Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize: #7: “Early Christians Often Used Non-Canonical Writings.”

P.Oxy. 2949 Gospel of Peter

Full blog series can be found here.

For Christians struggling to understand the development of the New Testament canon, one of the most confusing (and perhaps concerning) facts is that early Christian writers often cited from and used non-canonical writings.   In other words, early Christians did not just use books from our current New Testament, but also read books like the Shepherd of Hermas, the Gospel of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas.

Usually Christians discover this fact as they read a book or article that is highly critical of the New Testament canon, and this fact is used as a reason to think that …

Continue reading...

Review of a “New New Testament”: Part 1

new new testament

There has been much chatter recently about the new book by Hal Taussig called A New New Testament (Houghton Mifflin, 2013).  It intends to combine the traditional 27 books of the New Testament along with 10 apocryphal writings from early Christianity.  As I observed in a prior post, there is nothing particularly “new” about this sort of project—it has been tried again and again since the time of Marcion.

This post is the first installment of my review of this book, with many more to come.  We will focus here just on the promotional description on the inside cover flap.  This is an unusual place to begin a book …

Continue reading...

Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize: #2: “Apocryphal Writings are All Written in the Second Century or Later”

gospel of thomas

Note: This is the second installment of a new blog series announced here.

In the prior post, we discussed the first basic fact about the New Testament canon, namely that the New Testament writings are the earliest Christian texts we possess.  We were careful to make clear that the early date of these books does not make them canonical, but the early date does show that these books were written during a time period when eyewitnesses of Jesus were still alive.

In this current post, we address the issue of “apocryphal” New Testament writings.  These are writings that were not included in the New Testament, but have a similar …

Continue reading...

10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #6: “In the Early Stages, Apocryphal Books Were as Popular as the Canonical Books”

Gnostic Gospels

This is the sixth installment of a blog series announced here.

One of the most common claims by some critics of the NT canon is that apocryphal writings, particularly gospels, were as common and as widely-used as the NT writings.  Helmut Koester is a good example of this trend.  He laments the fact that the terms “apocryphal” and “canonical” are even used by modern scholars because they reflect, according to him, “prejudices of long standing” against the authenticity of these apocryphal texts.[1]  Koester then argues, “If one considers the earliest period of the tradition, several apocryphal gospels are as well attested as those which later received canonical …

Continue reading...