The Canon of the New Testament

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What we know today as the New Testament was compiled over a period of many decades. It was first referenced as the “New Testament” by Clement of Alexandria. It is believed that the books that comprise what we know as the New Testament canon were in existence no later than the end of the first century. The included books varied by different sources until the fourth century when the Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasios, included them in a letter to his flock in AD 367. His list was approved by councils at Hippo in AD393 and Carthage in AD397. The process used to arrive at this list varied by time and source. There were many debates along the way and some continue to this day. In order to explore the journey undertaken to arrive at the Canon of the New Testament, we first must define the word. The word “canon” comes from the Greek word kanon, which meant a reed or a rod which was used for measurement. defines the word as “a standard” or “the works of an author that have been accepted as authentic.” From this we can surmise that in order to declare a group of books as a “canon,” we need to determine the authenticity of the author and their broad acceptance by the body. The next step in establishing a canon is to determine the factors that when applied will qualify a work to be a part of the canon. In Theology for Today, Elmer Towns gives us four basic principles: (1)The authorship of the book by an apostle is necessary to be included in the canon. However there were some books that were included because of the relationship of the author to an apostle that raised the book to the level of an apostolic book. Mark had fellowship with Peter, Luke had fellowship with Paul, and James was the brother of the Lord. (2)The spiritual content of the book indicated it was revelation in nature, hence belonged in the canon. (3)The universal acceptance of the book by the church indicated its canonicity. (4)Was there evidence of divine inspiration?...
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