Evidence before 200 AD about the canon
A conservative, bible believing
God's providence gave us the 27
book New Testament Canon, not the church. God, not men decided the canon. This providence
does not mean that church leaders were inspired in their selecting the canon,
only that God had his eye on the scriptures the whole time and brought about
His will to form the Bible we see today!
Evidence before 200 AD about the canon
I. Scare and scattered historical record:
to the scarcity of evidence, one cannot firmly conclude when exactly and
as a result of what development the early church came to possess a
twenty-seven-book collection called the New Testament and a two-part
collection that comprises our Bible of Old and New Testaments." (Lee
Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors: The Canon Debate; Peter Balla,
Evidence for an Early Christian Canon: Second and Third Century, p 372,
historians universally admit there is sketchy information about the
earliest years of the church, this does not mean the core of the canon was
not recognized as we see it today. We have random bits and pieces of
historical evidence of varying degree of reliability. For example, just
because our earliest complete copy of the Bible (codex) is about 325 AD,
this does not mean that a codex in 125 AD did not exist. All we can say is
that we have no direct archeological proof.
we have from the apostolic fathers during this earliest time would be a
book about the "volume about the same size as the New Testament"
(The Canon of the New Testament, Bruce Manning Metzger, 1987, p 72)
II. Roman Catholics take note:
We remind Roman Catholics that not only is the earliest evidence
of the canon incomplete, but so is the record of the earliest bishops of Rome.
In other words, there is no agreement as to the actual order of
"Pope" (as Catholics refer to the historic elders of Rome) So the
same evidence Catholics point to, in order to prove the canon was not settled
before 200 AD, also proves the order of the "popes of Rome" are disputed.
oldest links in the chain of Roman bishops are veiled in impenetrable
darkness. ... at that early day, the government of the congregation
composed of Jewish and Gentile Christian elements was not so centralized
as it afterwards became. Furthermore, the earliest fathers, with a true
sense of the distinction between the apostolic and episcopal offices, do
not reckon Peter among the bishops of Rome at all." (History
of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff, v2, ch 4)
actual order of the first three so-called bishops of Rome is a greatly
disputed matter. The oldest tradition is that given by Irenaeus (Adv.
Hoer. III. 3. 3) and followed here by Eusebius, according to which the
order was Linus, Anencletus, Clement. Hippolytus gives a different order,
in which he is followed by many Fathers" (Philip
Schaff, Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. I, footnote 14)
more documentation of the organization of the early church.
III. Illustration and case point:
is a typical historians quote: "Given what we see in Eusebius in the
early fourth century it is virtually impossible to imagine that the church
had settled upon a twenty-seven book collection, or even one that
approximated that, in the late second century. Moreover, whatever the
merits of David Trobisch's intriguing and important proposal that a
twenty-seven book edition of the New Testament was produced in the second
century, that notion seems hard to reconcile with what we have found in
Eusebius regarding the church's acceptance of apostolic writings in
earlier centuries." (Lee Martin McDonald, James A. Sanders, Editors:
The Canon Debate; Everett R. Kalin, The New Testament Canon of Eusebius, p
is that the record of Eusebius, is restricted to that small part of the
world where he had influence: Caesarea. He may not represent Asia,
Constantinople, Alexandria or Rome! For a complete picture of the time, we
need the views of key men in all these areas.
is well documented that different areas of the world had differing views
on various New Testament books. This does not mean that Canon was not set.
But some parts of the world accepted Revelation and others viewed it with
is clear that in some parts of the world, the entire 27 book canon of
scripture was likely fixed in its present state.
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for
comments, input or corrections.
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