So What is Canon?
How do we know if the Bible that we read is composed of the right books? When it comes to the New Testament, how did the church know which of these were from God, and which were just other writings floating around by the 2nd and 3rd centuries? Canon, is the collection of books that we regard as the inspired Word of God.
There were several criteria that were used to help make this determination of making a book 'canonized'. Of course, the church prayed, and sought the Lord’s help in this process. But they didn’t merely rely on their subjective, Spirit-led understanding alone. Below is an example of four objective criteria, which helped them to determine what God’s authority had spoken, versus what was merely ‘a nice letter’, or maybe even a false one.
- Apostolicity - To be included in what we now call the New Testament, the letter had to either be written by an apostle, or have come through the authority of an apostle. Why was this necessary? Well, because the Lord Jesus personally chose His apostles, gave them authority, and commissioned them to teach in His name (Mk. 3:13-19, Mt. 10:1-8).
- Universality - That means the writing enjoyed early, widespread, and continual acceptance by the church, from the time of the first believers.
- Veracity - This meant that the writing was consistent with the truth and the revelation of both the Old Testament, and also with the other apostolic writings.
- Antiquity - Finally, the writing had to pass the test of antiquity. This criteria ensured that the writing was in circulation during the lifetimes of the apostles. It helped to ensure that the teaching was known by the apostles and overlapped with those who witnessed and first believed in Christ.
Because of its importance, entire books are written about this topic! If you would like a little more explanation and encouragement on this, you can click here to check out the message from February of 2012, “From God to Us - Part II”.
Also, if you would like an easily-accessible deep-dive into this fascinating topic, there is a great seminar coming soon to Albuquerque at Desert Springs Church. Check out https://www.signupforms.com/registrations/31631 for more information.
May the Lord continue to enrich your love for His Word, and deepen your confidence in His revelation.
In Christ our great Savior,