Adult Formation Journal: February 23

Dear Saint James’ Learners,

The next session is our last one for the season of Epiphany. I hope that all of you can attend one of the Sunday learning groups or the Tuesday learning group. Not only will we talk about the final two chapters (only 11 pages!) of our study book, but we will also look forward to the Lent course, “Learning More about Jesus and Holy Week.”

Scroll down to read the outline and study questions for our last discussion group.



Chapter 10: Becoming the New Testament

The process of canonization

  • oral tradition-> community texts-> NT writings for local assemblies-> letters sent to Christian communities-> writings exchanged among communities-> early second century communities gather collections of writings->
  • Marcion: no OT
  • Gnostics: privileged the soul of the individual
  • Irenaeus: responded to these challenges, defined orthodox Christianity in terms of a public, institutional, and inclusive religion
  • rule of faith/creed, apostolic succession
The Apostle John (L) with Marcion of Sinope (R) as depicted on an 11th-century Italian manuscript. Image via The Morgan Library.

Criteria for canonization

  • divine inspiration, seldom 
  • apostolicity, always 
  • most important criterion for canonization was probably an instinct, or “sense of the church,” a perception of fit between the community and this particular set of writings that extended through time

Implications of canonization

  • canonization is a statement of relevance
  • paradox: by affirming the Jewish Scriptures as its “Old Testament,” Christians established an inevitable and tension-filled conversation with Jews
  • paradox: canonization which sought to establish unity, actually institutionalized diversity

Chapter 11: The pertinence of the New Testament

  • for all its manifold and manifest faults, the NT retains the capacity to stir human hearts, transform human freedom stimulate human service to humanity.
Rylands Library Papyrus P52, thought to be the earliest extant manuscript of a Christian writing. The papyrus fragment contains lines from the Gospel of John, and dates to the 2nd century C.E.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think the canon of the NT should be altered?
  2. How would you change it and why?
  3. What is the greatest learning you have realized from reading this book?

Scripture Passage and Prayer

Choose a passage 

  • Settle into a comfortable sitting position. Be still and quiet.
  • With eyes closed, slowly say, “I see and receive the love and joy with which God gazes at me as I gaze at God.”
  • Remain still and quiet with eyes closed for awhile.
  • Open eyes and slowly read the Scripture passage, pausing after every verse.
  • Notice what words or phrases capture your curiosity.
  • Notice what words or phrases touch your heart.
  • Notice what words or phrases cause you to consider a specific act of faith.
  • Close with a sentence of gratitude.