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Formation of the Canon

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Lesson

How did Christians arrive at the canon of 27 authoritative documents that were from God and therefore foundational for Christian belief and living? Blomberg looks at hints from the New Testament itself, the citations and writings of the Apostolic Fathers, third century discussions, and the final ratification of the canon in the fourth century. None of our four Gospels were ever questioned, and no other gospel was put forward as equally authoritative.

Outline

I. HINTS FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT

A. Upper Room Discourse and the future role of the Spirit

a. John 14:26

b. 15:26, 27

B. 1 Timothy 5:18 (Luke 10:7)

C. 2 Peter 3:15–16

II. APOSTOLIC FATHERS (SECOND CENTURY)

A. Citations

B. Marcion’s list and Gnosticism

C. Persecution and the Muratorian Canon

a. 21 books

b. All four Gospels, and no other Gospels

D. Irenaeus

III. THIRD CENTURY

A. Tertullian

1. novum testamentum

2. 23 books (no debate over the four gospels)

B. Origen

1. 27 books

a. Only 7 disputed

b. Not the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters, 1 Peter, 1 John

2. Why were they disputed?

a. Hebrews — authorship

b. James — possible theological contradiction

c. 2 Peter — Greek style

d. 2 and 3 John — Short

e. Jude — Short, and quotes two non-canonical books

f. Revelation — not sure what to do with it

3. Gospels

a. Our four were never questioned

b. No other ”gospels” were suggested (even the orthodox ones)

IV. FOURTH CENTURY CRYSTALLIZATION

A. Athanasius (367) — the 27 books are “universally accepted”

B. Ratified at Councils of Hippo and Carthage (390’s)

V. CRITERIA OF CANONICITY

A. Apostolicity

B. Orthodox

C. Catholicity

D. Inspiration (subjective)

VI. CONCLUSION

A. None of our four Gospels were ever questioned

B. No other gospels were serious suggested, even the gnostic gospels