Archives for March 2014

Excerpt from Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions by Craig L. Blomberg.


I have read and heard numerous accounts of people who are “deconverting” from Christianity, to use the fashionable and euphemistic term for reneging on one’s faith commitments or baptismal pledges. There is almost a definable literary genre of autobiographical writings explaining why a person who once believed no longer does.

Unfortunately, most people who once believed and still do, or believe even more strongly than in the past, never think to publicize their faith journeys. Perhaps they assume few would be interested. Perhaps they are right; if so, it is a shame. But I suspect that biblical scholars who, like me, have found their faith fortified by the evidence the longer they have studied it may have an increasing obligation in our pluralistic world to give an account of the hope that is in them (1 Pet. 3:15).

The six areas of scholarship that this book presents explain why I still believe the Bible in the twenty-first century, and why I believe that we can still believe the Bible. These topics may not produce the most important reasons for belief. But they do debunk widespread misconceptions about what belief entails, and they present exciting recent developments in scholarly arenas that are not nearly as well known or understood as they should be.


©2014 by Craig L. Blomberg. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Weekly Hit List: March 28, 2014

iGods by Craig Detweiler was reviewed in Portland Book Review.

“The danger of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter is when we allow their influence to convince us that we, too, hold the prominence of what Detweiler calls ‘iGods’: ‘The temptation of Google goes back to the garden – to become like God. … The proper response remains timeless – resist temptation. Acknowledge how little we know despite the resources available. Practice humility because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (225).

“With a Ph.D. from Fuller Seminary and a self-proclaimed love of all things Apple, Detweiler presents a cogent, important argument in a book that shouldn’t be missed.”

Read the rest of the review here.


iGods was also recommended in WORLD magazine.


Can We Still Believe the Bible? Media:

Margaret Feinberg published the third of several weekly interviews with Craig Blomberg—and is giving away three copies of Can We Still Believe the Bible?.

This week for the Can We Still Believe the Bible? blog tour, Daniel Wallace responded to chapter 1, Darrell Bock and Michael Bird responded to chapter 4, Matthew Montonini and Nijay Gupta responded to chapter 5, and David B. Capes and Craig Keener responded to chapter 6.

Giveaway winners were also announced.


Quick Hits:

Kevin Schut, author of Of Games and God, appeared on the Christ & Pop Culture podcast.

Kevin Schut also spoke for Geneva Campus Ministry at the University of Iowa.

Living into Focus by Arthur Boers was referenced by My Kids Adventures’ in “5 Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids.”

Spirituality and the Awakening Self by David G. Benner was referenced and quoted by Peter Enns.


Ebook Specials:

Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction by Terence Nichols is only $3.99 (83% off) through April 3.

Ebook Special for Death and Afterlife by Terence Nichols

Now through April 3, the ebook of Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction by Terence Nichols is only $3.99 (83% off) from the following participating retailers:


Barnes & Noble



“[Nichols] writes with an engaging clarity. . . . As an introduction to this important, and often sadly neglected, area of Christian theology this is a book which can safely be commended.”

“Nichols is to be commended for this outstanding introductory text on death, the afterlife, and resurrection. It will be invaluable in university classrooms.”
—William C. Mattison III
, The Catholic University of America

What happens to us when we die? Nothingness? Judgment? Heaven? Hell? Many people today fear dying and are uncertain about life after death because of challenges from the sciences, philosophy, and even theology. In this engaging and clearly written book, theologian Terence Nichols addresses contemporary and perennial human questions about death and what lies beyond, making a Christian case for an afterlife with God.

Nichols first examines views of death and the afterlife in Scripture and the Christian tradition. He takes up scientific and philosophical challenges to the afterlife and considers what we can learn about it from near death experiences. Nichols then argues that the soul can survive death and that bodily resurrection is possible, explores how Christians can be worthy of salvation, and reflects on heaven, purgatory, and hell. He discusses death as a preparation for afterlife, providing readers with a theological guidebook for dying well. This book will benefit professors and students in theology, eschatology, practical theology, and pastoral care courses as well as pastors and priests.

Terence Nichols (PhD, Marquette University) is professor of theology and chair of the theology department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of That All May Be One: Hierarchy and Participation in the Church.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? Blog Tour Giveaway Winners

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Thank you to everyone who followed our blog tour for Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg.

As part of the blog tour, we ran a giveaway for five copies of Can We Still Believe the Bible?, as well as a five-book giveaway package worth $180 retail.

To see all the blog tour posts as well as a complete list of giveaway winners, visit


Dr. Craig S. Keener Responds to “Don’t All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?” (Chapter 6 of Can We Still Believe the Bible?)

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In today’s post, Dr. Craig S. Keener responds to chapter 6 (“Don’t All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?”) of Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg.

Don’t miss other posts in this blog tour—a complete list can be found at


In his presidential address to the Evangelical Theological Society several months ago, Robert Yarbrough commended Craig Blomberg’s new book. Yarbrough also rightly warned that Blomberg provides such concrete examples that everyone will disagree (as well as agree) with some point in the book. I am no exception, but like Yarbrough, I am happy to commend it.

I find particularly commendable Blomberg’s courage in taking on some of the powerful voices in evangelicalism—those who use their positions to define boundaries rather than investing in careful study of the biblical text. One could also note many other important contributions—for example, Blomberg’s sensitivity to the differences between the writing conventions of ancient and modern historians.

My focus here is chapter 6, which addresses miracles. Some of what Blomberg writes in a very readable way here develops his earlier published detailed research on the subject. He follows the biblical and historical evidence where he believes it leads, hopefully inspiring courage in more evangelical thinkers to do the same.

Despite possible quibbles about minor details, this chapter makes a forceful case for God’s direct activity in the world, both in the Bible and today. Most readers will find the substance of this chapter largely unobjectionable, though antisupernaturalists and, later in the chapter, hard cessationists may feel discomfort.

Blomberg begins by pointing out that those who criticize the possibility of miracles typically fail to be self-critical: they rule out miracles a priori before considering any evidence. Blomberg contends, however, that plenty of cases do exist for which supernatural explanations are more compelling than natural ones. That is, if one does not start from an a priori assumption either for or against miracles, one will find some convincing evidence for miracles. Granted, psychosomatic factors may affect many sorts of cases but not cases such as those of resuscitations from death or nature miracles. He allows that many cases in other religions could also reflect authentically supernatural activity, whether from other spirits or from the gracious action of God. Either of these explanations would challenge a conventional naturalistic worldview.

Blomberg offers accounts of miracles from his own family. His aunt, for example, had suffered from an injury for three decades and was on heavy pain medicine. After prayer for healing she awoke the next morning cured, and the cure endured for the remaining two decades of her life. He notes two cases where he and other elders in his church prayed for “patients with previously diagnosed cancerous tumors” (182), after which the specialists found no evidence of the tumors. He further recounts family experiences that include an angel encounter, an exorcism, an audible divine voice, and two accurate prophetic words to him.

Blomberg has found that many trustworthy friends recount such experiences. I certainly agree; once I started asking my friends about any healings they might have witnessed, I was quickly overwhelmed with the reports. My own immediate circle yielded about ten eyewitness accounts of prayer-related resuscitations from death, including one from a close family member who was apparently dead for three hours.

As to why miracles do not occur more regularly, Blomberg points out that if they did, skeptics would dismiss them as the regular course of nature rather than deeming them miracles. He is likely correct; even now, skeptics understand DNA exclusively naturalistically, although nothing inorganic in the universe rivals its complexity. We should also note that in the Gospels, Jesus’s miracles were signs of the already/not yet kingdom—promises of future hope. They were the foretaste of restoration, not its fullness. Yet even a single clear case of divine action, as Blomberg notes, challenges an exclusively naturalistic worldview.

Blomberg notes that the clearest non-Christian parallels to New Testament miracle accounts come from a much later period and probably depend on the earlier Gospels. Unlike these other accounts, the gospel sources come from a period when eyewitnesses remained alive. Not only multiple early Christian sources but also non-Christian sources, including one from the first century, report Jesus as a miracle worker. Alleged pre-Christian parallels for Jesus’s resurrection and virgin birth prove distant. We may add that we have strong eyewitness, contemporary reports of Christian miracles in the immediately succeeding centuries.

Although historical evidence is easier for earliest Christianity than for many Old Testament accounts, Blomberg also addresses these. Ancient Near Eastern sources do offer parallels for many of the OT miracle accounts, but an explanation is not difficult from a believer’s perspective. The accounts of Elijah and Elisha challenge the encroaching Baal worship of precisely their era in Israel’s history. Likewise, the plagues in Egypt strike against deities worshiped by the Egyptians, as the text specifically notes (Exod. 12:12; Num. 33:4). Most OT miracle claims fit some patterns, reinforcing the particular examples by their theological and historical coherence with the whole.

In treating modern miracles, Blomberg affirms positively the influence of the Azusa Street Revival and Pentecostalism on the subsequent spread of spiritual gifts. He acknowledges that every movement has some extreme elements, recognizing the dangers of prosperity preaching, celebrity cults, and the like. Nevertheless, he warns against throwing out the baby “with the bathwater” (210). Millions of believers today do experience spiritual gifts in sound ways.

Following what he rightly identifies as D. A. Carson’s “exemplary exegesis,” he argues against cessationism, which, he warns, rests on “fanciful exegesis” (210). No biblical evidence supports some cessationists’ distinction between natural and supernatural gifts. Soft cessationists accept miracles while rejecting a gift of miracles, perhaps merely a semantic difference with noncessationists on this point. Blomberg warns, however, that some hard cessationist criticisms of genuine miracles risk the unforgiveable sin of attributing the Spirit’s work to Satan (210; cf. 254n86).

At the same time, 1 Corinthians 12 makes clear that no single gift is given to all believers. Blomberg invites noncharismatics to embrace 1 Corinthians 14:39—encouraging prophecy and allowing tongues—and charismatics to embrace the next verse about not alienating outsiders with what would be deemed insane behavior. His hardest words in this context are for defenders of cessationism. He warns that they “risk quenching the Spirit (contra 1 Thess. 5:19)” (211), theologically limit what God might do, and inhibit people from experiencing what God might have for them. All noncessationists will appreciate Blomberg’s treatment of gifts, and hopefully many cessationists will consider his concerns.

In sum, Blomberg makes an important contribution on this subject, one that is marked by both careful thought and courage.


Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University) is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, the bestseller The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

From 1 Samuel (BTCB) by Francesca Aran Murphy, commenting on 1 Samuel 16:1-13:

Samuel is not called to see for himself what to do next or whom to anoint. God tells him, “I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you” (16:3 NKJV).

Jesse’s eldest sons gather round the sacrifice. When  Samuel “looked at Eliab” he says to himself, “Surely the Lord’s anointed” right there! (16:6 NKJV). The episode gently mocks Samuel’s “blindness” by contrasting his human way of looking with God’s insight.

Eliab must be a big husky guy, for God tells Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him” (16:7 NKJV).

Whereas in patristic and medieval times, Christians sometimes drank too deeply of philosophies that exaggerated the separation between body and spirit, today, they are as likely to be influenced by antidualist ideologies. We are even told that differentiating the internal and the external is just Platonism or Cartesian dualism and has nothing to do with Christianity.

But this text clearly and simply distinguishes the external, physical look of persons from their interior self, characterized as their heart. It contrasts the blindness of Samuel, who is impressed by what’s on show—the visible height and stature of Eliab—with the insight of God, who sees the truth of a human being.

God tells Samuel, “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16:7 NKJV). This, as we saw in the previous episode, was Augustine’s explanation of the discrepancy between God’s treatment of Saul and David.

The human heart evades literal analysis. It is a wayward thing that humans can know only partially, by contemplation, and that only God can see in full. The heart symbolizes what is personal to the human agent, because it is the concealed force directing all human action.

Two more sons, Abinadab and Shammah, are lined up for viewing and passed over. After seven sons have been displayed, Samuel asks if there are any more in the offing. There is, Jesse says, “the youngest,” out “keeping the sheep,” too junior to be recalled from work and invited to the sacrifice.

This naïve pantomime parade, a childish story of the passing over of the outstanding eldest for the insignificant youth, is put on to show that God is making a break with the natural run of things and starting over, as only God can start over, from the spirit or inside out. The contrast between external spectacle and invisible interior worth is telling us that the authentic measure of sight is God’s way of seeing.

God can see someone that everyone else has forgotten or doesn’t know about: and when they brought the youngest in, “he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to” (16:12). Up the sleeve of the divine providence was a boy who even looks better than his elder brothers. Maybe Samuel was cheered up by this divine joke against himself.


©2010 by Francesca Aran Murphy. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg

Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions

by Craig Blomberg

Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals.

In this volume, highly regarded biblical scholar Craig Blomberg offers an accessible and nuanced argument for the Bible’s reliability in response to the extreme views about Scripture and its authority articulated by both sides of the debate. He believes that a careful analysis of the relevant evidence shows we have reason to be more confident in the Bible than ever before. As he traces his own academic and spiritual journey, Blomberg sketches out the case for confidence in the Bible in spite of various challenges to the trustworthiness of Scripture, offering a positive, informed, and defensible approach.

Craig L. Blomberg (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including A Handbook of New Testament ExegesisJesus and the GospelsThe Historical Reliability of the GospelsPreaching the ParablesMaking Sense of the New Testament, and commentaries on Matthew, 1 Corinthians, and James.


Praise for Can We Still Believe the Bible?:

“Mention the Bible, especially a hot topic like canon or miracles, and one second later you will hear strident voices attacking the Bible’s silliness or calling others names for not believing the Bible. Those topics, and many more besides, are volatile because they matter, and what matters most for the discussion is the voice of reason and balance. Enter Craig Blomberg with nothing less than a splendid example of ‘generous apologetics’ for the faith. Whether you agree on specific points, this is the finest example I know of for how to defend the Bible.”
Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

“The Bible has gone from being the answer to being the question in our culture. Can I still believe what it claims? Answering emphatically yes, Blomberg examines the pitfalls of making the Bible say too little or too much, both real problems for understanding how the Bible works. So read and consider anew how to think about Scripture. The result will be that belief in the Bible makes sense.”
Darrell Bock, executive director of cultural engagement and senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

“Craig Blomberg’s defense of the Scriptures’ truthfulness is both important and timely. He keeps the main thing the main thing as he warns well-meaning believers about drawing rigid lines in the wrong places–and damaging the church’s witness–while dispelling myths and correcting distortions propounded by Christianity’s loudest critics. This book is a superb resource and guide regarding what the Bible’s trustworthiness means–and doesn’t mean.”
Paul Copan, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics, Palm Beach Atlantic University

“Blomberg advances a vigorous evangelical biblical scholarship that charitably engages outsiders while courageously challenging the most strident evangelical voices, who too often preach to their choirs while alienating others from the faith. Readers of this wide-ranging work will gain a much clearer understanding of mainstream evangelical biblical scholarship.”
Craig S. Keener, author of The Historical Jesus of the Gospels; professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

“Craig Blomberg takes on critics of the Bible with the credibility of a scholar and the passion of a believer.”
Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals

The Weekly Hit List: March 21, 2014

Five Brazos Press titles were selected as finalists in the ForeWord Reviews 2013 Book of the Year Awards.

A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis by Devin Brown in the Biography category
Drawing on Lewis’s autobiographical works, books by those who knew him personally, and his apologetic and fictional writing, this book tells the inspiring story of Lewis’s journey from cynical atheist to joyous Christian and challenges readers to follow their own calling. The book allows Lewis to tell his own life story in a uniquely powerful manner while shedding light on his best-known works.



Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can—and Should—Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids by Nicole Baker Fulgham in the Education category
Education expert explores what Christians can—and should—do to champion urgently needed reform and help improve our public schools. The book provides concrete action steps for working to ensure that all of God’s children get the quality public education they deserve.



iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives by Craig Detweiler in the Popular Culture category
Provides needed Christian perspective on navigating today’s social media culture. Detweiler interacts with major symbols, or “iGods,” of our distracted age—Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Pixar, YouTube, and Twitter—to investigate the impact of the technologies and cultural phenomena that drive us. Detweiler offers a historic look at where we’ve been and a prophetic look at where we’re headed, helping us sort out the immediate from the eternal, the digital from the divine.


Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games by Kevin Schut in the Popular Culture category
Kevin Schut, a communications expert and an enthusiastic gamer himself, offers a lively, balanced, and informed Christian evaluation of video games and video game culture. He expertly engages a variety of issues, encouraging readers to consider both the perils and the promise of this major cultural phenomenon.



On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good by Jim Wallis in the Religion category
Wallis explores how Jesus’s agenda can serve the common good, what it takes to sustain a lifelong commitment to social justice, and how reading the Bible as well as the culture can shape our lives for genuine transformation.




The complete list of the ForeWord Reviews’ 2013 Book of the Year Award Finalists is available here.

The full press release from Brazos Press is available here.


Can We Still Believe the Bible? Media:

Margaret Feinberg published the second of several weekly interviews with Craig Blomberg.

This week for the Can We Still Believe the Bible? blog tour, Ken Schenck responded to chapter 1, Joel L. Watts and Lee Martin McDonald responded to chapter 2, and Phillip J. Long responded to chapter 3. The remaining blog tour posts will appear next week.

Don’t miss our five-book package giveaway (worth $180), which ends next Thursday, March 27.


Quick Hits:

Miroslav Volf, author of A Public Faith, wrote “Exclusion or Saturation? Rethinking the Place of Religion in Public Life” for ABC Religion and Ethics.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was reviewed by Jim Kane.

Just Politics by Ronald J. Sider was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.


Ebook Specials:

Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition by James K. A. Smith is only $2.99 (80%) off through March 27.

Ebook Special for Letters to a Young Calvinist by James K. A. Smith

Now through March 27, the ebook of Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition by James K. A. Smith is only $2.99 (80% off) from the following participating retailers:


Barnes & Noble



“In this series of epistolary exhortations, Smith addresses the faults of the Calvinist theology to which he subscribes–for example, its seeming lack of charity and production of arrogant followers. He then calls on young Calvinists to rise above haughty intellectualism to embrace the richer, more sustainable Reformed tradition that grew out of Calvinist ideas. . . . Smith welcomes readers to embrace more than just a grumpy theological debate. He opens them to a tradition defined by grace, enjoyment, and group worship. This slim introduction will leave readers wanting more history and will prepare them to dive into more challenging texts.”
Publishers Weekly

“A wise and delightfully written portrayal of a robust Calvinism for the twenty-first century.”
Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

Who would have guessed that something as austere as Calvinism would become a hot topic in today’s postmodern culture? At the five hundredth anniversary of John Calvin’s birth, new generations have discovered and embraced a “New Calvinism” with fervor and zeal, finding in the Reformed tradition a rich theological vision. In fact, Time cited New Calvinism as one of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”

Letters to a Young Calvinist provides pastoral and theological counsel, encouraging converts to and participants in this tradition to find in Calvin a vision that’s even bigger than the New Calvinism might suggest. Noted Reformed philosopher James K. A. Smith contends that much of what traffics under the banner of New Calvinism reduces “Reformed” to a narrow concern with Calvinistic soteriology. Smith introduces New Calvinists to the “world-formative” Christianity that was unleashed with the Reformation, presenting the Reformed tradition as an Augustinian renewal movement within the church catholic. Offering wisdom at the intersection of theology and culture, he also provides pastoral caution about pride and maturity.

The creative and accessible letter format invites young Calvinists into a faithful conversation that reaches from Paul and Augustine through Calvin and Edwards to Kuyper and Wolterstorff. Together these letters sketch a comprehensive vision of Calvinism that is generous, winsome, and imaginative.

James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he also holds the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview. He is the editor of Comment magazine. Smith has authored or edited many books, including Imagining the Kingdom and the Christianity Today Book Award winners Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom. He is also editor of the well-received The Church and Postmodern Culture series (

Dr. Lee Martin McDonald Responds to “Wasn’t the Selection of Books for the Canon Just Political?” (Chapter 2 of Can We Still Believe the Bible?)

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In today’s post, Dr. Lee Martin McDonald responds to chapter 2 (“Wasn’t the Selection of Books for the Canon Just Political?”) of Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg.

Don’t miss other posts in this blog tour—a complete list can be found at


The second chapter of Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg, on canon formation, was written for a conservative evangelical audience that shares his assumptions on the authority and scope of the Christian Scriptures. Its title (“Wasn’t the Selection of Books for the Canon Just Political?”) appears to be focused on his objections to indemonstrable conclusions drawn by Bart Ehrman on the influence of political power on the scope of the NT canon. I share his sentiments completely in regard to Ehrman and also David Dungan. The chapter shows awareness of many important questions related to the formation of the Bible, and readers will learn much from Blomberg’s analysis, but there are portions of this chapter that deserve further consideration.

While he and I agree with the Protestant church traditions on the scope of the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) canons, I think that a careful investigation of primary sources would help Blomberg make a stronger case. There are several places in this chapter that deserve comment, but I’d like to briefly offer some constructive criticism on Blomberg’s use of criteria for canonicity.

In general, the issue of criteria needs some fine-tuning. Blomberg extends, for example, the criterion of orthodoxy not only to the NT writings but also to “the Old Testament books and their fulfillment in the life and times of Jesus and his first followers” (60). This statement is unclear and in need of evidence from antiquity. While the early Christians found the fulfillment of their first Scriptures in Jesus, it is difficult to find this consistently in the OT. Blomberg also discusses inspiration as a criterion for canonicity (60). This is a difficult matter, as he acknowledges, but his confidence that only the OT and NT books exhibit “marks” of being “God-breathed” is difficult to substantiate and would be strengthened had he provided examples for where these “marks” are obvious.

The criteria for canonicity are not all found in the same texts or authors in antiquity, and there are exceptions to most of them. Catholicity, essentially widespread use in churches, in particular is not easy to discern in all cases, especially in the use of 2 Peter, James, 2–3 John, Jude, and Revelation. Catholicity becomes more prominent in Origen and Eusebius, but if it were an essential ingredient for all Scriptures, then we would expect something similar in the acceptance of the OT books as well, which is not the case. As for the NT books, for centuries there was lingering doubt among some churches over the canonicity of some books. There are continuing doubts about Revelation in the Eastern Orthodox churches, and it is not read in their worship. Eastern churches never had a Council of Trent, a fact reflected in their literature well into the eighteenth century. Similarly, Catholic and Armenian churches read 3 Corinthians for many centuries after most churches adopted the twenty-seven books of our New Testament. It was never the early church’s argument that God providentially only preserved the sixty-six books in the biblical canon (76). Oddly, many of the forgotten or rejected books have reappeared in recently discovered manuscripts. What should we do with them and what can we learn from them? The ancient churches never made a biblical or theological argument for the closure of the biblical canon but rather made a historical argument for the NT (those books closest to the time of Jesus, hence apostolic in its broad sense). They also made an orthodox argument, namely whether a given writing reflected the traditional teachings passed on in churches (Irenaeus).

I especially agree with Blomberg that we can learn much about the historical and cultural context of biblical literature from persons who do not share Christian convictions, whether in the fields of biblical inquiry, psychology, science, or other disciplines. Although he stands clearly in the evangelical camp, he occasionally distances himself from its more “extreme” and less consistent conservatives, especially John MacArthur and Wayne Grudem (76–80), both of whom limit too narrowly what we can learn from those outside of evangelical biblical and theological scholarship. While Blomberg shows considerable familiarity with many of the leading questions of canon formation today and many evangelical scholars in the field, an examination of certain additional scholars would have been especially helpful: Carr, Lim, and Gallagher on OT canonization; Schröter on NT canonization; and others on pivotal ancient Jewish texts that Blomberg cites.*

*David M. Carr, The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Timothy H. Lim, The Formation of the Jewish Canon, Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013); Edmon L. Gallagher, Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory: Canon, Language, Text, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae (Leiden: Brill, 2012); Jens Schröter, From Jesus to the New Testament: Early Christian Theology and the Origin of the New Testament Canon (Waco: Baylor University Press; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013).


Lee Martin McDonald (PhD, University of Edinburgh), before his retirement, was professor of New Testament studies and president of Acadia Divinity College. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Biblical Canon, and coeditor of The Canon Debate (with James Sanders), and The World of the New Testament (with Joel Green). He lives in Mesa, Arizona.