Development of the Christian biblical canon

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The Christian biblical canons are the books Christians regard as divinely inspired and which constitute a Christian Bible. Which books constituted the Christian biblical canons of both the Old and New Testament was generally established by the 5th century, despite some scholarly disagreements, [1] for the ancient undivided Church (the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, before the East–West Schism).

Contents

The Catholic canon was set at the Council of Rome (382), [2] the same Council commissioned Jerome to compile and translate those canonical texts into the Latin Vulgate Bible. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent (1546) affirmed the Vulgate as the official Catholic Bible in order to address changes Martin Luther made in his recently completed German translation which was based on the original Greek of the component texts. The canons of the Church of England and English Presbyterians were decided definitively by the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), respectively. The Synod of Jerusalem (1672) established additional canons that are widely accepted throughout the Orthodox Church.

The Old and New Testament canons did not develop independently of each other and most primary sources for the canon specify both Old and New Testament books. For the biblical scripture for both Testaments, canonically accepted in major traditions of Christendom, see Biblical canon § Canons of various Christian traditions.

Development of the Old Testament canon

The Old Testament includes the books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) or protocanon, and in various Christian denominations also includes deuterocanonical books. Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants use different canons, which differ with respect to the texts that are included in the Old Testament.

Martin Luther, holding to concurrent Jewish and some ancient precedent, [3] placed the deuterocanonical books from the Old Testament of his translation of the Bible in a section he labeled "Apocrypha" ("hidden"). The Westminster Confession of Faith, published in 1647, was the first Reformed document to exclude the Apocrypha from canon, leading to the removal of these books in later Protestant Bible publications. To counter the growing influence of the Reformers, the fourth session of the Catholic Council of Trent in 1546 confirmed that the deuterocanonical books were equally authoritative as the protocanonical in the Canon of Trent, basing its refutation of Martin Luther's depiction of the Apocryphal texts on the first published Christian canon which drew from the Septuagint texts used by the authors of the 27 Books of the New Testament. [4] In compiling his index of the Old Testament, Luther drew from the 24 books of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), which was still an open canon as late as 200 and probably even after the Catholic canon was set in 382. [5] The Protestant Old Testament consists of the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but the order and division of the books are different. Protestants number the Old Testament books at 39, while the Hebrew Bible numbers the same books as 24. The Hebrew Bible counts Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as one book each, and the 12 minor prophets are one book, and also Ezra and Nehemiah form a single book.

The differences between the modern Hebrew Bible and other versions of the Old Testament such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, the Greek Septuagint, the Ethiopian Bible and other canons, are more substantial. For a more comprehensive discussion of these differences, see Books of the Bible.

Table of books

Books of the Old Testament
The Pentateuch or Torah

Common to Judaism, Samaritanism and Christianity (excepting the minority of Protestant denominations sometimes called New Testament only Christians which reject the "Old Testament")

Common to Judaism and Christianity but excluded by Samaritans
Included by Catholics, Orthodox, but excluded by Jews and most Protestants
Included by Orthodox (Synod of Jerusalem):
Included by Russian and Ethiopian Orthodox:
Included by Ethiopian Orthodox:
Included by Syriac Peshitta Bible:

Development of the New Testament canon

The development of the New Testament canon was, like that of the Old Testament, a gradual process.

Irenaeus (died c. 202) quotes and cites 21 books that would end up as part of the New Testament, but does not use Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 3 John and Jude. [7] By the early 3rd century Origen of Alexandria may have been using the same 27 books as in the modern New Testament, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation [8] (see also Antilegomena). Likewise by 200 the Muratorian fragment shows that there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to what is now the New Testament, which included four gospels and argued against objections to them. [9] Thus, while there was plenty of discussion in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the "major" writings were accepted by almost all Christian authorities by the middle of the second century. [10]

The next two hundred years followed a similar process of continual discussion throughout the entire Church, and localized refinements of acceptance. This process was not yet complete at the time of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, though substantial progress had been made by then. Though a list was clearly necessary to fulfill Constantine's commission in 331 of fifty copies of the Bible for the Church at Constantinople, no concrete evidence exists to indicate that it was considered to be a formal canon. In the absence of a canonical list, the resolution of questions would normally have been directed through the see of Constantinople, in consultation with Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (who was given the commission), and perhaps other bishops who were available locally.

In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books that would formally become the New Testament canon, [11] and he used the word "canonized" (kanonizomena) in regard to them. [12] The first council that accepted the present Catholic canon (the Canon of Trent) was the Council of Rome, held by Pope Damasus I (382). A second council was held at the Synod of Hippo (393) reaffirming the previous council list. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Carthage (419). [13] These councils took place under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed. [14] Pope Damasus I's Council of Rome in 382, if the Decretum Gelasianum is correctly associated with it, issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above, [11] or if not the list is at least a 6th-century compilation [15] claiming a 4th-century imprimatur. [16] Likewise, Damasus's commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, c. 383, was instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West. [17] In 405, Pope Innocent I sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse. When these bishops and councils spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new, but instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the church." [18] Thus, from the 5th century onward, the Western Church was unanimous concerning the New Testament canon. [19]

The last book to be accepted universally was the Book of Revelation, though with time all the Eastern Church also agreed. Thus, by the 5th century, both the Western and Eastern churches had come into agreement on the matter of the New Testament canon. [20] The Council of Trent of 1546 reaffirmed that finalization for Catholicism in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. [21] The Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England and the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 for English presbyterians established the official finalizations for those new branches of Christianity in light of the Reformed faith. The Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 made no changes to the New Testament canon for any Orthodox, but resolved some questions about some of the minor Old Testament books for the Greek Orthodox and most other Orthodox jurisdictions (who chose to accept it).

Table of books

Books of the New Testament

Related Research Articles

Apocrypha Works of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin

Apocrypha are works, usually written, of unknown authorship or of doubtful origin. Biblical apocrypha are a set of texts included in the Latin Vulgate and Septuagint but not in the Hebrew Bible. While Catholic tradition considers some of these texts to be deuterocanonical, Protestants consider them apocryphal. Thus, Protestant bibles do not include the books within the Old Testament but have sometimes included them in a separate section, usually called the Apocrypha. Other non-canonical apocryphal texts are generally called pseudepigrapha, a term that means "false attribution".

Bible Collection of religious texts in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians. The Bible appears in the form of an anthology, compiling texts of a variety of forms that are all linked by the belief that they collectively contain the word of God. These texts include theologically-embellished historical accounts, hymns, allegorical erotica, parables, and didactic letters.

Books of the Bible Wikimedia list article

Different religious groups include different books in their biblical canons, in varying orders, and sometimes divide or combine books. The Jewish Tanakh contains 24 books divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah ("teaching"); the eight books of the Nevi'im ("prophets"); and the eleven books of Ketuvim ("writings"). It is composed mainly in Biblical Hebrew, and its Septuagint is the main textual source for the Christian Greek Old Testament.

Deuterocanonical books Books that Catholics and Orthodox accept as part of the canon, but which Protestants do not accept

The deuterocanonical books are books and passages considered by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East to be canonical books of the Old Testament but which are considered non-canonical by Protestant denominations. They are thought to have been written sometime between 200 BC and 100 AD, and most are seen in copies of the Christian Greek Old Testament dating from the 4th century AD. While the New Testament never quotes from or ascribes canonical authority to these books, some say there is a correspondence of thought, while others see texts from these books being paraphrased, referred or alluded to many times in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline Epistles depending in large measure on what is counted as a reference.

Old Testament First part of Christian Bibles based on the Hebrew Bible

The Old Testament is the first part of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible, a collection of ancient religious Hebrew writings by the Israelites believed by most Christians and religious Jews to be the sacred Word of God. The second part of Christian Bibles is the New Testament, originally written in the Koine Greek language.

Vulgate 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible by Jerome

The Vulgate is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible that was to become the Catholic Church's officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible during the 16th century, and is still used fundamentally in the Latin Church to this day.

2 Maccabees Deuterocanonical book which focuses on the Maccabean Revolt

2 Maccabees is a deuterocanonical book which focuses on the Maccabean Revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and concludes with the defeat of the Seleucid empire general Nicanor in 161 BC by Judas Maccabeus, the hero of the hard work.

New Revised Standard Version Modern English translation of the Bible

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is an English translation of the Bible published in 1989 by the National Council of Churches. It is a revision of the Revised Standard Version, which was itself an update of the American Standard Version. The NRSV was intended as a translation to serve devotional, liturgical and scholarly needs of the broadest possible range of religious adherents. The full translation includes the books of the standard Protestant canon as well as the Deuterocanonical books traditionally included in the canons of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Esdras is a Greco-Latin variation of the name of Hebrew Ezra the Scribe. The name is found in the titles of several books attributed to or associated with the scribe that are in or related to the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.

The Council of Rome was a meeting of Catholic Church officials and theologians which took place in 382 under the authority of Pope Damasus I, the current bishop of Rome. It was one of the fourth century councils that "gave a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament."

Biblical apocrypha Collection of ancient books found in some editions of Christian Bibles

The biblical apocrypha denotes the collection of apocryphal ancient books thought to have been written some time between 200 BCE and 400 CE. Some Christian Churches include some or all of the same texts within the body of their version of the Old Testament.

Development of the Old Testament canon

The Old Testament is the first section of the two-part Christian biblical canon; the second section is the New Testament. The Old Testament includes the books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) or protocanon, and in various Christian denominations also includes deuterocanonical books. Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants use different canons, which differ with respect to the texts that are included in the Old Testament.

Catholic Bible Bible authorized for Catholic use

A Catholic Bible includes the whole 73-book canon recognized by the Catholic Church, including the deuterocanonical books.

The Canon of Trent is the list of books officially considered canonical at the Council of Trent. A decree, the De Canonicis Scripturis, from the Council's fourth session, issued an anathema on dissenters of the books affirmed in Trent. The Council confirmed an identical list already locally approved in 1442 by the Council of Florence, which had existed in the earliest canonical lists from the synods of Carthage and Rome in the fourth century.

Christian biblical canons The set of books that a particular Christian denomination or denominational family regards as being divinely inspired and thus constituting an authorised Christian Bible

A Christian biblical canon is the set of books that a particular Christian denomination or denominational family regards as being divinely inspired and thus constituting an authorised Christian Bible. Such bibles are always divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Early Church primarily used the Greek Septuagint as its source for the Old Testament. Among Aramaic speakers, the Targum was also widely used. The apostles did not leave a defined set of scriptures; instead the canon of both the Old Testament and the New Testament developed over time.

Luthers canon Biblical canon attributed to Martin Luther

Luther's canon is the biblical canon attributed to Martin Luther, which has influenced Protestants since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. While the Lutheran Confessions specifically did not define a canon, it is widely regarded as the canon of the Lutheran Church. It differs from the 1546 Roman Catholic canon of the Council of Trent in that it rejects the Deuterocanonical books and questions the seven New Testament books, called "Luther's Antilegomena", four of which are still ordered last in German-language Luther Bibles to this day.

Biblical canon A set of texts which a particular religious community regards as authoritative scripture

A biblical canon or canon of scripture is a set of texts which a particular religious community regards as authoritative scripture. The English word "canon" comes from the Greek κανών, meaning "rule" or "measuring stick". Christians became the first to use the term in reference to scripture, but Eugene Ulrich regards the idea as Jewish.

Development of the New Testament canon Development of the New Testament canon

The canon of the New Testament is the set of books Christians regard as divinely inspired and constituting the New Testament of the Christian Bible. For most, it is an agreed-upon list of twenty-seven books that includes the Canonical Gospels, Acts, letters of the Apostles, and Revelation. The books of the canon of the New Testament were written before 120 AD.

Protestant Bible A Christian Bible whose translation or revision was produced by Protestants

A Protestant Bible is a Christian Bible whose translation or revision was produced by Protestants. Such Bibles comprise 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament for a total of 66 books. Some Protestants use Bibles which also include 14 additional books in a section known as the Apocrypha bringing the total to 80 books. This is often contrasted with the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, which includes seven deuterocanonical books as a part of the Old Testament. The division between protocanonical and deuterocanonical books is not accepted by all Protestants who simply view books as being canonical or not and therefore classify books found in the deuterocanon, along with other books, as part of the Apocrypha.

While the Old Testament portion of the Bible was written in Hebrew, the New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek. The Greek language however, has several different dialects or denominations. This required several different translations done by several different individuals and groups of people. These translations can be categorized into translations done before and after 1500 A.D.

References

  1. "Canon", George J. Reid. In The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. Charles George Herbermann (Robert Appleton Company, 1908) pp. 272, 273.
  2. "Decree of Council of Rome (AD 382) on the Biblical Canon". Taylor Marshall. 2008-08-19. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  3. Reig, George. "Canon of the Old Testament." The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908).
  4. "Quotations in the New Testament. Crawford Howell Toy". The Old Testament Student. 3 (9): 363–365. May 1884. doi:10.1086/469455. ISSN   0190-5945.
  5. "Do the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes Belong in the Bible?". My Jewish Learning. Retrieved 2019-12-01.
  6. These are one book in the Jewish Bible, called "Trei Asar" or "Twelve".
  7. Bruce, F. F. The Books and the Parchments. (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1963) p. 109.
  8. Both points taken from Mark A. Noll's Turning Points, (Baker Academic, 1997) pp. 36–37.
  9. H. J. De Jonge, "The New Testament Canon", in The Biblical Canons. eds. de Jonge & J. M. Auwers (Leuven University Press, 2003) p. 315.
  10. The Cambridge History of the Bible (volume 1) eds. P. R. Ackroyd and C. F. Evans (Cambridge University Press, 1970) p. 308.
  11. 1 2 Lindberg, Carter (2006). A Brief History of Christianity. Blackwell Publishing. p. 15. ISBN   1-4051-1078-3.
  12. Brakke, David (October 1994). "Canon Formation and Social Conflict in Fourth-Century Egypt: Athanasius of Alexandria's Thirty-Ninth 'Festal Letter'". The Harvard Theological Review. 87 (4): 395–419. doi:10.1017/S0017816000030200. JSTOR   1509966.
  13. McDonald & Sanders' The Canon Debate, Appendix D-2, note 19: "Revelation was added later in 419 at the subsequent synod of Carthage."
  14. Everett Ferguson, "Factors leading to the Selection and Closure of the New Testament Canon", in The Canon Debate. eds. L. M. McDonald & J. A. Sanders (Hendrickson, 2002) p. 320; F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Intervarsity Press, 1988) p. 230; cf. Augustine, De Civitate Dei 22.8
  15. F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Intervarsity Press, 1988) p. 234
  16. Burkitt, F. C. (1913). "The Decretum Gelasianum". Journal of Theological Studies. 14: 469–471. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  17. F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Intervarsity Press, 1988) p. 225
  18. Everett Ferguson, "Factors leading to the Selection and Closure of the New Testament Canon", in The Canon Debate. eds. L. M. McDonald & J. A. Sanders (Hendrickson, 2002) p. 320, which cites: Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987) pp. 237–238, and F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Intervarsity Press, 1988) p. 97
  19. F. F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Intervarsity Press, 1988) p. 215
  20. The Cambridge History of the Bible (volume 1) eds. P. R. Ackroyd and C. F. Evans (Cambridge University Press, 1970) p. 305; cf. the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Canon of the New Testament"
  21. Catholic Encyclopedia, "Canon of the New Testament"

Further reading