Doctrine of Canonicity

The continuation on the doctrines of the inspiration of Scripture. This post features part two, the doctrine on the canonicity. Please note, due to size constraints, this is just an abbreviated, big-picture overview. This is not a comprehensive examination on the full doctrine of canonicity.

Doctrine of Canonicity

The doctrine of canonicity could also be called worthy of preservation. The books of the Bible were collected and set apart as Scripture because those who had compiled them could see that they were worthy of preservation and were authoritative. The “canon of Scripture refers to a limited and defined group of writings, which are accepted as authoritative within the Christian church.”[1] Geisler refers to canonicity as the “authoritative books inspired by God for inclusion in Holy Scripture. Canonicity is determined by God….Its authority is established by God.”[2] “The word canon…is a pointer to authority…which belongs to God in His revelation through Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures.”[3]Written by men under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit, the writings resulted in a product of “divine quality unattainable by human powers alone.”[4] These “sacred writings” being the product of the breath of God, were seen as being of “supreme value for all holy purposes.”[5] As the early church read these books, meditated on them and collected them, they recognized them as Scripture. Why? Because these certain books came with the authenticity as being God’s inspired Word. They were recognized as being from God and worthy to be called God’s Word. Since they were God’s Word, they were worthy to be obeyed and thus worthy of collection.

These books were identified as being different. They were recognized as being from God and carrying His authority, as opposed to other books written by the same biblical writers, not being collected and preserved because they were not recognized as being inspired and thus from God. The fact that the writing was inspired, that is God-breathed, is what makes it part of Scripture and “canonized” because the basis of canonicity is that the work is inspired.

The issue of canonicity is a closed discussion. The Old Testament canon is linked to books written by the priests and the prophets. Some of the writings, particularly of Moses, were collected and preserved in the Ark of the Covenant. The closing of the Old Testament canon is mainly due to the 400 years of silence and lack of prophets. The New Testament, on the other hand, is linked mainly to the apostles. These writings were given to the early churches as opposed to being given to the people as it was with the Old Testament. The New Testament canon was essentially closed, much like the Old Testament, with the lack of apostles and the cessation of prophecy.

The doctrine of canonicity can be defined as a collection of sacred writings worthy of preservation and collection that meet the standard. The basis for canonicity is that they are inspired by God.

[1] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 12.

[2] Norman Geisler, “Canonicity of the Bible,” Internet, available from http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf, accessed on 20 April 2014.

[3] The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, 499.

[4] Warfield, 8-18.

[5] Warfield, 1-7.

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