Correlation Of Revelatory Spiritual Gifts And NT Canonicity -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 08:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: Correlation Of Revelatory Spiritual Gifts And NT Canonicity
Author: Robert L. Thomas


Correlation Of Revelatory Spiritual Gifts And NT Canonicity

Robert L. Thomas

Professor of New Testament

Paul uses portions of three of his epistles to develop the role of spiritual gifts in building the body of Christ. Among the eighteen gifts he lists are four that provide for the impartation of special revelation necessary for the body’s growth: the gifts of apostleship, prophecy, the word of wisdom, and the word of knowledge. In discussions of NT canonicity, apostleship has been prominent, but a study of relevant passages shows that prophecy also played an important part in furnishing the early church with special revelation. Several NT examples, particularly the Apocalypse, reinforce this observation. In their efforts to single out books for inclusion in the NT canon, early Christian leaders looked for the works that were inspired, narrowing their search by concentrating on works by men whose spiritual gifts capacities included apostleship and prophecy. A number of early Christian writings verify their interest, not just in apostolicity, but also in the propheticity of a writing. After narrowing down their possibilities to works authored by apostles and prophets, they applied tests of antiquity, orthodoxy, catholicity, and traditional usage to finalize their list of NT books.

* * * * *

In three of his epistles—Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians—the apostle Paul speaks of God’s building of the body of Christ through spiritual gifts He bestows on individual believers. Among the eighteen gifts that Paul mentions, are several that provided for special revelation to the church, revelation that would complement the inspired data available to early Christians in the OT. The following discussion will explore how those revelatory gifts related to books of the NT canon that the church eventually identified.

First will come a brief explanation to identify the NT revelatory gifts of the Spirit, particularly those in addition to apostleship. A follow-up section will discuss several NT examples of revelatory gifts in action in the

NT. After this will come a listing and discussion of tests of canonicity applied by the early church in their recognition of the NT canon. The second and third of the above sections will focus in particular on the importance of the gift of prophecy.

Revelatory Spiritual Gifts

The obvious starting point in correlating revelatory spiritual gifts and NT canonicity is the NT gift of apostleship. Apostolic authorship is the most widely cited test of canonicity, with some scholars going to the point of asserting that it is the only criterion. Harris has stated, “… The test of canonicity a...

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