How We Got the New Testament Canon


How did we get the New Testament canon as we know it today? (“canon” meaning, measuring rod) In today’s Seven Minute Seminary, Dr. David F. Watson dispels some common myths and illuminates the historical process by which the early church recognized certain books as authoritative.

Rather than being a power struggle between an emerging catholicity and oppressed groups, the books we received as divinely inspired were those that were used in the worshiping life of the early church. Furthermore, they are those which comported with the rule of faith, which were the basic beliefs that the majority of Christians believed and received from the apostles. These included doctrines such as Jesus’ divinity, his death on the cross, his resurrection, and the final judgment.

What served as an authority for church doctrine before the formation of the New Testament? Dr. Darrell L. Bock summarizes how this worked with four S’s: 1) Scripture [the Old Testament], 2) Schooling, 3) Singing, 4) Sacrament (view the video here).

View our growing playlist of Seven Minute Seminary.

Download the audio for this Seven Minute Seminary & subscribe via iTunes.


Dr. David F. Watson is the Academic Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of New Testament at United Theological Seminary. David is also an ordained elder in the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. He has worked in the local church and in a United Methodist campus ministry. David is married to Harriet. They have two sons: Luke and Sean.