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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the New Testament?

Don Stewart :: What Can We Conclude about the New Testament Canon?

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What Can We Conclude about the New Testament Canon?

Are the Right Books in the New Testament? – Question 17

Since the New Testament completes the written revelation of God to the human race, it is important that we know which books belong in the New Testament canon. After looking at the evidence, there are a number of important conclusions that we can make with respect to the canon of the New Testament. They are as follows:

1. The Twenty-Seven Books Are the Only Divinely Inspired Writings

From an historical point of view, it is clear that the present twenty-seven books of the New Testament are the only books that have been divinely inspired by God and recognized by the people of God. This is a fact of history. There is no doubting this. We have no examples of books that were first rejected by a large majority of the believers and then later included into the canon. Neither do we find any examples of books that were left out of the New Testament that have any claim to be placed within. The canon of Scripture is complete.

2. The Church Was Diligent in Investigating the Authority of the Books

The issue of the canon of Scripture was something that believers took seriously. From the time the New Testament documents were first written, believers used discernment to recognize the divine from the human; the true from the false. For example, we find Paul himself giving a sign of authentication by affixing his signature to the end of his letters. It was important to them to know which books had God’s divine authority behind them.

3. There Was a Marvelous Unity among Believers

We also find that there was a marvelous unity among those who believed in Jesus with respect to which books belonged in the New Testament. There was immediate agreement on most of the books; only a few were ever questioned. These particular books that caused some uncertainty were carefully examined and eventually recognized as Holy Scripture by all believers. We should not exaggerate the significance of the length of time it took to accept these books or the amount of disagreement among believers on this issue.

4. No Individual or Council Made the Final Determination

As we have repeatedly emphasized, there was no council, organization, or individual who collected the various books and made an authoritative determination on which ones belonged and which did not. The recognition of the canon was a long and gradual process. It could not have been otherwise.

These factors show that believers can have supreme confidence that the New Testament which we have today is the same New Testament that the Lord originally gave to the human race; no more and no less.

Summary – Question 17
What Can We Conclude about the New Testament Canon?

There are a number of concluding points that we can make about the New Testament canon of Scripture. First, the evidence is clear that the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament have been recognized and used by the church from the beginning. They are the only written works that God has divinely inspired during this time in history.

We also note that the church realized the importance of publicly reading and studying the doctrine, or teaching, which derived from the Lord. Safeguards were taken to make certain that no false teaching was promoted.

There is also the fact that the believers, for the most part, were in agreement as to which books belonged and which did not. While some writings were received by a limited number of people in small geographical areas for a short period of time, eventually, they realized these works did not constitute Holy Scripture.

It cannot be stressed too strongly that the believers merely recognized the authority that was in these writings from the moment they were composed. Humans recognized God’s divine Word, but they did not authorize it or give it any special status. The divine status was already there.

We do not find any individual, church council, or organization providing the final word on this issue for it was God Himself who determined the New Testament canon. Consequently, we can be confident that we have today the exact extent of what He revealed to the human race with nothing added and nothing missing.

Why Was the Authority of Certain New Testament Books Questioned? (The Antilegomena) ← Prior Section
Books That Don’t Belong in the New Testament Next Section →
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