Here is an interesting argument for the canon. It came from Meredith Kline, a man with whom I made it a point to disagree fervently. Kline’s theology, specifically his ethics, had a deleterious effect on American Presbyterianism. Still, this argument bears some thought. I think most will agree with Kline that ANE covenants resembled suzereignty treaties. Besides the stipulations of these covenants, there were also canons (written documentation) included within the covenant. Applied to God, something like this appears:
- If there is a covenant, there is a canon.
- Whoever authorizes the covenant, authorizes the canon.
- God authorizes the covenant; God authorizes the canon.
- Therefore, the canon’s authority depends on God, not the church (if you accept the first three premises, which OT scholarship makes abundantly clear, you have to accept this conclusion).
The above is a fairly straight-foward, non-controversial take on OT canonization. Can it also be applied to the New Testament? I think it can. Jesus makes the new covenant (diatheke) in his blood. His death ratifies the diatheke. As Sutton clearly argues, the New Testament itself resembles a diatheke. But does the New Testament canon depend on human ratification? Peter didn’t think so, since he called Paul’s writings Scripture. While we don’t know which writings he referred, the point remains that Paul’s writings were self-evidently Scripture. Further, Paul says he got his revelation from God, not man (Galatians 1).
I don’t deny that there was disagreement about what constituted the canon in the early church. I just don’t see how that is only a problem for Protestants and not one for EOs and Catholics. For the latter, the Fathers are reliable and necessary guides to the faith, yet they can’t even give us matching lists of what is in the canon.
But what about the Apocrypha? Big deal. If you want to include it within the binding of your bible, it doesn’t matter. I have no problem calling them Apocrypha “deutero-canonicals.” Here is why it doesn’t add anything to the EO and RCC argument (keep in mind those two traditions differ on what is actually in the Apocrypha): neither tradition reads these books aloud in liturgy, and only in Maccabees is a key point of doctrine at stake, and even then it is a highly strained reading. Say it another way: if the EO took the Apocrypha out of their bibles, nothing would change for them in terms of liturgy and doctrine.