Can We Hear the Voice of God (Part 5)
What Is the Canon of Scripture?
The canon of Scripture is the collection of books that the church has recognized as having divine authority in matters of faith and doctrine. The term comes from the Greek word ‘kanon’ and the Hebrew work ‘qaneh’, both of which mean “a rule” or “measuring rod”. The canon is an authority to which other truth claims are compared and by which they are measured.
In his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, F. F. Bruce states, “One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament Books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in the canonical list; on the contrary, the church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect.”
Time after time Jesus and His apostles quoted from a distinctive body of authoritative writings. They designated them as “the Scripture”. They often introduced their quotations with “It is written”. We call these authoritative writings The Old Testament. Jewish people call them the Tanakh. It is important to note that the Tanakh includes the same material as the Protestant Old Testament though the books are arranged differently.
The early church used three criteria to establish the canonicity of the writings:
- Conformity to “the rule of faith.” Did the book conform to orthodoxy, Christian truth recognized as normative in the churches?
- Apostolicity: Was the writer of the book an apostle or did the writer have immediate contact with the apostles? All but a few of the New Testament writers were eyewitnesses to the events they recorded. Though not eyewitnesses, Luke received his information Paul and numerous eyewitnesses, while Mark received his information from Peter, who was an eyewitness. James and Jude were closely associated with the apostles in Jerusalem and were probably Jesus’ brothers, which would have also made them eyewitnesses.
- Catholicity. Did the book have widespread and continuous acceptance and usages by churches everywhere?