The Church Fathers Knowledge Of The New Testament Scriptures

It is written:


Luke 10:7-And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.

The Apostle Paul here (1 Timothy 5:18) quotes from the Gospel of Luke (10:7) and refers to his citation as “Scripture.”

In this we see powerful evidence that the Christians from the very beginning of the church understood the New Testament Scriptures to be canonical (authoritative and possessing Divine authority). The second and third century Christians quoted extensively from the New Testament Scriptures. We see this documented by studying their writings. Consider the following evidence, where the second and third century Christians quote from the New Testament Scriptures. (The following information comes from Norman Geisler & Shawn Nelson, Evidence of An Early New Testament Canon, 521 (Kindle Edition); Matthews, NC; Bastion Books)

Justin Martyr: Gospels (268); Acts (10); Pauline Epistles (43); General Epistles (6 with 266 allusions); Revelation (3); Total; (330)

Irenaeus: Gospels (1, 038); Acts (194); Pauline Epistles (499); General Epistles (23); Revelation (65); Total: (1, 819)

Clement Of Alexandria: Gospels (1, 017); Acts (44); Pauline Epistles (1, 127); General Epistles (207); Revelation (11); Total (2, 406)

Origen: Gospels (9, 231); Acts (349); Pauline Epistles (7, 778); General Epistles (339); Revelation 165; Total (17, 922)

Tertullian: Gospels (3, 822); Acts (502); Pauline Epistles (2, 609); General Epistles (120); Revelation (205); Total (7, 258)

Hippolytus: Gospels (734); Acts (4); Pauline Epistles (387); General Epistles (27); Revelation (188); Total (1, 378)

Eusebius: Gospels (3, 258); Acts (211); Pauline Epistles (1, 592); General Epistles (88); Revelation (27); Total (5, 176).

Grand Totals: Gospels (19, 368); Acts (1, 352); Pauline Epistles (14, 035); General Epistles (870); Revelation (664); Total (36, 286)

So strong is the evidence of the early Christian knowledge of the New Testament canon of Scripture that Geisler notes:

“What is more, if we compile the 36,289 quotations by the early church Fathers of the second to fourth centuries we can reconstruct the entire New Testament minus 11 verses.”. (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 532 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

The claims often made that the early Christians did not know which belonged in the New Testament until some church council of the third or fourth century A.D. simply are not true.

As one former Roman Catholic who became a Christian documents:

“By the close of the first century, the 27 books that compose the New Testament had been accepted by the early church as canonical. The evidence for this is verified by early church history. (In case you desire to read a more thorough treatment of this subject, I’ve listed several books for further reference at the end of this chapter.) The Roman Catholic Church maintains that the collection of books that compose the New Testament canon was determined by them. This is incorrect. The purpose of this council was not to sort through dusty old scrolls that had been stored in some monastic attic and then announce to the Christian world which books were canonical and which were not. The council simply affirmed what the early church had long since affirmed-that the 27 books we know as the New Testament were canonical. We must not make the mistake of thinking that the Scriptures received their authority because some council made a public statement of their acceptance. The truth of the matter is that the early church accepted the Scriptures in much the same way as Israel accepted the Old Testament Scriptures-they believed the Scriptures to be inspired of God. The church rightly saw herself as subject to the authority of Scripture and not the other way around. Though the church existed before the New Testament was written, this did not give the church authority over Scripture or even authority equal to Scripture. The church must always be subject to the authority of God’s written Word. What enabled the early church to accept the canon of the New Testament so readily was the unique position of the apostles. They were the Lord’s companions for most of his ministry, and he trained them for a special mission: world evangelism. Not only were they eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, but they were endowed with the necessary credentials to establish themselves as God’s spokespersons. The miracles they performed testified to this role.” (Tony Coffey, Answers to Questions Catholics Are Asking, 325-336 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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