The Canon Argument by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox

Just a friendly push back on a common meme from Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox folks: They say since the early church did not have all the NT books in one place or list, until either Origen’s list (around 250 AD) or Athanasius’ famous list in 367 AD; and Protestants trust the early church in coming to the final conclusions on the NT canon, therefore Protestants are inconsistent for not trusting the early church fathers on other issues that they talk about in early 2nd Century going forward. (like the mono-episcopacy (Ignatius, around 107-110 AD; or the “real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, or baptismal regeneration, or priests and apostolic succession, etc.)

They say, “the Bible did not exist yet”. Except all those books did exist as individual scrolls rolled up in the first century. (45-96 AD)

The doctrine of “Sola Scriptura”, does not mean “SolO Scriptura” (“all by myself in the woods with me and Jesus and my bible” = no church, no pastors / elders (presbyters), no guidance, creeds or councils) or “I use the Bible alone” – rather it means “The Bible is the only infallible rule for faith, doctrine, practice” – “only infallible rule”, not “only rule”. (of course you know this) The primitive church DID have the Scriptures in the OT (T.aN.aKh.) (Torah, Nebiim (prophets) and “Khetovim” (writings = wisdom and poetic books) and various churches had copies of some or several of the NT gospels and / or letters at a time; (it took time for all the churches to get all the 27 scrolls at their particular church), the NT writings as individual rolled up scrolls, sent to different places / different churches. There was no such thing as a book with a binding (in the 1st century AD and in most of 2nd century; it was just becoming more common in the third century.) as we know it today. Later, in the second half of second century, is when they started flattening the rolled up scrolls out and tying them together with string – the first “codexes” – flattened out and tied together. Biblion βιβλιον and Biblos / βιβλος in the NT meant “scroll” (individual document rolled up) or “what was written on”, or “document” or “certificate”; not a book with a binding like we have today.

Therefore, to expect a “canon list” in first and second century is anachronistic. Origen (around 250 AD) actually gave the first complete 27 book list of the NT (see Kruger’s article) that is the same as Athanasius’ famous Festal Letter 39 in 367 AD. Irenaeus (180-202 AD) and Tertullian (190-220 AD) quoted from or cited as inspired from 22 out of the 27 scrolls. Even earlier than Origen’s list is the famous Muratorian canon, around 170 AD, which has most of the NT books, (20-23), but the original extant document was corrupted (rotted away) at the beginning and end, so we only have a fragment of it. (which is true of lots of NT manuscripts – all we have are fragments.)

the documentation of Origen’s list of the 27 NT canonical books – by Dr. Michael Kruger.…/

10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #10: “Athanasius’ Festal Letter (367 A.D.) is the First Complete List of New Testament Books” – Canon Fodder


10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #10: “Athanasius’ Festal Letter (367 A.D.) is the First Complete List of New Testament Books” – Canon Fodder

Kruger writes and quotes from Origen:

we have a list by Origen more than a century earlier (c.250), that seems to include all 27 books.  Origen, in his Homilies on Joshua, writes:

So too our Lord Jesus Christ…sent his apostles as priests carrying well-wrought trumpets.  First Matthew sounded the priestly trumpet in his Gospel, Mark also, and Luke, and John, each gave forth a strain on their priestly trumpets.  Peter moreover sounds with the two trumpets of his Epistles; James also and Jude.  Still the number is incomplete, and John gives forth the trumpet sound through his Epistles [and Apocalypse]; and Luke while describing the deeds of the apostles.  Latest of all, moreover, that one comes who said, “I think that God has set us forth as the apostles last of all” (1 Cor 4:9), and thundering on the fourteen trumpets of his Epistles he threw down, even to their very foundations, the wall of Jericho, that is to say, all the instruments of idolatry and the dogmas of the philosophers.[1]

So, James White was correct to say that the canon is an “artifact of revelation”. (Scripture Alone, p. 101) The evidence of inspiration / God-breathed quality and existence of the 27 books written from about 45 AD to 96 AD (Canon 1 = existence, revealed, inspired – 2 Tim. 3:16-17) – Canon 2 – the list discovered, discerned in a process by the church and sifted through and discerned over the false writings) – the Canon lists in Origen (250 AD, see Michael Kruger’s article), Athanasius, Councils, that Irenaeus and Tertullian around 180-200 AD list 22 of the 27 NT books; etc. are artifacts of God’s revelation through the apostles (Peter, John, Paul, Matthew) and their helpers (Mark writing for Peter, Luke’s 2 writings, James and Jude, Hebrews (probably Barnabas, per Tertullian; and internal evidence of the Levitical details; see Acts 4:36 (from tribe of Levi, accords with the knowledge in the book about the details of the Levitical priesthood and temple sacrificial details, etc.) ; and he hints at who he is at the end of the letter in Hebrews 13:22 – “this letter of exhortation/encouragement” – Barnabas was known by the Apostles as “the son of encouragement” ) it makes sense that Barnabas wanted to leave his name off, in light of the disagreement with Paul that he had over John-Mark, Acts 15:39). Barnabas was focused on the content and doctrine, not personalities. But, granted, another theory of the author of Hebrews is that it was a sermon of the Apostle Paul that was translated into higher Greek by Luke, who wrote his gospel and Acts, and both are higher level of eloquent Greek. I see no problem with accepting the historical evidence that Mark wrote the gospel according to Mark, wrote for Peter, from his action sermons, according to Irenaeus and others, that the disciple Matthew wrote Matthew, and that Luke the physician and fellow traveler missionary on the Apostle Paul’s missionary team wrote Luke-Acts, and that they carry apostolic authority. (or that Hebrews in inspired and apostolic and God-breathed, etc.) Believing that in no way is inconsistent with not believing other man-made traditions of church history that seem to contradict the God-breathed Scriptures.

10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #1: "The Term 'Canon' Can Only Refer to a Fixed, Closed List of Books" - Canon Fodder


10 Misconceptions about the NT Canon: #1: “The Term ‘Canon’ Can Only Refer to a Fixed, Closed List of Books” – Canon Fodder

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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