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When were the books of the New Testament considered to be Scripture by the early church?

You know, the truth is that most Christians have not even considered this question. Most Christians don’t even think about it.

Even though there has been a relentless assault on the Bible in movies, television, books and on the Internet, most Christians still stick their heads in the sand and won’t even think about where the Bible originally came from.

Rather than being able to defend the Bible, we have noticed that most believers in Christ have NO IDEA where the Bible came from.  In particular, we have noticed that there is substantial confusion even among Christian leaders regarding the development of the New Testament.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Even most pastors have fallen for the misconception that a bunch of people sat around a big table during some grand “council” (such as the Council of Nicaea) called by Rome and picked out which books would go into the New Testament.  Hopefully after enough people read this article this question will be settled once and for all.[/perfectpullquote]

First of all, the canon of the New Testament was not even remotely on the agenda at the Council of Nicaea:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

But that fact hasn’t stopped Dan Brown, the author of the Davinci Code, and many others from trying to promote the claim that that New Testament books were not decided upon until the 4th century during the Roman Catholic councils.

So does this ridiculous claim have any merit whatsoever?

Well, for starters, Dan Brown is not a religious expert in the least. In fact, Dan Brown admitted in court that his wife did most of the research for the Davinci Code:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/mar/12/books.danbrown

The truth of the matter is that the Davinci Code is interesting fiction, but the facts about the development of the New Testament tell us an entirely different story:

Fact #1) Paul’s letters were already considered scripture in the mid 1st century. Take a look at how the apostle Peter himself called Paul’s letters Scripture:

2 Peter 3:14-16

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

This passage demonstrates that the apostle Peter himself believed that the letters of Paul were part of Scripture in the middle of the first century. In fact, this was so obvious to the apostle Peter that he mentions this fact as if it is common knowledge.

Fact #2) The apostle Paul, writing between A.D. 62 and A.D. 65, quoted Luke 10:7 and called it Scripture.

First, take a look at Luke 10:7…..

Luke 10:7

Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages.

Now look at how the apostle Paul quoted Luke 10:7 as Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:18…..

For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

This clearly establishes that the apostle Paul himself considered the gospel of Luke to be Scripture in the middle of the 1st century. It is not surprising that the apostle Paul had access to the gospel of Luke since it was written by his traveling companion Luke.

Fact #3) Irenaeus, writing about 170 A.D., tells us that the four-fold gospel was already a rock solid fact by then:

But it is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the church has been scattered throughout the world, and since the “pillar and ground” of the church is the Gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing incorruption on every side, and vivifying human afresh. From this fact, it is evident that the Logos, the fashioner [demiourgos] of all, he that sits on the cherubim and holds all things together, when he was manifested to humanity, gave us the gospel under four forms but bound together by one spirit. (Against Heresies 3.11.8)

If the four gospels had already been well established by 170 A.D., then how in the world can anyone claim that the four gospels were picked out in the 4th century?

Fact #4) The fact of the four-fold gospel is also reflected in the “Muratorian Fragment” which was written about the same time (around 170 A.D.) that Irenaeus was writing. The Muratorian Fragment lists for us almost the entire New Testament canon. The document may have indeed been a complete list of New Testament books, but we only have a portion of the ancient document. While we do not have the very beginning of the document or the very end of the document, the portion of the document that we do have tells us that there are FOUR (and only four) gospels.

Fact #5) We have approximately 50 manuscripts of the New Testament that PRE-DATE the Roman takeover of the established church in the 4th century. So there WAS a New Testament before Rome ever called a “council”.

Fact #6) We have more than 32 THOUSAND New Testament quotations from the early church writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. In fact, we could recreate virtually the entire New Testament just from the scripture quotations of the early church writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. We can be QUITE certain that the New Testament we have today has come down to us just as it was from the earliest days, and we can be QUITE certain of what the early Christians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries considered to be Scripture.

Yes, the Roman government came along in the 4th century and corrupted and paganized the institutional church. There were many Christians who resisted this, and they were persecuted brutally. However, Christianity and the Bible were doing JUST FINE before Rome ever came on the scene. Anyone who says that the books of the New Testament were selected in the 4th century simply does not know their history.

But you know what?  I am quite certain that some “know it all” who has had a few seminary classes or a few university religious courses will come along and leave a comment and try to convince us that the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul did not know what Scripture was and that all of the other clear evidence is wrong and that it was Rome that “gave” us the New Testament after all.

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Michael Snyder
Michael T. Snyder One of the most common questions I get asked is this: “Who are you?” Well, I would rather let the issues take center stage, but I don’t mind telling you a little bit about myself. My name is Michael and I am just a regular guy who is married to one of the most wonderful women in the world. I have an undergraduate degree in Commerce from the University of Virginia and I have a law degree from the University of Florida law school. I also have an LLM from the University of Florida law school. I once worked for some of the largest law firms in Washington D.C., but now I mostly focus on trying to make a difference in the world. I am the author of all of the articles on the Economic Collapse Blog, and End of The American Dream Blog. I put a lot of work into these articles, and it means a lot that so many people out there enjoy them. I do not belong to a political party. In fact, I rip both the Democrats and the Republicans pretty good. I am a very strong Christian, but I believe that most of the churches in America have gotten way off track. I believe that God is raising up Christians that will do things the way that the first Christians did things. I am also a writer, a speaker and an activist. Someone once told me that life is like a coin – you can spend it any way that you want, but you can only spend it once. I believe that this is going to be one of the most dramatic eras in all of human history and I want my life to have meaning and purpose. Almost everyone will find something in my articles that will deeply upset them. That is okay. I am a truthseeker. I just call it like I see it. If you disagree with me on some issues I will not be offended. I hope that you will not be offended if I disagree with you on some issues. Even though I write about a lot of heavy issues, one of the most important things to me is love. If we want to make it through the times that are coming we have got to start learning how to love one another. The world is becoming a very cold, cruel place. It sure could use a lot more love. Follow Me I really enjoy being able to connect with my readers. If you are on Twitter, you can connect with me here: http://twitter.com/Revelation1217 You can also find other articles by me on the following websites… The Most Important News: http://themostimportantnews.com/ End Of The American Dream: http://endoftheamericandream.com/ The Truth: http://thetruthwins.com/ The Most Important Thing There are many people that are curious about what I believe and about what I stand for. Well, I am a Bible-believing Christian. Unfortunately, most people do not know what Biblical Christianity is these days. For a detailed explanation of what I believe, please see my statement of faith. Some of you may not even know about the God of the Bible or that He sent his Son to die on the cross for your sins. The truth is that the God of the universe loves you very much and He wants to have a relationship with you. Unfortunately, humanity has rebelled against God. The Scriptures tell us that we all have violated God’s laws and that we all have sinned against Him. We stand guilty before the judge of the universe. God could not ignore our sins, but He still wanted to have a relationship with us. So God sent His only Son to die on the cross to pay the price for the sins of all humanity. If you will repent of your sins and invite Jesus Christ into your life right now, your sins will be forgiven and you will be given eternal life. For a much more detailed explanation of how to become a Christian, please see the following article that we put together on this topic….What Does The Bible Say About Salvation? Michael
  • slf

    The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council.”

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm