(the following is a guest post by my friend, David King)
One frequent myth often propounded by those who prefer a 4th century Greek canon of the Old Testament (OT) to the Hebrew canon of the OT is the idea that the first century Jews did not know the canon of OT Scripture. The Scriptures abundantly discredit this myth.
Our Lord’s own words (Matt. 21:42; 22:29; 26:54; Mk. 12:10, 24; 14:49; Lk. 4:21; Jn. 5:39; 7:38; 10:35; 13:18; 17:12; ), as well as those of his apostles (Matt. 26:56; Mk. 15:28; Lk. 24:27, 32, 45; Jn 2:22; 7:42; 19:24, 28, 36-37; 20:9; Acts 1:16; 8:32, 35; 17:2, 11; 18:24, 28; Rom. 1:2; 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; 15:4; 16:26; 1 Cor. 15:3-4 Gal. 3:8, 22; 4:30; 1 Tim. 4:18; 2 Tim. 3:15-16; Jam. 2:8, 23; 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:6; 2 Pet. 1:20; 3:16), presuppose a recognized OT canon in their day.
Moreover, the Apostle Paul informs us implicitly that the canon of the OT was bequeathed to the NT Church from the OT Church (Rom. 3:2). Many of the early church fathers themselves affirm this to be the case. In other words, if an epistemological crisis concerning an OT canon existed in the time of Christ and His apostles, not only do their own words reveal nothing of it, but the same actually presuppose its identity.
To the contrary, would not such a claim of epistemic uncertainty strip the Jewish people of all responsibility whom our Lord engaged with His indictments of their faithlessness in the face of the testimony of Holy Scripture otherwise (Jn 5:39, Matt. 12:3ff; 19:4; 22:31; Mk. 12:26)? Do not his words presuppose their culpability for not knowing the Scriptures (Matt. 22:29)?
In short, even the apostolic church itself was never without a functioning canon (e.g., Acts 17:2, 11; 18:24, 28; 24:14). Thus, the OT canon of Holy Scripture was commonly recognized in their day, without the aid of any authoritative, conciliar declaration. When then should we entertain the alleged need for such in our day, when already in the time of the apostles themselves the NT canon was being recognized (1 Cor. 14:37; 1 Tim. 5:18 and 2 Pet. 3:16) apart from the same? How does the alleged apologetic against this revealed state of affairs avoid the charge of what amounts to a self-serving agenda of special pleading?
Again, what is being called into question is not simply the sufficiency of Scripture, but the sufficiency of God Himself to reveal and make Himself known in Holy Scripture.
It seems rather difficult to avoid the conclusion posited by Warfield:
The early churches, in short, received, as we receive, into their New Testament all the books historically evinced to them as given by the apostles to the churches as their code of law; and we must not mistake the historical evidences of the slow circulation and authentication of these books over the widely-extended church, for evidence of slowness of “canonization” of books by the authority or the taste of the church itself.B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, reprinted 1970), p. 416.