Episode Transcript: 

Coleson Lechner: Welcome back to the reconstructed faith podcast. My name is Coleson Lechner alongside my partners in crime as always Chris Legg, Chris Sherrod and Bryn Starnes. Great to see you guys. This morning, I’m going to throw it over to Bryn Starnes, Bryn. Go ahead and kick us off!

Bryn Starnes: Thanks Coleson so we are continuing our series on the Bible and this particular section of episodes is specifically regarding how we got the Bible, how we have the books that we consider scripture now, because there are a lot of questions surrounding this that are, are really valid and can be confusing depending on what you’ve heard about it. And it’s easy to have misconceptions about it.

So we feel like it is important to tackle. And two episodes ago, we talked about how we. Got the books of the new Testament. And so I’m just going to summarize really quick and get us up to speed. And then we can continue that conversation. But one of the things we talked about with the new Testament specifically, and a lot of this applies to the old Testament, but are the criteria [00:01:00] of the canon.

So the ways that scripture or the books of the Bible were considered scripture for the new Testament by. Just the early Christians and the churches in that area. So the first one was that the writings had Apostolic connection. So they were either written by an apostle or, the testimony of an apostle.

And this is because Jesus gave the apostles authority. And even in John 14:26, he said, the helper, the holy spirit, whom the father will send in my name will teach you all these things and bring to your remembrance, all the things that I’ve said to you. And I’ve never connected that before now with the fact that he’s promising that they’ll have remembrance of his life and his words.

And so, as they’re writing those down as scripture that’s being fulfilled, the holy spirit, he promised the holy spirit would aid them in that process. So that’s the first one


Chris Sherrod : I’ll add, I think it’s, it’s interesting for us to go. Like how could they remember so many things we do. Remember [00:02:00] things so poorly nowadays versus

Chris Legg: that’s a good point.

Like we just, we just

Chris Sherrod : in our minds, right? How could you remember all that? But people do that all the time. And I even, I think we’ve talked about this in here. How many phone numbers I used to know versus what I have now? I just don’t, you know, your wife’s now she’s the only number I know. Literally I feel exactly the same.

Bryn Starnes: I think I almost memorize Mason’s number because I, we have a thank you card at Brookshire’s. We’re always like, what’s your thank you card number. You gonna have to memorize this.

I mean, like they were encouraged to memorize. Or required to memorize whole books of the old Testament, which were like, I can’t even memorize two verses.

And then another criteria is that it was recognized as authoritative by contemporaries. So other believers were referring to it and seeing it as scripture at the time, which we talked about in second, Peter, even books of the Bible reference each other as scripture, which is really [00:03:00] cool.

How Peter’s referencing Paul and how Paul’s hard to understand sometimes, but says that people distort it as they do other scriptures. And that’s a neat thing in scripture that it’s referencing each other as, as the word of God. And then the third one being that the content was congruent with the rest of the Canon and Christian teachings.

So we talked about how some of the other gospels, like the gospel of Thomas or some of the others that weren’t included in the canon. Might have met some of the other criteria, but they weren’t consistent with Christian teachings and the teachings of Jesus. So were not included in the Canon. And then some people I’m curious to know if you guys also view this as a criteria, but some people consider a qualifier for being scripture is that the writer or the writings were confirmed by acts of God.

So like prophecy or something in it that was fulfilled, which doesn’t apply to every book in the New Testament

Chris Legg: right. It doesn’t apply to [00:04:00] all of them, but, but certainly that was a, an attention getter if it had that. For sure.


Bryn Starnes: And then right at the end, I believe we talked about how often there’s a misconception that the councils that brought together, some of the books, the Bible, or recognized rather the books of the Bible. So the council of Nicea and the council council of hippo, is that, what was it? Um, how a lot of people view that as, oh, this is when scripture was decided, but instead, That they were recognizing books that were already being considered scripture and the council itself was to discuss the theology and the early church.

Right. But they also said, Hey, this is the Canon. These are the books that have already been considered scripture by the church.

Chris Sherrod : Yeah. They actually use the Latin phrase Recipimus. Which meant we receive. that was their attitude was we were receiving these we’re acknowledging these, not making them authoritative.

Chris Legg: Yeah. You can go way back into the very early on. I think, [00:05:00] I think it’s around 1 50, 1 60, 1 70, something like that, that we had the gospels. Compiled together kind, just, uh, that we have evidence of that they were already being the four gospels that we have today were already being compiled together. Um, I know by the mid three hundreds you had, you know, letters and sermons and stuff, connecting that the books that we have in the new Testament now already compiled together.

This is them. This is what we agreed to. And so what it really turned into was it’s sometimes when it gets presented as, you know, there was all these different collections of books they thought about it. And the people who won, got to decide what Christianity was, right. That just does not fit with the reality of the situation.

Bryn Starnes: And. I mean, it’s a good narrative if you’re trying to discredit the scripture. Yeah. It’s just not an accurate one. Right? Well,

Coleson Lechner: even we had mentioned last time too, like talking about people who disagreed and it was like one person and their [00:06:00] follower right out of the entire council. So there

Chris Legg: was like, That was actually a big part of why we, and we did discuss a little bit as to why there was canonization at all. Why did they do that? And we’ve talked about the death of the apostles that the apostles were dying. And so they wanted to get this stuff written down and gathered together that there was persecution happening and they weren’t sure it was going to how that was going to last, but a big part of why there was finally a, okay, we’re going to pick the books and we’re going to decide, and we’re going to stick with these based on these headings, was also largely because of the amount, the number of heresies that were being created, that everybody was coming up with here’s here’s what I would like Christian. It was actually the exact opposite. It was not, Hey, we want Christianity to be, we’re going to invent a version of Christianity. We like, and then we’re going to compile some books that back our viewpoint.

It was, these are the books we’ve all been using. These are the books. We’ve all been referencing. They reference each other, the church fathers referenced them. These are the ones that get that. And so we’re now going [00:07:00] to proclaim that if you’re going to bring something new, it’s got to come from these. And so if you’re going to bring something new and say, you know what, I think Christianity is best understood as this.

Okay. Well, we’re all going to then use these books to defend that. Yeah. And, and that became the, that’s why they had to do it a big part of why they had to do it was to protect. Those original books so that not everyone could just add stuff in later.

Bryn Starnes: And all of the new Testament books were completed.

I don’t know if we talked about this last time, but they were completed by the end of the first century. Is that correct? And I believe there are some, some rumors or different claims that oh yes. Books were written later that seemed to confirm, but it was like, no, all of the New Testament books were completed really early historically.

Chris Legg: Yeah, there are, I mean, obviously. Controversies, there are people who present. Otherwise, there are people who make other cases, but I don’t, I have never found any of them to be particularly compelling. And we can [00:08:00] talk about some of those when we talk about, you know, some more textual analysis conversations.

But I think, I think that most people agree. I think probably the primary authorships academy would agree that, um, if not, not everybody of course, but that, that there’s a good unity. The gospel. The letters were written and established and accepted before the end of the first century. Um, and that’s obviously important because there, you really need him to be eye witnesses, which means they can’t be a whole lot older than that. I wanted to recommend there’s actually a special seminar, series of podcasts, The special Seminars in Biblical Studies by Michael Kruger K R U G E R. He has several really good podcasts about canonization that I would, if somebody out there wants to dig into it, you know, obviously we’re skimming along the surface some and, and again, most of our purpose here is to say, You know, the questions you had, the fears you have, don’t panic [00:09:00] dig in.

And if you dig in, you will discover that there’s something to build on here. It’s not, it’s not arbitrary. It’s not some emperor who came around later and you know, William Shakespeare in the 15 hundreds, didn’t decide what books go in the Bible. And then he wrote them all for ridiculous theories that you hear and you

Coleson Lechner: And I think if you’re not willing to even just, I mean, from, from now, that’s not like. We haven’t like spent hours and hours and hours looking. It’s like we just looked at it and that it’s actually, when you, when you dig into what the council was and the purpose for it, it’s actually like, oh, whoa, okay.

That’s actually a lot more affirming and comforting about the early church fathers then it is like disconcerting about our faith and where we are right now. And so that’s yeah, I love that. You said that because that signifies like, okay, let me just make sure to dig in. If you have this question or you you’re met with something, that’s like, okay, I’m a little bit scared of this or this kind of could potentially [00:10:00] shake what I believe.

Right. Look at it. Yup. Yup.

Chris Sherrod : Yeah. And we talked about faith early on, and the importance of being willing to think hard and deep. And I think a lot of people just want, you know, quick answers. So what we’re talking about is you know, technical stuff, and we’re talking about evidences in details, but that’s just part of solidifying what you believe.

But I would also add to not be intimidated by any claim that anybody just throws out, because I think that’s what happens a lot is people will hear phrases like, well, everybody knows, like Chris had talked about this before, but everybody knows that Jesus is just the recycled Redeemer idea that it’s the same story that’s been passed around.

And you can be intimidated especially if a professor says it, but right now it doesn’t matter that he said, if the question is, does the evidence back it up? And so to not freak out, just because someone says, everybody knows or they’re throwing out something. And it’s also helpful for me to remember if someone is making a claim, the burden of proof is on them to back the claim [00:11:00] up.

Like if we just get, throw stuff out and say, well, everybody knows that was full of contradictions. You just got. So like what, like, yeah, give it back to them or show me how I, you know, Osiris is the same exactly as Jesus. And it’s just like, it’s their job to back it up. And so don’t feel like you’ve got to counter everything that anybody ever says.

It’s like, well, that’s an interesting claim. Can you, can you share with me why I should believe that? Right. Um, cause I think we get, we have this, I dunno assumption that we’re supplying. Be able to refute everything that everybody says. Right. Um, it’s just not, we don’t have to, you know, take that burden on ourselves.

I do think one of the things Bryn mentioned about it, prophecy, or, or miraculous scientists is related to the New Testament. Even though the letters that Paul wrote, there’s not a whole bunch of, there’s not fulfilled prophecy, but it’s kind of this chain of thinking that Jesus did fulfill and by signs and wonders, demonstrate that he [00:12:00] was God in the flesh and that there is a resurrection.

And then that authority to speak was what he passed on to the Apostles. Therefore, that’s why they’re considered the pillars of the foundation of the church there because when they spoke, then it’s the authority of God. And Paul did claim actually two different times that he was speaking for God. And first Corinthians 14, he said, even challenge.

He said, if you’re a prophet, you would know I’m actually speaking for God. And then, um, and one of the places he said, that he’s bringing to the Thessalonians, he said it was great when you. heard from us while we brought to you, you received it, not as a word of men, but as actually is the word of God.

And so even making those claims, is one thing that, uh, some of the other books, like I mentioned before, the apocryphal books don’t ever claim to be don’t claim to be the word of God, but that’s why the apostles, it really is a big deal that we don’t think God is continuing to give us more revelation today because of the apostles of.

The definition that a lot of people go by is in Acts one. Like when they wanted to replace [00:13:00] Judas, they actually said, okay, here’s the criteria for replacing him. It had to be someone who was with us who saw the resurrected Lord. And then Paul even recognized, even though he’s an apostle, he said, but I’m kind of a weird exception.

Like I saw him, right. He appeared to me, but I’m. You know

Chris Legg: of

Coleson Lechner: Grafted in,

Chris Sherrod : Whatever it is, but he even recognized that I’m, this is different than most of it.

That’s part of the reason that we would say the canon is closed too is because when the, when the apostles died, Then you’ve got those people that had the direct authority passed onto them than they were, they were gone as well.

Chris Legg: So it’s, uh, now there’s another question I’d love just as a conversation, I think is really fun. So I’m curious what you guys would say, because is there a supernatural aspect to the canonization process itself as in not was this just the, the works of humans and, and all that is there. So I think we can defend that pretty well and show that.[00:14:00]

That it was chosen rationally scientifically with reason. The same way we would do it today. The same way we would say is this there, if we were like, we talked, like we joked about what the Star Wars Canon, like you would, you would need the originals to, to confirm it. You would need all of that.

Right. And so, um, But is there as with scripture with, with holy scripture, is there a sense of which the holy spirit protected it in even all the way through the canonization process? So one of the questions that I was asked in seminary and asked to write about was so what if we found third Corinthians now?

So if we’re digging through some ancient place, you know, some pyramid somewhere, and we find. Third Corinthians ,zero Corinthians. It might be, yeah, it might be the fourth, the first one. Right. So we don’t, we don’t know exactly, exactly the pre-qual episode four. So would you want it, add it in and, and again, based on, of course, based on you could [00:15:00] absolutely.

Somehow we absolutely knew with which I don’t know how we would do with absolute confirmation that it actually was Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. One of the ones missing ones. Would you want it added? It was intriguing to hear people discuss from the supernatural perspective, if the, if the holy spirit had wanted, you know, zeroth Corinthians to be put in it, it would be there.

Which again, I was, as a little bit more of a realist. I think sometimes in my thinking, I was like, I, I feel like I would want it, but I don’t know that it would have to be added in to the same place. Like anyway, it was an interesting conversation. I think that’s the only time you would even have any debate in Christianity as to whether or not the Canon would be closed in an absolute sense.

If we found something that somehow we knew without any doubt, and again, I don’t know how you would do that. It’s something was written by Peter, or there really was a gospel of Thomas that was clearly like somehow we knew. Would you want that added and

Bryn Starnes: Like still fit all the [00:16:00] criteria somehow?

Chris Legg: Still fit all the criteria written by an apostle.

Written yeah. Fits to the teaching. And of course I would expect one answer is always the, you used the word sufficient. Oh yeah. So in regards to this question, unpack that a little bit, maybe.

Chris Sherrod : Oh, wow. I love that’s a great question. Uh, I would, I think I would, I wouldn’t feel like man, if we don’t add that we’re missing out on something.

Right. I don’t feel like I would. Um, but I think we downplay the idea that it really was a big deal when the councils met and in debated, some of them weren’t debated, but really something like Hebrews, for example, people really didn’t make this a big deal. And so I just, my point is it wasn’t like. Um, oh yeah, sure.

Whatever it was like, no, we really have got to make sure. And I feel like that’s what would happen today. It would be like, we’ve really got to have the best minds in the same thing as what they did then. They called together the best leaders that they had and said, [00:17:00] we’ve got to discuss this.

So I would definitely be open to it. I would have to be convinced in a lot of ways, but then there’s the others. And I don’t want this to be a main thing, but there is a subjective part where Paul says that people without the spirit of God can’t accept the things that come from the spirit of God.

Right. And so I, I do think that is a factor to consider, like, as we all read this, do we feel like, yeah that is in line with everything else that I understand scripture to say, not does it resonate with me, but still, uh, I think there is a part of that where I would need to read it and see if it, it feels like the authority of the rest of the scripture.

So yeah,

Bryn Starnes: I think a question I have is kind of broader of what would be the implications of then reopening the canon, so to speak? What would that mean for Christianity and theology? And that, that seems to have a lot. [00:18:00] Ramifications.

Chris Legg: Um, here’s what struck me about it is the assumption would be that it wouldn’t change anything about our theology. Right. What we have is sufficient. Yeah. It’s not lacking in anything.

So even if we found another book, I was kind of like, it would feel academic to me unless it radically changed our theology. In which case I would not believe that’s what it was. And so it’s a little bit of a catch 22. If it somehow radically changed theology, I would go well, that doesn’t fit with its other stuff.

Paul wrote. Paul didn’t right. If it didn’t dramatically changed theology, then it doesn’t really matter that much, whether it gets put in or not, because we have the fundamental stuff we need. Anyway, sufficiency is an important part of the conversation. When it comes to the closure of Canon, there is a practical sense in which will, nothing else is required, nothing else is needed.

And so that, it’s fine that the, that the Canon is closed, even if we did go back and find, so even. The argument of, well, the holy spirit protected his word. One of the last books added in the book of Jude references.[00:19:00] Jude three. Has this line beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you, to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

And so it’s one that it’s one of the last books added in and that it references this idea. There’s a gospel that we have that is closed. There is no need to add anything to the gospel. Jesus accomplished it. It was finished when he finished it. And so since the main purpose I believe of the scripture is to reveal God’s good news to us.

Then what that means is it’s, it is okay that canon and is closed because what we need, we have. Now, if, if there was a great chapter in zeroeth Corinthians about parenting, I’d sure love to see it. If there’s a really great chapter about the man who fought a lion on a snowy day in a pit I would love to have more of that. Like, I’d love to get that, but I don’t need any of either of those for the [00:20:00] gospel. And so those are, those are well presented.

Chris Sherrod : That’s like no one needed to know Jesus from ages 12 to 30, like, right. Tell me more, like what, what did you do?

Bryn Starnes: It’s like teaser of, if everything that Jesus did and said were written down, right, the whole world couldn’t contain the books

like, why didn’t you try?!

Chris Legg: That’s actually one of those. And there’s an interesting Bible. We might look it up for this show notes, but there’s an interesting Bible project series on their podcasts. They talk about the Bible having editors and how that really freaks some people out.

How much were these conversations shortened, were they made easy, were they summarized that kind of stuff. It’s just, there’s a lot there.

Bryn Starnes: And even how I think one thing that the chosen helped me remember was we don’t know exactly how each apostle wrote the story or how it happened, but it is cool to remember them as human, because even the impossible, sometimes we get this very disconnected view of them and in the chosen.

They decided to show Matthew because he is [00:21:00] such a meticulous person that show that he’s like recording things as Jesus goes along. Like he is the one that’s like, I have to get this. Right. And, and whether or not that’s how it happened. It was neat to remember that Jesus was actually on earth and a human.

It was one of those things. Again. Um, it was just neat to connect with like, yeah, they’re just riding and hearing things for the first time too.

Chris Sherrod : And even my Sunday school self winces in the chosen when you see Peter and Matthew not getting along, like, I’m just like, oh, but.

perfect. I think of Matthew and then like Simon, the zealot, you know what I mean? They

Chris Legg: would have been right on shocking. The Jesus kept them together. Right. Or that like

Coleson Lechner: the idea that the brothers might have ganged up on people or something I’m like, I can see.

Chris Legg: Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. It’s like kind of, we’ve been with them longer.

All exactly.

Bryn Starnes: Even as they’re writing down the story and Mary’s telling her [00:22:00] story and she’s like, oh wait, people might misinterpret that. Don’t word it that way, but say this instead, you know, very real recording of these stories, but yeah, that’s good stuff. So it’s back to your original point. So is it accurate to say that most likely there are other books that were inspired? They’re just not included in our canon.

Chris Legg: That’s the question that you could, you could have people really get up in arms about were the the books. Non-included were the letters we know existed that weren’t included, if they were inspired by the holy spirit, would they be in it?

And it’s all academic. We can’t know, but I will tell you, I have pastor friends who, with, if I said, if you found the other letter, one of the other letters to Corinth, would you include it? They would absolutely like, no, and I will die on a fire to prevent it like, wow. The Canon is set. The holy spirit took care of it to claim that we could add zeroeth Corinthians is to claim the holy spirit didn’t finish his job in the original. And so they’re that serious about, there are people who interpret, [00:23:00] for example, first Corinthians 13, when it says we shall even then we shall know, even as we’re fully known that that phrase is referencing the canonization of scripture. That’s how seriously that concept is taken.

It is, it is yes humans were involved and yes, they did a good job and you can, we can honor that, but, but fundamentally, if it’s not there, it’s because the holy spirit didn’t want it there.

Bryn Starnes: Right. But it doesn’t mean he wasn’t inspiring them to. Other books to other churches at the time. It just means that it wasn’t what all that we needed for life and godliness.

Chris Legg: Yeah. In fact, another thing to consider by the way guys, is that, is that what Christians aren’t claiming by canonization of scripture is that the holy spirit has now gone quiet. Right? So the holy Spirit’s still reveals the most trustworthy source of his revelation to us is scripture.

That’s what it means in Christianity to say that scriptures canonize is it. This is where we can go to find the truth. And, and it still is not as we’ve talked about over and over again, we’re not this [00:24:00] unsophisticated way of engaging with it. We have to be intentional. We have no, or reading, we have to study it.

We have to get the context and all that. But that being said, you know, yes, the holy spirit. Um, inspire us, speak to us, uh, influence us all the different, it aluminate his word as well as inspire it. So, um, it isn’t a claim that, that God stopped working somewhere in the three hundreds. When the canonization was put in place, it was just, we have confidence in these, by the original church fathers to put their stamp of yup. These we are confident enough to put them in the ones we didn’t put in. We don’t have enough confidence to put them in. And we’re entrusting that God protected this process. To that degree. There is a, there is a bit of faith in this, no doubt, even with all the rationality, there is a bit of, okay.

I do have to believe that if the spirit wanted me to have something else in scripture, he could have made sure it was there. Right.

Chris Sherrod : And the importance of it being written down. I think [00:25:00] another reason why it needed to be all written down and agreed upon is because people can subjectively claim a whole lot of stuff.

And unless you have some kind of a standard that we can all refer to, um, it just, things could get out of control. So you’ve got to have something where we can all go, yes, this is the word of God. And we actually have it here that we can all see it. And we all have access to it versus this subjective, private word from God that there’s no way to write to back it up and back it up or disprove or prove it.

Bryn Starnes: Heresies were already happening when the apostles were still alive, which you see them right about. Right. But then, like you said, once they started dying, they needed that written down.

Chris Legg: So there’s kind of new Testament canonization in a nutshell.

You could take classes, you can take a hundred hour classes on just this material, but. That should get people started, who are feeling the fear of the need to deconstruct because of it, or they don’t know what to reconstruct with. That gives us a good start.