The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce is nothing short of a landmark publication on the subject of the biblical canon. It received two 1990 Christianity Today Awards including The Readers' Choice Award and The Critics' Choice Award, as well as a 1989 ECPA Gold Medallion Award. Nowadays, while many readers may be too easily willing to write off The Canon of Scripture as outdated and stale given the current landscape of biblical scholarship, the interaction therein by Bruce still provides much to be commended and praised.
The book covers both the Old Testament and the New. Still, only about one-third of the book is dedicated to the Old Testament. This is largely due to the fact that the Old Testament was a settled canon by the time of the New Testament, as seen in the testimony of Jesus and the apostles. Bruce states, Our Lord and his apostles might differ from the religious leaders of Israel about the meaning of the scriptures; there is no suggestion that they differed about the limits of the scriptures (p. 28). Bruces treatment of the Old Testament is brief, detailed, and overall helpful, but some Protestant readers may be uncomfortable with his handling of the Apocrypha.
The majority of the book is dedicated to the New Testament canon, and Bruces interaction with various Church Fathers therein is commendable. Bruce rightly recognizes that authority precedes canonicity when it comes to the New Testament documents (p. 123). In other words, the New Testament documents were already considered canonical prior to the recognition of such because of their authority, not vice versa. Still, Bruce offers six criteria in which the recognition of such books would be considered canonical by the early Church: (1) apostolic authority, (2) antiquity, (3) orthodoxy, (4) catholicity, (5) traditional use, and (6) inspiration (p. 256-269). Bruces treatment of the New Testament is much more detailed than the Old, and it is here that the primary usefulness of the book remains for the contemporary readerespecially Bruces interaction with the Church Fathers.
The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce is a classic work on the canon of the Old Testament and the New. The comprehensive scope of the book and Bruces knowledge of the landscape is certainly commendable, and the detail and clarity therein will only work to benefit the reader. Those familiar with the issues surrounding the canon of Scripture should be well-acquainted with Bruce already, but for those seeking to enter into the conversation The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce is a mandatory stop. It comes highly recommended regardless of the publication date!
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FF Bruce was a tremendously influential evangelical theologian/author of the mid/late 20th century. I'd recommend picking up any commentary or book he wrote and I would wholeheartedly recommend this as a great first read.
Prior to reading this book, I understood the Bible as simply always sorta being around and never really thought about questions of how and why. This is a fantastic primer on canon issues and a great historical background to the formation of the New Testament - answering the question of how did they go from being 27 separate books to a collective whole and why we view these as authoritative and not others. For those unfamiliar with these issues, as well as for those seeking to understand some of the important thinkers and events in the early post-NT church, this book is for you.