Over the next month or so I plan to write a new blog series on 10 common misconceptions (or misunderstandings) about the origins and development of the NT Canon. These are misconceptions that are not only held by the average layman, but are often shared by those in the academic community as well. It is always difficult to know how such misunderstandings develop and are promulgated. Sometimes they are just ideas that are repeated so often that no one bothers (anymore) to see if they have merit. In other cases, these ideas have been promoted through popular presentations of the canon’s origins (e.g., The Da Vinci Code). And in other cases, scholars have made sustained arguments for some of these positions (though, in my opinion, those arguments are not, in the end, convincing). Either way, it is time for these issues to be dusted off and reconsidered.
Given that this is a blog, and not an academic monograph, my posts on these issues will not be overly technical. Nor will they be overly lengthy. Nonetheless, I hope these posts will serve to reinvigorate a much-needed discussion over these matters.
Here are the 10 misconceptions:
- The Term “Canon” Can Only Refer to a Fixed, Closed List of Books
- Nothing in Early Christianity Dictated That There Would be a Canon
- The New Testament Authors Did Not Think They Were Writing Scripture
- New Testament Books Were Not Regarded as Scriptural Until Around 200 A.D.
- Early Christians Disagreed Widely over the Books Which Made It into the Canon
- In the Early Stages, Apocryphal Books Were as Popular as the Canonical Books
- Christians Had No Basis to Distinguish Heresy from Orthodoxy Until the Fourth Century
- Early Christianity was an Oral Religion and Therefore Would Have Resisted Writing Things Down
- The Canonical Gospels Were Certainly Not Written by the Individuals Named in Their Titles
- Athanasius’ Festal Letter (367 A.D.) is the First Complete List of New Testament Books
Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Nor are these necessarily the MOST common misconceptions. Thus, I welcome more suggestions!