The New Testament Canon and the Church

Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christian There have been various attacks on the New Testament for many years; it’s nothing new when someone levels an objection or complaint against it.  Recent attacks include setting Paul against Jesus, using apocryphal books to discredit the NT, and saying the formation of the canon was a power-move of the early church.  Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger answer some of these attacks in their helpful book, The Heresy of Orthodoxy.  [I’ve mentioned this book quite a few times before (here, here, and here for example).]  I was recently re-reading a part of this book, and saw a helpful quote I had marked in my copy.  It’s worth sharing:

“…A written New Testament was not something the church formally ‘decided’ to have at some later date, but rather it was the natural outworking of the redemptive-historical function of the apostles.  Inasmuch as that text was deemed to be an embodiment of the apostolic message, it would have retained the authority of the apostles and thereby the authority of Christ himself.  It is here that we see the vivid contrast with the Bauer-influenced approaches noted above.  Those approaches suggest that the writing down of these Jesus traditions took place before they were seen as authoritative (the latter happening at a much later date), whereas the historical evidence suggests that the traditions were seen as authoritative before they were written down (due to their apostolic connections).

Thus, it is not difficult to see why early Christians would have regarded some texts as authoritative from the very start.  The idea of a New Testament canon was not something developed in the second century (or later) when the church was faced with pressing needs, but rather it was something that was handed down to and inherited by the early church from the beginning.  It was the foundation for the church, not the consequence of the church. The idea of canon, therefore, does not belong formally in church history, but it is more accurately understood as a central plank in redemptive history.”

This is a brilliant biblical insight, and I couldn’t agree more.  Read it again if you missed it; better yet, get the book if you don’t have it!

The quote can be found in The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Kostenberger and Kruger, p. 117.

Shane Lems

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