Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | September 9, 2006

The Canon – Not By the Church

Today we will launch into a review of Article 4 of the Belgic Confession, which identifies the Canon of Scripture.  Our Bible’s consist of all the books listed in this Article, which make up the rule or standard (canon is synonymous with these words) of our faith.  This topic is not a stranger to controversy and many groups possess differing opinions about it.  The Mormons and many Liberals would like you to have suspicion about the formulation of the canon and that the wrong books were chosen.  Rome would like you to think that the Canon was established by the authority of the Church.  However, both of these views are not honest with reality and mischaracterize the historical facts concerning this topic.   

More about this topic can be read here: Why-orthodox-christians-are-converting-to-mormonism-chapter-3, however we will attempt to respond to these mischaracterizations in this post also.  In the ancient Church there was a well established consensus on the canonical books.  The Old Testament was fully affirmed as it had been preserved by the Church in the previous era.  Furthermore, the list of New Testament books were either very close or identical the canon we have today.  Many criticize the fact that no official list was affirmed by the Church until the late 300s.  However, the need to publicize such a list was not necessary until heretical groups took it upon themselves to decide, which books were canonical.  A heretic named Marcion, in his zeal to distance himself from the God of the Old Testament, embarked on preparing one of the first canonical lists.  The list that he compiled removed any Semitic reference from the New Testament and abolished the entire Old Testament.  In response to this the orthodox, began to make it clear to all what books were canonical and to refute the heretic Marcion.

The criteria used to establish if a book should be affirmed as canonical or not was based on if the author was truly an authorized agent of inspiration (see real-versus-false-revelation).  This limited entrance into the Canon to those books, which were either authored or written by an author who was under the direction of an Apostle (i.e. Mark under Peter and Luke under Paul).  As we discussed in previous posts, God had indicated to His people how they were know whether He had spoken through an agent in the Old Testament.  This same concept is reaffirmed in the New Testament (Hebrews 2:1-5).  The Apostles were granted the ability to perform signs and wonders to authenticate the message they proclaimed.  This message was eventually committed to writing (like the Old Testament) to be a record for forthcoming generations.  Our Canon consists of the writings of God’s authorized agents of special revelation. 

The Church does not authenticate these writings, no these writings authenticate the Church.  The apostles and prophets are the foundation Ephesians 2:19-20 of the Church and they continue to be that supporting foundation through their writings.  The subsequent generations carry on in the apostolic faith, however they do not add to the foundation already laid they build upon it (1 Corinthians 3:9-13).  Thus, the when seeking to clarify what books were canonical and those that weren’t had it relatively easy.  It was easy, since the writings left by the authorized agents of revelation were known by all.  Only a few books were actually contested, but eventually the affirmation of the lists based on the above mentioned criteria was achieved



  1. […] It should be noted that the Roman Church did decide in 1500s to elevate these books of the Apocrypha to canonical status.  And they, to this day include them within their Old Testament canon.  We, however, do not presume to possess the authority to canonize books that were never affirmed to possess canonical attributes.  For further reading on this subject please refer to this previous entry the-canon-not-by-the-church Published in: […]

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