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THE CANON OF SCRIPTURE.
1. What is meant by the phrase, canon of Scripture ?
The Greek word kaváv, canon, signifies primarily a reed, a staff, and then a measuring rod, then a rule of life and doctrine.-Gal. vi., 16 ; Phil. iii., 16. The canon of Holy Scripture is the entire word of God, consisting of all the books which holy men of old wrote as they were moved by the Spirit of God, constituting our complete and only rule of faith and practice.
In order to determine this canon we have to prove, 1st. That the writinys now recognized by Protestants as a part of God's word were, in fact, written by the inspired men whom they claim as their authors. 2d. That they have not been materially altered in their transmission to us. 3d. That no other extant writings have any valid claim to a place in the canon.
2. What is meant by the genuineness and what by the authenticity of a book ?
A book is said to be genuine when it was really written by the person from whom it professes to have originated, otherwise it is spurious. A book is said to be authentic when its contents correspond with the truth on the subject concerning which it treats, otherwise it is fictitious.
A novel, though always fictitious, is genuine when it bears the name of its real author. A history is both genuine and authentic, if it was written by its professed author, and if its narrations correspond with the facts as they occurred.
3. What are the general principles upon which Protestants settle the canon of Scripture, and wherein do they differ from those upon which Romanists proceed ?
Protestants found their defense both of the genuineness and authenticity of the books severally constituting the canon of Scripture, as received by them, upon the same historical and critical evidence that is uniformly relied upon by literary men, to establish the genuineness and authenticity of any ancient writings whatever. The only difference is, that in the case of the books constituting Holy Scripture, these evidences are preëminently numerous and conclusive.
These evidences are generally, 1st. Internal, such as language, style, nature and mutual harmony of subjects. 2. External, such as testimony of cotemporaneous writers, the universal consent of cotemporary readers, and corroborating history drawn from independent, credible sources.
The Romish theologians, while referring to all these sources of evidence as of corroborating though subordinate value, yet maintain the plenary infallibility and authority of the church, upon which they found the credibility of Scripture, and of its several parts.
4. When was the canon of the Old Testament completed ?
When the five books of Moses were completed, they were deposited in the ark of the covenant.-Deut. xxxi., 24-26. The writings of the subsequent prophets were accredited and generally received as they appeared, and were then preserved with pious care by the Jews.
The uniform Jewish tradition is, that the collection and sealing of the Old Testament canon was accomplished by Ezra and a number of other holy men, who, after the building of the second temple, formed with him the “Great Synagogue,” consisting of one hundred and twenty members, among whom, however, they enumerated many who lived in far separate ages.
“The more probable conclusion is,” says Dr. Alexander, “that Ezra (B. C. 457) began this work, and collected and arranged all the sacred books which belonged to the canon before his time, and that a succession of pious and learned men continued to pay attention to the canon,” (the last prophetical writer being Malachi, B. C. 400,)“ until the whole was completed about the time of Simon the Just,” (B. C. 300,) who appears to have carried down the genealogical lists to his own day.—Neh, xii., 22; 1 Chron. iü., 19, etc.
5. Give a synopsis of the argument by which the genuineness of the books constituting our received canon of the Old Testament is established ?
1st. The canon of the Jewish Scriptures, as it existed in the time of our Lord and his apostles, was abundantly witnessed to by them as both genuine and authentic. (1.) Christ refers to these writings as an infallible rule.—Mark xiv., 49; John v., 39; X., 35. He quotes them by their comprehensive and generally recognized title—the law, the prophets, the holy writings—the last division being sometimes called the Psalms, from the first book it contained.-Luke xxiv., 44. (2.) The apostles refer to these books as divine, and quote them as final authority.—2 Tim. iii., 15, 16 ; Acts i., 16, etc. (3.) Christ often rebuked the Jews for disobeying, never for forging or corrupting, the text of their Scriptures.—Matt. xxii., 29.
2d. The canon of the Old Testament Scriptures, as it is received by all Protestants, is the same as that which was authenticated by Christ and his apostles. (1.) The New Testament writers quote as Scripture almost every one of the books we now recognize, and they quote no other as Scripture. The number of direct quotations and implied allusions to the language of the Old Testament occurring in the New have been traced in upwards of six hundred instances. (2.) The Septuagint, or Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, made in Egypt B. C. 285, which was itself frequently quoted by Christ and his apostles, embraced every book we now recognize. (3.) Josephus, who was born A. D. 37, in his first book in answer to Apion, enumerates as Hebrew Scriptures the same books by their classes. (4.) The uniform testimony of the early Christian writers, e. 9., “Melito, A. D. 177; Origen, A. D. 230; Athanasius, A. D. 326 ; Jerome A. D. 390 ; Augustine A. D. 395.” (5.) Ever since the time of Christ, Jews and Christians have been severally custodians of the same canon. Their agreement with us to-day demonstrates the identity of our Scriptures with those of the Jews of the first century.