© 1999 James A. Fowler

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I. Introduction

   A. English word "canon"
        1. Derived from Greek word kanon meaning "measure, rule, standard, norm." Later meant "list"
           or "collection."
        2. Greek word derived from Hebrew word qaneh meaning "reed."
        3. Greek word kanon not used of standard collection of Scripture until 4th century.
   B. Greek word kanon used in New Testament
        1. II Cor. 10:13,15,16 - "a measure"
        2. Gal. 6:16 - "walk by this rule"
        3. Phil. 3:16 - "living by that standard" (not in best MSS)
   C. Distinguishing between
        1. Revelation
        2. Inspiration
        3. Enscripturalization
        4. Preservation
        5. Authoritization
        6. Canonization
   D. Criteria for canonization? Determined from early Christian sources.
        1. Early dating
        2. Apostolic origin
        3. Divine inspiration
        4. Divine authority
        5. No contradiction to accepted teaching, "rule of faith."
        6. Relevance and value to church at large
   E. Some regard study of the canonization of Scripture as a threat to their faith in the Bible.

II. Canon of the Old Testament.

   A. Hebrew writings of Jews were progressively divided into three parts:
        1. Law - Torah - Pentateuch - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
        2. Prophets
             a. Former prophets - Joshua, Judges, Samuel (I,II), Kings (I,II)
             b. Latter prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 12 prophets
      3. Writings - Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel,
            Ezra/Nehemiah, Chronicles (I,II).
   B. Later Ruth was attached to Judges, and Lamentations to Jeremiah to cause sum of books to be
         22, corresponding to number of letters in Hebrew alphabet.
   C. The Hebrew O.T. writings that Jesus was familiar with were likely collected in one of the
         foregoing ways. Matthew 23:35 tends to illustrate this.
   D. Josephus, Jewish historian, c. 100 A.D., wrote that Jews had 22 books containing the history of
         all time.
   E. Canonization process was gradual. Divisions due both to content and chronology of acceptance
         as canonical.
   F. Councils of Jamnia, 90, 118 A.D., Jewish rabbis discussed canon of O.T.
   G. Septuagint (LXX), Greek translation of O.T. employed different order and included apocryphal
         literature. Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation used LXX.
   H. Roman Catholic Bibles include O.T. apocrypha - Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, I,II
         Macabees, and additions to Esther and Daniel.

III. Canon of the New Testament

   A. Early Christian writings gradually collected. Gospels. Paul's writings - (II Peter 3:16).
   B. Marcion, Gnostic heretic, (139 A.D.) determined list of writings. Rejected O.T., revised Luke's
         gospel, ten Pauline epistles. Restricted list.
   C. Montanus claimed divine revelation. Expanded list.
   D. Church responded to these attempts to expand or restrict.
   E. Irenaeus, 180 A.D. cites 22 writings as acceptable: 4 gospels, Acts, 13 Pauline epistles, I Peter,
        I,II John and Revelation.
   F. Muratorian list - named after Italian Muratori (1740) who discovered such. Fragment dated late
         2nd to 4th century. 22 books plus Apocalypse of Peter. Hebrews, I,II Peter, III John and
         James omitted.
   G. Tertullian (150-230) - 22 books accepted: 4 gospels, Acts, 13 Pauline epistles, I Peter, I John,
         Jude, Revelation.
   H. Origen (185-255). Three categories of writings:
        1. Acknowledged: 4 gospels, 13 Pauline epistles, I Peter, I John, Acts, Revelation.
        2. Disputed: II Peter, II,III John, Hebrews, James and Jude; also Epistle of Barnabas,
             Shepherd of Hermas, Didache.
        3. Heretical: Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Peter, etc.
   I. Eusebius (260-340).
        1. Acknowledged: 4 gospels, 14 Pauline epistles (Hebrews included), I Peter, I John, Acts
        2. Disputed: James, Jude, II Peter, II,III John, Revelation. Spurious: Shepherd of Hermas,
               Epistle of Barnabas, Didache, Acts of Paul.
        3. Heretical: Gospel of Thomas, Peter, Acts of Andrew etc.
   J. Codex Sinaiticus (4th century). 27 books plus Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas.
   K. Council of Laodicea (363) - 26 books. Revelation omitted.
   L. Athanasius (367) - first time list includes the 27 books of present N.T.
   M. Jerome's Vulgate included 27 books of N.T.
   N. Augustine (397), 3rd Council of Carthage, accepted 27 books of N.T.
   O. Martin Luther. Put Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation at back of His German N.T. as
         inferior writings.

IV. Questions

   A. Was Christianity ever intended to be a religion of Scripture?
        1. II Cor. 3:6
        2. Anchor Bible Dict. I, 853 - "Christianity was not originally a Scriptural religion in the same
             sense as Judaism. The faith of the earliest Christian community was evoked by and centered
             on a person, Jesus of Nazareth."
   B. Is the Bible intended to be the basis of authority for Christians?
        1. Matt. 28:18
        2. "Word of the Lord" - I Cor. 7:10; 9:14; 11:23; I Thess. 4:15
   C. What if the New Testament had never been written, preserved, or collected?
   D. Is the Bible the infallible Word of God?
   E. Did the Church put the Bible together?
   F. Is canonicity God-given or Church-conferred? ...or combination of both?
   G. Did God determine what writings should be in the Bible, and then Christians in the Church
         recognized and affirmed these as the normative and authoritative standard?



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