Why We Trust Our Bible - Lesson 12

Canon: Apostolic Origins (6/10) - Dr. Kruger

Kruger shows that Covenants in the Old Testament needed written documents, and a new covenant required new documents. Writing was not an afterthought. The apostles saw themselves as agents of the New Covenant and saw their writings as having authority. They would have been surprised to be told that it wasn't until Irenaeus that people throught their writing was authoritative. They had to write to accomplish their apostolic ministry within their lifetime.

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Why We Trust Our Bible
Lesson 12
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Canon: Apostolic Origins (6/10) - Dr. Kruger


A. The apostles recorded the terms of the new covenant in written form

B. A covenant required written documentation


A. The apostles were the agents of the new covenant

B. The apostles were conscious of their authority


A. Peter refers to some of Paul's letters as Scripture

B. Apostles expected their writing to be accepted as authoritative


A. Covenantal context

B. Apostolic mission could not be accomplished only in person

C. Awareness of their limited lifespan

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • Dr. Craig Blomberg begins by introducing the issue of the historical reliability of the New Testament documents, focusing on Dan Brown and some of the other recent "discoveries." He will cover 12 truths agreed upon except by the most liberal theologians. In this lesson he talks about the authorship and dating of the gospels.

  • Would the gospel writers have wanted to preserve accurate history? Why are there four Gospels, with all the similarities and differences?

  • Gain an in-depth look at translations, interpretations, oral tradition, memorization, Gospel stories, and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with this seminary professor's class.
  • In his series of reasons, in this lesson Blomberg answers 7 – 9.

  • Blomberg addresses the issues of the non-Christian testimony to Jesus, archaeology, and the testimony of other early Christian Writers. He concludes with a powerful discussion of three ways to believe, and what the relationship is between faith and reason.

  • This class provides an overview of the core beliefs of Christianity and the sources that back them up.
  • Are books in the canon because they are authoritative, or they are authoritative because they are in the canon? The Davinci Code and the common assertions about Constantine are historical fabrications. “Canon” can mean three different things. Has God given us a structure to know which books should be in the canon? Can you prove, or is the point to have sound reasons for what you believe?

  • A canonical worldview is a set of beliefs as to what the canon is and how someone “knows” if a book is canonical or not.  There are three models. According to the community model, a book becomes canonical upon its reception by the community.

  • In the historical model of canonicity, a book becomes canonical when it is examined historically, looking at issues such as authorship and reception. This model suffers  by the absence of an absolute criteria by which you can make this decision.

  • The self-authenticating model of the canon claims that the Bible is itself its own ultimate authority. All beliefs of ultimate authority are circular, otherwise the criteria for deciding would be greater than the ultimate authority itself. The real question is whether or not God has provided a means by which Christians can know what books are truly canonical. The self-authenticating model encompasses the other two, incorporating the best of each model.

  • A “defeater” is an idea that undermines your confidence in knowing something. Are there defeaters for our understanding of the canon? The New Testament books have unity with prior revelation and with each other, and in fact the New Testament completes the Old Testament in surprising ways.

  • Kruger shows that Covenants in the Old Testament needed written documents, and a new covenant required new documents. Writing was not an afterthought. The apostles saw themselves as agents of the New Covenant and saw their writings as having authority. They would have been surprised to be told that it wasn't until Irenaeus that people throught their writing was authoritative. They had to write to accomplish their apostolic ministry within their lifetime.

  • Even if a few of the books took a while to be accepted, there was a core canon of 22 books very quickly. Even the Muratorian Fragment, while including two non-canonical books, recognizes that they are different and may be listing them as such. Just because the early church read non-canonical books does not mean there was not a canon.

  • The early church was a culture of textuality; they liked and publicly read books. The frequency of ancient manuscripts shows us which books were the most popular and were therefore understood to be canonical. The church preferred the new codex format because they could group books together, especially the gospels. We can also tell that the manuscripts were written in order to be publicly read, which means the church knew which books were authoritative.

  • Eusebius described four types of books: accepted, disputed, rejected, and heretical. The early church was careful in what they accepted as authoritative, and there really was not that much of a question.

  • Answers to common questions about the canon, now that these question are targeted to the lay level. 

  • In Part 1, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses the challenges to the believability of the Bible brought by the issues related to the Greek manuscripts, and especially the influence of Dan Brown and Bart Ehrman.

  • In Part 2, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses discussion of the historical process that led to manuscripts and variants, with some examples of variants.

  • In Part 3, Dr. Daniel Wallace responds to three basic challenges by Bart Ehrman: the "black hole"; the quality of the copies; the effect of Constantine on the manuscripts.​

  • In Part 4, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses how now that we understand why there are variants in the manuscripts, how does the art and science of textual criticism help us determine which variants are most likely to be original?

  • In Part 5, Dr. Daniel Wallace addresses a brief overview of why the King James Bible is different from all modern translations, and issues of the Greek texts behind it.

  • In Part 6, Dr. Daniel Wallace focuses in on variants, how many there are, how many significant variants are there, and how good of a job has textual criticism done.

  • You will gain knowledge about translation philosophy, including different methods, how to evaluate a translation, and a comparison of the NIV and ESV translation philosophies, with examples of their differences. Understanding translation philosophy is important when interpreting the Bible.
  • You will learn about the first principle of interpretation which involves determining the meaning of words by looking at the word's immediate context, broader context, and historical and cultural context. By accurately interpreting the meaning of a word, it can be applied to the passage as a whole.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible by exploring topics such as the development of the canon, textual criticism, historical accuracy, and theological coherence.
  • You will gain an understanding of the principles behind why we trust the Bible, including the bibliographical, historical, and internal tests.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the process of canonicity, which is the recognition of which books belong in the Bible based on criteria such as apostolicity, orthodoxy, catholicity, and traditional use. Understanding canonicity is essential for recognizing the authority of the Bible and its significance in the Christian faith.

The uniqueness and authority of the Bible are always under attack. Professors and writers are claiming that Jesus never existed, Jesus never claimed to be God, the early church changed the basic preaching of Jesus, books were left out of the Bible, the copies of the Bible that have come down through the centuries are hopelessly corrupt

Dr. Blomberg discusses the reliability of the Bible. Dr. Kruger discusses the process of formation of the New Testament Canon. Dr. Wallace discusses issues relating to manuscripts and textual criticism. Dr. Mounce discusses the philosophies and process of translation. 

I. Why is the Concept of Covenant Important in the Context of Apostolic Authorship?

One of the things we realize about the New Testament and certainly the word, Testamentum, the Latin word from which it comes; a better word would be New Covenant. This shows that there is a much larger concept under guarding the New Testament. This is really critical to get because of what I lay out in the book; when you start talking about a New Covenant, you are really building on a foundation that is outlined by the Old Covenant. I point out the fact that the New Testament authors really saw themselves as continuing in the tradition of what the Old Testament was already doing. When God makes a covenant arrangement, he gives with it the terms of that covenant in a textual document. So when Jesus said that he was inaugurating the New Covenant, we would expect there to be New Covenant documents that came along with it. You need to understand the link between the Old and the New. It gives us a sense of why we would expect new documents to be part of the New Covenant arrangement.

II. The Covenant of God in the Old Testament was patterned after Covenants Made in the Ancient World

When God says that he was going to establish a covenant, it was patterned after a typically structured agreement already established in the ancient world. This was like a contract from the Hittite world, when you made a covenant from king to king, you had a written documentation of that covenant that setting out the terms and the arrangements of it. So the Israelites would have already had that grid in their minds. And the first Christians, being that they were Jews, would have already had that idea of how a covenant would have been associated with written documents.

III. Jesus Instituted the New Covenant and the Apostles Became the Agents

I use the term, agents of the New Covenant. Paul in 2nd Corinthians 3 uses the term as Ministers of the New Covenant. What I love about the role of the apostles, there were what you might call the official implementer or agents or spokesmen or ministers of the New Covenant. They are installing it; they have the permission and the authority of Christ to speak for him and to operate with his authority. So they were implementing the terms of that New Covenant amongst God’s people. So, when you think about the authoritative leaders and installers of the New Covenant, it was clearly the apostles. They had a distinctive and foundational one-time office designed to begin and install the foundation of the New Covenant. Of course, Paul, himself, saw the apostles this way by describing them as ministers of the New Covenant.

IV. Did the Apostles Understand this Role in Their Lives?

One of the points I labored to make in the book is that when the apostles operated and functioned as apostles in their teachings, they were consciously aware of their own authority. That authority did not limit itself to oral proclamation, but was extended to written proclamation and content. Paul, in fact, does as much; he is to be obeyed whether in his oral teachings or written teachings. His words were to be followed and listened to. So once the apostles understood themselves as ministers of the New Covenant then you realize that their authority extended to anytime they were operating as ministers of the New Covenant. This certainly would include their preaching and oral proclamation and the key point here was when they wrote that message down. So when the apostles in their office of apostles wrote down the apostle message, what would that physical writing have been regarded as? What function would it have played? It would have played the role as a writing that bore full covenantal apostolic authority right from the beginning. So what kind of book is this? In every real sense, it is a Scripture like book. It is a book that would have functioned like a New Covenant document. And so, part of the reason I think this argument is important is that it helps to remind us that when the New Testament writers wrote, it wasn’t like they wrote with one intention, only later did people regards these books as authoritative. They didn’t have the idea of thinking that they weren’t authoritative or anything like that, but from the beginning they knew that these writings had authority. Paul wrote as a minister of the New Covenant and these documents had authority instantaneously. So, this is why I think, unless you grasp the self-awareness of the apostles when they wrote, you will always want to date the canon at a later date. The canon is an early phenomenon when you realize that the apostles were aware of what they were doing.

V. Some Modern Scholars Consider Irenaeus as the First Person who Considered the New Testament Documents as Authoritative.

Peter would be surprised as he referred to Paul’s letter in his 2nd letter. Yeah, this is a repeated reframe with modern scholars, that, once again, it was the later church that first regarded these documents as distinctively Scripture and that in earlier stages, no one bothered to think that way. I think this is fundamentally flawed; we have already seen that the conception of these books bore apostolic authority. The apostles said that they were writing with the authority of Christ.

VI. Why did the Apostles Write at all?

People often ask, didn’t the apostles first delivery their message orally and if so, why didn’t they keep doing this? This second step of writing things down seemed to be a later artificial step. What made the apostles do this? One reason, I think, has to do with the covenantal context. If they had this concept that they were the ministers of the New Covenant, the idea of a New Covenant text would have been a natural normal, even organic next step. Just like the Old Testament had text that documented the terms of the Old Covenant, you can understand why the apostles had that in their minds. So, this is one reason to expect a written text. The second reason would be based on the apostolic mission itself. Their goal was to lay the foundation of the church and bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. It would not have been long though before the apostles began to realize that this goal was not going to be able to be accomplished always in person. You can’t always deliver every message orally. They couldn’t travel to every church and every place. If they were going to be effective in their mission, they needed to have some way to replicate their message more rapidly and writing things down would have been a practical step to this. The last thing I want to mention; I think the apostles were aware of their own limited life span. As they begin to age out and die, I think the urgency to write the message down would have increased. People often also ask, why didn’t they write in the early thirties or forties a lot more; they really only started writing in the fifties and sixties. There could be many answers to this question. People began to realize that the apostles were either dying or would be dying and they were leaving their deposit behind in a way that would be preserved and maintained for future generations.