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Monday
Oct222007

Theological Term of the Week


 
canon of scripture
The collection of writings that are divinely inspired and therefore authoritative, sacred, and binding; the list of books that are inspired Scripture.
  • From The Belgic Confession, Articles 4 and 5: 

We believe that the Holy Scriptures consist of two parts, namely, the Old and the New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These books are listed in the church of God as follows.

The books of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther; Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The books of the New Testament: the four gospels, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the thirteen letters of the apostle Paul, namely, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon; the letter to the Hebrews; the seven other letters, namely, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude; and the Revelation to the apostle John.

We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith. We believe without any doubt all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves them as such, but especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they contain the evidence thereof in themselves; for, even the blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled.

  •  From In Understanding Be Men by T. C. Hammond:
We need to remember that the books were canonical (by reason of their own intrinsic nature or in virtue of the authority of the writers) before they were collected into a Canon as we know it. The production of a list of ‘official’ writings does not make those writings any more ‘official’ than they were originally. Similarly, it is necessary to keep distinctly in mind that whereas ‘inspiration’ relates to the divine control of the writers, the Canon relates to the number of such writers which were admitted to be ‘inspired’. One writer has aptly remarked, ‘The Bible is not an authorized collection of books, but a collection of authorized books.’
To see the canonizing process, as some seem to do, as the postapostolic church meeting its own felt need of a court of appeal, and to consider on that basis how providence, the Spirit, study and church authority combined to give us the books we now have, is to miss the essence of what went on. Essentially, what was happening was this: the apostolic message about redemption, which was and is part of the saving fact of Christ, was authenticating itself from God in its written form, just as it had authenticated itself when first preached in Jerusalem, Samaria, Corinth and Rome. Christ had authorized the apostles to declare this message with his authority, and so by the Spirit they did, both orally and in writing. The church’s historic recognition of written apostolic witness as the New Testament canon means essentially that the church acknowledges it to be God’s word of salvation. Inquiry into the pedigree, use and contents of particular books can make it seem reasonable to accept them as authentic and unreasonable not to, but ultimately the church’s acceptance of them in each generation is because they impose themselves — because, that is, the church hears in them the saving word of God.

Learn more:

  1. Blue Letter Bible: The Canon of Scripture
  2. Got Questions.org: What is the canon of Scripture?
  3. ESV Study Bible: The Canon of Scripture
  4. Michael J. Kruger: Definitions of the Term Canon (pdf) and How Did the New Testament Canon Develop? (video)
  5. Michael J. KrugerThe Definition of ‘Canon’: Exclusive or Multi-Dimensional?The Origins of Canon: Was the Idea of a New Testament a Late Ecclesiastical Development?The Artifacts of Canon: Manuscripts as a Window into the Development of the New TestamentThe Messiness of the Canon: Do Disagreements Amongst Early Christians Pose a Threat to Our Belief in the New Testament? (mp3s)
  6. Wayne Grudem: The Old Testament Canon, The New Testament Canon (mp3)
  7. Bible Research: A collection of articles

Related terms:

Filed under Scripture.

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  • Response
    I?ve begun reading The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce. The logical place for a book with that title to start is with a definition* of the word canon, and so it does. First, it?s not a really big gun....

Reader Comments (2)

"The Bible is not an authorized collection of books, but a collection of authorized books."

This is an important distinction that is often missed.

Yep, I think there is a lot of confusion around this.

October 23, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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