The “Canon of Scripture”, written by F.F Bruce in 1988 is a well-structured book, which pertains to historical and theological matters regarding canonicity in a rational way. As the statements he made in the introduction part of the book, Bruce lays more stress on the New Testament than the Old, mostly as his field of domain is the New Testament, but also for the reason that the concerns regarding the New Testament canon are complicated, and conceivably more arguable (Bruce 1988).
The book has four sections. Bruce’s work’s introduction, which opens and seals the first part of the book, is brief and has its focus on the promulgation of terms and language pertinent to the discussion.
In the second part of the book, the author deals with the matters pertaining to Old Testament canonicity, taking account of the canon that was made use of by Jesus and the apostles, and the basis of and consequences of the dominance of the Greek Old Testament in the early church.
Bruce give details of the textual reasons from the New Testament and the Ante-Nicene Fathers for accepting what has come to be known as the TaNaKh to the Jews. He concludes the debate by a healthy assessment of the material; comprising much ground from the codices all the way from the writing of the great personalities of the eighteenth century (Bruce 1988).
F.F Bruce also analyzes the customary historical-critical outlook of the canonization process of the Old Testament in further detail. The author defies the supposition that there existed a three-step process of canonization of the Hebrew Scriptures, one concerned to each one of the main sections in the Hebrew Bible, and the assumptions on the basis of which these were made, for instance the late date of composition of the book of Daniel.
Bruce describes that a much logical analysis in view of the proof is that many of the books of the Old Testament were canonized just about instantaneously after their composition, and that the traditional threefold (or twofold) division was not a fixed custom in ancient times. He validates this with reference to primitive sources such as Josephus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Bruce 1988).
Next discussing the New Testament era, the author uses up a considerable part of his time examining the proof from the first two centuries after Christ. The era was largely influential in regards to thinking about the canon; also this was the period when much of the discrepancies in the makeup of the canon were evidenced. Regrettably, it is also deemed to be the most lacking in existing evidence (Bruce 1988).
Following the review of the initial post-apostolic era, F.F Bruce spends plenty time analyzing the impact of Marcion and the reaction by the rest of the church, assessing that Marcion did not ‘create’ the New Testament canon by compelling the church to react to his thoughts.
Instead, by putting forward his tainted New Testament as the single authentic Scripture, he forced the church make prescribed what was already broadly accepted. Following Marcion, several other church fathers are examined with reference to their views and impacts on the canon, and also the documentary proof like the Muratorian Fragment. The author expands this debate to the reformers and others since the emergence of the printing media (Bruce 1988).
The third part of the book offers the similar sort of detailed undertaking for the New Testament, which covers not only significant minds but boards and decrees also to drive out any idea which politics during and prior to the second century were the key factors.
In the fourth section of the book, the author combines the proofs which he has assesses throughout the rest of his work and gives a few closing interpretations. He sketches the core criteria which the church fathers appear to have used while devising their individual views:
“Only those books which were recognized to have content in line with the apostolic teaching were accepted into the canon” (Bruce 1988).
This book “The Canon of Scripture” is a result of fine research and study, as would be expected from a recognized academic like F. F. Bruce. The author has offered in his book plentiful explanation, a first-rate bibliography, and his resources and point of views are well structures through the book. Bruce displays great knowledge of the primary sources regarding to his work, in spite of his dependence on B. F. Westcott’s work for study in quite a few places.
Bruce’s assessment in the book is fair and well thought out, nearly continually treading a logical middle ground between moderate and evangelical thinking. A weird exception to this is his acceptance of C. H. Dodd’s view that Matthew 13 is Matthew’s interpretation of Jesus’ words as opposed to an exact portrayal of Jesus’ words (Bruce 1988).
The book would be well-suited to theological students who need to study the issues of church history and canonicity, as well as informed readers who wish to have an outline of the historical church’s views on Scripture.
Bruce, F.F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1988.