The formation of the Biblical canon

I like to present information from other sites at times on this blog. I am aware that I can look in my textbooks, for example, and find opinions differing from the material in this article, as can many others, but the information below is helpful overall.

From J. P. Holding:

However, if we believe in the inspiration of the Bible, then it is also reasonable to assume God's hand in the matter of the compiliation of the canon. Although skeptical of many traditional positions on the canon, McDonald rightly perceives that "(t)hose who would argue for the inerrancy of scripture logically should also claim the same infallibility for the churches of the fourth and fifth centuries, whose decisions and historical circumstances have left us with our present Bible." [MacD.FormCB, 255] One cannot sensibly argue that God inspired certain books of the Bible and then allowed us to mix in books with it that were not inspired. It was either all inspired at its origination, or none of it at all, other than at a basic human level of inspiration - and though, thanks to transcription errors and the like, we have some chaff mixed in with the wheat at present, the ambiguity that is reality at the textual variant level does NOT affect our position on the canon level.

I reason that within the apostolic era the original Scriptural letters were inspired and infallible in regard to the message the Lord conveyed through the writers. I do not think we can take the idea of inspiration and infallibility into the fourth and fifth centuries, although I do grant that God did guide the correct texts to be included within the New Testament text. I reason that without holding to an infallible canon formation, we can accept the idea that God used reason and evidence to formulate the entire Biblical canon. This means it is possible, although very unlikely, that a lost manuscript could be found at a later date that may be considered part of Scripture. The written content, to be accepted, would not contradict the teachings of the other Biblical books. My view is that the original Scripture was inspired and infallible and that we have essentially accurate copies by which a proper canon was formed.

Per Metzger, NT works cited or alluded to - in actuality and in probability - by Apostolic Fathers are:

All Four Gospels;
All Pauline epistles except three (see below)
1 John
1 Peter

Not cited or alluded to are Titus, Philemon, and 2 Corinthians; 2 Peter, Jude, 2 and 3 John.

However, no conclusions may be drawn from this for two reasons:

First, except for 2 Corinthians, all of these books are so short that it is possible that there was never any need to refer to them - especially in light of the fact that:

Second, as Metzger indicates, the total extant works of the Apostolic Fathers fits "a volume about the same size as the New Testament"! (ibid., 72) It would therefore have been very fortunate if we had indeed had witness to all 27 NT books.


Human beings will never agree unanimously on anything, even the canon of Scripture. Even today, many groups (such as the Mormons) seek to add to what has been written. This, of course, is their right; but the fact remains that the canon has been fixed, not by some 4th-century Church Council, but by the witness of history itself. As Metzger writes: "the canon cannot be remade - for the simple reason that history cannot be remade." (ibid., 275) The books that made it into the canon did so by means of "survival of the fittest" - it was not a random drawing with all participants beginning on equal footing. The church did not create the canon, "but came to recognize, accept, affirm, and confirm the self-authenticating quality of certain documents that imposed themselves as such upon the Church. If this fact is obscured, one comes into serious conflict not with dogma but with history."(ibid., 286) We may freely learn from the non-canonical literature [MacD.FormCB, 257], and it may be that some of that literature contains authentic strands of teaching by Jesus. Nevertheless, we have our canon. We are each free to take it or leave it; and if it offend thee - take up scissors and paste, and make what thou considerest a better effort than others!

Here is yet another scammer email. The email came to undisclosed-recipients, and is written with the usual magnificent command of the English language:

Queen Elizabeth's Foundation And The Nigeria FoundationWoodlands RoadLeatherhead Court LeatherheadSurrey KT22 0BN.

BATCH NO: (N-222-6747,E-900-56)

Attn: Beneficiary

Congratulations The Queen Elizabeth's Foundation And The Nigeria Foundation has chosen you by theboard of trustees as one of the final recipients of a Cash Grant/Donation for your own personal,educational, and business development. To celebrate the 30th anniversary 2008 program, We aregiving out a yearly donation of 250,000.00 Pounds each to 40 lucky recipients, ascharitydonations/aid from the Queen Elizabeth's Foundation, ECOWAS, EU and the Africa UNO inaccordance with the enabling act of Parliament.which is part of our promotion To file for your claim You are required to contact the ExecutiveSecretary below their email

Executive Sec: Edwin Johnson


Regards.Mrs Tracy Peterson

And yet another:


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A future satire and theology blog troll?

My Mom sent me links featuring interesting paintings. I am not making a political/social statement.

Global Warming from Robert Bateman

A thought:

O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, Robert Blake and Phil Spector should form the Society of Celebrity Super-Villains.

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