Archives For Michael J. Kruger

Here is the post to the second significant series on the canon written by Michael J. Kruger. This one is entitled, “Ten Basic Facts about the NT Canon that Every Christian Should Memorize.”

Kruger explained the focus of this series: “This new blog series is designed to help the lay believer learn some basic facts about the New Testament canon—the kind of facts that might be helpful in a conversation with a skeptic or inquisitive friend.

  1. The New Testament Books are the Earliest Christian Writings We Possess
  2. Apocryphal Writings are All Written in the Second Century or Later
  3. The New Testament Books Are Unique Because They Are Apostolic Books
  4. Some NT Writers Quote Other NT Writers as Scripture
  5. The Four Gospels are Well Established by the End of the Second Century
  6. At the End of the Second Century, the Muratorian Fragment Lists 22 of our 27 NT books
  7. Early Christians Often Used Non-Canonical Writings
  8. The NT Canon Was Not Decided at Nicea—Nor Any Other Church Council
  9. Christians Did Disagree about the Canonicity of Some NT Books
  10. Early Christians Believed that Canonical Books were Self-Authenticating

Please forward these insightful writings on to others. But before you do, make sure you have read them. There is much for you to learn (or be reminded) too!

Questions about canonicity of the Bible have often been used to discredit the authority of the Bible. This issue has become especially acute in the past number of years with attention being given The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, and others, gospels besides the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Michael J. Kruger is doing some of the most helpful work today on the issues of the canon. Kruger penned Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Crossway, 2012), and he has also written The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (IVP, 2013) which will be published later this year.

Kruger also writes a blog in which he includes a great deal of helpful information. He has done a couple of extremely helpful series, one I share today, and the second tomorrow.

Below you will find links to his excellent series on “10 Misconceptions About the NT Canon.

  1. The Term “Canon” Can Only Refer to a Fixed, Closed List of Books
  2. Nothing in Early Christianity Dictated That There Would be a Canon
  3. The New Testament Authors Did Not Think They Were Writing Scripture
  4. New Testament Books Were Not Regarded as Scriptural Until Around 200 A.D.
  5. Early Christians Disagreed Widely over the Books Which Made It into the Canon
  6. In the Early Stages, Apocryphal Books Were as Popular as the Canonical Books
  7. Christians Had No Basis to Distinguish Heresy from Orthodoxy Until the Fourth Century
  8. Early Christianity was an Oral Religion and Therefore Would Have Resisted Writing Things Down
  9. The Canonical Gospels Were Certainly Not Written by the Individuals Named in Their Titles
  10. Athanasius’ Festal Letter (367 A.D.) is the First Complete List of New Testament Books

This series is important for you to read. And then after you have read it, have your elders and other leaders read it.

One of the EFCA distinctives is that we “embrace a humble orthodoxy in partnership with others of like faith.” This is explained further:

We believe in the spiritual unity of the Church though not necessarily in structural union. We join with other Christians and other denominations of like, precious faith in common goals and ministries to accomplish the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. But we believe that there is strength in diversity and that it is important to preserve our distinctives. We recognize that union in structure does not guarantee unity of spirit.  Our foremost concern is unity of spirit with our Lord, with each other and with other Christians.

The key expression is “humble orthodoxy.” In a sense, it is an improper adjective to use with orthodoxy, because orthodoxy is a body of doctrine, of truth, so it is inappropriate to refer to it as “humble.” But the expression was chosen intentionally to emphasis the manner in which orthodoxy is to be held. In fact, the degree to which we understand and live by orthodox truth is the degree to which we will be humble!

On the one hand, there is no place for arrogance among those who affirm orthodoxy/truth. So the expression “arrogant orthodoxy” would truly be an oxymoron as the two just do not go together. Sadly, they ought not go together, and in principle they do not, but they often do in practice. But, on the other hand, neither is there any place for “humble heterodoxy,” so that one accommodates any and every belief so that there is no solid doctrinal ground upon which to stand.

I greatly appreciate the words of Michael J. Kruger, “Christian Humility and the World’s Definition of Humility.”

Christians are humble because their understanding of truth is not based on their own intelligence, their own research, their own acumen. Rather, it is 100% dependent on the grace of God. Christian knowledge is a dependent knowledge. And that leads to humility (1 Cor. 1:31). This obviously doesn’t mean all Christians are personally humble. But, it does mean they should be, and have adequate grounds to be.

This is also reflected in Joshua Harris’ new book: Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2013). It is an expansion of the final chapter in his book, Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2010). He notes, which is the title of the book, that we need to embrace a humble orthodoxy. Harris explains it in this way:

Christians need to have a strong commitment to sound doctrine. We need to be courageous in our stand for biblical truth. But we also need to be gracious in our words and interactions with other people. (3-4)

truth matters . . . but so does our attitude. This is what I mean by humble orthodoxy: we must care deeply about truth, and we must also defend and share this truth with compassion and humility. (5)

We need to care about orthodoxy and right thinking about who God is and how he saves through Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy matters. . . . genuine love and humility of heart before God and other people are essential. Humility matters. We don’t get to choose between humility and orthodoxy. We need both. (5-6)

Harris contrasts humble orthodoxy with two alternatives: arrogant orthodoxy and humble heterodoxy.

there’s arrogant orthodoxy. It’s possible to be right in our doctrine but be unkind and unloving, self-righteous and spiteful in our words and behavior. . . . we learn to rebuke like Jesus but not love like Jesus. (6-7)

Another popular opinion is humble heterodoxy. Heterodoxy is a departure from orthodoxy. So a person who is humbly heterodox abandons some of the historic Christian beliefs but is a really nice person who you’d enjoy having coffee with. (7)

Harris asks a couple of questions.

When I think about arrogant orthodoxy, I have to ask, does good doctrine necessarily lead to being argumentative and arrogant? And when I think about humble heterodoxy, my question is, do humility and kindness and engagement with our culture have to involve watering down our convictions? I think the answer to both questions is no. We can – and we need to – embrace a humble orthodoxy. (7-8)

As he often did, G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908; repr., Garden City, NY: Image, 1959), 31), also speaks directly to this issue during his age, which sound very similar to our age:

What we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth.

Humble orthodoxy . . . Let’s doubt ourselves; let’s be undoubting of the truth!

“Did Jesus Have a Wife?”

Greg Strand – September 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Here are four more responses to the recent translation of a manuscript entitled “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”

Ben Witherington, “Seven Minute Seminary: Did Jesus Have a Wife?”

Witherington serves as Jean R. Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary where he has taught since 1995. He has written many books, including a socio-rhetorical commentary on every book of the New Testament (published by Eerdmans).

In this helpful clip, Witherington addresses the recent translation of the manuscript referred to as “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”

Michael J. Kruger, “The Far Less Sensational Truth about Jesus’ ‘Wife’”: (September 19, 2012)

Kruger serves as a Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC, and author of the recently published Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

Kruger considers several matters as he asks questions about this new discovery:

Authenticity: “At this point, there is no way to know whether it is genuine or a forgery. We cannot be certain until more scholars have an opportunity to examine it.”);

Composition: “there is nothing that would indicate that the composition of this gospel should be dated to the first century. It was produced long after the time of the apostles, along with all other known apocryphal gospels.”

Historical Value: “There is no reason to think this gospel retains authentic tradition about Jesus. It is a late production, not based on eyewitness testimony, and likely draws on other apocryphal works like Thomas and Philip. Moreover – and this is critical – we do not have a single historical source in all of early Christianity that suggests Jesus was married. None.”

Conspiracies and the Canonical Gospels: “When it comes to these sorts of questions I like to remind my students of a simply – but often overlooked – fact: of all the gospels in early Christianity, only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are dated to the first century. Sure, there are minority attempts to put books like the Gospel of Thomas in the first century – but such attempts have not been well received by biblical scholars. Thus, if we really want to know what Jesus was like, our best bet is to rely on books that were at least written during the time period when eyewitnesses were still alive. And only four gospels meet that standard.”

Daniel B. Wallace, “Reality Check: The ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Coptic Fragment,” (September 21, 2012)

Wallace serves as professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he has been tenured since 1995. He authored Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), and has done extensive work in the area of textual criticism.

In this post, Wallace addresses “some facts, some probabilities, and some possibilities.” Under “facts,” in his ninth point, Wallace asks and answers, “Does this fragment prove that Jesus was married? The answer is an emphatic no. At most, it can only tell us what one group of ‘Christians’ in the middle of the second century thought. But it says nothing about true history, about Jesus of Nazareth.”

As far as “possibilities,” Wallace lists three: 1) “the manuscript is a fake”; 2) if it is genuine, a. it is not Gnostic, b. Gnostic but with an understanding of marriage other than a physical bond between a man and a woman, c. orthodox but the reference to “wife” is metaphorically used to refer to the church as Jesus’ wife, d. a derivative Christian group that was responded to the asceticism of the second century that looked negatively upon marriage, or e. a parabolic or metaphorical reference; finally, 3) “If it goes back to a second-century tradition, we must keep in mind that there is a world of difference between first-century, apostolic Christianity and the various spin-off groups that rose after that early period.”

Francis Watson, “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a face Gospel-Fragment was composed

Watson serves at the University of Durham. He includes a six-page analysis of the Coptic fragment in which he concludes this is the work of a modern author, a forgery.  

The text has been constructed out of small pieces – words or phrases – culled mostly from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (GTh), Sayings 101 and 114, and set in new contexts.

This is most probably the compositional procedure of a modern author who is not a native speaker of Coptic. . . . it seems unlikely that GJW will establish itself as a “genuine” product of early gospel writing.

Watson also included an “Addendum: The End of the Line

His conclusion here is the following: “For the present, though, scepticism [sic] seems a safer option than credulity.”