Part of a series of short books aimed at undergraduate level – Charles E. Hill’s Who Chose the Books of the New Testament offers a brief introduction to the formation of canon and the coming together of the New Testament in the first centuries of church history. This series, Questions for Restless Minds (edited by Don Carson), seeks to equip students with biblically and historically informed answers to some of the big questions – both that they themselves wrestle with, and that their friends at university will raise.
Hill’s contribution is a well-informed, easy read, and ably addresses the titular question. Though perhaps a little too brief at some moments, it is a very good little resource – and one that will, I am sure, be of benefit to many students and church members more broadly. If we are to have confidence in our faith, we must be able to offer intellectually credible and historically rigorous answers to some of the questions we face, and Hill’s book provides such an answer to this ancient question.
Confidence in Scripture lies at the heart of Christian faith, and so the question of how the New Testament canon came to be assembled is of genuine importance. Hill deals ably with this enormous topic in three brief chapters. There is much he omits, and much he skates over with only a passing reference, but understandably a more in-depth approach to this matter is out of reach for a book this size. What he does offer is a helpful study in some of the main challenges raised against Scripture, and an accessible introduction both to the answers Christians have, and to some of the key ancient figures involved in this issue.
The weakness of this book is a result of its format – designed to be a very easy and inviting read, Hill’s treatment of the topic runs for only 62 pages. This is hardly sufficient to treat such an enormous subject, but it is nonetheless a well-crafted introduction, and helps the reader grasp some of the key objections and answers regarding the authority and history of Scripture. It would certainly be a helpful resource for students facing this question, or for church members asking this question themselves. Hill helpfully includes some suggested longer reads on the topic – offering a quick description of each one to help the reader decide best which of these recommendations might best serve their needs. This is a beneficial addition, and allows the reader to continue to grapple with this question well beyond Hill’s introductory answer. Though not perfect, in part due to its size, Hill has produced a helpful little book, one which I would gladly commend to Christians asking this question, whether undergraduate students or otherwise.
Who Chose the Books of the New Testament? is published by Lexham Press and available here.