures are therefore trustworthy and complete the primary authority of the Church until Jesus returns for His people.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bruce, F.F. The Books and The Parchments. Rev. ed. Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1963.
. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988.
Carson, D.A. ; Moo, Douglas. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005.
Geisler, Norman L. and Nix, William E. A General Introduction to the Bible. Revised and expanded, Chicago: Moody Press, 1996.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Volume I: The Early Church to the Dawn of the
Reformation . New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1984.
Jackson, F. John Foakes. A History of Church History. Cambridge, England: W. Heffer and Sons , 1939.
Koukl, Greg. ” The Da Vinci Code Cracks ” Solid Ground (May/June 2006): 1 -8.
Lea, Thomas ; Black, David. The New Testament: Its Background and Message . Second Addition, Nashville, TN: Broadman ; Holman Publishers, 2003.
McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999. Wood, D. R. W. and Marshall, I. Howard. New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Downers Grove, Ill. Intervarsity Press, 1996.

OK Ryan,Work on your purpose statement to make it as explicit as you can. I would also use my conclusion to do some recapping before closing with the statement that you currently have as your conclusion.You must cite all sources used throughout the paper, and rewrite your Bibliography and footnotes (write your footnotes) using Turabian referencing style. Go to eturabian.com for a helpful free service to properly cite all sources. Just type in the relevant information and have the site write up the references for you. Copy and paste them in your Bibliography and Footnotes as applicable.DP

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