In this post we are going to continue our study of looking at God’s Word making it’s way from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Bible in front of you. Today, we look at canonization.
Criteria for Canonization
Briefly, the criteria can be summarized in three words: apostolicity, orthodoxy, and catholicity (i.e., universal acceptance). First, all New Testament writings are thought to have a connection to an apostle. Only three original apostles wrote New Testament books (i.e., Matthew, John, and Peter). Paul was made an apostle by Christ, thus he possessed that authority. James and Jude were the brothers of Christ, which gained them acceptance. Mark was associated with Peter; Luke was associated with Paul; Hebrews, if not written by Paul, was written by a very close associate of his.
Second, the New Testament books, while representing a wide measure of diversity, present a theological, moral, and ethical coherence (i.e., they do not contradict each other). Third, books that were proved useful for a large number of churches (i.e., recognition of authority and orthodoxy), then it was also seen as meeting the criteria of canonicity. The fact of the matter is that only the twenty-seven books that are in our New Testament have met and can meet those criteria, so the canon is closed. Although there were disputes over a few of them, they were eventually seen to be authoritative.
They are rejected because: 1) They never gained universal acceptance in the church, 2)no major canon or church council included them as inspired, and 3) they had no true apostolic authorship or authority
Accepted by Catholics
Why they are not canonical?
1) Abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms
2) Teach doctrines that are false and foster practices that are at variance with Scripture
3) They resort to literary types and display artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture
4) They lack distinctive elements that give Scripture its divine character (i.e., prophetic power, poetic and religious feeling)
Jude’s Apparent Quotation and Reference to Non-inspired Books
There is a question that still remains, of which I will use Jude as my example, and that is: “Does the reference to non-inspired literature by the inspired writers of the Bible make the non-inspired inspired?”
For instance, in Jude 9, there is a statement about Michael and Satan fighting over the body of Moses. This is said to come from the apocryphal book The Assumption of Moses. The only problem with this is that The Assumption of Moses only appears in broken remnants, and the part that Jude supposedly quotes or refers to is not there. So we cannot know for sure if he even did quote or refer to this apocryphal book. Second, Jude 14-15 is said to be a quote or reference from the apocryphal Book of Enoch. The major issue with this is that the first copy of the Book of Enoch was not found until 1773 with an “apparent” age, so who can say that it was written before Jude? Maybe it quotes Jude?
Now just because an inspired writer quotes an extra-biblical source does not mean that the source then becomes inspired. There are numerous instances where Paul quotes extra-biblical tradition and even pagan poets to make a point. It does not mean that the pagan poets’ writing now becomes inspired. It is simply the writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, using the means necessary to get across the inspired message (i.e., the authoritative Word of God).
Let me know what you think in the comments, and I hope you are enjoying our look at God’s Word.