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The Canon and the Text of the New Testament

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Lesson

How and why were the books in the New Testament chosen to form the canon we have today? The three major criteria are that the writings be widely accepted, non-contradictory with previously acknowledged revelation and genuinely going back to an apostle or close associate of an apostle. The four Gospels have similarities and differences in their content and writing style. Matthew, Mark and Luke have so many similarities that they are called the Synoptic Gospels. John is significantly different in content and style from the other three. (47 min.)

Outline

I. How Was the Old Testament Canon Determined?

A. What is “Canon”?

B. The Hebrew Scriptures

C. The OT Apocryphal Books

D. The Pseudepigrapha

II. How was the New Testament Canon Determined?

A. Why were any books added to the Old Testament Canon?

1. The Open-ended Nature of the Old Testament

2. The Establishment of the New Covenant

3. Jesus’ Promises to the Disciples

B. Why these particular 27 books?

1. They were widely accepted by the Church as uniquely true and inspired.

2. They were linked to an Apostle.

3. They did not contradict previous Scripture.

C. What about those writings that were left out?

1. The Apostolic Fathers

2. The New Testament Apocrypha

3. The Gnostic Writings

4. What if we found new writings?

III. Is the Text of the New Testament Reliable?

A. The Number of Manuscripts (i.e copies)

B. The Nature of the Discrepancies

C. Some Longer Disputable Passages

1. The Ending of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:13)

2. The Ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20)

3. The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 7:53-8:11)

D. The Verse and Chapter References

IV. The Four Gospels

A. The Similarities and Differences among the Gospels

1. “Harmonies” of the Gospels

2. The “Synoptic” Gospels

3. The Uniqueness of John

B. Other Early Sources of Information about the Life of Christ

1. What other sources do we have?

2. What can we learn about Jesus from these sources?

3. What should we conclude from this information?

C. Methods for Explaining the Differences among the Gospels

1. The Traditional Approach

2. Source Criticism

3. Form Criticism

4. Redaction Criticism

5. Other Methods

D. Explaining the Uniqueness of the Gospel of John

1. The Traditional Explanation: Familiarity with the Synoptics

2. The Modern Explanation: Unfamiliarity with the Synoptics

3. A Hybrid Approach: Familiarity with the Stories