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THE CANON OF THE BIBLE

DID THE CHURCH INVENT IT?

  Carlos Padilla, September 2014

 

The Bible affirms it is the Work of God, a book that contains the Revelation of the Message of God to man and that it comprises, or its similar to an encyclopaedia of sixty six books, written during a period of one thousand five hundred years by more than forty writers who affirm they had received the Inspiration and the Revelation of the Word of God. Will that Inspiration be the one that proves the Canon, or did the Church invent it?

On the other hand, many books proclaim to be the Word of God, like the Coram of Islam, the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavad-Gita of the Hindus, as source of eternal truth, and even the Jew Karl Marx in his atheist worldview thought that his work The Communist Manifest was the truth.

But there is something terrible happening since universities exist, especially Europeans, which is the antichrist attack that our children suffer when they attend to study. Statistics show that 80% of young Christian who go to university loose their faith before the attack of antichrist teachers, who deny the Bible as the Word of God and discredit it as a book out of fashion, etc. However the Bible is becoming relevant again before the scientific evidence of Creationism and Intelligent Design which boosts out of Creation, and the current discrediting of Darwinism due to evident scientific impossibilities in its theory, now obsolete before modern science.

A good argument in defence of the authority of the Bible, and its authors, as a unified message is the one of Josh McDowell, who says: Take ten contemporary authors and ask them to write about their points of view on a polemic matter. Would they agree? No, we would have disagreement between one author and the other. Now consider the authority of the Bible. All authors, in a period a thousand five hundred years wrote about many different polemic matters and did not contradict each other. This means that there is one only author that guided them all, like 2Peter 1:21 says: "...for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."

About the sixty six books in the Bible, several questions arise whether these books are all that should be part of the great book of The Bible, or if there are other books written, or that could be written still, and if they could be part of The Bible. Or who has the authority to designate these books as those who comprise The Bible, and what features do they show to deserve to be part of it, that the other books do not have. To answer those questions we find the matter of the canonicity of Scripture. The Bible that we have today, made by those sixty six books is considered by the erudite and theologians as the composition accepted by all, for the reason that all the books show a feature that the rest of books, those called "apocryphal" do not show. That feature that all those books have, that we will see what it consists of, its called Canonicity.

If the Bible that we read today -in the better versions- is the translation of the original autographs is of vital importance, but if that translation was not of the books that contain the truth of the Message of God to Israel, to the Church and to the world, then all the work would be a waste of time. The Canon is the guarantee that gives us peace of mind that what we read is truly The Word of God, and as we can see, the Canon not only is recognizable by those erudite and masters who determined it, but the believer that has received the faith and has been born again, will be able to check, with the help of the Holy Spirit that in deed, those, and not other books are inspired by God.

 

CONCEPT OF CANON

The word canon comes from the Greek "kanon" which can be translated as rule for measure, reed or rod, although its root is "stalk of bamboo or willow". The Jews have always used a rod of three metres as measure, which is similar to the standard we are talking about. Canon has become a word that we all use to talk about authorized measures, or authorized features, a measuring tool. In the Church it has come to have two meanings. The first is to refer to the group of sacred books that comprise the Bible, and the second to refer to those books as the rule of life of the believer.

 

HISTORY OF THE CANON OF THE BIBLE

The Church started to use the term to refer to the rule of faith that the Creeds showed, and latter it did with the books of The Bible. The Church, in times of Irenaeus or Lion was fighting against syncretism at that time, a tendency to take from all religions different doctrines, so many would interpret the Christian faith their way; it was the time that faced the dangerous gnosticism which sais it's a higher revelation, through knowledge, providing those books or ideas that the movement considered appropriate to their beliefs, as a cult. The reply of the Church would be the Canon. Until then the Greek version of the Old Testament, version called Septuagint, even though it included some of the non inspired Hebrew books, it would be the closest compilation to the sacred books used, and also the Gospels and letters of the Apostles would be read, but the New Testament was not configured as such until the II century. But it would not be the will of Christians, but bit by bit, and not in a council or meeting that would be called to determine the NT The best example of inspiration is the fact that it includes four Gospels, and not one, proving that there were four apostles -or authors under an apostle- that had received the Revelation and knew Jesus. To determine the Christian Doctrines the Creed was configured, which followed the Canon of faith common to the Church.

The Church so found -in these sixty six books that comprise it- a feature in all of them that could be observed and became the guarantee for the believer that its reading the Word of God. The Biblical Canon is the tool and measuring rod to measures other books written, or that may be written today, or that may claim that are revelation or inspiration of God, if they can be considered Scripture. The study will show us that the Canon is closed, and we know it through the following information:

In the Old Testament, from Moses to Malachi, in 425 BC that closed the fist part of the Canon, both the authors -that affirmed with no fear to be receivers of the Word of God- as the people of God -who revised the Writings not finding any error- and the accepted reading in the Synagogues, especially in the great synagogue of the last period, where the last compilers of the Canon where, the school of scribes of Ezra, all showed the correct information whether theological, or historical, or prophetical, or geographical, following a spiritual correlation as well as inspirational from God. There was about fourteen books written after the time of the great synagogue that were tried to be included in the Canon, but they did not show the features for it, like Maccabees I and II, Tobias, Judith, Susan and others. The Jewish people finally did not accept them. But surprisingly enough the Catholic Church did accept those books, then known as apocryphal, in the Council of Trento in 1546 AD which explains why some of their heretic doctrines, like the prayer for the dead is part of that church, a falsehood that is not accepted by the Jews, nor by Protestants.

The Old Testament as we know it was accepted as: The Law, The Books of The Prophets and The Books of The Writings, were kept zealously next to the Ark of the Covenant and were red and known to all the people. The Canon has testimony in the Prologue to Ecclesiastic, in Philo, in Jesus Christ, Josephus, and in the Council of Jamnia, or in the Babylonian Talmud, these since 132 BC until the 4th century AD. The Old Testament, primarily, was written during a long period of time of more than a thousand years, which provides it a progressive acceptance of the inspired books, which followed certain rules. First, the revelation of God was given to a prophet who would also transmit it to the people. For years, like Moses, the Revelation was written, either when it was received, Exodus 24:3-7, Joseph 24:26, and other times after reciting them they were written, like 1Samuel 10:25 and Jeremiah 30:1-2. Second, the people would accept the Word as of God and was recognized, sometimes immediately, but others with time, when the message was of exhortation and not of blessing. The Law (Torah) received by Moses was received by the first generation, then Joshua 23:6, David, Solomon and Josiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra until Malachi 4:4, book that closes the OT Also were accepted the books of the Prophets (Nebiim), earlier than Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, and the latter, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve), 2Kings 20:14-19, Daniel 9:2 or Ezra 5:1 are true proof of them. Also, along this period were accepted the so called Writings (Ketubim), Psalm 18 in 2Samuel 22 and Psalm 105 in the New Testament, 1Corinthians 16:7-22. The first compilation of the Word of God was kept with zeal near the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holiest an official copy of those books considered as inspired and with authority from God, as we can read in Deuteronomy 31:9-12. But in the kingdom of Josiah, en 621 BC was discovered the book of the Law of Moses, which is a reference to the history of the Canon. This order and the list also appear in the Bible of Ferrara of the Sephardim. Finally in times of the OT  the collection of the books of the Canon was spread. The prophets followed a practice called "colophon" that united the books as a continuity: Deuteronomy 24 or Ezra 1:1-2 are example. Judaic tradition includes the Great Synagogue of the Scribes, where it explains how scribe Ezra, with them, had the responsibility to preserve, recognize and transmit the Old Testament as a Canon, and the date is estimated in 400 BC to 200 BC. It can be read in Luck 24:27-44 from Jesus Christ, in Josephus, or in the prologue of Ecclesiastic. The Council of Jamnia 90 AD and the Babylonian Talmud 4 AD complete the evidence.

The Canon of the New Testament follows mainly the same lines of authentication of the Old, in its short period of time of about fifty years. The Apostles declare having been inspired by God and the authority of their Writings; Revelation 1:3. The autograph where received and copied for their transmission to the churches. The evidence of the New Testament includes the mention of Peter about the letters of Paul. The fist fathers of the Church give testimony as the inspired books. Latter in the Councils and the translations would provide more evidence, as well as the Canon, like the Muratorian, or the Baroccocio Codex. But as in the OT in the New, there were books that were questioned and then approved, like Hebrews for its "anonym", James for its polemic -that is not so- about the justification through works as well as through faith, and 2 Peter for a change in style. 2 and 3 of John, Judas and Revelation, all were finally accepted for their inspiration. Other books and apocryphal gospels were never accepted. Its preservation would be in the Church everywhere, instead of in the Holy of Holiest of the OT and in particular the fact of having to fight against many heresies that appeared and would mix with the canonical teachings, as Gnosticism or Aryanism, or the proposals of Marcion, but the Church would custody the true Word of God under the guide of the Holy Spirit. Then it would be the Word of God itself that would come to the world and would give testimony of its authenticity, He who is the same Word of God and builder of the Canon became flesh and lived amongst us.

The New Testmanent includes the affirmation of the apostles themselves of being inspired by God in their writings and commanded that they would be shared with all the churches due to the authority of the inspiration, Galatians 1:11-12 or Revelation 1:3, 17-19. The apostles accepted those books from their brothers of apostolate that were inspired approving them as such, 2Peter 3:15-16,  citing them as Sacred Scripture. The believers also accepted them and until today, we do, as Word of God, Galatians 4:14: "...but received me as an angle of God, even as Christ Jesus." Regarding its preservation, the first churches and most relevant like Jerusalem, Antioquia of Syria, Ephesus, Corinth or Rome received and kept the Scripture.

The fist fathers were who would finish the recognition of what would make the collection of the Canon in base to the Letters of Paul that Peter refers to in his second Letter 3:15-16, from before the 70 AD and they did before the II Century was finished. Polycarp who was disciple of John, mentions Matthew in his writings, John, 10 letters of Paul, 1Peter and the two first letters of John. Justin Martyr adds Revelation. Irenaeus talks about 23 of the 27 books of the NT Clement of Alexandria, then in 200 AD. Eusebius includes them all as does Athanasius. Then followed the Councils, which were not called for the Canon, but for heresies, are evidence with they mention the 27 books of the Inspired Scripture, from Nicaea 325 AD at Hypo and Cartago 393 and 397 AD. We also add the translations like the Old Syrian from 200 AD that includes them all except for five and of the Old Latin, a bit earlier, all but four. Also are evidence the Canons like the Moratoria of 170 AD or even the heretic of Marcion who mentions the 27 books. The Barococcio of 260 AD all but Esther and the NT but Revelation.

Therefore, the Canon of the Bible has been compiled in a process that includes the testimony of the apostolic period, the testimony of latter from 70-170 AD. Latter the period from 170-350 AD where the Councils start. In 393 AD and 397 AD those of Hypo and or Cartago would become the two Councils where all accepted the inspiration and authority o the 27 books for the fist time, closing the Canon. But yet in 350 AD Athanasius would refer for the first time to those books as the Canon of the New Testament. This does not mean that God does not guide nor equip His children for the Great Commission nowadays, nor that it has stopped acting with power, but He closed the written inspiration of His Revelation.

 

REQUIREMENTS FOR A BOOK TO BE PART OF THE CANON

The Bible has its authority in the Inspiration, but is in the Canonicity where its acceptance remains. The features that a book of the Canon must have include its auto authentication; the Bible authenticates itself because its books are canonical -according to the rule of God- in the moment they were written 2Timothy 3:16, they do not need for councils nor of the approval of men. But it was in the councils where men recognized the evident inspiration of the Spirit in those Scriptures as such, and others not. It would not be in just one council, nor with lack of discussion between Christians, but all this provided a will to pray and to seek the truth to end up in what truly was the Inspiration of God. As we have said before, in the Council of Cartago in the year 397 AD the Church considers the Canon to is closed, because the Revelation of God is complete.

The canonical books have authority of a prophet, leader or apostle. Each book must be singular to be included. They must be accepted by the people of God, whether Israel or the Church, depending of the Testament. Some evidence were that not all books of an apostle were included, but only those that proved to be inspired by God, which avoids accepting a book by the author. Also of all the evidences and proofs we count with the last discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran. These are very important  because they corroborate the books of the Old Testament, in the very old copies found, about 175 scrolls mention almost all the books of Scripture from 500 found. Definitely a book is canonical when it is authoritative, is prophetic or apostolic, is authentic, is dynamic and has been accepted.

 

CANONICAL AND NON CANONICAL BOOKS

The homologoumena or accepted books by all the fathers of the Church and by the Jews, are those considered to be canonical. The Jewish people finally did not accept I and II of Maccabees, Tobias, Judith, Susan, and others. But surprisingly the Catholic Church did add the apocryphal in the Council of Trento in 1546 AD which explains why they have heretic doctrines like the prayer for the dead in this church, a falsehood that the Jews never accepted.

The Old Testament would find some difficulties to become the compilation of 39 books as we know it, as some of them took a while to be recognized. Esther does not mention God. Ecclesiastes has some sceptic and hedonist flavour. Songs scandalizes many, for its passion in love. Proverbs seams contradictory some times and Ezekiel was considered as contradictory with the Torah for some. They are all accepted if they are interpreted correctly.

The New Testament also had some books that were not accepted at the beginning, but were accepted finally by all for the Canon: Hebrews, for its apparent anonymity, but accepted for its apostolic authority that supports it. James due to the doctrine of justification through faith and the question of the works, badly interpreted by some. But it would be 2Peter the most problematic Epistle because of the doubtful authority for the difference of style with the first, that would be written by another amanuensis. The two letters of John 2 and 3rd for its little expansion at the beginning, but which's style is the one of the first Epistle. Judas included references to some rejected books or pseudoepigraphic, like Enoch and the Asuncion of Moses which took time to understand. Finally Revelation for its symbolism, it interpretation was difficult but it was never in doubt that John was its author.

The non canonical books are known as Apocryphal or Pseudoepigraphic. A list of those that appear in the Old Testament would be the one found in the Greek Translation Septuagint10 or of the 70, ordered to be translated by Ptolemy Philadelpho II for the Library of Alexandria with the aim of reuniting all the Hebrew books, following the pattern of the time which use to translate every document that would come to their hands, to Greek. Non of the books included that were not accepted by the Jews, nor were they cited by Jesus nor by the apostles. Another proof is that even the authors themselves do not say they were inspired by God like we read in the prologue of Ecclesiastic, 1Maccabee 4:46. Others provide a heretical ethic against the canonical books as well as historical errors, but they passed on to the Latin Vulgate in the IV century that Hieronymus translated, but he mentioned that they were a separate group, but Catholicism has inherited them until today, after their acceptance in the Council of Trento 1547 and Vatican 1870. Never, protestant Christians accepted those books as inspired by God; the Jews didn't either. The Westminster Confession of Faith from 1643 provides faithful witness that those are not authoritative to the true Church of God.

The apocryphal books are 1 and 2 of Maccabees from 100b.C. and 1Ezra as historical books. Tobias and Judith as romantic and patriotic books. Prayer of Azariah, Prayer of Manasseh, Additions to Esther, Susan, Bell and the Dragon, as books of lyrics and mysticism. Wisdom of Jesus son of Syrah, Wisdom of Solomon as books or moral and religion, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah and 2Ezra as prophetic books. Curiously they are all after the compilation of the 400 BC of the Great Synagogue.

The New Testament would not be free of an attack to the integrity of its inspiration on behalf of apocryphal and Pseudoepigraphic books, which would be read in public, like the Gospel according to the Hebrews in 65-100 AD or the letters of Pseudo-Barnabas to the Corinthians 96 AD. 2Clement, Sheppard of Hermas, the Didache or Teachings of The Twelve, or Polycarp and the 7 of Ignatius, all between the end of the first century and the beginning of the second. And, Acts of Paul and Thecla or Revelation of Peter both between 150 and 170a.C. Regarding the Pseudoepigrahpic we find heretic gospels like the one of the Egyptians, the one of the twelve Apostles, of the one or Peter, as well as letters of the Virgin, of Paul to the Laodiceans, many other Acts, and several Revelations like the one of Thomas and the one of Mary.

 

THE DANGERS OF THE NON CANONICAL BOOKS AND OTHERS

Many others were the books written in ancient times, and many the writings during the almost two thousand years of the Church, and many others that are written today, but non of them can be considered canonical after God has already given all His Revelation in the books that comprise The Bible, especially when they contradict the inspired, when they provide false historical, archaeological and moral data, amongst others.

As we saw before, Maccabees I and II, Tobias, Judith, Susan and others were rejected. The Jewish people finally did not accept them. But surprisingly enough the Catholic church did add the apocryphal in the Council of Trento in 1546 AD which explains why some of the heretic doctrines like the prayer for the dead is found in that church, a falsehood that is not accepted by the Jews, the same as the intercession for the saints and angels, Tobias 12:12, 2Maccabbee 15:14, Baruch 3:4, the redemption of the souls 2Maccabee 12:2.46.

From its part, the New Testament would have to fight against heresies of authors that mixed the Word of God with doctrines such as Aryanism, denying the godhood of Christ, or Montanism and its pretension of providing a new revelation and prophecy. Or Gnosticism that mixes the Word with a "rational enlightening", not inspired by the Spirit of God. Marcionism is a kind of Gnosticism, which mixes Christian doctrines with a dualism of God Father and a different God Creator, as well as two different parallel religions depending if we talk of Jews or Christians. Today, still we find proponents of supposed new revelations in sects and cults like the Mormons with the inspiration of their supposed prophet, or that of the Christian science, of the Jehova Witness; it is therefore not strange that many antichrists say that they have new revelations which are contrary to Scripture. The Canon is the rule of God for our security.

 

CONCLUSION

Therefore The Bible is complete, the Canon is closed; the Revelation of God is complete. The Bible is, therefore, our only measuring rod in life, our source of conduct and of inspiration in doctrine and in living in the Church, within the correct interpretation according to the New Testament. This does not stop God from talking today, or to inspire and move men of God for, in an identical line like the Canon and the written Revelation, pastor the Church of Christ until His return.

The Canon is the seal of authenticity of all the doctrines of the Bible as much as is the result of the Bibliology. It grants that what the Bible includes is the Revelation of God. It is based in the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which is directly related with the fact that it is the inerrant Word of God. It becomes the method of Preservation of the Bible for its Transmission, which at the same time grants that its Translation is trustworthy, as it comes from the true books, so we can come to it to study it, search it and Interpret it because the Holy Spirit will use it to provide us with Illumination about the Message of God, remaining as the highest Authority in doctrine, way of life of the Christian and Way to God, for He who Is the Word of God said He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Canon is, therefore, a list of authoritative books, not an authoritative list of books, the inspired books of God's encyclopaedia that contain His Revelation, The Bible, the one we read every day, and therefore the Canon was not invented by the Church, instead it was created by God.

 

 

 

  • For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Prophecy of Isaiah 9:6.


  • I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6. Words of Yahshua - Jesus Christ.
  • You want to know God, but you know the way is not through organized religion, nor by sects, nor by society. The world has failed. ...I pray for them;  I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours... John 17:9. Prayer of Yahshua - Jesus Christ.


  • If you really seek God, begin today the new life though the true hand of God. The Gospel is the message for all nations, no matter their race, their origins or culture. God is the saviour of those from humanity who open their hearts to Him.


  • ...Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  1Corinthians 15:58.

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