CANONIZATION

CANONIZATION OF THE BIBLE[1]

Canon means:

  1. An ecclesiastical rule or law enacted by a council or other competent authority and, in the Roman Catholic Church, approved by the pope.
  2. The books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired.

Gospel writers Matthew and Luke mentioned about Lord Jesus Christ’s reference to Hebrew Scripture as the “Law of Moses”, “the Prophets”, and “the Psalms”. This is very unique about the New Testament Canon.  Not only the phrase “it is written” occurs in the Old Testament but it occurs very often in the New Testament.  The Scripture substantiates scripture; and this is very unique in the Bible.

These are the words of Lord Jesus Christ quoting from 2 Chronicles 24:20-22, as to how the children of Israel killed the prophets.

“That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:35)

“From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation” (Luke 11:51)

“And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44)

Lord Jesus spoke of His anointing and His ministry by reading a scripture portion from the Old Testament repeated in New Testament.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; (Isaiah 61:1)

Lord Jesus referred to Hebrew Scriptures in Luke 11:51, Matthew 23:35, and further identified them in Luke 24:44, as the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. His identification marks a clear demarcation between the Old and the New Testaments.

Inasmuch as He was alive and was on His mission, the New Testament, which is about Him and His works, and His provision for salvation to mankind, was not yet written. He recognized Hebrew Scriptures written up to Malachi in 425 BC as Scripture.

The Bible was canonized with thirty nine books of the Hebrew Scripture and twenty seven books of the New Testament by the end of 397 A.D.   Inasmuch as Hebrew believers recognized the Hebrew Scripture as inspired Word of God, there was very little controversy over the canonization of the Old Testament and therefore, Old Testament was canonized by 250 A.D.

However there was much debate as to how many books should be in the New Testament and what books should be therein.  The emerging issue that created much controversy was over the “Apocrypha” which had very good historical evidence, but not spiritual in content.

[1] Athanasius Letter 39.6.3: “Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these.” n.d. Web [05 May, 2015]