Please 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
religious tradition of the Jews.
C. The disputes with Christians
over their interpretations of
Jewish Scriptures in preaching and writing. Although,
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
Four criteria were used in deciding
what books should occupy an authoritative place in the Old
1. The content of each book
had to harmonize with the law.
2. It was commonly held that
prophetic inspiration began
Moses around 1450 B.C. and ended with Ezra in
B.C., thus, in order to qualify for the canon and
likewise be considered inspired each writing had to have
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
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
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
list of books as canonical for the churches.
Please see additional commentary concerning