Pages 253-297 of the Canon of Scriptures by F.F. Bruce, begins the fourth and final section of the book. This final section is a basic conclusion of the material covered throughout the book. It begins with a chapter on the criteria of canonicity. The author covers such criteria such as: the tests in the apostolic age, apostolic authority, antiquity, orthodoxy, catholicity, traditional use, and inspiration. One of the biggest criteria for determining whether or not a book or letter is to be viewed as canonical is whether or not it was accepted by the churches during the apostolic age and if it comes with apostolic authority. This, of course, required the spiritual gift of discerning of spirits. Paul gave some advice on this when he states that the criteria for determining whether or not a word spoken is from God is by the testimony of Christ in the life of the one speaking (1 Cor. 12:3). Orthodoxy is another criteria that is of much importance. This has to do with doctrine. Not only must the writings have some apostolic authority, but it also must be consistent with the teachings of Jesus. It also should be consistent with the understanding of the church as to its doctrine. Traditional use also comes into play. The question to be considered is whether or not the writing was traditionally accepted and read by the early church. With all the various criteria in determining a work’s canonicity, we can be assured that what we have today is the complete closed canon of scripture. Inspiration is also a question to consider. Determining whether or not a book is inspired by God can be a daunting task. However, the scriptures themselves claim that all scripture is given by inspiration of God. The issue then to be considered is not the inspiration of scripture, since all scripture is, in fact, inspired; but rather how to determine what is scripture. The determining factor on this point is the criteria previously mentioned concerning the apostolic age and the apostolic authority.
F.F. Bruce continues his conclusion with a chapter devoted to the idea of a ‘canon within a canon.’ The concept here is that there are some scriptures that bear greater weight than others. The problem here is that the determining of such scriptures tend to be divided along the lines of various schools of thought. Some may say that the Gospels, for example, are a ‘canon within a canon.’ If you took the Gospels and separated them from the rest of scriptures, would they still be considered inspired? Do the Gospels rely upon the whole of scripture in order to be truly inspired? Are the Gospels more inspired than other portions of scripture? These are a few of the questions that arise when considering the idea of a ‘canon within a canon.’ It is my personal view that all scriptures are inspired in its entirety and that no portion of scripture has a greater inspiration over others. The Bible has been supernaturally preserved by God as one book. No part of the Bible ranks higher than another part. It is all equally inspired and thus equally profitable to all who may read it.