by Kenneth Samples
This week we’ll be finishing up a series on the biblical canon, a topic that has been a source of discussion, debate, and controversy since the beginning of Christianity. We’ve covered the doctrine of divine inspiration and standards for recognizing canon, as well as apocryphal literature. To conclude, RTB editor Maureen Moser and I will tackle some challenges skeptics pose to the canon and how the relationship between Scripture and church tradition can help defend Christianity from these challenges.
Some of the most sensational challenges to biblical canon have come from Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code books and movies. These stories posit that the church (specifically the Catholics) decided the canon Christians have today. How would you respond to that?
Of course, Christianity gets attacked from the outside. The DaVinci Code, with the controversy surrounding that book and movie and their sequels, contends that the Catholic Church operated in a bad way, manipulating the canon and holding back certain books. A lot of people see the history of Christianity as just a power struggle. It just happens that the Catholics won the political war and the Gnostics lost it. So we get “these books” because the Catholics won, instead of “those books” because the Gnostics lost. This is similar to the perspective Hermann Göring espoused at the Nuremburg Trials, saying that the Allies were judging the Nazis only because they’d won the war, not because they were right.
I think the reality is that the Scriptures do go back to the apostles and prophets. Historic Christianity is rooted deeply in the apostolic issue.
What other challenges does the biblical canon face from skeptics today?
When you decide to include certain books in the canon, you want to know who wrote them. But, while Paul had a habit of signing his letters, other New Testament authors did not. Originally, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were anonymous; there were no names attached to them. Some skeptics make a big deal out of this. They say, “You mean you are trusting this testimony and you don’t even know who wrote it?”
This is where church tradition becomes important. Many of the early church fathers, such as Papias and Irenaeus, confirmed the gospel authorship. The church was never in doubt…
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