Turning The Cannons On New Testament Canon Criticisms: Part 1 -- By: Henry B. Smith, Jr.

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 24:3 (Summer 2011)
Article: Turning The Cannons On New Testament Canon Criticisms: Part 1
Author: Henry B. Smith, Jr.

Turning The Cannons On New Testament Canon Criticisms: Part 1

Henry B. Smith, Jr.

A multi-part series beginning with this issue of Bible and Spade.


The concept of the New Testament (NT) canon is one of fundamental importance to the Church. The 27 books of the NT stand as the authoritative Word of God, augmenting and completing the 39 books found in the Old Testament (OT). For those who take the Scriptures seriously, the concept of the NT canon must be taken seriously as well.

In our post-modern age of unbridled skepticism, the NT canon has endured an unending assault of unbelief. Long ago, secularized academia rejected the notion of a biblical canon and its inherent divine authority. In more recent times, misinformation concerning the canon is abundant and widespread. A few years ago, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code popularized erroneous views of the NT canon on a grand scale. The History Channel’s regularly featured program, Banned from the Bible, further illustrates canon skepticism gone mainstream.

The most prominent attacks on the Bible have come from textual critic and unbeliever Bart Ehrman, whose presentations are persuasive to the public because of his expertise and training in the area of NT textual criticism, and his generally likeable demeanor. Ehrman has written popular books such as Misquoting Jesus and Jesus Interrupted, which both made the New York Times bestseller list. Other books by Ehrman, such as Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It into the New Testament, and The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture have served to confuse the Church and deceive the public about the NT. Ehrman has made a living attacking the transmission of the NT text and the development of the NT canon. His appearances on The Colbert Report and The Daily Show fully brought these subjects into the public domain. Videos of Ehrman are widely viewed on YouTube.

The basic attitude of Ehrman and the majority of scholars toward the concept of the NT canon is not new, and is found pervasively (and sadly) in biblical studies and other forums as well. A few quotations will suffice to serve as examples:

“The Bible did not arrive by fax from heaven...The Bible is a product of man...not of God. The Bible did not fall magically from the clouds. Man created it as a historical record of tumultuous times, and it has evolved through countless translations, additions, and revisions.”

“More than eighty gospels were considered for the NT, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among them.” “The Bible, as we know...

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