In the name of “scholarship,” critical academics conjecture that fourth-century Christian councils formed the Christian Scriptures — the New Testament Scriptures. With the Scriptures as historical documents from early Christians, the Christian Scriptures refute the myth that later councils formed the Christian Scriptures. The Christian Scriptures as historical documents testify that Jesus’s apostles and prophets collected the holy writings in the first century.
The Early Spreading of Scripture among the Nations
Distributing doctrinal letters between Christians was an early practice (Acts 15:22–25, 30). Paul’s missionary journeys covered large areas across the known world, so that the spreading of these writings covered a vast area. The early Christians spread the message of Jesus throughout the world in the first century. This occurred before Paul completed Romans in AD 57–58 (Rom 1:8; 10:18–20; 16:25–26) and before the writer of Colossians finished the epistle to the Colossians in AD 61–63 (Col 1:5–6, 23). All of the epistles accredited to Paul show that his letters went to many places throughout the nations.
Paul did not intend for his writings to only be to those explicitly addressed. According to the apostle Peter, Paul wrote all of his letters to Asia, Galatia, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia despite that the author only explicitly wrote to congregations in Galatia and two cities in Asia (2 Pet 3:15; cf. 1 Pet 1:1). Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were also addressed to “all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor 1:2) and “all the saints who are in all Achaia” (2 Cor 1:1). In writing throughout the world, the author of Colossians addressed the church at Colossi encouraging them to exchange writings (Col 4:16). Evidently, Christians received Paul’s epistles throughout the nations.
The New Testament presents Jesus’s Apostles overseeing the collection of the New Testament in the first century. All twenty-seven writings of the New Testament are uniquely apostolic and originated in the first century unlike the counterfeits. Twenty-seven books plus one are the only books to come out of the first century. This additional book was a letter from an elder, named Clement, in the church at Rome. Clement wrote a letter to the Corinthians about the current activities of the Temple as though the Romans did not yet destroy Jerusalem in AD 70 (41:2). Clement’s letter is important for his verification of the Christian Scriptures in the time of the Apostles. Clement’s references to the authority of New Testament scriptures show how the New Testament was authoritative to him and to other Christians. Significant to the New Testament, Clement affirmed the second epistle attributed to Peter as “the scripture” (Clement 23:3). In AD 180, another early church writer named Irenaeus also alluded to 2 Peter along with citing all twenty-seven books of the New Testament. Origen listed all twenty-seven books of the New Testament.
Nations Received the Scriptures
In 2 Peter, the Apostle Peter writes in the imminence of his death to encourage the Christians enduring persecution throughout Asia, Galatia, Pontus, Bithynia, and Cappadocia to continue in faith and virtue over worldly lusts. Peter encouraged their pure minds,
[T]hat you all should remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandments of the Lord and Saviour through your apostles: knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, (2 Pet 3:2–3).
The apostle Peter taught obedience to the commandments of the Lord that came through the Apostles. In 2 Peter 3:15–16, “all” of Paul’s writings were referenced as a part of “the other Scriptures.” This mention alone confirms the Apostles’ oversight of Christian scriptures. The first churches received the collection of all of Paul’s writings among the nations in the first century. This is Peter’s second letter written to “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet 1:1; 2 Pet 3:1), and Peter said that Paul wrote “unto you.” Paul’s letters were written directly to the Ephesians and Colossians in Asia and to the Galatians, but his letters were neither specifically addressed to all of Asia nor to any in Pontus, Cappadocia, or Bithynia. Paul’s letters were for everyone; although, addressed to specific congregations. Peter’s reference to “the other Scriptures” show that Paul’s epistles were being added to a broader collection. The spread of Paul’s writings also shows not only the collection but also the distribution of the new Scriptures in the first century.
Scripture from Jesus’s Apostles
In 1 John 1:1–4, John referred to “we” are witnesses by hearing and sight of “the word of life.” John is referring to all of the Apostles’ writings stating, “And these things we are writing to you that your joy may be full” (1:4). John wrote “we are writing these things” referring to all of the Apostles’ writings with his own. What were these apostolic writings besides 1 John?
Scripture from Paul
Second Peter 3:15–16 confirmed that “all” of Paul’s writings were considered a part of “the other Scriptures.” Paul’s writings were being collected even before the Apostolic scriptures were complete, and that these were being added to the previous canon, standard collection of Scripture. “All” was not referring to every uninspired letter that Paul ever wrote. This reference to “all” of Paul’s writings to be Scripture refers to the collection of every one of Paul’s inspired writings. Now, Peter said that Paul wrote “unto you.” As will be affirmed, these “other Scriptures” show that Paul’s epistles were added to the Old Testament as much as to the New Testament collection. The practice of collecting Spirit-guided writings and adding to the collection of the Old Testament set a precedent for the church collecting the New Testament Scripture.
Scripture from Peter and John
In 2 Peter 1:20–21, the author wrote about of the Scriptures, “knowing this first, that every prophecy of Scripture comes not from one’s own interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke by the Holy Spirit moving them.” By referring to scripture, the writer already recognized that Paul’s writings were Scripture. Peter had more than Paul’s writings in mind too. The context of 2 Peter 1:20–21 revealed that 2 Peter included the writings of John and Peter. In 2 Peter 1:16–19, Peter referred to John, James, and himself witnessing the Transfiguration of Christ, and Peter stated that “we” “have the prophetic word” that “you” do well to heed. By “we,” Peter was referring to John and himself without James who had already died (cf. Acts 12). In 2 Peter 1:19, Peter noted that “you” should follow the prophecy from John and himself, and then Peter refers to “every prophecy of Scripture” in 2 Peter 1:20. Was Peter overlooking his past and current “prophetic word” in writing scripture or was he overlooking his acceptance of the scriptures of Paul? He was not. The New Testament Scriptures already consisted of the writings of Paul, John, and himself. By 2 Peter alone, the New Testament Scriptures included all the letters of Paul, the written prophetic letters of Peter, and John’s epistles and His previously written Gospel. Peter expected these churches among these nations to have received all of these “Scriptures” from the apostles. Eventually, this collection of Scripture would come to also include John’s Revelation. Both John and Peter affirmed their supervision and recognition of the Christian Scriptures as received and addressed to all in the first century.
Scripture from Luke
In 1 Timothy 5:18, this epistle quoted Luke 10:7 as “Scripture” demonstrating these early churches knew of Luke’s Gospel as Scripture. With the Gospel of Luke in the collection, then Acts would have also been added being a continuance of Luke according to Acts 1:1. The “Scripture” of 1 Timothy 5:18 referred to both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7. First Timothy’s record of Paul noted the early church’s acceptance and addition of Luke’s Gospel to the collection of Scriptures even to Moses’s Pentateuch. Therefore, the Petrine reference to Scripture in 2 Peter 1:20 and “the other scriptures” in 2 Peter 3:16 included Luke’s writings with those of Paul, John, and Peter. Luke’s Gospel was certainly a part of the “Scripture” that this apostolic writer instructed to the young Timothy to give heed “to reading” (1 Tim 4:12–13). These Scriptures were already being read openly and read in assemblies just as the apostolic writer instructed churches to read his epistles (Col 4:16; 1 Thess 5:27). The early church recognized that Paul included the Gospel of Luke in his reference to “every Scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16–17. This affirms that the first-century churches recognized these apostolic Scriptures as originating from God’s breath — “the inspiration of God.” The writers of the Christian Scriptures testify to their own collection including the writings of Paul, John, Peter, and Luke. Most of these writings most likely existed before AD 70. Within these writings, there are no reference to the fulfillment of Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as one would expect if they wrote after the Jerusalem’s destruction. Luke records this prediction of Jesus in Luke 21 before Paul’s second imprisonment and death in Rome.
Scripture from Matthew and Mark
The Gospel of Luke records previously written narratives of Jesus’s life by eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word from the beginning (Luke 1:2). Luke 1:1–3 refers to “many” who desired a declaration of the order of Jesus’s life by hand. The ASV 1901 literally translates Luke 1:1, “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to draw up a narrative concerning those matters which have been fulfilled among us.” In Luke 1:2, Luke presents that these many wanted to put in order a narrative by hand just as the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word had already delivered. The reference to those “who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word” is a description for the apostles throughout the Christian Scriptures (1 John 1:1–4; cf. John 15:27; 16:4; Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39, 41; 13:31–32; 14:3–4; 22:15, 26:16; Heb 2:3–4; 1 Pet 5:1; Rev 1:1–2).
In Luke 1:3, Luke reported that he “also” thought that it would be good “to write” like the Apostles. The Greek adverb behind “just as” in verse 2 describes the mode of delivery that is in writing. This adds to the fact that the narrative taken in hand was the intention to write just as the Apostles had already done. What were the written narratives of the life of Christ that were already written by Apostles? The evangelists had already written Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and very possibly, John already wrote the Gospel of John. The Gospel of Luke and John supplement the previously written Gospels of Matthew and Mark. This all adds to the acceptance of the Gospels into the apostolic collection of the Scriptures.
Scripture of James and Jude
Given the Apostles’ supervision and early Christian acceptance, the epistle of James would have been included since James was an apostle and the brother of Christ. Paul noted that James is as much an “apostle” as Peter according to Galatians 1:18–19. James’ writing would have been as much included among the apostolic writings as John mentioned in 1 John 1:1–4. Furthermore, the writing attributed to Christ’s brother, Jude, would have been included under the Apostles’ oversight (Matt 13:53; Mark 6:3; Jude 1). Jude was a witness who experienced of Jesus resurrected from the dead and Jude who in his short writing confirmed the words of Peter’s second epistle. There is no reason to exclude these writings by presumption.
There are only twenty-seven apostolic writings. There are only twenty-seven Christian writings with addition to one that came out of the first century. The fact that there are only twenty-seven books in the Scriptures written under the oversight of the Apostles excludes all other writings and establishes with certainty the collection of the New Testament canon in the first century. The additional writing was the epistle of Clement of Rome who gives an excellent commentary and acts as a cap to the Christians Scriptures. The early Christian writers of the second century had no intention of including themselves among the apostles and prophets in the first century.Clement of Rome neither claimed the Spirit’s guidance in writing nor to have been writing Scripture, and so no one added his writing as Scripture. Clement did quote apostolic Scripture as “Scripture.”
Only the New Testament writings contain eyewitness accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The authenticity of the authors for the New Testament are uncontested by the honest student. Names attributed to written works are a conclusive mark of authenticity without primary sources to charge otherwise. This is the case for the New Testament Scriptures. The New Testament writers were open for study by all including historians, geographers, statesmen, and lawyers in the first century. In the early third century, Origen noted how the second-century opponent Celsus could read the Scriptures for himself. Origin stated, “For it is not in any secret writings, perused only by a few wise men, but in such as are most widely diffused and most commonly known among the people, that these words are written” (Contra Celsus 7.37).
No Doubts in the First Four Centuries
The New Testament writings were open to criticism, and yet neither opponent nor apostate rejected the authorship of the Christian Scriptures. Opponents such as Celsus, Trypho, Lucian of Samosata, Porphyry of Tyre, Hierocles of the Proconsul of Bithynia, Julian the Apostate, and Peregrinus Proteus did not question the authenticity of the Christian Scriptures. Christians before the fourth century accepted these Scriptures confirming the early acceptance of authorship throughout the world. Such men consist of Clement in Rome, Ignatius in Antioch, Polycarp in Smyrna, Justin Martyr in Syria, Irenaeus in France, Tertullian in Carthage, Origin in Egypt, and Eusebius in Caesarea. All of antiquity does not present a trace of any contradicting testimony against any author of the Christian Scriptures.
Confidence for Today’s Christian
The Christian Scriptures as historical documents serve to show apostolic churches under the Apostles oversight collected the Christian Scripture the first century. The apostolic Scriptures are not open to any additional writings. Through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, Christians can confidently claim God’s divine power has granted “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” in the first century (2 Pet 1:3). Christians can stand upon the all-sufficient Spirit-guided Scriptures that offers that every person can to be complete equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16–17). The apostle Paul instructed Christians to not to go beyond what is written in judgment of others (1 Cor 4:6). He also observe that no one adds to a covenant or makes it void after it is made (Gal 3:15). John instructed that no one go ahead of the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). In Revelation, John revealed that anyone who adds or takes away from that revelation, then the curses of the book would be added to them (Rev 22:18–19). The ancient proverb stands that no one add or take away from God’s Word (Prov 30:5–6).
Jesus’s Promises about the Word
What did Jesus promise about His words and the Scriptures? Jesus revealed that He will send scribes with prophets and wise men (Matt 13:52; 23:34). Christians should expect to have scriptures from Jesus’s closest disciples. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus prayed for all who would hear the Word by the Apostles (John 17:20–21). The early church accepted that the Apostles and prophets wrote the Christian Scriptures. In John’s Gospel, Jesus addressed the “Father” in prayer saying that Jesus had given the words of the Father to the Apostles (John 17:8; Acts 1:2). Jesus also declared that those who kept His word would keep those of His Apostles. Jesus stated in John 15:20, “If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” With confidence in Jesus’s words to the Apostles, Christians do not find it difficult to accept the New Testament Scriptures as God-breathed.
According to John’s Gospel, Jesus professed that the words He spoke are spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus revealed that He would not judge the world but that His words will (John 12:47–48). In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus declared, “My words will not pass away” (Matt 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). Those words are in no other place than in the Scriptures.
Jesus promised to send the Spirit to guide the apostles unto all truth (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12–13). As one among the witnesses of Jesus’s resurrection Paul reported, “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:13). Paul wrote, “For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:11–12).
Followers of Christ are confident in following the New Testament scriptures as being the words of Christ. Looking to Jesus, He accepted the Old Testament collection as was delivered to Him and to the Jews of the first century. Jesus did not doubt God or that the Old Testament collection was guided by God’s providence. Therefore, there is no reason to reject the New Testament writings as delivered now. The Scriptures affirm that God providentially formed the New Testament Scriptures by the Spirit guiding Jesus’s Apostles and prophets in the first century.
[See also, “How the Old Testament Came Together“.]