[CF Devotionals] 2009-08-02 - The Canon

Study on the Bible, Part 3

  1. The History of the Bible (cont'd)
    1. The Old Testament (cont'd)
      1. The Canon

        Can-on (kan-hu n) n. Abbr. can. 4. The books of the Bible officially accepted as Holy Scripture. 1

        There are five guiding principles which are used to determine whether or not a book is canonical or Scripture, Geisler and Nix record these five principles:

        1. Is it authoritative - did it come from the hand of God? (Does this book come with a divine "thus saith the Lord"?)
        2. Is it prophetic - was it written by a man of God?
        3. Is it authentic? (The fathers had the attitude of "if in doubt, throw it out" policy. This enhanced the validity of their discernment of canonical books.")
        4. Is it dynamic - did it come with the life-transforming power of God?
        5. Was it received, collected, read and used - was it accepted by the people of God? 2
        "The Old Testament Canon. The Jewish Talmud of about A.D. 400 names the books of the Jewish canon in approximately the order found in our Hebrew Bibles today. The Jewish historian Josephus (in about A.D. 90 in his work against Apion) wrote that the Jews received 22 books (equivalent to the Protestants' 39), which they would rather die than alter or deny. He attributes the authorship of these books to Moses and the succeeding prophets from that time to the days of Artaxerxes (around 400 B.C.). He also states that other later books, not written by prophets, were not so highly regarded.

        The Dead Sea Scrolls give four places where the OT is referred to in two categories, the Law and the Prophets, as is usual in the NT (e.g., Matt 5:17; 22:40; Luke 16:16; 24:27; cf. 24:44). That this twofold canon included all our present books seems obvious from the fact that the Qumran community quoted from most of the OT books, including those later classified in the third division of "writings," and has left manuscripts of all the biblical books except Esther.

        The canonicity of the Apocrypha (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and certain additions to Esther and Daniel) has no ancient authority and was not recognized by Christ, the apostles, or the Jewish people. The distinction between those books and the canonical OT writings was generally preserved by the Greek fathers; it was generally overlooked by the Latin fathers." 3

        It should be noted that the Jewish Bible and the Christian Old Testament are the same, even though the number of books differs. The reason is the Tanakh has as one book a number we break into two, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, etc. Additionally, the minor prophets are combined into one book.

        The order of the books differs as well. We break the Old Testament into topical order as opposed to the "Official" order. Tanakh is broken into three sections: (1) The Law consists of our first five books. The Prophets is broken into two sections - the Former Prophets which includes Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings - and the Latter Prophets, which includes Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and The Twelve.

        The third section of Tanakh is The Writings, which is broken into three sections: Poetical Books, Five Rolls and the Historical Books

  1. American Heritage Electronic Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.
  2. Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1968, p. 141.
  3. Douglas, J. D. and Merrill C. Tenney, editors, NIV Bible Dictionary, Zondervan Interactive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989, Electronic text hypertexted and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc.

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