Canonization of Scripture (How the Bible Was Compiled?)

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I chose this topic because it is one of the hardest things for me to accept concerning “religion” in general. The mere fact that the individual writings are written by human men “under the inspiration of God” just bothers me to no end. Knowing the imperfections of man, and how things always get twisted, embellished, misinterpreted, and/or generally made more grandiose than originally told has always made me wonder: What were God’s original thoughts and meanings on any particular subject? What has been lost in translation? What has been twisted to suit a particular situation? Why has God allowed his words to be so misconstrued for so many years? The Hebrew canon, known to us as the Old Testament, is a collection of 24 “books” accepted by the Jewish scholars as being authentic. These are divided into three (3) parts. The Law (Torah), also called the Pentateuch, consists of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The second part is called the Prophets (Nevi im), which is further divided into three parts, consists of the early prophets: Joshua, Judges, 1st and 2nd Samuel, and 1st and 2nd Kings; the later prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; and the twelve books of the “minor” prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The third part is called the Writings (Ketuvim) which consists of three poetic books: Psalms, Proverbs and Job; the five scrolls: Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; the apocalyptic book of Daniel; and the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles. 2 The order in which these books are arranged varies depending on whether you’re looking at a Jewish (Hebrew) text or a more modern, Christian text. It is thought that the actual process of collecting and combining all these books into the Hebrew bible took hundreds of years. “The anthology we know as the Old Testament was a thousand years and more in the making. First there was an accumulation of material, oral and written, into books and then books were sorted into collections according to contents and literary genre.” 1 The text also points out that it was once thought that the canon of the Hebrew Bible was initially put together by a group of rabbis toward the end of the first century A.D., but after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls along with other more recent evidence, it’s now thought that the canon wasn’t “fixed” until the end of the second century or early third century A.D. The timeframe for putting together the “list” of accepted texts for the New Testament took a much shorter period of time, possibly only a few hundred years. “The process by which the canon of the New Testament was formed began in the 2d century, probably with a collection of ten letters of Paul. Toward the end of that century, Irenaeus argued for the unique authority of the portion of the Canon called the Gospels. Acceptance of the other books came gradually. The church in Egypt used more than the present 27 books, and the (Syriac?) speaking churches fewer. The question of an official canon became urgent during the 4th century. It was mainly through the influence of Athanasuis, bishop of Alexandria, and because Jerome included the 27 books in his Latin version of the Bible called the Vulgate, that the present canon came to be accepted.” 2 This coincides with what our text “The Creed” says about the timeframe also. “The Muratorian Fragment, a mutilated piece of parchment of some eighty-five lines, lists the sacred writings accepted by the church in Rome.” “Although some scholars date the document as late as the fourth century, it is among the oldest, if not the oldest, witness to the New Testament canon, and it gives some insight into why the church thought it necessary to form an official list of books.” 1 (pg. 270) Our text also says that the “New Testament canon was assembled by trial and error over a relatively long period...
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