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The Date of the Canon

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

The Date of the Canon

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 12, 2020 12:01 am

Critical scholars claim that the New Testament was not recognized as Scripture until long after it was written. But what does the historical evidence say? Today, Michael Kruger takes us to the sources to discover when Christians first relied on the New Testament books as God's Word.

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Some scholars today see the church didn't have agreement on which books were actually Scripture until the fifth century, but that's not true. Historical evidence takes us back.

We have a natural assumption that the canon would arrive early. We can see that we have expectations of very early canonical collection, but here's a question.

Can we go even further. We go to the first century family reasons I think that in the first century. Books are already being used in Scripture. Even then, from an evangelical pastor because the a bit of a stir recently when he said that there was no canon until the 400s A.D. that would mean that the church didn't have agreement on which books are scriptural for hundreds of years this week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Michael Kruger is debunking claims like that in helping us understand that God's word has been at work in his church. Since the very beginning we now come this very important issue of the canons date. Now we've talked about this a little bit in a prior session because we talked about how the definition of Canon affects the date of Canon certain narrow down our question about canons date would be very specific and that is when the New Testament books 1st start being used as Scripture. When the New Testament books 1st are being used as Scripture. Remember what critical scholars will tell us to tell us that they were not written Scripture and no one thought they were Scripture. It took a long time for people to start using the Scripture really wasn't until many centuries later that you have a functioning camera people thought these books were Scripture's on the critical world of scholarship there is this ever growing gap between when the books were written and we were told there started to be used as Scripture.

So when is it that modern scholars put that date when books were used to Scripture sure for the first time well lots answers that question. But the main date is being used now is at the end of the second century, right around 200 A.D. scholars say is when Christians mainly began to use books as Scripture for the first time. Now why that date are scholars thinking that's the first time that books were being used as Scripture. Well, the main reason the scholars of settle on the end of the second century is the time when this happened is because of the church father by the name of Ira Naess, Ira Naess was the Bishop of Lyons which is in modern-day France in a very influential Bishop of that time.

We have a lot riding some RNAs about a lot of topics but one things he wrote a lot about or did a lot in his writings. He talked about New Testament books and we can tell his writings. What he thought about New Testament books. If IT gives us some of the most clear statements today and that century about New Testament writings. One of his most famous statements is about the four Gospels and what RNS is about business is writing about 180 A.D. RNS says this is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer than the number they are for. Since there are four zones of the world in which we live for principal winds and the chairman around the throne to work for faced now what RNase is doing here in this account is fascinating is that he sees the fourfold Gospel Matthew Mark Luke John as so certain, so establish and so not in doubt that he's looking for consumers everywhere sort of built in the creation rise like the four directions the world and the four creatures run from me, he says, look at it is, how do before and this is why scholars look at RNAs and think wow you are pretty assured Canon but was it is the four Gospels we RNAs had a much bigger canon than this.

We also know that he had Paul's entire 13 letter corpus all those little doubt about Philemon and the book of acts, Hebrews, James first Peter first and second John Revelation and of course the four Gospels artist mentioned that he puts the New Testament over a thousand times and clearly regarded as full inspired Scripture as pretty impressive. Here's our night is 22 out of the 27 books clearly establishes Scripture earning in the Gospels are so certain is like the directions of the world is for this reason that scholars of place the date of books being use of Scripture the end of the second century because they're so impressed with what RNase says. But here's the catch.

They argue that Ira Naess is starting something new. By doing this, other words there suggesting RNase is an innovator. In fact, some scholars even gone as far as to say that Ira Naess invented the canon that he is the architect of the canon that he in one sense took a church that had no interest in the candidate of the second century because of his great influence he decided. The church needed a Canon and boom, here's the books that he advocated and it was his great influence and eventually the church to accept the canon and so this is for is the Ira Naess is innovator approach out there in the world. I think this approach runs into whole host of problems. I can call this idea.

The Big Bang Theory of Canon.

This is my terminology for all The Big Bang Theory of Canon's is this idea there was a Canon and then with RNase is influence on overnight going to gotta can I find this big bang theory of Canon very difficult to swallow. In fact, I think all is for Blevins points against it. So here's organ to do in the session. I want to argue that in fact RNS was not the innovator that they say is I will argue that he didn't create the canon. He was not the architect of the canon. In fact I would argue that RNS was actually pretty normal and ordinary, in his day. In fact he was doing just about anybody else is already been doing.

Are you even further than that. That RNase is doing with the church been doing for hundreds of years already. Someone argue that not only was Ira Naess not alone argue that we can trace these books being use of Scripture even further back much further back than RNS so will you take a little historical tour here to take you through a number of names in the early church will talk about what we see about the sailor Canon is a chance. I know very very brief talk about how far back can we go see in books used as Scripture and I think we can go very far back right first thing you want to do that as we take this historical tour is talk about the contemporaries of RNase, the contemporaries of RNS will ask the question was our initial loan in his beliefs and about 22 on the 27 books was when he lays out this impressive Canon was the only one doing this and I want to argue that he was not alone. In fact, he has contemporaries all around him that were basically doing the same thing in this pretty much shoots down the critical case that RNS is doing something new and innovative rights who the contemporaries of RNS leaders mention a few. The first is what is known as the Murray Taurean fragment.

How's that for a fun name right moratorium fragment is just a reference to a fragment we have, which is basically our earliest canonical list and it's our earliest canonical list that the writing of which dates back to about Ira Naess's day right around 180 A.D. late second century RNS had nothing to do with this list is independent of RNS was dated about the same time as RNS is our earliest list that we can see in the stroke record.

Here's what's remarkable about it basically affirms the same books. RNS does what's included in this moratorium. Canon is what's included in all four Gospels Matthew Mark Luke and John. The book of acts. All 13 letters of Paul Jude 1st and second John, maybe one third John and Revelation other words, about 21 maybe 22 out of the 27 books included in the moratorium fragment as clearly Scripture at the end of the second century as soon as you see that you like. Second, how can irony is being innovator, one terrible RNAs and locations of the horses were the boys want to say this makes the whole Big Bang theory of Canon already suffer from significant problems. Moreover, here's the other thing to realize about the nurturing fragment is it's a list and I know this is probably a new camera for you miss one thing for an author to say hey.

These books are our Scripture, but something personal. List them out because it was them out and imply some sense of restriction some sense of like these and not others.

So to have a list at the end of the second century as a premature step in the human process, and it happens at the same time is Ira Naess who mentioned another contemporary of RNS, a person by the name of Theophilus. Theophilus was the Bishop of Antioch, which is a strong Christian and Jewish center and he wrote about the same time, an elderly housing Theophilus by way of writing will.

Theophilus will have a lot of work from the office.

We do have one apologetic treatise than Theophilus what's called to add a like us and he writes this apologetic treatise of this got them out alike is trying to make his case for Christianity as he makes his case for Christianity was Theophilus, to he tries to show out alike is that the New Testament writings are as fully authoritative as the Old Testament interesting. There is a scriptural and as much authorities Old Testament books. So what writings does Theophilus have what we piece together the very statements of Theophilus. We can see what writings he includes in this list and the answer is the four Gospels Matthew Mark Luke and John is a fairly developed collection of Paul's letters to boot. Although we know exactly how many. And on top of this, he has a number of the other smaller books of the words. This is starting to seem like a broken record. He seems to be doing pretty much what both RNase and the moratorium fragment also doing one last contemporary to mention here of RNS and that is a person by the name of Clement of Alexandria, Clement of Alexandria is me one most famous church fathers. He was a very prolific sort of theologian in Alexandria, Egypt ahead of the school.

There you may know his successor may be bent more than him because he was that the mentor of origin became one of the most brilliant minds in the early church will come of Alexander was was a genius. He was well read.

He he wrote CT basically like to quote from everybody from the Greeks and the Romans, and he was just an impressive guy all around.

Academically, MSO Madrid my Clement we can tell what books he received a Scripture in the New Testament. This is going to sound like a repeat story.

But guess what books they were all tell you what they were looking Clement of Alexandria's list of books he receives what the four Gospels Matthew Mark Luke John 13 epistles of Paul, the book of Hebrews, ask first Peter first second John Jude Revelation other words, what about 22/27 of the books once again at the end of the second century exactly like RNS now you'll notice in all these list what's missing to all these collections you use it or not say oh it's Matthew Mark Luke and Thomas were Matthew Mark Luke and the Gospel of Mary. Notice how uniform this is now the edges are completely out of the kitchen right.

We talked about that little fuzzy with the smaller books but notice how consistent the core is so I want you to see all this happening in RNase's day now just pausing on RNase's contemporaries for moment go back to our academic friends who are suggesting that RNS is the architect in the creator of the Canon and all the sorts of things within yourself. What does seem so innovative here. He seems to be doing, what else was doing was another machine fact is it Clement of Alexandria, which I just mentioned was in nursing is it when he talks about which books are canonical.

He seems indicate that is been that way for a long time words, about hundred is an act like it's a new idea is not quite as an invasion in fact we read Clement. He says that the books I mentioned are the books that have been handed down to the church from the apostles other words, in Clement's mind this is got a very old pedigree to the idea of a collection of books like this isn't some new thing within the second century in Clement's mind at least its old effect the same, language can be found. RNS rises like these the books of the apostles gave us the churches had these were generations this is not at all new. So The Big Bang Theory of Canaan simply doesn't work. We look at the contemporaries of RNS okay with that in mind, this looks secondly then at the predecessors to RNase than anybody use books of Scripture earlier than this. Or put another way, we go back further and find out how far back we can go and see people using these books as Scripture. And what's amazing is unlikely to go back really really for. But let's start with some of the immediate predecessor start an answer to those of your and your church history recognize some of these names. The first one is very well known, and that is Justin Martyr Justin Martyr was sortable theologian, philosopher, writing about the middle of the second century in a room.

Justin was very well known is for an apologist and defender of the faith that we can see very plainly that Justin received four Gospels Matthew Mark Luke and John. Interestingly again. How tight this fourfold unit is that we know that Justin also had other books but he doesn't leave us and of running to know for sure what these are probably a collection of Paul's letters and some small books as well, but we have most evidence about what Justin is these four Gospels four Gospels that he believes are handed down by the apostles. In fact, one of the famous phrases that just likes to use for these Gospels as he calls them the memoirs of the apostles is not inching language memoirs of the apostles. Now we think about all I Justin was very well known in my thinking okay so you thought these four Gospels were great, but did he really think they were Scripture I maybe is thought they were reliable historical records. Maybe this thought they were in machine records. You can read but he didn't think there really that special or not different than any other book right.

Perhaps that's what he believed, but it's not as was finishing. Justin actually tells us that the Gospels what he calls the memoirs of the apostles were read in public worship, right alongside the Old Testament. This is a stunning thing this is happening in 150 A.D., listen to this quote from Justin Martyr and just let the sink and how detailed this is remarkable. Justin says this on the day called Sunday all who live in cities on the country gather together to one place in the memoirs of the apostles.

Hemoglobin John Moore the writings of the prophets Old Testament or red as long as time permits. Then when the reader has ceased, the president preacher different one here. I know, but basically means the same thing. The president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good when you read that you like about your church. I bet you write that today, you could've said on Sundays. All the people gathered together and what's read books from the new books Milton someone preaches on is the same thing happening for 1800 years should give you a lot of comfort and assurance, but in particular notice.

What books are included here. The memoirs of the apostles and notice they're not just good books are in machine books are historically reliable books on part of the Old Testament as inspired Scripture limits to the second predecessor to RNS Justin Martyr was one we mention a second. Now he goes back further and that is a bishop by the name of Pappy us. Pappy us was the Bishop of Harry Opelousas and he writes in the early second century. Maybe 125 A.D. what's passing about Pappy as though is that Pappy is has a source for what he tells us about the Gospels infection tells us that he got his information about the Gospels from this mysterious person called the Elder and we can do the math on this and we can date this person from the end of the first century sewer. This elder is Pappy's got information from the Skype Iran 90 A.D. and what's curious is that we actually have evidence on adjustment who was called the elder and you know this is we know that the apostle John was called the elder. The evidence points to the fact that Pappy us actually knew and heard preached the apostle John himself mentions the amazing banality hear John preach what apparently got information from John about the writing of some of the Gospels, particularly the tells us about the writing of the gospel of Matthew in the writing of the gospel of Mark and then since he knew John, guess what else we know the Pappy's would announce. Certainly John we know he quotes Luke and other places.

So what is Pappy is out another fourfold gospel inside. We also see him missing other blogs on time to get into some of the details, but we have very good reasons think that Pappy is probably knew other investment writings as well particular. The book of Revelation be a good example of this was curious though, is it even Pappy us writes in 125 A.D. he's get his information from someone and 90 A.D., called the elder who is probably John is in custody, reliable information. Yes, this is incredible resource that tells us. These books are being used in Scripture from a very early point couple other predecessors, all mention here 1/3 will mention is a person by name of Ignatius Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch, and he wrote even earlier right around 100 A.D. and he really's letter that was weighted was martyrdom which is pretty interesting what was in his collection of books will from his letters, we can tell that he had a pretty extensive collection of Paul's letters yeah Pauline letter collection was pretty well developed.

We know the full extent of that we know at least had these books. Romans first Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, for second Timothy and probably was going to be even bigger than that one of his sort of compatriots was another bishop by the name of Polycarp may know Polycarp's name because he was martyred very famously is the Bishop of Smyrna, and he had a Canon of Paul's letters. It looks almost godlike. Ignatius, the same books pretty much.

We have a reason because collection may be even bigger than that, but that's all we can glean from historical evidence that we go even further than this. In terms of RNA as his predecessors, but one want you to see is it we started in the late second century about RNS. We looked at his contemporaries right doing the same thing and that we looked at the middle and early second century, Justin Martyr Pappy is Ignatius, Polycarp, guess what. They also have seen a full gospel, Pauline letters and some other books and so already are seeing that the killing goes much further back than what scholars are willing to admit in terms of historical evidence by way should not surprise us based on the prior session with the prior session said the canning group naturally and innately from the early Christian faith like a ceiling out of the soil.

We can see how these two remain in the middle right. Historical evidence takes us back. We have the natural assumption that the can would arrive early and we can see that we have expectations of very early canonical collection, but here's the question. Can we go even further interesting question.

I've taken you right up to the edge of the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century can we go to the first century family reasons I think that in the first century. Books are already being used in Scripture. Even then the answer is a hearty yes leave you two examples from the digestive writings themselves.

Where we see books from the New Testament, used as Scripture will show us this was already happening even in the first century, when most famous is a passage you probably know from second Peter second Peter 316. In this passage. What Peter does is remarkable. He calls Paul's letters Scripture let that sink in for a moment, Peter second Peter 316 calls Paul's letters Scripture. Here's what he says. Our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you, Peter says, according to the wisdom given him as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist of their own destruction as they do the other Scriptures that the passage has all kinds of fascinating things about first volley product. Take comfort in the fact that Peter's even confused Bible right so hey if you look up all got our stay in the sky, leaving Peter says yeah Paul's heart understand so you are in good company right but in terms of the kid and look what Peter says now we are Paul's letters Scripture but notice is plural letters is a collection of books of Paul and how big it is here, but is a collection of Paul's letters.

He regards Scripture and notice it when he mentions Paul's letters a Scripture to his audience. He assumes they know about Paul's letters as a mention is a new idea.

Like in Europe all. Here's an idea. Maybe should consider Paul's letters, Scripture knowing mentions it as if they know about it and how Paul's letters in that they already know Paul's letter Scripture is a phenomenally early this is probably happening about the mid 60s of the first century, when Peter wrote second Peter which tells us there was already a collection of Paul's letters well-established and well-known as authoritative by way of Paul's letters or scriptures because they're written about possible Peter B. Implicitly, his letters would bear the same authority limited to the second thing that takes is even further in the first century. This is a passage I think is often overlooked comes in first Timothy 518 tucked away at the end of that letter what Paul does in this letters. He gives us a double quotation from Scripture. Listen to this. Paul says this for the Scripture says any quotes two different things. For the Scripture says you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain. The first quote and then he says for the Scripture says that when an here's the second quote and the laborer deserves his wages to quotes that Paul offers as Scripture is what stricking the first one we know where it comes from the court about the oxen trying out the grain comes right from Deuteronomy 25 four okay great Old Testament book. What about the second quote, the laborer deserves his wages. Paul could set a Scripture to the words that come from is with the machine is only one place that we know of on the entire planet that matches Word for Word what Paul says in verse 7518. The laborer deserves his wages is only one other place in the whole world that we know the matches and that's Luke 10 seven on the lips of Jesus. Jesus himself says that once the labor deserves his wages. Is it possible that Paul knew the gospel of Luke incites it here in Scripture seems least possible check was remarkable about this is that we know that who was Paul's travel companion was Luke, we know that a friendship we know they were connected in yet here is Paul quoting in the only other source we have for is Luke's gospel. No more can be said here is the point we can go back even in the middle of the first century and see that New Testament books were used as Scripture.

So drawing this to a close.

Here's the big picture.

We asked the question here. How far back and we got wind invokes first start getting used as Scripture right. When did that happen with that definition of Canon manifests itself certainly by the time of RNA is but he and contemporaries are all doing the same thing even earlier. Justin Martyr Pappy is Ignatius Pollock are all doing pretty much the same thing and even earlier. What we have Peter doing it and Paul doing it wasn't telling some assessors okay in the fourth century and myself well. From one perspective, that's true. We will get this evidence, there was a kid and very very structures all the way back to the very beginning stretches only, not in the very beginning we have even more reasons to be sure the truth and that we have the right 27 books in our all this week. Dr. Michael Kruger's help to see through many full solutions about the canon of Scripture.

I hope this is been a helpful study for you here on Renewing Your Mind if you like to go back to any of these messages.

You can contact us and request the complete video series on DVD will send them to you for your gift of any amount to leader ministries. There are couple of ways you can reach is that one is online it Renewing Your or you can call us at 800-435-4343, you know, as we study the Scriptures, whether alone or in a group were going to encounter things that they we may not understand. And that's where asked legionnaire comes in the biblical and theological questions can be answered by trained team members 24 hours a day, Monday through Saturday.

This is a free service of legionnaire ministries and that you can get started by going to ask Doug Liggett will tomorrow.

Dr. Burke Parsons joins us to always was a time in Israel's history were by and large they'd forgotten and they didn't know because their fathers had left the word of God aside and become eclipsed by all the other Colton pagan and idolatrous worship of Israel so they had to bring Passover back to God's people because that is the way God demanded he should be. Wish is a reminder that Scripture is the church's only authority for faith and practice.

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

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