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Christian-history.org: The Apostolic Origin of the New Testament
December 06, 2012
This month, I have been working on teaching church history locally. One of the more important subjects when introducing early Christian history is the authority of the apostles.
To the early churches, there was no authority other than that of the apostles.
As early as A.D. 96, still in the first century, Clement of Rome tells us: "The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ, therefore, was sent by God, and the apostles by Christ." (1 Clement 42)
A century later, in a book he called The Prescription Against Heretics, Tertullian, a north African lawyer and a Christian, says the same thing a bit more powerfully:
Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, [our rule is] that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for ‘no one knows the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son wishes to reveal him’ [Matt. 11:27]. Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom he sent forth to preach. (ch. 21)
What is so important about this?
We have the mistaken idea today that early churches sat around gauging whether certain writings were "inspired" or not. We think they examined them carefully to make sure that they represented the doctrine of the churches.
Not at all. The only question to the early churches was whether an apostle wrote or approved them. If so, then the letter or book had apostolic authority, and it belonged in "the canon" (among the received books of the church to be read in the churches as doctrine).
Yes, the churches used the accuracy of the teaching of a letter or Gospel to help determine whether it was really written by an apostle, but the determining factor for what was inspired was simply whether or not an apostle wrote or approved it.
This should not surprise us. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians that "if anyone considers himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write to you are the commandments of Christ" (1 Cor. 14:37). 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says something very similar.
I have updated Christian History for Everyman's quote page on the apostles at:
I have also posted a blog addressing the issue of the apostolic authority of the New Testament (a bit more thoroughly than I have done so in this email) at:
Quotes given above can all be found at: http://www.ccel.org/fathers
Also, you can get an excellent foundation in the writings of the early Christians on our early Christian writings page. There we have updated a number of 2nd century books and letters to more modern, easier-to-read English:
Thank you, and may the reading our our spiritual ancestors drive you to the Scriptures and to obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, ruler and judge of all.
P.S. On a personal note, one of the ways I have been teaching is through a format called "secret church." We've only done three, but God has blessed our gatherings so powerfully that those who have attended can't stop talking about it.
Rather than add one more link and risk this email being rejected by your email client as spam, let me just direct you to a search engine. Search for "secret church David Platt," and you will find the history behind secret church and how you can do it yourself.
I have one of the teachings I did on my podcasts page at Christian History for Everyman. Just click on the link in the left column NavBar.
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