This is a guest post by Pastor Chris Armer
Have you ever wondered why we have 66 books in our Bible? Did a book get left out or possibly put in by mistake? Or how do you respond to two young men in white shirts and ties who stand at your door and invite you to read another testament of Jesus Christ? These are all legitimate questions that I hope to briefly answer.
The process by which the books of our Bible were accepted is called the doctrine of canonicity. Canonicity is the next step after the inspiration of the Scriptures. While inspiration recognizes the authority of the Scriptures. Canonicity is the process by which the books of the Bible were recognized and received as being genuinely from God. The process of canonization was recognizing which books had the breath of God on them (2 Tim. 3:16). In the book From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible, Geisler states that there were five basic criteria for recognizing a book as being from God: (1) Was it written by a prophet of God? (2) Did the writer have credentials from God? (3) Did it tell the truth about God, man, etc.? (4) Did it possess the life-transforming power of God? (5) Was it received or accepted by the people of God for whom it was originally written?
Norman Geisler communicated that the most important test of which books were inspired was the prophecity of the book. “God determined which books would be in the Bible by giving their message to a prophet. So only books written by a prophet or accredited spokesperson for God are inspired and belong in the canon of Scripture.” One common myth is that the church authoritatively chose which books were contained in our Bible. The truth is that God was the one who chose the books for the Bible. The early church only recognized God’s choice.
The process of canonization took many years to complete. God’s people recognized the canon of the Old Testament by the time of Christ. We read about Jesus referring to the different sections of the Old Testament canon in Luke 24:44. The Jewish historian Josephus in his Contra Apion referred to the books written from “Moses to Malachi” to be canonical. Then the books of our New Testament were officially recognized for usage in the churches through a few councils that took place toward the end of the 4th century.
There were other books left out of the Bible that were commonly read and referenced among the early church. These books were important for their historical content, but they did not meet the tests to be recognized as being inspired by God. Books of this nature include the Apocryphal books such as 1 & 2 Maccabees and Tobit and other books written after Christ like Didache and 1 & 2 Clement.
There were other books that were completely rejected for any usage. These books were written for the intent purpose of teaching false doctrine. Some of the authors would even attach a popular name to the book so that others would read it. Books of this nature are referred to as pseudepigrapha (means “false name”) and include books like the Gospel of Thomas and the Assumption of Moses.
There have also been recent books written in an attempt to teach people false doctrine. In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published. This book is commonly referred to as “another testament of Jesus Christ.” Christians reject these books because they contradict the true teaching that we know is from God and were not written by a verified prophet.
Today, Christians can still have confidence in their Bible. The Holy Spirit worked through holy men of God to pen the words of our Bible (2 Pet. 1:21). Christians then recognized and received what God had communicated. Now the biggest question to answer is what will you do with what God has communicated to you through the Bible?
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