I am calling on the combined scholarship of this site to help me with my research.
Under the subheading of “Who Selected the Canon?”, pages 27-28 of The Watchtower of April 1, 2010 quotes Professor Oskar Skarsaune and Professor Kenneth Berding.
The Watchtower writes:
“Professor of Church History Oskar Skarsaune states: “Which writings that were to be included in the New Testament, and which were not, was never decided upon by any church council or by any single person ... The criteria were quite open and very sensible: Writings from the first century C.E. that were regarded as written by apostles or by their fellow workers were regarded as reliable. Other writings, letters, or ‘gospels’ that were written later were not included ... This process was essentially completed a long time before Constantine and a long time before his church of power had been established. It was the church of martyrs, not the church of power, that gave us the New Testament.”
I need to know four things regarding this quotation:
(1) Where does the quotation come from? The Watchtower article provides no attribution. I have already asked the Professor and he replied that he could have written it but he cannot locate it in his Norwegian or English books or articles. He commented “Interesting!”
(2) What are the words which are omitted from the quotation? My suspicions are always raised when the Watch Tower Society resorts to this tactic.
(3) What is the complete context of the quotation?
(4) What are the overall positions taken by the article?
Professor Oskar Skarsaune’s views on canonization are available at Chapter 14 of his book, “In The Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity”.
So, can you help solve the questions I pose?
The Watchtower magazine then writes:
“Ken Berding, an associate professor whose field of study is the Christian Greek Scriptures, gives this comment about how the canon emerged: 'The church did not establish a canon of its choosing; it is more proper to speak of the church recognizing the books that Christians had always considered to be an authoritative Word from God.' ”
Once again, The Watchtower magazine fails to provide its source. But for your information, the article by Kenneth Berding is available online at:
The sentence cited by The Watchtower appears in the article’s Summary, which reads:
“The teachings of the Lord and his apostles were considered self-authenticating and authoritative from the days they were first spoken/written. As the apostles died off, orthodox Christians continued to use the writings of the apostles as authoritative. Such Christians recognized a distinction between the writings of the apostolic circle and later Christians who wrote edifying material. The church did not establish a canon of its choosing; it is more proper to speak of the church recognizing the books that Christians had always considered to be an authoritative Word from God.”
Note Berding's emphases with the use of italics.
A key expression in Berding's article that The Watchtower carefully does not provide is: “self-authenticating”. The Watch Tower Society wishes to make it appear as if their first-century counterparts were responsible for making the decisions. The article by Kenneth Berding shows that the Watch Tower Society's position is untenable.