Apocryphal Books in Early Christian Codices: Evidence for their Canonical Status?

A favorite topic of modern critical scholars is the role of apocryphal books in early Christianity.  How often were these books used?  And did Christians regard them as Scripture?   Bart Ehrman’s book Lost Christianities is typical in this regard. Ehrman explores a number of books that did not make it into the canon and argues that Christians originally regarded these books as part of God’s word.

One critical piece of evidence for Ehrman is that the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas were both included in one of our earliest complete NT manuscripts, the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus (p.245).  He also appeals to the fact that 1&2 Clement were …

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10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #5: “Early Christians Disagreed Widely over the Books Which Made It into the Canon”

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

1934 was a big year for Germany.  It was the year that Adolf Hitler became the Führer and complete head of the German nation and the Nazi party.  And, as we all know, it wasn’t long after that time, that Germany invaded Poland and began World War II.

But 1934 was a significant year for another reason.  Very quietly, behind the scenes, a book was published that would change the landscape of early Christian studies for years to come.  Walter Bauer published his now famous monograph, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity.   Compared to Hitler’s rise, this …

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Canon Papers for ETS 2012

A number of years ago, Stan Porter and I founded a new study group at the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS): New Testament Canon, Textual Criticism, and Apocryphal Literature.  Although issues related to text and canon were quite prevalent at the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), and other related academic societies, we realized that ETS did not have a centralized place where these issues could be explored.  Since the group began we have had five years of excellent papers on a variety of topics.  And the coming 2012 ETS meeting in Chicago is no different.   The theme this year for the invited session is “Implications of Canonical Formation on Interpretation.”  …

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Did Paul Himself Create the Very First New Testament Canon?

Let’s just admit it.  We rarely pay attention to the final greetings that Paul offers at the end of his letters.  Such personal statements are, well, too personal—they just don’t seem meant for us. However, our unfortunate neglect of these passages can leave a variety of treasures undiscovered.  One such passage may even bring unexpected illumination about the origins of the New Testament canon.

In 2 Tim 4:13 Paul says to Timothy, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” Paul makes a curious distinction here between “the books” (ta biblia) and “the parchments” (tas membranas), suggesting …

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10 Misconceptions About the NT Canon: #4: “Books Were Not Regarded as Scripture Until Around 200 AD”

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

The date of the NT canon is one of the most controversial questions in biblical studies today.  As a prior post indicated, part of the answer to the question of date is dependent upon one’s definition of “canon.”  But, even if we take the functional definition of canon—books are canonical when they are being used as Scripture—there is still debate about how early this took place.

In recent years, however, somewhat of a quasi-consensus has been building that the canon was first regarded as Scripture at the end of the second century (c.200).  McDonald is representative of …

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