Craig Blomberg on the Authors of the New Testament

Matthew, John, and Peter were of course among Jesus’ twelve apostles. Paul rightly claimed apostolic authority because of the special resurrection appearance that Jesus granted him on the road to Damascus, and Mark and Luke derived their traditions predominantly, at least initially, from Peter and Paul respectively, so at least says strong early church tradition. We have already seen how people like James and Jude would have been half brothers of Jesus, not necessarily believers during his earthly life, but certainly eyewitnesses of portions of his life and recipients of resurrection appearances in ways that persuaded them subsequently of the legitimacy of his claims. That leaves only the author of Hebrews who remains disputed, but both in the ancient and modern worlds debates surrounded whether or not this was Paul or a close companion of Paul and no other candidates were ever seriously suggested.


This statement on authors is closely connected to Blomberg’s criteria for New Testament canonicity.


The Canon and the Text of the New Testament by Craig L. Blomberg

This is a transcript of a lecture Dr. Blomberg has given.  (A recorded version is also available in the mobile app of  Go to the app>Foundations, >Biblical Content>Understanding the New Testament>The Canon and the Text of the New Testament.)

Roughly the first 20 minutes of the recorded lecture are given to canon, with the remaining 28 minutes being given to text.  (In addition to being able to access this recording through the mobile app, you can also access it through the website.  After registration, go the home page>Foundations>Understanding the New Testament>3 The Canon and the Text of the New Testament.)

Craig deals with the criteria for the canon beginning at about 7:40.  He briefly reiterates the three criteria at about 15:48 and 17:05.  I have summarized them, along with those of other scholars, in Criteria for the Canon of the New Testament.

Here are the exact statements he makes about criteria:

The specific criteria that seem to have been used to select these twenty-seven were that they were widely accepted, recognized, if you like, by the emerging church of Jesus Christ around that part of the world into which it had spread as uniquely true, inspired, valuable, relevant for Christian thought and life. Secondly, that they were linked to an apostle either because someone who had direct experience of the risen Lord had written a document or one who was a close follower of such a person… Finally, we have the criterion of non-contradiction with previous Scripture.

…the three major requirements for being accepted widely throughout the Christian world as uniquely relevant, as non-contradictory with previously acknowledged revelation, or as genuinely going back to an apostle or a close associate of an apostle.

…of first-century origin, that beyond any reasonable shadow of a doubt could be linked with or to one of the apostles, and which appeared to have Orthodox Christian teaching and have a certain timelessly relevant nature to it.

The Canon and the Text of the New Testament | Free online Bible classes |

The New Testament Is Itself an Implicit Claim That Its Contents Are Apostolic

The New Testament is, in and of itself, an implicit claim that its contents are the writings of Jesus’ apostles (and their immediate associates) – that all the writings of the apostles were included and that none of their writings were excluded.  That is, the ancient church is telling us that they gathered all the apostolic writings they could find and called them “the New Testament.”

The modern church can come to a different conclusion from that of the ancient church, but it cannot change the ancient conclusion.  The position of the ancients is what it is.  Antiquity went to its grave claiming that the New Testament writings are apostolic and that no other writings are.  Their verdict has been rendered.  Modernity can only accept that verdict or reject it; we cannot change it.

Therefore, the New Testament itself is a prima facie case for apostolic authorship.  What it is ostensibly, it is actually.

Related post:  The New Testament Itself Implicitly Claims Apostolic Authorship of Its Contents

Related post on a different blog (Bible Study Notes for the Kingdom of God):  Individual Writing Apostles

Double Standards in Reception of Ancient Documents and Their Authors

Liberal scholars make much of the fact that while the authors of the four Gospels have been understood from the beginning to be Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they are not identified in the texts by name as the authors.  Consider then a similar situation with respect to another author of antiquity:

Dr. Mike Licona, a rising star in New Testament scholarship, has been reading an advanced copy of Forged [by Bart Ehrman]. [Licona says] that the most prolific biographer of antiquity is widely held to be Plutarch (as in Plutarch’s Lives), yet of all the 50 or so existing manuscripts we have of Plutarch, none of them are signed.  (Source: Is the New Testament Forged?)

Consider also this quote of New Testament scholar R. T. France (1938-2012):

At the level of their literary and historical character we have good reason to treat the gospels seriously as a source of information on the life and teaching of Jesus, and thus on the historical origins of Christianity. Ancient historians have sometimes commented that the degree of scepticism with which New Testament scholars approach their sources is far greater than would be thought justified in any other branch of ancient history. Indeed, many ancient historians would count themselves fortunate to have four such responsible accounts, written within a generation or two of the events and preserved in such a wealth of manuscript evidence as to be from the point of view of textual criticism virtually uncontested in all but detail. Beyond that point, the decision as to how far a scholar is willing to accept the record they offer is likely to be influenced more by his openness to a “supernaturalist” world-view than by strictly historical considerations.  (Source: William Lane Craig)

For more posts related to this double standard, see:

Pseudepigraphy Is Inconsistent with New Testament Values

Some people say that that some of the writings in the New Testament are pseudepigraphal, meaning that they were written by someone other than the person identified as the author in the writing itself.  This cannot be, for the reasons wisely given below.  Because inclusion in the canon was based on apostolic origin, inclusion in the canon is another way of saying that a writing is genuinely apostolic.  Therefore, if someone could show that an authorship claim of a writing is false, then that writing would not belong in the canon – at least for those ancients who established the canon.

As I have said before, the only reason we care about canon is because it is the way that the ancient church told us what writings they deemed to be apostolic.  That some people today view canon as a prerogative of the church which does not depend on apostolicity is beside the point.

Pseudepigraphy is inconsistent with New Testament values.  Therefore, pseudepigraphal writings have no place in the New Testament.

[I]f the Pastorals did not come from within the original apostolic circle, then they are no part of the authoritative exposition of the faith which Christ inspired His apostles to give for the guidance of the universal Church, and so they are not canonical….if the Pastorals are Scripture, then their claim to authorship, like all their other assertions, should be received as truth from God; and one who rejects this claim ought also to deny that they are Scripture, for what he is saying is that they have not the nature of Scripture, since they make false statements.  –  J. I. Packer

[A]postolic pseudepigrapha were a tainted enterprise from the start.  At no point in the church’s early history could they avoid the odor of forgery. Only when the deception was successful were they accepted for reading in church, and when they were found out, they were excluded, for example 2 Peter, by the minority who regarded it as pseudonymous. In the light of these factors scholars cannot have it both ways. They cannot identify apostolic letters as pseudepigrapha and at the same time declare them to be innocent products with a right to a place in the canon.  –  E. Earle Ellis

If the church (and the scholars within it) is no longer willing to accept the Pastoral Epistles as written by Paul, perhaps it should, rather than creating strained theological justifications for their continued canonical presence, eliminate them as forgeries that once deceived the church but will do so no more.  –  Stanley E. Porter

Source: Evangelicals, Pseudonymity and the New Testament Today | David Lincicum.

Nick Peters Interviews Andrew Pitts About Authorship of New Testament Books

Andrew Pitts (Ph.D., McMaster Divinity College) is the guest for two hours on Nick Peter’s Deeper Waters podcast.  The host and guest are primarily reacting against Bart Ehrman’s book Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.

Pitts says that he accepts Paul as author of all 13 of the New Testament letters ascribed to him, and does so not based on a confessional commitment but based on the sociolinguistic and other relevant evidence.  For the same set of reasons, he also accepts that Peter wrote both of the letters which bear his name.  Pitts just does not believe that the arguments against traditionally-ascribed authorship are strong.

Deeper Waters – Are There Forgeries In The New Testament? 08/24/13 by Grok Radio | Religion Podcasts.

Related link:  Clifford Kvidahl blog interviews Andrew Pitts


Authorship of the Gospel According to Mark per Michael J. Kok

Dr. Michael J. Kok surveys the various scholarly views of Mark’s authorship.

(10 min read; 2,555 words)

The Authorship of Mark | Euangelion Kata Markon.

New Testament Canonicity Is a Proxy for Apostolicity

This is a subsidiary post of Apostolicity and the New Testament.

The ancient church established a canon of new scripture (what came to be called the “New Testament”) that it added to what we call the Old Testament, together forming what Christians today call “the Bible.”  Modern scholars tell us that the writings that qualified for inclusion in this new scripture were chosen by the ancient church based on various criteria.  The essential criterion among these was apostolicity.  That is, the writing must be traced to an apostle – an apostle being someone chosen by Christ to be a witness of His resurrection.

Not only is the criterion of apostolicity the sine qua non for inclusion in the New Testament canon, R. Laird Harris points out that it becomes even more critical the farther back in time we go.  This makes sense because people tended to lose some focus on the criteria for canonicity once the canon was closed.  That can certainly be seen today when people have to be taught or reminded of the criteria.  The critical point for us to see is that no text could have made its way into the canon unless it was deemed apostolic.

Therefore, canonicity is a proxy for apostolicity.  That is, if we want to know which ancient writings that the ancient church thought came from the apostles, all we have to do is look at their canon.  Modern scholars may not agree with the choices that the ancient church made, but the die is cast.  By that I mean that it is too late for antiquity to change its mind.  The authorship of every document in the canon was deemed to be apostolic; otherwise, the ancients would never have included it.  A modern scholar may disagree with the verdict of the ancient church and come up with a different one of his own, but he cannot induce the ancient church to change its mind.  It’s too late for that.

There are no writings in the New Testament that antiquity did not deem to be apostolic.  Neither were there any documents deemed to be apostolic that antiquity excluded from the canon.  Therefore, if a writing is canonical, it was considered apostolic; if it was considered apostolic, it was made canonical.

So, to summarize, and to put the issue in blunt terms, we don’t need to care about the canon.  “Canon” is an ecclesiastial term.  It’s a way of saying “the church’s official books” which makes “canon” a church pronouncement.  This would be like calling the books of the Old Testament “the official books of the ancient nation of Israel.”  Such an announcement would be irrelevant to the crucial issue, which is that the Old Testament is the collection of writings from the prophets of God.  Similarly, the New Testament is the collection of the writings of the apostles of Christ, who are ipso facto the spokesmen of God just as the prophets were.  In other words, we are interested in a historical answer to the question of which writings are those of the apostles – not an ecclesiastical one.  Therefore, when we hear that the ancient church “canonized” these 27 books, we rightly understand that to mean that they considered this collection as being all those documents which we have from the apostles.  It’s the apostles who have authority – not churchmen.

The writings of the apostles would have been considered apostolic from the moment they wrote them.  However, the view that they were canonical would take time.  Since only what was considered as apostolic was ever ultimately considered canonical by the ancient church, we are right to view the two terms as synonymous for all practical purposes.

See also:

Contra Bart Ehrman, Michael Kruger Says the Gospels Are Properly Titled

Michael J. Kruger explains why Bart Ehrman is wrong to question the authorship of the four Gospels.  They were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – just as our Bibles say.