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The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance Paperback – April 10, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0198269540 ISBN-10: 0198269544 Edition: 3.11.1997

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Editorial Reviews


"This beautifully produced volume...will take its place with the earlier two as the standard treatment of its subject, indispensable for instructors and students alike."--Princeton Seminary Bulletin

"A masterpiece of careful and lucid scholarship, certain to be the standard treatment of the NT canon well into the next century."--Religious Studies Review

About the Author

Bruce M. Metzger is at Princeton Theological Seminary.

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Product Details

  • Series: Its Origin, Development, and Significance
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3.11.1997 edition (April 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198269544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198269540
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.7 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #418,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

As one of the world's best-known scholars on the text of the New Testament, Bruce M. Metzger has taught for many years at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Customer Reviews

I heartily recommend this book.
B. M. Metzger is a scholar well suited to the task of discussing the history of the canon of the New Testament, the NT being his specialty.
I really enjoyed this book and was sad when I came to its end.
Dana Lashway

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

136 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Timotheos Josephus on June 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was written by Bruce Metzger; one of the most respected Greek scholars of our modern day. While coming from a conservative viewpoint, Metzger is respected by scholars from all theological backgrounds. After reading "The Canon of the New Testament" I can understand why this man is so admired for his work. He devotes a very small portion of the book giving his opinion. Instead, he lays all of the facts on the table in such a compelling way as to almost force the reader to his conclusion before he even gives it.
The first section contains a brief overview of other literature that has been written on the topic of the New Testament (NT) canon.
The second section is where we are given all of the information regarding the development of the NT canon. Metzger examines the authority given by the apostolic fathers to the various NT books. He then proceeds to what I consider to be the most interesting part of the book - the influence of "heretics" on the development of the NT. Metzger demonstrates the fact that some NT books were already recognized as authoritative early in the second century because the orthodox and heretical writers of this time tried using passages of certain books to support their arguments.
This book goes a long way toward refuting those who think the NT canon was arbitrarily selected by church councils of the fourth century. Metzger clearly shows how nearly all of the NT books were recognized as authoritative from as early as can be historically detected.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Reader From Aurora on September 20, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bruce Metzger's "The Cannon of the New Testament" is an introductory-level overview of the development of the New Testament. Metzger is one of the best-known and most-respected contemporary writers in this area.

The author approaches the subject from a conservative academic perspective - his comments are reflective of mainstream New Testament scholarship. Given the text's introductory nature it does not advocate for any particular historical school of thought, but rather provides a relatively neutral starting point for readers. For readers new to serious New Testament study it does offer a reasoned antidote to some of the silliness that periodically pops at the popular level (e.g. components of Christian Cannon were arbitrarily selected under Roman state direction, many equally valid historic Gospels were suppressed, etc.). Metzger rightly notes that there are no compelling reasons for doubting the traditional view of cannon development - i.e. books were canonized because of their wide spread use and acceptance by the early church.

Some earlier reviewers have criticised Metzger as being biased. I must say that I am a strong supporter of open and honest discourse - my concern with these specific comments is that they appear to be largely based on Metzger being a Christian rather than his work (their comments on the handling of Thomas and Mark are misleading - Metzger actually offers comparatively liberal comments on both points). This type of argument based on a writer's supposed religious beliefs are not helpful - it is prejudice. I appreciate that at times personal attacks can be tempting and even have some short-term success. In the long-run, however, they inhibit civil discourse and contribute to intolerance toward those who do not share our views.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Jack Lamont on April 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bruce Meztger seems to be the reigning scholar as far as early New Testament books are concerned. He's writen over ten books on that subject alone. From all information about the "Q" document to different textual versions of the gospels, he's your man.
This book, however, is not specifically about where the individual books of the New Testament Canon came from. Meztger does talk about who wrote them, to be sure, but he is more concerned with how they actually came to be canonized. He discuses the outside elements that brought the church to seperate certain books as authoritative(canonize), and investigates various books that were eventually rejected. One thing Meztger seems to stress is that the decision to include books in the canon was not done over night in one council; but gradually over roughly 300 years of various(though similar) 'lists' of books. Eventually he concludes with the excellent illustration:"If, for example, all the academies of music in the world were to unite in declaring Bach and Beethoven to be great musicians, we should reply, 'Thank you for nothing; we knew that already.'" Same thing with the canon.
I found this book to be extremly boring in places; I'm not very proficient in scholarly works. This book seems to be meant for college students. Its very helpful, though, for those who want to know how the New Testament came to be labeled as authoritative, hence the five stars. Don't miss the concluding essays on modern questions concerning the canon. I recomend this to budding Bible scholars or mature Christians.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Rowe on September 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is not a Christian apology. It is a discussion of the process in the early Church that resulted in the definition of the New Testament canon as the 27 books that are commonly known to comprise it. Metzger does not diverge much at all from the standard scholarly views on this issue. He mainly approaches it as a matter of Church history, as do most inquiries into the topic, placing great weight on the words of Church fathers and documents that have bearing on early beliefs about the books belonging to the New Testament. As do most scholars, Metzger contends that the New Testament canon developed via a lengthy process, finally becoming relatively settled after about four-hundred years. This faulty conclusion is a natural result of limtting the scope of evidence used to explicit statements about the canon extant from the early church. See the works of David Trobisch for a powerful challenge to this outdated paradigm.

Two previous reviewers mentioned Metzger's view on the long ending of Mark as an example proving this work to be a believer's apology. The only place in this book that discusses the long ending of Mark is on pp. 267-70. In that section, Metzger asserts quite clearly that the long ending is not genuine. He does not say anything at all about Mark's original intention for the end of his book (nothing about a death or a fire--strange that two "independant" reviewers both brought up the same false charge). Metzger's point in even bringing up the ending of Mark is to ask which ending should be considered "canonical," the short and genuine one, or the long one that has the support of the early church in its favor deeming it canonical (though not genuine).
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