Early Evidence

It is helpful to consider some internal evidence regarding how early the canon of the New Testament began to come together. In his second letter, the apostle Peter already equated at least some of Paul’s epistles with Scripture: “Therefore, beloved . . . consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:14–16, emphasis added). 

Toward the end of his life, in what appear to be Paul’s final instructions to the evangelist Timothy from a prison cell in Rome, the apostle wrote: “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). We do not know what these parchments contained, but in those days of difficult travel Paul would not have asked Timothy to add that weight to his baggage unless they were very important. In light of the intriguing passage from 2 Peter, perhaps here is an indication that the canon of the New Testament was in the making before the deaths of the apostles who had personally known Christ. 

If Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), does it make sense to believe that He would have left the selection of writings to later chance or committees, after the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and the original disciples were all in their graves?