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Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures (Biblical and Theological Studies) Paperback – June 1, 1988
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'Committing the apostolic tradition to writing settled once and for all the question of what had occurred, and it prevented further misunderstanding or falsification. This fixing of the apostolic tradition in written, ascertainable form finally led to a written canon.' p 22
'This emphasis on the written Scriptures as themselves the product of a divine activity, making them as such the divine voice to us, is characteristic of the whole treatment of Scripture by Paul (Rom 4:23, 15:4; 1 Cor 4:6, 9:10; 1 Cor 10:11).' BB Warfield, The Inspiration & Authority of the Bible p 318
This being his introduction to general canonics, Ridderbos maintained his insistence on a fundamental difference between the recording of redemptive history and the collection of such history, which both occurred under guidance of the Holy Spirit, but the 'various operations of the Spirit that occurred later in church history can never be substituted for or equated with the canon.' p 27 Ridderbos firmly believed the Scriptures functioned as authoritative texts in early Christianity: 'Against that charismatic understanding of authority in the early church, one can point to the historical, once-for-all character of the New Testament revelation of God.' p 27 And Ridderbos subscribed to the practice that those who had collected the canon, revered the inherent authority of the authentic manuscripts: 'We shall have to recognize, without abandoning our a priori of faith, that the decisions made with regards to the limits of the canon conform to the existence of the canon.' p 47
Ridderbos' understanding was that because the original autographs could not, the received canon was to serve as the final authority. Besides sweeping aside the German 'zeitgeist' theories, Professor Ridderbos uprooted the contention of the Roman Catholic Church that it had assembled and approved the books of the NT, when in fact most of the canon had already been settled on by the close of the 2nd century.
'The canon is neither the result of an ecclesiastical survey nor of the consistent application of one or more formal criteria of canonicity. In that connection we must always take into account the tremendous influence that the original canon, that is, the body of the canon that was never questioned within the church, must have had in shaping judgments of the church and its leading figures. In our recognition of the canon, therefore, we must ultimately adopt the standpoint of faith, that the church has, in fact, received its foundation secured by Christ.' pp. 46-47
Herman Ridderbos placed the revealed (and recorded) words on a par with the acts and work of the historical Jesus, thereby making the writings of the NT divinely exclusive and once-for-all, resulting in a closed canon. Ridderbos succeeded in establishing a sound basis for the reliability of Scripture and his assertion of the a priori of the Christian faith is especially memorable.
analysis of biblical passages relating to the theology of revelation, the role of the apostles, the nature of the transmission of the faith in the age of the apostles.
Completely misrepresents the Catholic Church. Also, barely gives an argument for why the written canon (tradition, revelation) had to completely replace the oral canon. The argument that is given is flimsy and does not follow from any evidence, nor does it lead to the conclusion he gives. Misses the continuing role of the church in the transmission of the faith. Quotes a couple of church Fathers regarding the role of written canon, but fails to analyze the many quotes from those same people affirming the role of oral tradition and the authority of the Church.
As a reading layman accustomed to theology and biblical studies, it still took me a while to work through this little book. Though it is thin, it is dense, and it is a translation from Dutch with many end notes (footnotes would have made it significantly easier to read, IMHO). In short, expect to do some work, not fly through an easy read.
Ridderbos makes some complicated arguments and interacts with mostly continental, liberal scholars in some detail. While I could see professionals or researchers might find this interaction to be welcome, for my purposes it was too much detail, though I did appreciate the general points made therein (e.g., his reasons for rejecting the subjectivism of an implicit or explicit "canon within a canon" approach).
Sometimes I wished he would expand on some particular claim, and I would often (but not always) find such later in the text. In these cases, a footnote like "see pp. nn-mm" would have been a helpful reading aid so I didn't labor over understanding a terse statement of what would be developed in a more explicit fashion later.
Not all of his arguments are equally convincing to me (e.g., his argument for the closing of the canon -- revelation always accompanies the big events in redemptive history; the coming of Christ was the consummation of redemptive history; therefore, the canon is also consummated by this once-for-all event), but all in all, it's a useful book for someone studying the issues of NT introduction, particularly canon and authority.