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A Scriptural Model for Determining the NT Canon

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Intro:
Hope that all can see my Powerpoint.
The New Testament as we have in our hands did not come into the present form until AD 367 when Athanasius compiled a list of 27 books as we now have them. Even then the 27 books did not become “officially” canonical until the councils of Carthage in 393, and Hippo in 397.
@@ So, before AD 367, some books’ canonicity were disputed. In AD 325 Eusebius has a list of 22 books that are in our NT and he divided the books into 4 categories: canonical, widely accepted, spurious, and heretical. Widely accepted may sounds good but it means it has not achieved canonical status yet.
[1] Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013, p. 588.
So, how can we be sure that the 27 books in our NT today is God’s authoritative Word passed down to us?
In this paper, I’m not going into the history of how the canon was formed. We’re going to see 4 different models of deciding which books belong to the canon. And I’m going to elaborate and contend that the last model is the only scriptural model and I’ll give you 3 reasons why it is so. (Actually there are more than 4 models available, but for time and simplicity sake, we’ll just see 4 models).
@@The 4 Models in this presentation are:
I. The Historical-Critical Model
II. The Roman Catholic Model
III. The Canonical-Criticism Model
IV. The Self-Authentication Model.
For each of the first 3 models, I’ll first give the Key Characteristics and then a Critique. For the 4th or last model, I’ll also first give the Key Characteristics but with elaboration and then instead of a Critique, I’ll give reasons why this is the preferred model.
Let’s begin.

I. The Historical-Critical Model

A. Key Characteristics

This is a method that traces the history of how the individual books of the NT came to be accepted by the church usually after debates by early church fathers over the disputed books.
In this canonical process, the human element is brought to the forefront of all scholarly discussions.
James Barr said in his 1973 book, The Bible in the Modern World , The decision(s) to collect a group of chosen books and form a ‘Scripture,’ are all human decisions.
As a result, the canon is viewed as merely the product of human processes and decisions.
The Bible in the Modern World

B. Critique

The canon by definition is “the final, authoritative deposit of divine revelation.”
In the historical-critical model, there is an over dependence on man’s decisions that makes the canon an entirely human creation. All this model does is simply to describe what happened in history.
The canon in this model, is not something that defines the quality of the books but merely something that is done to them – that is, a status conferred to them by a community of interpreters.
It rejects any intrinsic value in the books themselves and places the impetus for canon entirely in the hands of later church decisions.

II. The Roman Catholic Model

A. Key Characteristics

Roman Catholicism denies that ultimately authority rests on the Scriptures alone (sola scriptura) and instead adopted a trifold authority structure: Scripture, tradition and the Magisterium (the church’s teaching authority).
The Magisterium alone has the right to interpret Scripture and tradition. As a result, it has the sole authority to define what writings constitute Scripture and tradition in the first place.
Hence, the canonicity of the NT presents no problem to the Roman Catholics as their church has the authority to decide which books are canonical.
Their reasoning goes like this: Scripture exists because the church exists.
And their argument against the Protestant claim of sola scriptura is: you cannot have Scripture as the ultimate authority if you have no certain way of knowing what Scripture is.

B. Critique

The main problem with the Roman Catholic view is that on what basis does the Catholic church knows that it has authority in the first place if she exercises authority over the Scriptures.
Even the pope being the successor of apostle Peter is supposedly founded on .
[1] There are other Catholic conceptions of the church-canon relationship within the Catholic model. One of them views the church not as creating or constituting the canon, but merely recognizing the authority of the canon that was already there. Such a view then is much closer to the classic Protestant position. However, this is not the majority view of the Catholics. Their basic position is that no document can be self-attesting and thus do require external approval and authentication from an “infallible” church.
[1] There are other Catholic conceptions of the church-canon relationship within the Catholic model. One of them views the church not as creating or constituting the canon, but merely recognizing the authority of the canon that was already there. Such a view then is much closer to the classic Protestant position. However, this is not the majority view of the Catholics. Their basic position is that no document can be self-attesting and thus do require external approval and authentication from an “infallible” church.
If the Gospel of Matthew is not canonical, then the pope has no authority at all. So the canonicity of Matthew must be established independently of the church.
Otherwise, the authority of the Roman Catholic church in essence came from men and not from God through the Scriptures.
And for the Catholic church to determine the canonicity of the NT books, she has to be an infallible church or else she will be making the wrong decisions. Unfortunately, history is not on their side. History proves repeatedly that the popes, cardinals, bishops, etc., are often morally corrupt.
To argue that a corrupt pope’s teaching can be without error is like saying a bad tree can produce good fruit. A corrupt pope is obviously not filled by the Spirit and cannot possibly be His instrument of revelation. On the other hand, though the apostles are not perfect, they are filled by the Spirit and are His vessels by whom He inspired to give us God’s Word.
We cannot speak of inspiration of men who lived outside the apostolic era and hence, have not been in touch with the original 12 apostles..
The canon is not a creation of the church, but the church is instead a creation of the Biblical canon.
J. I. Packer puts it very well: “The church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity … Newton did not create gravity but recognized it.”

III. The Canonical-Criticism Model

A. Key Characteristics

This is a relatively new perspective that emerged in the last 30 years known as canonical criticism.
The central tenet of canonical criticism is that only the final canonical form of the text embraced by the early church (as opposed to intermediate forms resulting from source, redaction or historical criticism) is the proper ground for Biblical theology and exegesis.
This approach was pioneered by OT scholars: Brevard Childs and James Sanders. These are liberal scholars.

B. Critique

IV. The Self-Authenticating Model

A. Key Characteristics

1. Providential Preservation

2. Attributes of Canonicity and the Holy Spirit

a. Divine qualities

b. Corporate reception

c. Apostolic origins

B. Reasons why this model is the preferred model

1. Makes Scriptures the final authority

2. Multiple criteria to identify canonical books

3. Testimony of the Holy Spirit

These 3 reasons make this model a scriptural model.

Conclusion

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