Definitions of Darkness

Relevant scripture:  2 Peter 1:19

atheism – “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.  This found at Google: atheism.”  This found at Google: atheism.

naturalism – “a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”  This found at Google: naturalism.

philosophical naturalism – “the doctrine that the natural world is all there is. It is also called metaphysical naturalism and ontological naturalism.”  See this and more at Conservapedia: Philosophical naturalism.

methodological naturalism – “a strategy for studying the world, by which scientists choose not to consider supernatural causes – even as a remote possibility.”  See this and more at Conservapedia – Methodological naturalism.

secularism – “a belief system that rejects religion, or the belief that religion should not be part of the affairs of the state or part of public education. The principles of separation of church and state and of keeping religion out of the public school system are an example of secularism.”  Found at secularism.

scientism – “belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most “authoritative” worldview or the most valuable part of human learning – to the exclusion of other viewpoints.”  This and more found at Wikipedia: Scientism.


polytheism – “the belief in or worship of more than one god.”  Found at Google: polytheism.  Polytheism dominated the thinking of antiquity, but holds no sway in modernity.  I include it in this post only for making that point that “darkness” as defined by the Scriptures took different form in biblical times than we see it taking since.

References to New Testament Persons Outside the Bible

(These could be called extra-biblical or extrabiblical sources.)

Wikipedia article:  List of biblical figures identified in extra-biblical sources

John the Baptist is mentioned by Josephus.



James the brother of Jesus is mentioned by Josephus.


The Hallucination Hypothesis of the Resurrection of Christ

In his post WILLIAM LANE CRAIG AND JAMES CROSSLEY DEBATE THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS, (April 24, 2011), Wintery Knight wrote “This is my favorite debate on the resurrection.”  (The debate itself was held March 6, 2007 at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom and titled “Was Jesus Bodily Raised from the Dead?”  The debate was chaired by Hugh Pyper.)  In the post, WK wrote “…Crossley is a solid scholar…”

I also came across another WK post referencing Crossley titled GARY HABERMAS AND JAMES CROSSLEY DISCUSS THE MINIMAL FACTS CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION  (August 13, 2015).  In this post, WK wrote, “James Crossley is my favorite atheist ancient historian, such a straight shooter, ” and “He’s on the skeptical left, but he has a no-baloney way of talking that I really like.”

Therefore, in the comments section of this second post, I asked him, “WK, of all the debates about the resurrection of Jesus that you have watched/heard/read, who, in your opinion, has put forth the best argument against it? (When I reject an argument I want to know that I’m not just rejecting a weak version of it or a weak spokesman for it.)”  You can see my question and his response here.

By the way, here is Gary Habermas writing about the issue at hand in an article titled “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection:The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories.” (2001).

In one of WK’s responses to me, WK links to a 2007 post on William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith blog titled Dale Allison on the Resurrection of Jesus.  Craig is answering a question about Allison and begins by saying this:

I’ve never seen a better presentation of the case for scepticism about Jesus’ resurrection than in Allison’s Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2005). He’s far more persuasive than Crossan, Lüdemann, Goulder, and the rest who actually deny the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. That Allison should, despite his sceptical arguments, finally affirm the facts of Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection and hold that the resurrection hypothesis is as viable an explanation as any other rival hypothesis, depending upon the worldview one brings to the investigation, is testimony to the strength of the case for Jesus’ historical resurrection.

Thus we have WK saying that the best argument against the resurrection of Christ that he has heard is Michael Goulder’s in Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann, which Craig therein refutes.  And we have Craig himself saying that the best argument against the resurrection he has ever heard (he says specifically that it’s superior to Goulder’s) is Dale Allison in Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters which Craig then goes on to refute in the post itself.

In summary, two of the best known scholarly supporters of the resurrection of Christ (William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas) both see the “hallucination hypothesis” as the best argument skeptics have…but that it’s still decidedly inferior to the resurrection hypothesis as an historical explanation, even when articulated by the most effective spokesmen.

P.S. Since Eric Chabot had also posted on the Craig-Crossley debate (A Look at William Lane Craig and James Crossley Debating the Resurrection of Jesus), I posed to him the same question about “best challenge” to the resurrection of Christ that started the line of thinking that led to this post.  You can see my question and Eric’s response to me at the post.

The Term “Canon” Applied to Writings

This is a subsidiary post of The Study of Canon and the Etymology of Certain Terms.

The term “canon” can be found in the Bible, but it is never used to describe a set of writings.  That meaning would arise subsequent to the biblical era.

More to follow.


Dempster, Stephen G.  “Canons on the Right and Canons on the Left: Finding a Resolution in the Canon Debate” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society  52/1 (March 2009) 47-77.  See p. 50-51 and 77 where Dempster discusses several proposals for clarifying the meaning of “canon.”

The late Gerald Sheppard makes a helpful distinction here describing canon as a final closed list as “Canon 2” and canon as a norm, an open-ended word of God as it were, “Canon 1.”  A similar point is made by theologian William A. Graham, who has been followed by many others.20 Graham calls Sheppard’s Canon 1 “Scripture” and Canon 2 “Canon.” Recently, Eugene Ulrich has pleaded for clarification arguing that the word “canon” should only be used for canons in the sense of Canon 2 and not Canon 1. Canon only exists when there is a closed list.21 Thus Ulrich argues that this will clarify matters and scholars will not use the word anachronistically, speaking of canonical books when there are no such things at all until a much later period of time. Thus, for Ulrich, the idea of an “open canon” is by definition an oxymoron.

Kruger, Michael J.  The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate.  IVP Academic, 2013.  Kruger devotes the first chapter of this book (p. 27-46) to saying that one definition of canon causes too much confusion; instead, he suggests three:  “exclusive,” “functional,” and “ontological.”

McDonald, Lee M.  The Origin of the Bible: A Guide for the Perplexed.  T & T Clark, 2011.  At Kindle location 20-212, McDonald writes of “canon 1” as referring to a “flexible” or “fluid” and “canon 2” as referring to a “final fixed stage.”

Winzig, Tim L.  New Testament Canon and the Creeds: Why Was the Authority of Scripture Left Out of the Christian Creeds?.  Amazon Digital Services, 2012, 24 pages.  The author reports that David R. Nienhuis proposes a distinction between “a conceptual canon” and “the formal canon of Scripture” (Kindle loc 446).

Bible Champions – Men Who Brought the Bible to Their Generations

These are men who brought the Bible back into prominence in their generations, the Bible being the comprehensive and effective testimony of Jesus Christ.

These heroes of faith are listed in chronological order by date of death.

John Wycliffe (c. 1320-1384) – “an English Scholastic philosopher, theologian, lay preacher, translator, reformer and university teacher at Oxford in England, who was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century.  Wycliffe was…an early advocate for translation of the Bible into the common language.  He completed his translation directly from the Vulgate into vernacular English in the year 1382, now known as Wycliffe’s Bible.” (from his Wikipedia profile).  Wycliffe died of natural causes (approximate age 64).

Jan Hus (1369-1415) – “often referred to in English as John Hus or John Huss, was a Czech priest, philosopher, reformer and master at Charles University in Prague.” (from his Wikipedia profile)  Heavily influenced by John Wycliffe who had been born half a century before, Hus himself became an influence on Martin Luther who came a full century later.  Like Wycliffe, Hus believed that that people should be allowed to read the Bible in the language they understood.  Like Wycliffe’s followers, Hus’ followers endured persecution – including death – from church officials for even possessing a non-Latin Bible.  Hus was burned at the stake (approximate age 45).

Martin Luther (1483-1546) – “a German monk, Catholic priest, professor of theology and seminal figure of the 16th-century movement in Christianity known later as the Protestant Reformation.  His translation of the Bible into the vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, which had a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible.”  (from his Wikipedia profile).  Luther died a natural death at age 62.

William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536) – “an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform in the years leading up to his execution. He is well known for his translation of the Bible into English.  He is well known for his translation of the Bible into English. He was influenced by the work of Desiderius Erasmus, who made the Greek New Testament available in Europe, and by Martin Luther.  While a number of partial and incomplete translations had been made from the seventh century onward, the grass-roots spread of Wycliffe’s Bible resulted in a death sentence for any unlicensed possession of Scripture in English—even though translations in all other major European languages had been accomplished and made available.  Tyndale’s translation was the first English Bible to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, the first English one to take advantage of the printing press, and first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation. It was taken to be a direct challenge to the hegemony of both the Roman Catholic Church and English Laws to maintain church rulings. In 1530, Tyndale also wrote The Practyse of Prelates, opposing Henry VIII’s divorce on the grounds that it contravened Scripture.”  (from his Wikipedia profile).  Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake (approximate age 42).

The Gideons  –  are an organization founded in 1899 at the YMCA in Janesville, Wisconsin by two traveling businessmen who met by chance when they shared a hotel room at the Central House Hotel in Boscobel, Wisconsin. [They]…began distributing free Bibles, the work it is chiefly known for, in 1908, when the first Bibles were placed in the rooms of the Superior Hotel in Superior, Montana.  (from their Wikipedia article; more detail from the Gideons website)

Related post:  Historic Quotes About the Bible


The Formation of the New Testament Canon Was a Slow and Gradual Process

Any survey of the history of the church of Jesus Christ in its first few centuries will reveal that the New Testament canon developed over time.  For example, it is obvious from reading the book of Acts that the apostles were not spreading their message about Jesus by passing out New Testaments.  On the contrary, their proclamations were constantly appealing to what we call the Old Testament.  Not until the 4th Century can scholars find a list of 27 writings upon which they can agree matches what we have in the table of contents in our New Testament.  Since that time, the canon has been closed and its contents stable.  Thus, though the New Testament canon has been settled for 16 centuries, it took several centuries to become so.  (See also Chronology of the New Testament Text and Canon.)

“What is really remarkable…is that, though the fringes of the New Testament canon remained unsettled for centuries, a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the New Testament was attained within the first two centuries among the very diverse and scattered congregations not only throughout the Mediterranean world but also over an area extending from Britain to Mesopotamia.”  –  Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance, page 254.

We see in the New Testament (i.e. the 1st Century) that Paul’s letters were accorded a certain status by the apostles themselves (1 Thessalonians 5:27; Colossians 4:16; 2 Peter 3:15-16).  Early in the 2nd Century we begin to see that the Gospels were circulating with the same sort of status.  Over the next century or two, other documents were deemed to be apostolic by more and more churches such that these additional documents were added to Paul’s letters and the Gospels as worthy of the same status.  Finally, we see Athanasius bear witness to a commonly-accepted and closed canon in the 4th Century (see also Chronology of the New Testament Text and Canon).

Like leaven that works its way into the whole lump, all 27 writings were eventually accepted by the worldwide church.  Just because the boundaries of the canon weren’t firmly established in the 1st through 3rd centuries does not mean that there was no canon at all in that time period.  The canon began as a seed and developed into a tree – over time.  By the 4th Century, the edges of the canon had been fully trimmed and it was time for the ancient church to close its canon.  We can accept their witness or reject it…but we cannot change it.

Most importantly, since canonicity equates to apostolicity insofar as the New Testament is concerned, by the firming of the borders of the canon in its time, the ancient church has identified for us the writings they deem to have come from the apostles.  Do we think we know better than they?

Criteria for the Canon of the New Testament

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

It clear from reading the New Testament documents that Jesus and His apostles relied heavily on what we call the Old Testament as documentary evidence and authority for their mission.  In the course of their mission, however, the apostles produced writings of their own.  Nevertheless, these writings were incidental to, and supportive of, their primarily oral endeavors.  The 27 documents they produced, what we call the New Testament, were collected and combined with the then existing Scriptures, divided into what came to be called Old Testament and New Testament.  (See Chronology of the New Testament Text and Canon.)

Scholars studying the formation of the New Testament canon have sought to identify what criterion or criteria were used to decide which of the many books produced in that age would be worthy to include in the category of “Scripture.”  The criteria for canonity used by the ancient church must be inferred by modern scholars because there is no official explanation of criteria to be found in the history of that age, nor was there any central authority empowered to formulate official criteria.  The churches were geographically dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and not centrally controlled.  Because scholarly conclusions are inferences, the lists of criteria below do vary from one another – though only in minor ways.  Also, modern scholars generally believe that the criteria were not uniformly applied.  That is, many modern scholars infer that one criterion might take precedence over another at any given point in time.

(For more bibliographical information on the sources of these quotes, see my Annotated Bibliography on New Testament Text and Canon.)

Here then are the criteria used by the post-apostolic church to determine canonicity as identified by more than thirty modern scholars – some deceased and some still quite active, but all accomplished and respected.  By “modern” I mean the last 150-200 years.  I have included both liberal and conservative voices as my focus is on what is considered historically true, irrespective of theological perspective on that history.  Therefore, I am interested in views from across the spectrum of scholars and not just one particular point on that spectrum.

Aland, Kurt (per Harry Gamble on footnote 29 to page 67 of The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning, 1985; a fuller version of this quote can be found in The Canon Debate, ed. McDonald and Sanders, Kindle loc 10332; however, read in its original context – which was The Problem of the New Testament Canon, bibliography – Aland came close to saying that antiquity was the defining criterion)

1. “one can speak only of the principle of having no principles”

Allert, Craig D. (in his book A High View of Scripture?  The Authority of the Bible and the Formation of the New Testament Canon, p. 53-56)

1. Apostolicity
2. Orthodoxy
3. Catholicity and Widespread Use

Allison, Gregg R.  (in “How the Bible Was Formed” an ebook excerpted from his book Historical Theology, Zondervan, 2011)

1. apostolicity
2. antiquity

Best, Ernest (1917-2004) (on page 279ff in “Scripture, Tradition and the Canon of the New Testament” in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library of Manchester 61.2 (Spring 1979): 258-289.)

1. apostolic
2. early
3. in accordance with the rule of faith

Blomberg, Craig L. (in a lecture he gave, published by and titled “The Canon and the Text of the New Testament“)

1. accepted widely throughout the Christian world
2. non-contradiction with previous Scripture
3. genuinely going back to an apostle or a close associate of an apostle

__________. (in his book Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions, 2014)

1. Apostolicity
2. Catholicity
3. Orthodoxy

Bock, Darrell L. (of Dallas Theological Seminary in his lecture series “New Testament Introduction,”  specifically “Canon of the New Testament Part 4,”).

1. Apostolicity
2. Antiquity
3. Orthodoxy
4. Catholicity

Breshears, Jefrey D. (in chapter 6 “Biblical Canonicity” in his book An Introduction to Bibliology: What Every Christian Should Know About the Origins, Composition, Inspiration, Interpretation, Canonicity, and the Transmission of the Bible, 2014)

1. apostolicity
2. orthodoxy
3. catholicity

Brettler, Marc Z. with Pheme Perkins (from their article “The Canons of the Bible” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Oxford, 2010)

1. apostolic authority
2. consistency with apostolic teaching

Bruce, F. F.  (from his book The Canon of Scripture)

1. apostolic authority
2. antiquity (must come from the 1st Century)
3. orthodoxy (must conform to apostolic faith)
4. catholicity (mere regional acceptance was insufficient)
5. traditional use
6. inspiration
7. other issues

Burkett, Delbert (on p. 110-111 of An Introduction to the New Testament and the Origins of Christianity.  Cambridge University Press, 2002, 618 pages.

1. The rule of faith
2. Apostolic origin
3. Extent of use

Campenhausen, Hans von (on p. 230 of his book The Formation of the Christian Bible per footnote on p. 67 of Harry Gamble’s The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning, Augsburg Fortress, 1985.)

1. must come from the time closest to Christ, authorship playing no important role

Carson, D. A. (in this video 7:31)

1. apostolic (written by, or associated with, an apostle; from the apostolic period)
2. widespread acceptance by the church (versus mere local acceptance)
3. consistent with apostolic teaching (true, not false, teaching)

Carson, D. A., Douglas J. Moo and Leon Morris in their book An Introduction to the New Testament, Zondervan, 1992.

1. conformity to the rule of faith (i.e.orthodoxy)
2. apostolicity
3. widespread and continuous acceptance and usage by churches

Childs, Brevard S. (in his book The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul: The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus, Eerdmans, 2008, p. 19-24)

1. Apostolicity
2. Catholicity
3. Orthodoxy

Dungan, David L. (see Dungan 1975, p. 351 in bibliography)

1. apostolic authorship
2. orthodox content
3. customary usage in the congregations of the Great Church

Ehrman, Bart D. (in his book Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew.  Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 242-243)

1. Ancient
2. Apostolic
3. Catholic
4. Orthodox

Evans, C. Stephen. “Canonicity, Apostolicity, and Biblical Authority: Some Kierkegaardian Reflections” in Canon and Biblical Interpretation ed. by Bartholomew et al, Kindle location 4127.

1. Apostolic authority

Fisher, Milton C. “The Canon of the New Testament” in Comfort The Origin of the Bible 2012, p. 74-75.

1. divine inspiration (i.e. apostolic authorship or approval)

Flesseman van Leer, Ellen (per footnote on p. 67 of Harry Gamble’s The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning, Augsburg Fortress, 1985.)

1. apostolicity in the western churches
1. inspiration in the eastern churches

Gamble, Harry Y.  (from his book The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning, Augsburg Fortress, 1985.)

1. Apostolicity
2. Catholicity
3. Orthodoxy
4. Traditional Usage
5. Inspiration

__________.  (from his article “Canonical Formation of the New Testament” in IVP’s Dictionary of New Testament Background, 2000)

1. traditional use
2. apostolicity
3. catholicity
4. orthodoxy

Goodspeed, Edgar J.  The Formation of the New Testament.  University of Chicago Press, 1926, page 78.

“Only books of apostolic origin were to be accepted in the new scripture [i.e. the New Testament].”

Greenwald, Michael R. (in his essay “The Canon of the New Testament” for The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 2011, p. 557-560)

1. usage and dissemination
2. apostolicity (from an apostle or connected to an apostolic authority)
3. conformity to the proper understanding of Christianity
4. catholicity (i.e. applying to the church as a whole)

Grudem, Wayne (from his Systematic Theology lecture “The Canon of Scripture: New Testament Canon” beginning about 29:05)

1. Divine authorship (through human authors)
2. Approved by the apostles

Harris, R. Laird (from his book Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, p. 270-271, 284 and elsewhere)

1. apostolic origin

Howard, Jeremy Royal (from his essay “The Origin, Transmission, and Canonization of the New Testament Books” in the HCSB Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, 2010)

1. written either by an apostle or a sanctioned associate of the apostles
2. enjoyed wide and long-standing usage in the churches, especially churches that were founded by the apostles
3. reflected high praise for Jesus, were true to the apostolic tradition that had been handed down to the churches, and fit with the overall theology of the other books in both testaments

Kelly, Joseph F.  in his book Why Is There a New Testament?  p. 96, bibliography.

1. apostolicity
2. orthodoxy

Kostenberger, Andreas and L. Scott Kellum and Charles L. Quarles (in their book The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament, Kindle location 628, see bibliography)

1. apostolicity
2. orthodoxy
3. antiquity
4. ecclesiastical usage

Kruger, Michael J.  (from his book Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books)

1. apostolic origin
2. usage (the general consensus of the church)
3. self-authentication of Scripture

Lea, Thomas and David Alan Black.  (from The New Testament: Its Background and Message, p. 71)

1. orthodoxy
2. apostolicity
3. universality

Licona, Michael R.  (from his 2014 lecture “The New Testament: Text, Translation, Canon”)

1. apostle or a colleague
2. orthodox
3. relevant
4. widespread/longstanding usage

McDonald, Lee M.  (in his article “Canon” in IVP’s Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, 1997.)

1. apostolicity
2. orthodoxy
3. antiquity
4. usage

__________.  (in his book The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority, Baker, 2007.)

1. Apostolicity
2. Orthodoxy
3. Antiquity
4. Use
5. Adaptability
6. Inspiration

McDonough, Sean  (in his lecture “The Development of the Canon” in the  Gordon-Conwell Dimensions of the Faith series “New Testament Survey I”)

1. apostolicity (apostolic background, associated with an apostle)
2. catholicity (not just accepted by one region)
3. orthodox (inspiration goes hand in hand with orthodoxy)
4. traditionally used

Metzger, Bruce M.  (in his book The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance; Metzger gives the same three criteria in a different order – apostolicity first – and some slightly differing wording in The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, p. 66)

1. orthodoxy
2. apostolicity
3. consensus among the churches

Nicole, Roger (in “The Canon of the New Testament Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40.2 (March 1997: 199-206.)

1. Apostolicity
2. Orthodoxy
3. Christocentricity
4. Inspiration
5. The Testimony of the Holy Spirit to the Individual Christian
6. The Authority of the Church
7. The Witness Of The Holy Spirit Given Corporately To God’s People And Made Manifest By A Nearly Unanimous Acceptance Of The NT Canon In Christian Churches

Ohlig, Karl-Heinz (in his 1972 work Die theologische Begrundung des neutestamentlichen Kanons in der alten Kirsche which Harry Gamble says is “the most thorough study of the criteria of canonicity” in a footnote on p. 67 of TNTC, for which see bibliography; I found Ohlig’s eleven criteria in The Biblical Canons, edited by Jean-Marie Auwers and H. J. De Jonge, 2003)

1. apostolicity
2. the age of the document in question
3. the historical likelihood of its contents
4. orthodoxy
5. the agreement with the Scriptures of the Old Testment
6. the edifying nature of the document at issue
7. catholicity
8. clarity and meaningfulness
9. spirituality of the content
10. acceptance by the church at large
11. use for public lessons in the church

Packer, J. I. (in his book “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, p. 185).  Packer is not here laying out a set of criteria for the New Testament canon; however, for him one criterion crystal clear.

“As we have seen, if a New Testament book is not authentically apostolic, and if it makes false assertions (as on this hypothesis these books do), then it has not the nature of Scripture, and has no place in the New Testament canon.”

Patzia, Arthur (in his book The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text, & Canon)

1. the authority of Jesus
2. apostolicity
3. usage in the church
4. orthodoxy
5. inspiration

Ridderbos, Herman N.  Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures.  P & R Publishing, 1955, 1963, 1988, p. 24.

“[T]he redemptive-historical ground of the New Testament canon must be sought in…apostolic authority and tradition.”

Sawyer, M. James (in his chapter “The Canon of the New Testament” in the book How the Bible Came To Be)

1. Apostolic origin and apostolic doctrine
2. Catholicity (acceptance of the book by the majority of the churches)
3. Public worship (read in the churches along with the Old Testament)

Smith, James E.  Which Books Belong in the Bible?  Lulu, 2009, p. 363-371.  In this self-published book, Smith begins by saying that church leaders were “guided by four principles,” but then goes to list nine.

1. Geographic Universality
2. Doctrinal Harmony
3. Apostolicity
4. Antiquity
5. Numerology
6. Christocentricity
7. Internal Testimony
8. Church Authority
9. Corporate Witness

Tenney, Merrill C. (in his book New Testament Survey, Eerdmans, 1953, 1961.  Updated by Walter M. Dunnett in 1985).

1. apostolic authorship
2. intended for the church as a whole

Thiessen, Gerd (in his book The New Testament: A Literary History, p. 210)

1. apostolic authorship
2. apostolic (orthodox) teaching
3. catholicity

Warfield, B. B.  (in his article “The Formation of the Canon of the New Testament“)

1. apostolic authorship
2. apostolic sanction (e.g. Mark and Luke)

Wegner, Paul D., Terry L. Wilder, and Darrel L. Bock.  “Do We Have the Right Canon?” in In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture, ed. by Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder.  B & H Publishing Group, 2013, Kindle edition.

1. Apostolic Origin (Apostolicity)
2. Recognition by the Churches
3. The Content of the Book

Wenzig, Tim L.  New Testament Canon and the Creeds: Why Was the Authority of Scripture Left Out of the Christian Creeds?  Amazon Digital Services, 2012.  Although Wenzig never invokes the terms “criteria” or “criterion,” it is clear throughout his short book that he thinks it was apostolic writing that became canonical (e.g. Kindle location 80, 152, 169, 267, 532, and 551)

1. apostolic

Wikipedia – “Development of the New Testament Canon

1. Apostolic Origin
2. Universal Acceptance
3. Liturgical Use
4. Consistent Message


Note that the only criterion common to almost all these lists is apostolicity.  Moreover, a number of the other criteria may simply be considered derivative of, or part and parcel of, apostolicity.  For example, wouldn’t orthodox doctrine be an inherent characteristic of apostolic writing?  Wouldn’t an apostolic writing be, ipso facto, inspired?  Don’t all apostolic writings by definition come from the 1st Century?  Thus, even when there are other criteria besides apostolicity, they are often adding no actual requirement that is not already inherently present in apostolicity.  Apostolicity was thus the dominating criterion for inclusion when the ancient church determined the canon.

Therefore, we may say that, insofar as the New Testament is concerned, canonicity equates to apostolicity.  The significance of this point cannot be overstated.

Content Moved

The content of this post has been moved to and incorporated with Annotated Bibliography on New Testament Text and Canon.

Resources for New Testament Text and/or Canon

There are, of course, many resources on these two subjects resident on this blog under the respective categories NT Text and NT Canon.  The purpose of this list, however, is to connect the reader to resources beyond this blog.

Blomberg, Craig L. Interview with Nick Peters about Blomberg’s book Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions

Bruce, F. F.  The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable?  Intervarsity Press, first published in 1943.  Chapter 2 is on text and chapter 3 is on canon.  The rest of the book goes into more detail and covers related issues.

Ehrman, Bart D.  Is the Original New Testament Lost?  Ehrman v. Wallace (2-hour debate, produced by the Ehrman Project)

Hill, Charles E.  Interview with Nick Peters about Hill’s two books The Early Text of the New Testament (written with Michael J. Kruger) and Who Chose the Gospels?

—–, “The Canon of the New Testament” – an article in the ESV Study Bible, page 2579-2581

Patzia, Arthur G. The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text & Canon.  Intervarsity Press, 1995, 2011.

Wallace, Daniel B. Is the Original New Testament Lost?  Ehrman v. Wallace (2-hour debate on video, produced by the Ehrman Project)


More Resources on Canon

Bart Ehrman Quotes

Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the most well-known skeptical Bible scholar of our time.  However, what many people do not realize is that, when pressed by knowledgeable professionals, he tempers his incendiary rhetoric against the Christian faith – and, in many cases, all but retracts it, at least insofar as the textual integrity of the New Testament text is concerned.  Here are some examples:

According to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Ehrman was asked, “Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?  Ehrman’s answer was:

“Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”

This is taken from a Wallace lecture on the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts (40:40 to 42:40), which says that this quote from Ehrman can be found in the back matter of the paperback of Misquoting Jesus, published a year after the hardback edition.  This information from Wallace can also be found in this short clip of the relevant portion of the video.)

Wallace states in this radio interview on Nick Peters’ Deeper Waters podcast (at about 44:30) that he has presented Ehrman with this quote at the end of all three of the debates held between the two of them, and in all three cases Ehrman has acknowledged this quote and this point of agreement he has with Wallace, Bruce Metzger, and the rest of the believing scholarly community.

[Editorial Note January 8, 2015:]  Here is the fuller quote as documented by Frank Turek:

Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions – he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not – we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement – maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands. The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament. (Source: Frank Turek’s blog postIs the New Testament Reliable? Even Bart Ehrman Says Yes“)


Consistent with the Wallace report, and at the end (beginning at 1:45) of the short clip mentioned above, Ehrman was asked by UK radio host Justin Brierley, “But, at the same time, you wouldn’t say that your book is in some way suggesting that the fundamental doctrines of Christianity are in some way called into question by textual variations?”  Ehrman’s answer was:

“No, I don’t argue that.”


Nick Peters in this episode of his Deeper Waters podcast (11:56 to 13:02) in which he was interviewing Craig Blomberg reads the following quotes from two different Ehrman books:

“If the primary purpose of this discipline [i.e. textual criticism] is to get back to the original texts [of the New Testament], we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we are not going to get much closer to the original texts than we already are.  At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering.  There is something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.”

“In spite of these remarkable textual differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable, although probably not 100%, accuracy.”

Peters then says, “These are quotes from Bart Ehrman in his more scholarly works that aren’t written for a popular audience.”  Blomberg responds, “That’s right, that’s right.  He knows better than he sounds in his more passionate and polemical moments.”  Blomberg goes on to point out (13:02 to 14:18) that Ehrman himself has written a book supporting the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth using the New Testament as a primary source.  Of course, his is a selective use of the text.  Nevertheless, even Bart Ehrman sees a degree of textual and historical reliability in the New Testament text worth defending.


We can see, therefore, that even the infamous Bart Ehrman sees the New Testament as a stable text.