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The New Testament Canon

The New Testament Canon

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Published by tsupasat
A short bible study that covers how the New Testament canon was formed. This is a great lesson for rebutting books like the Da Vinci Code.
A short bible study that covers how the New Testament canon was formed. This is a great lesson for rebutting books like the Da Vinci Code.

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Published by: tsupasat on Jun 13, 2009
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The New Testament Canon
What is a canon?
From Greek: a model, rule, or standard; a defined list of authoritative scriptures.
Why is it important to know how the New Testament canon was formed?
Knowing “how we got the Bible” helps us answer basic questions and correctwrong ideas.We can identify Gnostic gospels and uninspired books. Throughout history, therehave been stories similar to Dan Brown’s
 DaVinci Code
that rely in part on books or interpretations of history that are forgeries. For example, the
Gospel of Thomas
and the
Gospel of Judas
, both of which claim to be “secret” gospels or contain secret wisdom(gnosis).We know the Holy Spirit, not man, gave us the Bible as we have it today.Everything we believe about Jesus and the Good News is based on the Bible, and we believe the Bible is the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the one who inspired the authorsof the New Testament to write and worked through the early church to bring together the New Testament canon.
What factors helped speed the formation of the New Testament canon?
Several factors encouraged Christians to discuss and decide amongst themselveswhich books should be considered scripture.
Heresies.
The famous heretic Marcion compiled his own list of books in Romearound 140 A.D., including edited versions of Luke and Paul’s epistles, butrejecting other books. In order to argue doctrine against such heretics, Christiansneeded to know which books could be relied upon for true doctrine.
Forgeries.
In the second, third, and fourth centuries, books suddenly “appeared”that claimed to be lost or secret works written by early Christian leaders. Adefinite list of New Testament scripture would help to protect the church againstthese false books.
Persecution.
In 303 A.D., the emperor Diocletian ordered that all Christianscriptures be collected and burned in order to promote official religion. This edictlasted for 10 years and carried a possible death sentence for those who tried tohide sacred writings. This law encouraged Christians to discuss which books weretruly inspired and worthy of protecting with their lives.
Who choose the books of the New Testament canon?
As there was no centralized church authority in the early church, believerseverywhere recognized the importance of following the doctrine and traditions laid down by the churches that were founded by apostles, called apostolic churches. These churchesincluded Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi.The books of the New Testament were recognized as inspired very early, but thechurch needed a long time to agree on the specifics. A document written around 170 A.D.called theMuratorian fragmentlists all the canonical New Testament books exceptHebrews, 1 and 2 Peter, and 3 John. In 367 A.D., Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, was
 
the first to propose a list of 27 books that are the same as we have today in our Bible.Later church councils confirmed the canon.
What criteria were used to choose the New Testament canon?
Apostolic authority.
The first test of New Testament scripture was whether itrepresented the teachings of the 12 disciples of Jesus or other apostles such asPaul or James, the Lord’s brother. For example, the Gospel of Mark wasconsidered to have the authority of Peter because tradition held that Mark compiled Peter’s “memoirs.” Some books which were widely recognized asauthentic were not included in the New Testament canon because they werewritten by the “second generation” of Christian leaders after the apostles, such as1 Clement.
Content.
The New Testament books needed to deal with spiritual matters. Thesuperiority of our New Testament books over other books in terms of content isclear when compared.
Universality.
Because there was no central authority, consensus or near-consensus among apostolic churches about the authenticity of a book was a veryimportant consideration. It was because some books were so widely accepted byWestern churches that the Eastern church (Syria, Egypt, and Asia) also eventuallyaccepted those books.
Inspiration.
Books considered as New Testament scripture needed to have themark of inspiration from God.
What books are included in the New Testament canon?
The New Testament is 27 short writings in Greek. Some are histories, some areletters, and one is a type of prophesy called an apocalypse.
The Gospels.
These books present the Good News of Christianity. They are not biographies of Jesus in a formal sense, but narrowly focus on who Jesus was, whyHe came, and what He did to give us salvation.
Matthew, Mark, Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they sharea common view of the Good News. Written between 60 A.D. and 75 A.D.The Synoptic Gospels were written based on oral tradition (1 Cor 15:3-4)and possibly early collections of the sayings of Jesus.
The Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John, this gospel fills inunique teachings, stories, and viewpoints that were lacking in the earlier Synoptic Gospels. Probably written before or around 90 A.D.
Acts.
This is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke and provides a history of thespread of Christianity in the 30 years following Jesus’ death and resurrection in 27A.D.
Pauline Epistles.
These are letters written by Paul during the course of hisministry and are probably the earliest New Testament documents written. Theywere saved and distributed among churches and treated as scripture at an earlydate (Col 4:16, 2 Thes 2:15, 2 Peter 3:15-16).
Letters to churches. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians,Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

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