Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize: #9: “Christians Did Disagree about the Canonicity of Some NT Books”
by Michael Kruger
When it comes to basic facts that all Christians should know about the canon, it is important that we recognize that the development of the canon was not always neat and tidy. It was not a pristine, problem-free process where everyone agreed on everything right from the outset.
On the contrary, the history of the canon is, at points, quite tumultuous. Some Christians received books that were later rejected and regarded as apocryphal (this was discussed in an earlier post). More than this, there was disagreement at times even over some canonical books.
For instance, Origen mentions that books like 2 Peter, 2-3 John, and James were doubted and disputed by some in his own day. Also, Dionysius of Alexandria tells us that some thought that Revelation was not written by the apostle John and should therefore be rejected.
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It is important that we be reminded of such disputes and debates lest we conceive of the history of the canon in an overly-sanitized fashion. The canon was not given to us on golden tablets by an angel from heaven (as claimed for the Book of Mormon). God, for his own providential reasons, chose to deliver the canon through normal historical circumstances. And historical circumstances are not always smooth.
What is unfortunate, however, is that these disagreements amongst Christians are sometimes used as an argument against the validity of the 27-book canon we know today. Critics claim that such disagreements call into question the entire canonical enterprise. Why should we trust the outcome, it is argued, if some Christians disagreed?
Several factors should be considered in response. First, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that these disputes only affected a handful of books. Critics often present the history of the canon as if every book were equally in dispute. That is simply not the case. As we saw in a prior post, the vast majority of these books were in place by the end of the second century…
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