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Part Vb: CANONIZATION — Chapter Seven: A Tantalizing Question

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Preparing the Way

  1. What factors gave rise to the need for a New Testament? After all, the Old Testament was sufficient for Israel for hundreds of years.
  2. What is the single criterion to be considered in recognizing any book as part of the canon of Scripture?
  3. In determining whether or not a book is inspired, five questions must be asked. What are they?
  4. Mark out the three stages in the formation of the New Testament canon. What were the important characteristics of each phase?
  5. Who was the first person to publish a complete list of the New Testament books as we know them today? What is the date?
  6. What was the express purpose of the early church councils? What role did they play in the process of canonization?
  7. What four classes of literature were present in the early centuries of the church age?
  8. What changes took place in the extent of the canon as a result of the Council of Trent?
  9. Why is the Book of Mormon not accepted as part of the canon of Scripture?
  10. What three lines of testimony can be drawn to support the idea of a closed and complete canon of Scripture?

It was at the request of a young lady in our chapel that the appointment was set up. We agreed on a time later that week in my office. Its purpose was clearly defined. I was to explain my Christian faith to two young Mormon missionaries! When my young friend had witnessed to them the previous week, they seemed open and responsive. She was anxious to pursue the contact and I became involved.

At the precise prearranged time they arrived. One was slightly older than the other, but neither of them could have seen his twentieth birthday yet. Impeccably groomed, they entered my office. Their courteous and gracious manners commended them highly. My skepticism about the appointment began to recede. I thought this could be a real breakthrough for God!

My hopes, however, were soon to be dashed to pieces. After a brief word of prayer, I began to present the case for the good news of our Lord Jesus. And what do you think? Not a word of protest was raised by either of my young guests. Worse than that, there was total agreement. I say worse than that, because I have long since learned that little progress is made in evangelism if there is no sense of need.

And my two guests displayed no sense of need whatsoever. They just agreed with everything I said.

Then came the second round. After I had presented my case with no evident effect, they took the initiative. Their case was simple. They believed everything that was in our Bible (which bluff, by the way, I was later able to penetrate and destroy), but went one step further. They also believed what God had given through Joseph Smith. Finally we came to grips with the issue. They claimed that their Book of Mormon is a revelation from God with inspiration and authority equal to the Bible. As a matter of fact they claimed that it not only complemented the teachings of the Bible, but also supplemented them. At this point they became very aggressive, pressing their point home with great fervour. I was told, “If you are a Bible-believing North American Christian, there is a further word from God for you in the Book of Mormon.”

Is this possible? How will we answer such a proposition? Was the canon of Scripture closed at the end of the first century? Could God give us a further revelation? Has He? Is our Bible a complete or incomplete revelation? Is the canon closed or open?

Answers to these questions demand some understanding of the entire process of canonicity—especially as it relates to the New Testament. It is to this task that we now turn.

It has well been said that “The Christian church was born with a canon in her hands.”1 Because the apostles and early Christians were rooted in Judaism, the idea of a canon was not foreign to them. They had never been without an objective authoritative corpus of Scripture. They had the Old Testament. Soon it became apparent that this was neither sufficient nor complete.

I. Four Factors

But why? What was the need for a New Testament? Four major factors contributed to its emergence.

First, there were the authoritative words of Christ. Although our Lord acknowledged the authority of the Old Testament canon (Matt. 4:4, 7; 5:18; John 10:35; Luke 24:44), yet He placed His own words beside the Old Testament Scriptures as equally authoritative. On six occasions in Matthew 5 He placed His word on a par with the Old Testament saying, “Ye have heard that it was said ... But I say unto you ...” (Matt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). He was fully aware of His authority and this awareness dawned upon others also. The people who heard Him “were amazed at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Luke, among others, recognized His authority when he wrote of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). If the authority of Christ was to be placed beside the Old Testament as He claimed and as others believed, then the need for another collection of writings, which contained His words, bore His authority and testified to His Person and work, was obvious.

Second, the birth of the church demanded a charter for this new creation. It must have soon been apparent to the early church that God was starting something new and doing something different at Pentecost. He had spoken of building His Church (Matt. 16:18), destroying the temple (Matt. 24:2) and dispersing the nation (Luke 21:24). Acts 2 records the birthday of the church. It was the beginning of an entirely new entity (Eph. 3:2b). In this church there was a freedom from the old laws of Judaism. The need for a canon to govern the practice of this new entity quickly arose. As the nation of Israel needed an authoritative constitution when it was formed, so the need for a canon of Scripture for this new work of God—the church—-was immediately recognized.

Third, certain problems within the church itself called for a New Testament. Controversy over doctrinal issues was not uncommon (Gal. 1:8). An authoritative norm for the doctrine of the church was imperative. Within half a century there was an abundance of religious writings within the grasp of Christians. Again, a collection was necessary to distinguish the authoritative from the unauthoritative. Practical questions regarding public worship in the churches were being asked (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:27). The inevitable and pressing question became, Which books ought to be read and taught in the churches?

Finally, political events in the first centuries not only intensified the need for recognizing those books that were inspired and authoritative, but even forced this process. When Diocletian ordered all the books destroyed in A.D. 303 the questions arose, Which ones should be saved? Which books are we willing to die for?

In a thousand areas “necessity is the mother of invention.” In this case, a fourfold necessity provided the spiritual environment for the rise of the New Testament.

Project Number 1

Enter a time tunnel that will situate you, for a few moments, in the midst of a first-century church. You know only of the Old Testament and the preaching of the apostles. What specific questions would you have been asking? What particular need for a New Testament would you have felt?

Again it must be said that the one test for canonicity is inspiration. It was not the decree of a council that gave a book authority. Rather it was its authority that spurred the collection. This authority is inherent in inspiration. An inspired book is authoritative and therefore canonical when written.

But isn’t this begging the question? This line of reasoning cries out for a test for inspiration. How did they know which books were inspired and therefore authoritative and canonical?

II. Five Critical Questions

The primary factor was the internal witness of the Holy Spirit to Spirit-led believers who read and studied the books. The Spirit of God, Who had taken up residence within the believers, testified positively to what He had inspired as they read it.

He is the Spirit of truth—John 14:17.

He guides us into all truth—John 16:13.

So the first question that was asked was this: Is there the witness of the Spirit in the Christian community that this is an inspired book?

There was a second question: Is the book apostolic in origin? Was it written by an apostle, such as the Gospels of Matthew and John? Was it written by someone who had direct contact with an apostle, like Mark who knew Peter closely, or Luke who knew Paul well?

Apostles were students under our Lord’s teaching for three years. They were eyewitnesses of His resurrection. They had spent with Him those wonderful forty days of instruction before the ascension. They were commissioned by Him and spoke with the authority of Jesus Himself. The very term “apostle” means one commissioned to speak and act with the authority of the One who sent Him. The early church fathers recognized the authority of apostles. Ignatius of Antioch wrote in A.D. 117, “I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments to you. They were apostles, I am but a condemned man.”2 In A.D. 95, Clement of Rome wrote, “The apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was sent forth from God, so then Christ is from God and the apostles from Christ.”3

The third question was, Do the contents of the book agree with the teachings of Jesus, and do they present a high view of the person and work of Christ?

Believers were not to believe every spirit, but were to test the spirits. The test of the Holy Spirit is that He testifies that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. That is, He testifies clearly to both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. Any book that denies these truths is not inspired by the Spirit of God.

The fourth question was, Is it authentic? Is it what it claims to be? Was it written by whom it claims to be written? Did it originate in the place it claims to have originated? Did Paul really write it? Was it actually written from Rome? Was it really written to Timothy?

The final question was this: Is there a widespread acceptance of its authority by the Christian Church?

If it was a genuinely inspired book, there would surely be a widespread recognition of that fact through the witness of the Spirit. The recognition of a book, then, did not rest in the hands of a few men or some radical group. It depended upon a widespread acceptance of the book. This acceptance was expressed at church councils where representatives from every country listed the books recognized in their area.

By the very nature of the case, this question injected an extensive time factor into the process of recognition. The book of 3 John, written to an individual, would take longer to be widely circulated and accepted than the epistle to the Ephesians, which was written as a circular letter. This did not mean 3 John was any less inspired; it just took longer to gain wide acceptance.

Project Number 2

It is becoming obvious to us then, that the process of recognition and collection was both long and slow. In it there was a mysterious mingling of the human and divine. List as many elements as you can in each category.

The Human

The Divine

III. The Formation

Both human and divine elements combine in the formation of the New Testament canon. It was completed, of course, when the last of the inspired books was written. They were immediately authoritative by virtue of their inspiration. During the early centuries of the Church Age, however, the gradual recognition of these authoritative books can be traced. This recognition and collection developed in three major stages.4

A. The Early Stage A.D. 70-170, the Period of Circulation and Collection

1. The Gospels and Acts

The collection of Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts was almost certainly completed before A.D. 80. John’s Gospel probably was written later than this date, and by A.D. 150 the fourfold Gospel canon was known.

Clement, bishop of Rome about A.D. 95, gives clear testimony to Matthew and Luke. The facts and teachings of Christ found in the Gospels occur extensively in the writings of Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (A.D. 117). Tatian’s Diatessaron (about A.D. 170) was a harmony of the four Gospels that wove the materials into one continuous narrative. This is irrefutable testimony that these four Gospels had been recognized as authoritative over many other gospels, and therefore were collected early.

2. The Epistles of Paul

Very early Paul’s epistles were collected, accepted as authoritative and placed alongside the Old Testament.

Perhaps such a collection existed by A.D. 70. 2 Peter 3:15, 16 testifies to such a collection and its recognition:

And regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of those things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

The heretic Marcion (about A.D. 150) accepted as his canon only ten epistles of Paul and Luke’s Gospel. It has been argued that the canon must already have been fairly well defined for Marcion to react so strongly against it.

3. Other writings

By A.D. 170, all other New Testament books were noticed in the writings of the church fathers except 2 Peter. Only 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John seemed to be without a substantial footing in the canon. Only one extra canonical book (Apocalypse of Peter) ran the risk of being accepted.

Therefore by A.D. 170 the books of the New Testament were widely circulated individually. Almost all of them were recognized as authoritative, primarily because of the apostolicity. They were even now being gathered in collections of authoritative books.

B. The Intermediate Stage A.D. 170-303, the Period of Confirmation and Separation

The intermediate stage covers the period of time from Tatian’s Diatessaron to Diocletian’s persecution and includes the testimony of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen and others.

These writers confirmed the expressed views of the early writers. They acknowledged the authority of the apostolic writings. They substantially agreed on which books were to be recognized as authoritative. The books that were not received were not rejected, but simply were little known or not known to them at all (e.g., 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, Hebrews, James). It is during this period that the Apocrypha books virtually passed out of use. The separation between canonical books and ecclesiastical literature made in the early stage was becoming more distinct and settled in this stage.

C. The Final Stage A.D. 303-397, the Period of Final Ratification

It was in this period that the New Testament canon was formally settled. In A.D. 363 the Council of Laodicea requested that only canonical books of the Old and New Testament be read in the churches. They proceeded to enumerate these books, and listed all the books of our New Testament except Revelation.

In A.D. 367 Athanasius of Alexandria published a list of writings that were considered authoritative. Here is the first list, which included the exact thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

Jerome (A.D. 385) recognized the same New Testament collection in his translation of the Latin Vulgate.

The Council at Hippo in A.D. 393 and the Council at Carthage in A.D. 397 “officially acknowledged the canons of both Testaments, including the twenty-seven books, and forbade any others to be read in the churches.”5

The decisions of these councils did not make the books authoritative. Rather they expressed the prevailing view of Christians. The councils simply acknowledged the authority of these writings. It was not the church that shaped the canon, rather it was the canon that shaped the church.

Project Number 3

From the above survey of the formation of the New Testament canon, complete the following chart.6





Period of

Summary of its characteristics

The preceding chart will help to summarize the details of the previous few pages. It bears testimony to the slow but certain recognition by the church of those writings inspired by God.

With this background we are ready to entertain the tantalizing question of the extent of canon, raised by my two Mormon visitors. This is not a new question. It was a problem among Christians in the early church. It divided believers in the Reformation Age. It has reared its troublesome head once again in our age. Is the Bible a complete or incomplete revelation? Is the canon closed or open? Could God give us another book that merits equal status with the sixty-six of our Bible? To be sure, the question of the extent of the canon is a thorny problem to handle—but handle it we must.

IV. The Problem

What is the extent of the canon? This is our problem. It will perhaps be most useful to segment our subject into three time periods: the early centuries, the Reformation period and the present day.

A. In The Early Centuries

The abundance of literature in the apostolic and post-apostolic ages was, in a sense, a mixed blessing. To many hundreds of believers it was the source of great blessing. As well, however, it created many problems. Which books were inspired, authentic, apostolic and authoritative? Which were not? The profusion of literature may be sorted into four classifications:

1. The Undisputed Books

Twenty of the New Testament books were widely accepted within a century by all Christians. There was no dispute over their canonicity

2. The Disputed Books

During the early and intermediate stages, seven books were disputed. Revelation was highly esteemed in the churches in Asia between A.D. 100 and 180. After A.D. 200 its canonicity was disputed for two main reasons. In this period there “was an increasing departure from the premillennial expectations of the Early Church.”7 As this was taught most specifically in Revelation, it raised questions about the book. The denial of the book by some was prompted by their denial of its apostolic authorship, and it was attributed to Cerinthus or another John. This charge was not made until 100 years after its writing, and was raised by the anti-millennarians to discredit the millennial teaching of Revelation.

The book of 2 Peter has little testimony to its apostolic origin in the early centuries. However the internal evidence clearly indicates Petrine authorship (2 Pet. 1:1; 1:14; 1:17; 3:1). It is not immediately clear why it was neglected by the early church.

Although the external evidence for 2 and 3 John is scanty, yet there is sufficient to indicate a definite tradition that acknowledged its apostolicity. Its relative insignificance accounts for its limited circulation and later recognition.

The uncertainty as to the acceptance of James and Jude seems to have resulted from the identity of the authors. Who were James and Jude? There were two or three men with the name James and also with the name Jude. The Roman Catholic church has concluded these men are the James and Jude listed among the twelve apostles (Luke 6:16; and Acts 1:13). The normal Protestant view is that these were the half brothers of our Lord (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3), who later came to be believers and were considered among the apostles. (James—1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19. Tertullian speaks of Jude the Apostle.) Gradually the apostolicity of the books gained recognition for them.

Hebrews was open to much discussion, due again to the problem of authorship. The Pauline authorship that was accepted in the East by Origen and Clement, was held in doubt in the West. Irenaeus denied Pauline authorship. Tertullian said it was written by Barnabas. “Who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows,” wrote Origen. However, in the course of time it was accepted, perhaps on the same basis as Luke and Mark—that is, an authorship that was directly linked with an apostle, making the actual author something of a secondary author.

3. The New Testament Apocrypha

These writings come from the second to fifth centuries A.D., and were written either to satisfy curiosity about the thirty silent years of Christ and the ministry of disciples quietly passed over in the canonical Acts, or to foist heretical ideas upon the church with the alleged endorsement of Christ and His apostles. These were not apostolic in origin, were never considered as canonical by the church fathers, and are often worthless, heretical and very fanciful with an excess of the miraculous.

Although the details of these books will be largely unfamiliar to most of us, their names we have heard often. They may be classified according to the very four categories found in our New Testament.8

Gospels: The Protevangelium of James, Pseudo-Matthew, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Nicodemus, The Acts of Pilate.

Origen said, “The church receives only four gospels, heretics have many.”

Acts: The Acts of Peter, The Acts of Paul, The Acts of John, The Acts of Andrew, The Acts of Thomas.

Epistles: The Epistle of the Apostles, The Epistle to the Laodiceans, The Corinthian Correspondence of Paul, Letters of Christ and Abgar, The Correspondence of Paul and Seneca.

Apocalypse: The Apocalypse of Peter, The Apocalypse of Paul.

4. The Writings of the Post-Apostolic Age

From the church fathers of the second, third and fourth centuries came scores of writings that were quickly and widely circulated. Although these do not claim to be Scripture, they are invaluable for their testimony to the authority of the writings of the apostles, and the recognition of the canonical books. They are known as ecclesiastical writings, but were not apostolic in origin. For this reason these writings were excluded from public worship, but were read for personal edification.

Do you recognize the names of any of these? The Epistle of Clement to Corinth, The Epistle of Barnabas, Polycarp s Epistle to the Philippians, The Didache and The Shepherd of Hermas are but a few of them.

From these four classes of literature the early church, under the providence of God and through the witness of the Spirit, recognized and collected twenty-seven books that met all the tests of inspiration. This is our New Testament. The battle, however, was far from over. The controversy of the canon was to reappear in the tumultuous sixteenth century.

B. In the Reformation Period

The attitude of the Reformers toward the extent of the canon reflects the areas of uncertainty in the early church.

Luther rejected Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation as canonical and placed them at the end of his New Testament. He believed Hebrews contradicted Paul and his doctrine of repentance, James contradicted Romans, Jude was a copy of 2 Peter and “an unnecessary epistle to be reckoned among the chief books,” and Revelation did not proclaim Christ. His followers, however, recognized all twenty-seven books as authoritative. Today we can see the weaknesses of Luther’s criticisms.

Tyndale, in England, followed Luther in recognizing the disputed character of some of the books. However, all twenty-seven are included in his Bible.

Calvin omitted 2 and 3 John and Revelation from his commentary, but referred to them in his Institutes. He certainly accepted James and Jude, but doubted the authenticity of 2 Peter.

It is apparent then, that the reformers did not ever consider the addition of any books to the canon of the New Testament. They did doubt some of the books disputed in the early church. However, their reasons for doing so can generally be explained away today as inadequate bases for rejecting the books.

On April 8, 1546, at the Council of Trent, the Roman church accepted eleven of the fourteen Old Testament Apocrypha books into its canon as “deuterocanonical.” Although they were considered to be on a secondary level, they were accepted as authoritative. In the previous chapter I have noted several reasons for rejecting this position.

C. In the Present Day

Karl Barth’s view on the canon is the traditional view, which states the church can’t form it, only confirm and establish it. According to him, the extent of the canon stands firmly at the line drawn by the early church.

Liberalism proposes what amounts to an “open canon” with continuous revelation. They teach us that God speaks to us now through social reforms and political movements. Radical liberalism says the Bible is not the only source of truth. Anyone can write Holy Scripture today, they say.

The Church of the Latter Day Saints proposes an addition to the canon—the Book of Mormon. Brigham Young said of the book, “Every Spirit that confesseth that Joseph (Smith) is a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true, is of God, and every Spirit that does not is antichrist.”9

The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in 1901, “I should blush to write of Science and Health with the Key to the Scriptures, as I have, were it of human origin, and I apart from God, its author; but as I was only a scribe echoing the harmonies of heaven in Divine Metaphysics, I cannot be super-modest of the Christian Science textbook.”10

Evangelicals have solidly resisted any and all modern assaults on the canon of Scripture. We confidently affirm that the canon is complete and closed. But is such a position intellectually honest? Can such a stance be supported? That was my task as I turned to answer the Mormon missionaries.

V. The Case Closed

Three lines of evidence have been marshalled and presented in defence of the evangelical perspective on the canon.

A. The Testimony of Divine Providence

Canonicity is inseparably tied to the providence of God. If God intended to reveal Himself, we can expect not only God’s superintending work in the writing of Scripture, but also in the preservation, collection and recognition of those inspired books. It is inconceivable that the God who “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11) and whose hand cannot be thwarted (Dan. 4:35), should allow one inspired book to escape the recognition of the church and be overlooked in the collection of the books. His continuous activity in all the affairs of humankind toward the fulfilling of His own purpose guarantees to the believer a complete canon.

But is it closed? Could there not be inspired writings subsequent to the Apostolic Age? Consider our next line of evidence.

B. The Testimony of Scripture

The evidence surely seems to imply a closed canon.

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)

The “faith” is the body of Christian truth that was delivered to the saints by our Lord through the apostles. Note that Jude says it was “once for all” delivered. That is, it was completely given to the saints. What the Lord gave to the saints through the apostles was not the faith in part. It was not the beginning of a revelation with more to come in subsequent generations. It was “once for all” delivered.

Although Jude was not the last inspired book to be written, this does suggest that anything written later should harmonize doctrinally with what has already been written and taught by the apostles. We do not look for new or further revelations of truth.

David Hubbard speaks to this point when he writes, “Revelation in the biblical sense has ceased, not by petering out at the end of the apostolic period, but by coming to its glorious climax in Christ and the records of His deeds.”11

One of the primary purposes of Scripture is to unfold and record the great plan of redemption. The close tie then between Scripture and redemption strongly implies that the canon is closed with the culmination of redemptive history in Christ.

Project Number 4

What does Revelation 22:18, 19 contribute to a discussion on the extent of the canon?

C. The Testimony of History

A historic test of canonicity has been apostolicity. This was a test set by those closest to the scene. The passing of the apostles implies the termination of inspired writings.

Since New Testament days there has been no serious attempt to reinstate books disqualified by the church, nor to add new books to the canon. Josephus speaks for the Jewish community and their attitude to the many other writings, circulating from the fifth century B.C., to the end of the first century A.D.

From Artaxerxes (the successor of Xerxes) until our time everything has been recorded, but has not been deemed worthy of like credit with what preceded, because the exact succession of the prophets ceased. But what faith we have placed in our own writings is evident by our conduct; for though so long a time has now passed, no one has dared to add anything to them, or to take anything from them, or to alter anything in them.12

The 1546 decision of the Council of Trent represented the opinion of a very small segment of people. It certainly did not represent the opinion of the believers at large. Again the attempts of Christian Science and Mormonism to add new writings to the canon does not have the support of evangelical born-again believers who are being led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14).

Project Number 5

What would be your response if archaeologists unearthed a genuine lost epistle written by Paul that was addressed, for example, to the Christians in Crete?

What further revelation do we need? The Scriptures have proven themselves sufficient for the doctrine and practice of Christians for centuries.

More than being adequate, they have demonstrated their supernatural quality over and over again. The influence of this Book is unparalleled. One of countless hundreds that could be told is an old story from Scotland. Thrilling and challenging stories are told of the children of the Scottish Covenanters who stood courageously for the right, even when it meant possible death. A number of children were taken and commanded to tell where their parents were hiding or to be shot to death. In spite of the soldiers’ horrible threats, not one child would tell where they were. “If you do not tell me quickly you will be shot,” said the commanding officer of a firing squad. The brave children only huddled closer together and kept silent. “Make them all kneel and cover their faces,” commanded the officer. “Please, sir, may I hold my brother’s hand?” pleaded one little lassie. “It will make it easier for him.” Others prayed. “Please, sir,” said a little lad, “let us sing a song which our mothers taught us!” They began to sing, “The Lord is my shepherd, I’ll not want!” Tears ran down the faces of some of the soldiers. The commanding officer himself was deeply touched. He too had learned that Psalm at his mother’s knee. While the children were singing, the officer gave the command to retreat. Silently they withdrew. Their guns had been loaded only with powder, but the children didn’t know that.

This Book is the living Word of God!

My interview that afternoon ended abruptly. After offering my three lines of evidence for a closed and complete canon, the younger of the two leaned forward with a deeply earnest look on his face. Briefly he told me of his concern. He had a message for me that he felt compelled to deliver and in a sentence or two summed up the “good news” of Joseph Smith.

I courteously thanked him for his interest in me, silently wondering what was so good about his news. Then I took the last minute of our time together to restate the good news of Jesus Christ: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

That’s good news!


Now is the time to turn back to the ten questions that prepared the way for this chapter. Reread them. Can you answer each question now? Take time to look up any answers that escaped you. Check your answers with the text of this chapter. Do not leave here until you have mastered the main points of the chapter.

For Further Study

  1. Read the synopsis of many of the New Testament Apocrypha books in the Introduction to the New Testament, by Everitt F. Harrison, p. 117 ff. In what specific ways are these accounts of the life of Christ in contrast with the New Testament Gospels?
  2. Study carefully the history, claims and content of the Book of Mormon. In what specific areas do its teachings contradict the teachings of the Bible?


Earle, Ralph. How We Got Our Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972.

Harris, R. Laird. Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969.

Harrison, Everett F. Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965.

Henry, Carl F. H. (ed.). Revelation and the Bible. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1967.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development and Significance. Oxford University Press, 1989.

Miller, H. S. General Biblical Introduction. Houghton, NY: The Word—Rearer Press, 1952.

Orr, James (ed.). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 5 vols. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939.

Pinnock, Clark H. Biblical Revelation. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1971.

Van Campenhausen, Hans. The Formation of the Christian Bible. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1972.

1 David Hubbard, “How We Got Our New Testament,” Eternity, February, 1971, p. 14.

2 Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 237.

3 Ibid., p. 236.

4 These stages are those outlined by Dr. S.L. Johnson, Jr. (Unpublished class notes, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1967).

5 David Hubbard, “How We Got Our New Testament,” p. 57.

6 This chart is an expansion of the very useful chart by Dr. Tenney. Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1961), p. 430.

7 Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, p. 258.

8 For details on each book see: Everett F. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965), p. 117 ff.

9 Wm. C. Irvine, Heresies Expanded (New York, NY: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1955), p. 130.

10 Ibid, p. 66.

11 David Hubbard, “How We Got Our Bible,” Eternity, February, 1971, p. 58.

12 Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), p. 63.

Related Topics: Bibliology (The Written Word), Canon

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