The Canon Test

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 14, 2014 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Last week I talked about being a Berean, and how we need to check out what people are saying for validity. But doing so requires having a standard to compare everything to. As Christians, we have an ultimate/final standard in the Bible. But a question arises. It is well known that the Bible was written by 40 different men over a span of 1600 years. How on earth could this compiled book retain this ultimate truth? And how did each book get chosen to be put in the Bible, but others like the Apocrypha and the Gnostic Gospels did not? This gives rise to the concept of the Canon Test. It is far more intense, strict, and difficult to pass than any other test out there, including scientific peer-review. What is this test? And if the Bible passes this test what does that mean? Eric Ludy describes it far more succinctly than I can.

The Bible can be likened to a great tree with 66 branches. But this tree didn't start with 66 branches. Every branch had to be added over time. And to be added each branch must first have endured the supremely difficult "test of canonicity."

1. It has to prove it came from the same root. It has to be inspired by God himself.
2. It has to bear perfect likeness to the rest of the existing branches on the tree and could not contradict or bear the nature of a different type of tree. It has to align to perfection without a single fault.
3. It has to evidence fruit identical to the fruit on the rest of the existing branches, showcasing in its life the exact same nature as the root from which it is born.

The Canon has divine authority to rule and control. So whatever possesses the distinction of Canon becomes...
  1. A measuring rod against which all other ideas or truths must be measured, and all men must be judged, as well as all other aspiring measuring rods must be tested.
2. A correcting rod by which all men must come into alignment and all rebellion is driven from the hearts of men.
  3. A shepherd's rod that guides, comforts, and enables men down the narrow way of God's kingdom path.
4. A King's rod that silences all opposing opinion, holding all authority to divine truth, righteousness, and the nature of sin, death, life, salvation, and the world to come.

~The Bravehearted Gospel by Eric Ludy, pp 186-187

What does this all mean? In the next three weeks, I will go into detail on each of these points and then go into how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Canon.

First, it is important to note that because of the authorship and time frame of the writing of Scripture, the Canon was not decided at one time. It was not decided at the Council of Nicea in 325AD, even though a statement about the Canon was made. What was that statement? That statement did not decide what was Canon but was a confirmation of what was already decided what the Canon was. At the time of Constantine and this Council, many other books had been proposed to be added to the New Testament. This included the Gnostic Gospels. The Council of Nicea made a statement saying, “This is what the Canon was, and we are sticking with it.” But how were books like the Apocrypha or the Gnostic Gospels rejected from the Canon while books like Esther or James were included? Let us explore what the three criteria are.

1. It must come from the same root. It must be inspired by God. First, I want to make explicitly clear that there is a difference between God leading us to do something and having something “inspired”. My first novel Call to Arms was something God lead me to do. I would not have written the novel, let alone anything else I am now working on, had he not prompted me to do so. But anything I write is not God-inspired. It is not “God-breathed” as 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us. The Old Testament was written by prophets, men who, prior to the cross, had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That itself is another topic. The New Testament was all written by those who were either disciples (Matthew, John, Peter), had first-hand experiences with Jesus (James, Jude, Mark, Paul) or thoroughly researched everything and spent a lot of time with those directly involved (Luke). None of the other proposed books such as the Apocrypha, the Gnostic Gospels, or even other pastors’ teachings could demonstrate such authentication. Some of these other works may contain true accounts but Canon must be 100% truth, and demonstrate that the actual source is God himself. It cannot have a single blemish, which leads to the second criteria.

2. It must bear perfect likeness without a single blemish. When Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that was the initial established Canon. This is when God passed down the Law and Moses, having twice spent 40 days and nights alone with God on Mt. Sinai, wrote down the initial Canon. Each book from that point on had to pass this test to be added. Joshua was added to the Canon next, then Judges, then Ruth, then the Samuels, Kings, Chronicles, etc. Each time a book was approved for Canon and added to it, the next proposed book had to not just bear full agreement with the first five but each already added book. And each book had to match perfectly and 100% consistently with all the previous books. There could not be one contradiction or it would not be considered Canon. Each book had to prove itself coming from the same source, having the same type of “tree.” It had to be in perfect agreement with the central theme of the overall Canon, and not deviate away from that central them. If it bore a different type of nature in terms of its revealing the nature of God, revealing his plan and purpose for mankind, it would not pass the Canon Test.

3. In farming practices, you can cut off the branch of a tree and graft in a branch of another type of tree. You can see trees that are half one color and half another color. But with the Canon, you cannot do that. While Scripture has exactly one correct interpretation (the Author’s) it has many applications. A correctly deducted application from the proposed book must match in perfect alignment the nature of the correctly deducted applications from the established Canon. Each book must showcase correctly the nature of God, the nature of man, the redemptive plan of God, and the model for how we are to live.

In all, only 66 books were able to pass the Canon Test. The last book to be added was Revelation, and Revelation completed it. The Canon is finished and sealed. No other book is going to be added nor will any other book be able to pass the Canon Test. But now that we know how the Canon was set, what does that mean? Next week I will address the four points Ludy details on what authority and power anything that bears the nature of the Canon has.