The canon of Christian scripture has received much scrutiny since the rise of historical criticism in post-Enlightenment Europe. Nineteenth-century discoveries of new apocryphal gospels and epistles also fueled academic debate over canonicity, which has reached an even higher pitch since 1945, with the discovery of a corpus of Gnostic Christian “scriptures” at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. More recently, best-selling works by scholars like Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels, as well as Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, have introduced to a wide nonspecialist audience the historical problems surrounding the formation of Christian scripture.
Into this crowded conversation enters David L. Dungan, former Professor of Religion at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a new examination of the formation of the Christian canon, specifically the New Testament. While much past attention has been focused on apocryphal writings and the Bible, Dungan addresses the question of why there is a Christian canon at all and examines the historical and political process that brought it into being. General readers interested in how and why the scriptural books of the New Testament era were eventually selected or excluded from the canon will find useful information and questions in this brief treatment of the subject.