Mike Kruger's Food for Thought–10 Basic Facts About the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Know

Read it all. I have issue with one of them but it is a good list against which to think–KSH.


Posted in Apologetics, Theology, Theology: Scripture

10 comments on “Mike Kruger's Food for Thought–10 Basic Facts About the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Know

  1. sophy0075 says:

    I am curious, Kendall. About which of these do you have an issue? Why?

  2. David Keller says:

    Kendall–Me too. Also, I thought Ireanaus laid out the Canon +/- 200. Is that just conjecture, or is there any proof of that?

  3. Terry Tee says:

    I will take a punt: I think that Kendall is hesitating over the claim that early Christians considered the canonical books to be self-authenticating. It took a lot of discussion and arriving at consensus before eg the Shepherd of Hermas was omitted.

  4. Ian+ says:

    @ #2: No ecclesial body explicitly promulgated a canon of Scripture before the 16th century. The Council of Trent and the 39 Articles are among the first, I think. However, from about the 2nd century on, the vast majority of the undivided Church was in general agreement regarding all the books of the NT as we have it and the Greek OT (which includes what we call the Apocrypha).

  5. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Hmmm. Well, I obviously can’t speak for Kendall, but as a NT scholar, I have significant reservations about several of the claims put forward by Mike Kruger. Now I acknowledge that his list is intended as a beginner’s introduction to a complex topic for lay people, but I’m afraid I still find it so simplistic as to be grossly misleading on several fronts. It is not only simplistic, however, but excessively conservative and excessively Protestant. Although I don’t suppose that the sponsors of the website, the Gospel Coalition would agree with me that being a conservative evangelical Protestant is problematic.

    In sum, I myself would have strong objections to the following purported “facts,” which are merely opinions, and often minority opinions among believing professional biblical scholars (who are now, alas, a minority among biblical scholars as a professional group). Particularly questionable are claims 1, 3, 4, and 10.

    As for #1, Kruger’s assertion that the NT books are the earliest NT writings that we possess, that is true with regard to the four gospels (where he puts the emphasis), but somewhat misleading with regard to the epistles. A dead giveaway is the language Kruger uses when mentioning the possibility that some NT writings weren’t written by the men they are traditionally ascribed to. He dismisses the whole idea of pseudonymous writings as if such books would be unethical “forgeries.” I don’t. For example, the clearest case is 2 Peter, which 95% of non-inerrantist NT scholars would regard as not only written by someone else in Peter’s name, but as a second-century document, not least due to its Atticizing Greek style, an archaizing style that best fits the mid-2nd century (I myself would tend to date 2 Peter around AD 110-130). If one accepts such a dating, then a number of early Christian documents are earlier than that, not only 1 Clement (AD 96 or so, as he admits), but also the seven letters of Ignatious, bishop of Antioch (around AD 107), and the Didache, an early church order. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I think those early writings belong inthe NT or that 2 Peter doesn’t. Far from it. But Kruger is making a historical claim, and that claim or argument has to weighed historically, rather than being assumed to be true on theological grounds.

    More to follow….

    David Handy+

  6. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Follow up to my #5,

    I have similar problems with Kruger’s 3rd “fact,” that what sets the NT books apart from all other early Christian literature is their apostolic origin. Now again, I would agree in principle, so long as we understand that the apostolicity of the NT writings doesn’t depend on them being penned by the apostles themselves. Kruger gets close to acknowledging that crucial distinction at times, but muddies the water because he assumes that some of the NT books were indeed written by apostles. In actuality, the majority of NT scholars, even believing orthodox ones like many of my esteemed teachers at Yale Divinity School (including Leander Keck and Luke Timothy Johnson) and Union seminary in Richmond (including Paul Achtemeir and Jack Dean Kingsbury) tend to think that the only writings in the NT directly written by an apostle were the letters of Paul (and not all of them). Most of us think that NONE of the Twelve have left us anything in writing, just as Jesus himself did not. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the NT books that have traditionally been ascribed to apostles (the gospels of Matthew and John, or the epistles of John and Peter) aren’t truly apostolic in their content. I firmly believe that they are, but they are what I’d call indirectly apostolic, rather than directly so. Of course, decisions about the authorship and dating of the various NT writings are always debatable, and many T19 readers may well disagree with me here, but my point is merely that Kruger’s claim needs to be far more nuanced than it is, because as it stands now, it’s so simplistic as to be badly misleading.

    As for his “fact” #4, I don’t think we get much help at all from the very limited extend to whoch the various NT writings draw on, cite, or allude to each other “as Scripture.” In fact, that argument can even be turned on its head, if left in such an unguarded form. That is, it’s virtually certain that both the gospels of Matthew and Luke rely heavily on the gospel of Mark for the basic framework of their narratives as well as following its lead as to the very genre of writing a “gospel” at all (a previously unknown kind of literature in the ancient world). But both Matthew and Luke clearly revise Mark at points and the very fact that they went to the trouble of writing their own version of the Jesus story shows that they felt that Mark’s gospel wasn’t sufficient for the people they were writing for. Likewise, the ONLY place in the NT that explicitly calls any part of the NT “Scripture” as such is the famous passage in 2 Peter 3, where Paul’s letters are described that way, but where it’s also noted that his letters are very difficult to understand at times, and that some people have therefore gone astray and badly misinterpreted them to their own hurt, as they have done with ‘the other Scriptures.”

    Almost done, folks. Final installment coming…

    David Handy+

  7. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Now we come to the heart of the dispute, really, Kruger’s final point, which in the end is probably the decisive one. In claiming that the NT writings are “self-athenticating,” Kruger is hitting upon something very important. I largely agree with him in principle, but once again find his way of expressing it way too simplistic, and way, way too Protestant. And make no mistake, that’s in the end the real issue at stake. In the final analysis, what drives all the other assertions made by Kruger and other conservative Protestants like him is the Protestant desire to make a clear and absolute distinction between Holy Scripture as God’s inspired Word, and all mere ecclesiastical tradition, which being only human is highly fallible and unreliable. Kruger’s whole position reeks of the Sola Sciptura princiiple so dear to Calvinists, and to Protestants in general. They desperately want the Bible to be their one and only divine (and infallible) authority.

    As an Anglican, and a Catholic-minded one (even if I’m proudly “3-D” I’m more catholic than evangelical), I feel no such pressure. Quite the contrary. It is precisely because of my high evaluation of Holy Tradition that I value Holy Scripture as I do. Here, I’m closer to St. Augustine than to Jerome. Now the great Latin doctor, the foremost theologian of the Western Church in the formative patristic era, loved God’s Word deeply and passionately, as his splendid sermons attest (over 200 of them are extant). But he was very clear about the question of canonicity. Augustine stated very emphatically and clearly that he accepted the 27 books of the NT as God’s Word because the CHURCH had decided on accepting them as such, and NOT merely because of some putative qualities that supposedly make those decisions “self-evident” or “self-authenticating.”

    The historical record shows very plaintly that matters were FAR from being so clear and obvious. Yes, the heart of the NT canon was settled by the late 2nd century, as seen in the writings of Irenaeus and the Muratorian List (assuming the early dating of that disputed document), among other witnesses. But the exact limits of the canon continued to be debated for another two centuries, or even longer in the case of the Syriac Church of the East, which didn’t accept the canonicity of the book of Revelation until at least the late 5th century. So once again, Kruger’s basic stance has a lot of truth to it, but it’s certainly not “the whoe truth and nothing but the truth.” At least, not if your’e not a Protestant, or a low church Anglican.

    Sorry for being verbose, and dogmatic. I’m not claiming the last word on this topic, just trying to spark some lively discussion with a first word from a standpoint very different from that of Kruger.

    David Handy+

  8. Dr. William Tighe says:

    The Catholic Church’s 1547 decree at the Council of Trent concerning the Canon of Scripture was a repetition of an earlier “dogmatization” of that same Canon at the Council of Florence in 1442, in that council’s “Decretum pro Jacobitis.” Trent’s decree was directed against Protestant denials of the propriety of including the “deuterocanonical” books in the OT Canon; the rationale of Florence’s decree is a bit mysterious, but as it came in a document promulgating a reunion between the Catholic Church and the Coptic Church (a reunion which proved abortive), and it also included a group of Ethiopian monks from Jerusalem, one may speculate that the purpose of the decree was implicitly to deny the canonicity of those additional books (in the case of the Ethiopians, a considerable number of them), beyond the “deuterocanonicals,” which the Copts and Ethiopians customarily included in their OTs.

    There were, of course, a number of local episcopal synods, most of them Western and most of them meeting in North Africa and Rome, between the early 380s and early 420s, which promulgated OT and NT canons, and which included those same deuterocanonical books in their respective OT canons.

  9. Ian+ says:

    Fr Handy, I for one very much appreciate corrective comments like yours that remind us (or inform for the very first time) that the post-Reformation view is not necessarily the way the Church had understood things for 1500 previously, and that most of the Church has continued to understand (since Calvinist and Lutheran Protestantism can still offer only a minority report at most).

  10. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Thanks, Ian+.

    I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I hope other readers also found my comments helpful in clarifying the issues at stake, even if they don’t find them fully convincing. I agree with your #4 in that “[i]the vast majority of the undivided Church was in general agreement[/i]” about the biblical canon from the late 2nd century onward, as long as “general agreement” isn’t taken to mean more than agreement about the CORE of the NT canon, leaving aside such long disputed, relatively peripheral books as Hebrews, James, and Revelation. As for the Deutero-canonical books you mentioned, that’s a topic for a different thread.

    David Handy+