Michael Kruger Responds to Two Challenges to the New Testament

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 10/02/2018

The Ehrman Project was created several years ago to give bite-sized, introductory responses to arguments against the reliability of the Bible that have been popularized by Bart Ehrman. Scholars who have contributed to this project include Daniel Wallace, Darrell Bock, Ben Witherington, Alvin Plantinga, and many more. Here are two responses by Michael Kruger.

In “How Did the New Testament Canon Develop?” Dr. Kruger argues against Dr. Ehrman’s claim that there was a “wild diversity” in the early church when it came to their texts—i.e., that people followed a variety of competing canons, and their theology varied according to the books they chose to use.

If one wants to portray the New Testament canon as developing in a way that was entirely haphazard and open-ended until the fourth century, that’s simply not the case. When we look into the early centuries of the church, particularly the second century, we realize that the core of the New Testament canon was in place almost from the very beginning. What do we mean by “core”? What we mean is the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and at least ten, if not thirteen, Epistles of Paul.

For example, one of our earliest canonical lists, the Muratorian Fragment, dates from the late second century, probably around 170 or 180 AD. In that particular document, it’s clear that there are only four Gospels that are received, and it lists all thirteen of Paul’s epistles.... What we see, then, is that there’s a core of New Testament books that were never really in dispute at all.

In “Who Wrote the Gospels?” Dr. Kruger gives a few reasons why we should think the four Gospels were actually written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Here’s one:

As far back as we can see, these Gospels had the titles with them.... If these titles were a late addition, how is it that we have such uniformity in what these documents were called? If Matthew’s Gospel, for example, wasn’t called Matthew’s Gospel until late in the second century, then why don’t we have a number of copies of Matthew’s Gospel with different titles, with different names? In fact, we don’t possess that. What we find is incredible uniformity across the board of the titles of these Gospels.... It’s amazingly consistent—something we would not expect if the titles were added later.

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