The Canon of Scripture

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The included books varied by different sources until the fourth century when the Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasios, included them in a letter to his flock in AD His list was approved by councils. Most Christians do not think about the canon of scripture or know what it is or means in theology. Most take for granted the Bible they have and never question how it came into being. Today, we have 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament. There was a time, however, that we did not have a canon.

Bruce defines canon as books of the Bible that were recognized to be considered scripture p. The importance of the canon and how it was developed was intriguing to professor and author F.

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He dedicated his book The Canon of Scripture to explore and explain the formulation of the canon we have today. Bruce taught in universities, including the University of Manchester, where he began to lecture students on the …show more content…. The third section dissects the formation of the New Testament with more historical context and views of other writings defined as Gnostic writing. Bruce explains the spoken words of the apostles carried as much authority as their written words and gives an in depth explanation how the Gospels and Pauline writings were viewed by the Church Fathers.

The rest of the section demonstrates the Church Fathers and their views of what was to be considered scripture and the councils that affirmed the inspired scripture. Bruce concludes by explaining the criteria used for writings to be considered canon.

The Reality of the Biblical Canon

He goes into more depth on the inspiration of the scriptures — an integral part of how the canon came together. When Paul cites heathen poets in support of his testimony, it is clear that he assumes that even those barren of the light of redemptive revelation possess a certain suppressed knowledge of God that comes to distorted expression in their systematic thought.

How the Biblical Canon Was Formed

Let it be clear what the force of the testimony of Scripture is. It is not that men may know God; nor that they potentially know God and will come to know Him if they will use their reason aright. It is not that men by natural revelation have a certain vague notion of some undefined deity. It is rather that men are immediately confronted with a clear and unavoidable revelation of the true and living God. This distinct view of Scripture has been clearly asserted by the great teachers of the Reformed faith. Calvin frequently asserted just this in the opening pages of the Institutes , 2, 3; ,2; ,2,4, 11,15; ,2.

The statement of is typical: "They perceive how wonderfully God works within them, and experience teaches them what a variety of blessings they receive from his liberality. They are constrained to know, whether willingly or not, that these are proofs of his divinity: yet they suppress this knowledge in their hearts.

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The Canon of Scripture Essay

He says after citing Romans and , "And thus the mind doth assent unto the principles of God's being and authority, antecedently [prior--SW] unto any actual exercise of the discursive faculty [the capacity of men to engage in a line of reasoning--SW] or reason, or other testimony whatever. The self-authenticating character of Scripture has for its significant setting the self-authenticating character of general revelation. The evidence for the self-authentication of Scripture is never given its proper weight divorced from this backdrop. John Murray has seen this relationship. It may be said that if general revelation is self-authenticating, how much more must special revelation as it is written down in the Bible be self-authenticating.

The fact is that the great difference between general and special revelation is that special revelation has a far more direct and personal character than general revelation. In general revelation creation speaks to us of God. In special revelation God himself approaches us directly and personally speaking words to us.

The Canon of the Bible | Reformed Bible Studies & Devotionals at pretquesomomo.gq

Packer teaches that the purpose of God's speaking to men is to make friends with them. He then goes on to speak of the fact that general revelation is insufficient for this end. It shows us, first, that general revelation is inadequate as a basis for religion, for it yields nothing about God's purpose of friendship with man, nor does it fully disclose His will for human life. Even Adam in Eden needed direct divine speech, over and above general revelation to make known to him all God's will. If the comparatively indirect and impersonal general revelation authenticated itself to men as divine revelation, how much more will direct and personal speaking by God to men in special revelation constrain recognition by its self-authentication.

Owen makes this very point:.


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We need no other arguments to prove that God made the world but itself. It carrieth in it and upon it the infallible tokens of its original Now, there are greater and more evident impressions of divine excellencies left on the written word, from the infinite wisdom of the Author of it, than any that are communicated unto the works of God, of what sort so ever.

Hence David, comparing the works of God, as to their instructive efficacy in declaring God and his glory, although he ascribes much unto the works of creation, yet doth he prefer the word incomparably before them, Ps. The relation of the self-authentication of general revelation to the self-authentication of the Scriptures special revelation may also be presented by way of the following three step piece of logic or syllogism. This syllogism depends for its truthfulness on the propriety of the major premise. The major premise is based on applying to revelation in general what is true of the self-authentication of general revelation.


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Since this same relation underlies all revelation, divine revelation in general must be self-attesting. Let me illustrate how our knowledge of general revelation forms the essential context for appreciating the self-authenticating character of Scriptures. Revelation is like a jigsaw puzzle.

General revelation like that we studied in Rom. From the border pieces you can tell generally what color and shape those pieces must be, but you cannot see the picture clearly because the crucial pieces are missing. Suppose a mother and a child were putting together such a jigsaw puzzle and realized when they were almost done that several crucial pieces were missing. They look all over the house for those missing pieces and finally under a cushion on the couch they find several jigsaw puzzle pieces.

When they place them in the puzzle, they fit perfectly, they are the right color, and they complete the picture perfectly. Now suppose when the father comes home, he questioned them and asked how they knew for sure that they found the right pieces. Would he be able to convince them that they had the wrong pieces? What could they do to convince the father that they had the right pieces?

Lesson 3 – The Canon of Scripture

All they could do would be to show him the puzzle and hope that he had not had such a bad day at work that he would not see the obvious fit. It is precisely the same with the special revelation contained in the Bible. It fits with general revelation. First, it reveals the same God which men know by nature. Second, it reveals the same wicked situation which men know by nature. It teaches that men are wicked sinners doomed to death by a just God. Men, according to Rom. Third, it explains why a just God continues to show common grace to such wicked sinners.

According to the Bible men are aware of the fact that God continues to show goodness to them despite their wickedness and despite His holiness.


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The Bible explains that mystery by revealing the purpose of God to save sinners. Fourth, the Bible reveals the only way in which wicked sinners under the wrath of God can be justified by a holy God. Even though its doctrine of the Son of God coming to suffer the penalty which His people deserved is too wonderful ever to have been thought of by natural reason, yet when it is considered it is obvious that only through such a gospel can sinners be saved.

These pieces, you see, fit the puzzle of general revelation perfectly. This is the reason why when the Spirit opens sinners eyes, the gospel is immediately received. Its divine truthfulness is obvious. It fits the suppressed truth which the sinner already knows. We have seen to some extent the background of why the Scriptures authenticate themselves to men. Now we need to see that the Scriptures indeed teach the self-authentication of Scripture.

Here we come to the true heart of the Reformed solution to the problem of the authentication of the Scriptures.

The Canon of Scripture

Holy Scripture may not be attested finally by man, history, or the church, it must be self-attested.

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