2015 Reading List: Canon Revisited

Kruger, Michael J. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books.

There are two kinds of objections to the accepted New Testament canon: those who reject it outright as false (the de facto argument), and those who claim that there’s no basis for confidence in these 27 books, even if it is the right set (the de jure argument).

Dr. Kruger answers the de jure objection in Canon Revisited, providing the foundation for confidence that the New Testament is exactly as it should be–no books were left out that rightfully belonged, and no books were included that had no business being elevated to Scripture.

This is a weighty book (which is not to say it’s difficult or cumbersome–it’s not). Our confidence in Scripture rests in large part on the belief that we can identify what Scripture is and isn’t and be confident in that belief. In this way, Dr. Kruger has served the Church very powerfully in this book.

He begins by evaluating the common models for determining what books are canonical: the community-based models and historically-based models. There are strengths in each, but the same weakness ails them all: inevitably, an external standard is applied to Scripture, which means that the Word of God is not the final authority in all things–it isn’t the final authority on what constitutes the Word of God.

Instead, Dr. Kruger proposes the self-authenticating model for canon: the Scriptures themselves are indeed the final authority, and they provide the guidelines for how to determine what truly is canonical. This model has three components: providential exposure and three attributes of canonicity.

Providential exposure means that the Church cannot respond to and obey a text she has never seen. The promise, “My sheep hear My voice” assumes that the voice has actually been heard (or not) in a given book. This rules out letters and documents that have been lost; by definition, a book that has been lost cannot be canonical.

The attributes of canonicity are the divine qualities of the book (beauty, power, and harmony), the corporate reception of the book by the Church, and the apostolic origins of the book. The bulk of the book is an explanation of these attributes and how they serve the cause of confidence in the canon.

I started taking notes while reading this book, and my Word document is at 9 pages with notes on the last couple of chapters yet unfinished. The case Dr. Kruger has presented here is overwhelming, and his mission to provide Christians confidence in the canon is a definite success.


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