Thoughts on the NT and Scripture

Thoughts on the New Testament and Scripture
by pragerfan

July 24, 2020

Historically, the list of the 27 books of the NT was first mentioned in a festal letter by St. Athanasius in 367 AD. The NT did not fall out of heaven with the words of Christ in red, but was agreed upon by the Church through a lengthy process lasting hundreds of years. Revelation was one of the last books to be formally added to the canon.

When quoting the O.T., the Evangelists quoted the Septuagint. While the King James Version is perhaps the most majestic document ever produced by the mind of man, no translation of the Bible out of the Greek is perfect. There will always be meaning that can't adequately be conveyed in a translation due to differences in language and the great distance in time separating the ancient world from our own. Therefore it's good to have several different translations for study and for reference.

Anywhere the NT refers "Scripture" it is referring to the Old Testament. II Timothy 3:16 is the most obvious example. It is a mistake to assert that this passage refers to the NT because there was no NT in place at the time St. Paul wrote this letter. Can it be argued, then, that the NT is Scripture on the same level as the OT? It most certainly can, but this must be rooted in the authority of the Church as the living body of Christ. St. Athanasius tells us in his letter that the books of the NT are the "springs of salvation, in order that he who is thirsty may fully refresh himself with the words contained in them. In them alone is the doctrine of piety proclaimed. Let no one add anything to them or take anything away from them." The last phrase is likely an allusion to Revelation 22:18-19.

Now, a note on Biblical commentaries. Biblical commentaries especially those by the early Fathers can be useful aids in understanding the Scriptures. I have heard some say, "The Holy Spirit does this for me." While this may (or may not) be true, what person performs surgery on himself? Rather he goes to a doctor for advice. As God uses doctors to help us get well, the early commentaries can help in understanding the Scriptures.

But in my opinion those who are new to the Faith should stick to the Scriptures alone at first with a good "doctor" — your Pastor or your Priest or your Deacon or Elder. Once you are more mature in your understanding of the Scripture then commentaries can be very helpful.

What more can I say? Well there will probably be some who disagree with what I have written here. To those who do I might suggest Jaroslav Pelikan's "The Christian Tradition" volumes 1 and 2. Christianity does not exist in a vacuum. but rather is intertwined with the pages of its history. Error can occur when that history is ignored.

For example I have seen, "you had better stop attacking the Bible else God will punish you!" But giving the history of the Scripture is not attacking the Bible. Those who call down the judgement of God upon others will themselves be judged. It is not for me to judge your relationship or standing with God. This is the judgment which He prohibits.

There is a story about a monk who was about to die. His brethren said, "Aren't you afraid of death, brother? You haven't come to services regularly. You drank wine. You have been slipshod in reading the Scripture." At that moment an angel appeared with the list of all this brother's sins. The angel said, "Your brothers are right. This is a long list of sins here." The brother replied, "these are all true, but I have never judged another man." Then the brother calmly passed away, and the angel dropped the list and carried the brother to heaven.


Here is a website where you can learn more about the development of the New Testament Canon.