Barton's short book asks how the books of the New Testament grew into the canon of scripture. He reviews the history of scholarship on the subject. In the early 1900's, Theodor Zahn "made an exhaustive examination of the New Testament citations in the Fathers, and concluded that there was already a Christian canon by the end of the first century" (p 3). Barton states that "an authorative corpus already existed even earlier than Zahn thought, but it was still not firmly defined" (p 21) as Sundberg claimed.
Barton also suggests that biblical scholars rarely take into full account the fact that the ancient world existed as an oral culture. What we see as proof tends to be textual. Eyewitness testimony was more crucial in their world.
At any rate, by the time of Tertullian and Justin "the authority of the gospel accounts is taken for granted as the absolute starting point for Christians" (p 73). -