frequently asked questions

blue bullet  How did our Bible come into being?  


blue bullet  Tora TablesPlease note that the following is intended only as a brief explanation of how our 39 books in the Old Testament and 29 books in the New Testament came into being as the established Word  of God.

At the end of the first Christian century, the Jewish rabbis, at the Council      of Gamnia, closed the canon of Hebrew books which they considered to be authoritative.  Their decision was made as a result of several factors:

                   A. The multiplication and popularity of sectarian apocryphal
                   B. The fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 which created a threat to
                        the religious tradition of the Jews.
                   C. The disputes with Christians over their interpretations of
                        the Jewish Scriptures in preaching and writing.  Although,
                        there was never any doubt about the five books of the law
                       (Pentateuch).  The prophetic collection was agreed upon
                        around 200 B.C. leaving a great deal of concern over the 
                        other remaining writings. 
Four criteria were used in deciding what books should occupy an authoritative place in the Old Testament Scriptures:

                   1.  The content of each book had to harmonize with the law.
                   2.  It was commonly held that prophetic inspiration began
                        with Moses around 1450 B.C. and ended with Ezra in
                        450 B.C., thus, in order to qualify for the canon and
                         likewise be considered inspired each writing had to have
                         been written within this described framework of time. 
                    3.  The language of the original manuscripts had to be in
                    4.  The book had to have been written within the geographical
                          boundaries of Palestine.

It was on this premise that the 39 books of the Old Testament were chosen as the Palestinian canon of Scriptures.  Those ancient Jewish writings which failed to reside within these described criteria came to be classified as the Apocrypha or pseudepigrapha, which means "false writings".

A number of Christian writings beyond those that had been accepted as the New Testament, appeared early and were considered by several authorities to be worthy of canonical status.  The Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, I and II Clement, Shepherd of Hermas, Apocalypse of Peter, and the Acts of  Paul were some of the more notable books.  By the beginning of the third century, 22 of the writings of our present New Testament had become widely accepted.
Four criteria determined the consideration of what books should occupy a position of authority in the New Testament Scriptures:

                   1.  Was the book written by an Apostle or by an associate of
                         the Apostle?
                   2.  Was the book's content of a Spiritual nature?
                   3.  Was there evidence in the book of Divine Inspiration?
                   4.  Was the book widely accepted by the Churches?

As far as it can be determined, it was the Easter letter of Archbishop Athanasius of Alexandria in 367 A.D. that first listed the 27 books of our New Testament as authoritative Scriptures.  Jerome, by his Latin translation of these same 27 books in 382 A.D., further established this
list of books as canonical for the churches.  

Please see additional commentary concerning Bible Facts.