Chapter 10

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Formation of the New Testament canon. Questions to be addressed in this chapter. What is the New Testament canon?. What drove Christians to establish a new canon?. How was the New Testament canon formed?. ID: 145797 Download Presentation

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Chapter 10

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Chapter 10

Formation of the New Testament canon


Questions to be addressed in this chapter

What is the New Testament canon?

What drove Christians to establish a new canon?

How was the New Testament canon formed?

Why were certain books considered but then rejected from the canon?

Is the New Testament canon closed?


The New Testament canon

The word “canon” comes from the ancient Greek word


or “measuring rod” and simply means a collection of texts or works considered to be authoritative and used as the basis of faith and practice


Even before its final formulation, the writings of the New Testament were fundamental to the spiritual and communal life of Christian believers


The New Testament is a set of twenty-seven different books by at least ten different authors


There are within it several distinct genres which can be delineated into the following four-fold

division: gospels, history, epistles, and apocalypse.


The necessity of a New Testament canon


all who claimed to be Christians accepted the same writings as authoritative.


was necessary, therefore, for Christians to develop a new canon, or New Testament, in conjunction with the old

canon, or Old Testament.



multiple concerns

that were instrumental in the formation of the

New Testament canon, including theological, liturgical, moral, political, and evangelistic and




The formation of the New Testament canon

The process by which the New Testament canon was formed was long and complex.


was not, as some have supposed, the outcome of a single meeting or council held on a given day in early Christian history.


, it was a gradual process that took several centuries to complete



complete list of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament first appeared in a letter written by Athanasius in 367



Criteria used for determining New Testament canonicity





: the book was connected to an apostle in some significant way



back to the apostles

: the book was old, extending back to the time of the apostles themselves



by God

: the book was understood by the churches as being inspired by the Holy Spirit




: the book contained orthodox teaching and was spiritually edifying




: the book was widely accepted among the catholic churches as canonical


Canonical disputes


– books

which were widely accepted by the Church Fathers and orthodox churches as being



– books

which were clearly rejected by the Church Fathers and orthodox churches as being



– books

which were disputed by the orthodox churches as being



– books

which were accepted by some of the early orthodox churches, but which were finally rejected as



The closing of the canon

Is it possible for the Church today to add or remove books from the canon


Given the historic Christian understanding of its divine inspiration, authority, and completed form, it is probably a safe bet to say that it will continue to be a closed canon for a very long time.


Summary of main points

1. The New Testament canon is that collection of twenty-seven books which Christians have historically taken to be the authoritative and inspired words of God and which are understood to be the norm for Christian thought, faith, and practice.

The following factors led from oral tradition to sacred canon: theological concerns of differentiating truth from error, practical concerns such as what to read in church services, political concerns involving persecution and book burning, and missionary concerns of Bible translation and communication.

3. In determining canonicity, the following criteria were utilized: apostolic authority; being ancient, extending back to the time period of the apostles; divine inspiration; orthodoxy; universal acceptance by orthodox churches.

Some books were considered but finally rejected from the canon for several reasons, primarily their being either pseudonymous or heretical.

While some have suggested adding or removing books from the biblical canon, it is most likely forever closed to such considerations.

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