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Don Stewart :: What Are Some of the Differences between the Recognition of the Old Testament Canon and the Recognition of the New Testament Canon?

Don Stewart

The New Testament canon was unlike the canon of the Old Testament in a number of important respects. They include the following.

1. There Was No Authoritative Center

There was no central place where all the books were collected or preserved. In the Old Testament period, the books were kept in the tabernacle and later in the temple in Jerusalem. Christianity, on the other hand, was a missionary religion. Jesus told His followers to go out to the entire world.

2. The Writings Had Different Destinations

The books of the Old Testament were written to the people of the nation Israel who were in a limited geographic area. In contrast, the New Testament books were written to geographic destinations that were widely separated from one another. For example, Peter directed his letter to the people living in eastern Asia while John wrote to those in western Asia. Paul's letter to Rome went to Europe. Consequently no single church or groups would immediately possess all the twenty-seven New Testament books

3. Most Of The Books Were Written To Non-Jews

While all the books of the Old Testament were written by Hebrews and addressed to the nation Israel many of the New Testament books were written to Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul's letters were written to churches that mainly had Gentile members. These Gentiles would have had little, or no, familiarity with the Jews and their customs.

4. Some Of The Letters Were Written To Individuals

The Old Testament books were addressed to Israel as a nation. However the New Testament books had a number of different people in mind. Some were addressed to individuals while some were written to specific Gentile congregations.

5. It Took A Long-Time For The Acceptance Of The Entire New Testament

Because of these factors it took a long time before all the twenty-seven books were universally recognized as Scripture. The process was slow and gradual. It did not happen all at once and it did not occur with any authoritative pronouncement from any church council or religious body.

The Old Testament Had A Special Relationship To The Nation Israel

The Old Testament was a covenant document with the nation Israel. They were written over a thousand- year period. The books were usually addressed to those people. The New Testament had a shorter time of composition but a wider geographic range. This was one of the reasons for the lack of instant recognition everywhere of each book as well as the slowness to understand the exact extent of the canon. Since some of the recipients of the New Testament writings were isolated geographically, there would be some uncertainty as to the exact limits of God-given Scripture.

Summary

There were a number of differences with respect to the canon of the Old and New Testament. While the Old Testament canon had Jerusalem as its authoritative center there was no such place for the New Testament church.

For the most part, the Old Testament books were addressed to the nation Israel. The New Testament writings were distributed over a wide geographic area.

The Old Testament documents were written to the descendants of Abraham - the nation Israel while the New Testament books were written to Gentiles (non-Jews).

While the Old Testament documents were written to a nation, the New Testament books were written to churches and individuals.

The New Testament documents took much longer to be recognized by God's people compared to the Old Testament Scriptures. This is understandable given all the facts.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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