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Marvin Hugley Jr
March 14, 2017
Canon In The New Testament
The process of determining New Testament canon is the study of how the twenty-seven books that are currently part of the New Testament came to be. From the many early Christian writings, only twenty-seven were placed into ecclesiastical canon. The process of researching New Testament canon is the study of how the select list of twenty-seven was formulated. The canonized books of the New Testament are considered sacred scripture, and have been determined to be canon throughout a very controversial history.
The word canon comes from the Greek word ?kanon,? which means ?reed,? a tool for measurement or alignment. In the craftsmanship field, a reed was known to be a standard, or a ruler in which to judge other things by. Finally, the word came to be recognized as a formal list, or table. Throughout the first three centuries of the Christian era, the term ?kanon? was designated to set aside ethical and doctrinal content of the Christian faith. The first use of canon as applied to Christian writings occurred in 350 A.D. when Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, in his decrees of the Council of Nicea, used the term canon to refer to authentic New Testament works. In the decree the bishop describes the document known as The ?Shepherd of Hermas,? as not part of New Testament canon. In 367, in the bishop's famous Easter Letter, he gives a list of authoritative early Christian writings, and refers to them being ?canonical.? At about the same time in history, the Council of Laodicea refers to two different lists of New Testament writings, both ones that are ?canonical? and those that are ?uncanonical.? Canon is referred to today as being the closed set of Christian writings that formulate the New Testament. The word ?kanon? first appeared in early Christian writings when Paul wrote to Galatia. ?Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this kanon?? (Gal. 6.16). Paul is suggesting that people, who live by the canon, or law, will have peace and mercy come upon them. Paul established canon as a measuring stick, which to live by.
Christianity did not begin as a religion based upon scripture, as the Jewish religion. Christianity was based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The knowledge that was passed down about the life of Jesus was done orally. From the beginning of Christianity, people had been quoting Old Testament scripture that supported the Christian message. Nowhere in early Christianity was the idea that the new religion would be based upon a series of books. At some point people realized that the oral traditions must be put down on paper, so not to lose them. Christians feared the use of scriptural patterns because they wanted to separate themselves from the scriptural religion of Judaism. Early Christian leaders did not think about forming a canon, because the Old Testament canon had not even been definitely set.
The New Testament canon process was spread out over many years and was fiercely debated throughout the process. Because the early church left behind no evidence to why they decided on certain books instead of others, the only way to determine why certain books were included is to piece together what little fragmentary evidence is still left. Also, much of the theory must be left up to speculation. Basically three types of evidence exist in determining the canonization process. One of the ways of investigating the origin of New Testament canon is to examine the early Christian writings from the third through the fifth centuries. In counting the number and frequency of citations of early Christian writings, one can determine how much emphasis was placed on the very first Christian writings, and the reasons why the works made it into canon. The second way to determine why a certain work is in canon is to compile the discussions and ecclesiastical councils about documents that have been either accepted or rejected as New Testament canon. The arguments that were made for certain documents could lead to a possible understanding about why they were included in New Testament canon. Also the arguments against a certain document could help explain why the work
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