Can the New Testament Canon be Defended? My Interview with Derek Thomas


Reformation 21, the website of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, just posted my interview with Derek Thomas on my new book, Canon Revisited.   I appreciate Derek’s invitation to do this interview–it was an interesting discussion on a number of important topics related to canon.

Here is an excerpt:

[DT] What are the most crucial issues relating to a conservative/reformed defense of the canon today?

[MK] I think one of the critical weaknesses in modern canonical studies is that Christians often have no theology of canon.  We have a lot of historical facts–anyone who has read the fine works of Metzger and Bruce will have plenty of patristic data to work with.  But, a pile of historical facts is not sufficient to authenticate these books.  We need a framework for understanding what the canon is, how God gave it, and what means God gave for believers to identify these books.  And those issues are inevitably derived from our theological beliefs.  Thus, the canon is ultimately a theological issue.  This does not mean that historical data play no role (it plays a very significant role), but that historical data is not self-interpreting.  When it comes to the canon question, theology and history need to be dialogical partners, not adversaries.

Read the whole thing here.


Can the New Testament Canon be Defended? My Interview with Derek Thomas — 36 Comments

  1. So regarding the self-authentication, let’s say the inspired books are self-authenticating. But Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have different OT canons than Protestants do. So the conclusion is that Catholics and EO are not listening to the Holy Spirit who self-authenticates the Protestant OT.

    Also, if the canon is self-authenticating, then why all the conflicting proposed canonical lists in the early Church? Why then did St. Augustine think the deuterocanonical books were inspired, as well as the Eastern Church? Etc. It seems unworkable. Thanks for any responses!

    • Thanks, Devin. Appreciate the comments. Your assumption is that a self-authenticating canon would always produce immediate, universal agreement, without exception. However, no advocates of a self-authenticating canon have argued for that. The self-authenticating approach simply argues that God’s people, as a corporate whole, will eventually recognize these books as from Him. This does not mean there will never be pockets of disagreement. When you look at the NT books, the church did reach a broad consensus on these books (and the limited amount of disagreement at certain points in the early church doesn’t change that). I would argue that the OT church, Israel, also had broad consensus about the OT books (note that Jesus’ disagreement with the Jews was never over which books were God’s), as did the early church. As to whether the Roman church’s later affirmation of the Apocrypha refutes the idea of a self-authenticating canon, that depends on whether Rome could be considered a true church at that point. And that is a discussion for another time… What I have noticed is that Catholic methodology tends to exaggerate the state of the canon in the early church and make it seem like it was a big mess (something that plays right into the hands of higher critical scholars). But, this Catholic tendency to exaggerate the disunity around the canon is designed, I think, to make it seem that there is no other choice but to turn to Rome.

      • Dear Michael,

        In noting that advocates of the self-authenticating canon theory have never argued that it will produce “immediate, universal agreement, without exception,” you made an interesting comment. You said: “The self-authenticating approach simply argues that God’s people, as a corporate whole, will eventually recognize these books as from Him.” Under this theory, what gives God’s people certainty that they, as a whole, have reached that eventuality? In other words, how would we know the answer to the question: “Are we there yet?” It seems that without an authoritative way to answer that question, under this theory God’s people are left uncertain as to whether they’ve worked out the correct canon.

        Your response to whether “the Roman church’s” acceptance of books not contained in the Protestant canon could refute the idea of a self-authenticating canon was also interesting. You answered that it “depends on whether Rome could be considered a true church.” This leads to circularity, of course, since your measure of whether Rome could be considered a true church would hinge on your interpretation of Scripture, but your defense of whether you’ve correctly identified Scripture hinges on Rome’s not being a true church.

        Peace in Christ,
        Tom B.

  2. Michael,

    Keep the Orthodox Churches in mind as well. They, too, failed to discern the true canon, even after 1500 years, erroneously including the deuterocanonical books in their Bible. Same with the Catholics. Protestants don’t come on the scene until the 1500s, so we have the situation that “God’s people” seemed to be in existence to discern the NT canon in the first few hundred years, then…the Church becomes corrupted/heretical for 1200 years…then God’s people make a comeback with Protestantism and the OT is finally discerned to the correct number of books. Is there another narrative that can fit your statements?

    I don’t think the canon’s discernment was a mess, but there was widespread disagreement about many books, even in the NT, so much so that Luther could say that he was excluding James, Jude, Hebrews, and Revelation because he found objectionable things in them–things that didn’t bear the “divine qualities” you mention–and also that they were not widely attested to as the others were. So enough disagreement existed such that the great Reformer Luther himself had no qualms in challenging the inspiration of four NT books (letting alone the seven deuteros).

    But why should we expect a correct/divinely-guided consensus on the canon but not on, say, baptismal regeneration? Or the veneration of saints, something done in the Church both East and West from early times? Or the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Why is it, in other words, that the Church (“God’s people”) was guided on the canon but not on any other issues? This is a question I’ve been asking for a long time, seeking an principled answer for.

    God bless,

    • Your recounting of the history of the church needs some serious reworking:
      1. You vastly overstate the supposed acceptance of the Apocrypha when you say the church has accepted it for 1200 years. The only codification of this in the 16th century at Trent. The early church quite clearly did not accept the Apocrypha, including Melito of Sardis, Origen, Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Hilary of Poitiers, Gregory of Nazianzus, Rufinus, and Jerome.
      2. You still haven’t explained whey the NT never cites the Apocrypha as Scripture. Ever.That doesn’t seem to fit with your belief that it was widely received.
      3. You appeal to Luther’s rejection of James as evidence of “widespread” disagreement. Luther’s view of James was by no means widespread–it was an isolated view during that time. What evidence is there that NT books were widely in dispute during the Reformation?
      4. You mentioned protestants don’t “come on the scene” until 1500. But, that is an irrelevant point. The question is when did Protestant ideas come about. Long before 1500, we would argue. Besides, there was certainly no Roman Catholicism, in any meaningful sense, in the first centuries of the church.

      • Hi Michael,

        1. Hmm, I think you are overstating the case going in the other direction. Firstly, note that the Catholic canon, including the seven deuterocanonical books, was also “codified” at the ecumenical council of Florence in the 1400s (long before the Reformation began). Trent merely reaffirmed Florence (dogmatically so), which was reaffirming the consensus that had emerged in the Church’s discernment during the first four hundred years, as seen at the council of Rome and those in North Africa in the 300s and early 400s. So it is inaccurate to say that the Catholic canon was only codified at Trent.

        The Church Fathers’ canonical lists are interesting. No Church Father, not even one, listed the exact Protestant OT books. Further, many of them excluded Esther, included Baruch, the Epistle, and other deuterocanonical books, and so on. Athanasius made statements indicating belief that some of the deuterocanonical books were Scripture, as did Origen, and Jerome acceded to the Church’s decision to include the deuterocanonical books (submitting his own opinion to that of God’s Church). Here’s a guy who painstakingly put together a table of the Church Fathers and the OT books they accepted/rejected:

        Consider also this quote from respected Protestant historian JND Kelly:

        “It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive than the [Protestant Old Testament] . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called Apocrypha or Deutero-canonical books. The reason for this is that the Old Testament which passed in the first instance into the hands of Christians was . . . the Greek translation known as the Septuagint. .. . most of the Scriptural quotations found in the New Testament are based upon it rather than the Hebrew.. . . In the first two centuries. . . the Church seems to have accepted all, or most of, these additional books as inspired and to have treated them without question as Scripture. Quotations from Wisdom, for example, occur in 1 Clement and Barnabas. . . Polycarp cites Tobit, and the Didache [cites] Ecclesiasticus. Irenaeus refers to Wisdom, the History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon [i.e., the Deuterocanonical portions of Daniel], and Baruch. The use made of the Apocrypha by Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian and Clement of Alexandria is too frequent for detailed references to be necessary” (JND Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 53-54).

        2. There are a few quotations that are most likely from deuterocanonical books, which even some Protestant apologists concede, but as you probably know there are several OT books accepted as Scripture by Protestants which the NT never quotes, so quotation does not equal canonicity. There are many more NT verses that are strikingly similar to ones in deuterocanonical books. I’d also be interested in how you handle Wisdom 2, where the Passion of Christ is directly prophesied and quoted almost verbatim in Matthew’s Passion account.

        3. I wasn’t clear here. Luther was referring to the lack of widespread agreement in the time of the early Church (not in his day) to those four NT books. This is evidence that there was significant disagreement about them. His claim is backed up by the historical evidence of varying NT canonical lists proposed by Church Fathers.

        4. I would dispute the latter part of this statement but we have enough fat to chew on as it is.

        God bless,

        • Ok, I will make some final comments on this. As I read your last post, I was struck again at the Catholic attempt to paint the first 5 centuries of the canon as a mess, where no one agreed on much of anything (which, I say again, plays right into the hands of critical scholars; something Catholics never seem to realize or acknowledge). However, don’t Catholics claim that even during this time of chaos that the church was under the leadership of “popes” and that apostolic succession was already in place? If so, then that presents a problem for the Catholic view. Either (a) the Roman church (with a Pope) existed for these five centuries and was unable to bring any real unity or control over the canon, or (b) The Roman church/pope did not yet exist during these five centuries. Either of these options contradicts the Catholic view.

          You mention Luther said there was “widespread” disagreement over NT books in his day. Even granting that he said this, that does not mean there actually was widespread disagreement. The historical evidence from Luther’s time is that there was a tremendous amount of unity around these 27 books, even though there is occasional dissent from some.

          You claim that in the NT there are a “few quotations from deuterocanonical books.” But, again this misses the point because they are never cited as Scripture. You attempt to get around this by noting that not all the Protestant OT books are cited as Scripture. But, the vast majority are cited as Scripture and zero of the deuterocanonicals are. Or put another way, neither Jesus, nor any NT writer, reflects the Catholic belief that these books are Scripture. I truly cannot understand how Catholics can get around that problem. Doesn’t that concern you even a little?

          • Michael, I don’t believe that was Devin’s point… rather he was pointing out that there was considerable debate and discussion in the first centuries; which the Church settled by defining the Canon; which stood for 1500 years until Reformation decided that it wasn’t settled after all as part of the splintering that occurred… Regarding referencing as scripture, he gave examples (ie: Wisdom). I would simply add that point you made of the canon revealing itself over time means that no-one ever really knows if they have the correct canon.

          • Hi Michael,

            I do not think that the canon was “a mess” in the first five centuries. I concede that there was substantial agreement on most of the NT books in the mid- to late- second century and on most of the OT books as well. That’s wonderful. But most is not all. Further, there was substantial agreement on baptismal regeneration during this same time period. Yet Protestants reject baptismal regeneration as being true. So Protestants need a principled reason for believing that the early Church correctly discerned the canon while erring on other doctrines.

            As an aside, regarding playing into the hands of critical scholars, there’s some truth to this accusation, as either you accept the Catholic belief that God guided the early Church in her agency of discerning the canon, or you take the Protestant position on the canon, which ends up being the one that plays into the hands of these scholars: .

            Regarding the alleged horns of the dilemma you propose, yes during the time of the canon’s discernment (which was not “chaos” but did take centuries to settle), popes and apostolic succession were in place. And sola Scriptura was not. So the Church functioned fine without having a dogmatically settled canon, just as she functioned fine before having dogmatic settled doctrines of the Trinity and Christology. She had the Scriptures, such as the canon had thus far been discerned, and the Apostolic Tradition. Because she was led by rightful authorities, the legitimate successors of the Apostles, as Irenaeus and many others attested to, and this, the Magisterium, was guided by the Spirit. The gradual nature of the canon’s discernment presents a problem for Protestants (who are sola Scriptura) but not for Catholics.

            Hebrews 11:35 alludes to 2 Maccabees 7. Matthew’s Passion narrative describes verbatim the account in Wisdom 2. And incidentally, Wisdom 2 “self-attests” just as much as any other verse in the Old Testament, as strongly to me as Isaiah 52-53. Please read Wisdom 2 prayerfully and see what you think. Many other NT verses have striking parallels in the deuterocanonical books. In any event, since quotation does not equal canonicity, and since several books you accept from the OT are not quoted at all, I don’t see how you can use this as a rule to exclude books.

            Does it concern me that some OT books are not quoted by Jesus or Apostles? It did at one time as a Protestant. But not particularly now. Clearly Jesus and the Apostles didn’t set out to quote every book, and the early Church didn’t use as a rule that only OT books that were quoted should be accepted as inspired. If they had, they would have eliminated several books we both accept from the OT. What concerned me as a Protestant was the fact that the early Church was the agent that discerned the canon, yet I didn’t trust the early Church, because I believed she erred on baptism, the Eucharist, veneration of the saints, apostolic succession, and many other doctrines believed from early on.

            God bless,

  3. Michael,

    I am in the midst of reading your new book, and I am really enjoying it. I think your book is a helpful reminder that the canonical texts are what they are because of the quality of divine inspiration. No human judgment makes a book inspired. A canonical list is the Church’s “Amen” to what God has done for us in the gift of Scripture. By marking the 27 books of the New Testament in its canonical lists, the Church was in one sense simply acknowledging that these books bore the necessary qualities of divine inspiration. These are the books God “gave” us.

    At the same time, I’m not sure what the implications of this are for the form of the New Testament. The Church does play a necessary role in defining of the boundaries of the canon (just as she does in defining neccesary doctrines, like the deity of Christ). After all, inspired books without the Church’s recognition would be unable to perform their intended function in the Rule of Faith. As an analogy, Christ may be God without the Church’s recognition, but without that recognition, Christ will not be worshipped as God, which is surely the purpose of God’s revelation of himself to us in Christ! Given this necessary role of the Church, it would also seem that the recognition of the contents of the Canon would also involve its wording. A canonical list has no meaning without the books having actual words, words which are also recognized by the Church.

    Here is where I see the strength of Childs’ approach. The role of the Church in “hearing” God’s voice and adding to it the obligatory Amen, would also entail hearing the words themselves which provide the shape of the canon. A canon with fluid content cannot perform its function, any more than could a canon with a fluid list of books. Is it only a coincidence that the New Testament text itself becomes more or less stable around the same time that the canon is more or less settled in the reception of the Church (mid-4th century)?

    It therefore seems to me that we have to rethink the implications of 2 Timothy 3:16. Does this *only* refer to the original inspiration of Scripture, or does it also entail the preservation, editing, and final canonical shape of the biblical books?

    • Hey, Paul. Good to hear from you again. Glad to hear you are enjoying the book. Much of what you just said about the important role of the church I would agree with. In fact, in my book (not sure how far along you are yet), I argue that the church’s reception of these books is a key way we know which books are canonical. So, I try to give a substantial and important role to the church in identifying these books (and in doing so, I go further than most in the Reformed world go). That said, I am not sure what you mean when you say “the church does play a necessary role in defining the boundaries.” If you simply mean that the canon never fulfills its intended role without the reception of the church, then I say Amen. I totally agree. But, I would not want to say that the church determines the boundaries of the canon–the boundaries of the canon are determined by God himself when he gave these books.

      As for Childs’ approach, I have many sympathies. I think he makes many strong points, though I don’t adopt his overall model. But, you do point out a key part of Childs’ position, and that is the idea of “social inspiration” or inspiration that goes beyond the original authors. I can understand why that is attractive, but I confess I am not there. God preserves these books by his providence, I would argue, instead of by inspiration. But, we can continue that discussion if you like…

  4. Hi Dr. Kruger,

    I’m interested in reading “Canon Revisited” at some point and would like to thank you for writing/talking about this subject.

    I have a question about something you said in your response to Devin. Here is what you wrote:

    “You still haven’t explained whey the NT never cites the Apocrypha as Scripture. Ever.That doesn’t seem to fit with your belief that it was widely received.”

    I was wondering how much we should look to whether the New Testament cites a book as proof that it belongs in the canon. The NT doesn’t quote a good number of Old Testament books, and it also quotes from works such as 1 Enoch. If the NT quoting a book is evidence of its inspiration, then wouldn’t what you wrote be an argument in favor of including 1 Enoch and excluding, say, Eshter or Song of Solomon?

    Again, thanks for your time and what you do.

    • Thanks, Justin. Appreciate you commenting on the blog. Any book the NT cites as Scripture, we would certainly want to regard as Scripture (given our belief in the inspiration of the NT!). Of course, as you noted, this cannot be the only way we determine what is canonical because some OT books are not cited at all. However, my point to Devon was simply this: If the Apocrypha was widely regarded as Scripture during the first century is it reasonable to think that NONE of these books would be cited as Scripture? That seems problematic to me.

      You say “If the NT quoting a book is evidence of its inspiration, then…” However, that is not what I said. I said that when the NT quotes a book as Scripture then it is inspired. Although Jude cites 1 Enoch, it does not quote it as Scripture.

      • Thanks for responding, Michael! I guess my question at this point is how do you know when the NT is quoting something as Scripture? Does it have to specifically state this?

        Also, what do you make of the canon lists in the first few centuries of the church that include the deuterocanonical books among those that should be counted as Scripture? Even if the New Testament doesn’t quote those books, some of the leaders of the early church did. Doesn’t that count for something?

  5. Hi Dr. Kruger — I am working through your book and other articles on Triablogue. I’m very grateful that someone with your background as a New Testament scholar has taken this on as a project. I know of a number of formerly Reformed folks — Devin Rose is probably among them — who have bought into the line that “sola Scriptura is self-defeating because the NT canon isn’t in the Bible” (and the conclusion they seem to draw from that, “therefore Rome is infallible”). I see your book as a strong antidote to that type of nonsense. Thank you for your efforts.

    • Thanks, John. Good to hear from you again and I appreciate your comments and support. I’ve tracked a little bit with some of your posts over at Triablogue and I am grateful to have your interactions with the book. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi John,

      I also commend Dr. Kruger for seeking to explain how Protestants can answer the canon question. I plan to buy Kruger’s book, by the way, and read it thoroughly myself.

      Just so people know, I was an Evangelical, Southern Baptist, and was never formally a Reformed Protestant so cannot be called formerly Reformed, but these are trifles in my book as Protestantism whether Reformed or not has the same problem with answering the canon question.

      Finally, the canon question was one important doctrine that led me to examine the Catholic Church, but I did not “conclude” that Rome is infallible from my study, as believing in the Catholic Church cannot be concluded based on reason alone; it requires faith. Though that faith is supported by reason.

      God bless,

      • Devin — “the canon question” was among the last questions I heard as a Roman Catholic, when I was on my way out the door. I was able to track down what had been written at the time on it — admittedly, it was not much, but Cullmann had done an effective job in responding to “the canon question” before 1960.

        Interestingly, it is “the canon question” because it is one question Roman apologists had been bringing up since the Reformation. One imagines a room full of Jesuits sitting around, mulling the question, “now, how can we confound those heretics?”

        Cullmann wrote a very thorough work on Peter — effectively debunking what the Roman Catholic Church had been saying about “the successor of Peter” for 1500 years, and the response was not to address his work on Peter, but “the canon question”. It is a “stock question” to Protestants. But no Roman Catholic seems ever to have listened to the answer.

        But “Canon Revisited” is not a work that Roman Catholics can ignore. I hope you do purchase it and read it.

        When you say “believing in the Catholic Church…requires faith”, what is it, precisely, that you have faith “in”? What, precisely, is the object of your “faith”? Of course, as Dr. Kruger notes in his small quote above, “When it comes to the canon question, theology and history need to be dialogical partners, not adversaries.”

        But there are two different “objects of faith” here: “the Roman Catholic Church”, and the canon of the Scriptures. There is separately another non-parallel. You will say, “Catholics believe in the Scriptures, too”. But not in the same way that Protestants believe in the Scriptures.

        Dr Kruger gives the “object of faith” question a fair hearing in his interview with Derek Thomas: “to say the canon is self-authenticating is to say that these books objectively bear qualities that show them to be divinely-produced books. It is analogous to our belief that natural revelation (the created world) exhibits qualities that show it is divinely-produced. Do we not believe that ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ (Ps 16:1; cf. Rom 1:20)? In the same manner, why would we not believe that God’s special revelation also bears evidence of his handiwork? There is nothing circular about that”.

        On the other hand, when you as a Roman Catholic, say “I believe in the Catholic Church”, what is it that is the object of your faith? In a backward way, Newman’s “theory of Development” posits that you may believe in the Roman Catholic Church today, in the same way that the believers of the 4th century believed “in the church”. In fact, he says, it is “not a violent assumption” to assume such.

        But given what we know about the state of the church then, and the state of “The Roman Catholic Church” now, I would claim, it is a violent assumption to assume that the two are the same thing.

        And yet, you “Called to Communion” guys run around saying that you found “the Church that Christ founded”. Now THAT is a circular piece of reasoning.

        Second, your “Church” must “interpret” these “divinely-produced” qualities. The Roman Catholic Church thus places itself as a lens between the God-breathed Scriptures and the believer.

        I would strongly suggest, that, in a way described thoroughly by Keith Mathison in his critique of Roman Catholic claims, that the Roman Catholic lens distorts the Scriptures and prevents converts like yourself from seeing the “One True God” in them.

  6. Michael,

    Thanks for these thoughts. By “define” I certainly do not mean “determine.” Rather, I mean something along the lines of “receive and acknowledge.” The canon cannot play its intended role in the life of the Church without the Church’s reception of precisely those books which God has given to it as the substance of its Rule of Faith. God speaks, but the Church has the obligation to listen! Without that “listening” the canon cannot fulfill its function. So while the Church is not determinative for the contents of the canon (since they are the product of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration), it is determinative for the functional operation of God’s Word amidst His people. I don’t think we differ here, I’m merely putting in different words what I see as a valuable contribution of your balanced approach to this question.

    As for 2 Timothy 3:16, by theopneustos, I take it that Paul is talking about a quality that Scripture has enduringly, within the life of the Church. He is saying that Scripture (as God’s own voice) has the capacity to illuminate, instruct and bring the community to salvation. He is not only thinking of the role of the Spirit in the penning of the autographs. By “Scripture,” Paul does not mean the original autographs, but the actual copies of Scripture, approved, and read by the Church. So while I agree that by “Scripture” Paul means in effect “the canon,” I don’t think that this is exactly identical to the wording of the “inspired” originals. Only as those originals are transmitted and taken up into the Church’s Rule of Faith do they actually perform their function as Scripture (though they already bear the quality of divine inspiration).

    In other words, it isn’t just the collected and “pure” copies of the originals that function as Scripture, but the copies of Scripture as they have been received (over time) within the developing life of the Church. The MT and LXX (whether one or both) function as Scripture because they are the received form(s) of the text. With respect to the NT, I think it can be argued that the Byzantine Text (while not always identical to the originals) is the actual canonical text of NT Scripture.

    • Thanks, Paul. That is very helpful. To your first paragraph, I simply say Amen! I could’ve written that myself. As you get further into my book, I think you will see that this is very much my view–I try to give a substantive role to the community. As for 2 Tim 3:16, I will have to give further thought to your view. The problem is that it still requires a view of inspiration that extends to the covenant community and goes beyond the prophets/apostles who were the actual authors. The challenge is that I don’t think the picture of inspiration we see in Scripture fits this–I don’t see much evidence for the community itself being inspired. But, I am open to hearing more!

      • I don’t see much evidence for the community itself being inspired. But, I am open to hearing more!

        Interesting. I don’t have much to add, but what do you make of the community composition of Proverbs?

  7. Hi Michael! You said, “If the Apocrypha was widely regarded as Scripture during the first century is it reasonable to think that NONE of these books would be cited as Scripture?”

    Yes, it is reasonable for the same reason it is reasonable to think that Obadiah or Esther should be in there. The NT does not have to list a book as Scripture for it to be counted as such. Your concession to that above bears this out. The fact of the matter is that the Jews did not have a set canon in the first century. The Sadducees only accepted the first five books of the OT, while the Pharisees accepted those books and the prophets. The Essenes accepted a larger canon which some scholars believe was the Septuagint, which included the deuterocanonical books that Protestants reject. So, what the Jews after Pentecost believed or said regarding the matter is irrelevant. The Church had the authority to pronounce on such matters and that is just what she did in the fourth century.

    so, what was the “criteria” that was used to determine what was to be in the canon or not?



  8. Mike,

    Good discussion so far and also in your new book. I am in Chapter 7 right now.

    Regarding the view of inspiration set forth in II Timothy 3:16. The “Scriptures” at that time of writing would be the OT since Paul is reminding Timothy that it was those “Scriptures” that were used in “making him wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (vs. 15). The inspiration of the Scriptures has to be for the original autographs. By extension this would by way of application (not confusing application with interpretation) would also mean that the NT Canon would have to be the same since it was written by those of “known” to Apostles of Jesus Christ or “known” to associates of those self-same apostles, e.g. Mark, Luke, James and Jude. That “Apostolic Voice” again appears to be the key.

    Furthermore, Luke 24: 27, 44 gives sufficient and clear evidence that Jesus was using what is our present OT and that it does NOT include the Apocrypha. This fact alone makes the role of the Bishop of Rome to be null and void with regards to the issue of the Canon (see Canon Revisited, pp. 38-48, especially, p. 39, fn42-43; p. 43, fn 61; p. 47, fn79-81).

    • Thanks, Bryant. Appreciate those thoughts. Yes, as I have noted in my other comments on this page, the fact that Jesus (and all other NT writers) never cite the Apocrypha as Scripture is a definitive fact that I think has not been fully reckoned with.

      • Christ and the Apostles did not quote from Esther either. The New Testament quotes from the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch and considers their contents to be inspired, at least the parts that are quoted. So quotations or lack of quotations doesn’t definitively determine the canon one way or the other.

  9. Hello Dr. Rose,

    I am a Catholic who recently converted from Presbyterianism, I joined the Church last Easter Vigil. I was intrigued by something you said to Devin Rose and was hoping I could briefly respond to it if you do not mind. You wrote “The self-authenticating approach simply argues that God’s people, as a corporate whole, will eventually recognize these books as from Him.” I have a couple questions, and they are:

    1. How do we know who is part of “God’s people” and the “corporate whole”? Do we include Catholics in this group? What about the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox? Do we include the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gnostics, Montanists, Manicheans, Arians, Donatists, Novatians, Waldenses…etc? Depending on which groups are included in this corporate whole will determine which books will be included in the canon. Also, since Catholics and Orthodox believe other books are canonical, does this mean they are not part of “God’s people”? By what standard do you determine your answer to this question?

    2. How do you know that God’s people will eventually recognize the canon? By what standard do you determine this? How long is “eventually”? 1,000 years, 2,000 years or 3,000 years?

    Thank you for your time,


    • Pio Lofton — when you say, “how do we know who is a part of ‘God’s people’ and ‘the corporate whole'”, there seems to be a whole dimension — the dimension of time — that you are leaving out of your equation. That is, your question is anachronistic.

      Different groups among “God’s people” believed different things at different times. Some of these differences were more important, some were less important. And yes, some disqualified those who believed in them from being “God’s people”.

      Dr. Kruger argues very cogently that a particular group of these believers in the first and second centuries had ample opportunities to “recognize” the works of the New Testament as “canonical”. They perceived both the “divine qualities” that are inherent in the works themselves, and the apostolic authority that they had as the writings of the Apostles. He argues further, that (a) their reasoning was valid, and (b) we may trust them in this matter.

  10. Hi Pio.

    You said: The New Testament quotes from the Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch and considers their contents to be inspired, at least the parts that are quoted. So quotations or lack of quotations doesn’t definitively determine the canon one way or the other.

    Me: Are you suggesting that because the NT quotes from the Assumption of Moses or the Book of Enoch, that it (NT) considers these works to be inspired scripture?? I would declare not. Just because the scriptures quote a specific source, does not mean it is scripture. It could mean that the quote is true certainly…but certainly does not require a scriptural import. Quotations do not automatically mean something is scripture no…but if the NT quotes OT books as scripture…then why would those OT books quoted NOT be considered scripture? If Jesus/Paul/etc quote an OT book as scripture, should that not explicitly tell us that it should be considered scripture?


    Joe H.

    • Hello joe

      No I am not saying the books that jude quotes are scripture just that the parts quoted are inspired. This demonstrates a quotation does not determine canonicity.

      “But if the NT quotes OT books as scripture…then why would those OT books quoted NOT be considered scripture?”

      The problem is the nt doesn’t quote all ot books in the Protestant canon so there must be another criteria for determining the canon. Does the nt always indicate the ot quotation is considered scripture? If not then why cant the nt quotes of the deuterocanonical be considered scripture?


  11. Hi Pio.

    You asked: 2. How do you know that God’s people will eventually recognize the canon? By what standard do you determine this? How long is “eventually”? 1,000 years, 2,000 years or 3,000 years?

    Me: Now, of course, I certainly am not qualified to speak for the Dr…but he does argue that most of the NT was recognized rather quickly. Some books obviously took longer and had more questions…but I do not think there is a specific timeframe involved. After all, from your own tradition, their was not an infallible canon list until the 16th century. But, I think has been shown as historical fact that the core of the NT was recognized and received immediately. To be sure, they did not have the technology and communciation means that we have now and it took much longer to spread these scriptures to the various churches…but when these letters were delivered, they were received quickly.

    We know that God’s people will recognize the canon because they did, and because God’s people are built on the apostolic witness, because of the nature of God’s word, because of the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, etc…

    • Who determines who is God’s people? Who determines who is hearing the internal testimony of the holy spirit?

  12. Also how do you know the parts of the nt that quote the ot are canonical? If you say the early church was in agreement on those parts of the nt being canonical then how did they know that other than oral tradition? Without the oral tradition passesd on by apostolic succession how do you know the gnostic books aren’t canonical?

  13. In case my comment from before was lost in the conversation, I’ll re-post it because I was hoping to get answers to my questions.

    “Thanks for responding, Michael! I guess my question at this point is how do you know when the NT is quoting something as Scripture? Does it have to specifically state this?

    Also, what do you make of the canon lists in the first few centuries of the church that include the deuterocanonical books among those that should be counted as Scripture? Even if the New Testament doesn’t quote those books, some of the leaders of the early church did. Doesn’t that count for something?”

  14. Dr. Kruger,

    Most of the comments on this thread have been about the Apocrypha. I am sensing that what every one is forgetting is that the issue of the Apocrypha is an issue about the OT Canon NOT the NT Canon. Since the Apocrypha is not quoted or even alluded to as “Scripture” by Christ, Apostle or Apostolic Associate, then the question really needs to addressed as to the extent or scope of the OT Canon at the time of the 1st Century AD. True, Luke 24:27, 44 do give evidence for our current OT Canon, as Protestants have it, and I would go with that since Jesus establishes in his rebuke of the disciples/apostles, but would that also apply to what the Jews of the 1st Century have concluded. I suggest that it was probably more flexible in some circles, e.g. Dead Sea Scrolls and Qumran. Yes, you do refer to this issue a bit on pp. 150-154 in your book, but it may require more in-depth information in a separate blog post on this issue

    • Appreciate those thoughts. Yes, it’s important to remember that my blog articles have been about the NT canon and folks seem intent on changing the subject to the OT canon. I think the OT canon was quite settled by the time of Jesus (even though there were some minority positions here and there).