Is Holy Scripture Sufficient?

The expanse of 2000 years of Church history means that one is forced to be more precise and specific than some prior ages might have required, because as Thomas Schreiner has written, “controversy is the furnace in which clearer theology is formed.” Distinguishing between the authority of Scripture and the sufficiency of it is one of those furnaces, and indeed, while both are doubted, there is a need to parse the implications of saying Scripture is neither primary nor enough for our knowledge of Jesus. I recently interacted with a few people on Twitter after something I said about Scripture. My statement was this:

Have you heard someone say that the incarnate Word is greater than the written word?   The only way we know about the incarnate Word is from the written word.

My intent with this was to counter what has become a common sentiment with some, that Jesus is greater than Scripture, and that the true Word of God is Jesus Himself, with an intent to downgrade the Scriptures as a way of knowing Jesus. Of course the Son of God is the fullest revelation of God to us—but this does not imply a contrast with Scripture. This is what I object to. I did get some questions asking whether Jesus is not known through the sacraments, or in the worship of the church. In these cases, it is still an appeal to Scripture, because the establishment of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are grounded in Scripture, as well as how we know how to worship. The person posing this question agreed that these do not represent different ways of knowing about Jesus, only derivative ways (from Scripture) of knowing.

An example of the position I am critical of is expressed by Brian Zahnd, in his foreword to Keith Giles book, Jesus Unbound. “With Sola Scriptura as a defiant battle cry there always lurked the temptation to place more weight on the Bible than it could bear, or worse yet, a temptation to deify the Bible and make an idol out of it… So while pretending to ‘take the Bible as it is,’ the fundamentalist reads the Bible through thick lenses of cultural, linguistic, political, and theological assumptions— interpretive lenses they are unaware of wearing.”[1]

(I cite Zahnd only because he has spoken publicly, but there are many others expressing the same or similar views.)

As one reads on, one sees that “placing more weight on the Bible than it could bear” seems to be interpreting Scripture in ways Zahnd disagrees with. Moreover, everyone comes to Scripture with many assumptions, including Zhand. Stating it as he has gives the impression that while others are blind to their own biases, he is not. If he believes this, it is as much hubris as he avers proponents of biblicism to hold. I am reminded of the illustration of the 3 blind men feeling their way around an elephant, each describing it differently. Every person only has a limited perspective on the truth, and we are blind to what we don’t see. What is needed is a perspective that sees the whole of it. Tim Keller exposes the folly of this, however. “The story is told from the point of view of someone who is not blind. How could you know that each blind man only sees part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant?”[3] Are critics of “biblicism” alone able to see the whole elephant?

Identifying false dichotomies

Zahnd goes on to say, “we don’t start with the Bible; we start with Jesus and the church. Why? Because Jesus is Lord, not the Bible. Christians worship Jesus, not the Bible. Jesus is the head of the church, not the Bible.”[2] To say that Jesus is the true Word of God while Scripture is not, or is in some lesser sense the Word of God is to embrace a division that is both unnecessary and unhelpful. A variation on this theme is to say that it is the Spirit that guides us into the truth, and the Spirit was of course doing this before the canon of Scripture. Both of these positions create a false dichotomy that makes no sense. One wonders in saying, “Jesus is Lord, not the Bible” whether Zahnd means to affirm that the Bible does not carry the authority of Jesus, or that he is not, through the Holy Spirit, speaking in and through the Scriptures? The contrast Zahnd draws is a false one. The church he encourages us to start with has always believed Scripture to be the revelation of God not in contrast with Jesus,

Consider the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16. At the conclusion of it, the rich man, in torment in Hell, begs Abraham to send Lazarus—dead as well—to warn his brothers. Abraham counters that they have Moses and the Prophets, “Let them hear them.” It isn’t too much to say that the rich man asks for a miracle, indeed, for a demonstration of the supernatural, of the working of the Spirit.

But Abraham again demurs, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:27-31) In other words, the Scriptures and the witness of them are able to convict and convert them, apart from seeing someone rise from the dead. The Scriptures are the means of conviction and indeed, conversion. What the rich man desires, the Scriptures are able to do, indeed, by the Spirit’s enabling.

The book which Zahn wrote the foreword to contains more such downgrading of Scripture. Keith Giles casts doubt on the idea the only way we can know God is through the Scriptures.

“If the Word of God is Jesus, and if Jesus now lives within me, then I have the Word of God inside of me. Maybe this means that we can know Christ the way we know our own voice, or our own heartbeat, because He is alive within us. The Scriptures also tell us that we “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) right now and that we can discern “the things that come from the Spirit of God…because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:15) and this Spirit is now alive within us.”[4]

Again the question is whether the voice we hear within us will lead us in ways that are contrary to Scripture? There have been many throughout history who have claimed to speak for God. Is Islam, with a view of God that is very different from what we read in the Christian Bible, an example of hearing God’s voice? Mohammed believed God revealed truth to him. Joseph Smith, too, received a revelation he believed to be from God. Is the Mormon view of God one we should embrace? What criteria would one use to determine this?

Giles also suggests, “not only can we all hear our Master’s voice individually, we are also empowered by the Holy Spirit who “leads us into all truth” (John 16:13), as Jesus promised us.”[5]

But this is at odds with what Zahnd says in his foreword—that was start with the church. Starting with the church means listening to the witness of the church as to the truth of Scripture and of whom it speaks. Affirming that the witness of the Spirit within believers will work apart from Scripture runs counter to what the church has always believed.

The Edge Cases: We shouldn’t make the exception the rule

I want to say a word about those views which I believe are the edge cases, but don’t represent any kind of commonly held position among evangelicals, and which may in fact be little more than poor expressions of a truth. A friend tweeted that “the Bible is not God”—and promptly got a few people who did insist no, “the Bible IS God.” I think these people are, in the main, likely expressing a view on the authority of Scripture, but expressing it very poorly indeed. They know that Scripture is God’s Word, and want to affirm that, but to say the Bible is God is nonsense. Consider a legal affidavit that is signed and notarized, specifying the wishes of one who issued it. Assume it is for the disbursement of funds, yet the agent will not accept the affidavit, wanting to hear from the owner himself. We would say that the affidavit carries all the authority of the one who issued it, and in the affidavit, you do hear from the owner. I suspect those equating the Bible with God are trying to avoid such a situation—one, in fact, that Zahnd’s position can indeed lead to: Scripture is not as authoritative as God.

Moreover, I have doubts that those expressing this are in fact worshiping their Bibles, bowing down to them, praying to Scripture. It is as ridiculous as it is unlikely. This, too, makes me think that saying God is the Bible is but a ham-handed attempt to affirm Scripture. This is not to say we shouldn’t correct wrong thinking such as this.

The other edge case bears hardly a mention, but those who equate God’s word with only one translation of Scripture also fall into a kind of idolatry. It is foolish, but here, too, the solution is not to downgrade the authority or sufficiency of Scripture, but to correct this misunderstanding, while affirming what is true of the Bible.

Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?

When the disciples were with Jesus and he spoke some hard sayings, many drew back. He asked the Twelve if they also wanted to go away. Peter answered that they knew Jesus alone had the words of eternal life. How does one go to Jesus today for the words of eternal life? The eyewitnesses are long gone from the scene, and in their stead we have what Peter calls “the prophetic word more fully confirmed.” (2 Pet 1:19)  That Peter is speaking of the Scriptures is clear from what he next says. “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” (2 Pet 1:20)

Paul, also, speaks of the same sure ability of Holy Scripture to guide us when he says to Timothy, “you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:15-16) In both cases, Peter and Paul are speaking of the Hebrew Bible—the Old Testament. If this power is there for that part of Scripture, does anyone believe it is not the case for the New Testament?

Perhaps the largest unanswered question with an approach that says Jesus is the Word of God rather than Scripture is this: Where does one turn to know about Jesus? Where do I find his promises, his warnings, his imperatives? How might I know him? Giles and Zahnd have no cogent answer if they dismiss the sufficiency of Scripture in the life of Christians. While they say Scripture is very important, they also repeatedly affirm Jesus is known apart from and outside of Scripture. But Jesus himself pointed to the Hebrew Bible as the foundation of what he did and said. On the Emmaus road,  he said to the two, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:26-27) The apostle Paul did the same, “I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass.” His ministry and message were ground in the Hebrew Bible. Here, too, we find no division, no false choice of Jesus or Scripture. Rather, Jesus through Scripture.

The approach that says we can or should know Jesus apart from the Bible, that we should demote its place in the life of the Christian, such an approach doesn’t solve any of the challenges in reading Scripture, and indeed, few deny the challenges are there. Rather, it shifts the locus where we look for truth to something other than God’s revelation in Scripture. Whether it’s the inner voice, or other people, these are ultimately not as trustworthy as God’s Word. This approach doesn’t clarify, it only adds one more voice to the interpretive din.

 

[1] Keith Giles. Jesus Unbound. Quoir. Kindle Edition., p. 11.

[2]Ibid. p. 13.

[3]Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 9.

[4]Giles, p. 43.

[5] Giles, Loc. Cit.

 

The Fallacy of Red Letterism as an Interpretive Grid

Most people have heard of “Red Letter Christians.” Who are they and what do they believe? According to redletterchristians.com, 

“Red Letter Christians is a movement that holds the teachings of Jesus—which are highlighted in red letters in many Bibles—as central to our understanding of the Bible. Christ is the lens through which we interpret the Word — and the world. Not only do we have words on paper, but the Word becomes flesh — in Jesus.”

This is not much different than what one person expressed on social media: 

Jesus’ actual life and teaching preceded the epistles, the contents of which were in circulation orally prior to being recorded in the gospels. We all have a functional canon within a canon, and a red letter one makes most sense since we are Christians, followers of Jesus.

This sounds fine, until you begin to work through the assumptions and implications of it. At a basic level, we need to recognize that the decision of which letters to make red is an editorial one—made by the people publishing your Bible. John 3 is a good example of how it is difficult to tell exactly where Jesus’ words may end, and where John’s words begin. It’s possible that the most famous verse in Scripture, John 3:16, are not words Jesus spoke, but what the apostle John recorded as commentary on the interview Jesus had with Nicodemus. However, it makes no difference whatsoever in terms of the authority of these words. To be fair, the demarcation in most places where Jesus speaks is clearer than the John 3 example. But one also has to contend with the synoptic differences. That is, in the same incidents, Jesus’ words differ slightly from one gospel to another. In Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes, Jesus states them as, “Blessed are those who…” while in Luke’s version they are in the second person: “Blessed are you when…” 

The point is that the gospels represent the words the Holy Spirit wanted recorded about the life and ministry of Jesus. He used the four evangelists to do so, but quite clearly, the Holy Spirit is an editor, since there are slight differences in each gospel. If one’s view of inspiration is “these are the exact words that Jesus spoke” then it leads to difficulties in explaining the variations. If, on the other hand, one sees that these are the words that God inspired the evangelists to record, it is a truer representation of what we have in the gospels. The Holy Spirit was not active only in these four accounts of the life of Jesus. Luke wrote a gospel, but also the book of Acts. Is Acts less the Word of God than his gospel because it contains far fewer words of Jesus?

The usual way in which this sort of hermeneutical principle is presented is that the words of Jesus have priority and thus a controlling influence on how we read the rest of Scripture. Some have in particular called attention to the epistles of Paul, to set these in contrast to Jesus’ words. In an interaction with someone espousing this, I asked for concrete examples, that is, which texts in Paul’s letters are being misunderstood, or misapplied because we are paying insufficient attention to the words of Jesus? No examples could be cited. Another person offered the case of German Christians appealing to Romans 13—submission to authorities—as such an example. By privileging this over what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount against violence, this violates the principle of reading Scripture through the lens of Jesus. But this is not a compelling example. One can go back just a few verses into Romans 12 and find plenty that would represent a renunciation of violence. 

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” Rom. 12:17-19. 

This is just as much a case of not reading all of Paul coherently, rather than ignoring the words of Jesus.

None of this is to say that the words of Jesus are unimportant. But it is sometimes the case that what we mean by the words of Jesus are not what is recorded in the gospels, but our inferences of his words. It represents a kind of Midrash on these words. We may extrapolate from our sense of the ethics of Jesus, and where no commentary is made on a matter directly, we construct what seems to us to be in harmony with this ethic.  “If Jesus were on the earth today, I think he’d _______.” This may mean we affirm something the epistles denounce, with the justification that Jesus cared more that people are compassionate toward one another than that they are doctrinally correct. To cite one example, Jesus told the Jews that “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24) There is some doctrinal content that is necessary. It defines who Jesus is, and if one redefines Jesus outside the biblical parameters, one cannot say they believe Jesus’ self-revelation.

But it can also define compassion differently than a full reading of Scripture would support. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, the Proverbs says.  Paul asked the Galatians, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” In other words, love and truth belong together, and are never set against one another in any kind of hierarchy in Scripture. We are not more compassionate toward others if we withhold the truth from them. As many have noted, Jesus spoke more of hell than just about anyone else in Scripture. Believing it insensitive or lacking in compassion to speak these truths is not, in fact, loving.

We also need to recognize the genre differences between the gospels and other writings of the New Testament. The gospels are mainly narrative, and while they do contain direct teaching, they contain much that isn’t, or that is parabolic teaching. The epistles, on the other hand, are exhortation, encouragement, correction—all of which was suited to the local congregations that received the letters, and by extension, any and every congregation. It can be challenging to take narrative sections of Scripture, attempt to draw out a principle, and set it against parenesis that is clear. Indeed, sometimes it ends up creating a conflict where one should not exist, and the result is that those clear passages in the epistles are reinterpreted by the narrative sections in the gospels; sections which may (or may not) contain the principle someone insists is there. 

We need gospels and epistles, history and apocalypse. We need all of the New Testament to understand God’s will and plan for believers. Paul insisted his words were the words of the Lord, not secondary, but God’s true word. As I haven’t really seen good examples of where this is happening, I have to conclude that Red Letterism is a solution in search of a problem.

 

 

A Canon within the Canon? Making sense of the Law in the New Testament

Proof texting has some value in certain situations, but if we want a comprehensive treatment of a doctrine throughout Scripture, it requires something more. If we limit the evidence on a doctrine to one book, one part of Scripture, or one writer, we will not have the whole story. The Red Letter Christians exemplify this, essentially saying that what Jesus said is more important than what one reads elsewhere in Scripture. Even if not overtly identifying as Red Letter Christians, others display this same thinking, particularly in dealing with the law.

It is common to focus on the Sermon on the Mount as the apex of Jesus’ teaching. Indeed, there is much ethical teaching here. But one also finds things that are situational, Jewish, and what belongs to the Old Covenant.

How do we deal with what Jesus said about the Mosaic Law? Are we bound to it, or not? Looking at the Sermon, one finds statements such as “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matt. 5:17-18)

This seems decisive. Jesus is telling his hearers that he did not come to abolish, to tear down, but to fulfill. The law is permanent. He goes on to say “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (5:19-20)

We are bound the keep the law, and our adherence to it is the measure of our righteousness. This seems to remove any doubt.

Or does it?

Looking only at the Sermon on the Mount will give us a truncated view of how the entire New Testament treats the law. One must consider not only what Matthew and the other evangelists record, but also what the apostles said. Some object to this as an invitation to confusion. R. Scott Jarrett, pastor of Denver Reformed Church observes this:

“We are to see the doctrine and theology established through the teachings of Christ as the standard which all the Christian writers of the New Testament are conforming to—and not the other way around. In other words, it is the principle of Christ before the other Christian teachers of the New Testament.”

This view is problematic, however. One can see how it is of a piece with the Red Letter view of inspiration and canonicity. But the Holy Spirit inspired Paul, as much as he did the four evangelists. This pits one part of the canon against another, suggesting that all of apostolic teaching should be read through the lens of what Jesus said—as if his words are the tie-breaker.

The distinction to the canon this introduces is unsustainable. It is the canon within the canon view; some books are more inspired than others. To adhere to this is to say that the Holy Spirit inspired the gospel writers differently or more so than he did than the writers of the New Testament epistles. This is to invite confusion in the interpretation of Scripture.

When we come to questions of the law and the Ten Commandments, one cannot arrive at a coherent position without the apostle Paul and all he wrote on the topic. There are ways to interpret Matthew light of Romans and Galatians, but choosing the Sermon on the Mount (or other parables) as the definitive way to treat the Mosaic law brings great difficulties.

To give one example, Paul writes in Romans 7:4, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” A couple verses later we writes, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

One solution some have offered is to say that Paul is only speaking about the condemnation of the law that we are free from, but that the obligation still remains. C.E.B. Cranfield writes “The life promised for the man who is righteous by faith is, in the third place, described as a life characterized by freedom from the law, that is, from the law in the limited sense of the-law-as-condemning, or the law’s condemnation (cf. 8:1).”[1]

But the law’s condemnation cannot be separated from commandment without the law ceasing to be law. Moreover, Paul assigns the law’s ability to kill to the commandment. “But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” (Rom 7:8-9) As Mark Seifrid notes, “When Paul speaks of ‘the law’ he has in view the commands given at Sinai, which cannot be detached from their authority to condemn without ceasing to be ‘law.’”[2]

Those who affirm we are still bound to the Ten Commandments must contend with Paul’s clear statements of release from them. Some may say the reverse is true: Those who affirm freedom from obligation must deal with Jesus’ statements about not relaxing any of the commandments. The key is in seeing that fulfillment (which Jesus promised in himself) brings a changed relationship to the law. Obligation remained “until all is fulfilled.” But, that fulfillment has come in the person and work of Jesus.

Of all the ways one may answer questions about the Old Covenant law, we need gospel and epistle, Jesus and Paul. We need to consider everything the Holy Spirit has inspired.

[1] C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. ICC 32a. 6th ed. (Edinburgh, UK: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 331.

[2] Mark A. Seifrid, Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification.  (Downers Grove: Apollos, 2000), 126.

 

 

How Does Your Knowledge of the Canon Measure Up?

The canon is both history and theology.

koine

The New Testament canon of Scripture is a subject that is too little understood by believers. As a topic most often left to specialists and scholars, the Christian very frequently has an inadequate understanding of how we got our Bible. But the importance of understanding this has grown, rather than diminished, over time. That is, as scholarship has advanced through centuries it has both sharpened our knowledge, while at the same time increased opposition to the idea and content of the New Testament canon. Canon means rule, or measuring rod, and the idea of the canon of Scripture is that it is the rule against which teaching and doctrine are measured. It is the norma normans non normata, or the standard over which no standard exists, but can believers explain exactly why? As scholars such as Bart Ehrman produce books and research that putatively debunks Scripture and the canon, it is vital that Christians – all Christians, not just scholars – be able to articulate the reasons for believing the canon of Scripture is God’s record. There are a couple of points where believers often get tripped up.

“The Church gave us the Bible.”

The idea that we wouldn’t have the books of the Bible if the church didn’t give them to us appears logical at first, but when the question is more thoroughly examined, it falls apart. This is in fact reversing the order of things. God’s word produces God’s people, not the other way around. “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18), and “Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Pet. 1:23). We as God’s people were created, formed as the Church, by the word of God. We do not form God’s word. The church indeed receives the word from God, but she is not the source of it. As Michael Kruger has commented, “the role of the church is like a thermometer, not a thermostat. Both instruments provide information about the temperature in the room—but one determines it and one reflects it.”[1]

Some will point to various councils that seem to ratify the canonical list of books, and say that this represents the church “giving” us the Bible. But this is to confuse reception with authority. John Barton comments, “When fourth-century Fathers and councils attempted to regulate the ‘canon’, they were doing little more than codifying what was already almost universally accepted.” [2] With this, James J. O’Donnell agrees, saying “Before translocal hierarchies of bishops and eventual popes and patriarchs ever evolved to have any doctrinal authority, Christians had come to agree, without noticing it, without debate, without anybody planning it, that scriptural texts, gathered in collections of apostolic authority, would prevail.”[3] Neither the church through some grand decision, nor through conciliar agreement gave us the Scriptures. Rather, the books of the New Testament are self-authenticating, and possess innate and inherent authority. To suggest otherwise is to confuse authority with canonicity. The church recognized these books as authoritative, and the decision to “canonize” them is but an acknowledgement of this divine and inherent authority that belongs to these books.

There were many writings extant during the apostolic era, but our 27 books have prevailed while others have not. And to refer to any such writing as apocryphal is not really correct. Apocryphal means hidden, and these books were by no means hidden or underground. They simply did not contain God’s truth and the believing community did not regard them as Scripture. There is no evidence for the idea that a bunch of bishops sat around and by a show of hands said yea or nay to including the Gospel of Thomas.  If indeed the Word of God is living and active, what God has inspired to be written is able to vindicate itself as his authoritative writing.

“There are so many manuscripts, what about the differences?”

This is perhaps more a question of textual criticism, but it is so closely allied with the questions surrounding the canon that it is important to note. Some have fancied that the plethora of manuscripts has somehow made it more difficult to determine the true words of Scripture, but quite the opposite is the case. Consider for a moment an event where there is but one witness. What that witness says must be regarded as the truth, because there is no one to contradict him. Now imagine there are two witnesses and their stories differ. This presents a problem of knowing which of the two is correct. But if we have hundreds of witnesses, and the vast majority of those witnesses agree, there is far more confidence that one has gotten the correct version of events due to the bulk of evidence from so many voices. There are approximately 5000 manuscripts containing the whole or part of the New Testament. This evidence dwarfs that of other ancient writings. For example, Metzger points out that “Among the tragedians the witness to Euripides are the most abundant: his extant works are preserved in 54 papyri and 276 parchment manuscripts, almost all of the latter dating from the Byzantine period.”[4]

The bounty of manuscripts for the New Testament allows us to have more confidence, not less, that we have the Word of God. By comparing manuscript with manuscript – engaging in textual criticism – this provides an exceedingly high degree of assurance about the accuracy of our Bible. Centuries of manuscript sleuthing has produced ever more evidence for the 27 books we know as the New Testament. Believers should have confidence that weight of evidence keeps pointing in the same direction.

Is the canon really that important?

I believe having at least a working knowledge of the New Testament canon is exceedingly important. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus based on the apostolic records left to us. We are admonished in the New Testament to desire the pure milk of the word, to show ourselves approved, rightly handling the word, and to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Without the canon of Scripture, none of these are possible. To have an understanding of how those books came to be, why we believe that we indeed have the right books – the books God wants us to have – these are not ancillary concerns. Further, as opposition to biblical faith increases, believers need to have confidence in God’s book,  and to be able to explain why we hold to the canon we have. The canon is not the same as inspiration, but it is an allied doctrine. In short, Christians believe that the God who was able to raise Jesus from the dead was also perfectly capable of getting it right at the printer.

For those wanting to delve more into the topic, the following are some recommendations for further reading:

 

[1] Michael J. Kruger (2012-04-05). Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Kindle Locations 2772-2773). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[2] John Barton, Holy Writings, Sacred Text: The Canon in Early Christianity (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), p.15

[3] James J. O’Donnell, Augustine: A New Biography (New York, Harper Collins,2005), p. 277.

[4] Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 2nd ed. (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 34.