How did we get the New Testament Canon?
The single most significant factor was Marcion (AD 85-160). Marcion got brave and constructed what he felt was the right canon. Marcion didn’t like Paul and the Old Testament. Marcion wanted Luke, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Galatians out of the Bible.
Marcion’s canon was the first canon but obviously it was problematic.
In 180AD church leaders wanted to put a stop to Marcion picking and choosing what texts were in and out of the canon. The church leader formed a council. In early 200s, Origen listed all twenty-seven New Testament books, but indicated 6 were still being questioned. The council of Laodicea in AD 363 stated that the Old Testament, along with the apocrypha, and 27 books of the New Testament were to be read in Christian churches. The council of Carthage in AD397 was the final decision that concluded the New Testament canon would consist of 27 books, which were both inspired and authoritative texts.
What were the Church’s fathers methods to picking the New Testament books?
Their basic guidelines were: texts that appeared early, authored by apostle, edifying, and widely accepted.
- We know that the Holy Spirit, who inspired the New Testament writings, made it possible to appropriately select what texts would appear in the New Testament canon. We also have to believe in God’s providence and the preservation of the Bible throughout time. We have evidence from archaeology, the 400+fulfilled prophecies, and of course changed lives throughout the centuries.
- The texts needed to be adaptable and stable.
- The New Testament texts needed to authored either by an apostle or be an apostolic associate.
- The texts need to be edifying, valuable, and be consistent.
- By 200AD at least 21 of the books had been accepted universally. Basically all of the churches were in agreement that each book was essentially saying the same thing.
- The letters were all written before 100AD, so basically 50 to 70 years after Jesus’ death. THIS IS HUGE!!!!! No other western literature text appeared so early on after it was written. For example, the Persian wars or the movement of Alexander the Great were given to us by only one source. Plato’s writing appeared about 1,400 years later after he wrote them. Historians have 14,000 copies of the New Testament and the writing appeared only 50-70 years after Jesus’ ministry and death. For more on this point please visit here.