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The Foundation of Orthodoxy and Formation of Canon

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Submitted By ministermiller
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Daryl Miller
CHH301-B12 LUO
September 11, 2012
Paper 1
The Foundation of Orthodoxy and the Canon If we consider that what we know as Christianity is not what it began as, then we will see the need for a standard. That fact that Christianity as a religion and a worldview was revolutionary as is was also evolutionary. It was revolutionary in that it stood against the norm of Judaism and paganism. It was evolutionary in that what it was then is not what it is today. Therefore, the need of orthodoxy and for cannon is presented. Orthodoxy is the “correct, conventional or currently accepted beliefs, especially in religion.”The consolidation of power under Constantine and the stretch of the empire caused a need for orthodoxy of Christianity’s belief system. It also demanded a standard of doctrine. This leads to the canonicity of the Holy Scriptures. Canon is derived from the Greek word kanon. Elwell says of the word canon, “in Christianity [canon] refers to a group of books acknowledged by the early church as a rule of faith and practice” The word carries the idea of the measuring rod or standard against which the sacred text are weighed for inclusion. It should be noted that different faith systems have different canonical books. The Jewish canon is different from the Protestant as is the Catholic.
If we bear in mind that the Bible we know today did not start out as a book at all, and then the logical progression must be to ask, how did it come about? An important note bears to be inserted. In Judaism as well as its son Christianity, if we consider Abraham the father of the faithful. The belief is not in a book rather in the God of the book. Judaism and the belief in the God of Abraham existed many years without a book. Moses is believed to be the writer of the first five books of what is commonly called the Pentateuch. Yet, bear in mind this was not multiple copies, it was one. Most Scripture was shared in the oral tradition and kept by memorization. The four-fold grouping of the Christian Bible that is seen in the Old and New Testaments are not found in the construction of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh as it is called. The three – fold divisions are the Law or Torah. The Prophets of which you have the Former and Latter which is also called the Nebhiim.Lastly; you have the Writings or Kethubhim. This is broken into the poetical books, the Meggilloth or Five rolls which refer to their being read at the respective feasts and the historical books. In the Tanakh the Christian Bible call the Minor Prophets a grouped in the latter prophets as the Twelve. Also 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings as well as 1st and 2nd Chronicles are each considered one book. The compilation of the canonical order of the Scripture for the adherent was in the mind of God and at work as the text was being written. When we consider canon, what we are actually addressing is the acceptance of the compilation of the agreed upon books by the church. For the Old Testament many agree that Ezra in the fifth century B.C completed the work of collecting the canonical work. H.Thiessen writes, “Because of the canonicity of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon was not settled until the Council Jamnia (A.D.90), some maintain the canon of the Old Testament was not closed until that time.” The timeline and number are further evidenced by the writings of Josephus (A.D. 95) which, “indicate the extent of the Old Testament canon as the thirty-nine books we know” In considering the New Testament we must not make the mistake of allowing our minds to be misguided by the term New Testament. The books that comprise this work are all considered to have been written prior to the close of the first century. We must also allow that the world was mostly illiterate and we did not have printing presses, electronic media nor did we have mass transit. The oral tradition and communal reading was the norm. Let’s look at some of the reasons that pushed to a need of an orthodoxy and canon for the church. With the vacuum created in the lives of the Jews and Christians with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The air was ripe for Gnostism, a system that lured many in direct competition against the old establish Jewish faith and the young Jewish/Christians. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word for knowledge gnosis. They believed that in order to achieve salvation a person had to have secret mystical knowledge. “According to the Gnostics the aim of salvation is for the spirit to be awakened by knowledge so the inner man can be released from the earthly dungeon and return to the realm of light where the soul becomes reunited with God”. David Dunbar writes, “Gnosticism’s effect on the church was to intensify its concern for faithful adherence to the teachings of the apostles. The necessity for a concrete standard by which to evaluate the Church traditions pressed the orthodox fathers…” Another concern was Marcionism. Around the year 144 the son of the bishop of Sinope went the heads of the Roman church with his doctrine. The consensus was a rejection on several fronts. Marcion rejected the Old Testament and felt that the God of Judaism was evil. He went further in that he pressed that the Scriptures were corrupt and the only acceptable text were the Epistles of Paul and the Gospel of Luke. S.Voorwinde writes, “Marcion’s views were dangerous and widespread. The Marcionites were the first to have a clearly defined canon. The compilation of this canon was a challenge and incentive to the church of Rome and the other like minded churches. If these churches denied that Marcion’s canon was the true one, then let them show what the true one really was.” In the year 156 out of region of Asia Minor called Phrygia came another heretical movement. The leader was a man named Montanus. Montanus had been a pagan priest who had converted to Christianity. He professed to have been the recipient of the promised (Paraclete) Holy Spirit and professed to speak under the unction. The problem with Montanism was not in dispute with the sacred text rather if what he claimed was true and not contradicted the beginning of the new age was upon the church. This is contrast to the teaching of the New Testament in which the new age would be ushered in by the advent and resurrection of the Messiah. This deviant teaching would contradict and devalue the Holy Scriptures. All of these variant teaching helped push toward the necessary end, a clear canon. During the life of Eusebius we see the establishment of the canonical precursor. Eusebius set the order of those that are homologoumena (recognized books) and those that are considered antilegomena (disputed books).The books that he lists as recognized and disputed but should be include are the same twenty seven we have today. On the formation of the New Testament it is considered to have been the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397 to have been the first listing of the twenty-seven accepted texts of the Bible. Although the use of these twenty-seven books and lists of their use are dated back as far as A.D. 367 in a letter of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, the majority consensus of the books we use today was not until the Council of Carthage. The council at Carthage was the consensus of that body but the synod at Rome recognized the twenty seven book as canon in 382 from which the Vulgate Bible was derived. Let’s, look at the criteria that was used to determine the books that would be include in the canon. The first and foundational issue was the book had to be written by an apostle or someone with intimate contact with an apostle, such as Luke and the spiritual witness of Paul. This assured the genuine veracity of the narrative. Also with this is the non-acceptance of any book written after the death of the apostles. As in all matters of faith one does not suspend intellect, rather one allows faith to guide intellect. I say this because in the whole matter the hand of man is seen. In apostolic authorship we have the latitude of expanded apostolicity which allows the inclusion of Mark who wrote under the tutelage of Peter and the questionable authorship and apostolic stamp of James and Jude. The next would be orthodoxy. A text had to eventually receive a consensus opinion. This seems strange but if you look with the eyes of faith it is logical. If the Scripture is inspired or “God- Breathed” then it should not seem strange to imagine God moving on the hearts and minds of men to establish His order and discard that which is unprofitable. Christocentricty is the idea that the Bible as a whole revolves around Jesus at the center. The Old Testament foretells of His coming and the New Testament is the account of His fulfilling the words of the Old Testament. Pascal writes, “Jesus Christ whom both Testaments regard, the Old as its hope, the New as its model, and both as their center.” The testimony of the Holy Spirit to the individual Christian addresses the ultimate authority as being God’s stamp of approval and not mans. The Westminster Larger Catechism states, “The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God by their majesty and purity: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able to persuade it that they are the very word of God.” The authority of the church as it prerogative and duty to set in place the canon and defend it. The church has men given the Word and it is the charge the church to keep, defend and teach that word. The last is the witness of the Holy Spirit given to the body of Christ and made manifest by the nearly unanimous acceptance of the New Testament canon in the Christian church. The body almost as a whole agrees and accepts the canon and it is too great a feat to be considering the work of man it is the move of the Holy Spirit. It is the hand of God and His sovereign will to reveal Himself to mankind. It is Gods will to cause men to come to agreement over what is profitable for man and the kingdom of God on earth. The body believes as the Spirit lead and it is well with my soul. Men wrestled with the canon at its inception and some still do today. That is the nature of man that is until the meeting of man and maker. When that encounter is had and the exchange is made (sin for salvation, faith for justification) then man can say, “I walk by faith and not by sight.”(2Cor.4:2)

Bibliography editors, D.A.Carson and J.D.Woodbridge. "The Biblical Canon," Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker House Company, 2001.
Eugene Erlich, Stuart Flexner,Gorton Carruth, Joyce Hawkins. Oxford American Dictionary. New York : Harper Collins Publisher, 1980.
Henry C. Thiessen, Vernon D. Doerksen. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1979.
Herbert Lockyer, F.F.Bruce, R.K.Harrison. Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas NelsonPublishers, 1986.
Pascal, R. Great Books of the Western World. Chicago, 1952.
Ryrie, Charles C. A Survey of Bible Doctrine. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1972.
Voorwinde, Stephen. The Formation of the New Testament Canon. 1995. www.bible-researcher.com/voorwinde1.html (accessed September 11, 2012).

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. [ (Eugene Erlich 1980) ]
[ 2 ]. [ (Elwell 2001) ]
[ 3 ]. [ (Henry C. Thiessen 1979) ]
[ 4 ]. [ (Ryrie 1972) ]
[ 5 ]. [ (Herbert Lockyer 1986) ]
[ 6 ]. [ (editors 1986) ]
[ 7 ]. [ (Voorwinde 1995) ]
[ 8 ]. [ (Pascal 1952) ]

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