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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