Why were 7 New Testament books questioned?

From approximately 100-350 AD there was division over seven books in our New Testament. No one questioned the apostolicity of the four Gospels, the book of Acts, the thirteen letters of Paul, 1 Peter, and 1 John. After all, these were written by apostles, or with “apostolic approval.” For instance, Mark is considered to be Peter’s gospel, and Luke researched his Gospel, and was an evangelist along with the Apostle Paul as he wrote Acts. Justin Martyr, second century AD Christian apologist, records that people would read these New Testament writings in church services interchangeably with the Old Testament, which was a display of their authority from God. “The fact of public reading in the churches became for later generations one of the prime criteria of canonicity.” Besides Justin Martyr, other second century Christian fathers referencing the New Testament books include, but are not limited to, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Tertullian.

However, these seven were questioned: Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. For years, the main question was their authorship. The author of Hebrews is not stated, but the message was not contradictory to the rest of the Bible, so it was used. James and Jude were not Apostles but half-brothers of Jesus and later followers, so their works were included later as well. Comparing the writing styles of 1 Peter and 2 Peter reveals two distinct styles, until people settled on the explanation that Peter wrote his first letter with Silas’ help (1 Peter 5:12), while the second epistle was written by Peter alone. 2 and 3 John were short letters that were not cited often, and written by “the Elder,” presumably the Apostle John due to the language of these letters. Revelation is written by “John,” but some questioned whether that was the Apostle or not.

Dr. Martin Franzmann of Concordia Seminary said the following in his book, The Word of the Lord Grows: “Christianity did not develop from a religion of Spirit into a religion of the Book, as some have claimed. It was from the beginning a ‘book religion,’ and the new book, our New Testament, took its place beside the old, not suddenly and magically, but by a gradual process over the years as the church worshiped, did its work, and fought its battles…No commission of theologians, no church councils defines the canon or imposes a canon on the church. The canon is not being made; it is growing and being recognized. This remains the case in the fourth century also, when the canon assumed the form it was destined to retain ever after in the Western church.”

In the end, around 350 AD, the sixty-six books we read from Genesis to Revelation were complete. You may find some Bibles with the Apocrypha included. Norman Geisler points out that these books were added by the Roman Catholic Church in 1546 as part of the Counter Reformation. They were not originally part of the canon due to contrary doctrines, historical anachronisms, and geographical inaccuracies. Interestingly, the Jewish philosopher Philo, the Jewish historian Josephus, and Jesus never quoted them as the Word of God. The New Testament writers and early church didn’t recognize them as inspired either.

At the beginning of this series of blogs I mentioned how some not only believe the Bible is a man-made book, not inspired by God at all, but is also a book constructed by a committee of men centuries later in time. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You not only have the testimony of the Bible itself, but the witness of historical writings to verify this. The claims of Christianity are backed up by the facts. This passes the first worldview test again—it fits the facts. This map is reliable! So from Moses writing Genesis around 1400 BC to John writing Revelation around 100 AD, God has spoken through the prophets and the apostles.

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