Who Decided Which Books Should be in the Bible?



Q. Who Decided Which Books Should be in the Bible?

A. The Sacred Scriptures used by the Jews at the time of Christ were simply adopted by the Church and became what is known as the Old Testament. The books of the New Testament were not finalized until the fourth century by Catholic Councils and Catholic popes.

Before the 4th Century there were many worthy and some unworthy “gospels” and “letters” floating around the ancient world. Christian liturgies used what they had available.

The four Gospels, as we have them today were clearly recognized as inspired at an early date as were many of Paul’s letters. But about many other writings there was disagreement. For instance, some people thought Hebrews, Jude, Revelation and 2 Peter were not inspired. Others were very certain that the books of Shepherd of Hermas, Gospels of Peter and Thomas, Letter of Barnabas and Letter of Clement were inspired.

Starting around the year of 175 A.D. Various lists of inspired books of the New Testament were made by Bishops and saints.For instance:

Origen: Gospels, the thirteen Pauline Epistles, Acts, Apocalypse, I Peter, and I John. The contested writings were Hebrews, II Peter, II and III John, James, Jude, Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and probably the Gospel of the Hebrews.

EusebiusBishop of Cæsarea in Palestine

Four Gospels, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, Hebrews, Acts, I Peter, I John, and Apocalypse.

A second category is composed contested writings; these in turn are of the superior and inferior sort. The better ones are:

Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, II Peter, II and III John; these, like Origen, Eusebius wished to be admitted to the Canon, but was forced to record their uncertain status;

The inferior sort were Barnabas, the Didache, Gospel of the Hebrews, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd, the Apocalypse of Peter.

This uncertainty about the inspiration of Christian writings lasted for nearly four centuries. But the Faith of the Apostles, as taught to them by Jesus Christ, continued to evangelize the world since it was not dependent upon or derived only from scripture.

Canonization of Scripture

By the time the fourth century of Christianity was nearing completion,

Pope Damasus in 382 A.D. prompted by the Council of Rome, wrote a decree listing the 73 Old and New Testament books of the Bible.

At the Council of Hippo, in North Africa, 393 A.D. the same 73 Books of the Old and New Testament were approved or canonized.

Again at the the Council of Carthage, (North Africa) 397 A.D. approved the same 73 books of sacred scripture that the Catholic Church uses today.

Finally, in 405 A.D. Pope St. Innocent I approved the same 73 books of the canon and closed the canon of the Bible.

Up until the close of the canon there was much debate among faithful Catholics. That is probably why it took four official decisions to close the canon: Two Councils and Two papal decisions.

For a discussion of the books of the OT removed by Martin Luther click HERE , Sola Scriptura, and Martin Luther on debt to Catholic Church, here.

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15 Responses

  1. Some good information in there. There is a pretty clear line between those that made it in and those that did not. The one closest to making it in that did not was probably the Shepherd of Hermes. Have a look at it and you will quickly see why it didn’t make it. The non-canonical books don’t hold a candle to those that were canonized. Most of the New Testament was readily accepted as canonical. Only 2 John, 3 John, James, 2 Peter, and Jude were very much disputed with 2 John having a lot of support. It was Athanasius in 367 who first referred to the current 27 books as canonical. I don’t know that you can say there was a lot of uncertainty regarding inspiration of much of the NT. Even within the NT itself there are references to other portions of it as scripture and a respect for the inspiration of scripture. That was not a late development. Thanks for putting this together.

  2. Very informative article. I’ve found your blog via Bing and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your posts. Btw your sites layout is really messed up on the Kmelon browser. Would be really great if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the good work!

    • I have no idea how to fix my site on the Kmelon browser. Are all wordpress blogs messed up on it or only mine? Thanks for the encouragement about the information in my posts.

  3. Nice blog! I’ll probably be referencing some of this information in my next paper.

  4. “The Sacred Scriptures used by the Jews at the time of Christ were simply adopted by the Church and became what is known as the Old Testament”.
    Not to be difficult, but there was nothing simple about the writing of the Old Testament. Google “Septuagint” and “Hexapla”.

  5. I find it so funny that there were so little responses on this one. The facts are the facts, so I guess no one could dispute this one. God Bless

  6. Reading of how the books of the Bible were chosen has left my head spinning. i don’t see how any truth can come from such nebulous,mythical stories that passed orally for hundreds of years . Chosen by God? How were they chosen by God? W ho or what determined this process? And how do “they” know? Makes belief difficult to say the least. Give me some help here!

  7. There is a lot more detail to how the books of the New Testament were chosen.
    Canon of the New Testament

    Canon of the Old Testament

    These are fairly detailed. It may appear like a lot of human stuff. But we believe it was directed by God. Could God, the creator of Heaven and Earth do such a thing? Yes. Do you believe He did? That is the question you must answer for yourself. Pray for God’s grace to find and believe the TRUTH.

  8. […] A. The fact is that before the Church makes a final decision about something like, “Which Books are inspired?” discussion and disagreement will exist. There is nothing heretical or wrong with it. In the 400 years between Jesus’ death and the final closing of the canon of scripture there was agreement on most of the books but disagreement on a handful of other books. You might want to see my post…Who Decided Which Books Should Be in the Bible? […]

  9. It is still the pope that had the final word on which books made it. Which is the most distubing thing Ive learned in a while. In history, and the present, how good is the track record for cardinals, bishops and popes? There isnt enough room on this page to count all the scandals. I dont know about you but I dont trust a man, and I repeat a man, that surrounds himself with the luxuries and wealth of the world, wears red prada shoes, expensive jewelery,wears a hat that originally was designed for pagan leaders for worship to their fish god Dagon. Billions of dollars has been spent to build the worlds most lavish churches and cover up countless sexual abuse scandals instead of using it feed and shelter the hungry and poor. Pretty sure this is not what jesus had in mind. Tell me one story where Jesus put money or scripture in front of caring for others in need. Show me one description of jesus wearing expensive jewelery or expensive clothes. Think as if you were Jesus and then ask yourself if you would accept the corrupt nature of the Vatican and its hierarchy. Why would the pope pray to the Madonna for protection and pray to statues instead of god???!! Might as well build a golden calf in the middle of St peters Square for people to worship as well. This is sounding familiar. God didnt like it the first time people prayed and worshiped to statues, what makes you think hes ok with that now? Popes and priests cannot forgive you for your sins. ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT!

    • imagesAman: It is still the pope that had the final word on which books made it. Which is the most distubing thing Ive learned in a while. In history, and the present, how good is the track record for cardinals, bishops and popes? There isnt enough room on this page to count all the scandals.

      BFHU: Hmmmmm. You are right. It would be very disturbing to Sola Scriptura Protestants. Since you do not trust mere men…..but wait! All of the authors of all of the books of Sacred Scripture were mere men. Isn’t that disturbing to you as well? So, how could you trust Scripture to be TRUE since it is written by mere men who were also subject to sin?

      Aman:I dont know about you but I dont trust a man, and I repeat a man, that surrounds himself with the luxuries and wealth of the world, wears red prada shoes, expensive jewelery,wears a hat that originally was designed for pagan leaders for worship to their fish god Dagon.Billions of dollars has been spent to build the worlds most lavish churches instead of using it feed and shelter the hungry and poor.

      BFHU: Let me clear some things up for you. All the wealth at the Vatican and the museums and the beautiful Catholic churches around the world were donations by the faithful to offer things and build churches of great beauty. You know someone in scripture also complained about the expense “wasted” on Jesus. 

      The Precious Ointment

      Mark 14:While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, (Nearly a year’s worth of wages) and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.

      Bishops hat

      The hats worn by bishops is very odd. But they are to look like the flames of fire that fell on the apostles on Pentecost.

      Aman: Pretty sure this is not what jesus had in mind. Tell me one story where Jesus put money or scripture in front of caring for others in need. Show me one description of jesus wearing expensive jewelery or expensive clothes. Think as if you were Jesus and then ask yourself if you would accept the corrupt nature of the Vatican and its hierarchy.

      BFHU: The Popes personally do not desire to wear expensive anything. These things are given to the pope to honor the vicar of Christ on Earth. To honor Jesus through the man chosen as pope. And as we see above Jesus certainly accepted a gift of precious oil as the woman sought to honor Him. I think you are imposing your own opinion on Jesus rather than reading scripture  and letting it form your faith.

      Aman:Why would the pope pray to the Madonna for protection and pray to statues instead of god???!! Might as well build a golden calf in the middle of St peters Square for people to worship as well. This is sounding familiar. God didnt like it the first time people prayed and worshiped to statues, what makes you think hes ok with that now?

      BFHU: The pope and Catholics do not worship statues. You are mistaken because you are judging us based on your own bias. We believe in asking for intercessory prayer from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Unlike Protestants we know that those who died in Christ are alive in Heaven and we also ask for their prayers. That is all we are doing when we pray in front of a statue or picture of a Saint. And we know God is OK with that b/c He answers our prayers more quickly through His Saints. If it was not efficacious we would have stopped long ago.

      Aman: Popes and priests cannot forgive you for your sins. ONLY GOD CAN DO THAT!

      BFHU: Where does it say this in Scripture? Wait there is something about this in scripture.

      Mark 2:And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?

      How do you explain this verse where Jesus gave His apostles the power to forgive or not forgive sin?

      JOHN 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

  10. @ Amanforjesus: I think that you owe an apology to Pope Benedict. See http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/01/pope-benedict-s-red-shoes-weren-t-prada.html. Your other accusations are also very ill- conceived. A Christian should not be so quick to judge and condemn.

  11. List All People?

  12. As far as I know these christian like to discuss with weakly christian person or unaware christian. If someone ask them serious question and the they will runaway.

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