For the first 400 years of Church History, almost everyone had their own personal Canon of Scripture.
Marcion of Sinope [140 AD] was the first to compile his own list which included 11 books:
*The Gospel of Christ [A shorter version of the Gospel of Luke]
*1 and 2 Corinthians
*1 and 2 Thessalonians
*Laodiceans [a lost epistle of Paul]
Marcion left out James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude, Hebrews, Revelation, and the “Pastoral Epistles” of Paul which were 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. [There is some suggestion that Marcion left these out because they weren’t yet written. Another potential clue that they were not written by Paul].
Origen [200 AD] had his own personal Canon which included all of the books of our current New Testament except for James, 2nd Peter and 2nd and 3rd John. Origen also included “The Shepherd of Hermas” as scripture.
Athanasius [367 AD] accepted all of the current New Testament books but also included “The Book of Baruch” and “The Letter of Jeremiah” and omitted “The Book of Esther” from the Old Testament scriptures.
Jerome [420 AD] claimed that “The Book of Judith” was “found by the Nicene Council to have been counted among the number of the Sacred Scriptures” in his Prologue to Judith.
My point is this: Christians for about 400 years had their own personal standard for what was – and what was not – “Scripture.”
So, why can’t we – 2,000 years later – come up with our own personal list of “Scripture”?
You might ask, “Do we have the authority to make our own list of what Scripture is?”
My answer would be: “Who gave Origen, or Marcion, or Jerome, or Athanasius the authority to make their lists?”
I would argue that we have just as much authority to determine for ourselves what we find to be “inspired” and what we don’t.
For example, I’m not a huge fan of Paul’s “Pastoral Epistles”, and while I appreciate what “Revelation” is trying to communicate to its First Century audiences about how Christ subverts Empire, I think this book has been so misused and misunderstood that we’re honestly better off without it.
What’s more, I would be completely happy never reading from any Old Testament book ever again. Other than maybe “Isaiah”, “Daniel” and the “Psalms”, I can live without it.
I might also want to include the “Gospel of Thomas”, and perhaps “The Didache” which was an early collection of teachings about how to make disciples to Christ in the First Century Church. Perhaps even some of the writings of Clement of Alexandria or Ignatius?
But, why limit ourselves to writings from 2,000 years ago? Why not also include the Mystics like Saint Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and others.
Why not include more modern writers like C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia? Or Tolkein? Or even Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning or Anne Lamott?
I’d even be open to including the writings of Brene Brown, or David Bentley Hart, or Kurt Vonnegut.
Now, to be very honest, I actually think creating any sort of “Canon of Scripture” is a bad idea. Because once you make any list of “approved” writings, you also limit the Spirit of God to those – and only those – particular writings.
The truth is, God has never stopped speaking. God will never stop speaking. God is speaking now. Those who are open to receiving the ongoing revelation of Christ will continue to hear this voice. Those who want to bind God into a book are hoping to silence that voice once and for all.
For those who have ears to hear, the inspired Word of God is still alive and active and moving.
Keep your eyes open and your heart receptive to His Truth. It might just surprise you where it shows up next.
Maybe a song, or a line from a film, or a blog post, or a podcast episode.
But I’m here to tell you, God is still speaking and as long as we’re still fixated on what God was saying 2,000 years ago, we will definitely miss what God is saying right here and right now.
Are you listening?
Blood Moons! War In The Middle East! The Temple Rebuilt In Jerusalem! What do all of these have to do with the Second Coming of Christ? NOTHING!
If you’re curious about the End Times and wonder what the Bible really says about the Second Coming of Christ, I invite you to join me starting Monday, June 7, 2021 for a 3-week online course designed to help you make sense of it all.
Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of the best-selling “Jesus Un” series of books, including “Jesus Unforsaken: Substituting Divine Wrath With Unrelenting Love” which is available now on Amazon.