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Canonicity

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 17, 2020 12:01 am

Canonicity

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 17, 2020 12:01 am

How do we know that the right books--and only the right books--made it into the Bible? Today, R.C. Sproul interacts with the question of the canon of Scripture.

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Coming up today on Renewing Your Mind. Since there are so many books that together comprise the sacred Scripture. The first question that we encounter is how do we know that the right books have been included in this collection or library of books that we call the sacred Scripture question the origin of the Bible to claim that it's absolutely true and trustworthy and we do we need to have a good understanding of how and why we ended up with those 66 books there's doctors. These people I have in my hand today on the side of this book, the title of the book is printed and it says holy Bible everyone and where we got the word Bible comes from the Greek word for playoffs, which is the Greek word for book and so we are talking here about a holy book. However, if we look more carefully at the nature of the Bible, we see that though this is all bound up into one volume.

In reality what we have here is not a single book but rather of volume that includes a collection of 66 individual books.

It's a library of books and since there are so many books that together comprise the sacred Scripture.

The first question that we encounter is how do we know that the right books have been included in this collection or library of books that we call the sacred Scripture, and that question is the question of Canon. We often speak of the Canon of Scripture, and that word Canon again comes from another Greek word, known which is the Greek word for measuring rod or norm. And so when the Bible is called the canon of Scripture.

It means that these books together are included in that volume that functions as the supreme measuring rod or the supreme norm or authority for the church is a Latin phrase is a Latin phrase for everything theology is a Latin phrase that is been used frequently over the centuries to describe the Bible and it goes something like this that the Scripture is the norm nor Mons at SNA nor Motiva value.

Notice one form of the word norm appears three times in that little expression. Norm nor Mons which means the norm of norms at SNA nor Motiva and with out norm. It is the norm or the standard of all standards and it has no fear, no other norm by which it is judged only get to this whole question of Canon the question were face to here is different from what we've looked at thus far. When earlier, we examined the question of the nature of Scripture. We looked at questions of inspiration of infallibility of inerrancy because of the brevity of the time we had to cover those I mentioned in passing that if you want a more full treatment of the concept of inerrancy. I mentioned that we have this explanation or commentary on the Chicago summary statement of articles of affirmation and denial with respect to the concept of inerrancy, but today we're talking not about the nature of Scripture, but rather the scope of it. That is how far does the canon of Scripture extend mother all kinds of misconceptions that arise whenever we hear people talking about the canon.

I have heard critics of the Bible say we have 66 books included in the Bible and that list of 66 has been narrowed down by more than 2000 candidates for inclusion in the Scripture. And when you consider the enormous number of possible books that could have been included in the Bible and in light of that large number are only 66 that actually were included in Scripture. The critic says doesn't seem probable, at least in terms of the odds that some books that should've been included in the Bible were omitted and other books that perhaps were not really qualified for inclusion made their way in.

While I say that's a misconception. For this reason, though in a loose sense we could say that there were over 2000 candidates for inclusion in the Scripture.

Even with respect to the canon of the New Testament, the overwhelming majority of those books were quickly and easily dismissed by the early church because they were so obviously fraudulent in the second century, with the threat of the Gnostic heresy. The Gnostic heretics, themselves, wrote their own little books and disseminated them widely and claimed apostolic authority for them.

These books were never seriously considered for inclusion in the canon and so it's really misleading to say that there were over 2000 potential candidates.

If you actually look at the historical selection process that the church went through with great caution and careful investigation. You will see there only two or 33 at the most books that were ever given any real serious consideration for inclusion in the New Testament that in the final analysis were not included and they include among them that that RK the Shepherd of Hermas and the first letter of Clement of Rome, but if you look at those documents and read them for yourselves because we have additions of those still available in the church today. One of the things that jumps off the pages as you read the material from these late first century or early second century writers that the writers themselves were obviously conscious that they were sub apostolic and post-apostolic, they themselves submit to the authority of the apostles and to their writings that came out of the first generation of Scripture.

While these books, by the way are important and useful for us in the church and in church history, but again there was no fierce discussion or struggle about even any of these three and their inclusion in the canon more of the controversy that the church faced in the earlier centuries was not about the books that were not included so much as the controversies were concerning books that eventually were included in the canon and some of those controversy will books about which debate went on for some time included second Peter Jude's the epistles of John, the book of Revelation and also most significantly, the book of Hebrews.

Now another serious misconception that arises sometimes by just a little bit of sloppy arithmetic. I have heard scholars say I don't know why we have such a high view of the Bible since the canon wasn't established for 500 years after Christ, not word, is that figure of 500 years come from well it comes from this date, the date 398 A.D. and that is at the very end of the fourth century that the one around that over to 400 than you can talk about the beginning of the fifth century and you know how we are with centuries, forgetting the difference in the numbers.

The beginning of the fifth century is not 500 years after Christ, but that's how the reasoning goes, the last console or scented that the church had to finally once and for all settle the parameters of the scope of the New Testament Canon was in 398. Now there were several earlier investigations that had been made before that. So there was a process that took time and the process wasn't complete until 398.

That doesn't mean that in the year 398 the first time in history. The Christian church had a New Testament not from the very beginning. The basic books of the New Testament that we read and we observe today were in use in the life of the church and they functioned as canon because of their apostolic authority from the very beginning. What happens in 398 and in previous meetings, such as in the Mira Taurean meeting was the formalization of the books that were to be included in the canon and the issue that provoked this process in the first place was the appearance of a heretic who gave the first formal canon and it was the heretic Marcy and and his followers were called Marcy. Nights now, not Martians, but from from outer space, but the heretic Marcy and was one of being influenced by Gnosticism believed that the God who is portrayed in the Old Testament is not the ultimate God of the universe, but was rather a lesser deity kind of idem, I urge, who had a nasty disposition who was fierce and angry and kind of mean and that God was the one who created so many problems for us and what Christ came to do in the New Testament was to reveal the true God, and to deliver us from this mean-spirited deity, and so anything in the New Testament that would link Christ in a positive way to Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament was expurgated by Marcy and spoke like the Gospel of Matthew in much of the other gospel information was cut up with scissors and paste any reference that Christ would make to God as his father was excluded and he also eliminated some of Paul's writings and gave us a very small abridged version of what we now call the New Testament. So it's the church's response to that heresy that made it necessary for the church to give an authoritative formal list of actual biblical books now one of the things that trouble people from time to time is that there was a historical selection process that we cannot deny, and that there were times in church history were books like the book of Hebrews was questioned with respect to its authority. Now, at the time that the church was engaged in this selecting process. A threefold test was used in order to determine canonical authenticity.

In other words, there were benchmarks that were applied to contenders and the first mark or test that would verify I books authority for the canon was its apostolic origin of this apostolic origin criterion had actually two dimensions to it to be of apostolic origin meant either one that it was written by an apostle or to written under the direct and immediate sanction of an apostle to give a couple of examples of that.

The book of Romans was not in question because everybody granted that it was written by the apostle Paul and carried with it apostolic authority and the Gospel of Matthew was certainly not question nor the gospel of John. Because these Gospels were written by the disciples who became apostles of Jesus. But what about the gospel of Luke and the gospel of Mark, Luke was not an apostle, and neither was Mark. However, Luke was an associate of the apostle Paul went with him on his missionary journeys and had the apostolic authority of Paul sanctioning his literary output.

Likewise, Mark was seen as the spokesman for the apostle Peter, so that the authority of Peter stood behind the gospel of Mark as the authority of Paul stood behind the gospel of Luke. So from the very beginning there wasn't any doubt about the apostolic authority and biblical canonicity of the four Gospels of the basic corpus of Paul's writings, and so on. Now the second criterion that was used was reception by the primitive church we take for example the epistle to the Galatians in the New Testament, the assumption is that the letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians was not intended simply for one congregation but had a broader audience in view and was written as a circular letter to be circulated to the churches in the Galatian region.

But not only was that true of the Galatian epistle, but we also know that the epistles of Paul and that the gospel writers widely circulated among the first century congregations and churches that had been established and so as a matter of historical reconnaissance. The church in looking back in the second and third and fourth century would say we know that this particular book was received and quoted as authoritative very early on. Remember I mentioned a few of these extra canonical books like the letter of Clement were climate sites. For example, Paul's letter to the Corinthians, and you see the authoritative citation of books that had been received by the primitive Christian community as authoritative, even in the Bible itself, Peter makes mention of Paul's letters as being concluded among the category of Scripture. The third principle, which were most of the controversy came in and so will draw a picture of it. You have your inner core of books that were apostolic and sanctioned by apostolic things and also received by the early church these of the books. The basic core of the New Testament that were accepted into the canon without any real controversy and then you have what we might call a second level of books about which there was some debate and one of the issues that was raised with respect to these books was the compatibility of the doctrine and of the teaching of these books with the core, about which there was no question this is what caused and provoke some of the problems with the book of Hebrews because Hebrews chapter 6 has often been interpreted by people as indicating that a person who is been redeemed by Christ can lose his or her salvation and that seemed to be out of sync with the rest of the teaching of the Scriptures on that subject. Although that chapter may be interpreted in such a way that it's not out of sync with the rest of Scripture. The irony here is that the thing that finally swung the debate over Hebrews was the argument that Paul was its author, and it was the belief of the church in the early centuries, Paul was the author of Hebrews that really got it in the canon, and that's ironic that inasmuch as there are few scholars today who still would argue that Paul wrote it, but there even fewer who would deny that it belongs in the New Testament Canon right so there has been this sorting process but a dispute arose, of course, in the 16th century with the Reformation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants over the scope and extent of the Old Testament Scriptures because of the question of the Apocrypha, that group of books that were produced in the inner testimonial. The Roman Catholic Church embraced the Apocrypha, the Reformation churches for the most part did not embrace the Apocrypha and that dispute centered on the question of what was the Jewish canon that Jesus accepted and was accepted by Israel in the first century and it's a historical debate. Because of this, all the evidence from Palestine indicates that the Jewish Palestinian canon did not include the Apocrypha, whereas there were some evidence that in Alexandria in the library there that was the cultural center for Hellenistic Jews. That is dignified or Greek speaking Jews did it include the Apocrypha, although I might add more recent scholarship suggests that even that Alexandrian canon recognize the Apocrypha only at a secondary level and not at the full level of biblical authority, but any case. Because of this dispute over the Apocrypha. The question is will who's right the Catholic Church for the Protestants and by what authority do we determine what the canon is now the Protestant view of canon can be seen in this formula that according to the Protestants. Each book that is found in the Bible is an infallible book but the historical process undergone by the church was a historical process that was done by a church that is not infallible, but we believe that the church was guided providentially and assisted by the mercy of God and I believe with every conviction I have, that the church made the right decision at every point that every booklet should be in the Bible is in the Bible, but I don't believe that the church was inherently infallible, then or now the church is always capable of making mistakes. And so we would have to say is Protestants that the historical process of selection was a process engaged in by an institution that's fallible so that the collection itself is a fallible collection of infallible blocks, whereas the Roman Catholic formula would say that since the church is infallible and anything the church decides the next medical councils and so on, is an infallible decision that the sorting process or historical selection process was the rendering of an infallible church so that for room you have an infallible collection of infallible books is the process and say well it's possible that the church made a mistake.

I don't know anybody really thinks that Luther course one point question the canonicity of the book of James, and because of it. People said he didn't really believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and they confuse the difference between the issue of the nature of Scripture and ensure the scope of Scripture where Luther saying I believe all the Bible is without error. But I don't know whether this is part of the Bible that he changed his mind and his later years and became convinced that James was part of the Bible and should be canonical, but his questioning of was part of the Reformation view that the church was fallible in the process, whereas Rome would say no. The church couldn't have made a mistake and therefore didn't make a mistake again, I would commend to you further study of the historical question of the development of the canon. Let me emphasize the conclusion that even though there was a historical search and investigation. I think the church to be exactly what God one of them to do and that we have no reason to be anything but fully assured that the right books were included in the canon of sacred Scripture is Dr. Z's role with the message and how the church determine which books are inspired by God. All we care on Renewing Your Mind. RC's help to see why we can trust that the Bible is the absolute word of God. I hope you been able to catch every program this week.

The messages are taken from Dr. Spruill sweeping overview of systematic theology, a series we call foundations of systematic theology by the way, examines what the Bible says about a number of topics or doctrines but also demonstrates how the truths of Scripture relate to each other, in perfect harmony.

We'd like you to request this eight DVD set that contains 60 messages requested with your donation of any amount when you call us at 800-435-4343.

You can also find us online at Renewing Your Mind.work will also include a disk that contains the audio files of the entire series, as well as a digital study guide that guide that provides an outline of every lesson a plus study questions and additional reading suggestions. So again request the special edition series with your donation of any amount. Our number again is 800-435-4343 our web address Renewing Your Mind.work. I think you can see from today's message why studying church history is so important and with that in mind, let me encourage you to catch Dr. Steven Nichols podcast five minutes in church history records. A new episode each week, providing an informative look at the people and events that have shaped the church through the centuries.

You can subscribe on Apple podcasts and Google play or if you have Alexa just say Alexa enabled church history will tomorrow we'll wrap up the week with another message on God's perfect word given to us for a purpose for our edification for our proof for our correction for our instruction, that we may be fully equipped to be men and women at the crisis in our day is not simply over the issue of whether the Bible is infallible or inerrant spot crisis in our day is tenant.

We hope you'll join us Friday for Renewing Your Mind


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