Friday, October 11, 2013

Protestants and the Canon

William Wrede, one of the foremost New Testament scholars/theologians at the turn of the 20th century, has some controversial things to say in his essay on New Testament theology. One of these is a call for all Protestants to seriously question the idea of a canon. Wrede writes that,

anyone who accepts without question the idea of the canon places himself under the authority of the bishops and theologians of [the second-to-fourth] centuries. Anyone who does not recognise their authority in other matters - and no Protestant theologian does - is being consistent if he questions it here, too.

Is there, as Wrede suggests, an irony at work when a Protestant accepts uncritically the authority of the canon despite not accepting the authority of those who decided upon the canon? Or to put the question a different way, if the church that emerged out of the first century was Protestant in character rather than Catholic, would Christianity ever have had something it could call its Scriptures (give or take a few books)?

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