Recent days have seen a massive increase in discussion around the formation of the canon. Questions in this conversation center on “when” and “how” questions. For example: When did certain books become part of the canon and how were they selected? In his new book The Question of the Canon Dr. Michael J. Kruger takes up the “why” questions, namely, why did Christians have a canon at all? He asks this question because of another question which is, “Does the canon exist because of some later decision on the part of the second or third century church, or did it arise more naturally from the beginning of the Christian faith itself? In other words, “Is the development of the canon extrinsic or intrinsic to early Christianity?”
Chapter one explores the definition of the canon through asking the question, “Must we make a sharp distinction between the definitions of Canon and Scripture?” Chapter two explores the origins of the Canon and asks, “Was there really nothing in early Christianity that may have led to a Canon?” The fourth chapter looks at the authors of the Canon and asks, “Were the New Testament authors unaware of their own authority. Finally the book concludes looking at the question, “Were the New Testament books first regarded as Scripture at the end of the second century?”
The author notes that it is not his goal “to reject the extrinsic model in its entirety but to suggest that there were also intrinsic factors at work in the early Christian movement that may have made a new corpus of Scripture more natural, of not inevitable, development” (205). He states, “But the intrinsic model argues that the idea of canon was built into the DNA of the Christian religion and thus emerged quite naturally. In this sense, the canon was like a seedling sprouting from the soil of early Christianity—although it was not fully a tree until the fourth century, it was there, in nune, from the beginning” 210).
As I read this book and benefited from it in a number of ways. First, Dr. Kruger is a very good writer. Second, his engagement with the scholarship is excellent. Finally, the book doesn’t carry on and on but makes a point without going on and on about the point.
The Question of the Canon would be a good book for those interested in the theology of the Bible. Given that I’ve spent a lot of time studying the doctrine of Scripture and how the Bible is under attack, I was somewhat surprised that there was a lively discussion about the canon of the Scriptures. With that said I’m glad I read this book. While many people are likely to disagree with Dr. Kruger, the author sets forth his perspective on this issue with a view to engage others and demonstrate the problems with the opposing position.
The true value of The Question of the Canon is not just the scholarship offered but in its engagement with others work in a chartable way. Reading The Question of the Canon will help undergraduate and graduate religion students going through biblical or systematic theology or church history classes to understand the problems with the extrinsic model and also understand what the intrinsic model is. I recommend this book for pastors unaware of the issue but who may field the occasional question from those academically inclined in the congregation. The Question of the Canon is a very helpful book and one I hope many Bible college and seminary students read to understanding the issue and to engage in further work on this issue.
Author: Michael J. Kruger
Publisher: IVP Academic (2013)
I received this for free from IVP Academic book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”