Running Head: THE CANON
The Canon How and Why
May 4, 2014
HTH-357 History of Christianity
Grand Canyon University
The Canon How and Why
In the Christian faith, there stands alone one book that is held higher than any other book and that is the Bible. The Bible is compiled of 66 books, which is called the canon. To define canon it can be said to be “a general law, rule, principle or criterion by which something is judged, a church decree or law, and a collection of sacred books accepted as genuine”. (canon, n.d.) Simply put believers believe that the Bible is the very word of God given to man, that it tells of the standard in which one should live, it is considered to be Holy, and true (2 Timothy 3:16). Therefore, how did they decide which books belonged and which did not, and what is the reason and rationale behind having the canonical scriptures, is it really so important?
First off, it must be noted that the term canon was not used by Jews in reference to the Old Testament scriptures, in fact “Greek Christians by the fourth century A.D. had given the word a quasi-technical religious meaning, applying it to the Bible, especially to the Jewish books” (Merrill, 1951). These Jewish books were originally referred to as the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). There is no specific naming in scripture of what books made up the Laws of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets, so we must look to what books the Jews said were apart of these. By looking at the New Testament, we get the unmistakable impression that there was a fixed canon of scripture that was seen as authoritative and inspired by God. “By the time of Jesus the Old Testament canon had been settled in the minds of Jews. Josephus, the Jewish historian, writing around 100 AD, also assumed that the Old Testament canon, as we know it, was fixed and settled” (Canon of Scripture, 2008).
However cut and dry it may seem about deciding the Old Testament canon may seem it was anything but. It was between the time the Septuagint was likely translated, 250-150 B.C. and the time that Jerome’s Latin translation came out there were other books added. “These are called apocryphal books because their questionable authorship and authenticity. Some of these books are still present in the Roman Catholic Bible.” (Ridgway, 2013) There were actually several councils that took place to discuss which books should or should not be canon. There was the Council of Nicene around 350 A.D. and the Council of Trent around 1545 that helped not only major doctorial issues, but also helped in creating the canon we have today.
Deciding what was to go into the New Testament was much different from the Old Testament. First off, the New Testament was not written over the process of 1000 or so years like the Old Testament instead it was written in more like a 100 year. As the New Testament, writings started to circulate there became a need to decide which writings should be held as sacred. There were five principles that had to be at work in order for a writing to be sacred: spiritual content (was it read in churches and did it edify), was the book written by an apostle, doctrinal soundness, usages of the book, and divine inspiration . Many books were rejected either as forgeries or because of the late date in which they were written (Canon of Scripture, 2008). Some of these books were Shepherd of Hermas, Preaching of Peter, and Apocalypse of Peter. “Eusebius (c. 265-340) mentions as generally acknowledged all the books of our New Testament except James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, which were disputed by some, but recognized by the majority. Athanasius in 367 lays down the twenty-seven books of our New Testament as alone canonical; shortly afterwards Jerome and Augustine followed his example in the West.” (Bruce, n.d.)
Understanding the process of how the canon was formed is good but what is the reason and rational behind...
References: Bruce, F. F. (n.d.). The Canon of the New Testament. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from Bible-researcher.com: http://www.bible-researcher.com/bruce1.html
canon. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2013, from The Free Dictionary: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/canon
Canon of Scripture. (2008). Retrieved June 1, 2013, from differentspirit.org: http://www.differentspirit.org/articles/canon.php
How was the New Testament Canon Decided? (2012). Retrieved May 4, 2014, from Orgin of the Bible: http://www.truthnet.org/Bible-Origins/7_The_New_Testament_Canon/#_ftnref5
Merrill, U. F. (1951). Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House.
Ridgway, J. (2013, January 27). The Process of Canonization.
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