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

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Subsections

The Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha & Dead Sea Scrolls

Works Against the Roman Apologist Bellarmine (who treated of the authority & extent of the Canon)

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Order of Contents

The Biblical Canon
.      Articles  12+
.      Books  10+
.      Latin  1
The Old Testament Canon  4
The New Testament Canon  4
.       Latin  1

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The Biblical Canon:  Articles

1500’s

Calvin, John

Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1

ch. 7, ‘The Testimony of the Spirit Necessary to Give Full Authority to Scripture.  The Impiety of Pretending that the Credibility of Scripture depends on the Judgment of the Church’

ch. 8, ‘The Credibility of Scripture Sufficiently Proved, insofar as Natural Reason Admits’

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1600’s

Ball, John – pp. 5-51  in A Short Treatise containing all the Principal Grounds of Christian Religion, by way of questions and answers…  (1631)

Lyford, William – Ch. 1, sections 1 & 2  in The Instructed Christian, or the Plain Man’s Senses Exercised to Discern Both Good and Evil, being a discovery of the Errors, Heresies, and Blasphemies of these Times, and the Toleration of them…  †1653

Leigh, Edward – pp. 28-29  of Bk. 1, ch. 3, ‘The Books of Scripture’  in A System or Body of Divinity  (London, 1654)

Dickson, David – Ch. 1, Question 7  in Truth’s Victory Over Error: or the True Principles of the Christian Religion  Buy  (1662)

Turretin, Francis – 2nd Topic, ‘The Holy Scriptures’, Questions 3-9  in Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols.  Buy  trans. James Dennison Jr.  (1679–1685)

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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

Hodge, A.A.

Ch. 6, ‘The Canon of Scripture’  in Outlines of Theology  (New York: Robert Carter, 1860), pp. 90-100

Lecture 4, ‘The Holy Scriptures–The Canon & Inspiration’  in Popular Lectures  (Philadelphia: 1887), pp. 68-93

A.A. Hodge was the son of Charles Hodge and followed his father as a professor of systematic theology at Princeton.

Shedd, William, G.T. – Bibliology, ch. 4, ‘Canonicity of the Scriptures’  in Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1  Buy  (1888), pp. 414-150

Briggs, Charles A. – Ch. 4, ‘History of the Canon of Holy Scripture’ & Ch. 5, ‘Criticism of the Canon’  in General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture  (New York: Scribner’s, 1899)  Ch. 4 traces the canon from the earliest time in Scripture up to the Reformation.  Ch. 5 traces the canon from the Reformation up to Briggs’s day.

Briggs (1841-1913) was an important liberal and scholar of his day.  His work is included here for the useful information it contains; these sections are more conservative than might be expected from him.  His survey of the OT is based on a form of the erroneous, liberal J.E.P.D. hypothesis.

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1900’s

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

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2000’s

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.

Haines, David – ‘The Role of Natural Knowledge in Biblical Interpretation as Key to Solving the Protestant Problem’  2018

This is the rough draft of the author’s presentation at the Davenant Convivium in 2018.

Abstract: “This, then, is the protestant problem: How can we “infallibly” determine which doctrines are necessary for a person to be considered orthodox if the only authority for Protestant theology is the Bible, as interpreted by the individual reader?  I will argue that natural knowledge of man, God, and the universe is necessary for biblical interpretation, and is a key element in a well-rounded solution to the protestant problem.”

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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

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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

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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.  See the remarks of T.H. Horne on this work: Manual, p. 154.

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.

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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

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The Biblical Canon:  Advanced Books

1600’s

Cosin, John – A Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture, or the Certain and Indubitate books thereof as they are received in the Church of England (Oxford: London, 1657)  Table of contents

Cosin (1595-1672) was an Arminian Anglican.  Archibald Alexander, in his work above, was much indebted to this work.

Du Pin, Louis Ellies – A Complete History of the Canon and Writers of the Books of the Old and New Testament: By Way of Dissertation with Useful Remarks on that Subject (London : H. Rhodes, 1699)  2 vols. in 1

Du Pin (1657-1719) was a Romanist, French ecclesiastical historian, and professor of philosophy at Paris.  Beware that Romanism has traditionally included the Apocrypha in the Canon.

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1900’s

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

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Latin

von Mastricht, Gerhard – The Ecclesiastical Canon of Sacred Scripture, Collected according to the series of ages after the birth of Christ, and illustrated by notes of the same…  (Jena & Lobenstein, 1725)

von Mastricht (1639-1721) was reformed.

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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

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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

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1900’s

Warfield, B.B.

‘The Canon of the New Testament: How and When Formed’  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.

‘Syllabus on the Canon of the New Testament in the Second Century’  1881-2  in Five Papers

Article 2, ‘The Canonicity of Second Peter’  in Southern Presbyterian Review, vol. 33, No. 1 (Jan., 1881) 45-75.

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

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Book

1700’s

Jones, Jeremiah – A New and Full Method of Settling the Canonical Authority of the New Testament…, vol. 1, 2, 3  (Oxford, 1798)  Jones argues for the orthodox canon.

On this work, see T.H. Horne, Manual, p. 152.  Archibald Alexander, in his work above, was much indebted to Jones’s work.

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Latin

Book

Ens, Johannes – The Sacred Library, or on the Canon of the Books of the New Testament, in which is drawn out the history of the first collection of the Sacred Books of the New Testament…  (Amsterdam, 1710)

Ens (1682-1732) was a reformed professor of theology at Utrecht, Netherlands.

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“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

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Related Pages

The Inspiration of the Bible

The Inerrancy of the Bible