The Dead Sea Scrolls, the Book of Esther, and the Argument from Silence

When we want to know how the New Testament canon developed, we have a number of sources at our disposal. Most fundamentally, we have patristic sources—the writings of the church fathers—which can show us when books were known, read, and cited.

We also have archaeological evidence at our disposal. We continue to find manuscripts of the New Testament, particularly at the site of Oxyrhynchus among other places, showing that early Christians knew and used these books in some fashion.

But what do we do when a particular book is missing from either of these sources? For example, Irenaeus does not mention (or quote from) the book of Philemon. Should we …

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One of the Most Remarkable Features of Early Christian Manuscripts

One of my favorite electives I teach here at RTS Charlotte is “The Origin and Authority of the New Testament Canon.” We cover a lot of ground in that course: why we have a NT canon, what is the earliest evidence for a canon consciousness, what were the factors that led to the church receiving just these 27 books, etc. (To take this class online, see RTS Global).

But I think my students particularly enjoy a sub-module of that course where we study high-resolution photographs of early Christian manuscripts. In particular, we spend some time working through images of P66, one of our earliest (nearly complete) copies of …

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How Many New Testament Manuscripts Do We Have From the Second Century?

“There is no second-century manuscript evidence.” —Helmut Koester

When it comes to the transmission of the New Testament text, the second century has been long recognized as a critical time period. And it is not hard to see why. If the New Testament books were written (more or less) in the first-century, then the extant manuscripts that get us closest to that time period will inevitably take on a level of significance.

The second century is also significant because of modern scholarly claims that it was precisely this period when the most serious textual corruptions were likely to have occurred, suggesting the earliest phases of transmission were marked by “textual …

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I’m Headed Off to ETS and SBL–Here’s What I’ll be Up To

Today, I am headed to Denver, CO, for the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)—two of the largest gatherings for biblical scholars in the world. In addition to the normal meals, gatherings, and meeting with old friends, here’s a little preview of what I will be up to.

1. Speaking at Colorado Christian University. On Monday, I will be speaking on the topic of “Hidden Gospels: Our Culture’s Quest to Rewrite the Story of Jesus” to the staff, faculty and students of Colorado Christian. My friend Don Sweeting is the Chancellor there and was kind enough to invite me. I …

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Looking for Brief and Accessible Books on the Origins of the Biblical Canon? Here are Two Good Ones

Whenever I speak on the origins of the New Testament canon, I am regularly asked about whether there are brief, accessible books on the subject—the kind that could be given to lay folks in the church. Unfortunately, my books on canon usually don’t qualify (e.g., Canon Revisited clocks in at over 300 pages).

For years, I have been asked to write a shorter version, but just haven’t had the time. Thankfully, others have stepped in to fill that gap. Let me mention two wonderful little books that have just come out in the last few years.

Who Chose the Books of the New Testament? (Questions for Restless Minds): Hill, Charles E., Carson, D. A.: 9781683595199: Amazon.com: BooksJust this year, Chuck Hill, professor emeritus of New Testament at RTS Orlando, has …

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