Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Canon Revisited

At BeggarsAll another posting on the Canon of Sacred Scripture has been published.  Overall it seems a bit of a chastisement against a Protestant pastor who had the courage to state "the Bible didn't exist until around 300 - 400 AD".  "for 300 years there was no Bible" and "they had no New Testament for really, 400 years."   
Please note the facts:
  1. The Bible did not exist until around 300-400 AD
  2. They had no New Testament for really, 400 years
Both statements are true!  Actually, there were "canon lists" (several varying ones) for the first 400 years - but there was no "Bible," as we know it today, until about 405 AD.  It was commissioned by Pope Damasus in 382 AD, but not completed until about 405 AD (the Gospels were completed and presented to the pope in 384 AD). 

Why is this such a difficult concept for Protestants to take?  How can they deny the documented process the canon went through before it was finalized in the late 4th century?  Well I can answer for the "why" part, it is because it undermines the concept of sola scriptura.  

When Protestants separated from the one authority which Jesus Christ established and built for His people, they needed to create a new authority, and thus was born the slogan theology of sola scriptura (along with four "other solas").  The terminology itself is virtually unheard of until the 16th century, which this fact alone should cause concern for its adherents.  When the primary language of the West (where the concept of the Five Solas is invented) is Latin why is this allegedly foundational teaching (of sola scriptura, which is Latin) so foreign, even unheard of?

It is time for our separated brethren to come home to the one,  holy, Catholic and apostolic Church which Jesus Christ built (Matthew 16:18).  After all is said and done it is the desire of God that we be one, just as the Father and the Son are one John 17:21).

Addendum - Comments to the original post on BeggarsAll:

"Be Careful the way you communicate the issue of the canon in the early church"
1 – 9 of 9

Scott Windsor, Sr. said...
The fact that there was no "Bible" prior to the 4th-5th century is quite true. It is also true that all the books which comprise that which would be declared to be "The Bible" were all written prior to 96AD. That some books were widely read in the early churches MAY be true, but the fact is that there were few copies available in the first 300 years of the Catholic Church and not because they were forbidden, but because all copies would have been hand-written. There is no doubt that many of the books are rightly declared as being part of the Canon of Sacred Scripture in the earliest of canon lists - but likewise several books were included in these lists which eventually were not included while others were excluded but eventually made it into the official canon.
Should pastors be careful in how they describe the early canons? Yes, I would agree with that! They should also be honest about how the canon developed and was not 100% accepted.
7:31 PM, July 26, 2014
Ken said...
Basically I agree, if there is enough time to make clear that the individual books were already canon when written, because they are "God-breathed".
But I suppose you are also wanting books like Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, Didache, Wisdom of Solomon, and Apocalypse of Peter to be mentioned as possibly considered by some (Muration Canon and Codex Siniaticus) as "canon" also. But it could be argued that Codex Siniaticus is just making use of the space and material, not proof that they thought they were canonical.
4:05 PM, July 28, 2014
Scott Windsor, Sr. said...
And I would agree as well... except for the point of "just making use of space." In the time before the printing press (and we're talking more than 1000 years prior to it) adding to the "space" was much more laborious and thus not a very logical argument. So, while it "could be argued...", such a paradigm is quite unlikely. The more likely is that they appreciated the Shepherd, Barnabus, Didache, etc. and included them because they did preach the Gospel message - but for any number of reasons (and there are a few) the later counterparts decided against their inclusion in the canon.
As for the point about them being "canonical" at the time they were penned, while it is true they were and are God's Word at the time they were penned, it is a bit anachronistic to argue they were canonical prior to the existence of canon lists.
7:38 PM, July 28, 2014
Joey Henry said...
Scott, you have to define what you mean by canon. If canon for you means that there should be a canonical list defined by an ecclesiastical body, then you correct in saying that it is anachronistic to assert the canon prior to the list.
However, the definition of what is a canon and when a book becomes canonical is at issue. For me, the canon is a result of inspiration. When God inspired some books and not all books, he basically created the canon. Thus, the canon exist even if no ecclessiatical body defines it.
7:21 AM, July 31, 2014
Scott Windsor, Sr. said...
I understand what you're saying - but I must stress - words have meanings. A "canon" (in this context) is a LIST or COLLECTION of sacred books which are accepted as genuine. Thus, to say a book or collection of books is "canonical" BEFORE the LIST or COLLECTION is assembled is purely anachronistic. To be "canonical" does not equivocate to being "inspired." In the case of Scripture, those books which were eventually included in the Canon of Sacred Scripture are indeed ALSO inspired (God breathed) and the inclusion into the canon did not make them inspired. They were, indeed, inspired even prior to them being penned (the writer first had the inspiration and THEN put it to paper/papyrus). By the same token, just because something is not in the formal canon does not mean it is not inspired! Many other books are considered worthy to be read and could be considered inspired and inspirational - they just were not part of the official canon.
Back to the point - NONE of the books were "canonical" prior to the establishment of a "canon." In simpler terms, NONE of the books were part of the "list" prior to the "list" being compiled.
Also keep in mind, there were SEVERAL "canons" prior to the 4th-5th century.
Words mean things.
11:04 PM, July 31, 2014
Ken said...
. . . words have meanings. A "canon" (in this context) is a LIST or COLLECTION of sacred books which are accepted as genuine.
Words have meanings, yes. But the original meaning of "canon" was not a list, rather "criterion" / "standard" / "rule" - the meaning of "list of sacred books" came much later.
(the writer first had the inspiration and THEN put it to paper/papyrus).
No, 2 Timothy 3:16 says the writings are God-breathed, not the person. The person was guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21), using their own personality, but it was the writings themselves that are God-breathed.
3:25 PM, August 01, 2014

Scott Windsor, Sr. said...
> KT: Words have meanings, yes.
> But the original meaning of
> "canon" was not a list, rather
> "criterion" / "standard" /
> "rule" - the meaning of "list of
> sacred books" came much later.
sw: Without going into the etymological fallacy, the use that we are talking about (as indicated by "in this context") is clearly the use of canon lists as produced (several different ones) in the first 400 years of the Church.
The real underlying point here is that the canon did not determine itself. If the canon were self-determining, there would not have been any debate over it - much less 400(+) years of said debate! No, it was ultimately declared by the Church through the Holy Ghost.
The real reason you do not accept this explanation is that it is quite damning to the concept of sola scriptura because you accept, without exception, the canon of the New Testament as declared by the Catholic Church through the Holy Ghost. <> Scott<<<
1:50 PM, August 03, 2014

Ken said...
Before the word "canon" was used as a list of NT books, it meant "rule", "criterion", "standard" in the explanations of "the rule of faith" or "canon of truth" - in Irenaeus(180-200 AD), Tertullian(190-220 AD), Origen (250 AD) (D. L. Williams, The Free Church and the Early Church, page 17) and was basically organized around the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:18-20; and is basically, the same doctrinal content as what later became the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian and Athanasian Creeds.

This "rule of faith" or "canon of truth" was also called "the tradition", "the faith", "the teaching" (Athanasius, To Serapion, on the Holy Spirit, Epistle 1, 28) or "the preaching" (Irenaeus)

So, you are wrong. The standard, rule, criterion was the doctrinal truths of Christianity (which Protestants agree with because they came from Scripture and were taught to new converts before baptism, and functioned as "the standard" until all the NT books were discerned and discovered and put togehter under one "book cover", so to speak.

So, I did not make an etymological fallacy.

There was no real debate over the four gospels, Acts, Paul's letters, 1 John and 1 Peter.

Clement and Pseudo Barnabas seem to allude to 2 Peter.

Irenaeus, Tertullian - 180-220 AD affirm most of the NT books, both Irenaeus and Tertullian affirm the book of Revelation - before those 2 writers, there is just not much extant from the earlier writers; their output was small - Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Papias. What we have of their writings is too small to even quote or allude to very many of the NT documents, though they do allude to and quote from some. Clement, very early, uses Hebrews.

The only debate was over Hebrews, Revelation, James, Jude, 2-3 John, 2 Peter. (mostly Eusebius tells us that there was debate over these books.)

But Revelation (Irenaeus, Tertullian) and Hebrews (Clement) are mentioned and affirmed early. 2 Peter by Clement and Psedo-Barnabas.

The power of the NT documents is self-evident and they eventually won because of their self-evident power and quality as being "God-breathed".
12:52 PM, August 04, 2014
What is the context of this discussion? Beyond etymology, we're talking about canon lists of the Canon of Sacred Scripture. Yes, the word "canon" or "kanon" also has the meaning of a "rule" or "criterion," but in this context we're speaking of the lists which were put together, several of them in the Early Church. So, when we speak of the Canon of Sacred Scripture, these books were not canonical until there was a canon or list to which they belonged. One canon of the Old Testament is the Septuagint or Greek canon, another is the Palestinian or Hebrew canon. Catholics, along with Jesus and the Apostles, used the Greek canon; Protestants and post-Christian Jews adhere to the Palestinian canon. Pre-Christian Jews followed a mix between the Alexandrian (Greek) canon and the Palestinian (Hebrew) canon.

Then there came the New Testament canons. One of the first recorded canon lists was the Marcionian Canon, and while Marcion was declared an heretic, it was not because of his canon - though it was controversial. Irenaeus argued for a 4 book Gospel canon and Origen presented a canon quite similar to the current New Testament canon, except he did not include James, 2 Peter 2nd and 3rd John and he did include the Shepherd of Hermas. I could go on, but the point is which canon list? If any book belonged to any canon, then it was "canonical" per that canon. The final canon of Scripture does not exist until the late 4th century, so per that canon, while many books were not disputed by that time, none were part of that canon until that canon existed.


1:54 AM, August 06, 2014

More to follow? Check back here and/or check on BeggarsAll.

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