Part I ended with the five key questions a book had to face to become part of the New Testament canon:
- Was the book written by a prophet of God?
- Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?
- Did the book tell the truth about God?
- Did the book come with the power of God?
- Was the book accepted by the people of God?
The beginning of that development - which would take over 300 years to complete - can be seen within the very books that later became part of that Canon.Certain works are referred to as "from the Lord" or described, and used, as scripture along with the Old Testament. ( 1 Thess 5:27, 1 Thess 2:13, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 2 Peter 3:15-16 ). Indeed, the first combined Old Testament quote with something from the New is in
1 Timothy 5:18 For the scripture says, "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain," [Deut 25:4] and, "The worker deserves his pay." [cf. Luke 10:7]Those five questions above played out over parts of four centuries as the canon developed, and was finally settled once and for all (sorta) in 367 AD. Breaking the period up into pretty arbitrary divisions:
the books are written and begin to be copied and disseminated
as they become more widely known and cherished, they begin to be cited
held a recognized place alongside "scripture", and began to be translated into regional languages and made the subject of commentaries
the collecting of the books into whole "New Testaments"; and the sifting of Christian literature for that purpose
the church fathers stating that conclusions have been reached which indicate acceptance by the whole church
- universally agreed: four Gospels, Acts, letters of Paul (including Hebrews - with questions about his authorship), 1 Peter, 1 John, and Revelations;
- admitted by majority: James, 2 Peter (the most strongly contested), 2 and 3 John, and Jude.