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The Canon of Scripture

posted Mar 26, 2013, 10:17 AM by First Baptist

Last week during BYF, a 4th grader had a question for me:  “Pastor Dan, how was it decided which books would be included in the Bible?”


Frankly, I struggled to answer because (a) it’s a question that doesn’t lend itself to a quick answer and (b) I needed to use language and concepts that a 4th grader would understand.


The bigger issue is that, as people of the Book, we should know how we got the Bible. This is especially true now that the Bible is no longer as respected (or consulted) in our culture.


Which books rightfully belong in the Bible is known as the question of “canonicity.” The English word canon goes back to the Greek word kanon and then to the Hebrew word qaneh. The word literally means “standard” or “rule.” It was also used to refer to a list or index, and when applied to the Bible, denotes the list of books which are received (recognized) as Holy Scripture.


The Old Testament


Both Protestants and Catholics accept the Jewish Scriptures as being inspired (“God-breathed”) and thus authoritative. We know from history that, by the time of Jesus, the canon of the Old Covenant was fixed. Jesus quoted from the Jewish Scriptures often and it’s clear he regarded them as sacred writings. The 1st century historian Josephus did us the favor of actually enumerating the books contained in the Jewish Scriptures.


The New Testament


As to the New Testament books, not long after they were written, they were being read regularly in the church assemblies. The words of Jesus and his apostles were regarded as no less authoritative than the Old Testament. In this way, the NT canon gradually took shape. By the close of the second century, its essentials had been largely determined, and by the next century, the NT books as they are known today constituted the supreme authority for the church.


Next week: Why certain other writings were NOT accepted into the canon?



Pastor Dan