Saturday, October 27, 2018

THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON: Human Invention or Divine Gift?

In the fall of 2018 I did a presentation on the New Testament Canon (which was a revision of a presentation I did in March 2014). We were not able to cover in 2 hours all the material that I had prepared at that time, and I have more now. Someday I would like to write a series of articles or perhaps a book on this topic. 

But in the mean time, I am leaving my presentation resources and a list of resources below. Below that you will find my notes to the presentations that I did. The notes are far from complete, but you may find them helpful.

I.  Resources from my presentation on the New Testament canon
II. RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY on the New Testament canon
    A. GENERAL RESOURCES on the Formation of the New Testament Canon
    B. PSEUDONYMITY: Are any New Testament books falsely attributed to apostles?
        1. The Gospels
        2. The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus)
        3. 1st & 2nd Peter
        4. General Resources on the alleged pseudonymity in the New Testament
    C. REJECTED BOOKS: Why did other "gospels" not make it into the canon?
III. NOTES from my presentation on the New Testament canon (incomplete)

I. RESOURCES from my presentation:
"THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON: Human Invention or Divine Gift?":
(NOTE: These may be printed and distributed in their unaltered form for non-profit use.)

*The outline of my presentation used as handouts
*PowerPoint slides for my presentation
*A Chart on Early Canon Lists to 240 AD
*Flow Chart: "Who Are The Apostolic Fathers & What Did They Recognize as Scripture?"
*Confirmation of New Testament Books


A. General Resources on the Formation of the New Testament Canon

*Kruger, Michael. "How Did the New Testament Canon Develop?(3 minutes)
*Kruger, Michael. "Why You Can Rely on The Canon" (9 minutes)
*"James White & Michael Kruger on the Biblical Canon" (60 minutes)
*An excellent series of short videos on the New Testament Canon by top experts like Darrell Bock and Dan Wallace being interviewed on the John Ankerberg Show.
*Blomberg, Craig. "The Formation of the New Testament Canon" (38 minutes)
*Various. "Why We Trust Our Bible." A series of 37 lectures by top experts in their areas: "The uniqueness and authority of the Bible are always under attack. Professors and writers are claiming that Jesus never existed, Jesus never claimed to be God, the early church changed the basic preaching of Jesus, books were left out of the Bible, the copies of the Bible that have come down through the centuries are hopelessly corrupt, and how can you trust your translation where there are so many? This class walks you through the process of how we received our Bible and why we can trust it. Dr. Darrell Bock discusses the life of Jesus in lectures 1-5. Dr. Craig Blomberg discusses the reliability of the Bible in lectures 6-11. Dr. Michael Kruger discusses the process of formation of the New Testament Canon in lectures 12-21. Dr. Dan Wallace discusses issues relating to manuscripts and textual criticism in lectures 22-27. Dr. Bill Mounce discusses the philosophies and process of translation in lectures 28-32. Dr. John Piper discusses the content, cohesiveness, scope and power of the Bible in lectures 33-37."

Online Course
*Kruger, Michael J. "The Origins of the New Testament Canon" (4 sessions)

*Kruger, Michael. “Canon Fodder

*Davis, Glenn. “The Development of the Canon of the New Testament.” And don't miss his "Links to Other Sites" which provides many resources not in my list.
*Compilation of "Ancient Canon Lists" with dating and texts

 Articles (Online and Free)
**Cooper, Brad. "Why 1 Timothy Was Written No Later Than 55 AD & Why That Matters"
*Bruce, F.F. "The Canon of the New Testament" (Chapter 3 of Bruce's classic book, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?)
*Pratte, David E. "The Authority of the Apostles' Teaching"
*Hill, Charles E. "The New Testament Canon: Destructio Ad Absurdum?"
*Donner, Theo. "Some Thoughts on the History of the New Testament Canon"
*Leasure, Ryan. "Did We Really Not Have a New Testament Canon Till the Fourth Century?"
*Richards, E. Randolph. "The Codex and the Early Collection of Paul's Letters"
*Miller, Glenn. A series of technical articles on Clement of Rome's use of the New Testament. Part 2. Part 3.

Booklets and Book Chapters
*"The Canon of the New Testament: how and when formed" by  B.B. Warfield (1892), 12 pages. FREE! Also, here.
*McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence That Demands A Verdict (2017 edition). Chapter 2: "How We Got The Bible" is an excellent overview of this issue.

*Kruger, Michael. Canon Revisited. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2012)
*Kruger, Michael. The Question of Canon (2013)
*Kruger, Michael. The Heresy of Orthodoxy (2010)
*Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture (1988)
*Metzger, Bruce. The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (1987)
*Geisler, Norman and Shawn Nelson. Evidence of an Early New Testament Canon. (2015)
*Hill, C.E. Who Chose The Gospels?
*Tregelles, Samuel Prideux. The Historic Evidence of The Authorship and Transmission of the Books of the New Testament. (London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1881). Available for FREE at Internet Archive.
*Charteris, Archibald Hamilton. Canonicity: A Collection of Early Testimonies to the Canonical Books of the New Testament. (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1880). Available for FREE!
*Westcott, B.F. A General Survey of the Historicity of the Canon of the New Testament. (London: Macmillan and Company, 1875). Available for FREE!
*Gamble, Harry A. The New Testament Canon: The Making and Meaning. A concise and helpful overview of the scholarly issues. A somewhat different perspective than mine, but by a top notch scholar in this field.
*McDonald, Lee Martin and James A. Sanders, editors. The Canon Debate. A large volume filled with essays of top notch scholars--though almost all of them are liberals and not conservatives (and none of the more important evangelical scholars who have done so much work in this field), so they are leaning strongly towards showing that the Bible is a human invention rather than a divine gift. So the title is quite misleading, but it is a great resource for a more in depth scholarly look at this subject.
*Gallagher, Edmon L. and John D. Meade. The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis. The authors' conclusions may be different than mine, but this is an excellent resource.
*Harnack, Adolf. The Origin of the New Testament. (1925). A formative thinker in the Liberal movement and driven by a liberal agenda yet a great historian from which many things can be gleaned if one uses discernment. It also gives one an understanding of where much of liberal ideas about the canon came from. Sadly, his agenda causes him to miss certain things in the New Testament and early church history that causes him to make serious errors. 
*Alexander, Archibald. The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained. (1851)
*Souter, Alexander. The Text and Canon of the New Testament. (1913)
*Beckwith, Roger. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church: and its Background in Early Judaism

B. PSEUDONYMITY: Are any New Testament books falsely attributed to apostles?

1. The Gospels
*McGrew, Timothy. "Who Wrote the Gospels?" (Audio and Video plus resources)
*Pitre, Brant. The Case for Jesus. (Chapters 2-4) This is the most thorough argument for the authenticity of the four canonical Gospels that I have seen.
*Tischendorf, Constantine von. Origin of the Four Gospels. (1867) FREE! (287 pages) Tischendorf is the great 19th Century scholar who discovered the Codex Sinaiticus.
*Hill, C.E. Who Chose The Gospels? (308 pages)

2. Pastoral Epistle
*Cooper, Brad. "Who Wrote the Pastoral Epistles?" (An extensive article followed by a load of resources for further investigation)

3. 1st & 2nd Peter
The only real cause of doubt raised by critics concerning the authenticity of the letters of Peter focuses on the difference in language and style. But it should be noted that very early church fathers recorded that Mark was Peter's interpreter. It seems most likely that the explanation for this is that this fisherman from Galilee did not speak fluent Greek but was only fluent in Aramaic. That being the case, it should not be surprising that the two letters bearing his name are so different. They quite apparently were taken down and translated by two very different men.

*Kruger, Michael. "The Authenticity of 2 Peter"
*Warfield, B.B. "The Canonicity of Second Peter"
*Miller, Glenn. "Question...are 1st and 2nd Peter NOT by Peter, but by someone using his name?"
*Zahn, Theodor. "The Genuineness of Jude and The Two Epistles of Peter" (pdf file) excerpted from Introduction to the New Testament (1917, Revised 2nd Edition: "Three Volumes in One"), Volume 2, p..262-293.
*Richards, E. Randolph. "Will the Real Author Please Stand Up?: The Author in Greco-Roman Letter Writing." (Chapter 8, p. 113-136 in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics, edited by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig). An excellent article on the authenticity of the New Testament letters, especially the pastorals and the letters of Peter.

4. Other Resources for Accusations of Pseudonymity
*Taylor, Justin. "Pseudonymity and the NT" (excellent brief article)
*Guthrie, Donald. "The Development of the Idea of Canonical Pseudopigraphy in New Testament Criticism" and "Dilemmas in New Testament Criticism" (excellent articles)
*Brown, Douglas E. "Pseudonymity and The New Testament" (article)
*Wilder, Terry. "Does the Bible Contain Forgeries?" Chapter 7 (Kindle Location 3636) of In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture, edited by Steven Cowan and Terry Wilder
*Darrell Bock responds to Bart Ehrman.
*Witherington's series of reviews of Bart Ehrman's book Forged.
*Mike Licona's review of Bart Ehrman's book Forged(You have to click the link, then it downloads as a pdf.)
*Carson, D. A.; Moo, Douglas J.  An Introduction to the New Testament. (2009) Zondervan. My first go-to reference for these kinds of questions is Carson and Moo's Introduction to the New Testament. I've been using it for about 20 years now and I have never been disappointed. These guys are solid in theology and scholarship.
*Carson, D.A. "Pseudonymity and Pseudepigraphy" in the IVP Dictionary of New Testament Background, p.857-64. Carson is one of the greatest New Testament scholars of the past 40 years.
*Wilder, Terry. Pseudonymity, The New Testament and Deception: An Inquiry into Intention and Reception. (Note: As the one used copy is an astronomical price, you may want to borrow this one from a library.)
*Zahn, Theodor. Introduction to the New Testament (1917, Revised 2nd Edition: "Three Volumes in One"). Zahn was one of the great New Testament scholars of the early 20th Century. FREE!

C. REJECTED BOOKS: Why did other "Gospels" not make it into the New Testament canon?
*Cooper, Brad. "So-Called Lost Gospels" (Brief article & links to tons of resources)


2ND ED. (2018)


A. The DaVinci Code quote and its origins in The Lost Books of the Bible (SHOW BOOK)....The Forbidden Gospels and Epistles.... the Hancock's "The Suppressed Gospels and Epistles of the original New Testament of Jesus the Christ  (1863)"
....Which is a reprint of William Hone's Apocryphal New Testament (1821) with an introduction by Edward Hancock. Hone utilized translations by William Wake (for the Apostolic Fathers) and Jeremiah Jones (for the New Testament Apocrypha).
....NAG HAMMADI (1945)
B. The Effect of the DaVinci Code....
C. The Other Danger of the DaVinci Code....Makes liberal/mainstream views seem moderate or even conservative by comparison.
D. How many Gospels? 80? How about 12 pretenders. (MEYER BOOK)
E. Three quick points:
i. The Council of Nicea did not discuss the NT canon
ii. During the "Great Persecution" under Diocletian's reign, the persecution began by razing churches and burning the Christian Scriptures in 303 (22 years before Nicea).
iii. There is much evidence for a general consensus about the canon long before this time....which we will begin to explore in our time tonight.

A. The Mainstream View Is...
B. The Problems:
i. What the letter and councils actually say....confirm and do not decide
ii. Do bishops and church councils actually have the authority to decide what the canon should be?
iii. The Presence of earlier canon lists and other indicators of a New Testament canon: And what about the "disputed books"?
iv. How should the canon be determined? Who actually has the authority to determine the canon? What are we even looking for in a New Testament canon?

A. Jesus is the mediator of the New Testament (Covenant)
B. Jesus gave his authority to the apostles:
-Qualifications of an apostle
C. Did the apostles know they were writing Scripture?


1ST EDITION (2014):


1. Is the New Testament we have now the books God wanted us to have? 
*If these are the books that we depend on to know who God is and how we can be assured of forgiveness and eternal life, how do we know we have the right books? 
*Are there books missing from our canon?....Are some of the books in our canon forgeries? 
*Are the books we have now simply the result of early church politics? Or even Constantine's sanction? 
In recent years, there have been a large number of skeptics who have been raising these kinds of questions and challenges to the Biblical canon. The leading sources of this skepticism would probably be Bart Ehrman and Dan Brown's book and movie, The Davinci Code.
2. Bart Ehrman: Lost Christianities, Forged, etc.: 
3. The Davinci Code: "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion....The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine the Great....Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The earlier gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned....The modern Bible was compiled and edited by men who possessed a political agenda...."
4. The Council of Nicea (325 A.D.)....
a. NOT about the Biblical canon. Decided on 20 different matters of "canon law" (that is, church rules), but none of them had to do with what books would be considered Scripture. (Perhaps the term "canon law" is where the confusion about this comes from.)
b. The two major issues decided on at Nicea concerned Arianism and when to celebrate Easter. BTW, if the church prior to this time did not have the political power to solve a minor issue like when to celebrate Easter (which had been an issue for at least 150 years before Constantine's time), then how would they ever enforce something like the canon.
*NOTE: "Scholars disagree about the controversy's details. They do agree that its arguments revolved around whether the primary Christian spring festival should happen on Nisan 14 (the Passover day) or annually on a Sunday."
"The controversy involved three events: the controversy between Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, and Anicetus, the bishop of Rome, that occurred around a.d. 155; the more heated controversy between Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus, and Victor, the bishop of Rome, that broke out around 195; and the decree of Constantine following the Nicene Council in 325."
**FROM the online article "The Passover-Easter-Quartodeciman Controversy" by Ralph Orr at:
c. So far as we know, NO ecumenical/universal council of the early church EVER ruled on what books belonged in the Bible. (There were rulings at local councils, but not universal councils. And none of these local councils were held during the time of Constantine.) Rather, the evidence shows that the early Church received and passed on those books that they knew were written by or under the authority of the apostles.

Before getting into the historical evidence for the New Testament canon, let's take a quick look at the way most Christians come to know and trust that the Bible contains the books that God wanted us to have. Most Christians do not even question the New Testament canon:
*They trust the judgment of their church leaders. 
*They sense the witness of the Spirit to their spirits when they read the Scripture that it is indeed the Word of God. 
*They see within the pages of the Bible many things that confirm that it is given by God--among other things: 
a. the fulfillment of so many detailed prophecies, 
b. the amazing unity of 66 books that have been written by over 40 different human authors over the course of about 1400+ years, 
c. its accurate prescriptions for life, and 
d. what J.B. Phillips calls: "the ring of truth"). 
Things that set it apart from all other books. 
And finally, they note within its pages the promises that it will endure as long as heaven and earth; and they trust God's power and sovereignty to fulfill those promises and preserve his Word for the sake of his people. 
1. The Spirit's Witness: "The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice." (John 10:2-5; see also 10:1-16, 25-27)
2. The Declarations of Scripture: 
"Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens....Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever." (Psalm 119:89, 152)
"For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18)
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Luke 21:33)
3. God's Sovereignty: Let me give you a brief outline for a cumulative argument by which we can come to trust the authenticity of the Biblical canon, even apart from the historical evidences. Theistic proofs prove God's existence. Creation--and especially the way we are made--give us good reason to expect that our Creator would desire to communicate with us. As already noted, the Bible is unique among the writings of the world in giving us good reason to believe that it is from our Creator. Messianic prophecies and Christ's death and resurrection (as the first among many other things) prove that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be: God. Jesus' recognition of the OT and authorization of his apostles further ensures that the Bible is God's Word. And in light of the declarations of Scripture that it is eternal, God's sovereingnty guarantees the canon.
4. What I hope to do today is not so much to prove that our New Testament canon is the correct one. Rather it will be to show that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of this verdict and that such evidence is consistent with what we believe concerning God's sovereignty and the canon.

1. 2 Peter 3:15-16: Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
a. "as they do the other Scriptures": So the apostle Peter considers Paul's letters to be  Scripture.
b. "in ALL his letters" (collection of Paul's letters)
c. in public circulation: Peter assumes his readers know about "ALL his letters" and     even the ignorant and unstable have access to them
d. According to Paul's own words in 1 Cor. 15:9, Paul is "the least of the apostles", so if Peter calls Paul's letters Scripture, then the writings of the other apostles would certainly have no lesser status.
2. 1 Timothy 5:18: 
a. "the Scripture says"....Q: Where does the Scripture say this? (Deut. 25:4; Lk. 10:7)
b. The Greek of this verse is nearly identical to the Greek in Luke 10:7 (vs. Mt. 10:10)
c. Paul's use of Luke: Compared to Matthew and Mark (John was not yet written), Paul only cites Luke. And he alludes to teaching distinctive to Luke more than to the others--including alluding to Luke 10: 7 in 1 Cor. 9:9, 14.

1. OT Canon established in First Century Judaism 
*Jesus and the apostles were Jews. So the NT Church already had a canon of Scripture, right?...which was what?
*Q: And why do we call it the Old Testament?
*See chapter 16 of In Defense of The Bible by Paul Wegner, et al
2. 2 Corinthians 3:14 & "Ministers of the New Covenant" (3:6)
*2 Cor. 3:14: ".... to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read."
*2 Cor. 3:6: "God  has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant...."
*Also see Hebrews (chapters 7-10)

*Eph 2:20: "....built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone" (see also: Galatians 2:9; Revelation 21:14)
*Who are the apostles? (The Twelve and others: 1 Cor. 15:3-9)
1. Eyewitnesses of Jesus' Ministry, Death and Resurrection 
    *When declaring the need to replace Judas Iscariot to restore the full number of the Twelve, Peter said: "Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22; see also Mark 3:13-14; Luke 24:46-48; John 15:27; Acts 1:9; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:1-8)
2. Sent Out with Jesus' Own Authority
     *"Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me." (Matthew 10:40; see also Mk. 3:13-15; Mt. 10:14, 20; John 13:20; 14:26; 15:20; 17:18; 20:21)
     *"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:12-15)
       *The apostles understood the authority that had been given to them:  1 Cor. 7:12; 14:37; 2 Cor. 10:8; 13:20;                           1 Thess. 2:4, 6, 13; 4:2, 8; 2 Thess. 2:15; 3:14; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Peter 3:2, 16; Heb. 2:2-3; Rev. 1:1-3; 22:18-19
3. Confirmed Through Miraculous Signs
*2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 10:1,7-8; Mark 3:13-15; Mark 3:13-15; Heb. 2:3-4
*The apostles' words carry the weight of Jesus' own authority; therefore, their written words     must be Scripture.
[Others who are apostles: 1 Cor. 15:1-9; Acts 14:14; Rom. 16:7?; 1 Cor. 9:5-6]

*We can see that the New Testament called the Gospels and the writings of the apostles Scripture. But we can also see that they considered them to be Scripture by the way they used them. We have already seen that they cited (quoted authoritatively) them. But there is another very important evidence that they considered them to be Scripture: they read them in public worship.
*"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (1 Tim. 4:13)
*The Muratorian Fragment: “But Hermas wrote the Shepherd very recently, in our times, in the city of Rome, while bishop Pius, his brother, was occupying the [episcopal] chair of the church of the city of Rome. And therefore it ought indeed to be read; but it cannot be read publicly to the people in church either among the Prophets, whose number is complete, or among the Apostles, for it is after [their] time.” 

*Luke 4:17-20; Acts 13:15; 1 Tim. 4:13; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 2 Cor. 10:9; Rev. 1:3


*Okay....So the apostles' writings are Scripture, but how can we be sure that what we have are the apostles' writings? (Again: God's Providence and the witness of the Spirit....but    there is more!).....>>>
*Q: How many of you like to watch Antiques Roadshow or American Pickers....? (Provenance)
*Q: Who are the apostolic fathers?
*Q: And what is apostolic succession?: Tertullian (c.200):
"But if there be any [heresies] which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning, in such a manner that that bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men,—a man, moreover, who continued stedfast with the apostles. For this is the manner in which the apostolic churches transmit their registers: as the church of Smyrna, which records that Polycarp was placed therein by John; as also the church of Rome, which makes Clement to have been ordained in like manner by Peter. In exactly the same way the other churches likewise exhibit, whom, as having been appointed to their episcopal places by apostles, they regard as transmitters of the apostolic seed." ("The Prescription Against Heresies, chapter 32; Coxe, Cleveland. Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3:258)
As Peter Holmes (the translator of this section of the Ante-Nicene Fathers) remarks in the footnote: "Our author had seen these registers, no doubt."
1. Clement of Rome: (handout)
2. Papias of Hierapolis, Polycarp of Smyrna & Ignatius of Antioch (handout)
3. Didache:  Cites Matthew and says it is contained in a gospel....
"Do not abandon the commandments of the Lord but keep what you have received, neither adding to them or taking away."
Deut. 4:2: "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.
6. Frequency of citation: The apostolic fathers cite the New Testament between 5 and 50 times more than the Old Testament....and they almost never cite apocryphal works. (Kruger, Canon Revisited, Kindle location 6198-6214)



*Tertullian (c.200) remarks that Marcion used a knife instead of a pen

*"Disputed" books, missionary strategy (Wycliffe Translators, Gideon NTs, the Gospel of John), & the snobbery of the underprivileged
*Ireneaus & Polycarp



*See Chapter 7 of Canon Revisited by Michael Kruger or Kruger's online lecture "The Artifact of Canon"

*Let me give you a couple of highlights to give you some idea what kind of MS evidence we have:

1. We have a MS that dates from c.250 (the Chester Beatty papyrus: P45) which contains Mt-Acts. Going back a little earlier (c. 175-225), we have P75 (Luke & John).... And a little earlier yet (c.175-200), we hae P64 & P67 (Mt) and P4 (Luke) which were probably originally bound together in the same codex (book). What we never have is one of the canonical gospels being bound together into a codex with an apocryphal gospel. (Kruger, Canon Revisited, Kindle location 7118-7158)


2. 2nd/3rd Cent. MSS of our NT books outnumber apocryphal books almost 4:1. We have more MSS of the Gospel of John than all apocryphal books put together. (Kruger, Canon Revisited, Kindle location 7088-7090)

*There is much much more, but most of it is very involved.



The evidence from the New Testament, the apostolic fathers, the sub-apostolic fathers, ancient canon lists, and early manuscripts all agree in confirming that the New Testament we have is the one that God intended us to have and that the politics of Constantine (or anyone else) were not a force in determining which books are in the New Testament canon that we uphold as God's Word today.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Luke Was Almost Certainly the Amanuensis (Secretary) for the Pastoral Letters

While listening to a lecture by Ben Witherington, I noted that about the 16 minute mark, he makes the observation that a close study makes it nearly certain that Luke was the secretary behind the pastoral epistles. He notes that there are about 50 words that are used only in the pastoral letters and Luke-Acts and nowhere else in the New Testament. And that there are 7 or 8 distinct phrases that are shared only by the pastoral letters and Luke-Acts. He also notes that in 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul says: "Only Luke is with me." So the obvious conclusion is that Luke must be the secretary for 2 Timothy and also the other pastorals (as Paul always uses a secretary). The great New Testament scholar C. F. D. Moule put it this way: “Luke wrote all three Pastoral Epistles. But he wrote them during Paul’s lifetime, at Paul’s behest, and in part (but only in part), at Paul’s dictation.” [p. 434 of Moule's essay “The Problem of the Pastoral Epistles: A Reappraisal,” Bulletin of John Rylands Library 47 (1965)].

Resources for Luke's relationship to the pastoral letters:
*"Luke and the Pastoral Epistles" by Sean at the Initial Explorations blog
*"Luke and the Pastoral Epistles": Excursus 2 of The Birth of the New Testament by C.F.D. Moule
*For info on how Paul used a secretary for all of his letters, see my article: "Who Wrote the Pastoral Epistles?"

So How Can We Know That 1 Timothy Was Written No Later Than 55 AD?

With that in mind, let's consider 1 Timothy: Based on the vocabulary of 1 Timothy, it seems that Luke was Paul's scribe, which would make the "we" passages of Acts the most likely time of writing (Acts 16:10–17; 20:5–15; 21:1–8; 27:1–28:16). That makes three periods most likely for Luke to have been involved in the writing of 1 Timothy. (Note: The "we" passages in the book of Acts are passages where Luke writes in the first person plural, saying "we" did this or that.)

Which of the Three Points in Paul's Ministry When Luke Is With Him Fits 1 Timothy?
So let's take a look at the two earlier options, Acts 16:10-17 (c.49-52AD) or 
Acts 20:5-15 (c.52-55AD):

What about the first option, Acts 16:10-17 (c.49-52AD)?:

As 1 Timothy 1:3 reveals, Paul is probably writing from Macedonia (or at least he has been in Macedonia recently). In Acts 16:12, Luke is with Paul at Phillipi ("the leading city of that region of Macedonia"). Maps of Paul's 2nd missionary journey do not include Ephesus because the Holy Spirit kept them from entering Asia (Acts 16:6). But perhaps after they went to Troas, Paul sent Timothy on down to Ephesus in order to keep with their original intentions: “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36).

Perhaps Paul caught wind of the trouble there: "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith" (1 Timothy 1:3-4). And perhaps his response was to send Timothy at once since the Holy Spirit was leading them into Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). This would make good sense of 1 Timothy 1:3, which is more literally: "Just as I urged you to remain in Ephesus--as I was departing for Macedonia--in order to instruct certain men not to teach heresy."

This seems like a possible option but highly unlikely, because (a) Timothy appears to be with Paul during Acts 16:10-17 and leaves for Macedonia after this period (Acts 17:14-15); (b) he is probably too new to Paul's ministry to be suddenly sent off by himself (joining Paul only in 16:1); (c) he is with Silas when he does leave Paul and appears to be with Silas (Paul's seasoned ministry partner) the whole time (though it is not certain, but see Acts 17:14-15; 18:5), which coincides with "(b)" and also would mean that any letters would have been written to both Silas and Timothy (or just to Silas).

The second option, Acts 20:5-15 (c.52-55AD), seems much more likely:

(a) Timothy is with Paul when Paul decides to go back through Macedonia himself (Acts 20:3-4). Again remember: 1 Timothy 1:3 reveals that Paul is probably writing from Macedonia (or at least he has been in Macedonia recently) (b) Paul makes a decision to avoid going back to Ephesus because of time constraints (Acts 20:16). (c) The elders of Ephesus have been appointed by this point in time, as Paul sends for them to meet him (perhaps as newly established elders; see Acts 20:17). (d) This is a period of time when Timothy is being sent off on his own to help with established churches (e.g., 1 Corinthians 16:10-11, which we will see has yet further implications here).

What about the usually accepted third option?:

Acts 27:1-28:16 has long been the time period during which 1 Timothy has been placed--the early 60s. But this does not make good sense. Here are some serious problems with that view:

(1) Timothy begins his ministry with Paul in Acts 16:1 on Paul's Second Missionary Journey (c.49 AD). So if 1 Timothy was written in the 60s, why would Paul tell him: "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,...." (4:12)? Would Timothy still be thought of as young 12 to 15 years later? By the early 60s he would surely be at least somewhere close to 30 years old (which is how old Jesus was when he began his ministry, see Luke 3:23).

On the contrary, such a statement clearly fits the context of Timothy's early years as Paul's ministry partner. As John A.T. Robinson notes about 1 Corinthians (written c.54 AD): "Earlier that same year he had felt it necessary to say to the Corinthians: 'If Timothy comes, see that you put him at his ease; for it is the Lord's work that he is engaged upon, as I am myself; so no one must slight him. Send him happily on his way to join me, since I am waiting for him with our friends' (1 Cor. 16.10f). Now he writes to his protege in very similar terms: 'Let no one slight you because you are young, but make yourself an example to believers in speech and behaviour, in love, fidelity, and purity. Until I arrive...make these matters your business and  your absorbing interest, so that our progress may be plain to all' (1 Tim. 4.11-15). It is not difficult to believe that these words were written six months apart." (emphases mine; p.83, J.A.T. Robinson. Redating the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1976, 2000) [Note: The word "slight" in these passages is a translation of two different Greek words that both have very similar meaning.]

(2) Secondly, why would anyone be looking down on Timothy in the early 60s? By then, he would be a very well established and well known part of Paul's team. This would be true not only because he would have been part of that team for over a decade. Even more than that he is mentioned in the letter to the Hebrews, to Philemon and 13 times in Paul's letters to the churches (that is in all but the letters to the Galatians and Ephesians). And we know that at least some of these letters were circulated among the churches at Paul's request (and probably all of Paul's letters to the churches). Colossians 4:16 is explicit about that. Galatians is not written to one church but to the churches of Galatia (1:2). And Ephesians is considered by many scholars to have been intended to be a circular letter. And as Paul's letters were considered to be Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16), it is more than likely that they were copied and circulated. And this would surely be true by the early 60s (which is very likely when 2 Peter was written), as Peter speaks of "all his [Paul's] letters" as if his readers would understand.

(3) Furthermore, he would be personally well known to the church at Ephesus, as he was with Paul on Paul's second missionary journey when they first went to Ephesus and spent more than two years there (see Acts 19:1-10).

(4) More than that, why would Paul be laying down the ground rules for selecting elders so late in the game--particularly at Ephesus? Elders had been selected at Ephesus in the early 50s, as can be seen by the fact that Paul meets with them in Acts 20:16-38.  

(5) After more than a decade of ministry with Paul, Timothy would certainly be well acquainted with how elders were to be selected and would hardly need for Paul to write a letter to him to explain it.

(6) Those who hold to this view have to imagine that Paul was released from prison and then went on yet another missionary journey for which we have no record. It does seem quite possible that Paul did make yet another journey; but the point is that it is completely hypothetical and we have nothing at all to indicate that it would have included Timothy at Ephesus or Paul in Macedonia.


The reason this is important is because Paul quotes the Gospel of Luke in 1 Timothy 5:18 and calls it "Scripture," which means two things: (1) it was already written down (as γραφή the Greek word for "Scripture" literally means "written") and (2) it was already considered to be an authoritative part of the Biblical Canon (as γραφή is always used as a technical term for the canon of Scripture)

And so....

(1) This establishes a date for the composition of Luke no later than 55 AD, putting it much closer to the recorded events and available eyewitnesses (cf. Luke 1:1-4).
(2) Since it is nearly universally agreed that the Gospel of Mark was one of the sources that Luke mentions in his prologue (1:1-4), this pushes the date of Mark to some time before 54 AD. And if Matthew is one of the other sources Luke mentions when he says: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us...." (1:1), then the same applies to Matthew.
(3) It clearly demonstrates that New Testament books were already beginning to be recognized as "Scripture" and therefore as part of the canon no later than 55 AD (contrary to the prevailing idea that they did not have the status of Scripture until much later). Or in the case of the Gospel of Luke, it immediately had the status of Scripture (which I will show in more detail in an upcoming article on the canon was in fact the case).

Additionally, the beautiful way that all of these facts from 1 Timothy, Acts and Paul's letters all fit-together-like-a-hand-in-a-glove join the myriad of facts that:

(4) Establish the authenticity of 1 Timothy as one of Paul's letters.
(5) Establish the historicity of Acts.

As John A.T. Robinson concludes after carefully comparing and merging the historical data from Acts and the Pauline letters in order to arrive at accurate dates for their composition: "The working assumption we made to trust Acts until proved otherwise has been very substantially vindicated. There is practically nothing in Luke's account that clashes with the Pauline evidence, and in the latter half of Acts the correspondences are remarkably close. Even in the speeches attributed to Paul, and especially those at which Luke can be presumed to have been present (Acts 20 and 22-25), there are parallels to suggest that they are far from purely free compositions. This conclusion must also be relevant as we turn now to consider how close in date Acts stands to the evets which it records."
p.85, J.A.T. Robinson. Redating the New Testament. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1976, 2000

Additionally, (6) this fits neatly with other evidence that I have been collecting over the last several years related to Paul's use of the Gospel of Luke in his letters.

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