Book Review – The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate
by Dave Jenkins
Recent days have seen a massive increase in discussion around the formation of the canon. Questions in this conversation center on “when” and “how” questions. For example: When did certain books become part of the canon and how were they selected? In his new book The Question of the Canon Dr. Michael J. Kruger takes up the “why” questions, namely, why did Christians have a canon at all? He asks this question because of another question which is, “Does the canon exist because of some later decision on the part of the second or third century church, or did it arise more naturally from the beginning of the Christian faith itself? In other words, “Is the development of the canon extrinsic or intrinsic to early Christianity?”
Chapter one explores the definition of the canon through asking the question, “Must we make a sharp distinction between the definitions of Canon and Scripture?” Chapter two explores the origins of the Canon and asks, “Was there really nothing in early Christianity that may have led to a Canon?” The fourth chapter looks at the authors of the Canon and asks, “Were the New Testament authors unaware of their own authority. Finally the book concludes looking at the question, “Were the New Testament books first regarded as Scripture at the end of the second century?”
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The author notes that it is not his goal “to reject the extrinsic model in its entirety but to suggest that there were also intrinsic factors at work in the early Christian movement that may have made a new corpus of Scripture more natural, of not inevitable, development” (205). He states, “But the intrinsic model argues that the idea of canon was built into the DNA of the Christian religion and thus emerged quite naturally. In this sense, the canon was like a seedling sprouting from the soil of early Christianity—although it was not fully a tree until the fourth century, it was there, in nune, from the beginning” 210).
As I read this book I benefited from it in a number of ways. First, Dr. Kruger is a very good writer. Second, his engagement with the scholarship is excellent…