Torch, Spring 1978

THE CANON: RULE FOR FAITH JamesM.Grier,Th.M. In this article, James Grier answers the question, "How do we know that the Bible which we read and obey is that which God intended for us to have?" THE current battle for theBible does not pit the conservative theologian against hiscounterpart in the camps of liberal or neo– orthodox theology. Rather, the battle rages within conservative theology. Central to the controversy is the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Some assert that it is possible to affirm an inspired, infallible Bible without committing themselves to an inerrant text. Others insist that infallibility logically entails inerrancy and that adenial of one demands a denial of the other. Infallibility me~ns that the Bible possesses unfailing authority. lnerrancy means that the Bible possesses the quality of freedom from error. Both of these doctrines are germane to a discussion of the canonicity of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. CANONICITY The Greek word kanon and its Hebrew equivalent qaneh originally denoted ameasuring instrument. When these words appear in Scripture, they are usually translated reed, rod, staff, or measure. In the fourth century church the term was applied to the Bible as the list of holy writings. Eventually canon became the name for Scripture itself, indicating that God'sWord is the rule or norm-the supreme authority. Today, the use of the word canon refers to a closed collection of writings which have been breathed-out by God, thus possessing authority for faith and conduct. However, canonicity, like all other doctrines, rests on a careful historical-grammatical exegesis of Scripture. The doctrine of the Bible must come from the text of the Bible. Many questions emerge from the idea of acanon: Why do these sixty-six books possess exclusive authority? When and under what conditions did the people of God come to acknowledge this authority? How do we know that both the Old Testament and New Testament are canonical? Some general considerations in response to these questions will enable us to develop a framework for specific answers. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS That which makes abook a rule of faith is the character of its origin. Because the books of the canon originate in the creative breath of God, canonicity is integrally related to inspiration. This God-breathedWord has the seedof authority in itself. It did not becomeauthoritative because it passed a test or conformed to criteria external to itself. It is canonical because it originated in the speaking of God by men who were borne by the special activity of the Holy Spirit.