Can (or Should) We Change the Canon of Scripture? A Blast from the Past

 

Digging around in posts from five years ago now, I came across this one –as interesting to me now as it was then!  Hope you think so too.  It’s a response to a penetrating question.

QUESTION:

Given the criteria used to determine what would go on to constitute the New Testament canon, how is it that Hebrews and the book of Revelation remain part of the canon? I understand that Christians came to believe that they were authored by the apostles ...

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Did the Council of Nicaea Take Away Reincarnation and Give us the Bible?

In this Readers’ Mailbag I’ll deal with two questions that involve modern myths about the Council of Nicaea in the year 325.  Is it true that this is when the church fathers decided which books would be in the New Testament?  And that these authorities also removed all references to reincarnation from the Bible?   If you have a question you would like me to address in a future Mailbag, go ahead and ask!

 

QUESTION:  I’ve noticed many people have the misconception ...

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How We Got the New Testament (and not some other books!)

Many people (most people?) don’t realize that the collection of the books into the New Testament did not take a year or two.  It was *centuries* before there was any widespread agreement about which books to include and which to exclude (why include the Gospel of John but not the Gospel of Thomas?  Why include the Apocalypse of John but not the Apocalypse of Peter?).

Yesterday I started to explain how it all happened.  In this post I finish the task, ...

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Why Did We Get a New Testament?

In my past couple of posts I’ve talked about how the canon of the Hebrew Bible was formed.  That raises the obvious corollary of how the canon of the New Testament was formed.  Who decided we should have the twenty-seven books we do?  Why these books and not others?  Why were any books chosen at all?  When were these decisions made?  And what criteria were used to make the decisions?

To my surprise, I haven’t talked much about the process on ...

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How We Got the Hebrew Bible

Here at last I can summarize what modern scholars say about the formation of the canon of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament).  It’s a fascinating topic, of relevance, of course, to Jews, Christians, and anyone else who thinks the history of our civilization matters!  This summary is taken from my book The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction  (If the terms I use here don’t make sense: read the preceding two posts!)

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Contemporary Views of the Formation of the ...

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How We Got the Hebrew Bible: The Older View

Now that I’ve given some terms and definitions (in yesterday’s post) I can start talking about how it is we got the books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: who chose the books to include, when they did so, and on the basis of what criteria.  Before laying out what scholars today tend to think, I need to provide some information about what *used* to be the standard view (this older view is still held by some, who are not abreast ...

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Taming the Diversity of the New Testament

In my previous post I started to show why it is difficult to use the New Testament itself as evidence that Christianity started out as an original unity, only to come to be fragmented with the passage of time into the second and third Christian centuries.

It is true that the NT is the earliest set of Christian writings that we have, and that most of the books can probably be dated to the first Christian century.  We don’t have any ...

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Autobiographical: Metzger and Me. The Seminar on the Canon

THIS RETURNS TO MY SERIES OF POSTS ON MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY MENTOR BRUCE METZGER. EVENTUALLY, MANY POSTS FROM NOW, I’LL GET BACK TO THE ORIGINAL QUESTION: WHAT HE THOUGHT OF MY MOVE AWAY FROM THE FAITH. THAT’S WAY DOWN THE LINE.

I return to the early years of my relationship with Bruce Metzger.   That graduate seminar that I took with him, my first semester in my PhD program, was exhilarating, and in some senses life changing.   To be sure, most ...

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