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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Gospel Critics and the Argument from Silence

“You can’t say everything.”  This is one of the refrains I often cite to my students as we discuss historical documents.  When ancient authors put quill to papyrus (or parchment), we need to remember that they had a limited amount of space, a limited amount of time, a limited number of goals, and often a very specific purpose for which they wrote.

Inevitably, therefore, an historical account will include some things that other historical accounts (of the same event) might omit, and they might omit some things that other historical accounts might include.

This reality is particularly important to remember when the Gospel accounts are analyzed and compared with one …

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