Resources on the Canon of Scripture

In the latest edition of his As I See It, Doug Kutilek provides a list of recommended resources on the canon of Scripture. Though a lot of his recommendations may be considered “dated,” many of them I would recommend.

I would also add to his list a few books he doesn’t mention,

Michael Kruger’s Canon Revisited and the three volume set by David King and William Webster called Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of our Faith.  Volume two has an extend section addressing the canon in light of Roman Catholic claims regarding the inclusion of the Apocrypha.  Lastly is R. Laird Harris classic work, The Inspiration and Canonicity of Scripture.

BTW, Doug’s monthly studies can be delivered to your email box free of charge in the form of an attachment. They are always worth the read. Archived issues and contact information can be found HERE.


First, I would recommend A General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix (Moody Press, revised edition, 1986).  They have a lengthy section on the canon in general and the OT and NT canons in particular, along with treatments of the apocryphal books (pp. 221-317).  They recommend other works in their discussion.

On the OT in particular, the book that stands head and shoulders above all others is The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church by Roger Beckwith (Eerdmans, 1985).  It gets my highest praise; among other things, he completely discredits the notion that the Septuagint’s canon originally included the apocrypha.

For the NT canon, Everett Harrison in his Introduction to the New Testament (Eerdmans 1971), pp. 97-133 has a discussion of the canon (not entirely satisfactory, to my mind, but adequate), with a selected bibliography.  Then there is B. F. Westcott’s highly praised A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Macmillan, 1889, 6th ed.), which I regret to say I have consulted only sparingly.

I have read through F. F. Bruce’s The Canon of Scripture (IVP, 1988) which though it brings together a great deal of information, nevertheless makes no apparent original contribution, and frankly is repeatedly marred by higher critical assumptions and an at times heterodox perspective.

Naturally, consultation of the articles on the “canon” in several Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias will yield additional information, perspectives, and bibliography.  These should include some older works (and I like to consult several 19th and early 20th century works, since the scholars who produced them were regularly better-versed in early church history as well as classical Greek and Latin studies than those of later times, and often more orthodox in theology as well)–

–Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible in 4 vols., not the nearly worthless one-volume edition;

–M’Clintock-Strong Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature;

–Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible;

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge;

–the original International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) edited by James Orr;

Among newer works to consult are–

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible edited by M. Tenney;

–the revised International Standard Bible Encyclopedia edited by Geoffrey Bromiley;

–The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary; edited by R. K. Harrison;

–the New Bible Dictionary edited by J. D. Douglas.

This list could be extended considerably, but I suspect that little additional information can be found beyond these.  By design I have left off the list several reference works that take a purely “naturalistic” (that is, anti-supernaturalistic) view of the Bible and the canon.

The OT introductions of K. F. Keil, Gleason Archer, and R. K. Harrison all have treatments of the OT canon.

Volume 1 of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary has articles on both the OT and NT canons, the former markedly better than the latter.

But all in all, I would start with Geisler and Nix, then Everett Harrison on the NT and Beckwith on the OT, and go from there. [AISI Vol. 16, No. 4]


11 thoughts on “Resources on the Canon of Scripture

  1. If you have the time, I’d be interested in some examples of “higher critical assumptions” and “heterodox perspective” in Bruce’s Canon of Scripture.

  2. FWIW, I liked Bruce’s treatment on the subject though he was hard to slog through at times. He did pull together a great wealth of information. As to the charges Doug makes, you’d have to ask him. Go to the contact page I linked and shoot him an email. He typically gets back to folks.

  3. Pingback: Resources on the Canon of Scripture |

  4. I don’t know if I want to answer your question because I smell some sort of set up to a “I gotcha!” moment. Like when the scribes tempted Jesus.

  5. Fred, it was Jesus who asked the “Have you not read?” questions. So it might be reversed here. :-D Plus Jesus always devastated the scribes because He in fact had the truth on his side. They were sort of afraid of the truth, unlike you, right? :-D

  6. Is the Bible not a resource for the canon of Scripture? Is it a completely non-scriptural issue? Oops, I’m commenting on something other than a post about your pastor or church.

    I’ve been preaching through Luke on Wednesday nights, and in Luke 20, Jesus asked the religious leaders whether John’s baptism was from heaven or not. They wouldn’t answer his question and they were angry and wanted to kill him. I don’t know if you want to kill me, but Jesus said if you hate someone (and I’m not sure if you hate me), you have murdered him in your heart already (Mt. 5).

  7. Pingback: Weekly Links (5/3/2013) | LBC Beacon

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