The Canon of Scripture
Table of Contents
Overview – Canon Scripture Meaning
It is important to understand just how exactly we got the Bible, as it is today. The word canon comes from the Greek word ‘kavwv’ and it means rule or measuring stick. It is literally the process of determining which texts are authentic as the word of God and to determine scripture canonization criteria. The word of God is defined as any authoritative scripture canon that was divinely inspired.
Types of Documents
The traditional Christian canon of scripture today, known as the Holy Bible, is the Holy book of God book composed of:
- 66 books
- (by) 40 writers
- (over) 2000 years
However, throughout history, hundreds of book in both the Jewish and Christian genre have been developed that contain various historic, spiritual and cultural information.
Believers from a very early time periods realized the importance of properly categorizing each piece of data into organized sections in order to preserve the truth of God, and help others discern the difference between information that came from directly from God, and interpretations of man.
It is important to understand the difference between each piece of data, to properly interpret both past historic events, and the message God has for His people through the various writing, as well as be aware of false documents. All of the historic religious texts accumulated over the past millennia can typically be placed into the following categories;
- Divinely Inspired Writings
- Historic Documents
- Traditions/ ceremonial texts
- Testimonies of Believers / non-believers (eye witness accounts)
- Apostate / False Information (pseudo-Christian writings)
It is the canon of scripture that divides all documents, and determines which of them are the divinely inspired ones.
Original Texts, Manuscript Copies & Translations
It must be properly understood when studying the various types of ancient scriptures, how to identify the proper definitions of each text;
- Originals – The original text, the autographa, was written down by the person God had inspired with His divine word.
- Manuscripts & Copies– The originals of every divinely inspired book where copied many times over by many different priests and teachers. A manuscript specifically refers to a handwritten copy or portion of scripture.
- Translations – Every language is different, and therefore various translations had to be created to provoke the ideas the author had originally intended the reader to gain through his message.
Process of Canonization
The Canon of scripture employs various means to determine which literary books are truly authentic and divinely inspired books, and which are not. The evidence shows that the Bible is both unique and that God is the author. There is a strict process, beginning with divinely inspired ordination processes, to determine and identify an inspired text:
Prophecy – The most powerful affirmation of all, prophecy, only God can foresee/make the future as He pleases. The Torah set the standard, a prophet will always be 100% accurate, because everything He says comes directly from God. All accurately predicted texts from prophets are divinely inspired.
Perspective – The Bible, even through written by man, always has a supernatural ‘out-side’ perspective, as the author is ‘looking-in’ from outside of the universe.
Indication – Did the book indicate that God was speaking through the person, and indicated it to be authoritative. [i.e. Ex.20.1; Josh 1.1; Isa 2.1]
Spokesman – was the human writer recognized as a spokesman for God, and historically regarded as such. [i.e. Deut 18.18; 1Sam 10.25; Neh 8.3]
Timeframe – Was there an indication that God was going to give a specific message, or stop speaking at specific intervals? [i.e. God indicated He would speak for 400 years after the prophet Malachi, until the Messiah came. After the apostle John there is strong indication that scriptural revelation has ceased until the fulfillment of the book of Revelation]
Theme – was there a continual or underlying theme that confirmed other books. [i.e. there are over 250 quotes from the Old Testament in the New Testament]
Contradictions – was there any contradictions in the texts, as information is added, it has a greater tendency to contradict unless it remain true.
Accuracy – did the book/text match up to historic facts, accounts and testimonies.
Debates of Canonicity
Among believers and different Christian denomination there is a dispute over a few books for canonicity. However the primary 66 books are accepted by all Christian denominations and confirm all primary Christian doctrines. The few leftover books, typically labeled as the ‘Apocrypha’ of which do no change any of the Christian doctrines or truths of scripture; and typically serve more as historic references.
i.e. the book of Maccabees (in the Apocrypha) was written during the time when God said he would not speak for 400 years, but it serves as an accurate historic account of what was happening in Israel during those 400 years, from a human perspective.
The canon of scripture is considered closed, meaning that no more books can be added to it. Since 397 a.d. the Christian Church has considered the canon of the Bible to be complete.
This is primarily due to the fact when we take the books of scripture literally, we find that all divine revelation form God had ended with the beginning of the Church age, and will not come again until the prophecies in the Book of Revelation begin. God will again speak through prophets during this time as we see in Rev 11.3, and afterwards God will be with His people and speak to us directly.
This means that scripture is complete. However, this does not mean that God will not directly speak to an individual or group. This is why scripture tells us to test every spirit (1 John 4.1) and make sure it always aligns with what the rest of the Bible says, for God will not contradict Himself. This does not mean that other sources are not useful, such as history books, to help us understand the context or culture of a specific era. It simply means these sources are not divinely inspired truths.