NO. 6 – THE CANON
How did we come to arrive with the books we currently have in the Bible?
The claim is often made that, our current Bibles contain those books/letters that some kind of church synod (meeting) decided on. They chose these books reportedly to present some false idea about who Jesus was and about how we should live. Very often the sceptic will associate these claims with the emperor Constantine and the council of Nicea in AD 325.
Is there any truth in this and, how did this book that we have known as the Bible come to be?
Initially all current 4 gospels were grouped as one, as were the letters of Paul. These were grouped together for transport sake, (brought to many churches) in documents known as a Codex. These books were being used in all churches and were accepted due to their apostolic authority. Some books such as Hebrews were accepted later due to doubts over there authorship. The theological consistency with other apostolic documents has meant that it received widespread support.
The impetus later to have an accepted list was in part due to heretical gospels and letters which were not recognised by the majority (e.g. Marcion, Gospel Thomas) who rejected even the Old Testament.
An accepted document according to Eusebius had to meet three criteria:
1) Use in the Church
2) Apostolic Origin
3) Theological Consistency
As described by Eusebius; (History Eccl. 3.25.1-7)
Our current books were the ones that meet this criteria from the very beginning, they had widespread acceptance, were being used in the churches and were speaking a consistent message.
The question should not be why are our current books are in the Bible, but why were others rejected and, on the basis of what criteria where they rejected?
Princeton Professor B.M. Metzger states that
“The canon was not so much chosen as recognised, and the books that were left out were not excluded by an arbitrary decision. They excluded themselves because under careful scrutiny by many different Christians it was recognised that these documents were in some way inconsistent and lacked agreement or harmony with the sacred texts which all respected. Orthodoxy preceded canon, and helped the process of discerning what the canon should like like.
Here are four facts which confirm our canon and the current 27 books.
1) Almost all current books had widespread acceptance from the very beginning (e.g. Start second century).
2) Muratorian Fragment dated to
AD170 contains a list of the generally accepted books (long before any church council).
3) Early church fathers listed many times between 2nd-4th centuries a list of accepted and non-accepted books. Again were agreed by the majority of Christendom.
4) The Council of Nicea is well described historically and at no point did they remove or include any book which wasn’t already accepted. They met to consider the deity of Jesus and the nature of the trinity.
The above assertion (Council of Nicea) is a myth, as is any old or new claim such as Dan Browns Da Vinci Code. These facts above make such claims untenable.
Any questions please post to me.