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Why We Trust Our Bible - Lesson 21

CANON: Practical Advice

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

Taught by a Team
Why We Trust Our Bible
Lesson 21
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CANON: Practical Advice

I. PRACTICAL ADVICE

A. Pastors: inform your people so they will be ready when challenges come

B. Lay person: recognize that there are answers to these questions

C. These objections are not new

II. “LOST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS”

A. If we found the letter, would it be put into the canon?

B. No, because God gave the books in the canon as foundational to build his church.

C. No, because they would be too hard to authenticate

III. WHY ARE THESE 27 BOOKS THE RIGHT 27 BOOKS?

A. They are the books we possess

B. All of them have the attributes of canonicity

C. These are the books that the Church has been reading for 2,000 years


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  • In Part 1, Dr. Darrell Bock addresses the historical Jesus debate, some scholars actually question whether Jesus even lived. How can we show that he did live using sources other than the Bible and the writing of the early Church Fathers?

    We apologize for the poor quality of the recording. We lost the main video feed, but felt the content was too important to omit. We will re-record the seminar when we are able.

  • In Part 2, Dr. Darrell Bock adresses how some liberal scholars argue that because the stories of Jesus were first told by word of mouth, and since memory is faulty, that we cannot trust the gospel witness to Jesus. Dr. Bock discusses three views of orality and why the "informal controlled" model of the Bedouins best parallels the gospels and argues for the authenticity of their accounts. He also shows why the supposed "time gap" between Jesus living and the writing of ;the accounts is only a few years due to the witness of Paul, and not decades as some propose.

    We apologize for the poor quality of the recording. We lost the main video feed, but felt the content was too important to omit. We will re-record the seminar when we are able.

  • In Part 3, Dr. Darrell Bock addresses when the authenticity of the gospels is questioned due to faulty human memory. Some people claim that since we do not know for sure who wrote the gospels, we cannot trust their message. Others argue that there is nothing special about presenting Jesus as a common miracle worker. In this session, Dr. Bock answers each of these charges.

    We apologize for the poor quality of the recording. We lost the main video feed, but felt the content was too important to omit.

  • How scholarship has created a series of rules they use to judge the authenticity of a gospel passage. Dr. Bock critiques those rules and shows how they still can argue for the authenticity of the core events of the gospel message.

  • Two key events in the gospels, Jesus' trial and the resurrection. Using the rules of scholarship, he shows that even by those standards these events are authentic.

  • 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?

  • Blomberg addresses seven questions during a Q&A session.

  • 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.

  • In this final talk, Blomberg addresses the final nine questions from the audience.

  • 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.

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, and how can you trust your translation where there are so many? This class walks you through the process of how we received our Bible and why we can trust it.

Dr. Blomberg discusses the reliability of the Bible. Dr. Kruger discusses the process of formation of the New Testament Canon. Dr. Wallaces discusses issues relating to manuscripts and textual criticism. Dr. Mounce discusses the philosophies and process of translation. Dr. Piper discusses the content, cohesiveness, scope and power of the Bible.

Course: Why We Trust Our Bible

Lecture: Practical Advice

 

I. Practical Advice

One of the interesting things about the canon debate is that it has reached a layman’s level unlike a lot of other Biblical Studies issues. People almost target laypeople with these issues. They will read an article in Newsweek or read a blog post. I tell pastors all the time that their congregation is hearing this. They come up at Christmas and Easter where people question the Bible where it is canon related. I tell pastors that they need to make sure they are addressing these issues. They should not be late in doing this. They need to give their congregations understanding of Biblical origins that is solid and foundational, so that when they come across things like Dan Brown and DaVinci Code or a book by Bart Ehrman, they are not bothered to the core. We need to inoculate our church against these challenges. You don’t wait until they are affected by these things and then do something about it; they need to do something now. To the layperson, not just the pastor, there are answers to these questions that people are asking. People are often confused in not having an answer and others with there not being an answer. That is understandable, if they don’t have an answer, there must not be one. Solid Biblical Scholars have dealt with these points for generations. There are good answers out there. You can find them; you can go to people who can help you find them. There are good books that can explain the answers to these questions. Another thing that I would tell the layperson when they hear these things, that is to recognize that they are not new; I can’t tell you how many times that people present these challenges to the Bible as if they are some new discovery. You hear things like, ‘now we know this or that’ or ‘it’s clear now that.’ You realize that Augustus was dealing with these same issues in the 5th century. We look at the 2nd century and realize that people were raising the arguments even then against Christianity and where they were being answered by Biblical Scholars. These issues are not new and the church has gone around and around on them. I tell people to take solace in the fact that they are not the first ones that have to deal with these issues.

II. What about the lost letter to the Corinthians, if found, would it be put into the canon now?

The question about lost letters are very common and indeed it is very complicated. There is a lot dispute about what we would do with that letter. In essence, my answer would be that it would not be part of the canon. I think I made the argument that the canon by definition is a foundational document. These books that God gave the church are what the church was built on. They are foundational books and providentially speaking God did not use those other letters. God did not intend for the church to use them as a foundational document. Nevertheless, I could see why someone would go the opposite direction. I think it would be difficult to authenticate given that part of authentication is time. At this point, I would say that it would not be part of the canon.

III. Why are these 27 books of the New Testament, the right 27 books?

I think it would help to walk through the model. A preliminary reason would be that they are the books we process. If God wanted you to have books, he would have preserved them for the church. The fact that we have them is a starting point in saying that they are the books that were intended for us to have. The second reason I think we have the right twenty-seven books is because all of them have the attributes of canonicity. You do see in them the divine qualities, amazing harmony, and an amazing unity; theological congruity, fitting in with the Old Testament and finishing the Old Testament story. You see the beauty of Christ in these books; you see his Excellency and wonder. These books teach us and give us wisdom; they convict us and challenge us. These books are alive, they are applications, and they are powerful. We see the power of God in these twenty-seven books at work. These books are all apostolic books; they have been vetted, we have traced them back to the 1st century. We have every reason to think that they are linked to the apostles who are God’s authoritative spokesman. If they are linked to the apostles, that gives us reason to think that their words are distinctive and they are to be listened to. Thirdly, and I think more powerfully, these are the books that the church has been reading for two thousand years. These books are the books that the church has rallied around and by the Holy Spirit, the church has recognized and affirmed and have said that these books are from God. That history has weight and power and meaning. That consensus of the church is noticeable. When you put all these things together and join it with the testimony of the Holy Spirit, both individually and corporately, what I conclude is that Christians have every reason to be confident that we can know that these are the right twenty-seven books.