Pastor F. William Darrow

Notes From The Adult Classes 2006 Evening Vacation Bible School

Webster Dictionary definition: "a rule or law, as of a church; standard for judgment, as the canons of art; the authorized books of the Bible, a bishop’s assistant.

The Church In History by B.K. Kuiper gives this definition:

"a list" – a list of books that belong in the New Testament

In his book, A Systematic theology of the Christian Religion,, James Oliver Buswell said, "The canonicity of the Bible is the quality or character of the Scriptures by which they are our rule of faith and life, as the infallible Word of God. Canonicity thus is equivalent to authority, the divine authority of the Scriptures."

It must be understood that the canon of Scripture did not come from the approval of men or approval of church councils. When God through inspiration gave the Scriptures to men it was at that point they were canonized. It was THE WORD OF GOD.

In the last half of the second century, 2 heresies became a problem.

Gnosticism – Christ never dwelt on the earth in human form.

Montanism – Christ’s promise of a Comforter was not fulfilled at Pentecost but the coming of the Holy Spirit was at hand and the end of the world was near.

Out of this struggle with the two heresies came three things:

A creed, a canon, and an organization

It must be understood that God established His canon and not "THE CHURCH". The canon of Scripture does not get its authority from the church but the church gets its authority from the canon of Scripture. Remember that the books were inspired when written and thus canonical at that point.

In The Da Vinci Deception by Erwin W. Lutzer he lists six steps as to how the New Testament canon came to be. Though these steps are given later, I would like to quote his six steps here which may help one understand.

1. Letters from apostles were written and received in the churches; copies were made and circulated.

2. A growing group of books developed that were recognized as inspired Scripture. Important questions for their acceptance included: Was the book written by either an apostle or someone who knew the apostles and thus had the stamp of apostolic authority? Was it in harmony with other accepted doctrine?

3. By the end of the first century all twenty-seven books in our present canon had been written and received by the churches. Though some of the canonical lists were incomplete, this is not always to be interpreted as the rejection of some books. Often it simply means that some books were unknown in certain areas.

4. As an indication of both agreement and the widespread acceptance of the New Testament books, we should note that a generation after the end of the apostolic age, every book of the New Testament had been cited as authoritative by some church father.

5. Remaining doubt or debates over certain books continued into the fourth century. It bears repeating that as far as historians know, the first time the list of our twenty-seven books appears was in an Easter letter written by Athanasius, an outstanding leader of the church in AD 367.

6. The twenty-seven books of our New Testament were ratified by the Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Third Council of Carthage (AD 397).


When the church started in Acts 2 there were no New Testament writings. The title New Testament appears to have been used by an unknown writer against Montanism about 193 AD. The term was used regularly by Origen (185-254 AD) and later writers; The Incomparable Book by Dr.D.L.Brown.

Acts 2:42 says they "continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine". The Holy Spirit spoke to the church through them. They carried what we refer to as apostolic authority. In time the holy Spirit led them to write down the apostolic doctrines. That is where we get our New Testament. There is evidence in the book of Acts that the Apostles ruled on questions of major consequence concerning doctrine and practice. Acts 8:14, Acts 11:19-24, Acts 15:1-2

There were many letters and papers written in the early days of the church that were copied and passed around, but they were not all inspired. Only those that came to be recognized as inspired from God were canonized.

John confirmed this of Jesus’ ministry – John 21:25.

All the New Testament books were written from the time the church started in Acts 2 until around 95 AD when Revelation was completed. Several things must be considered. First, there were no printing presses so all these original writings had to be hand copied and then passed around so some churches may not have gotten certain books for a long period of time. This would explain why some books may not have been mentioned or used. There also was no headquarters for the church so geographical location played a big part. Judaism had the Temple in Jerusalem but the church was scattered. Christianity was an international religion. The churches were scattered from eastern Asia (1 Peter), western Asia (Revelation), and even Europe (Romans). From this it is easy to understand that not all churches immediately had copies of the various letters. Limitation on travel and communication affected the distribution as well. Obviously a method of selection and verification was important to the early church. As long as the apostles were still alive verification was not a problem but after John died it became different. There was a sort of round-robin circulation of books that steadily grew in number. (Colossians 4:16) By the end of the first century more than two thirds of our present New Testament books were considered inspired. Thus we must consider how those 27 books became known as the Inspired Word of God.

What became an issue then was which writings were the inspired Word of God and which were not. Not every writing, even by the apostles, was inspired.

Antiquity did not determine their inspiration.

For example, 1 Clement was written within the lifetime of the Apostle John but the writings of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp were never accepted as inspired.

In the early days, all of the divisions of Christianity – Roman, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox – agreed on the New Testament canon.

There has not been serious debate since the days of Athanasius, who prepared a list of the books accepted in his day.

The New Testament books were all written in the latter half of the first century A.D. and almost all of them were clearly known, reverenced, canonized, and collected well before a hundred years had passed.

Good evidence exists that within 50 years of their writing, the Gospels and the major Pauline Epistles were fully accepted as canonized.

Consider the period of time from 70 A.D. to 170 A.D.

This is a vital period in determining the canon because it is only one generation removed from the Apostles.

In the middle of the 2nd century, there would have been some alive yet who had heard the Apostle John preach and teach.

The testimony of this period came from Clement (Bishop of Rome – 95 A.D.), Ignatius (Bishop of Anitoch – 117 A.D., and Polycarp.

In his book, 1 CLEMENT, Clement made mention of four of Paul’s Epistles (1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, Titus) as well as James, John’s Gospel and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Clement also referred to the star appearing at Jesus’ birth, which he had to have gotten from Matthew.

Ignatius left us 7 letters from which we gain information. He referred to the Pauline Epistle of Ephesians by name. He references 1 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. He also refers to Matthew and John. He mentions the birth of Christ narratives, the Virgin Mary, the Davidic ancestry, the birth star, the Crucifixion with details, the Resurrection and Christ’s eating with the disciples; all of which came from the 4 Gospels.

Polycarp wrote a letter after the martyrdom of Ignatius, (108-117 A.D.). He refers to the Epistles of Paul implying authority. He referred to Matthew, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, 1 & 2 Peter and 1 John.

Basilides, the Alexandrian Gnostic (117-139 A.D.) also confirmed certain writings as Scripture. He spoke of 1 Corinthians, Romans, Matthew, Luke, John, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, and 1 Peter. Basilides’ error was not in accepting Scripture but in interpreting it to his own end.

The Ophites, one of the first Gnostic groups, referred to Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Hebrews and Revelation. While they used other writings, there is no indication they considered the other writings canonical.

Another work called the EPISTLE OF BARNABAS (author unknown) is the first orthodox writing to quote a book of the New Testament as Scripture. It quotes Matthew 20:16 with the phrase, "as it is written" prefixed. There also may be a reference to 1 & 2 Timothy.


When this period closed, a bulk of the New Testament writings were already in this early age, known and used as profitable.

All the Gospels, except Mark (which parallels Matthew), all of the Pauline Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 John, 1 Peter, 2 Peter and Revelation are witnessed to. This leaves only 2 & 3 John and Jude without attestation. There is no negative references to these, simply no mention.


The next period is from 120-170 A.D. Extensive writings by numerous others are available. They merely confirm views already established. Many false teachers come on the scene, but they also confirm certain books to be Scripture. Marcion, a noted Gnostic, had a list of books he considered canonized. His list contained an abbreviated copy of Luke, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon. He seemed to rely heavily on Paul’s writings and avoided Peter’s.

PAPIAS, the bishop in Asia Minor, also had a canonical list. He refers to Matthew, Mark, John, 1 John, 1 Peter and Revelation. He seemed to be opposite of Marcion and avoided Paul’s writings.

GNOSTIC VALENTINUS cites Ephesians, Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, Corinthians and Hebrews. His disciple, HERACHION, followed suit.

JUSTIN was martyred in 148 A.D. He clearly refers to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews and Revelation. He refers to well-defined copies of sacred books.

MURATORI (170 A.D.) had his own canon called the Muratorian Canon. The first lines are missing. It starts with Luke, Acts, 13 Epistles of Paul, Jude, 2 & 3 John and Revelation. He denies certain spurious books. He omits Hebrews, James, 1 John, and 2 Peter. This list is almost exactly like our 27 New Testament books today.

Several minor witnesses are, 2 Epistle of Clement, Dionysius, and Hegesippus. They add nothing to the total picture but confirm it by showing the use of all four Gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, James, 1 Peter and Revelation.

The final witnesses of this period are actual translations of the New Testament into SYRIAC and LATIN.

The SYRIAC, also known as PHESHITO, is dated about 150 A.D. It was used in Syrian churches and contained all of the present New Testament canon, except 2 & 3 John, 2 Peter, Jude and Revelation.

The OLD LATIN version dates also to the 2nd century (150 A.D.) Carthage, Africa was the center of OLD LATIN CHRISTIANITY. The Old Latin version contained all our present canon except 2 Peter, James and Hebrews. Because there was a false APOCOLYPSE OF PETER abroad, the 2 Epistle of Peter was not to be lightly accepted.

Combining the two versions of the extreme East and extreme West at the early date of 170 A.D., we have just what we should expect from abundant other evidence – the present canon of the New Testament with no additions and the omission of only 2 Peter.

There was not even one book that gained any noticeable degree of recognition only to lose it later on. The Gospels and Paul’s Epistles gained immediate recognition. Other books were accepted in certain areas and yet not in others. Finally, they were all universally accepted. The last one to pass the test was 2 Peter.


The four Gospels and the Epistles of Paul were widely accepted, so there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. From there we can use the principles laid down in the unquestioned books, in the undoubted teaching of Christ and the Apostles to assist in deciding questions where the evidence is more scanty.

Before I go into detail concerning the tests, I want to print a list of tests that is printed in General Biblical Introduction by Rev. H. S. Miller.

1. Divine authorship. Inspiration. Is it inspired? Was it given by God through the Spirit; through men; or did it come from man alone?

2. Human authorship. Was it written, edited, or endorsed by a prophet, or spokesman for God? (or Apostle – my addition)

3. Genuineness. Is it genuine? Can it be traced back to the time and to the writer from whom it professes to have come? Or, if the writer cannot be named positively, can it be shown to contain the same matter, in every essential point, as it contained when written?

4. Authenticity. Is it authentic? Is it true? Is it a record of actual facts?

5. Testimony. In modern times another test may be added: the testimony of the Jewish church, the early and later Christian church, the church councils, and the ancient versions of the Bible.

As you will note in the following material I will cover this in a little different way.

The first conclusion is that portions, at least of the New Testament, were written with the EXPECTATION that they were to be received and obeyed. Jesus declared in the Olivet Discourse that His words would never pass away (Matthew 24:35; Luke 21:33). It is obvious that the Apostles, by virtue of Christ’s resurrection, came early to belief in His words and acted upon them – to the death. The writings of the Apostles make the claim that they are authoritative and inspired. We come to the conclusion that Paul and the Apostles were conscious that they wrote as men inspired by God. The concept was "thus saith the Lord".

The second test was apostleship. Irenaeus had seen the Apostles and regarded them very highly. He wrote, "The apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was sent forth from God, so then Christ is from God and the apostles from Christ." He, as well as others, believed that canonicity came by the authority of the Apostles. If the Apostles wrote it, it was from God. If an apostle did not write it, it was not in the canon.

Ephesians 2:20 – "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone."

Ephesians 3:5 – "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit."

According to these verses, the Apostles laid the foundation of the church and that certainly would have included the giving of inspired Scripture. The early church fathers accepted the fact that the Apostles wrote with inspired authority. If an apostle wrote it, it was without question. This meant that the book either had to be written by an apostle or backed by one so that either way there was apostolic authority behind the book.

It is plain then that Matthew, John, and the 13 Pauline Epistles were widely and early accepted as canonical because they were written by Apostles. The problem comes with Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, 2 & 3 John, James, 2 Peter and Jude. Without making a long discussion, we point out that Mark was a disciple of Peter and the Holy Spirit used Peter to give Mark information that he wrote under the inspiration of God. Thus, his material was apostolic. Luke, who authored the Gospel of Luke and Acts, was a disciple of Paul and thus also wrote under apostolic direction, inspired by God. Since Hebrews does not name an author, many then believe either Paul or an understudy wrote it. If an understudy wrote it, it would come back again to the apostolic authority of Paul. Since 2 Peter claims Peter’s authorship, that is not questioned. The problem is that there is not a lot of external evidence for 2 Peter. However, Jude does refer to 2 Peter, recognizing its apostolic authority. The little books of 2 & 3 John do have sufficient evidence of the Apostle John’s apostolic authority and such acceptance by others. The major problem with James and Jude is concerning who the two men were. Were they Apostles? There are at least two James’s and two Jude’s in the New Testament or possibly three of each. The problem of identifying the two may be why there was a question about putting them in the canon. James, the brother of John, was martyred and Judas Iscariot committed suicide so we know it was not these two apostles. It is also evident that there were two of the original twelve, named James and Jude, who were sons of Alphaeus (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13). There is also a James and Jude who were half-brothers of Christ. The Roman Catholic view is that they were among the twelve because they would never accept the idea that Mary was not a perpetual virgin and had more children. The common Protestant view is that the half-brothers of Jesus were cousins of the apostles James and Jude thus making them apostolic. My conclusion is that James and Jude were the sons of Alphaeus and of the original twelve thus making the authorship of the two books apostolic. Clement of Rome used the Epistle of James as did Hermas. James was also included in the Syriac version. Jude is mentioned in the Muratorian Canon. Tertullian referred to the Epistle of Jude as authoritative and written by Jude the Apostle. It is also possible that James and Jude, the half-brothers of Christ, were regarded as apostles though they were not originally of the twelve.

Then there is the question of Hebrews. Origen stated, "Who wrote the Epistle, in truth, God knows;" Origen basically believed that the thoughts are those of Paul, but the diction and phraseology are those of someone else who had been an understudy of Paul. Many of the ancients attributed the writing to Paul, making it apostolic. There is considerable outside evidence concerning Hebrew’s authenticity. Clement of Rome in 95 AD referred to it. Justin Martyr quoted it. The early Ophites and Valentinus also used it. There is a thought that Paul, being an apostle to the Gentiles, would never have been accepted by the Jews so he did not put his name on the book. If it was written to the Hebrews in the Hebrew dialect but later published in Greek, that could explain the difference in style. Tertullian believed that Barnabas may have written it deriving it from the Apostle Paul; thus making it apostolic.

The early church held the view that if it was inspired, it also was apostolic. If a book was part of the New Testament, it was recognized as inspired if it had been written by an apostle – either by himself or with the help of an understudy (amanuensis).

God’s providence, which watched over the preservation as well as the preparation of those sacred books, was doubtless a factor.

third test was acceptance by the churches. "As the books circulated they had to gain acceptance by the churches. Actually there was no book that was doubted by any large number of churches that eventually was accepted into the canon." Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie.

fourth test was conformity to the rule of faith, or was it consistent with the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. For example, though the author of Hebrews is unknown, it is seen as an inspired exposition of how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament Law and its rituals.

Much of the above material is compiled from Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible by R. Laird Harris.


"Early in the 4th century Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340), as a historian reviews the situation in his Church History. He makes three classes; first, including the Gospels, Acts, Epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John is acknowledged; to these, if one likes, one may add the Apocalypse (Revelation). The second class is questioned but accepted by the majority: James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John. The third class of works to be decidedly rejected, contains the Acts of Paul, Hermes, Apocalypse of Peter, Barnabas, Didache…The Incomparable Book by Dr. D.L. Brown

These spurious books were called pseudoepigraphical; that is, fraudulent writings.

Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 367) gives us the earliest list of New Testament books, which is exactly like our present New Testament. This list was in festal letters to the church. Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh MacDowell.

In the 5th century, a letter, dated 414 AD, written by Jerome, accepted the New Testament books listed by Athanasius, a list that corresponds to today’s New Testament. Since the 4th century, history, tradition, and worship have approved the canon of the New Testament. While there were some attempts to exclude or add some books, these 27 books have remained the non-negotiable New Testament Canon of Christendom. The Incomparable Book by Dr. D.L. Brown

"When at last the Church Council – the Synod of Hippo in AD 393 – listed the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded this previously established canonicity. (The ruling of the Synod of Hippo was re-promulgated four years later by the Third Synod of Carthage. 397 AD)" - F.F. Bruce

Since that time there has been no serious questioning of the twenty-seven accepted books of the New Testament by either Roman Catholic or Protestants. Even if a letter of Paul were discovered today, it would not be canonical because the canon has been determined long ago. Even more recent books written by cults have no claim to be part of the canon of Scripture no matter what their claims may be.

You may have heard, as I have, that Martin Luther believed that the book of James did not belong in the canon but here is his actual statement. "St. John’s Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul’s Epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and St. Peter’s Epistle – these are the books which show to thee Christ, and teach everything that is necessary and blessed for thee to know, even if you were never to see or hear any other book of doctrine. Therefore, St. James’ Epistle is a perfect straw-epistle compared with them, for it has in it nothing of an evangelic kind." Thus Luther was comparing (in his opinion) doctrinal value, not canonical validity. Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie.


As the church councils became the functions of the Roman Catholic Church they eventually recognized some of the non-canonical books. However, the Reformers never accepted the non-canonical books as Scripture.


Canonized: Tobit – Ecclesiasticus – Wisdom – Judith – 1 & 2 Maccabees – Baruch – Esther (Extra) – Daniel (Extra)

These books are referred to as APOCRYPHAL BOOKS, which means hidden or secret, but the term is used in the sense of rejected, or non-canonical. There are actually masses of these books. I would like to list some of these more well-known ones.


1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, The Rest of Esther, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, with the Epistle of Jeremiah, The Song of the Three Holy Children, The History of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasses, 1 & 2 Maccabees.

While some of these are valuable for historical reasons, they were never considered canonical by the Jews and they are never quoted in the New Testament.


The teachings of the Twelve Apostles, The Epistle of Barnabas, The First Epistle of Clement, the Second Epistle of Clement, The Shepherd of Hermas, The Apocalypse of Peter, the Acts of Paul, including Paul and Thecla, The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, The Seven Epistles of Ignatius, The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, The Protevangelium of James, The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, The Gospel of Nicodemus, The Gospel of the Savior’s Infancy, and the History of Joseph the Carpenter.


These books are sometimes referred to as the WIDER APOCRYPHA or as APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE and were written from 200 BC to 200 AD.


APOCALIPTIC BOOKS: The Book of Enoch, The Secrets of Enoch, The Apocalypse of Baruch, The Rest of the Words of Baruch, The Assumption of Moses, The Prophecy of Jeremiah, The Ascension of Isaiah, The Apocalypse of Elijah, The Sibylline Oracles, The Apocalypse of Esdras, The Apocalypse of Zephaniah.

LEGENDARY BOOKS: The Testament of Adam, The Book of Jubilees, The Testaments of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, The Testament of Job, The Testament of Solomon, The Life of Asenath, The Penitence of Jannes and Jambres, The Apocalypse of Abraham.

BOOKS OF TEACHING: Magical Books of Moses, The Story of Achiacharus, cup-bearer to Esarhaddon, King of Persia.

POETICAL BOOKS: Psalms of Solomon and Additional to the Psalter.


In this area some make two categories of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphical because they are spurious (fakes or forgeries). The following list is of this nature:

Seven gospels of Andrew, Bartholomew, Barnabas, Matthias, Thomas, Peter, and Philip. Eight Acts of John, Paul, Peter, Andrew, Thomas, Matthias, Philip and Thaddaeus. Four Apocalypses of Peter, Paul, Thomas, John and the Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans.

The Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal books have been published in popular editions under such titles as The Lost Books of the Bible and The Forgotten Books of Eden.

I want to use quotations from three of these books, which will explain why they were never accepted into the New Testament canon.

In the Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, chapter 7 is the story of some sisters whose brother was bewitched by a woman and turned into a mule. The sisters came to the Virgin Mary for help: "Hereupon St. Mary was grieved at their case, and taking the Lord Jesus, put him upon the back of the mule. And said to her son, O Jesus Christ, restore according to thy extraordinary power this mule, and grant him to have again the shape of a man and a rational creature, as he had formerly. This was scarce said by the Lady Mary, but the mule immediately passed into a human form, and became a young man without any deformity." (7:24-26)

In the Epistle of Barnabas the Levitical dietary laws are discussed. "Neither shalt thou eat of the hyena; that is, again, be not an adulterer, nor a corrupter of others; neither be like to such. And wherefore so?—because that creature every year changes it kind, and is sometimes male and sometimes female." (9:8)

In the Gospel of Thomas: "Another time Jesus went forth into the street, and a boy running by, rushed upon his shoulder; at which Jesus being angry, said to him, thou shalt go no farther. And he instantly fell down dead." (2:7-9)

This information about the non-canonical books is quoted from A Dispensational Theology by Charles F. Bake


Gary Alberding

Pastor Emeritus

David L. Brown

Service Times

Sunday Services:

Sunday School

9:30 AM

Morning Service

10:45 AM

Evening Service

6:15 PM

Wednesday Service:

Evening Service

7:00 PM

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