Did the New Testament canon arise naturally from within the early Christian faith? Were the books written as Scripture, or did they become Scripture by a decision of the second-century church? Why did early Christians have a canon at all? These are the types of questions that led Michael J. Kruger to pick apart modern scholarship?s dominant view that the New Testament is a late creation of the church imposed on books originally written for another purpose. Calling into question this commonly held “extrinsic” view, Kruger here tackles the five most prevalent objections to the classic understanding of a quickly emerging, self-authenticating collection of authoritative scriptures. Already a noted author on the subject of the New Testament canon, Kruger addresses foundational and paradigmatic assumptions of the extrinsic model as he provides powerful rebuttals and further support for the classic, “intrinsic” view. This framework recognizes the canon as the product of internal forces evolving out of the historical essence of Christianity, not a development retroactively imposed by the church upon books written hundreds of years before. Unlike many books written on the emergence of the New Testament canon that ask “when?” or “how?” Kruger focuses this work on the “why?”―exposing weaknesses in the five major tenets of the extrinsic model as he goes. While The Question of Canon scrutinizes today?s popular scholastic view, it also offers an alternative concept to lay a better empirical foundation for biblical canon studies.
The issue of how and why the biblical canon was set in the early church continues to be a strong and important discussion in contemporary biblical and theological scholarship. This book is a very helpful voice in that debate. Kruger describes the sides of the debate as those who see the canon shaped by ‘extrinsic’ factors―that is, outside forces such as the decisions of church or imperial leaders or reactions to heretical views―or ‘intrinsic’ factors such as the model provided by Judaism, the circulation and reception of these sacred texts by the early Christian community, and the apostolic authority of the texts themselves.
I found it a fascinating, well-balanced and worthwhile read.
The book is a fascinating read which deals with a most important subject in a most helpful and scholarly way.
Daniel J. Vitalo
Kruger has provided us with another useful and challenging contribution to this flourishing field of study. He rightly emphasizes giving greater weight to the historical reliability that the canon’s development was early and natural, as well as not automatically adopting one model over and against all others. Students, pastors, and scholars alike will benefit greatly from this volume for years ahead.
Larry W. Hurtado
With an impressive familiarity with primary data and scholarly studies, and in a patient and generous tone toward other positions, Kruger makes a solid (to my mind, persuasive) case that the formation of a New Testament canon was a historical process with roots at least as early as the circulation and use of certain texts as scripture in the early second century. Offering what he calls an ‘intrinsic model’ as complement to the emphasis on the final stages of canon formation in much current scholarship, he presents a nuanced and cogent picture that more adequately captures the historical complexity that led to the New Testament.
Emeritus Professor, University of Edinburgh
Donald A. Hagner
In this important book, Michael Kruger effectively challenges the common but unjustified conclusion that the canon was the late creation of the church, imposed on it by external forces. Kruger repeatedly points out the mistaken assumptions that underlie that conclusion, while on the positive side providing a more satisfactory understanding of the emergence of the canon within the church from virtually the beginning. The discussion is carried on in dialogue with the latest and best scholarship and reflects balanced and judicious wisdom throughout. If you are interested in the formation of the New Testament canon, you cannot afford to neglect this book.
George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary
Charles E. Hill
The regnant view of NT canon formation in academic circles holds that the canon is a late ecclesiastical creation, and one that is far removed from the mindset of Jesus, his apostles and even the church for at least the first century and a half of its existence. Kruger takes five major planks on which this view is built, subjects them to historical scrutiny, and, where there are any solid splinters of truth left after inspection, shows how they may be incorporated into a better empirical foundation for canon studies. This important study argues that an ‘intrinsic’ model for canon, which recognizes the canon as the product of internal forces evolving out of the historical essence of Christianity, is superior to the ‘extrinsic’ model that has dominated canon studies for too long. May this book find many readers.
Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary