Formation of the Bible By Lee Martin McDonald

In light of the barrage of attacking media on the Bible these days, canonicity is suddenly a hot topic. Sadly, most Christians do not really know how to discuss the topic of how our canon of Scripture came about, or more importantly, how it can be trusted. So we need volumes to educate us such as we have in this volume published by Hendrickson.

We have to either remove the rustiness that has developed or come up to speed as the world is asking the tough questions. The book can distinctly help us. This subject is complex and so subject to easy potshots! You will need a basic knowledge if, say, someone starts reading Bart Ehrman and says your Bible is hopelessly an untrustworthy text of antiquity and dares you to answer. Mr. McDonald is a scholar who gives us an introduction, a starting place, that assumes we may not the story of the our canon.

Though it comes as a surprise to some there were pseudepigraphal and apocryphal books that rose up to compete with the cannon that became what we know as authoritative Scripture just as the critics say. What is not true is the level of acceptance. This volume weaves through how that worked out.

The key value in this book is the way unfamiliar things are defined and explained. Both in the text and in an outstanding glossary of terms one can learn the language of canonicity. He gives full charts on all the books that you may hear of as “lost” too.

I do not reach every conclusion he does, but my only real fault with this book is that it does not hold up as a work of apologetics nearly as well as it as simply an educational one. On occasions he raised more questions than he answered, or at least answered powerfully. I believe an even stronger case can be made. Still, this book will be handy to have on the shelf.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


Another book I just read that you may enjoy along these lines is Behind The Bible: A Primer on Textual Criticism by Jeffrey D. Johnson.

In around a short power-packed 100 pages the issue of how we can trust the text of Scripture is given. I don’t personally agree with which family of texts he says is best, but he is calm in his handling of these issues. You really get a feel for how the process has worked and how scholars have approached it in different time periods. I recommend it.




3 thoughts on “Formation of the Bible By Lee Martin McDonald

  1. I haven’t read either of these books, but reading your review reminds me of a conversation I once heard on a Catholic radio talk show. The host was talking about tradition and Scripture. Part of his argument that tradition is authoritative was that the cannon itself is a tradition. So you can’t have Scripture without tradition to begin with. I’m curious what your response to that would be.

    • I would not say the canon is merely tradition. The Lord entrusted His Word to His people and led through a majority of them to establish true books of the Bible versus spurious ones. This process matching God’s Word being preserved, which to me is a miracle guaranteed in inspiration.
      Other traditions can directly contradict Scripture and are therefore wrong. Nothing about the canonization process contradicts Scripture and so they do not correspond.

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