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Canonization of the Bible

“If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse (2 Tim 3:16-17 1984)!”

A discussion on how the Bible came to be



So how did the church fathers decide which Books to include in the Bible and which to exclude and what is meant by word canon. The word canon comes from the Greek kanwn, the Hebrew qaneh and Acadian quanu and literally refers to a measuring rod used by a ruler or mason to test the straightness and set standards (Keathley III 2009). Also is one speaking of the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant or another version of the Bible when referring to which books are in the cannon. This essay will explore such issues and debates as the developed throughout history and explain how we came to have the Bible as we know it today.

The Old Testament

“The Hebrew Bible today is physical the same as the original writings with only minor physical changes such as the additions of vowel pointing, reading aids and changes to letter form. From the time of Ezra and even before priest called sopherims were charged with the responsibility of the care and coping of the sacred text. Later scribes known as Masoretes developed strict guidelines for reproduction. These Masoretic texts contained 24 books beginning with Genesis and ending with 2 Chronicles and provide a basis for checking the accuracy of translations today (Keathley III 2009).”

In addition there exists early Greek translation of the Old Testament divided into 39 books known as the Septuagint. The Septuagint, or LXX, derives its name from a council of 70 Scribes whom initial translated the Hebrew into Greek. Other legends claim 6 scribes from each of the 12 tribes compiled the work. In actuality the number is actually hard to determine as many worked on this compilation. The Septuagint is divided into a fourfold division dividing Samuel, Kings, Chronicles and Ezra- Nehemiah each into two books. The Twelve Minor Prophets are divides into 112 instead of one book as in the Hebrew Bible making the total book count 39 as in the Protestant Bible. However the Septuagint also includes 10 Books of the Apocrypha. The Septuagint was first written around 250-160 B.C.  But the current version was not canonized by the Orthodox Church until around the 4th Century.  “

“The eastern Old Testament canon appears to have reached common ground about the middle of the fourth century. Books most dearly loved but thus excluded from the Old Testament Cannon such as Ecclesiasticus and The Wisdom of Solomon thereafter sometimes came to appear in not yet so sharply defined lists dating from this time. In 90 A.D. in the west evidence of other Books of the Apocrypha circulated thus signifying the completion of the Apocrypha. These Books were included in the Western Cannon but not in the Jewish Canon at this time (Sundberg Jr. 1975). However some still disputed the canon until the 7th council of Nicaea in 787 A.D (Septuagint: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 2014). The Septuagint was used by Jerome to translate the Bible into the Latin Vulgate and thus forms the basis for the Roman Catholic Bible. The Roman Catholic Bible includes some books of the Apocrypha not in the Greek Orthodox Bible. The protestant Bible However consist of a Four Fold division of the Septuagint without the Apocrypha. According to Ed Hindson and Gary Yates In the Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey : “ Though the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church accept the books of the Apocrypha as canonical Scripture, these books never Claim to be the Word of God. They were written after the time when the Jews believed God stopped Speaking through his prophets. Philo however frequently quoted from them and New Testament writers would cite them to prove a point (1 Cor 15:33; Titus 1:12). Despite the historical value they are not included in the Hebrew Bible However (Hindson and Yates 2012).”

“The books accepted by canon by some Jews and for the most part by the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches but rejected by the Protestants are: Baruch, Tobit, Judith, and Book of Wisdom. Song of the Three Children, History of Susanna, Bel the Dragon, Prayer of Manasseh, Ecclesiasticus, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 4 Maccabees, and 5 Maccabees. In addition  there are lost Books which are not considered canon but were cited by writers of the Bible and at times Church Fathers and they are: Book of  the Wars of the Lord, Book of Jasher, Book of the Covenant, Book of Nathan, Book of Gad, Book of Samuel, Prophecy of Ahijah, Visions of Iddo, Acts of Uzziah, Acts of Solomon, Three Thousand Proverbs of Solomon, A Thousand and Five Songs of Solomon, Chronicle of the Kings of Judah, Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, Book of Jehu and the Book of Enoch (The Bible was Put Together by Vote 2001).

Guidelines for what is Considered Canon

So what are the standards to be used to see if writing is to be canonical or not? Before we discuss the New Testament and its origin we shall discuss the standards for what is considered a divine revelation and what is not.

Old Testament Standards

  1. Was God Speaking through the Author making it an Authoritative work?
  2. Was the Author a Prophet or have the Gift of Prophecy?
  3. Was The Book Historically arcuate?

New Testament Standards

  1. Was the Book written by or have a connection to an Apostle?
  2. Was the Book Consistent with Christian Truth (Orthodoxy)?
  3. Was the Book universally accepted by the churches?

Two of the primary reasons for establishing a canon of the New Testament were to establish a universal church and to end heretical teachings. The above standards of what was to be canon were decided to ensure this could be achieved.

The New Testament

In the Apostolic Era the Epistle were being widely circulated among the many churches of the time and each church read from a preferred Gospel. Universally The Petrine Churches adopted the Gospel of Mathew. The Church of Rome  valued the 2nd Gospel That of Mark, The Pauline Sects preferred the Gospel of Luke, The Joahnnine or Eastern Churches read from John (The Bible was Put Together by Vote 2001). In the Post-Apostolic Era Clement of Rome mentioned eight books in his letter, Ignatius acknowledged seven, and Polycarp recognized fifteen. Irenus later recognized twenty-one and Hippolytus Twenty-two. The books that were considered a source of contention at this time were James, Peter, and 2 & 3 John (Keathley III 2009).  In 367 A.D Athanasius cited twenty-seven books as being divine and in 363 A.D. The council of Laodicea responded stating these twenty-seven books plus the Old Testament were to be read in church services. This was affirmed In Carthage in 397 A.D.  The 6th Council of Constantinople of 629 A.D. present additional books for consideration for canonization but was not until 1645 A.D that the modern canon came into existence establishing the Roman Catholic Canon. The Protestant Canon was established at an earlier date in 1563 A.D at The First Council of Trent. The Westminster assembly of 1647 A.D. formally adopted the books of the Bible a declared the Apocrypha to be non-authoritative. A Council of the Orthodox Church held in Jerusalem in 1672 added the Book of revelations to the Orthodox Bible.

One can see that after the modern council conveyed three different versions of the Bible came into being in Christianity the Orthodox Bible, The Roman Catholic Bible and the Protestant Bible. Even with these three in circulation and canonized there remains other canonized additions as well. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has its own Bible which includes forty – six Books of the Old Testament and Thirty-Five in The New Testament and the Coptic Church recognizes additional texts as canon in addition to the KJV or NKJV which is primarily used by the Church today. Even among the protestant versions the (N) KJV has omissions of verses in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark Luke and verses are missing in the Book of Acts and Romans as well.

There is also a difference of translation in 2 Corinthians: 13-14. As one can see  the debate over what is canon still can be argued among denominations and Churches as each choses which Bible is the divine inspired Word of God One should always remember:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17 1984).”

In God, Christ and Spirit,

Trenton Clark Rindoks


Word Count#1480










Hindson, Ed, and Gary Yates. The Essence of the OLd Testament: A Survry. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2012.

Keathley III, J. Hampton. “The Bible: The Holy Canon of Scripture.” 2 2, 2009. htpps:/ (accessed 4 1, 2014).

New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

Septuagint: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 4 3, 2014. (accessed 3 2014, 4).

Sundberg Jr., Albert C. “The Bible Canon and thr Christian Doctrine of Inspiration.” A Journal Of Bible and Theology, 1975: 352-371.

The Bible was Put Together by Vote. 2001. (accessed 1 2014, 4).









One Comment

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