Monthly Archives: May 2008

TheDeeps

My friend Mickey has a blog here.  I would suggest you go over and read his insightful posts, you will enjoy it more than what I have to say over here!  I really like this blog, maybe it is his header that reminds me of home….nah its the content.–Dirk

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The Canon of Scripture Part 3

Here is the last of three parts. 

Objections

There have been objections to the protestant canon as the true canon.  In this section the Roman Catholic position of adding to the OT and the Liberal position of adding to the NT will be engaged as improper views in light of the aforementioned support.

 

The Apocrypha is a collection of writings that appear in the Roman Catholic OT but are rejected by Protestants.  Why does Rome accept these books?  And should they be acknowledged?  During the Council of Trent in AD 1546 the Roman Catholic Church officially recognized these books as part of the canon.[1]  This is most likely because Jerome put them in the Latin Vulgate, which became the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church and they gained popularity.[2]  There are several reasons why this position should be rejected.  First, the NT never quotes these writings and they themselves do not claim to have divine authority.  Second, the Jewish people who wrote them did not accept them as authoritative.  Third, they are inconsistent with the NT.[3]  Fourth, the majority of early church writings do not show proof of their acceptance.  An example of this would be Melito’s list of OT books, which is the earliest known list.  It does not mention the Apocrypha, but includes all of the protestant OT books except Esther. [4]  This addition of works into the canon essentially comes down to the Roman Catholic Church believing that they can take writings and deem them scripture because the Roman Catholic Church is the ultimate authority over scripture.[5]  Protestants on the other hand subject themselves and the Church to authority of scripture because they see scripture as divine.  The arguments above make a stronger case for the Protestant OT canon and not the Roman Catholic position. What about the objections against the NT position of this paper?  The liberal tradition has those objections. 

 

It is the view of the liberal challenges of the traditional Protestant position that the NT canon should be expanded to include other expressions of early Christianity.  The most famous of these expressions in recent years, Gnosticism, has been brought to the forefront by the DaVinci Code.  Several writers including, Elaine Pagels, Bart Ehrman, and John Dominic Crossan have argued that the addition of writings like the Gospel of Thomas should have a place in orthodoxy requiring their addition to the canon along side the currently accepted gospels.[6]  This too goes against the Protestant canon.  These extra-Biblical texts contain theological error, contradict accepted canonical books, and many times claim not to be authoritative.  It is also worthy to note that the early Church fathers quote the Protestant NT canon about 36,000 times while never quoting the Gnostic writings.[7]  Along with these points there is no evidence that Gnostic beliefs were held during the first century when the scriptures were being written.[8]  Why then would these texts be added to the canon?  The only reason would be that those who hold this view have a disdain against the exclusivity of Christ.[9]  These books cannot be added to the canon if the canon is to truly be the ultimate authoritative revelation for the church because they do not teach what the true canon teaches. 

Conclusion

 

Thus the affirmation of the Protestant canon as true Scripture must be the correct set of canonical writings.  Examining the evidence of the OT and NT leave no other choice except the acceptance of the Protestant position as the true position.  Christians can and should look at the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as the final and ultimately authority for the Church age.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bruce, F. F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove: InterVaristy Press, 1988.

Danker, Frederick W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

Frame, John M. Salvation Belongs to the Lord. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origen, Development, and Significance. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

Packer, J. I. God’s Word: Studies of Key Bible Themes. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988.

Pate, C. Marvin. “Current Challenges to the Christian Canon.” Criswell Theological Review 1, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 3-10.

Witherington, Ben. The Gospel Code: Novel Claims About Jesus, Mary Magdalene and DaVinci. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 59.

[2] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVaristy Press, 1988), 98.  See also Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 57.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 59.

[4] Ibid., 58.

[5] Ibid., 59.  See also F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVaristy Press, 1988), 98

[6] C. Marvin Pate, “Current Challenges to the Christian Canon,” Criswell Theological Review 1, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 7.

[7] Ibid., 10.

[8] Ibid., 9.

[9] Ben Witherington, The Gospel Code: Novel Claims About Jesus, Mary Magdalene and DaVinci (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 109, 126. quoted by C. Marvin Pate, “Current Challenges to the Christian Canon,” Criswell Theological Review 1, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 10.

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The Canon of Scripture Part 2

This is the second part of a three part set of posts.  See this post for an explanation.

Support

The support for the protestant canon is overwhelming.  This section will outline support of the protestant canon as final and authoritative revelation for the Christian church.  The evidence will be broken up into two different sections:  Old Testament support and New Testament support.  It is important to remember that as redemptive history moves on more revelation is given to God’s people until there is no need to give more.[1]

Old Testament

           

The support for the OT being accepted as canon by Protestants will be shown in two parts.  First, the Jews will give support historically and secondly support will be given by Jesus and the NT writers. 

The protestant canon contains the 39 books of the Jewish canon that was accepted as authoritative by the Judaism during the time of the writing of the NT and today.[2]  These writings started with God carving the Ten Commandments into two stone tablets and continued to grow thereafter.  Most often the scriptures were added to by the person holding office of prophet as he wrote down what was perceived as the word of God.  As mentioned above this normally happened in relation to redemptive history and the need for more revelation.  This process of God revealing revelation as canonical Scripture came to a halt around the year 435 B.C. until the NT was started.  There were other writings that detailed the history of the Jewish people between 435 B.C. and the writing of the NT, but they do not claim to be canonical and were not thought by Jews to be authoritative.  In fact, 1 Maccabees 4:45-46 says that the Jews were waiting for a prophet to give them direction.  Josephus the great Jewish historian says that a “complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records.”[3]

           

Jesus and the NT writers also attest to the protestant OT as being accepted as part of the canon.  There is no dispute between Jesus and the Jewish leaders about the OT scripture as being authoritative.  There are also about 295 quotations of the OT in the NT but not one single quote from one of the other writings of the Jews including the Roman Catholic Apocrypha.[4] 

           

Because the gospel went to the Jew first and then to the Greek it was only natural for the early Christians, who were from Jewish decent, to accept their writings as pointing toward Jesus as the Christ and being inspired of God.  Jesus himself even opened the scriptures (protestant OT) and taught of himself (Luke 24:27).  These are obviously the accepted scriptures of the Jews or He would not have been teaching from them.  From this evidence the protestant OT seems to be without a doubt part of the authoritative and final authority of God to his people.  What about the NT?

New Testament

           

The New Testament is not as easy to claim as being canonical as the OT.  Regardless of the theological persuasion within Christendom books of the OT are not excluded instead parts have been added.  This is not the case with the NT; much debate about the addition and exclusion of certain writings has taken place.  Referring to redemptive history, the Apostles and divine authorship, and finally deletion or additions will support the NT as canonical scripture. 

           

As mentioned above, Scripture is written as God works through redemptive history.  At the close of the OT canon there is the expectation of the coming Messiah as the next stage of redemptive history.[5]  This would mean that Scripture would begin again when the Messiah arrives.  Regardless of their beliefs in the particularities of Christ, no true Christian group denies that Jesus is this Messiah.  Christ, being the next act in redemptive history opens the canon for new writings.

 

The apostles, those ordained by Christ, were the main writers of these new Scriptures.  These men were ones who were either close to Jesus during his time on earth, or were called into apostleship by him (Paul for example).  There were others who were close to these apostles that were empowered by the Holy Spirit to also write the scriptures.  The authors who wrote down the NT used their writings to confirm that the words they were speaking and writing were new scripture.  The NT writers claim multiple times that they have the Holy Spirit and that equates their teaching and writing as divinely authored, not human (2 Peter 3:2; Acts 5:2-4; 1 Cor 2:9; 2:13, 14:37; 2 Cor 13:3; Rom 2:16; Gal 1:8-9; 1 Thess 2:13, 4:8, 15, 5:27; 2 Thess 3:6, 14).[6]  These words are substantiated multiple times as the Apostles healed and taught with great authority.[7]  The NT writers also point to other NT writings as canonical by equating it with the OT.  An example of this is 2 Pet 3:15-16.  Peter claims that Paul’s writings are being twisted as other scriptures are being twisted.  Grafh (graphe meaning writings or scriptures), the Greek word used here, is only used when referencing the OT.  This equates Paul’s writing with the OT as scripture.  1 Timothy 5:17-18 also provides an example of equating NT writing with the OT.  Paul tells Timothy that others should honor preachers and teachers and then quotes Deut 25:14 and Luke 10:7 with equal authority.  These two passages show that early in formation of the Christian church that the NT canon was starting to form.[8] 

Along with the witness of redemptive history, and argument that God through the Apostles authored the NT it is helpful to look at candidates for addition or deletion from the NT.  At this point in time there are not writings that provide strong evidence for addition into the canon.  Some of these writings that received some promotion in the early church have errors that conflicted with the accepted protestant canon of the NT.  One example of this is “The Shepherd” of Hermas which teaches penance and that the Trinity came into existence after the resurrection of Christ.  The Gospel of Thomas teaches that women should make themselves male to enter into the kingdom of heaven. These teaching are not consistent with the teachings of the Apostles who obviously had divine authority to write new scripture.  Other writings of the time that may not have conflicted with the Apostles teachings had disclaimers by the authors that indicate the writing is not scripture.[9] 

Some throughout history have argued for the removal of some of the established NT writings because they seem to contradict other books[10] or for the promotion of unity among churches.[11]  These attempts however must be brushed aside as we remember that the work of the early church was not to pick some writings and give them divine authority.  Only God can make a text have divine authority, the work of the early church was to recognize God’s writings and affirm them as scripture.  It is difficult with much success to argue against nearly two thousand years of acceptance and recognition by the church that these texts are divine.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 60.

[2] Note that the Jewish Bible is the same as the protestant Old Testament however the division of books is different.  The Jewish Bible is only divided into 24 books instead of the 39 of protestants.

[3] Josephus,  Against Apion, 1.41., quoted in Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 56.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 56-57.

[5] Ibid., 60.

[6] Ibid., 61. 

[7] See Acts chapters 3,4,5,8,28 as examples.

[8] Ibid., 61-62.

[9] Ibid., 66-67.

[10] Ibid., 67.  Martin Luther was hesitant about James because it seemed to him to contradict justification by faith.

[11] Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origen, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 274. Kurt Aland proposed this during a 1961 lecture at Oxford.

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In the garden

A family in our church has a fabulous garden next to their home and every spring we are blessed with lots and lots of fresh zucchini, squash, and tomatoes–its one of the highlights of the summer. My mom thought it would be fun for the grandkids to visit the garden and see how vegetables grow, so we went last weekend and had a great time! Josiah had a blast walking around outside and inspecting all the vegetation. Thanks Frank and Ann!

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Josiah the Mighty Destroyer

The morning after Josiah’s birthday party we heard a loud clang on the monitor. I didnt think much of it until I was getting him dressed for church we we noticed that he has snapped a crib rail in half! It was laying on the floor in two pieces. We have no idea how he accomplished this, but Dirk and Davis–never afraid of a challenge–repaired the crib so that it looked good as new! I wish I had thought to take a picture of them working on it, but at least I got a few of the good king reveling in his destruction.

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A Pain in the Eye and Birthday Pics

I had one simple goal last week, and that was to post up pictures of Josiah’s Party (six weeks ago!) and lots of other fun photos of him because honestly, thats the only reason people come here. My hopes were dashed last week when I got an ulcer/abrasion on my cornea and couldnt see–or even open my eye–for the next two days. It truly was the most painful injury I’ve received–and I’m pretty sure it was more painful than Josiah’s birth. It was awful. That was on Tuesday night, and its Monday morning and even though my eye is still dilated I can read and look at bright screens now, so I’m going to try to post up lots of pictures today while Josiah naps.

Here are the pics of Josiah’s first birthday party. We had a great time, and I would like to make special mention of the adorable invitations that Jamie designed and the sweet cupcake arrangement by Josiah’s GranGran. Enjoy!

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The Canon of Scripture

I wrote this paper for my systematic class last fall and really enjoyed writingit so I thought I would share it with you.  It will come in multiple parts: 1) Intro, Issue at hand, explanation of different positions, 2) Support for the Protestant Canon 3) Objections that have been raised against this view and conclusion.  For whatever reason when I copied it into this blog the formatting is all messed up, please bear with me while I work on fixing it.  Enjoy–Dirk

THE AUTHORITATIVE CANON

Introduction

The canon of Scripture is the list of inspired writings of the Christian church.  The word canon comes from the Greek word kanwn, which generally means the rule or standard.  It became adopted in the second century to mean rule of faith.  From there the list of divinely inspired books got its title canon of Scripture.[1] But what belongs in this canon of Scripture? 

Issue

Evangelical Christians say the canon is the 66 books of the Bible alone, Roman Catholics add in the apocryphal writings, groups such as the Mormons say that there more writings along with the Bible, while other religions like Islam have their own writings.  The purpose of the paper is to argue for the 66 books of the Christian Bible as the inspired and ultimate authoritative canon by summarizing leading positions for and against this thesis, giving evidence for this thesis, and finally showing how objections to the 66 books of the Protestant Bible as canonical scripture are not valid.  The main focus of this paper will be toward Evangelical and other Christian positions on this matter as it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss the apologetics related to other religions.

Positions

There are multiple positions within the realm of Christendom on this topic.  First there is the protestant position.  This position holds that the 66 books of the Bible, comprised of 39 books of the Old Testament (OT) and 27 books of the New Testament (NT), are the ultimate and final revelation for Christians.  There have been, however, a few variations that will be discussed below.  The OT is the set of Jewish Scriptures that was adopted by the early Christians.  The apostles, early church fathers, and most importantly Jesus himself quoted these and claimed these to be God’s word.  It is natural then for the early Christians to accept it.  The more pressing issue in the early in the church was which new writings, if any, were scripture.  Over the course of the first couple of centuries letters and writings started to make themselves known as inspired scripture.  The Church did not claim they were canonizing writings, but merely affirming inspired texts of divine origin.[2]  By the fourth century the 27 books of the NT were overwhelmingly affirmed as the set writings of scripture for the Christian faith.  Athanasius’ Easter letter that listed out the accepted books of the NT and found no opposition can attest this.[3]  This paper will argue that this is the proper view of canonical scripture.

 

The second position to be discussed is the Roman Catholic position.  The Roman Catholic Church affirms the 66 books of the protestant Bible and several Apocryphal[4] books as part of the canon.   There was some debate in the early church whether or not these Apocryphal writings should have a place in the canon, but it was not until the year 1546 at the council of Trent that the Roman Catholic Church made their inclusion official.[5]  But that is not all that the Roman Catholic Church believes about the canon of the Bible.  They hold the position that the Church and Pope are to give the correct interpretation of the Bible.  Since the Church was in existence before the Bible was completed then the Church (Roman Catholic that is) should be the one to explain it.  While not saying it in these words the Roman Catholic Church holds that the Pope is part of the canon, he is considered to be infallible therefore he is equal to or above the scriptures.[6]

 

The third and last position is the Liberal position.  This position poses a challenge to the traditional protestant view by asserting that the canon of the NT be expanded.  It is argued by this position that the alternative views expressed in writings by early parts of Christianity should be included in the canon.[7]  Some of the scholars proposing this view argue against the authority of the Bible.  Some also say that there was no continuity in early Christianity and therefore there was no “orthodoxy,” instead Christianity was pluralistic from the beginning.[8]  These views challenge the authority of the protestant canon and leave room for additions and deletions from it.


[1] Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature. 3rd ed (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 507-508.

[2] J. I. Packer, God’s Word: Studies of Key Bible Themes (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 36.

[3] John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2006), 66.

[4]For a complete discussion of all the apocryphal writings see: Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 165-190.

[5]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 59.

[6] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 272.

[7] C. Marvin Pate, “Current Challenges to the Christian Canon,” Criswell Theological Review 1, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 3.

[8] Ibid., 6.

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