The Question of CanonI’m continuing my review of Michael Kruger’s The Question of Canon. The other parts of the review can be found here.

The Authors of Canon

Another factor of the extrinsic model of canon (see my first post) is the assumption that the writers of Scripture wrote only occasional letters for specific purposes and circumstances, never considered themselves authoritative, and would never have imagined these writings to later be called ‘Scripture’.

If these assertions are correct, then this has an important bearing on the development of the canon. Why did these works even become considered canon? Since (if) we arbitrarily imposed Scriptural status on certain books, why stop there? Why not include other early documents as well? Maybe we should all go buy the New New Testament?

In his response, Kruger first acknowledges what this view gets right. It is no doubt true that the authors of Scripture would not have foreseen the New Testament as we have it today in 27 books and all of the details surrounding it. It is also correct that many of these writings were occasional and for a specific purpose. However, this is a far cry from admitting that the authors didn’t consider their own writings as having “supreme authority in the life of the church” (p121).

Did the NT Authors See Their Writings as Authoritative?

In this chapter, Kruger wants to prove that the NT authors were very aware that they were claiming an authoritative role in the church. Once we realize that authority can be inferred without requiring the term Scripture, we realize that the NT authors did indeed see their own authority was that of God’s spokesmen. To achieve this end, Kruger surveys individual NT texts from Paul, the Gospels and the Catholic epistles. For the sake of space I will summarize his section on Paul’s writings:

Paul’s Self-Aware Authority

  • ¬†Gal 1:1, 11-12 reveals that Paul saw his message as directly from God Himself.
  • 1 Thess 2:13 shows that the apostolic teaching that the Thessalonians believed in was rightly received as God’s own words. Kruger argues that Paul would have considered his letters also containing apostolic teaching and therefore containing the words of God. Texts such as 1 Thess 4:2-8, 2 Thess 2:15, and 2 Cor 10:10 confirm this. The fact that these letters were to be read to the entire church (and read in others) also support a high view of the letters (Col 4:16).
  • 1 Cor 14:37-38 shows that Paul believed his words were a command from the Lord Himself.
  • 2 Thess 3:6, 14 show that rejecting the words of Paul amounts to rejecting Christ’s leadership.

My Thoughts

It’s been a bit of an odd experience digging into scholarly and theological debates regarding the Scriptures, because often what happens is that I realize something I originally assumed has been (or is currently being) challenged, and then find all these reasons that my original assumption wasn’t too far from the mark. This is one of those issues. I always assumed the NT authors were aware of their own authority, then I discovered this is disputed, and then Kruger’s section here reestablishes my original belief. However, the important difference now is that I now have a basis for what I always assumed.

Kruger’s chapter is responding to those that believe the early NT authors didn’t consider themselves writing Scripture and his response is to argue that they did believe their writing was authoritative. Are these two things one and the same? While Kruger argues that a text need not be considered ‘Scripture’ for it to have the role that Scripture plays, I wish Kruger had addressed this a little more head on and provided more support for his assertion. Of course, I would hold that a text that speaks God’s commands for His people and must be obeyed is the part of the very definition of Scripture! But more evidence for this would have been welcome. That said, this was another excellent and balanced chapter.

Check back soon for our final post on The Question of Canon where Kruger addresses the question of when the NT was first considered Scripture.