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Tuesday
Jun262012

Theological Term of the Week

New Testament apocrypha
Eary Christian non-canonical writings related to the narratives or personalities of the New Testament, and which are not among the Apostolic Fathers.1

  • From The London Baptist Confession, 1689, Chapter 1, Of the Holy Scriptures:

    2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:

    OF THE OLD TESTAMENT: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomen, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations,Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

    OF THE NEW TESTAMENT: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation

    All of which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life. 

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem:
  • Today there exist no strong candidates for addition to the [New Testament] canon and no strong objections to any books presently in the canon. Of those writings that some in the early church wanted to include in the canon, it is safe to say that there are none that present-day evangelicals would want to include. Some of the very early writers distinguished themselves quite clearly from the apostles and their writings from the writings of the apostles, Ignatius, for example, about A.D. 110, said, “I do not order you as did Peter and Paul; they were apostles, I am a convict; they were free, I am even until now a slave” (Ignatius, To the Romans, 4.3; compare the attitude toward the apostles in 1 Clement 42:1-2; [A.D. 95]; Ignatius, To the Magnesians, 7:1; 13:1-2; et.al.).

    Even those writings that were for a time thought by some to be worthy of inclusion in the canon contain doctrinal teaching that is contradictory to the rest of Scripture. “The Shepherd” of Hermas, for example, teaches “the necessity of penance” and “the possibility of the forgiveness of sins at least once after baptism … . The author seems to identify the Holy Spirit with the Son of God before the Incarnation, and to hold that the Trinity came into existence only after the humanity of Christ had been taken up into heaven” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 641).

    The Gospel of Thomas, which for a time was held by some to belong to the canon, ends with the following absurd statement (par. 114):

    Simon Peter said to them; “Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life,” Jesus said: “Lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself a male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    All other existing documents that had in the early church any possibility of inclusion in the canon are similar to these in that they either contain explicit disclaimers of canonical status or include some doctrinal aberrations that clearly make them unworthy of inclusion in the Bible.

Learn more:
  1. The Development of the New Testament Canon: List of Apocryphal New Testament Writings
  2. Michael Marlowe:  Formation of the New Testament Canon
  3. Ryan Turner: An Overview of the Lost Books of the New Testament; Myths about the Lost Books of the New Testament.
  4. Michael Kruger: Apocryphal Books in Early Christian Codices; Evidence for their Canonical Status?; Misconceptions About the New Testament Canon: In the Early Stages, Apocryphal Books Were As Popular As the Canonical Books.
Related term:
1From The Canon and Ancient Versions of Scripture.

Filed under Scripture

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