Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Red-Hot Canon

Our chemists' Bible study was talking about canonization last week, and I realized (painfully!) that I know next-to-nuttin' about how God showed us which books to keep and which books to jet.  So, I'm on a treasure hunt.  I found a reading list from the website "Stand to Reason," and it lists this book on canonization:

"The Canon of Scripture, F.F. Bruce

A comprehensive and fascinating history of how the canon came to be as Protestants read it now. He not only lays the historical framework for the canon, but explains how the church has used the rejected books in worship and devotion, providing some new perspective on the early church's worship practices."

Mom and I were talking about canonization this week, and she read the following passage to me:

"When we look at how God led His people to recognize the canon of Scripture, the listing of books that were inspired over against those books which were not, we note that God did not engage in any celestial fireworks in the process.  No angels showed up with golden tablets marked 'Divine Index.'  Instead, God worked with His people over time, leading them to recognize what He had already done through the act of inspiration.  It took time, and some might wish for a more 'spectacular' method, but God did it in His way, in His time.
    "The same thing is true regarding the protection and preservation of the text of the Bible.  One might well see a tremendous amount of divine wisdom in the way in which God worked over the years.  By having the text of the New Testament in particular 'explode' across the known world, ending up in the far-flung corners of the Roman Empire in a relatively short period of time, God protected that text from the one thing that we could never detect: the wholesale change of doctrine or theology by one particular man or group who had full control of the text at any one point in its history.  You see, because the New Testament books were written at various times, and were quickly copied and distributed as soon as they were written, there was never a time when any one man, or any group of men, could gather all the manuscripts and make extensive changes in the text itself, such as cutting out the deity of Christ, or inserting some foreign doctrine or concept.  No one could gather up the texts and try to make them all say the same thing by 'harmonizing' them, either.  If someone had indeed done such a thing, we could never know for certain what the apostle had written, and what the truth actually is.  But such a thing did not, and could not, happen.  Indeed, by the time anyone did obtain ecclesiastical power in the name of Christianity, texts like P66 or P75 were already long buried in the sands of Egypt, out of the reach of anyone who would try to alter them.  The fact that their text is nearly identical to even the most 'Byzantine' manuscript of 1,000 years later is testimony to the overall purity of the New Testament text."

(James White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995, pp. 47-48).

I'm looking forward to knowing more about how the Bible was formed!  Just from the little bit of browsing that I did online tonight, I learned that Esther, Song-of-Solomon, James, and Revelation were close to getting chopped at different points in the canonization process.  Wow -- forget Dan Brown and all his nonsense.  I want to know the real drama of Scripture!  There's the drama within it (the true battles, victories, loves, and lives) and the drama surrounding it (the true history of how this tremendous book was carefully compiled).  All throughout the process I know that God's been guiding people like us to write and preserve His ideas.  "And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times."  Psalm 12:6.  Thank you, LORD.  Your Word is amazing.

No comments: