Why do different Christian sects disagree about the canon?

(Yosef) #1

Hi everyone,

Was challenged by this…
Christians claim that the bible is God’s inspired word for man, how is it possible that some sects consider some parts of the bible God’s word and other sects don’t. These differences among Christian sects are only a proof that the canon of the bible is man-made, and that the word of God is subject to human tampering. How can orthodox say that the bible has 73 books while protestants claim that it is only 66? On the other hand, the Quran is a single book and all muslims around the world believe in 114 Suras.

Thank you!

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(Sara Isaac) #2

Hi Joseph! I can totally understand the point you are making. I think canonicity is one of the most heavy topics that we don’t give enough attention to. The canonicity is giving a scripture an authoritative status. This is the main idea behind the “Sola Scriptura”. There are some factors that are used to decide whether a certain writing is canonical or not. The criteria for the canon of the New Testament are:
*Was it written by an apostle?
*Is it accurate?
*Is it coherent with other sources?
*Catholicity: Is the information provided was adopted by the Early church in many places?
*Does it conform to the bigger story the Bible is telling as a whole?
*Does it share the basic principles of an inspired holy text?
*Was it quoted by Early Church Fathers?
The reason there are some books that are not considered canonical is not because they not telling an important thing or they are not historically acurate. Though it could be because they are:
*Non-apostlic authors
*Inaccurate (Geographically, historically or chronologically)
*Incoherent with other sources
*Telling a secondary story that doesn’t contribute much to the salvation history that the Bible presents
The Old Testament can be proved to be canonical by the references to it in the New Testament, by Jesus and others.
The process of gathering, omitting or adding books doesn’t confer authority to the scriptures but rather points our eyes to what is really of authority.
The Quran is a different case. Muslims believe that It was inspired as a bulk unto Mohammed and that it was dictated to him. This is not how we view inspiration. It’s a dynamic interplay between the divine and the human. The divine grants revelations, the human observes. The divine grants inerrancy, the human expresses.
I hope this helps!!!

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(SeanO) #3

@josephdiwan This argument falls flat for a number of reasons:

  • people disagree about whether the earth is flat or spherical - it does not mean we do not have good evidence that it is spherical. In the same way, there are well established tests for why certain books were included in the Christian canon (see below)
  • the fact that the Church disagrees about the status of the apocrypha does not mean that the core message of Christianity - the Gospel - is not the same. Christianity does not rise or fall with the exact size of the canon, but with the resurrection of Christ
  • there is abundant evidence for the authenticity of the NT manuscripts
  • the existence of many different viewpoints should be expected - there will always be false teachers out to make money / a name for themselves, there will be sincere disagreements between well meaning believers and there will be lies / tares sown by the evil one - Jesus warned us of false teachers and so did Peter and Paul

Matthew 22:24-26 - “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.

2 Timothy 4:3-5 - For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

The community of faith recognized that these particular Books had been authored by people who clearly had the Spirit of God upon their life. So a few test for a Book to be included in the Bible included:

1 - written by a prophet or apostle / someone who directly knew such a person
2 - faithfulness to already accepted canonical writings
3 - Jesus affirmed the inspiration of the 39 Books of the Old Testament canon, so Christians can trust His authority on that matter
4 - accepted by the wider Church body as a whole

Nabeel Qureshi Response to Muslim Accusation of Biblical Corruption

Many Denominations

Threads discussing the existence of many different Christian denominations:

Abundant NT Manuscript Evidence

As noted by @CarsonWeitnauer in another thread:

Since we do not have the original New Testament writings (the autographa), textual critics aim to determine the reliability of existing copies. For any particular work or collection of works, the greater the number and the earlier the dating of the manuscripts, the easier it is to reconstruct a text closer to the original and identify errors or discrepancies.

Greek Manuscript total: 5,856

*Earliest manuscript: AD 130 (John Rylands Papyrus: P52)

Non-Greek Manuscripts (Armenian, Latin, etc.): 18,130+

Total Manuscripts: 23,986

How do the New Testament documents compare with other ancient books? A stack of existing manuscripts from the average classical writer would measure about four feet high. Yet the New Testament manuscripts would stack to more than one-mile high.

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Question about limiting God to His Word
(Curran Harms) #4

@josephdiwan In reference to answer the Islam side of this question, there were differences in the belief. Muslims feel that there were no alterations to the quran and it is in its forever state, but with a little history lesson, they are actually wrong.

I copied and pasted some notes from a book by Josh McDowell called Understanding Islam and Christianity, it may help you in your defense.

Muhammad began to proclaim the Quran following the angel Gabriel’s first visitation. This occurred when he was about 40 (AD 610), and Quranic revelation ended when he died 23 years later (AD 633). Throughout this time he claimed to receive the various passages that comprise the Quran from Gabriel. 2. The Quran today consists of 114 chapters, or “suras,” generally arranged in order of length. The Quran is not arranged chronologically or arranged according to topic. Suras are named after key figures or subjects or simple references found in the chapter. For example, the sura named “Women” is named so because much of the sura deals with women. 3. Scholars do not agree on the exact chronological order of the Quran. However suras 9 or 5 are often identified as the last sura while the first passage of the Quran to be revealed is the first part of sura 96. 4. “Quran” means “Recitation” or “Reading” in English. 5. The 23-year period of revelation occurred in both Mecca and Medina. Most of the individual suras were revealed in Mecca. The longest suras were revealed in Medina. Sura 2 is a reflection of Muhammad’s conflicts with the Jews of Medina. 6. Most suras consist of verses revealed in one respective town (Mecca or Medina) or the other, but some suras contain a mix of passages revealed in both Mecca and Medina. 7. Many Muslim scholars believe that the Quran is an uncreated, eternal attribute of Allah. It is the final revelation from God to man. 8. The Traditions (Hadith) and Biographical (Sira) literature are additional Islamic source texts which are used to establish Islamic theology but the Quran stands above those. 9. Muhammad often received Quranic revelations in response to immediate challenge, conflict, or controversy and in this the Quran was revealed as guidance to aid him. The Quran does not usually provide the context behind those revelations (this is where the Hadith and Sira help greatly). An entire branch of Islamic theological study, “Asbab al-nuzul” (reasons or circumstances of the revelation), exists to provide passages’ context. 10. The Quran addresses many themes including Allah’s greatness, prayer, alms, points based on biblical and apocryphal Jewish and Christian stories, theological conflicts, military battles, civil relations, interactions with non-Muslims, marriage, heaven, hell, slavery, and so forth. 11. There were dozens of early compilations of the Quran. Although they were fairly uniform and had much in common there were also differences: Some had more suras, some had less, verses had significant differences (more than just pronunciation or dialect differences), verses were missing, different words were used, and so on. Despite these differences, none of Islam’s theological tenets are threatened.

Below are several categories of evidence that prove that today’s Quran is not the supernatural, pristine text many Muslims believe it to be. We cannot go into each category in great detail but we will provide references for your further study. 1. Quran Variants During Muhammad’s lifetime his companions wrote down various parts of the Quran on scraps of parchment, bones, stone, and so on. Following Muhammad’s death some compiled their own collections of what they knew of the Quran. Also following Muhammad’s death, during Abu Bakr’s reign, thousands of people who were coerced into becoming Muslims while Muhammad lived rebelled and left Islam. Abu Bakr sent armies out to either kill these people or have them reconvert to Islam (these were called the “Wars of Apostasy”). Great battles were fought and thousands on each side died. Following that, Abu Bakr realized that so many men who had memorized portions of the Quran had died and thus was worried that part of the Quran might have been lost. He asked Zaid, a “companion” of Muhammad, who was capable and knowledgeable of the Quran, to undertake its compilation. Zaid commented that this was an incredibly difficult task but would undertake it nonetheless. Bukhari’s Hadith, volume 6, number 509 details all of this. However, other prominent Muslims, such as Ibn Masud and Ubay ibn Kab (and many others), had also compiled their own versions of the Quran. Some, like Ibn Masud, taught Quranic schools in different Islamic regions and propagated the use of their own versions of the Quran. As Islam spread, conflict arose as to which Quran was correct. Muslims were ready to fight with other Muslims over the differences. This prompted the third Caliph, Uthman, to set into motion the compilation of an official Quran. He asked Zaid and several other Muslims to do the work. Once Zaid’s work was finished, Uthman had several copies made and sent to the primary Islamic provinces. But more importantly, Uthman ordered that all other competing Quran versions be burned and destroyed. Bukhari’s Hadith, volume 6, number 510 details this. This destruction did not sit well with the other notable Muslims who had compiled their own Qurans. Prominent “companion” Muslims, like Ibn Masud, protested and said they knew more of the Quran than Zaid. Some stated that Zaid’s Quran was inaccurate and contained flaws. Further they declared that Uthman was destroying Allah’s word! Nevertheless, Uthman was the ruler and his command was put into effect. Those that disobeyed were punished.

The dispute between books of the bible today with the 66 books is a long answer with church history going back as far as Martin Luther and even further. In sum the bible is 66 books written by over 40 authors over 1500 years and it tells one story “God’s love and redemption for mankind” Jesus is the center point of the entire bible.

If someone is questioning you, it seems as if they are attempting to point out faults with the Christian faith on topics such as the council of trent, or council of nicea or other issues in the church.

Besides the Islamic religion developing 610 years after Christ, and the points at the bible, I think the best defense to the Christian faith is always this "The bible is not a deck of cards where if you pull one card out, and all the other cards come with it. The bible is not the starting point to the christian faith. It never was. In the time of Jesus there was no bible (old and new testament). In that time and forever the starting point to the Christian faith was an EVENT. That event is Jesus raising from the dead. You see if anyone could disprove that event, then the whole Christian faith is false, but if that event is true and can’t be disproved, then everything else in the bible is true to. From the famous words of Andy Stanley “I don’t believe the bible because the bible says its true. I believe the bible because Jesus says its true. And any man that could predict his own death and resurrection, and pull it off, then I will just believe whatever that man has to tell me.”

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(Sarah West) #5

@SeanO I really do enjoy your thoroughness and clarity when you answer. There’s so much food for thought. Good job! Wow! Pondering starts now…

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(SeanO) #6

@Swest Hope it sparks some additional thoughts :slight_smile: What a blessing to have a place like Connect to share as we seek to grow in knowledge, understanding of and obedience to Jesus!

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