The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate, By Michael J. Kruger
The Question of Canon
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: October 03, 2013
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 4031
  • ISBN: 9780830840311

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Did the New Testament canon arise naturally from within the early Christian faith?

Were the books written as Scripture, or did they become Scripture by a decision of the second-century church?

Why did early Christians have a canon at all?

These are the types of questions that led Michael J. Kruger to pick apart modern scholarship's dominant view that the New Testament is a late creation of the church imposed on books originally written for another purpose. Calling into question this commonly held "extrinsic" view, Kruger here tackles the five most prevalent objections to the classic understanding of a quickly emerging, self-authenticating collection of authoritative scriptures.

Already a noted author on the subject of the New Testament canon, Kruger addresses foundational and paradigmatic assumptions of the extrinsic model as he provides powerful rebuttals and further support for the classic, "intrinsic" view. This framework recognizes the canon as the product of internal forces evolving out of the historical essence of Christianity, not a development retroactively imposed by the church upon books written hundreds of years before.

Unlike many books written on the emergence of the New Testament canon that ask "when?" or "how?" Kruger focuses this work on the "why?"—exposing weaknesses in the five major tenets of the extrinsic model as he goes. While The Question of Canon scrutinizes today's popular scholastic view, it also offers an alternative concept to lay a better empirical foundation for biblical canon studies.

"With an impressive familiarity with primary data and scholarly studies, and in a patient and generous tone toward other positions, Kruger makes a solid (to my mind, persuasive) case that the formation of a New Testament canon was a historical process with roots at least as early as the circulation and use of certain texts as scripture in the early second century. Offering what he calls an 'intrinsic model' as complement to the emphasis on the final stages of canon formation in much current scholarship, he presents a nuanced and cogent picture that more adequately captures the historical complexity that led to the New Testament."

Larry W. Hurtado, emeritus professor, University of Edinburgh

"In this important book, Michael Kruger effectively challenges the common but unjustified conclusion that the canon was the late creation of the church, imposed on it by external forces. Kruger repeatedly points out the mistaken assumptions that underlie that conclusion, while on the positive side providing a more satisfactory understanding of the emergence of the canon within the church from virtually the beginning. The discussion is carried on in dialogue with the latest and best scholarship and reflects balanced and judicious wisdom throughout. If you are interested in the formation of the New Testament canon, you cannot afford to neglect this book."

Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"For decades the debate surrounding the NT's canonical status has been waged on a stage set with all-too-familiar props and lights. An emerging expert on issues of canon, Michael Kruger brings fresh direction to a well-known script by questioning old assumptive props and setting the main actors under a new light. This is exactly the kind of fresh scholarship we need to go forward."

Nicholas Perrin, Franklin S. Dyrness Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College Graduate School

"Already the author of one important book on the formation of the New Testament canon, Kruger here tackles the five most prevalent objections to the classic, Christian understanding of a quickly emerging, self-authenticating collection of authoritative counterparts to the Hebrew Scriptures. Not only does he directly address these objections, he provides powerful rebuttals and further support for the classic view. All who insist on maintaining the (more liberal) scholarly consensus will have to refute Kruger if they are to maintain any credibility on this topic!"

Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

"The regnant view of NT canon formation in academic circles holds that the canon is a late ecclesiastical creation, and one that is far removed from the mindset of Jesus, his apostles and even the church for at least the first century and a half of its existence. Kruger takes five major planks on which this view is built, subjects them to historical scrutiny, and, where there are any solid splinters of truth left after inspection, shows how they may be incorporated into a better empirical foundation for canon studies. This important study argues that an 'intrinsic' model for canon, which recognizes the canon as the product of internal forces evolving out of the historical essence of Christianity, is superior to the 'extrinsic' model that has dominated canon studies for too long. May this book find many readers."

Charles E. Hill, professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando, and coauthor of The Early Text of the New Testament

"[T]his volume represents the kind of work [Kruger's] faculty should aspire to emulate. He takes the serious questions related to the canon head-on and helps the reader to work through these issues in order to gain a greater appreciation for and confidence in the canon as the correct shape of God's written Word."

R. Albert Mohler, The 2014 Preaching Survey of the Year's Best Books for Preachers, March/April 2014

"Kruger has provided us with another useful and challenging contribution to this flourishing field of study. He rightly emphasizes giving greater weight to the historical reliability that the canon's development was early and natural, as well as not automatically adopting one model over and against all others. Students, pastors, and scholars alike will benefit greatly from this volume for years ahead."

Daniel J. Vitalo, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 2014

"The book is a fascinating read which deals with a most important subject in a most helpful and scholarly way."

Evangelicals Now, March 2014

"I found it a fascinating, well-balanced and worthwhile read."

Margaret Baxter, The Reader, Summer 2014

"The issue of how and why the biblical canon was set in the early church continues to be a strong and important discussion in contemporary biblical and theological scholarship. This book is a very helpful voice in that debate. Kruger describes the sides of the debate as those who see the canon shaped by 'extrinsic' factors—that is, outside forces such as the decisions of church or imperial leaders or reactions to heretical views—or 'intrinsic' factors such as the model provided by Judaism, the circulation and reception of these sacred texts by the early Christian community, and the apostolic authority of the texts themselves."

The Bible Today, 2014



1. The Definition of Canon: Must We Make a Sharp Distinction Between the Definitions of Canon and Scripture?

2. The Origins of Canon: Was There Really Nothing in Early Christianity That May Have Led to a Canon?

3. The Writing of Canon: Were Early Christians Averse to Written Documents?

4. The Authors of Canon: Were the New Testament Authors Unaware of Their Own Authority?

5. The Date of Canon: Were the New Testament Books First Regarded as Scripture at the End of the Second Century?

Author Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Michael J. Kruger

Michael J. Kruger (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is president and professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. His recent publications include The Question of Canon and The Early Text of the New Testament, coedited with Charles E. Hill.