Teaching Objectives

1. To understand the historical process of New Testament canonization.

2. To understand the role of Marcion and the Gnostics in the formation of the canon.

3. To understand how the text of New Testament books was Nritten and transmitted through history.

Outline of Lecture:

1. Text

Original Documents -"Autographs"

1. None exist today.

2. Probably written on Papyrus - produced by drying out papyrus reed in a woven pattern to produce this paper-like material. We get our word "paper" from papyrus.

3. Most written in Koine Greek - marketplace Greek (with the possible exception of Matthew which may have been written originally in Aramaic).

4. Authors gathered material from: a Oral tradition b. Eyewitnesses - such as the Apostles c. Other primary written sources (Note the comments of Luke's author, Luke 1:14) d Early Christian hymns e. Their own experience

B. Transmission of New Testament


1. Often originally dictated from the author to an amanuensis (writing secretary)

2. Originally individual copies were made to churches and individuals requesting them.

3. Later, as demand increased, a person would orally read a document to a room full of copyists. As a result, small, primarily Insignificant differences began to appear in the manuscripts.

4. Form of early copies of New Testament documents:

a. Originally in scroll form

b. Later in codex (similar to a book with pages)

c. Early copies were written In all capital letters called uncials

d Later copies were written in small or cursive letters called miniscules

e. Later manuscripts were copied on vellum and parchment (animal skins).

S. There is far more textual evidence for the New Testament than any other ancient work.

6. Textual Criticism - process of using variant readings of ancient Greek texts of the New Testament and determining a Greek text which is as close to the original autograph as possible.

II. Process of New Testament Canonization

A. Definition of Canon

1. From the Greek ""kannon"" which literally means "measuring reed"

2. Came to mean "standard"

3. New Testament Canon - "those books accepted by the church as the authoritative standard for belief and conduct." (Gundry, 54)1

B. How we received the 27 Books of The New Testament

1. The earliest Christians had no New Testament books. They depended on:

a. Old Testament

b. Oral Tradition

c. Direct revelation from prophets

2. Earliest books accepted as authontative:

a Gospels (Matthew, Mark Luke,John)

b. Paul's 13 letters

3. The Role of Marcion and Gnostics
Around A D. 140, there were conflicts within the Christian community over the definition of the Christian Scripture. Marcion, a Roman Christian and also a Gnostic, argued that Christians should dispense with the entire Old Testament. He said it presented a savage side of God. He proposed that only Luke and Paul's letters should be recognized as an accurate portrayal of Christianity. He was eventually expelled from the church for proposing this heretical position.

Marcion forced the Christian community to seriously consider standardizing the books which would be recognized as authoritative.

4. Several books were left out of early lists of authoritative books. Among them are 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, Revelation, and Hebrews. Other apocryphal books were included that were later eliminated from the canon.

5. Athanatius, bishop of Alexandria, issued the first list of the 27 books we now hold to be canonical in A.D. 367.

6. Several church councils ratified this list in the 50 years that followed including the Council of Carthage in AD. 397.

C. Translations of the New Testament Canon

1. Latin Vulgate -Jerome's Version A.D. 383-405 -This version became the standard for the European church for over a thousand years.

2. Early English Translations:

a. John Wycliffe's Translation - 1382 (translated from the Latin Vulgate.)

b. Tyndale Translation - 1525 (from Greek)

c. Roman Catholic Douay Version - 1582

d. King James Version - 1611 (It has been revised many times to get to its present form.)

3. Modern English Translations:
As earlier and barter Greek manuscripts have been found since the 3. writing of the King James Version and because the English language has changed dramatically, it became necessary to write new and improved translations. These modern English translations use Greek text s which are Or closer to the original autographs than the Textus Receptus (the Greek text used by the King James translators).

a English Revised Version 1881

b. American Standard Version 1901

c. Revised Standard Version 1946

d. New American Standard Version 1963

e. New International Version 19783

f. The New Revised Standard Version 1989

D. The Synoptic Problem (4)

1. Definition: Term used to describe the problem scholars have in determining why there is so much common material in the three synoptic Gospels as well as material which is different.

Solutions to the Synoptic Problem:

a Mark-Q Documentary Hypothesis: Mark's Gospel was written first. Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark and from a common unnamed source designated "Q". This is the most popular of the solutions among scholars.

b. Priority of Mark The so called "Two Document Theory" assumes The "priority of Mark"

c. Griesbach Theory -- Matthew and Luke written first. Mark is a shortened combination of the two.

d. All 3 borrowed from a number of common sources. (There is no problem!)5


Read the introductory material on the Gospels in the text. Determine where you stand on the synoptic problem.


TN Read any of the following to get a more detailed vlew of the Canon:Barclay, Wiliam T The Making of the Bible, New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press,1961.

Bruce, F.F., The Canon of Scripture Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1988.

Buttrick,, George, ea., The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 1. pp. 520- 532. New York and Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1962.

TN (2) Marcion belonged to a group in the early church called Gnostics. "Gnosticism is a general label applied to an extremely diverse set of beliefs and practices ... In general, Gnosticism expresses a strongly mystical attitude toward human existence, emphasizing that a person achieves salvation through attaining a spiritual 'knowledge' of heavenly truths. Gnosticism also teaches that reality consists of two distinct modes of being: an invisible realm of pure spirit that is good and to which the human soul belongs and an inferior physical world to which the desire-filled and corruptible body belongs." (Harris 1988, pg. 8)

3 There are two basic types of interpretations today: 1. Word for Word Translations - these translations attempt to translate each Creek word with an appropriate English word or words. Ex - New American Standard Version Advantage: Better for word studies. 2. Dynamic Equivalent Translations -These translations attempt to take a phrase in Greek and translate with an appropriate phrase in English. Advantage: a clearer meaning of a phrase or passage is translated than in a word for word translation. As in any transladon, a skiff word for word translation often misses the author's intended meaning The New International Version is an example of the dynamic equivalent method.

TN 4 This section may be included in this lecture or in the next lecture which introduces the study of the Gospels.



DQ (1) Why is it important ant to know how the New Testament amens cart e into being?

(5) In In your opinion, is it important to solve the synoptic problem? Why or why not?



Hams, Stephen L., The New Testament, Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1988.

Hams, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible Toronto: Mayfield Publishing Co.

Jensen, Irving L., Jensen's Survey of the New Testament, Chicago: Moody Press, 1981.

Cate, Robert L., A History of the Bible I Lands in the Period, Nashville: Broad man Press, 1989.

Hester, H. 1., The Heart of the New Testament ,, Liberty The Quality Press, Inc., 1963.