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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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Canon of Scripture Part 3

  1. Brent

    It’s interesting that you mentioned that the impetus for the acceptance of the apocrypha was the Latin Vulgate. From what I understand it was riddled with translation errors. I can’t remember where I read that…did you run across anything that mentioned it? Anyway, good paper. Real interesting stuff.

  2. The Littlefields

    I did run across that info, but I can’t say where exactly in the research it is. There are several translation errors that, from what I have read, have lead to bad Roman Catholic theology….or terrible theology…..or heresy….you decide how P.C. to be.–Dirk

  3. Brent

    haha!! I have no problem calling purgetory, or adding to the canon heresy.

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