The canon (from Greek kanon: “norm,” “standard,” or “list”) of books recognized as Holy Scripture by Anglicans, Eastern and Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and all main-line Protestants includes the books of the Hebrew Bible, written before Christ and therefore called “The Old Testament,” and 27 books in Greek, written after Christ and therefore called “The New Testament.”
It is important to note that the church did not create the canon; it did not determine which books would be called Scripture, the inspired Word of God. Instead, the church recognized, or discovered, which books had been inspired from their inception. Stated another way, “a book is not the Word of God because it is accepted by the people of God. Rather it was accepted by the people of God because it is the Word of God. That is, God gives the book its divine authority, not the people of God. They merely recognize the divine authority which God gives it.” Geisler/Nix, General Introduction to the Bible, p.210).
The Protestant Bible contains 66 books -- 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The Catholic Bible contains the same 66 books, plus the Apocrypha.
The 39 Old Testament books are the same books that were included in the Jewish Palestinian canon. These books were considered canonical by the Jewish community, and were often quoted as authoritative by Jesus and the New Testament writers: "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalm" (Luke 24:44). The Apocrypha is never quoted as authoritative by Christ or any New Testament writer.
Jesus promised that his words would be remembered. He promised that the Holy Spirit would not only bring his words to mind, but would provide instruction as well: "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:25-26). The New Testament is a fulfillment of that promise.
The first record of the completed New Testament canon, as we recognize it today, is found in the writings of Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D. 367). That is not to imply, however, that prior to A.D. 367 there was confusion as to which books were considered authoritative. The majority of books contained in the New Testament canon were considered authoritative from the time they were written. Of the 10 additional books seriously considered as possible additions to the canon, three were rejected because they did not meet the stringent criteria. The criteria used to determine canonicity are as follows: (a) apostolic authorship or endorsement; (b) accepted as authoritative by the early church; (c) written by a confirmed prophet of God; and (d) harmonization with uncontested books.
The legitimate Bible translations we use today are completely reliable. While many cults mistranslate God's word to fit their own theology, there is ample manuscript evidence to affirm that most modern translations of the Bible are extremely accurate. Those that deny this do so for personal reasons, and not because of manuscript evidences. Clearly, the books included in our canon can be considered the inspired word of God. - Gospel Outreach.net
Definition of Canon
CANON is taken from a Greek root-word (KANON) which means "a measure", "a rule for judgment", "an authoritative standard". This word is used in 2 Corinthians 10:13-16 of the measure or rule of truth which God had given by which all things are tested. The word KANON is also used in Galatians 6:16 of the rule by which we walk (i.e., by which we measure and direct our lives). The canon is for us the inspired Word of God which is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
Placement as Canon
When did the Biblical books become canon? The answer the Bible gives is that they became canon as they were written! By the act of inspiration each Biblical book was immediately a rule of truth. The authors of the books so regarded them and spoke of them as the Word of God (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16). Believers never had to wait for the decision of a church council to tell them that the writings of Moses were from God, or that the epistles of Paul were with certainty the inspired truth. There are many O.T. and N.T. references where the authors show us that they so recognized one another's works as being inspired. They even show evidence of such confidence in their own writings.
Old Testament Canon
From the earliest references to the completed Old Testament (Josephus in his CONTRA-APION, tractate BABA-BATHRA in the Talmud, Jerome's testimony, Philo and New Testament references) there are no disputes among believers as to what constituted the canonical books. As heresies arose some books were rejected and Talmudic tractates and the writings of such men as Josephus defended the accepted collection of books. The confirmation of the present collection in the Qumran documents further lends confidence to this consensus. Jerome (translator of the Latin Vulgate) translated two of the so called Apocryphal books then refused to do any others because of the confusion he was afraid they would produce. The church later added the Latin translations of the apocryphal O.T. books when the Vulgate was published. Even St. Augustine recognized the apocryphal books as being good books for reading but rejected them as to their being a rule for faith and practice. The same view is common among the other church fathers (Cardinal Ximenes of Spain, Cardinal Cajetan...). It was not until the Council of Trent (1546) that the argument about the apocryphal books was finally settled by the Roman Church. They received the O.T. and N.T. books as we have them as canon then agreed to include the apocryphal books but only as recommended reading (sort of like study-Bible footnotes). Even Martin Luther the reformer recommended the reading of the apocrypha as being worthy literature. He never looked on them as having inspired authority.
New Testament Canon
The New Testament is not disputed much either among Christians. The books we now have were always recognized by the church and its members. The New Testament apocryphal books have never been considered to be a part of our Bible (just read them and you will see why). It was only a few heretics that argued at times about certain books because they did not like what one author or another said. But it was never the authority of any church council that gave true believers confidence about the Bible. It was the testimony of the Holy Spirit bearing witness with the Word that made them willing to even give their lives for the preservation of canonical scripture. It is true that many church councils made pronouncements about the list of canonical books. But that was always in response to some specific outside attack by cultists (Apion and others). It was not because the Christians had any doubts as to what belonged there.
If we allow the words of church council to stand as a clearing-house of what is true, or if we wait for the judgment of scholars to know what to believe, then we have looked to some authority above our Bible and we undermine the finality the Scriptures must have in all matters of our lives. The spirit of the Bereans in Acts 17 ought to be ours. They "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Bob Burridge - A BIBLE COMPANION copyrighted shareware software Version 5.0
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