Turning The Cannons On NT Canon Criticisms -- By: Henry B. Smith Jr.

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 26:3 (Summer 2013)
Article: Turning The Cannons On NT Canon Criticisms
Author: Henry B. Smith Jr.


Turning The Cannons On NT Canon Criticisms

Henry B. Smith Jr.

A multi-part series continuing with Part 2 in this issue of Bible and Spade.

In Part 1 of this series,1 we touched upon a number of critical, foundational matters concerning our study and defense of the NT Canon. First, we pointed out that the theological dimension of canon is ignored by most modern scholars, effectively stripping the Christian concept of canon of its power and essential nature. No one who studies the NT canon can approach the subject with a neutral attitude; rather, each person approaches the NT Canon with their own series of unstated philosophical and theological commitments which are most often antithetical to the Christian position. Second, we maintained that the Old Testament word- event-word pattern in redemptive history was foundational and essential to our understanding of the NT canon. Third, the critical relationship between the OT and the NT is, like the theological dimension of canon, also ignored by scholars or seen solely as a product of human effort. Lastly, since we have seen the explicit necessity of a written revelation following God’s redemptive activities in the OT, we should come to expect new, written revelation following the ministry of Jesus, as He is the fulfillment of the OT promises and history.

The “Self-Authenticating” Authority Of The New Testament

We have argued thus far that the promised redemption of God found in the OT was completed in the ministry of Jesus and that the written NT witness is grounded in the pattern established in the Old. Now, we will turn our attention to the witness of the NT itself concerning its own authority and the implication of that witness for canon studies.

One of the conceptual difficulties concerning the authority and witness of the NT is the apparent circularity of the notion of “self-authentication.” If Scripture is what Christians claim it to be, that is, given to us by God, and there can be no authority higher than God Himself, then Scripture must be the place we go to understand the meaning of canon. At first glance this may appear to be circular reasoning, but upon further reflection it is actually quite logical. We see this conception of authority exemplified in God’s oath to Abraham: “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself...” (Heb 6:13). At bottom, we can study the NT canon, accepting its divine claims at the outset and working within the framework of those divine claims; or we can appeal to a whole variety of extra-biblical evidences as the final authority, such as post-apostol...

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