My new book, The Question of Canon, is designed to challenge a particular approach to the New Testament canon that is prevalent in the modern academy. It is the approach that suggests that in the earliest stages of Christianity the canon was in disarray; the canonical process was a wide-open affair where no one agreed on much of anything and no one was able to distinguish canonical books from apocryphal ones.
What is ironic about this critical approach is that it has an unexpected ally: Roman Catholicism. The Catholic claim is remarkably similar to the one of critical scholars (at least in its premise). Both claim that the canonical situation in early Christianity was in disarray and that there was no way to distinguish canonical books from apocryphal books. It’s just that modern scholars use this as a justification to reject the canon altogether, whereas Catholics use this as a justification for why we need an infallible church to tell us which books are in the canon. But, both groups share the same premise.
In my interactions with Catholics over the years, I have raised this issue. I have pointed out that many of the Roman Catholic apologists are essentially making the same argument as Bart Ehrman. They are trying to show that the canon was a mess so that they can argue the only solution is to lean on papal authority (of course, Ehrman doesn’t take this second step). Admittedly, this has been a bit discouraging. I would have hoped that Protestants and Catholics could at least team up to respond to the criticisms of scholars like Ehrman.
In order to address the difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic views of canon, I will be joining James White on his Dividing Line program today at 1PM EST. It is a live program, so tune in if you are able!