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Author Topic: The early circulation of Scripture  (Read 1368 times) Average Rating: 0
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Doubting Thomas
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« on: September 27, 2003, 06:34:28 PM »

I'm posing this question because it has come up in a debate on the Baptistboard.  I'm "discussing" the topic of the canon with a gentleman who maintains that he knows he has the correct 66 book canonical Bible because of his faith and the inner "witness" of the Holy Spirit.  He also maintains that there was never a time in which the early churches were without the complete NT, once the books were written.  He actually claimed that there was never a day that any given church was without access to any particular New Testament writing after it was penned!  Shocked

That absurd claim aside, how widespread were the New Testament writings circulated, say, in the first century?  After all, Peter does consider Paul's writings to be Scripture and mentions that those he addresses have access to those writings (2 Peter 3:15-16).  I ask this because it does seem to have bearing on the issue of the canon particulary the problem of why some NT writings were disputed for a time.  

What say ye?
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Saint Polycarp
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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2003, 12:15:59 AM »

Supposedly there are letters of Paul that are missing. We don't know precisely which letters Peter was refering to. But I find it interesting that Peter unilaterally declared something to be scripture that was not previously considered scripture and no one seems to have questioned Peter's authority to do it! No wonder he is looked at as the first Pope by most Christians. LOL
Peace,
Polycarp
« Last Edit: September 28, 2003, 12:18:44 AM by Saint Polycarp » Logged

Peace
Byzantino
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2003, 05:11:28 AM »

Sounds like this guy went to the Walt Disney School of Theology.

Peter certainly did consider Paul's writings "scripture" but we know that Paul wrote other epistles which were lost, and that many enemies of the Church wrote false scriptures to sow seeds of discord and confusion. So the question still remains...how do we know the Pauline epistles accepted today are inspired? The four Gospels were pretty much unquestionably held as genuine all over the place. But there certainly were various Fathers who repudiated certain scriptures presently considered canonical such as Revelation, Jude, Peter's letters and even Hebrews, but accepted Clement's epistle to the Corinthians, the Shepherd of Hermas and other apocryphal writings as inspired! The West had its favorites and unfavorites, likewise the East. I'll see if i can dig up a good source for you.

Byz
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Linus7
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2003, 11:08:43 PM »

I think Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History is a pretty good source for the view of the early Church, at least in his day.

Here is what he had to say:

"This appears to be the proper place to give a summary statement of the books of the New Testament already mentioned. And here among the first must be placed the holy quaternion of the Gospels; these are followed by The Book of the Acts of the Apostles; after this must be mentioned the epistles of Paul, which are followed by the acknowledged First Epistle of John, as also the first of Peter, to be admitted in like manner. After these are to be placed, if proper, the Revelation of John, concerning which we shall offer the different opinions in due time. These, then, are acknowledged as genuine.

Among the disputed books, although they are known and approved by many, is reputed, that called the Epistle of James and Jude. Also the Second Epistle of Peter and those called the Second and Third of John, whether they are of the evangelist or of some other of the same name. Among the spurious must be numbered both the books called the Acts of Paul and that called Pastor, and the Revelation of Peter. Beside these, the books called the Epistle of Barnabas and what are called the Institutions of the Apostles. Moreover, as I said before, if it should appear right, the Revelation of John, which some, as before said, reject but others rank among the genuine. There are also some who number among these the gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews who have received Christ are particularly delighted" (Ecclesiastical History, Book 25:1-5).
« Last Edit: September 29, 2003, 09:13:01 AM by Linus7 » Logged

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Doubting Thomas
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« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2003, 08:15:32 AM »

Thanks for the responses.  It seems to me  that after each of the NT writings were produced that they were gradually circulated among the churches at different rates and (initially) in different (but overlapping) regions.  One church may have received epistle X fairly soon after it was written while possibly not receiving epistle Y for several decades.  Also by this time spurious epistles were perhaps starting to circulate.  Thus a church would have to decide whether epistle Y was genuine or spurious.  Perhaps this explains why some genuine epistles (particularly the non-Pauline "general" epistles) were disputed for a time.  I don't know.  Does anyone else know why these particular writings--James, Jude, Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, and Revelation--were reckoned "disputed" for so long?
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« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2003, 08:55:36 AM »

Quote
I'm "discussing" the topic of the canon with a gentleman who maintains that he knows he has the correct 66 book canonical Bible because of his faith and the inner "witness" of the Holy Spirit.  

I've seen this claim also over on christianforums.  It takes personal interpretation to a new level; now one knows what books are inspired because the Holy Spirit tells him.  I've seen it explained further that since the abridged Bible convicts a person of thier depravity that this proves that that Bible, and only that Bible contains the Scriptures that are inspired by God.
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Saint Polycarp
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2003, 09:43:44 AM »

Thanks for the responses.  It seems to me  that after each of the NT writings were produced that they were gradually circulated among the churches at different rates and (initially) in different (but overlapping) regions.  One church may have received epistle X fairly soon after it was written while possibly not receiving epistle Y for several decades.  Also by this time spurious epistles were perhaps starting to circulate.  Thus a church would have to decide whether epistle Y was genuine or spurious.  Perhaps this explains why some genuine epistles (particularly the non-Pauline "general" epistles) were disputed for a time.  I don't know.  Does anyone else know why these particular writings--James, Jude, Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, and Revelation--were reckoned "disputed" for so long?

I believe it was because there was question as to the authorship of them. Aparently the Early fathers knew Revelation was probably not actually written by Saint John but felt the message was genuine and needed to be preserved so they went along with the idea that it was actually written by Saint John. The bottom line becomes, it was the Church leadership (the bishops and Popes) which had to discern what writings were genuine and should be declared scripture. If the Church dosen't have authority or the Church can't teach infallibly then the scriptures and everything else we know of Jesus and the apostles is questionable. This is one of the many things that makes Protestantism untenable for me.
Peace,
Polycarp
« Last Edit: September 29, 2003, 12:18:56 PM by Saint Polycarp » Logged

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Doubting Thomas
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2003, 11:53:36 AM »

Quote
I'm "discussing" the topic of the canon with a gentleman who maintains that he knows he has the correct 66 book canonical Bible because of his faith and the inner "witness" of the Holy Spirit.  

I've seen this claim also over on christianforums.  It takes personal interpretation to a new level; now one knows what books are inspired because the Holy Spirit tells him.  I've seen it explained further that since the abridged Bible convicts a person of thier depravity that this proves that that Bible, and only that Bible contains the Scriptures that are inspired by God.

I think I've read this line of reasoning before, but find it unconvincing as it seems too subjective and circular.  Could not one who accepts the Deuterocanonical Books also claim the Holy Spirit tells him that his canon is correct?
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"My Lord and My God!"--Doubting Thomas, AD 33
Tags: Canon of scriptures Scripture New Testament 
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