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Canon Muratorianus: The Earliest Catalogue of the Books of the New Testament

Everyone thinks presuppositionally whether they realize it or not. That is, we assume things without evidence before we build a logical train of thought in an attempt to prove other things. Thus an argument and its conclusion may be completely sound based on the premise. But if your premise is false, your conclusion, however sound the reasoning, may be false also.

If you realize this, then you are more likely to be aware of the limitations of your belief system or epistemology. All thinking and logic is ultimately circular. We can know nothing to be true if we cannot latch on to at least one true presupposition without evidence.

If you are epistemologically self-conscious of this stark reality, then you are more likely to be consistent and rigorously logical. You simply accept as a moot point that we each must return to an unprovable premise as a given truth.

I have never debated a “New Atheist” who has understood any of this. Instead, they assume that their “logical conclusions” serve to support their presuppositions and vice versa. Ironically, they claim biblical faith is circular reasoning. But theirs is also a faith that is as blind as any crackpot religion.

If you believe in a God of some type, then you believe that supernatural events are at least possible. Then the question becomes not whether the biblical accounts are possible or even plausible (they certainly are if God exists) but rather whether they likely and reliable given the evidence we have.

If say you don’t believe in God, I will simply reject your presupposition. I will ignore the ridicule you heap on the records of miracles and the supernatural events of the Bible except to point out where your logic is faulty and your presuppositions are fabricated out of thin air. However, I can still dialog with an atheist as to the reliability of the New Testament as a body of literature. This can be shown to be more rock solid than any work from ancient times.

Christianity is a religion that claims to be based on historical fact. Other religions, such as Eastern monism, polytheism and animism are based on allegory. And what’s more, they know it. The reason I accept the historical basis of the life and ministry Jesus and the Apostles as recorded in the New Testament is that the canonicity of these books has a strong pedigree.

Canon Muratorianus: The Earliest Catalogue of the Books of the New Testament was written by S.P. Tregelles, another in a long line of critics in history who was converted to Christ through an honest examination of the evidence. The book is a series of short papers concerning the Muratorian fragment, written by a well-known scholar of the 1800s, who was one of the first people to reexamine the manuscript after it was published (with errors) over 100 years prior to his research. The author writes of his study to correct the errors in the research up to that point and gives us several chapters on the significance of the Muratorian Canon in establishing the canonicity of each New Testament book.

It has been known since the beginning of Christianity, that the canon as we know it today has a pedigree. That is, we have a record in each generation not only of the authors, but also the occasion of the writing. In addition to this testimony of the church fathers (Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Papias, the Didache) from the late first century onward, we have this smoking gun from the mid-second century. Whenever I run into people who think that the books of the Bible were “voted on” by a church council many centuries after they were written – either because they read The Da Vinci Code, Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, heard Elaine Pagels, or saw shows about “The Missing Books of the Bible” on A&E – I point them to the so-called Muratorian Canon.

Although not meant to be a canonical list, it shows that the New Testament we have today matches the “Bible” of the second century. The fragment is also useful in dating the writing of John to the pre-70 AD apostolic age when the Apocalypse of John is said to be written by the “predecessor” of Paul, who wrote to seven churches (Rev 2-3) before Paul wrote to seven churches.

Misnamed the Muratorian Canon, the work is fragment of three pages, likely part of a longer homily that was preserved in rough Latin. The purpose of the sermon was to comment (in some unknown context since only this middle section was preserved by some scribe in the 7th or 8th century) on which books were read in the churches in the mid-second century.

Canon Muratorianus: The Earliest Catalogue of the Books of the New Testament by S.P. Tregelles is short and quite readable. It contains a three page facsimile of the manuscript as well as a Latin transcription and a line by line rendering of the translation with commentary.

Although it contains quite a few quotations in Greek, Latin and German, even if you don’t know a word of those languages, you can read the analysis chapters in which the author shows that each of these books were certainly thought to be canonical by the church fathers as early as the end of the first century. The author also deals quite convincingly with the books the Muratorian fragment does not mention, Hebrews, James, 3 John and 1 and 2 Peter.

Suffice it to say that this is a short yet scholarly antidote to the “many Gospels” and “many Christianities” hypothesis of Elaine Pagels, Dan Brown, the Jesus Seminar and their ilk. The author correctly states in a warm evangelical tone in his introduction:

Accuracy of statement of all points of Christian evidence is of no small importance, if we wish to rise from a mere general and indefinite notion to a clear and distinct apprehension of facts. And as Christianity is a religion based on facts, we have to inquire on what grounds we receive the documents in which such facts are transmitted; for thus we shall know how to meet those who would throw distrust or suggest doubt as to this branch of Christian evidence. It behoves us to know how, from the Apostolic age and onward, there never has been a time in which the historic records of our religion have not been received, held fast, and publicly used; so that all along there have been the same records as to the facts of our Lord’s incarnation, His death on the cross as the vicarious sacrifice appointed by God the Father, His resurrection, ascension, the mission of the Holy Ghost, and the preaching by the Apostles of our Lord of the doctrine of repentance and remission of sins in His name, in obedience to His command.

Comments

Your comments are welcome!

Nice review, and nice bit of reasoning at the top.

Posted by Dave Kinsella on 02/22/2012 11:16 AM #

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.

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The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death (DVD)

Download the free Study Guide!

Is there a connection between pagan religion and the abortion industry?

This powerful presentation traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God and crime against humanity has produced in our beleaguered society.

Conceived as a sequel and update to the 1988 classic, The Massacre of Innocence, the new title, The Abortion Matrix, is entirely fitting. It not only references abortion’s specific target – the sacred matrix where human beings are formed in the womb in the very image of God, but it also implies the existence of a conspiracy, a matrix of seemingly disparate forces that are driving this holocaust.

The occult activity surrounding the abortion industry is exposed with numerous examples. But are these just aberrations, bizarre yet anomalous examples of abortionists who just happen to have ties to modern day witchcraft? Or is this representative of something deeper, more sinister and even endemic to the entire abortion movement?

As the allusion to the film of over a decade ago suggests, the viewer may learn that things are not always as they appear to be. The Abortion Matrix reveals the reality of child-killing and strikes the proper moral chord to move hearts to fulfill the biblical responsibility to rescue those unjustly sentenced to death and to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 24:11,12; 31:8,9).

Speakers include: George Grant, Peter Hammond, RC Sproul Jr., Paul Jehle, Lou Engle, Rusty Thomas, Flip Benham, Janet Porter and many more.

Ten parts, over three hours of instruction!

Running Time: 195 minutes

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

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— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter

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The Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of ChristThe Real Jesus: A Defense of the Historicity and Divinity of Christ (DVD)

Who is the Real Jesus?

Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.

Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.

The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.

Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.

Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!

Running Time: 130 minutes

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Martin Luther: Digitally Remastered 1953 Classic (DVD)

“Here I stand … I can do no other!”

With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.

The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Running time: 105 minutes

Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each.

Watch a clip from Martin Luther.

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The Abortion Matrix:
Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death

is a 195-minute presentation that traces the biblical roots of child sacrifice and then delves into the social, political and cultural fall-out that this sin against God has produced. You can order this series on DVD, read the complete script and view clips on-line...
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