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 Nowadays, while many readers may be too easily willing to write off The Canon of Scripture as outdated and stale given the current landscape of biblical scholarship, the interaction therein by Bruce still provides much to be commended and praised.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). Bruce’s 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 Bruce’s 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). Bruce’s 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 reader—especially Bruce’s 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 Bruce’s 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!
I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.