The Canon and Biblical Authority: A Critical Comparison of Two Models of Canonicity -- By: John C. Peckham

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 28:2 (Fall 2007)
Article: The Canon and Biblical Authority: A Critical Comparison of Two Models of Canonicity
Author: John C. Peckham

The Canon and Biblical Authority:
A Critical Comparison of Two Models of Canonicity

John C. Peckham*

John C. Peckham is a Ph.D. student in Theological Studies at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

What is the proper foundation for theology? Historically, Protestant theology has embraced the Bible as the standard and authority of belief and practice. Yet, this raises some important questions. Why is the Bible the correct foundation for truth? What epistemological criteria do the Scriptures meet? This inevitably leads to the question of the contents of the Bible. In other words, what books are Scripture and why are they included in the canon of the Bible? The proposition that the canon represents the special revelation of God is questioned in contemporary scholarship and society. Why some ancient books are granted status as God’s word while other hagiography is dismissed is a timely question. Hence an exploration of the scope of the canon of the Bible and its importance as the foundation for a theological methodology may provide some support for the biblical canon as the foundation of theology.

The purpose of this article is to investigate the definition and scope of the biblical canon in order to shed light on its role for theology. This focuses especially upon the problem of what determines canonicity. Is the canon determined by humans or by God? At times, the biblical canon is studied from a mostly historical standpoint, focusing on lists and dates of the acceptance of the canon. The information garnered from such studies provides essential information. However, the problem before us regards not only the community’s acceptance of a canon, but the intrinsic merit of the canon. Consequently, the dating of the acceptance of the canon is not the crucial issue. Rather, the fundamental question is whether the canon is determined by humans or by God. This article deals with two major views which produce far-reaching implications on this significant matter. This study thus suggests two broad models based on these general views regarding the nature of canonicity, for the sake of comparison.1

First, some consider the canonization of Scripture to be “something officially or authoritatively imposed upon certain literature.”2 This view will be discussed under the general rubric of the community canon model. The second view holds that the canon was not determined, but recognized.3 This will be discussed as the intrinsic canon model. These models have different definitions of the canon, see t...

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