Did God Really Say? Affirming the Truthfulness and Trustworthiness of Scripture – Quotes, Chapter 3 – “Deconstructing Canon: Recent Challenges to the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Writings” by Michael J. Kruger (Kruger has an excellent blog here. This chapter is a a basic introduction to his major book which I read earlier this year: Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books.)
Once we understand there was a core New Testament by the middle of the second century, then the remaining challenges presented by the history of the canon are placed in their proper perspective.
What is remarkable about the New Testament canon, then, is not that it took several centuries for the boundaries to be solidified… but that the core New Testament was in place so early.
Throughout the Old Testament there is a pattern to God’s redemptive activities: God acts to redeem his people, then he offers word-revelation to interpret, explain, and apply that redemptive activity.
Once Christians understood the work of Christ as the ultimate act of redemption then they would have expected a new word-revelation from God to explain and interpret that event.
If Christians believed that covenants had written texts, and if they believed that God had given them a new covenant – and they did believe this quite early – then they would have expected the new covenant to have written texts.
The canon was not an after-the-fact development, but something woven deep into the fabric of God’s redemptive plan.
They [the Apostles] are keenly aware that their message was authoritative not just in oral form, but also in written form (2 Thess. 2:15)… Paul made it quite explicit that he spoke not with the authority of men but with the direct authority of Christ (Gal. 1:1).
The key issue was not whether a book was physically penned by an apostle, but whether it bore authoritative apostolic tradition.
The self-authenticating nature of Scripture: Because the canonical books were constituted by the revelatory activity of the Holy Spirit, we would expect that there would be some evidence of that activity in the books themselves – the “imprint” of the Spirit, if you will.
These “marks” can refer to a variety of things, but traditionally include Scripture’s beauty, efficacy, and harmony.
The church’s reception of these books is not evidence of its authority to choose the canon, but is evidence of the opposite, namely the authority, power, and impact of the self-authenticating Scriptures to elicit a corporate response from the church.