Systematic Theology 3.b Canon of Scripture NT

Part 2 of Canon of Scripture, and from the title – it’s a dead giveaway we’re looking at the New Testament this time. How did we get the books that are in the New Testament, why those and not others (e.g. Gospel of Thomas, Judas, Peter’s great aunt, and Mary’s second cousin twice removed). Furthermore why do we have Paul’s letters and why did Hebrews get added – who even wrote it!?

We get the writing of the Apostles, why? Because the  Holy Spirit enabled them to write down what Jesus said and did. Jesus promised this: John 14.26 and 16.13-14. Why else? Because Peter explains that God gives His commands through the Apostles. Do we need a third reason? Grudem thinks so: Because in the book of Acts there is this story that seems to demonstrate that lying to an apostle is the same as lying to God – Acts 5.2-4. All these reasons add up to point to the fact that the Apostles had God’s authority to record these things.

(Side note: this way of viewing apostles has had some influence on me as a kid, and so even now – understanding that people label things with labels that mean different things to different people – whenever someone uses the term “apostle” to describe another present-day Christian – I get a bit uneasy. Not that it’s wrong, I just don’t know whether it is. So I tend to stick with what I know when it comes to these types of things. Side note over.)

Paul was not one of the original apostles and he writes a big chunk of the New Testament, so why do we have him in our New Testament? Grudem explains that Paul claims for himself apostleship and that he is writing God’s word. (See long list copied by me – so subject to error – not thoroughly checked – see Grudem for correct quotes: 1 Cor 2.9,13,  14.37, 2 Cor 13.3, Rom 2.16, Gal 1.8-9, 1 Thes 2.13, 4.8,15, 5.27, 2 Thes 3.6,14.

Furthermore the letters of Paul are referred to by Peter (another Apostle) in the same way that OT scriptures were referred to (51 other times in the NT). 2 Peter 3.15-16.

So, if the apostles are included + Paul. We have Matthew, John, Romans -> Philemon, James, 1&2 Peter, 1-3 John and Revelation. So what remains?

Mark – is in because of his association with Peter.

Luke (writer of Luke & Acts) – is in because of association with Paul.

Jude – is in because of association with James (AKA brother of Jesus)

Hebrews – most complicated one. Is in because 1) assumed Pauline authorship. 2) its writing aligns without contradiction to the rest of Scripture.

Grudem points out that within 30 years both the Eastern (367AD) and Western (397 AD) sections of the Churches agreed, upon these books as canon. Separately and without influence from each other!

3 Simple takeaway reasons how we can have confidence with the books chosen:

  1. Holy Spirit persuades us books are right.
  2. Historical data is available to support claims books makes.
  3. There are no strong candidates or objections from anyone for another book. Those extra “gospels” or “writings” either a) claim for themselves not to be inspired e.g. Ignatius OR b) are filled with doctrinal errors e.g. Thomas: women need to become men.

At the end of the chapter Grudem asks “what if”… What if we discovered another book, written by Paul.

Both Hebrews 1.1-2 and Revelation 22.18-19 point to the fact that the Canon is closed and since the passage in revelation is at the end of revelation and by definition and content revelation should be the last book. But how do we know for sure?

The main reason is God’s faithfulness. He is faithful and loves us. He is in control of history. He does not lie or withhold what we need. On this basis we can rest secure.

Bible Systematic Theology

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