The Canon

“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples…. To the law and to the testimony!  If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Isa. 8:16,20

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city… to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy…” 

Dan. 9:24

In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David… for sin and for uncleanness… and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.  And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord… But he shall say, I am no prophet…”

Zech. 13:1-7

.

.

Order of Contents

The Biblical Canon
.      Articles  3
.      Books
.              Beginner  2
.              Intermediate  8
.              Advanced  1
The Old Testament Canon  4
The New Testament Canon  4
The Apocrypha & Pseudepigraphia  2

.

.

The Biblical Canon:  Articles

1800’s

Hodge, Charles – Ground of Faith in the Scriptures  28 paragraphs  being a review of an essay by James H. Thornwell entitled, “Review of the Arguments of Romanists from the Infallibility of the Church and Testimony of the Fathers in behalf of the Apocrypha, discussed and refuted.”  It was first published in the Princeton Review, 1845, and subsequently in Essays & Reviews, 1857, p. 185-200

.

Contemporary

Bahnsen, Greg – The Concept and Importance of Canonicity  33 paragraphs

Kayser, Phillip – The Canon of Scripture: Biblical Presuppositions  2010  54 pp.

An excellent, detailed summary and analysis of what the Bible itself testifies to as to its own formation, transmission, authority, cessation of special revelation and its sufficiency.  The author is a partial-preterist in his interpretation of numerous prophecies.

.

.

The Biblical Canon:  Beginner Books

McRae, William J. – The Birth of the Bible  Buy  1984

“The beginning reader should consult William J. McRae, ‘The Birth of the Bible’…  or Neil Lightfoot, ‘How We Got our Bible’…  for a simple treatment of the establishment of the sacred canon of Scripture.” – Joel Beeke

Lightfoot, Neil – How We Got our Bible  Buy  1963

.

.

The Biblical Canon:  Intermediate Books

1500’s

Whitaker, William – Question the First of the First Controvery: Of the Number of the Canonical Books of Scripture  †1595  84 pp.  being the first part of A Disputation on Holy Scripture, Against the Papists, especially Bellarmine and Stapleton

.

1800’s

Alexander, Archibald

The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained: or the Bible Complete Without the Apocrypha and Unwritten Tradition  HTML  1833  374 pp.

Alexander was the first professor of Old Princeton Seminary.

Evidences of the Authenticity, Inspiration, Canonical Authority of the Holy Scriptures  1906  326 pages.  This is a later expanded edition that includes A Brief Outline of the Evidences of the Christian Religion, 1825, and parts of The Canon of the Old and New Testaments Ascertained, 1833.

Cunningham, William – Theological Lectures: on Subjects Connected with Natural Theology, Evidences of Christianity, the Canon and Inspiration of Scripture  Buy  1878  625 pp.

Cunningham was one of the great lights of the Free Church of Scotland.  This collection of lectures in its subject matter forms an extended exposition of the first chapter of the Westminster Confession.  Cunningham “had bestowed much care and labor upon their composition and revision, and that he had attached a special value to them as the first-fruits of his professional labors.”

Gaussen, Louis

The Canon of the Holy Scriptures: Examined in the Light of History   Buy  1862, 469 pages

Gaussen was a Swiss-Reformed pastor.

The Canon of the Holy Scriptures from the Double Point of View of Science and of Faith   Buy  1863  712 pp.   Part I of this book (the first 410 pages) is nearly identical to his other work on the topic of the Canon above.  Part II (the last 300 pages) is new though.

.

1900’s

Harris, Robert Laird – Inspiration & Canonicity of the Bible  Buy  1957

Harris was an Old Testament scholar and minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church and the P.C.A.

“On a somewhat higher level, R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible… is a basic, reliable work on canonization that covers most of the major issues.  Harris lucidly argues that inspiration is the core principle of canonicity.” – Joel Beeke

“A masterly approach to the subject of bibliology.” – Cyril J. Barber

Ridderbos, Herman – Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures  Buy  1988

.

.

The Biblical Canon:  Advanced Books

Green, William – General Introduction to the Old Testament: vol. 1: the Canon  1911  210 pp. 

Green (1825–1900) was an imminent, old Princeton, Hebrew scholar.  ‘General’ in the title means that Green stays at the level of background issues that involve the whole O.T., as opposed to ‘special introduction’, which dives into the issues related to particular books.

“For a more scholarly approach to canonization, a diligent reading of… William Henry Green, General Introduction to the Old Testament, the Canon… will reap rewards, notwithstaning their datedness.” – Joel Beeke

.

.

The Old Testament Canon

Articles

Harrison, Roland K. – ‘The Canon of the Old Testament’  in modern editions of Young’s Analytical Concordance  Buy

“…clear, concise, and sound.” – Joel Beeke

Beckwith, Roger – “Introduction”, “The Fact of the Canon”, (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) of “The Identity of the Canonical Books: The Books Excluded As Uncanonical”  In The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism  Buy  1986  pp. 1-15, 63-104, 366-408, 419-33  See the Buy link for the Table of Contents

“Beckwith’s book is the most significant contribution on canon in a century.  His purpose is to describe the canon as it existed in the first century A.D., particularly the canon of Jesus’ day.  He marshals strong evidence that Jesus’ canon was the same as that in contemporary Protestantism.” – Tremper Longman III, 5 out of 5 stars

Young, E.J. – “The Canon of the Old Testament,”  1958  13 pp.  in Carl F.H. Henry, ed., Revelation and the Bible. Contemporary Evangelical Thought, pp. 155-168

.

.

The New Testament Canon

Articles

1800’s

Cunningham, William – ‘Canon of the New Testament’  1878  22 pp.  being chs. 34-35 of Theological Lectures, pp. 424-446

Cunningham was one of the great lights of the Free Church of Scotland.

“For a more scholarly approach to canonization, a diligent reading of William Cunningham’s essay on canonicity in his Theological Lectures…  will reap rewards, notwithstanding their datedness.” – Joel Beeke

1900’s

Warfield, B.B. – ‘The Canon of the New Testament’  8 pp. in The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, Appendix 1, pp. 411-419  Buy 

Warfield has some of the best writings on Inspiration and was a great defender of the Inerrancy of the Original Autographs of the Scriptures.  Be aware, though, that, in his adoption of the ‘critical texts’ of Scripture (dug up in the mid-1800’s) and the philosophy behind them, Warfield did quietly drop the doctrine of the special, providential preservation of the Scriptures through the New Testament era *in all ages* (as WCF 1.8 states:  “and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical”).  Warfield, unfortunately has been greatly influenctial in this regard towards those who have come after him.  For a correction of this, see The Majority Text.

Harrison, Everett F. – ‘The Canon of the New Testament’  in modern editions of Young’s Analytical Concordance  Buy

“…clear, concise, and sound.” – Joel Beeke

Ridderbos, Herman – The Canon of the New Testament  1959  13 pp.  in Revelation and the Bible. Contemporary Evangelical Thought, ed. Carl Henry

.

.

The Apocrypha & the Pseudepigraphia

On the Apocrypha

1800’s Articles

Cunningham, William – The Apocrypha and the Canon of the New Testament  1878  34 pp.   from his Theological Lectures,  p. 412 ff.

Gaussen, Louis – On the Apocrypha  1863  32 p.  from his The Canon of the Holy Scriptures from the Double Point of View of Science and of Faith   Buy  629 pp.

.

1900’s

Bahnsen, Greg – ‘Application of Canonicity’ being the last subsection in The Concept and Importance of Canonicity  12 paragraphs

Young, G. Douglas – The Apocrypha  1959  13 pp. in Revelation and the Bible. Contemporary Evangelical Thought, ed. Carl Henry, pp. 171-185

.

Read the Apocrypha & Pseudepigraphia:

ed. Charles, R.H. – The Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia of the Old Testament in English, with Introductions and Critical and Explanatory Notes, vol. 1 (Apocrypha), 2 (Pseudepigraphia)

The Jewish Apocrypha, while not being inspired or part of the canon, does give some very helpful light upon the history and thought of the Inter-testamental period, as most of its books were written during the first few centuries B.C.  

For instance, the books of Maccabees are our main primary source for much of the Jewish history during the 2 century B.C.  Scripture says in the prophecies of Daniel that during the Maccabean time, “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Dan. 12:32

‘Pseudepigraphia’ means writings written under a false name.  These religious writings, written during the first few centuries B.C. to the first fw centuries A.D., none of which made it into the Jewish canon, do give some light on the genres of literature current to the writing of the New Testament.  Read them and you will see why they were not recognized as inspired, though forgeries and false prophets have abounded in every age.

The New Testament Pseudepigraphia is generally not useful to understanding the background of the New Testament, as it is post-dated, by definition, to the New Testament, though it may have some use in understanding post-Biblical early Church history in its erroneous strands (as Paul warns against in Galatians, Colossians, etc.).

ed. Charlesworth, James – The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols.  Buy  1983  1,000 pp. each  Doubleday/Anchor

The is the most exhaustive, scholarly and standard edition of the O.T. Pseudepigraphia, including 65 works, many more than what is in R.H. Charles’ older edition above.

.

.

.

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son”

Heb. 1:1-2

“…all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms…”

Lk. 22:44

.

.

.

Related Pages

The Inspiration of the Bible

The Inerrancy of the Bible