Kruger on the NT Canon
One of my former PhD students, Michael J. Kruger, has just published a book worth attention by anyone interested in the formation of what became the NT canon: The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2013). Kruger’s main thesis is that the dynamics that led to a NT canon involved phenomena from the earliest stages of the circulation of writings that came to form that canon. That is, the formation of a NT canon wasn’t a result solely of later and “external” forces, but instead there were factors at work from the earliest period.
These include the way that Paul invested his letters with his apostolic authority, such that they have been described as apostolic “surrogates”, conveying to his churches his teachings on matters when he was unable to make a personal visit (just note, e.g., the tone of 1 Cor. 14:37-38! or Gal 1:6-9!0. Likewise, note the explicit purpose-statement of the author of the Gospel of John (20:30-31), which implies a strong desire that the writing may function in confirming the faith of readers.
Kruger also argues that, although a closed canon of NT writings took a few centuries, in the earlier period there was already indication of a concern to distinguish between writings that were to be taken as “scripture” and those that should not be so regarded. So, again, a quasi-canonical dynamic seems to have been at work early on.
Kruger offers what he calls an “intrinsic model” as a complement to the emphasis on the final stages of can formation in much current NT scholarship. I find his analysis to offer a nuanced and cogent picture that more adequately captures the historical complexity that led to “the New Testament.”