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The Canon of Scripture

Postby Soyuz » Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:06 pm

What's your opinion on men putting together the canon of a religion?

Men, even well intentioned, can be biased when making choices. It's my understanding that neither Jesus nor Mohammed left any writings, and the task of putting what they said or did into books was done by others. Even the claim that the holy spirit guided them can be their own invention. Since the devil, Satan, or whatever you want to call it never rests... How can you be sure he wasn't sitting there when they were deciding what would be in the holy books?
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:06 pm

The deliberations of the Church during this time involved recognizing the books given by God rather than deciding what books to include. The difference is a subtle but important one. The books of the New Testament are not Scripture because the church said they were, but are Scripture because from the time of their composition they bore the mark of divine authority. The New Testament, and in fact the Bible as a whole, is thus a list of authoritative writings rather than an authoritative list of writings.

> Even the claim that the holy spirit guided them can be their own invention.

Anything is possible, of course, but we have to consider what is most reasonable. Jesus Himself had said that the Holy Spirit would help them remember what He had said. Several factors weigh against this possibility:

- Some of the NT was written by people who didn't know Jesus. Luke, for instance, didn't know Jesus, but rather composed his Gospel based on research and interviews with the eyewitnesses (Lk. 1.1-4). He wasn't pretending to be guided by the HS, and Luke probably had no idea he was writing Scripture. But his work was unanimously affirmed from our earliest records as authoritative.
- If you believe in the power of Satan, then you believe in the reality and power of spirit beings. And if you believe in the power of spirit beings, then you most likely believe in the Holy Spirit. And if you believe in those two, you know that the Holy Spirit is more powerful than Satan and could make sure the Bible was written well.
- The writings we now call the New Testament were affirmed in a continuous string of ratification from their first mentions to their formal canonization in about AD 381. There is no historical record of manipulations, campaigning, or strong-arming for their recognition as guided by the Holy Spirit and carrying divine authority.
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby Cogito » Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:25 pm

The most reasonable possibility is that during the Council of Nicea the Bishops chose to go against what they termed as the Arian Heresy because they didn't want Jesus to be a man. Not because God told them which way to vote. What had been doctrine for 200 years or so, became Heresy because they chose to go a different route.
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:37 pm

> The most reasonable possibility is that during the Council of Nicea the Bishops chose to go against what they termed as the Arian Heresy because they didn't want Jesus to be a man.

Jesus had never been regarded as just a man. In the Gospel of John (written anywhere from AD 65-95), there are numerous places Jesus is declared to be God Himself (Jn. 1.1, 10.30 and 20.28 are notable places).

The Church Fathers recognized Jesus as God.

- Ignatius, around AD 100: "...by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God"; "God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first subject to suffering and then beyond it, Jesus Christ our Lord;" "For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary," et al.
- Justin Martyr (AD 150): "And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God..."; "in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts," et al.
- Melito of Sardis (180): "subjected to ignominy in a naked body—God put to death! ... [I]n order that He might not be seen, the luminaries turned away, and the day became darkened—because they slew God, who hung naked on the tree"
- Irenaeus (180): "But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself..."; "He was very man, and that He was very God," et al.
- Clement of Alexandria (200): "this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man," et al.
- Tertullian (200): "since Christ is also God," et al.
- Hippolytus (225): "The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God," et al.
- Origen (250): "Jesus Christ...in the last times, divesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was," et al.
- and others

Arius came in about 300 claiming something that was clearly against what Jesus taught, the apostles preached, and the Christian Church affirmed: Jesus is God. It's not that the Council of Nicea (325) didn't want Jesus to be a man. He had NEVER been regarded as just a man by the Church. There had been many challenges to the deity of Christ through the years (Manorchianism, Sabellionism, the Ebionites, and Arius). The vote of the Nicean Council was hoped to settle the matter once and for all, affirming what had been taught from the inception: Jesus was of one essence with God the Father. Therefore "What had been doctrine for 200 years or so, became Heresy because they chose to go a different route" is patently false.
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby Holiday » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:15 pm

Your response is a wonderful example of choosing facts to support your beliefs. Many apologists do make these same arguments blatantly ignoring those who did not agree. The cannon as it appears today was affirmed multiple times by many different leaders however there were others who proposed different cannons. This is why we have multiple codices that differ greatly from that time. The apocrypha was part of the KJV right up into the late 1800's, and the entire protestant revolution that argued against books in the bible today. We have access to more information than they could have dreamed of just 50 years ago is it any wonder we are re evaluating what we think is true.
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:15 pm

> Your response is a wonderful example of choosing facts to support your beliefs.

Oh my, this is neither fair nor true. I'm just giving the history. The facts come first, the beliefs should follow.

> The cannon as it appears today was affirmed multiple times by many different leaders however there were others who proposed different cannons.

The Gospels and the writings of Paul were always consistently and unanimously affirmed from the beginning. By the end of the 2nd century, the church was in essential agreement on the content of the NT. There were only a few books in contention, primarily Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Shepherd, and the Didache.

> The apocrypha was part of the KJV right up into the late 1800's

The King James was an Anglican translation as a theologically compromising measure between Catholicism (to whom he had to give regard but who also had tried to assassinate him in 1605) and the Puritans, whom he despised. Technically the KJV was a Protestant translation, but practically it was not because the Anglicans were wafflers.

The apocrypha was not included in any canon until the Council of Trent, 1545-1560. Despite its inclusion in the Septuagint, the Jews of Palestine never recognized them as Scripture. Jerome's Vulgate excluded them (he didn't bother to translate most of it). Augustine argued that they should be included, but they were not in his era. You're right that the King James Bible included it in 1611, but the Apocrypha was not accepted by the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox) or other Protestant groups like the Puritans. The Roman Catholic Church put it into their Bibles in the 16th century in response to the Protestant Reformation.

> and the entire protestant revolution that argued against books in the bible today.

Luther was no great fan of the book of James, but he didn't suggest it to be removed from the Bible. The only books that Protestants didn't accept were the Apocryphal books, which were not in the canon anyway. The Apocrypha didn't get included in the Catholic Bible until the Council of Trent, roughly 30 years after the Protestant Reformation.
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby Holiday » Sun Apr 08, 2018 3:46 pm

Rather than argue certain points lets both agree your entire post supports my assertion that they did not settle/decide/finish the cannon as you suggested at first. Now lets take this paragraph of yours and talk about it for a moment.

> The Gospels and the writings of Paul were always consistently and unanimously affirmed from the beginning. By the end of the 2nd century, the church was in essential agreement on the content of the NT.

> There were only a few books in contention, primarily Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Shepherd, and the Didache.

You just contradicted yourself.

Now let's look further into your argument.

> recognizing the books given by God rather than deciding what books to include.

Did they have god detectors? If so why are there thousands of denominations and why did it require so much violence to end up with the fractured sects of christianity today?

Just the fact that they argued the cannon in the 16th century shows that there was no broad consensus as you suggested again you prove my points.

> a list of authoritative writings rather than an authoritative list of writings.

This gets to the crux of my response to you. You choose to believe these are 'gospel' because of people you choose to accept as authorities. There is a reason you included that word twice, you much like other apologetic theists pick the historical figures that agree and discard those that do not. Which opens you up to arguments like this one here.

You said facts come first and I could not agree more. I think you should take the time to consider your own words and see if you can gather my meanings.
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:02 pm

Glad to talk and have this discussion.

> You just contradicted yourself.

Hmm. I see no contradiction. You'll have to be more specific. I said the Gospels and writings of Paul were always consistently and unanimously affirmed from the beginning, and that there were only a few books in contention(Hebrews, James, etc.)—books that were neither Gospels nor the writings of Paul. So no contradiction there.

Then I said that by the end of the 2nd c. the church was in essential agreement on the content of the NT, which is true. There were only a few books in contention: 6 of the 27. Where have I contradicted myself?

> Did they have god detectors?

Yes, actually, they did. In John 16.13-15, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would bring to the minds of the authors what Jesus had said (Jn. 14.26), that the Holy Spirit would make what was Jesus's teachings known to them (16.14), and that He would guide them into all truth (16.13).

> If so why are there thousands of denominations

The thousands of denominations have nothing to do with the formation of the canon. We can talk about that separately if you like, but at core the denominations are a strength to the church in their "diversity in unity" that they exhibit.

> why did it require so much violence to end up with the fractured sects of christianity today?

It didn't. Any violence through history between Christian groups was the result of sin and disobedience. And again the violence had nothing to do with the formation of the canon.

> Just the fact that they argued the cannon in the 16th century shows that there was no broad consensus as you suggested again you prove my points.

It doesn't prove your point at all

- "The cannon as it appears today was affirmed multiple times by many different leaders however there were others who proposed different cannons." This is true. The Roman Catholic Church's decision to include the Apocrypha was a reaction to the Protestant Reformation. I'd have to study up on my history to know what that issue rose at that particular time. It's quite odd of the RCs if you ask me. Until that time there had been "broad consensus," as I suggested.

> You choose to believe these are 'gospel' because of people you choose to accept as authorities.

There are no other authorities to accept when the canon was being affirmed and ratified. The Church Fathers and Church councils were not setting themselves up as an authority (making the decision) as much as they were recognizing that the texts themselves had authority, and they were putting their stamp of approval on that textual authority.

> There is a reason you included that word twice

I don't have a clue what you mean by this, and I don't know what it is about apologists that is causing a knot in your shorts. We're just trying to discuss the historical process of canonization.

> Which opens you up to arguments like this one here.

I don't know what your argument is. What authorities regarding the canonization process are you recognizing that the Church Fathers and I are not?
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby Holiday » Mon Apr 09, 2018 4:06 pm

I was looking back over my responses and I realized I came across as a much bigger prick than I meant to, that being said I am not reversing my stance just realizing how I might be perceived.

I consider you contradicting yourself by implying the cannon was established except for several books, that alone means it was not established. I will go much further and state that there was no agreement among the many varied churches and different factions and the bible of today is representative of those who won many interfaith squabbles.

I must admit I am not a historian, although I have read about this subject to some measure. I can point you towards several different websites that I would suggest you read. http://www.earlychristianhistory.info/church.html

All I can point out is that for the first hundred years there were basically widespread sects of judaism (Maccabes to Mishnah is a good start if your into jewish histories) These included a group that was still around recently that considered John the Baptist as the messiah. Gnostic jews and messianic followers who were killed/decimated by the Jewish revolt @66 AD. During this time it was difficult to separate christian and jewish groups however once gentile followers of Paul's teachings started arguing about the nature of jesus it seems most jewish groups separated from them openly.

Now among the different christian groups that remained you had several different factions Marcion, Tertullion, Ireneus, Gnostics, and the Montanists to name a few. Eusebius, the First History of the Church was more confusing than instructional about which books were and were not canonical, something you did not mention was that the Revelation of John was often doubted as being gnostic.

https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/NTcanon.html#IX I suggest you read this it is a wonderful look at just how much conflict the formation of christianity underwent for a millennium.

Just to toss a few more points up you are absolutely wrong about the early bishops and elders.(fathers of the church you name them) It was all about power and control. It was not until Martin Luther that the idea of scriptural authority overcame the authority of the church.
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Re: The Canon of Scripture

Postby jimwalton » Sat May 05, 2018 12:30 am

> I consider you contradicting yourself by implying the cannon was established except for several books, that alone means it was not established.

What I said was that it was essentially established. If Democrats and Republicans sat down at a table to establish a policy, and agreed instantly on 21 of 27 laws, and generally agreed on the other 6 but had to talk them through, we would say they were in basic agreement. That's the point I was making.

> I will go much further and state that there was no agreement among the many varied churches and different factions and the bible of today is representative of those who won many interfaith squabbles.

This is incorrect. All Christians—ALL Christians—accept the 66 books of the canon. The Roman Catholics accept the extra 14 books of the Apocrypha. So it's not fair to say "there was no agreement among the many varied churches and different factions..."

> I can point you towards several different websights that I would suggest you read

Thanks, but I don't need to read websites. I've studied the subject deeply and continue to.

> All I can point out is that for the first hundred years there were basically widespread sects of judaism (Maccabes to Mishnah is a good start if your into jewish histories)

This isn't true. The Maccabees were in 150 BC and have nothing to do with the Christian era. King Herod the Great was a descendent of their line, but he was certainly not influencing religious direction nor assuredly anything about the canon.

> John the Baptist as the messiah

The Bible speaks of various groups who had only been baptized with the baptism of John (Acts 18.25; 19.3-4), but not of a group that considered him the Messiah. John never claimed to be the messiah, claimed that his mission was to exalt Jesus, and himself said that his role was to diminish while the status of Christ was increased. The Gospel of John also teaches that John the Baptist was not "the light" but came only to bear witness to the "True Light."

> The Mishnah

The Mishnah was also BC. When you claim "for the first hundred years there were basically widespread sects of Judaism," that is true but has nothing to do with Christianity or the canonization process.

> During this time it was difficult to separate christian and jewish groups

It actually wasn't. The book of Acts, which picks up the story of Jesus after the resurrection and continues to about AD 60 or so, mentions that the demarcation between the two religious systems were clear and noticeable. Christianity at the time was known as "The Way" (Acts 9.2; 19.9, 23; 22.4). The Sanhedrin, the high priest, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and those who followed Judaism (Acts 5.17, 21) were set apart from the apostles and those who followed Jesus and spoke in his name (Acts 5.18, 27-28, 38-40). Saul, as a Pharisee, was part of intense Christian persecution (Acts 8.1-3). Acts 9.2, the first mention of "The Way," was in the mid- to late 30s AD, possibly only a handful of years after Jesus's death.

> you had several different factions Marcion, Tertullion, Ireneus, Gnostics, and the Montanists to name a few

Marcion was rejected as heretical, as were the Montanists, but Tertullian and Irenaeus were mainstream and orthodox, not factions. Eusebius is highly regarded as an extremely well-learned Christian of his time. The NT used by Eusebius included all but James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, and Jude. At his time these 5 books were recognized by most, but spoken against by some. Eusebius accepted Revelation as a legitimate part of the canon.

> the Revelation of John was often doubted as being gnostic.

Justin Martyr (AD 135) quoted it verbatim and attributed its authorship to the Apostle John. Justin's writing is the earliest allusion to it, so originally it was regarded as apostolic, not Gnostic.

Irenaeus (AD 180) writes that the book appeared in the early 90s (late 1st century), and he quotes from it (Book 4, chapter 20) as if it is authoritative as Scripture.

Revelation was included in the Muratorian Canon (AD 180), in Origen’s list (AD 250), Athanasius (367), The Synod of Rome (382), and the Synod of Carthage (397). The only one who does not include it is Eusebius (320).

> Richard Carrier's "exhaustive look"

I have no respect for the scholarship of Richard Carrier. Every time I read his works or watch his videos I am struck but his "way out there" perspectives. His work is not a "wonderful look," but rather a disreputable perspective. I'm actually tired of reading his stuff. It's not worth it, I have learned.

> Just to toss a few more points up you are absolutely wrong about the early bishops and elders.(fathers of the church you name them) It was all about power and control.

When you read their writings, you get a completely different opinion of them. They are concerned with the truth of Christianity, not personal power and control.


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