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Research paper example essay prompt: The Formation Of The Biblical Canon - 1549 words
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The Formation Of The Biblical Canon The Canon of Biblical Writings For centuries now Christians have claimed to possess the special revelation of an omnipotent, loving Deity who is sovereign over all of His creation. This special revelation is in written form and is what has come to be known as The Bible which consists of two books. The first book is the Hebrew Scriptures, written by prophets in a time that was before Christ, and the second book is the New Testament, which was written by Apostles and disciples of the risen Lord after His ascension. It is well documented that Christians in the context of the early first century were used to viewing a set of writings as being not only authoritative, but divinely inspired. The fact that there were certain books out in the public that were written by followers of Jesus and recognized as being just as authoritative as the Hebrew Scriptures was never under debate.
The disagreement between some groups of Christians and Gnostics centered on which exact group of books were divinely inspired and which were not. The debate also took place over the way we can know for sure what God would have us include in a book of divinely inspired writings. This ultimately led to the formation of the Biblical canon in the next centuries. Some may ask, Isnt Jesus really the only thing that we can and should call Gods Word? and Isnt the Bible just a man made collection of writings all centered on the same thing, Jesus Christ? This paper summarizes some of the evidences for the Old and New Testament canons accuracy in choosing God breathed, authoritative writings and then reflects on the wide ranging implications of the process. Old Testament In regards to evidence for the divine authority of the Old Testament, Jesus words, parables, and actions in the New Testament force one to the conclusion that He viewed the Hebrew Scriptures as being of God.
He quotes or alludes to over one hundred and fifty Old Testament passages in the Synoptic Gospels alone. According to another count, Jesus and the New Testament authors quote various parts of the Old Testament Scriptures over two hundred and ninety five times, while never quoting an apocryphal or outside source one time. These quotations of Old Testament sources imply their belief in the divine inspiration of the Hebrew Scriptures. Many times Jesus would precede a statement with the phrase So it is written, or Scripture says. The authority of the Hebrew Scriptures was not ever called into question by Christ or His early followers, it was the belief in the normative status of the law, pertaining to all people for righteousness before God, that was not adhered to. That Jesus held to the Hebrew Scriptures as being authoritative is obvious.
What is not obvious is exactly what collection of Hebrew writings was viewed as inspired by God in Jesus day. Was Jesus Old Testament different from the one we have in our possession in the twentieth century? Justin Martyr, Origen, Melito of Sardis, Athenasius, Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine all had different views on what documents were truly inspired by God and should be included in the canonization process, but they still agreed on the most important books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Much of the debate focuses on the books of Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Joseph Bonsirven presents a different view in his book Palestinian Judaism in the Time of Jesus Christ, As to the canon of Hebrew Scripture, it was firmly fixed by the time of Christ and included all the books of the Hebrew Bible. Although apocryphal books were read and used for edification, they were not considered a part of the collection of books written by prophets and thus of special divine authority. In the end, there is reason to believe that the church came to recognize the right books. Still, little is known about how and when the Old Testament canon was precisely formed.
Did the people of Israel ever canonize their own writings or did the early Church of the first century have to canonize a set of writings for them? It is certain that this formation of Scriptures had already taken place. Jesus and New Testament authors refer to Scripture everywhere. That makes it quite obvious that a canonized set of Hebrew Scriptures existed during the time of Jesus in the first century. In The Canon of the Old Testament, H. E.
Ryle popularized a hypothetical but plausible view that the formation of the Old Testament canon took shape in three distinct stages, one for every section of Hebrew Scripture. The Law was first canonized early in the period after the return from the Babylonian exile. Then the Prophets were canonized late in the third century. After these two canons of Scripture were closed, all the other recognized Scriptures had to form a third and distinct division of Hebrew Scriptures. The writings were then formed and remained open until they were closed at Jamnia. The earliest Christian evidence that we have from the early Church is decidedly against the apocryphal writings and for what is contained in the Old Testament that we now possess today. There are four main reasons why the apocrypha was not eventually included in the canon according to Wayne Grudem in his book Systematic Theology. Grudem says, (1) they dont claim for themselves the same kind of authority as the Old Testament writings; (2) they were not regarded as Gods words by the Jewish people from whom they originated; (3) they were not considered to be Scripture by Jesus or the New Testament authors; and (4) they contain teachings inconsistent with the rest of the Bible.
Grudem ends by assuring Christians not to be worried that anything needed has been left out or that anything that is not Gods words has been included in the Old Testament. New Testament It was recognized by the early Christians that God had previously revealed his Word to the people of Israel through the prophets, and they had reason to believe that God would do the very same thing for them through the Holy Spirit in the era after Christ's ascension. It should come as no surprise then that a whole host of writings being held by the early Church as being inspired by God appeared on the scene in the next decades. The recognition of specific writings as being divinely inspired Scripture to be included in the canon of the New Testament came almost immediately in the first century. In the first half of the second century, the four Gospels and Pauls writings were already deemed worthy of canonical status by the church. The canonization of the rest of the books we have now come to know as the New Testament took place over the first few centuries of the early Church through a gradual process.
The first account we have of the collection that is now included in the New Testament canon is in a letter written about forty years after the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. The criteria and the formation of the New Testament was different from that of the Old Testament. Each collection of writings came to be recognized as divinely inspired over a large period of time. Although there was not a specific council that declared the New Testament as authoritative, there are many pieces of evidence for the New Testament to suggest that it is the word of God. The specific criteria that was used in determining the exact collection of the New Testament included the issues of apostolicity, orthodoxy, antiquity, inspiration, and church usage to decide canonical status. The criteria of apostolicity, G.
W. H. Lampe explains in a carefully written essay that the churchs most readily available weapon against the Gnostic Christians and the other heretics was its apostolicity, which was guaranteed by historical succession and preserved in oral and written traditions. It has also been argued that the intrinsic apostolic authority of the the writings that would later form the canon forced themselves upon the church because Christ speaks through them. Jesus own words, in Johns Gospel, validated the belief held by His followers that Scripture was divinely inspired by God.
In the passage of John 16:12-15, Jesus tells His Apostles that, I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
This verse alludes to a coming time when Christ will send his Holy Spirit to reveal all truth to the Apostles. The apostles were closer to Jesus than anyone so historically, they would have known more about His life, teachings, and ministry. These things put the Apostles writings automatically above all other writings as being inspired by God. The second criteria for canonicity i ...
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