Canon Historically Settled under God's Providence?

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Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
I was reading an article by Greg Bahnsen on the canon. He makes an argument (excerpted below) that the recognition of the canon was established historically under by God's providence. What do you guys think of this argument?

Part of his argument rests on what the Bible says about the nature of God working in history. Does reliance on the Bible already presuppose what the canon is and moot the need to seek historical authentication? Does it lead to a kind of circularity that is materially different than the presuppositional golden circle?
The Canon Historically Settled Under God's Providence
Those works which God gave to His people for their canon always received immediate recognition as inspired, at least by a portion of the church (e.g., Deut. 31:24-26; Josh. 24:25; I Sam. 10:25; Dan. 9:2; I Cor. 14:37; I Thess. 2:13; 5:27; II Thess. 3:14; II Peter 3:15-16), and God intended for those writings to receive recognition by the church as a whole (e.g., Col. 4:16; Rev. 1:4). The Spiritual discernment of inspired writings from God by the corporate church was, of course, sometimes a drawn-out process and struggle. This is due to the fact that the ancient world had slow means of communication and transportation (thus taking some time for epistles to circulate), coupled with the understandable caution of the church before the threat of false teachers (thus producing dialogue and debate along the way to achieving one mind).

Historical evidence indicates that, even with the difficulties mentioned above, the Old and New Testament canons were substantially recognized and already established in the Christian church by the end of the second century.[3] However, there is adequate Biblical and theological reason to believe that the canon of Scripture was essentially settled even in the earliest days of the church.

By the time of Jesus there existed a well-defined body of covenantal literature which, under the influence of the Old Testament prophets, was recognized as defining and controlling genuine faith. When Jesus or the apostles appealed simply to "the Scriptures" against their Jewish opponents, there is no suggestion whatsoever that the identity and limits of such writings were vague or in dispute. Confirmation of the contents of the Jewish canon is found toward the end of the first century in the writings of Josephus (the Jewish historian) and among the rabbis of Jamnia.

The New Testament church acknowledged the canonical authority of this Old Testament corpus, noting that "...not one jot or tittle" (Matt. 5:18) of "the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms" (Luke 24:44) was challenged or repudiated by our Lord. His full submission to that canon was evident from the fact that He declared "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). As Paul later said: "whatever things were previously written were written for our instruction" (Rom. 15:4).

The traditional Jewish canon was divided into three sections (Law, Prophets, Writings), and an unusual feature of the last section was the listing of Chronicles out of historical order, placing it after Ezra-Nehemiah and making it the last book of the canon. In light of this, the words of Jesus in Luke 11:50-51 reflect the settled character of the Jewish canon (with its peculiar order) already in his day. Christ uses the expression "from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah," which appears troublesome since Zechariah was not chronologically the last martyr mentioned in the Bible (cf. Jer. 26:20-23). However, Zechariah is the last martyr we read of in the Old Testament according to Jewish canonical order (cf. II Chron. 24:20-22), which was apparently recognized by Jesus and his hearers.

As for the New Testament, the covenantal words of Christ -- which determine our lives and destinies (e.g., John 5:38-40; 8:31; 12:48-50; 14:15, 23-24) -- have been, through the power of the Holy Spirit, delivered faithfully to us by Christ's apostles: "But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you" (John 14:26; cf. 15:26-27; 14:16-17; 16:13-15).

The very concept of an "apostle" in Jewish jurisprudence was that of a man who in the name of another could appear with authority and speak for that other man (e.g., "the apostle for a person is as this person himself," it was said). Accordingly, Jesus told His apostles, "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent me" (Matt. 10:40). And through these apostles He promised to "build My church" (Matt. 16:18).

We know that in this way there came about a body of New Testament literature which the church, "being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone" (Eph. 2:20), came to recognize as God's own word, being the canon of their covenantal relation with Him. This recognition traces from the days of the apostles themselves, who either identified their own works as canonical (e.g., Gal. 1:1, 11-12; I Cor. 14:37), or verified the canonical authority of the works by other apostles (e.g., II Peter 3:16) and writers (e.g., I Tim. 5:18, citing Luke 10:7).

But whether or not each was given particular written attention by an apostle, the individual books of the New Testament came to be seen for what they were: the revelation of Jesus Christ through His chosen messengers. It is in this body of literature that God's people discern the authoritative word of their Lord -- as Jesus said: "My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me" (John 10:27).

To recapitulate: we know from God's Word (1) that the church of the New Covenant recognized the standing canon of the Old Testament, and (2) that the Lord intended for the New Covenant church to be built upon the word of the apostles, coming thereby to recognize the canonical literature of the New Testament. To these premises we can add the conviction (3) that all of history is governed by God's providence ("...according to the plan of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will," Eph. 1:11). So then, trusting Christ's promise that He would indeed build His church, and being confident in the controlling sovereignty of God, we can be assured the God-ordained recognition of the canon would be providentially accomplished -- which, in retrospect, is now a matter of historical record.

To think otherwise would be, in actual effect, to deprive the Christian church of the sure word of God. And that would in turn (a) undermine confidence in the gospel, contrary to God's promise and our spiritual necessity, as well as (b) deprive us of the philosophical precondition of any knowledge whatsoever, thus consigning us (in principle) to utter scepticism.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
I was reading an article by Greg Bahnsen on the canon. He makes an argument (excerpted below) that the recognition of the canon was established historically under by God's providence. What do you guys think of this argument?

Part of his argument rests on what the Bible says about the nature of God working in history. Does reliance on the Bible already presuppose what the canon is and moot the need to seek historical authentication? Does it lead to a kind of circularity that is materially different than the presuppositional golden circle?

I think it is a sound argument. I posted this some time back, but Bruce Metzger essentially drew the same conclusion...

Bruce M. Metzger: There are, in fact, no historical data that prevent one from acquiescing in the conviction held by the Church Universal that, despite the very human factors (the confusion hominum) in the production, preservation, and collection of the books of the New Testament, the whole process can also be rightly characterized as the result of divine overruling in the providentia Dei. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, third, enlarged ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 285.

Bruce M. Metzger: The distinction between the New Testament writings and later ecclesiastical literature is not based upon arbitrary fiat; it has historical reasons. The generations following the apostles bore witness to the effect that certain writings had on their faith and life. The self-authenticating witness of the word testified to their divine origin of the gospel that had brought the Church into being; such is the implication of Paul´s words to the Thessalonians: "˜We thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of any human being but as what it really is, the word of God which is at work in you believers´ (1 Thess. ii. 13). During the second and succeeding centuries, this authoritative word was found, not in utterances of contemporary leaders and teachers, but in the apostolic testimony contained within certain early Christian writings. From this point of view the Church did not create the canon, but came to recognize, accept, affirm, and confirm the self-authenticating quality of certain documents that imposed themselves as such upon the Church. If this fact is obscured, one comes into serious conflict not with dogma but with history. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, third, enlarged ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 286-287.

DTK
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
I like the flow of the argument too. How do we respond to this?

Skeptic: "How do you know the canon of scripture?"

Christian: "It was established historically through God's providence, which the Bible says will happen."

Skeptic: "Don't you first have to know the canon to in order to know what books constitute scripture so that you can see what the scriptures have to say about how their canon is established? Isn't that circular?"
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
I like the flow of the argument too. How do we respond to this?

Skeptic: "How do you know the canon of scripture?"

Christian: "It was established historically through God's providence, which the Bible says will happen."

Skeptic: "Don't you first have to know the canon to in order to know what books constitute scripture so that you can see what the scriptures have to say about how their canon is established? Isn't that circular?"
I would respond in this manner...

"Sir, your question/objection presupposes God could not possibly communicate to His creatures without first providing a canonical norm at each point of utterance in redemptive history. The canon itself is a phenomenon of qeo,pneustoj, i.e., a byproduct (or artifact) of revelation, not an object of revelation itself."

DTK
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Let me try this. Bahnsen wrote: "So then, trusting Christ's promise that He would indeed build His church, and being confident in the controlling sovereignty of God, we can be assured the God-ordained recognition of the canon would be providentially accomplished -- which, in retrospect, is now a matter of historical record."

How does someone seeking to recognize the paramaters of the canon know that the books with the promises Bahnsen refers to are scripture?
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"The canon itself is a phenomenon of qeo,pneustoj, i.e., a byproduct (or artifact) of revelation, not an object of revelation itself.""

I like that. Can you expand on that or point to resources explaining it?

Thanks
 

Laura

Puritan Board Junior
I feel like I'm breaking in on a conversation... :)

A question, Pastor King: if Scripture is an "object" or "byproduct" or "artifact" of revelation, does this preclude the need to defend textual accuracy to the T, so to speak? Can someone legitimately charge Scripture with fallibility on the basis of discrepancies in certain numbers in 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles, or is that a strike against inerrancy? Actually, I could use some clarification on what exactly the difference is between infallibility and inerrancy in the first place.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Laura
I feel like I'm breaking in on a conversation... :)

A question, Pastor King: if Scripture is an "object" or "byproduct" or "artifact" of revelation, does this preclude the need to defend textual accuracy to the T, so to speak? Can someone legitimately charge Scripture with fallibility on the basis of discrepancies in certain numbers in 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles, or is that a strike against inerrancy? Actually, I could use some clarification on what exactly the difference is between infallibility and inerrancy in the first place.
I think you misunderstood me. I did not say that Scripture is a "byproduct" or "artifact" of revelation. I said that the canon of Scripture is a "byproduct" or "artifact" of revelation, and there is a difference. Scripture itself is revelation, indeed it is qeo,pneustoj, i.e. God-breathed; or to put it another way, inspiration is a sub-category of revelation. The term "revelation" itself is broader than Scripture, encompassing things like theophanies in the OT and such. But Scripture itself is revelation, because it is qeo,pneustoj.

But when we speak of the canon, we are referring to the contents of that revelation, and it's the contents of that revelation which is the by-product or artifact of revelation. God did not, contrary to the claims of Roman Catholicism, reveal to the Church infallibly the table of contents (i.e., the canon) of Holy Scripture, but rather the Church was, in the history of God's providence, led to recognize the canon, i.e., which books of the Bible belong in the Bible.

As for the textual accuracy of the Old and New Testaments, that has been documented, in my opinion (without going into detail at this point) many times over as absolutely trustworthy. For example, F. F. Bruce (among many others) has noted...
The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no"“one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, reprinted 1997), p. 15.
And remember, the small number of scribal errors don't count, because it is only the autographa (the original texts) that we regard as inerrant. Textual variations do not equal textual corruption. However, it is well known by students of the Bible that textual variations between the Hebrew text, the Septuagint (LXX), and copies of both existed in the days of our Lord. Yet, Jesus and the New Testament writers quote repeatedly from contemporary copies of both the extant Hebrew texts and translations of the Septuagint, never once calling into question the certainty, integrity, and adequacy of these copies to communicate infallibly the word of the true and living God. For one to suggest otherwise would be to call into question the integrity of the New Testament witnesses themselves. Roger Beckwith has pointed out:
The quotations are treated as having finality, and it is the contemporary text of the quotations which is treated in this way. Philo quotes from the Septuagint translation, as the New Testament often does and the Fathers regularly do, but when the Hebrew is quoted or reflected (as in the Dead Sea Scrolls and sometimes in the New Testament), there is nothing to suggest that anything other than contemporary manuscripts of the Hebrew is being used. Paraphrase, where paraphrase is employed, is evidently designed to draw out the most relevant implications of the passage quoted, and not to restore a more primitive form of the text. In all this, the practice of Jesus and his apostles in the New Testament is like that of their Jewish contemporaries.
What this implies is that God´s "˜singular care and providence´ was understood to extend not just to the traditional form (or forms) of the original text, but even to standard and accepted translations of the text, such as the Septuagint. See Beckwith´s "˜Toward a Theology of the Biblical Text´ in Donald Lewis and Alister McGrath, eds., Doing Theology for the People of God: Studies in Honor of J.I. Packer (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), p 48.
Now then, there is a difference, as you've noted between infallibility and inerrancy. Infallibility, when applied to the Bible, is usually understood to mean that Scripture is factually accurate, true, and authoritative in its whole and in each of its parts. Infallibility also speaks to the impossibility to deceive or mislead, or of being exempt from the liability to err, and even of unfailing certainty. Inerrancy comes from the Latin word inerrantia, a participle of the verb inerro. It means "without error" or the "absence of error." If memory serves me correctly, the Oxford English Dictionary defines inerrancy as "freedom from error." One author has defined it this way...
Inerrancy means that when all facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether it has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. See Paul D. Feinberg's "The Meaning of Inerrancy" in Norman Geisler, ed., Inerrancy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), p. 294.
In fact, you may want to pick up a copy of this last book quoted above. Dr. Greg Bahnsen has a chapter in it that I think is worth its weight in gold.

Hope this helps,
DTK
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
"The canon itself is a phenomenon of qeo,pneustoj, i.e., a byproduct (or artifact) of revelation, not an object of revelation itself.""

I like that. Can you expand on that or point to resources explaining it?

Thanks
Scott,

It's not original with me. The first time I saw the concept defined in those precise terms was by my friend, James White. But, if you think about it, it is the logical out-working (as Metzger puts it) of divine overruling in the providentia Dei. If we consider the historical process of "recognizing, accepting, affirming, and confirming the self-authenticating quality of certain documents that imposed themselves as such upon the Church" (again as Metzger described it), then it is a matter of exposure to, and subsequent investigation of, what can only be that which is a by-product or artifact of the process of qeo,pneustoj, i.e., God-breathed revelation. The table of contents (canon) is then seen to be what can only be the by-product or artifact that remains in the wake of that which has been revealed, rather than revelation itself. Given Metzger's explanation, I think this understanding of the canon offers us a very solid solution to what has been a real problem. Metzger states it this way...
Bruce M. Metzger writing on the NT canon: In most discussions of the canon of the New Testament little or no attention is paid to the basic question whether the canon should be described as a collection of authoritative books or as an authoritative collection of books. These two formulations differ fundamentally and involve totally different implications. (A third formulation, that the canon is an authoritative collection of authoritative books, is merely a modification of the second formulation, and may be set aside in the present discussion.

The word "˜canon´, whether in Greek, Latin or English, conveys many different meanings. In Greek, among the several major meanings which the word kanw,n bears, these are two uses that, for the sake of clarity, must be distinguished when considering the development of the New Testament canon. The word kanw,n has an active sense, referring to those books that serve to mark out the norm for Christian faith and life; it has also a passive sense, referring to the list of books that have been marked out by the Church as normative. The two usages may be succinctly designated by two Latin tags, norma normans, that is, "˜the rules that prescribes´, and norma normata, that is, "˜the rule that is prescribed´, i.e. by the Church. According to these two senses of kanw,n the New Testament can be described either as a collection of authoritative books, or as an authoritative collection of books.

In the former case, the books within the collection are regarded as possessing an intrinsic worth prior to their having been assembled, and their authority is grounded in their nature and source. In the latter case, the collection itself is regarded as giving the books an authority they did not possess before they were designated as belonging to the collection. That is to say, the canon is invested with dogmatic significance arising from the activity of canonization.

If the authority of the New Testament books resides not in the circumstance of their inclusion within a collection made by the Church, but in the source from which they came, then the New Testament was in principle complete when the various elements coming from this source had been written. That is to say, when once the principle of the canon had been determined, then ideally its extent is fixed and the canon is complete when the books which by principle belong to it have been written. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, third, enlarged ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 282-283.

If you've found this helpful, pick up a copy of James White's Scripture Alone, and read pp.98ff.

DTK
 

Laura

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
Laura: Good to hear from you! I think this is the Bahnsen article Pastor King is referring to: The Inerrancy of the Autographa.

Scott

Fantastic! Thanks.

Thanks also, Pastor King, for correcting the misreading and answering my question so thoroughly. Have you heard of a book called Theopneustia, by a 19th-century Swiss pastor-theologian named Louis Gaussen? That was kind of my introduction to these matters last summer, but it was almost overwhelming in its scope, so to review these things and establish a better understanding of the canon is very helpful. :)
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Laura
Have you heard of a book called Theopneustia, by a 19th-century Swiss pastor-theologian named Louis Gaussen? That was kind of my introduction to these matters last summer, but it was almost overwhelming in its scope, so to review these things and establish a better understanding of the canon is very helpful. :)
Yes Laura, Gaussen's Theopneustia is something of a classic on the subject and very good. In fact, he wrote a much larger book on the canon, as did Archibald Alexander, both of which have been all but forgotten. I wish that both books, though very large by today's standards, could be brought back into print. Their historical value in documenting the church's process of recognizing the canon would greatly educate us in understanding why Protestants have rejected the OT apocryphal books.

Blessings,
DTK
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by DTK
I wish that both books, though very large by today's standards, could be brought back into print. Their historical value in documenting the church's process of recognizing the canon would greatly educate us in understanding why Protestants have rejected the OT apocryphal books.

Blessings,
DTK

When DTK speaks, publishers should listen! :scholar:
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by DTK
Originally posted by Laura
Have you heard of a book called Theopneustia, by a 19th-century Swiss pastor-theologian named Louis Gaussen? That was kind of my introduction to these matters last summer, but it was almost overwhelming in its scope, so to review these things and establish a better understanding of the canon is very helpful. :)
Yes Laura, Gaussen's Theopneustia is something of a classic on the subject and very good. In fact, he wrote a much larger book on the canon, as did Archibald Alexander, both of which have been all but forgotten. I wish that both books, though very large by today's standards, could be brought back into print. Their historical value in documenting the church's process of recognizing the canon would greatly educate us in understanding why Protestants have rejected the OT apocryphal books.

Blessings,
DTK
I wonder if they can be found in electronic form?

By the way, thank you for this discussion. It was very enlightening.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Does Metzger or Bruce ever deal with the Canonical order of the books? There was a change in order of the OT books between the days of Jesus and the final acceptance of the Christian Canon as we have it today. I'm curious if they (or any of the Church Fathers) comment on that change.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by puritansailor
Does Metzger or Bruce ever deal with the Canonical order of the books? There was a change in order of the OT books between the days of Jesus and the final acceptance of the Christian Canon as we have it today. I'm curious if they (or any of the Church Fathers) comment on that change.
Patrick,

Metzger's book only addresses the NT canon. But both F. F. Bruce and Roger Beckwith have addressed this issue. In other words, they both tend to think that the canon of Jesus' day was already arranged in the traditional sequence in which we have in the Hebrew Bible today. For example, Bruce wrote...
F. F. Bruce: The order of books in copies of the Septuagint which have come down to us differs from the traditional order of the Hebrew Bible, and lies behind the conventional order of the Christian Old Testament. The law, comprising the five books of Moses, comes first in both traditions; it is followed by the historical books, poetical and wisdom books, and the books of the prophets. As with the Hebrew Bible, so with the Septuagint, the order of books is more fluid when they are copied on separate scrolls than when they were bound together in codices. But there is no reason to think that the Christian scribes who first copied the Septuagint into codices devised a new sequence for its contents; it is more likely that they took over the sequence along with the text itself. It has been held indeed that the Septuagint order represents an early Palestinian order of the books in the Hebrew Bible, contemporary with, and possibly even antedating, the Hebrew order which became traditional. The evidence is too scanty for any certainty to be attainable on this matter. F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), p. 47.
Beckwith spends a number of pages dealing with the evidence, and then draws this conclusion...
Roger Beckwith: Thus, the approved list of the canonical books, embodying the traditional order, may have been adopted before the books were combined in large volumes. It cannot have been adopted, however, in its entirety at least, before there was a definite collection of books to list, i.e. before the closing of the canon. The further back the traditional order can be traced, therefore, the further back can the closing of the canon be traced. If in Jesus´s day it was an accepted fact that the last book of the canon was Chronicles, just as the first book was Genesis, then this confirms that the traditional order was already in existence, and was more generally followed than any order has been since. For if the first and last books were settled, in accordance with the traditional order, the natural inference is that the intervening books were also settled, in accordance with the traditional order, and that consequently the canon was closed. So, despite the later fluidity of order which both Jewish and Christian tradition reflect, the earliest evidence is of a single, agreed order, and since this order is referred to by Jesus, it provides a measure of confirmation that the closing of the canon had already taken place by Jesus´s time. Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), pp. 222.
Beckwith is *the* scholar on the issue of the OT canon.

Hope this helps,
DTK
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Originally posted by SemperFideles
Originally posted by DTK
Originally posted by Laura
Have you heard of a book called Theopneustia, by a 19th-century Swiss pastor-theologian named Louis Gaussen? That was kind of my introduction to these matters last summer, but it was almost overwhelming in its scope, so to review these things and establish a better understanding of the canon is very helpful. :)
Yes Laura, Gaussen's Theopneustia is something of a classic on the subject and very good. In fact, he wrote a much larger book on the canon, as did Archibald Alexander, both of which have been all but forgotten. I wish that both books, though very large by today's standards, could be brought back into print. Their historical value in documenting the church's process of recognizing the canon would greatly educate us in understanding why Protestants have rejected the OT apocryphal books.

Blessings,
DTK
I wonder if they can be found in electronic form?

By the way, thank you for this discussion. It was very enlightening.

Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures by L. Gaussen

The canon of the Old and New Testament ascertained by Archibald Alexander
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Thanks DTK. That is interesting. Some OT scholars (like Dempster and House) are now arguing that the Hebrew canon is the correct order and that the Vulgate order (hence the English order) was due to Jerome's rearranging (based on Josephus). They say that the Hebrew order fits better literarily and theologically. I'm just curious if anyone has addressed it from that stand point.
 

kevin.carroll

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by puritansailor
Thanks DTK. That is interesting. Some OT scholars (like Dempster and House) are now arguing that the Hebrew canon is the correct order and that the Vulgate order (hence the English order) was due to Jerome's rearranging (based on Josephus). They say that the Hebrew order fits better literarily and theologically. I'm just curious if anyone has addressed it from that stand point.

Have you had MVP's Canon and Covenant lecture yet? He argues that the arranging of the OT canon follows a historico-redemtive schema and shows lots of evidence for it. It's a very compelling lecture.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Originally posted by kevin.carroll
Originally posted by puritansailor
Thanks DTK. That is interesting. Some OT scholars (like Dempster and House) are now arguing that the Hebrew canon is the correct order and that the Vulgate order (hence the English order) was due to Jerome's rearranging (based on Josephus). They say that the Hebrew order fits better literarily and theologically. I'm just curious if anyone has addressed it from that stand point.

Have you had MVP's Canon and Covenant lecture yet? He argues that the arranging of the OT canon follows a historico-redemtive schema and shows lots of evidence for it. It's a very compelling lecture.

Yes. That is largely where I learned this. I'm just curious to here from some interaction with it before I jump onto the reform the OT canon boat :)
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Let me try this. Bahnsen wrote: "So then, trusting Christ's promise that He would indeed build His church, and being confident in the controlling sovereignty of God, we can be assured the God-ordained recognition of the canon would be providentially accomplished -- which, in retrospect, is now a matter of historical record."

How does someone seeking to recognize the paramaters of the canon know that the books with the promises Bahnsen refers to are scripture?
What is an answer to this? I think understanding this would be helpful in understanding how to use the historical argument Bahnsen mentions.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
Let me try this. Bahnsen wrote: "So then, trusting Christ's promise that He would indeed build His church, and being confident in the controlling sovereignty of God, we can be assured the God-ordained recognition of the canon would be providentially accomplished -- which, in retrospect, is now a matter of historical record."

How does someone seeking to recognize the paramaters of the canon know that the books with the promises Bahnsen refers to are scripture?
What is an answer to this? I think understanding this would be helpful in understanding how to use the historical argument Bahnsen mentions.
As for myself, I attempted no answer because I'm uncertain that I have a precise "feel" for what you're asking, and I don't want to be presumptuous.

Practically speaking, I understand Bahnsen to be saying that there is no need for one to engage in such a recognition presently, because it has already been accomplished providentially.

DTK
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Practically speaking, I understand Bahnsen to be saying that there is no need for one to engage in such a recognition presently, because it has already been accomplished providentially.
That is what I understand him to be saying too. He bases this conclusion in part on the promises of Christ. The canonical scriptures are the source of his knowledge about the promises of Christ. So, in order for this argument to work, doesn't one already have to know which scriptures are canonical?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
Practically speaking, I understand Bahnsen to be saying that there is no need for one to engage in such a recognition presently, because it has already been accomplished providentially.
That is what I understand him to be saying too. He bases this conclusion in part on the promises of Christ. The canonical scriptures are the source of his knowledge about the promises of Christ. So, in order for this argument to work, doesn't one already have to know which scriptures are canonical?

The short answer to your question is yes, which then takes us back to a question, the answer of which has been historically affirmed by both patristic and reformed sources, viz., that Holy Scripture is auvto,pistoj, i.e., that Scripture is "trustworthy in and of itself" or self-authenticating. Richard Muller defines the term for us...
autopistos (auvto,pistoj): trustworthy in and of itself; specifically, a term used by the Protestant scholastics to denote the self-authenticating character of scriptural authority. Autopistos is often paired with axiopistos (avxio,pistoj), meaning simply "œtrustworthy." If Scripture is trustworthy in and of itself (in se and per se), no external authority, whether church or tradition, need be invoked in order to ratify Scripture as the norm of faith and practice. The use of autopistos as an attribute of Scripture figured importantly in the Protestant orthodox debate with Rome and the Roman Catholic concept of the church´s magisterium. Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), p. 54.
I think that our experience today is similar to an experience that we find in Holy Scripture. After being confronted by Christ, the woman of Samaria (John 4) returns to her city, bearing witness to him:

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "˜He told me all that I ever did.´ So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, "˜Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world´ (John 4:39"“42).

Though it was the woman´s witness which intially induced belief in Christ (and though in our case we exchange the testimony of the woman for that of the church), nonetheless, the confirmation of their faith rested finally in the testimony of Christ´s own word. While the woman´s witness was true and sufficiently credible to move the inhabitants of the city, it does not follow that she became the infallible bulwark of their subsequent faith. They came to trust, not in her word, but Christ´s. Answering the argument proposed by the Roman apologist Stapleton, William Whitaker replied, "˜The church does indeed deliver that rule [i.e. the Scriptures], not as its author, but as a witness, and an admonisher, and a minister.´ This is what Scripture means when it speaks of the Church as "˜the pillar and support of the truth´ (1 Tim. 3:15). The Church´s role is to be a support to the truth by faithfully holding forth the message and authority of the written Scriptures. It is not independent of, or above Scripture, but beneath it. Oberman has commented that "The moving authority of the Church becomes in late medieval versions the Church´s approval or creation of Holy Scripture." He notes that "the lonely voice of the fourteenth"“century Augustinian, Gregory of Rimini (d. 1358), protesting that Augustine meant merely a practical priority of the Church over Scripture, went unheard."

After all, what Christian would dispute that the Church has been granted divine authority under God to preach the Scriptures, and to proclaim the Gospel of Christ as he is freely offered in Holy Scripture (Matt. 28:18"“20; Acts 1:8)? But Calvin´s emphasis on the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, as the means by which believers come to recognize and embrace the divine authority of the inscripturated Gospel, has been echoed by all the Reformed since.

Faith comes (as you know very well Scott), not by the Church as the origin of faith, but by hearing the word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 10:17). There is something efficacious about the inscripturated word of God itself that will never convince any skeptic or Roman Catholic apart from the Spirit's work of imparting life and light. Thus, said the Apostle Paul concerning the faith of the Thessalonians:
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thess. 2:13).
He had occasion to remind the Corinthians that his speech and his preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your (their) faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:4"“5).

Now, I think that all of this does have relevance as to how we recognize the canon of Holy Scripture. Bahnsen elsewhere addresses your question in this manner...
Who is in an authoritative position to say [i.e., what books belong to the canon of Scripture]? The answer is that only God could tell us reliably and authoritatively what qualities mark out His word as really His. But where would God say this? If some document purported to be God´s word answering this crucial question, what adequate evidence could man have that this second message is a divine message to us? At some point, the message claiming to be from God would have to be at the first point. Thus, only God is adequate to bear witness to Himself or to authorize His own words. As Heb. 6:13 teaches, God can swear by nothing greater than Himself, in which case His word can be truly authorized only by His own word. God´s word is the ultimate authority, and as such it can be authorized only by itself. Thus the (Westminster) Confession rightly says: "˜The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth . . . wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the word of God´ (1.4). The fundamental evidence that Scripture is the word of God is its own testimony to that effect. Greg Bahnsen, Van Til´s Apologetic: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998), pp. 199"“200.
That's why I would answer your skeptic, as I stated before...
"Sir, your question/objection presupposes God could not possibly communicate to His creatures without first providing a canonical norm at each point of utterance in redemptive history. The canon itself is a phenomenon of qeo,pneustoj, i.e., a byproduct (or artifact) of revelation, not an object of revelation itself."

DTK
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Thanks. What are some practical uses of Bahnsen's argument on the historical development of the canon?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
Thanks. What are some practical uses of Bahnsen's argument on the historical development of the canon?
The most practical use that comes to my mind is that believers have no sound reason for being disturbed over how the various books of the Bible came to be included in the canon of Holy Scripture under the providence of God. The Hebrew canon was bequeathed to the NT Church by the Jews (Romans 3:2); and though there was a certain period involved before the permanent recognition of the NT canon can be identified in history, we know that there was a functioning recognition of a NT canon before the end of the 2nd century...
Bruce Metzger: The Gospels are indeed not alone in being joined to the Old Testament as holy Scripture. Once (III. xii. 12) Irenaeus plainly reckons the Pauline Epistles [as did Peter in his 2nd Epistle] along with the Gospel according to Luke as "˜the Scriptures´ and emphatically applies (III. xiii. 9) to the Acts of the Apostles the designation "˜Scripture´. In view of such expressions one is not surprised that in I. iii. 6 [of Irenaeus´ Against Heresies] he places "˜the writings of the evangelists and the apostles´ on a par with "˜the law and the prophets´. Nor does the fact that he never cites Pauline passages with the formula "˜it is written´ come into consideration, for he prefers to use for New Testament writings the more intimate formula, "˜John says...´, "˜Paul teaches...´, so that even the evangelists are only twice introduced with "˜it is written´ (II. xxii. 3 and xxx. 2). ...
By way of summary, in Irenaeus we have evidence that by the year 180 in southern France a three-part New Testament of about twenty-two books was known. The total number will vary depending on whether or not we include Philemon (as we probably should) and Hermas (somewhat doubtfully). Even more important than the number of books is the fact that Irenaeus had a clearly defined collection of apostolic books that he regarded as equal in significance to the Old Testament. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, third, enlarged ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 155-156.
As Warfield pointed out...
The early churches, in short, received, as we receive, into the New Testament all the books historically evinced to them as given by the apostles to the churches as their code of law; and we must not mistake the historical evidences of the slow circulation and authentication of these books over the widely-extended church, evidence of slowness of the "canonization" of these books by the authority or taste of the church itself. See B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1970), p. 416.
I find it interesting that, in one of his sermons, Augustine ascribed the establishment of the canon of Holy Scripture to the activity of the Holy Spirit for (rather than by) the church...
Augustine (354-430): Let us treat scripture like scripture, like God speaking; don´t let´s look there for man going wrong. It is not for nothing, you see, that the canon has been established for the Church. This is the function of the Holy Spirit. So if anybody reads my book, let him pass judgment on me. If I have said something reasonable, let him follow, not me, but reason itself; if I´ve proved it by the clearest divine testimony, let him follow, not me, but the divine scripture. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Part 3, Vol. 11, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P., Newly Discovered Sermons, Sermon 162C.15 (New York: New City Press, 1997), p. 176.
Now it is true that Augustine's OT canon included the apocrypha (though at least, in one place, he seemed to treat those books as part of the canon in a lesser sense), but nonetheless, at any rate, he appeared to have understood that this was something which was to be ascribed to the providence of God in history, rather than by dogmatic pronouncement of the church.

DTK
 
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