The Canon of Scriptures

by F. F. Bruce, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., 1988, 349 pages,
(hardcover), ISBN 0-8308-1258-X

One of the more prestigious scholars of the past 100 years in apologetics is F. F. Bruce. Dr. Bruce was trained at Cambridge and the University of Aberdeen and had been the Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, England. One of his most famous books is Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament which we have discussed previously in this journal. The Canon of Scriptures is a very academic study of how we got the Bible as we have it and the credibility of the Bible from a scholarship standpoint.

After an introduction, the book is divided into a study of the Old Testament then the New Testament. Bruce discusses the history of each of these books and how we got them. In his discussion of the Old Testament, Bruce talks about the law and the prophets and then the Greek Old Testament. He explains how the canon of the Old Testament came about in the east and in the Latin west and the differences before and after the reformation. This discussion is brief and historical in nature.

The major emphasis of the book is the New Testament with a detailed history of the manuscripts and how they changed throughout history. Marcion and Velentinus are discussed with a discussion of how Catholicism dealt with these writings. The Muratorian fragment and the works of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Novatian, the Alexandrian Fathers, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Athanasius are introduced. Bruce traces the history to Jerome and Augustine to the end of the Middle Ages and then shows how printing influenced what we have today as the New Testament. The book concludes with an explanation of the criteria of canonicity, and there are two appendices on "The 'Secret' Gospel of Mark" and the work of A. S. Peake.

This is a very academic book. I found it hard to read because of my own limited background in history and canonicity, but I have found it to have a wonderful and useful index for looking up specific questions. It will be a great reference work for scholars and people with a background in theology. For the average reader it will be too much to absorb without deep and long study.

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug08.