~ New Testament Canon ~
Early Christianity and the New Testament emerged with the larger context of Judaism. Christians of the early church regarded the Old Testament story as incomplete and in need of a proper conclusion.
Because of Jesus, early Christians believed God was ushering in a new covenant. As they believed the apostles possessed the authority of Christ, the early believers received their writings as the very words of Christ himself. The apostles spoke with authority, but they always based their claims solely and directly upon their commission by the Lord.
The initial reason for collecting and preserving these inspired books was that they were prophetic. As well, because of the rise of heretical movements each with its own selected scriptures the church needed to know which books should be revered, read in church services, and applied to life. Early Christians needed assurance of which books served as their source of authority.
Says scholar J.K. Elliot, It is likely that the codex in which the Christian scriptures circulated helped to promote the establishment of the definitive, fixed canon of the 27 books we know as the New Testament. When each book circulated as a separate entity, obviously there was no limit to the number of texts that could be received. When certain, approved, texts were gathered into small collections this had the effect of ostracizing and isolating texts which were not deemed suitable for inclusion.
~ Old Testament Canon ~
The Old Testament canon is the treaty document that God made with Israel. The covenant is the single most important theological structure in the Old Testament.
The Talmud, an ancient collection of rabbinical laws, law decisions, and comments on the law of Moses preserves the oral tradition of the Jewish people. One compilation was made in Jerusalem between 350 and 425 AD. An expanded compilation of the Talmud was made in Babylonia about 500 AD. Each compilation is known by the name of its place of compilation. The Talmud helped to establish the Jewish canon by rejecting later writings, including the Christian Gospels, which they judged to be heretical works. Evidence clearly supports the theory that the Hebrew canon was established well before the late first century AD, though more likely as early as the fourth century BC.
A major reason for this conclusion comes from the Jews themselves, who from the 4th century BC onward were convinced that the voice of God had ceased to speak directly. In other words, the prophetic voice had been stilled. No word from God means no new Word of God. We know that Jesus often referred to the Old Testament there is no evidence that He found fault with the canonicity of any Old Testament book.
Of interest: the Catholic Bible includes 14 books considered not canonical, which are collectively known as the Apocrypha. Apocrypha are works of unknown authorship or doubtful origin. These books were included in the and the Latin Vulgate .
Did King James Change The Bible
Not only was it the first peoples Bible, but its poetic cadences and vivid imagery have had an enduring influence on Western culture. In 1604, Englands King James I authorized a new translation of the Bible aimed at settling some thorny religious differences in his kingdomand solidifying his own power.
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Nicaea And The Canon In History
There is no historical basis for the idea that Nicaea established the canon and created the Bible. The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity and other early evidence show that Christians disputed the boundaries of the biblical canon before and after Nicaea. For example, even lists from pro-Nicaean fathers such as Cyril of Jerusalem and Athanasius of Alexandria dont agree on the inclusion of Revelation. None of the early records from the council, nor eyewitness attendees , mentions any conciliar decision that established the canon.
There is no historical basis for the idea that the Council of Nicaea established the canon and created the Bible.
But since the Nicene Council is considered to have counted this book among the number of sacred Scriptures, I have acquiesced to your request .
Could Jerome be referring to a formal decision to include Judith in the canon? Thats unlikely.
What Is In The New Testament
The Christian New Testament is not written by one single author. Instead, the New Testament is made up of several unique and distinct texts, written by a variety of Christian disciples or scribes. First, the New Testament includes four narratives of the life of Jesus Christ, traditionally named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Though throughout Christian history it was believed that each of these narratives was authored by Jesus disciples or their close followers, many contemporary critical scholars have concluded that the texts may have been written by scribes who were familiar with the Greek language. Many have reached this conclusion because it is unlikely that Jesus followers knew how to write in Greek, considering their modest background and upbringing. It is more likely that they dictated the information to scribes that translated their accounts into Greek to reach a more vast audience.
In addition to the four Gospel narratives, the New Testament also consists of The Acts of the Apostles, a number of epistles written mostly by Paul of Tarsus to various early Christian communities, and the Book of Revelation. The book of Acts is believed to be written by the same author who constructed Lukes gospel narrative. Both books are addressed to the same person, Theophilus. Scholars are unsure whether Theophilus was an actual person or if the name is a metaphor for friends of God, which is the meaning of the name in the Greek.
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Who Decided What Books The Hebrew Bible Would Contain
The canonization of the Hebrew Bible into its final 24 books was a process that lasted centuries, and was only completed well after the time of Josephus
The Hebrew Bible is a collection of 24 ancient Hebrew books considered holy by adherents to the Jewish faith. But how did this collection come about? Who decided which books would be included, and which wouldnt be, and when did this happen?
This process, known as canonization, did not take place at once, or at some great council meeting. It was a protracted process that took place in stages. These stages correspond to the three major sections of the Bible, and during them, the holiness of at least some of the texts was fiercely disputed.
The first stage saw the creation of the collection called The Torah , with its five books. Only later was the second section, the Prophets with its eight books, created. And only then was the third section, the Writings, created too, resulting in the Hebrew Bible we know today, with its 24 books.
The Torah: Taking shape over centuries
The Torah consists of five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Genesis describes the creation of the world and the ensuing history until the sons of Jacob go down to Egypt .
and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.
Did the Prophets see Alexander coming
The age of Prophets ends
And now a word from Josephus
Arianism Was Deemed Heretical
After Alexander and Arius each made their case to the church, the council presented the Nicene Creed, and with it, they sealed the fate of Arianism. The creed included lines specifically written to condemn Arianism and uphold Homoousion .
Two bishops refused to sign the creed and sympathized with Arius. When Arius was exiled to Illyria, they got to tag along.
To put an end to Arianism once and for all, Emperor Constantine ordered that all of Arius works be burned, and his critics happily obliged. Constantine even ordered that if anyone was found with Arius writings, they would be put to death:
In addition, if any writing composed by Arius should be found, it should be handed over to the flames, so that not only will the wickedness of his teaching be obliterated, but nothing will be left even to remind anyone of him. And I hereby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius, and not to have immediately brought it forward and destroyed it by fire, his penalty shall be death. As soon as he is discovered in this offence, he shall be submitted for capital punishment.
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How Were Texts Selected For The New Testament
Many Christians throughout the world look to the bible, the New Testament specifically, as the sole authority for Christian life and teaching, but may not be aware of how this deeply influential and unique text came to be. Interestingly, there was no such thing as the Bible for, roughly, the first four centuries of Christianity.
What eventually became known as the New Testament was not ratified until a series of ecumenical councils, convened by the Catholic Church in the fourth and fifth centuries. These councils carefully considered potential testaments and epistles for inclusion in the canon and were ultimately included or excluded based on their ability to meet these various criteria. In what follows, I will explain what texts are now included in the canon, how those texts where chosen, and what ecumenical councils were most pivotal in creating what is now known of the Christian New Testament.
Disputed Spurious And Downright Heretical
Luther had issues with the book of James, which emphasized the role of “works” alongside faith, so he stuck James and Hebrews in the back of the Bible alongside Jude and Revelation, which he also thought were questionable. Combs says that in Luther’s original Bible, those four books don’t even appear in the table of contents.
Eusebius was a Christian historian writing in the early 300s who provided one of the early lists of which books were considered legit and which were borderline bogus.
Eusebius broke his list down into different categories: recognized, disputed, spurious and heretical. Among the “recognized” were the four gospels , Acts and Paul’s epistles. Under “disputed,” Eusebius included James and Jude the same books Luther didn’t like plus a few others that are now considered canon, like 2 Peter, 2 John and 3 John.
When Eusebius turns to the “spurious” and “heretical” categories, we get a glimpse into just how many other texts were in circulation in the second and third century C.E. Have you ever heard of the Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas or the Gospel of Thomas? Combs says that there were hundreds of texts similar to those found in the New Testament and Old Testament that didn’t make it into the canon.
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Home The Council Of Nicaea And Biblical Canon
Ideas have consequences. The idea that the Council of Nicaea , under the authority of Roman Emperor Constantine, established the Christian biblical canon attempted to show how the Bible originated from conspiracy and power play on the part of a relative few, elite bishops. That this idea persists today can be shown not only from Dan Browns Da Vinci Code but also from scanning Twitter :
The Holy Bible: Texts of shady origin collected by competing bishops on order of politically motivated Roman Emperor Constantine to stabilize his empire and since then repeatedly adapted to suit the needs of contemporary rulers and clergy, but never made to comply with reality.
The tweet combines several elements. Though it does not mention the Council of Nicaea by name, that is usually the chief venue at which these bishops carried out Constantines politically motivated order and where they created the Bible. There is no historical basis for this idea that the Council of Nicaea discussed and established the Canon of Scripture and thus created the Bible. As the early Christian canon lists and other evidences show, there were discussions over the canon before and after the Council of Nicaea. Furthermore, none of the early records from the Council nor eyewitness attendees mention any discussion over the Canon of Scripture. So whence did this idea originate?
How Were The Books Of The Bible Chosen
The Bible of Judaism includes the 39 books of the Old Testament, while the Christian Bible contains the 27 books from the New Testament. The Bibles Canon is the list of books that are included in it. The Canon is a list of books that God is believed to be inspired by God and therefore authoritative for faith or life. Any church did not create the Canon, but churches and councils slowly accepted the list of books that believers worldwide considered to be inspired.
The complete list of the 66 books that make up the Canon was first published by Athanasius, the church father, in 367 AD.
He distinguished them from other widely circulated books and noted that the 66 books were the only ones universally accepted.
It is important to remember that the creation of the Canon did not happen overnight. Instead, it was the result of years of reflection.
Lets start with the Old Testament. The first five books, sometimes called the Torah or Pentateuch, were accepted as canonical. It is unknown when, but we believe it occurred in the Fifth Century before Christs birth. Although the Hebrews were aware of the Law for centuries, they didnt pay much attention. It was likely that the prophets Ezra & Nehemiah restored it to common use and made it authoritative once and for all.
He has also provided this treasure through his providence. Follow his old commands and words, and you will find peace. Your heart will find peace when you immerse yourself in these pages.
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Eastern Orthodox Canon And The Synod Of Jerusalem
The Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 decreed the Greek Orthodox canon which is similar to the one decided by the Council of Trent. The Eastern Orthodox Church generally consider the is the received version of Old Testament scripture, considered itself inspired in agreement with some of the Fathers, such as St Augustine, followed by all other modern translations. They use the word Anagignoskomena to describe the books of the Greek Septuagint that are not present in the Hebrew Tanakh. The Eastern Orthodox books of the Old Testament include the Roman Catholic deuterocanonical books, plus 3 Maccabees and 1 Esdras , while Baruch is divided from the Epistle of Jeremiah, making a total of 49 Old Testament books in contrast with the Protestant 39-book canon. Other texts printed in Orthodox Bibles are considered of some value or are included as an appendix .
The Eastern Orthodox receive as their canon the books found in their, Patristic, , and liturgicaltradition. The Synod declared the Eastern Orthodox canon as follows:
Not all books of the Old Testament are covered in the Prophetologion, the official Old Testament lectionary: “Because the only exposure most Eastern Christians had to the Old Testament was from the readings during services, the Prophetologion can be called the Old Testament of the Byzantine Church.”
The Lasting Impact Of The Council Of Nicaea
For the first time in the churchs history, the Council of Nicaea established a unified doctrine on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And the Nicene Creed is still in use around the world today.
At a crucial moment in a fragile church, the Council of Nicaea may very well have prevented Christianity from self-destructing. While the rift remained for years to come, this formal act of unity helped set the healing process in motion.
Unfortunately, the Council of Nicaea also set a dangerous precedent for using the emperors authority to enforce church decisions. Many of the church leaders who Constantine supported would later see emperors turn against them, and for centuries, Christians would experience the consequences of uniting the state and the church.
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Are Jesus And God One Person Or Two
Nearly a century before Arianism emerged, the church made a decision about another heretical belief related to Christs identity: Sabellianism. Named after Sabellius, the priest who primarily advocated for this position, Sabellianism was the belief that while Jesus was divine, he was essentially a manifestation of God and not a distinct being. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit were three aspects of one being: God.
None of Sabellius writings have survived, so all we know about his teachings comes from his critics, who deemed him a heretic. Around this time, the church was also grappling with a very similar heresy: modalism.
Many popular analogies that people use to describe the Trinity could technically be described as modalism. People often say the Trinity is like water, steam, and ice: three different forms of the same thing. But unless you specify that you mean three separate bodies of water, its modalism. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit arent just three separate forms of one being, they are distinct persons, but one in nature.
If youve ever looked into what the Bible says about the Trinity or tried to explain it to someone, you know this concept can still create confusion today, so its no surprise that it took the church a long time to agree on it.
But then a priest named Arius came onto the scene.
Why Were Some Books Not Included In The Bible
These texts were not included in the canon for a variety of reasons: they may have only been known to a few people, or they may have been left out because their content does not fit well with that of the other Bible books. The Authorized King James Version referred to these books as Apocrypha.
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