“I am not claiming that we should have no confidence in the canon we have, but rather that we should be aware of how we received the canon we acknowledge as authoritative. My point here is that a knowledge of the formation of the New Testament canon has implications for the way Evangelicals have understood the nature and function of the Bible in our own traditions. No matter how one looks at the history, it is difficult to maintain that the church had a closed New Testament canon for the first four hundred years of its existence. This means that an appeal to the “Bible” as the early church’s sole rule for faith and life is anachronistic. Further, we need to recognize the manner in which the various documents found their way into the New Testament canon. The assertion that these documents forced their way into the canon by virtue of their unique inspiration has little historical support. In our desire to avoid the corrupting influence of tradition, we have often missed the fact that the very Bible we claim to accept as our only guide is itself a product of the very tradition we avoid. I will not mince words here because no serious study of the formation of the New Testament canon can avoid the fact that the church had a great deal to do with this formation. The Bible is the church’s book, and as many of the fathers show, the church has the responsibility to properly interpret the Bible because this same church has formed it. . . . The Christian faith did not grow in response to a book but as a response to God’s interaction with the community of faith. The Bible must be viewed as a product of the community because traditions of the community provide the context in which Scripture was produced.”
Originally published at Brutally Honest.