In my last post, I began to consider the canonization the New Testament. Readers can review the last post by clicking on the following link http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2022/10/the-doctrine-of-scripture-series-how.html.
Jesus promised the "then" forthcoming books that would be The New Testament.
Jesus promised his disciples that when He sent the Holy Spirit following His ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would remind them of all He had taught them. John 16:12-15
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
Just as the Old Testament began and grew with the cycle of God’s revelation, acting redemptively in history, and subsequent recording of both revelation and act in Scripture, we see this same cycle in the New Testament.
The reception and recognition of the New Testament Books.
As we now turn to recounting the historical formation of the New Testament canon, we must recognize that the Holy Spirit’s providential work through the church in this process was motivated by several factors. Norman Geisler in his book “A General Introduction to the Bible”, has noted that persecution, fighting heresy, the need for established churches, and world evangelization were used by God to prompt the church to verbalize what books it already recognized as Scripture.
When we survey how quickly the church received and recognized the New Testament books, we find that 20 of the 27 books were immediately and universally received and recognized before the end of the 1st century. Those twenty books are the four Gospels, Paul’s letters, 1 Peter, 1 John, and mostly the Book of Revelation.
The reader can note the above listing of the New Testament books. As for the overall development and formation of the New Testament canon itself, we can note the following observations.
1. The Gospels, Acts, and Paul’s letters were immediately recognized and put into use as Divine Scripture. As we’ve noted already, the Apostle Peter mentioned Paul’s letters as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16 and Luke’s Gospel is quoted in 1 Timothy 5:18.
2. The General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 2,3 John, 2 Peter, Jude, and Revelation) were immediately accepted and used by most, with some quarters of the Western and Eastern church being cautious. According to the church historian Eusebius, these works were accepted by most, and gradually accepted by all, with a few initially disputing their legitimacy. The term “antilegoumena” is attributed to these books.
I could elaborate further here, but the interested listener may want to consult Eusebius’ Church History, Book 2, chapters 14 and 15 for the Gospels and Book 3, chapter 3 for the canonization of the New Testament letters and Revelation.
The Shape Of The New Testament Canon
So, we have considered the recognition and formation of the New Testament canon. In the next post we will look at how the the formation of the New Testament Canon conveyed a certain, overall message about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.