Word of God

Given God’s intention to rule the church by a written document consisting of his personal words, it would be anomalous in the extreme if he put them in a place where we couldn’t find them. Through OT History, God has taken pains to put these words in an obvious place, the tabernacle, and later the temple. Josephus says that the books kept in the temple, before its destruction in A.D. 70, were the books recognized as canonical by the Jews. Although the Jews read other books for edification, the temple books were those with fully divine authority. So there is no mystery about the extent of the OT canon. God put the books in a place where they could function as he intended, where they would be recognized as his. . . .

The problem with much current literature on the canon is that it does not take account of God’s expressed intentions. It seeks, rather, through autonomous reasoning (see chap. 3), to determine whether any first-century books deserve canonical status, and using that method it arrives at conclusions that are uncertain at best. But once we understand God’s use of a canon from the time of Moses, we must approach our present problem with a presupposition: that God will not let his people walk in darkness, that he will provide for us the words we need to have, within our reach.

The early church was divided by many controversies concerning basic doctrines . . . But remarkably, when in A.D. 367 Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria published a list of books accepted in his church, there was no clamor. From that time on, Christians of all traditions—Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant—agreed on the NT canon. Indeed, through the centuries since, agreement on the NT canon has been more unanimous than on the OT canon, though on the surface it might seem that ascertaining the former would have been more difficult (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, 135-136).