Give a definition of the word "canon”
The term ‘canon’ goes back through Latin to the Greek word kanon. Primarily meaning a ‘reed’ or ‘rod’. The Greek word acquired two secondary meanings: (1) a ‘measuring-rod’ or ‘standard’. and (2) a ‘list’ or ‘index’. Origen, early in the third century A.D., applied the former of these two secondary meanings to the Bible, to indicate that it is the ‘standard’ or ‘rule’ of faith. i.e. the norm by which we are to judge everything that may be commended for our acceptance in the realm of religion. Talking about the canon of the Bible, we are generally denoting the collection of books that has been established as being inspired of God and as the authoritative rule of God's people (canonization).
Describe the basic criteria and time-line of the formation of the New Testament canon.
The basic criterion of canonization contains the following four points: Antiquity, Ecclesiastical Usage, Orthodoxy and Apostolicity . Antiquity is purely the time frame that the text was written. The time frame required for canonization is the time of the apostles, better known as the Apostolic Age. The Apostolic Age is generally considered between the years of the Crucifixion of Jesus (c. 30-33) and the death of John the Apostle in (c. 115). John was the brother of James, the first apostle who happened to be the first of the apostles to die, as where John was the last of the apostles to die. The term ‘apostolicity’ is referring to the direct connection or near indirect connection to one of the apostles. ‘Ecclesiastical Usage’ refers to if the text was commonly used in the early church; and ‘Orthodoxy’ refers to if the book follows to the rules of faith within the church.
The time line of the formation of the New Testament canon begins in C. AD 51-125 and ends with the Council of Trent when the Catholic Church confirmed the full list of the 27 traditionally accepted books.
Why did early Christians feel a need to establish an authoritative list of Scripture?
There were five major contributing factors for the need to establish the list of scriptures. First was the value and worthiness of the books themselves. Next a demand needed to be met in order to supply the churches with the compliant / conforming teachings of the Apostles. Another aspect the Church wanted to control the hearsay that surrounded the books. As the bible was beginning to be translated for missions work, a form of conformity as well as to which books should be translated had become a question. Persecution is also a reason for the establishment of the list. As when the “edict of Dioletian in 303 ordered all the sacred books of the Christians burned, this required believers to choose which books were part of Scripture and thus most worthy of preservation.”
What element in the criteria is most important?
‘Antiquity’ is the most important criteria in the canonization process. Over time words get lost, misinterpreted and embellished. The closer the text is to the time period of the founding events, a more accurate account is to be documented, and thus the chance of accuracy is far improved.
Which element is least important?
All elements are important, although the least important would be the ’ecclesiastical usage.’ Kostenberger et al makes a very valid argument that the split between the East and West put a different emphasis on what was acknowledged and what was not within the Scriptures. The varying opinions brought about a division. Therefore it would seem slightly harder to determine the level of usage amongst the books or the importance that may have varied from church to church.
How would you respond to a person who claimed that the canon of the Bible should still be open?
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. (Ephesians 2:20) It was not the Church that closed the canon; it was God that chose to close the canon. The canon was inspired by the Holy Spirit and the writers were an instrument of assistance. However, never say never when it comes to what God can do.