The Ancient Church Did Not Decide to Create the New Testament

It is also a subsidiary post of Obstacles in the Study of New Testament Formation.

The ancient did not begin the process of forming the New Testament with the end in mind. There are no instructions in the New Testament writings which direct a process of forming a New Testament. Thus the New Testament was created through the church of the first through the fifth centuries, but it was not a process directed by that church.  This is the reason that ancient scholars left such a scant account of how they formed the New Testament.

Gamble, Harry Y.  “The New Testament Canon: Recent Research and the Status Quaestionis” in The Canon Debate, 2002, edited by McDonald and Sanders (bibliography).  At Kindle location 5855, Gamble writes:

This conception, which had in a measure been anticipated by B. F. Westcott, carried for [Theodor] Zahn an important corollary, namely that the New Testament was not self-consciously created by the church, either as a response to external stimuli or as a means to some end, but arose naturally and spontaneously from the inner life of early Christianity, above all in the contexts of worship and instruction.

And at Kindle location 5949, he writes:

Moreover, just as [Adolph von] Harnack once imagined the various sorts of “New Testaments” that could conceivably have arisen, [Franz] Stuhlhofer has helpfully pointed out the hazard of teleological presuppositions in the study of the canon, noting that the history of the canon is usually viewed too much in the light of its known outcome, and hence on the presumptions of purpose and linear progress through stages to a preconceived result. His is an important reminder that this is an unhistorical approach which too readily forecloses the vagaries and contingencies of an open-ended process.

 

 

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