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主後 2016/11/15學海無涯

【NT 101】新約導論 I:Assessment Paper

課程:【NT 101】Introduction to the New Testament I 新約導論 I
教授:Dr. Brandon Crowe
學期:2016 Fall
成績:99% (A)

Comparison and Contrast on Canon

        When it comes to the topic of canon, the perspective of the Kruger passage from 「Canon Revisited」1 is the opposite of that of the McDonald passage2 

        Kruger』s reasons are to support the thesis that the authority of the canon only depends on the canon itself. First, Kruger refutes the claim that the canon is determined by the community. As Kruger has mentioned, human involvement does not eliminate the possibility that God acts (internal evidence) in the development of the canon, and the development of the canon is not based on the human construction, but only based on the ultimate authority of Scripture. In the second place, Kruger argues with the 「historically determined」 view (Kruger, 1845), in which he points out the problems of the canon-within-the-canon model and the criteria-of-canonicity model, saying that both of the two historical investigations reduce the authority of the canon. In the third place, Kruger maintains that the canon is self-authenticated, which is an approach that does not seek the authority of the canon from external evidence; that is, Scripture testifies to itself. 

        Turning to the McDonald passage, we see how McDonald also focuses on the topic of canon, but McDonald』s reasons are to prove that because the church accepts a certain set of Christian writings as God』s inspiration, these writings then 「have divine authority in the church」 (McDonald, 134), which follows a directly opposite approach than that of the Kruger passage. More specifically, McDonald first discusses the canonization process, in which he says that it is Eusebius and Constantine』s acceptance of the 「selection and production of these Scriptures」 (136) that affects the church on its decision in the late fourth century, but the NT writings are not recognized as Scripture in the second century. What is more, McDonald also says that the canonical status of the NT books are not established until the church recognizes them. For example, the canonicity of the book of Acts, the General Epistles, and the Revelation are merely determined by the church, and the canonicity of these NT writings are only based on the acceptance or the rejection of them by the church community.

Comparison and Contrast on Pseudepigraphy

        The perspectives of the Kruger passage 「Canon Revisited」3 and that of the Dunn passage4 contradict each other.

        Kruger demonstrates that the church fathers clearly know which books are apocryphal and which books are canonical. Then, Kruger organizes his passage according to Eusebius』s divisions of early Christian writings. To begin with, Kruger discusses the disputed books, in which he shows that the canonicity of the disputed books is reliable because these books either come from the apostolic circle or are supported by their date and textual association. Hence, the reliabilities of the disputed books can firmly withstand the rejections. In addition, Kruger focuses on the rejected books, saying that the Shepherd of Hermas is rejected because the book is not written in the apostolic period, and early church fathers do not pay much attention to it. Likewise, the Epistle of Barnabas does not receive the canonical recognition of the NT books, for Irenaeus and Tertullian are not interested in Barnabas, and Barnabas is not included in the fourth-century canonical collection. Finally, Kruger brings two heretical books into the discussion, in which he says that Gospel of Thomas is neither included in any canonical list nor in any NT manuscript collections. Also, the Gospel of Thomas is widely condemned among early church fathers. Second, Kruger says that the Gospel of Peter also lacks historical evidence and tends to contain unchristian messages.

        Turning to the Dunn reading, we see how he also focuses on the topic of pseudepigraphy, but he demonstrates that the authorship of the canon is not important; the question is of the 「character and quality」 of the canon and who inspires the canon, which contradicts the Kruger passage.

        At the outset, Dunn says that there are many attempts try to gather the different opinions of pseudepigraphy into one group in the present time. Ancient writers did not have a sense of copyright; ancient people accepted pseudepigraphy as 「literary device」 (Dunn, 978). In addition, Dunn connects the NT pseudepigraphy with that of the OT to show the tradition of pseudepigraphy. Finally, Dunn claims that the NT pseudepigraphy and canonicity are not contradicted by each other. For instance, Dunn illustrates this point by saying that the issue of pseudepigraphy is not a primary factor in the Gospels, and that Colossians advances Pauline thought and Ephesians is pseudepigraphy. Thus, Dunn concludes that the first phase of pseudepigraphy is a 「biblical… literary tradition, begun by an authoritative figure」 (984). The second phase of pseudepigraphy is 「various well-documented cases」 (984) which are also considered as authoritative documents as under the names of those authoritative figures.

Assessment on Canon

        From my point of view, I find the arguments of Kruger are more persuasive on the topic of canon, and I will discuss my reasons first by supporting the positive evidence and second by refuting the negative evidence.   

        In the first place, generally speaking of the positive evidence, Kruger presupposes that the highest authority in the determination of canon is from God. In other words, the authority of canon depends on the divine operation or involvement. More specifically, the unshakable truth that the NT canon is authoritative because not only the NT books but also the entire Scripture is θεόπνευστος, which means 「inspired by God」 or 「breathed out by God.」 And the process of inspiration or God』s breathing activity which is in the written process of the canon is accomplished through the work of Holy Spirit in our Lord Jesus Christ, which supports the fact that the canon is spoken by God and undoubtedly has its origin from God. At this point, the conclusion is especially valuable: God is the fountain from which the spring of the written words flows; as a result, these written words, including the canonical books, are recognized as God’s authoritative words, and the authority of the written words is therefore established. 

        Here is the negative evidence: In the second place, before I present my critique, I infer from the McDonald passage that his worldview is not a confessional Christian worldview, but is much more like a liberal Christian worldview or a secular worldview, for what I am arguing here is that McDonald does not acknowledge God』s full control and supreme power that dominate the process of the development of the canon. By and large, McDonald alleges that it is the church which makes the final decision, and without the recognition of the church, the canonicity of the NT books, like Acts, the General Epistles and Revelation, is subject to question or doubt. Such a claim directly corresponds to the community determined model, which is disapproved of by Kruger in the beginning of his Canon Revisited. On the other hand, as we all have observed in WCF: 「The authority of the Holy Scripture… depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God」 (Chapter I, IV).

        In addition, we should not neglect the essential confessional teaching on the doctrine of man that we human beings are totally corrupted and fallible after the fall. Nevertheless, the canon, as it is breathed out by God, is infallible and flawless. So, the question should be noticed: How is fallible man qualified to act like a chief justice to decide whether or not the word, or the canon, is infallible or flawless?

        What is more, as a Protestant who keeps the wonderful reformational slogan sola scriptura, which is the essential teaching of Scripture given by those faithful reformers, I would definitely argue that McDonald』s evidence is not in accordance with the slogan sola scriptura. My reason is that McDonald is hand in hand with the Roman Catholic church; both of them try to seek external testimonies and elevate human decisions and traditions as equal to or even higher than that of the self-authentication of God.

        Hence, McDonald』s claim is inconsistent with the confessional teaching that derives from the Reformation, so that both his claim and supporting reasons are not robust enough to persuade me.

Assessment on Pseudepigraphy

        From my point of view, I find the arguments of Kruger are more persuasive on the topic of pseudepigraphy.

        As Kruger has mentioned in his book, the early church knew the distinction between the canonical books and the apocryphal books; that is, the early church was conscious of the list of the canonical books. The canonical books were widely recognized and accepted by the church fathers, and  all of the NT books to which Kruger refers in Chapter 8 Part II are included in the early canonical book list. Accordingly, these good reasons encourage me that we Christians already have a firm ground for the canonicity of these books.   

        To start with, Kruger』s points are worthy for us to notice because the recognition of the church is important. The church εκκλησια, which is the gathering of the elected people called out by God, is 「the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation」 (WCF, XXV, II). Also, as WCF says: 「Christ has given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God」 (XXV, III) to the church. Here we can infer that only the church has the salvific message and ordinances that are given by God to his people. Consequently, there is no reliable reason that can be used to support canonicity without referring to the recognition of the church. Hence the perspective of Kruger is consistent with the teaching of WCF.  

        On the contrary, if the NT books are not recognized by the church as canonical, how can we believers, who belong to the church, recognize and regard the books in Scripture as the standard which is 「profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness」 (2 Timothy 3:16)? It is not unreasonable for a U.S. citizen to be obedient to the Constitution of the U.S. because it is set up by the U.S. government, and not by the Chinese government or an anonymous government. In addition, the Dunn passage does not give us a reliable evidence or a firm foundation that can encourage us and strengthen our faith.   

        Furthermore, as Kruger stated, all of the canonical NT books are marked by their acceptance by many early church fathers in an early period of time, which shows that the canonical NT books have similarities, which might have been involved in distinguishing which books were canonical and which books were left out of the canonical list.

        Finally, in order to clarify some possible confusions caused by the relationship between the authority of God and the recognition of the church on the topic of pseudepigraphy, I need to mention what I mean by saying the phrases like 「the recognition of the church」 or 「the church acceptance.」 I am not saying that the church has the authority to determine the canonical books. The church is only the instrument, and God speaks through the Spirit in Jesus Christ. Most importantly, God governs this process of the formation of the canon. Accordingly, by all means, the recognition of the church is also under the authoritative speech of God and the providence of God.

       1. Michael J. Kruger. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Kindle ed.(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).

       2. Lee M. McDonald, 「Canon,」 Pages in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1997).

       3. Kruger. Canon Revisited. Kindle ed.

       4. James D. G. Dunn, 「Pseudepigraphy,」 in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, ed. by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1997).

Precise Word Count of Part I 802

Precise Word Count of Part II 1086

  1. 802 < 1086
  2. 802 + 1086 = 1888 < 2000
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