RE:NT cannonical expansion
Donald Harrison, Jr., recently noted that "I have never read any
literature that even tried to address the possibility [that orthodoxy
excluded material that should have been admitted to the canon]." Such
literature _does_ exist. See, for example, the concluding chapter in,
Elaine Pagels's THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS, 1979.
As for Mr. Harrison's critique of Iranaeus's justification for
choosing only four gospels, I find it interesting that he thinks Iranaeus
practiced "feable" numerology. How can numerology be "feable" as long as
it is grounded in reasonable analogical symbolism? We may not agree with a
particular conclusion, but the methodology is sound nevertheless.
I hardly think it "satanic" for us to entertain the notion of
expanding the canon. However, everything I've read concerning its original
formation indicates that one of the pivotal justifications for
including certain texts and excluding others was popular useage, i.e.,
including those texts viewed as authoritative by the broader Christian
community. Granted, the decision-makers were probably the power-brokers
(so I agree with Pagels), but the voice of the community should also be
heard. Especially in the Deutero-Pauline corpus, we see how the NT church
respected the traditions of "the saints." Certainly some of the
later Christian saints included persons like Iranaeus and Origen, et al.
I believe that much for life and faith can be learned from the non-
canonical corpus, but contemporary Christianity would need very strong
justification (other than recognition of the 2nd-century C.E.'s power
politics) for changing that which has been handed down to us. The same
theology which recognizes that God's revelation did not cease with
Revelation, also allows that said revelation may have been through the
Iranaeuses and Origens of history.
!arry R. Sang
Associate Professor of Religion
Catawba College Salisbury,NC 28144