During the early years, many new Scriptural compilations appeared, themselves the foundation of the New Testament.
The thirty-nine Old Testament books had already been officially recognized as canon by this time, having been declared as such not only through their continued – and essentially unaltered – usage for millennia, but a number of scholars believe that they were also formally affirmed as such during the late first-century Council of Jamnia. The New Testament teaching however were not as yet codified in this way, and because of this some interpretations of those Scriptures led some to formulate extremely heretical concepts about the nature of God, Christ, and the teachings of the Church. One such example was Marcionism – appearing between 140 and 150 AD – which posited that the God of the Hebrews was not the same as the God of the New Testament.
Though such ideas were clearly in opposition to the truth, they were still popular enough to merit concern. In light of this, it became necessary to officially codify the teachings of the New Testament. To ensure the sanctity and canonicity of these texts, the early church fathers utilized a number of methods:
- They sought apostolic authority, ensuring that either the apostles or their associates wrote the books in question
- They verified that the books conformed to the traditions and doctrines of the Church
- They confirmed that the books in question had been accepted and utilized continuously by the Church at large
- Finally, they established that the book was prophetic or inspired by the Spirit and authority of God, possessing sovereignty and transformative power
Now, it must be understood here that the canonicity of Scripture was not set by the early fathers, but rather they only identified those texts which God had ordained as canon, inspired by His will within the hearts of the men who wrote them. As it has so wonderfully been put in the past, canonicity is established authoritatively by God; it is only discovered by man.
The naturalistic misunderstandings of the process of canonization has led many skeptics to suggest that the Scriptures have been tampered with in the past in order to push various agendas. We know from history that this was not the case.
“Delaring the Truth” continues next time
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