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The New Testament Canon

May 3, 2018 | by: Mike Law | 0 Comments

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Reflections

Brothers & Sisters,

             Earlier this year I read through Michael Kruger’s excellent book The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate. It is a thorough examination of the prevailing notion that the Biblical canon arose through what is known as an extrinsic model. In other words, the Church created the canon. As a protestant with a capital P, I was delighted by Kruger’s work. His argument – that there were “also intrinsic factors at work in the Christian movement that may have made a new corpus of Scripture more natural, if not inevitable” – is convincing. The New Testament Canon developed and formed quite naturally on its own, and as God’s Word it possessed authority in and of itself. The Church did not create that authority, it simply received it.

            One particularly convincing section of Kruger’s work had to do with how the Old Testament beckoned for a fulfillment (or a completion of the true story) in the New. The author reveals something of this as he reflects on the connections between the genealogies in Chronicles and Matthew’s Gospel. Yes, that is right, genealogies!  Kruger writes:

The fact that Matthew appears to be molding his Gospel after the pattern of Old Testament books is confirmed by the fact that he turns immediately to a genealogy, placing the Jesus story into the story of Israel, with a special emphasis on David. The genealogy, of course, is a well-known Old Testament genre that is frequently used to demonstrate the historical unfolding of God’s redemptive activities among his people. In this regard, Matthew’s closest parallel is the book of Chronicles, which also begins with a genealogy that has an emphasis on the Davidic line. If by the first century Chronicles was regarded as the final book in the Hebrew canon, as some scholars have argued, then Matthew’s Gospel would certainly be a fitting sequel. An Old Testament Canon ending with Chronicles would have served as a reminder to the Jews that Israel’s return from exile documented in Ezra-Nehemiah is not the full story – it is only a physical return, not a spiritual one. The hearts of the people still needed to be changed. Israel remained in spiritual exile. Such an ending would have placed Israel in an eschatological posture, looking ahead to the time when the Messiah, the son of David, would come to Jerusalem and bring full deliverance to his people.

 [Michael J. Kruger, The question of Canon: challenging the status quo in the New Testament debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 205, and 144-45.]

The ancient people of God would have never imagined creating the Old Testament canon. “God’s Word creates God’s people. God’s people never create God’s Word” as Mark Dever has often said. As it is with the Old, so it is with the New. We have the New Testament because God so generously gave it to us, just as he gave us his Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). Praise God for his generosity.

Warmly in Christ,

Mike

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