CANONS OF THE BIBLE
Study by -- R.
-- " All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable
for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
1:2 -- "For the prophecy came not in old time by the
will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the
CANON -- Webster's Dictionary (1974 Edition) - An authoritative
of books accepted as Holy Scripture. Encyclopaedia Britannica
(1771 Edition) Canon of Scripture: A catalogue or list of inspired
by God writings, of such books of the Bible called canonical; because
they are in the number of those books which are looked upon as sacred,
opposition to those which are either not acknowledged as
divine books, or are rejected as heretical and spurious and are
called apocryphal (not inspired by God; ma 's personal view).
TESTAMENT -- The Old Testament was originally written
in Hebrew. Traditionally it is divided by the Jews into three parts:
PENTATEUCH, together with the book of Joshua
a history of Israel in the promised land and the stories of the
prophets to the people.
"writings", Job, Ecclesiastes and the poetic works and
2 -- The time span of the writing of the Old Testament
is approximately 1,000 years - Exodus written about 1300 BC to Ezra
written shortly before 400 BC: for accounts preceding the Exodus
very few chronological data are available.
the three divisions briefly:
PENTATEUCH, or torah (Law) - book of Israel's
beginning (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Among
the Jews, the Law has held a unique place within Biblical literature,
a place that was not changed with the adoption of other sacred books.
PROPHETS, under this title there are 21 books in
all; 6 historical, 3 major prophets and 12 minor prophets.
6 historical books - Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and I and
3 Major Prophets - Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
12 Minor Prophets - Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah,
Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
is not included as a prophet to the Jews.
is considered a miscellaneous collection of sacred writings that
cannot be classified in either the Pentateuch (Law) or the Prophets.
The Hagiographer is in three sections:
literature - Psalms, Proverbs and Job.
Megilloth or Rolls - Songs of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations,
Ecclesiastes and Esther. The Jewish Classification of these five
books by their secular tone has made a problem to their status
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These last five books are gathered together more as
chronicles of history according to the Jews. - Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah
and I and II Chronicles.
In the formation
of the Old Testament Canon we will now look at the Jewish and Christian
Canons of the Old Testament.
It is not known when and how the earliest collection of sacred writings
in Hebrew arose. The incident reported in II Kings 22 -- 640 BC
boy King Josiah clearly presupposes the existence of some such collection;
but both the incident and the collection are impossible to date
exactly (approximately 630 BC). The Pentateuch (or at least its
first four books) was in process of assembly in Jerusalem before
the Old Testament into the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa
may reflect stages in the history of the canonization of the Old
Testament. Thus the Law may have been the first to be canonized,
then the written form of the message of the prophets, then some
of sacred writings were put together quite early in the history
of Israel, but they did not become a canon until much later. How
much later, depends upon the list of books assembled in the Greek
translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. Most scholars
have drawn the inference that the Jewish collection of sacred books
was still in a fluid state in the 2nd Century BC, that the status
4 -- of the Apocrypha, as well as that of some books
in the Hagiographa, was unclear.
The Name canon
may properly be applied to the books that seem to have been adopted
by the assembly of rabbis at Jamnia about AD 90 or 100 under the
leadership of Rabbi Akiba. Until then, apparently, the status of
the Song of Solomon and of Ecclesiastes remained doubtful, but at
Jamnia they were definitely included in the canon. That canon did
not include the additions of Esther, Jeremiah and Daniel that
are found in the Septuagint. Formally, then, the Jewish canon of
scriptures came to include the Pentateuch, the Prophets and the
Hagiographa, as it has ever since.
light on the process by which the Jewish canon of the Old Testament
was formed has come from the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls.
The books of the Old Testament included in them suggest that the
Pentateuch and the Prophets had been standardized by about the 4th
Century BC, together with most of the Hagiographa; but some of the
Hagiographa (including Daniel) were still in dispute until the assembly
at Jamnia. After the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 and the rise of
the Christian movement, the Jewish community felt obliged to fix
the limits of its Bible more precisely.
5 -- Christian Canon of Old Testament: The
Bible of Jesus and of the early Christians was the Old Testament,
but no list of the books it might have included exists.
For most of
the early Christian Fathers the Old Testament meant the Septuagint,
since few of them other than Origen knew Hebrew. Although they were
aware of the divergence between the canon as accepted by the Jews
and the list of books contained in the Septuagint, the examples
of Melito, Origen and Athanasius suggest that the status of the
disputed books remained in doubt during the first four centuries
of the Christian era.
one of the few Christians in those centuries to learn Hebrew. What
he learned from the Jewish rabbis caused him to distinguish sharply
between the canon as approved by the Jews and the catalogue represented
in the Septuagint. As he came to prefer the Hebrew text to the Septuagint,
so he also assigned primary authority to the Jewish canon and put
the Apocrypha into, at best, a secondary position. Jerome's contemporary,
Augustine, on the other hand, provides a catalogue of Old Testament
writings that includes these books. Throughout the Middle Ages the
status of the Apocrypha remained doubtful. Some theologians followed
Jerome and excluded them altogether from the Bible in the strict
sense; others followed Augustine and accepted them with very little
hesitation; still others had reservations about them but used them
as Holy Scripture. Contact between Jewish and Christian scholars,
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which was commoner during the Middle Ages than is often supposed,
served to point out to many Christian theologians the discrepancies
between their Old Testament and the Bible of the Jews. But it was
not until the period of the Reformation that the issue once more
became a matter of concern and of controversy to Christian thinkers.
As part of
their insistence that the church return to the Bible, the Protestant
Reformers called for the elimination of the deuterocanonical books
from the Scriptures. Luther's translation of the bible included
them but put them into a separate section as "Apocrypha",
which deserved to be read but not to be put on the same level as
canonical scripture. The other Reformers were even more vigorous
in their opposition. Believing that the Old Testament canon in use
among the Jews of their time was also the Bible of Jesus and of
the early Christians, they refused to accept quotations from the
Apocrypha as support for Christian teaching.
the 16th and 17th centuries, therefore, the churches of Christendom
have had a clearly defined canon of the Old Testament. The canon
of Protestantism and that of Judaism are identical, but the order
of books is different.
The New Testament is the shorter portion of our Christian
Bible, however, despite the size, more is written and talked about
in the New Testament than the Old. Christians in general are more
familiar with the New Testament. Again, as in the Old, the New Testament
is a collection of books which ids divided in four sections:
7 -- 1. THE GOSPELS which
are the teachings and the life of Jesus.
THE BOOK OF ACTS which is the story of Christianity
from the resurrection of Jesus, to the end of the career of Paul,
THE EPISTLES which are letters by early church leaders
applying to sundry needs and problems in the church, the
THE BOOK OF REVELATION or "Apocalypse or Prophetic"
is the only book in the canons that is primarily all prophetic in
nature. The history of the New Testament is a short time span.
THE GOSPELS are comprised of books; Matthew, Mark Luke and
John. What the Pentateuch is to the Old Testament the Gospels are
to the New Testament. The Gospels are the events surrounding Jesus
Christ. Though they seen to be dependent upon one another for much
of their material, the first three are distinct books each with
its own purpose and structure, the book of John is more individual
than the others. These four portraits form the basis for the rest
of the New Testament.
BOOK OF ACTS is written as a continuation of Luke. This book
links the Gospels and the Epistles; it is historical in nature.
Neglected as it has been sometimes by students, Acts in the New
Testament performs the same function as the books of history do
in the Old Testament. Without Acts the reader of the Epistles looses
EPISTLES comprises twenty-one books in all, most of which were
composed for a specific need in the early church; more than half
are ascribed to Paul. The books contained are: Romans, I and II
Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and
II Thessalonians, the (Pastoral Epistles) are I and II Timothy,
Titus and Philemon; the
8 -- book Hebrews was considered
an elaborate argument for Christianity as the successor of
Judaism, James, I and II Peter, I, II and III John and Jude.
BOOK OF REVELATION, the last book in the Bible consists of a
series of visions which caused alarm and bewilderment to students
of the Bible.
Now let us
look at how the New Testament canon was formed:
seem to have been responsible for the rise of the New Testament
canon, but church historians vary in the amount of weight they assign
to each. One factor certainly was the sheer passage of time, as
the church needed to discover whatever resources it could to bind
it to its past and to guarantee its continuance in the tradition
of the faith; the "Memoirs of the Apostles" were one such
resource. Also responsible for the establishment of the canon was
the circulation of writings that bore the names of Apostles but
did not contain apostolic teaching.
The only way
to eliminate these forgeries was to define the limits of the apostolic
writings. Such a definition became a crucial necessity when the
heretic Marcion compiled a canon of the New Testament containing
his edition of the Epistle of Paul and of the Gospel of Luke,
which he regarded as the only genuine Gospel. Although it now appears
that Marcion did not cause the church to establish its canon, he
did accelerate the process. Another heretical movement that helped
to accelerate it was Montanism. The task of sifting through the
writings of the early church occupied the Christians well into the
p 9 --
suggested the following division of these writings:
were acknowledged almost universally as part of the New Testament;
Others were disputed but finally accepted;
Still others were considered more or less serious
but eventually rejected.
BOOKS -- The earliest pieces of Christian literature to be collected
seem to have been the letters of Paul, but it could appear that
initially, at least, they should qualify as "Scriptures".
From the liturgical usage of the church at Rome it would appear
that the Gospels were the first Christian books to be added to the
Old Testament as supplementary Scriptures, and that this had happened
by the middle of the second Century. Also from Rome and also apparently
from the second Century comes the oldest existing list of New Testament
writings, the so-called Muratorian fragment, so named because it
was published by Ludovico Muratori. It was written in Latin and
contains the names of the books being read in the church at Rome
about AD 200. By about that time, as the writings of Irenaeus and
Tertullian suggest, both Lyons and Carthage were using the Gospels,
the Epistles of Paul and some other Epistles as Scripture. A few
years later the works of Origen in Alexandria make it clear that
he also was working with a similar, though not identical, collection.
four places -- Rome, Lyons, Carthage and Alexandria -- may be compiled
a list of books on which they all seem to have been agreed. They
are: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, I and II Corinthians,
Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians,
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I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon and I
BOOKS -- From
these same sources and from several church fathers quoted by Eusebius
may be assembled also a list of the books that were disputed on
one or another ground, but that were eventually included in the
canon of the New Testament. The Epistle of Hebrews belongs to this
category. It seems to have been accepted in the Eastern section
of the church, but disputed in the West, for it does not appear
in the Muratorian canon and is also questioned by other writers.
The Epistle of James was in doubt by even more writers. Although
I Peter is almost universally acknowledged, it is not listed in
that category. Because of its absence from the Muratorian catalogue.
II Peter, on the other hand, was questioned by many fathers who
accepted I Peter. The Epistle of Jude appears in the Muratorian
canon but was rejected elsewhere. II and III John sometimes were
included with I John as one book, but they did not receive the universal
support that it did. The book of Revelation probably was the object
of more antagonism than any of the other books eventually canonized.
The Montanist movement made apocalyptic literature suspect in the
orthodox church, and some writers did not believe that the same
man who had written the Gospel of John had written Revelation.
BOOKS -- There
is an exhaustive list of books that appear under the article Apocrypha
p 11 --
FORMATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CANON -- The
writings of Eusebius and of his contemporary Athanasius make it
evident that agreement on the disputed books was approaching by
the middle of the fourth Century, and that the canon of the New
Testament that now appears in our Bibles was gaining general, if
not quite universal, acceptance. That canon appears for the first
time in the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius, in AD 367.
After the Festal
Letter other traditions held their own for a time. Thus the school
of Antioch in general accepted only three catholic Epistles -- James,
I Peter, I John -- while one of its most illustrious representatives,
Theadore of Mopsuestia, rejected the whole of this section of the
canon. The West followed the lead of Athanasius. In 382 AD a synod
was held at Rome under Pope Damasus at which the influence of Jerome
secured the adoption of a list of books answering that of Athanasius.
This was ratified by Pope Gelasius at the end of the fifth Century.
The same list was confirmed independently for the Province of Africa
in a series of synods at Hippo Regius in 393 AD, and at Carthage
in 397 AD, and 419 AD under the leadership of Augustine. The Second
Canon of the Second Trullan Counsel of 692 AD, the Quinisextum,
may be taken to have formally closed the process of the formation
of the Canon for the East and the West. This Canon as accepted then,
stands now as found in our Bible.
Message for Christians Today -- Pertaining
now in theology to three specific books which were under strain
as to whether they would be accepted or not in the Canon play a
great roll in the message
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Christians to give to the world today. They are Daniel in the Old
Testament, Hebrews and Revelation in the New Testament.
with all its emphasis in prophetic understanding is lightly regarded
by the Jews; it is not considered worthy to be among the books of
prophecy because it is believed that Daniel had the gift of prophecy
but not the office of a prophet. It was also under question because
of its apocalyptic nature and, therefore, Daniel in the Jewish Canon
is not found in the Hagiographa and not in the Prophets.
to the dispute as to the authorship of Hebrews it was under question
as to being accepted in the New Testament. The requirement for acceptance
in the Canon was that it had to be written by an Apostle or a companion
of an Apostle; the authorship, most have ascribed to Paul, others
to Barnabas and others say Apollos.
OF REVELATION -- Revelation
is one of a group of books called Apocalyptic or Visions in Symbols.
Other Apocalyptic books are -- in the Old Testament Daniel, in the
Catholic Apocrypha -- second Esdras, and in the Non-Canonical books
such as Enoch and Baruch, also many parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
It is interesting to note that out of all these Apocalyptic books,
God made sure that Daniel and Revelation were included into the
canon of Scripture as we use it today.
p 13 --
VERSIONS OR TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE --
There are many versions or translations of the Bible such as: King
James Version, New International Version, Moffatts, Douay, and many
others. Of all the translations of the Bible the King James Version
stands far above all others in that it was a direct translation
from the original Greek and Hebrew where others are individual translations
from the King James Version.
into being directly by the Roman Catholic Church by the Jesuits
to combat the King James Version. The Douay was translated from
the Latin vulgate which many Roman Catholic teachers admit to have
thousands of errors.
even though it is written in old English style, is still the preference
of many because all the cross reference materials such as Concordances,
interlinears and word studies all refer to the King James Version
in the English language. This is why I personally prefer to use
the King James Version. Even though others may be easier to read,
the King James Version is closest to the true text of the original.
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