Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bible Doctrine - The Canonization of the Bible

The word canon means “measuring rod, rule, or standard”. In reference to the Bible, the Canon refers to those books that have been measured and found worthy to be a part of the Bible. The process of canonization is viewed in two stages: the books that were determined by God which was complete by 96 AD with the writing of Revelation, and the recognition of their’ inspiration by man at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD.

In regards to being determined by God, the Old Testament was written and collected by the Jewish people. Jesus believed that all of it was inspired because he either quoted from or alluded to every book in it with the possible exception of Esther.

Unlike our English Bible, the Hebrew Bible starts with Genesis and ends with 2 Chronicles. Jesus alluded to this in Luke 11:51 when he said: “From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation.” Abel’s blood was shed in Genesis 4:8 and Zacharias’ in 2 Chronicles 24:21. Thus, Jesus was affirming that he believed everything in between.

In regards to being determined by man, the books of the New Testament that were chosen to be included was determined by things such as apostolic authority, authorship, local church acceptance, church father’s recognition, subapostolic (immediate leadership after the age of the apostles), and authority.

Of course, there were books that were rejected that we refer to as the apocryphal books. These were written during the intertestamental period between Malachi and Matthew which was approximately four hundred years. The reason for their rejection included the fact that they never claimed to be inspired, some of their teachings are heretical (e.g., sinless perfection, worship of angels, prayers for the dead, etc.), they were never recognized by the early church, they were never allowed a place in the Canon until 400 years after Christ by Jerome in the Latin Vulgate under pressure of the Roman Catholic Church, and finally they contradict other portions of the Bible and even themselves.

Of course there is much more that could be said on this subject. A great book to read if you want to go deeper is The Canon of Scripture by F. F. Bruce.


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