CANONIZATIONOF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Theecclesiastical Latin defined canon as a catalog of sacred writings inthe fourth century. The word canon had not appeared in the bibleuntil the fourth century. Besides, there was no scripturalinstruction that the early church could refer to in making the canon.Canonization, on the other hand, is a description of the processwhere the Christian community subscribes to scriptures as beingdivine, authoritative, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The historyof canonization points to the period of growing acceptance andconsciousness of the Christians concerning the authority of thesacred scriptures. The process and the development of the NewTestament into a canon is similar to that of the Old Testament.However, the difference is that the Old Testament was to a largeextent a secret of the Israelites as opposed to the New Testament,which spread across the Greek Nations. This, therefore, made itdifficult for which books to be included as part of the Bible.
Thereis no historical document pointing to the criteria that were used tocanonize the New Testament. However, different scholars have advancedvarious theories of the criteria that the early believers used tocanonize the scriptures in the New Testament. Gamble points out tothe possibility that the formation of the New Testament was doneselectively among individual documents as opposed to different groupsof collections. 1Thefour Gospel collections had a different prehistory that shaped theBible independently of Pauline epistles. Because Pauline epistleswere addressed to specific people or groups, it is hard to spreadthem. Nonetheless, Paul insisted on the need to spread the message asrecorded in Colossians: 4: 16, which reads, “After this letter hasbeen read to you, see that it is also read in the church ofLaodecians and that you, in turn, read the letter from Laodicea.” 2
Astime passed, a total of 27 books that forms the New Testament werecanonized. However, this criterion raises questions on the normativeauthority of this canon. These questions include the following. Whereis the normative authority derived? And What is this authority basedon?. Contrary to the Old Testament where Jesus demonstrated his sealof approval of the canon by constantly referring to it as recorded inthe book of Luke 24:25-27, 44-45, the New Testament has got nodocumented evidence of any such approval.3This, therefore, makes the New Testament authority very challengeableand open to criticisms.4
Thetraditional Protestant definition of canon is a collection ofscriptures in the Bible consisting of 39 books in the Old Testamentand 27 books of the New Testament. On the other hand, the traditionalCatholic canon, in addition to the 66 books also has additional booksknown as the apocryphal books that were added to the Bible by theRoman authorities. The Protestants view of the canon holds onto thebelief that the Holy Spirit inspired the canon, and therefore, tothem the canon has the normative authority from God. The CatholicChurch, on the contrary, holds onto the holy tradition of themorphing understanding that the Catholic Church is the legitimateapostolic church. Therefore, this forms part of their view on thesupremacy of the authority that approved the canon. The Anglo-Americans, on the other hand, view the canon as binding and closed.The running similarity in the three pieces is that the canon isclosed, and no word can be added to or subtracted from it.
Inclass, we covered the logical necessity for a Canon of Scripture andIts Preservation. It is not only necessary that God would provide aswell protect the Canon, but also logically credible. God would forHis own purpose reveal Himself to man if a man loves him, thelimitation of this is the man’s apparent condition to sin.5It is, therefore, evidenced in the scripture that God ordains theBible. Peter records in the book of 2 Peter 1:20-21 that “Aboveall, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about bythe prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its ownorigin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they werecarried along by Holy Spirit.”6Paul in one of his epistles to Timothy also makes a declaration thatthe scripture has the blessings of God, and is, therefore, beneficialto man (2 Timothy 3:16).
Inconclusion, the New Testament should be considered as a binding andclosed Canon. Gamble agrees that what the Scripture contains in theNew Testament is a collection of the anthology of the human that isdivinely inspired and authorized. Scholars also point to the factthat the authors of the New Testament were in some way influenced bythe Canon contained in the Old Testament. Theologians’ says thatthe first four books in the New Testament alongside some of thePauline epistles were quoted by Ignatius the bishop of Antioch, whichalso qualifies them as a Canon. 7
Gamble,Harry Y. TheNew Testament: Its Making and Meaning. A Guide to BiblicalScholarship.Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers. 2002.
Holladay,Carl. R. Acritical Introduction to the New Testament: Interpreting the Messageand Meaning of Jesus Christ.Nashville: Abingdon, 2005.
Fischer,Milton. C. TheCanon of the New Testament.Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers. 1992.
1 Harry Gamble, Y. The New Testament: Its Making and Meaning. A Guide to Biblical Scholarship. (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002), 16.
2 NIV Bible, Colossians: 4: 16.
3 NIV Bible, Luke 24:25-27, 44-45
4 Harry Gamble, Y. The New Testament: Its Making and Meaning. A Guide to Biblical Scholarship. (Eugene: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002), 24.
5 Carl Holladay, R. A critical Introduction to the New Testament: Interpreting the Message and Meaning of Jesus Christ. (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005), 43.
6 NIV Bible, 2 Peter 1:20-21 2 Timothy 3:16
7 Milton Fischer, C. The Canon of the New Testament. (Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers. 1992), 34.