Canonicity

 

Tuesday, Sept. 20                              

The word “canon” means “rule” or “ruler.”  It was basically a straightedge.  The “canon” was to measure how “straight” a writing was—whether it was divinely inspired or not.  The first and most basic “rule” was general acceptance, which implies that God would control the process.  The Jewish Bible was made up of 24 books that were considered canonical between 400 and 300 B.C., although many of them were accepted centuries before.  Those same books were accepted as canonical by the Early Church, but rearranged a bit and separated to make 39 books.  New truths revealed by Christ meant a new focus on canonicity.  General acceptance was still the main rule, but other rules were developed, too.  A writing had to be written or endorsed by an Apostle and had to have an identified author.  The  N.T. canon got started in the first century.  Peter called Paul’s writings Scripture in 2 Pet.3:15-16.  Clement recognized eight books in 95 A.D., Polycarp 15 books in 108 A.D., and Irenaeus 21 books in 185 A.D.  The few remaining books took more time.  The epistle of James was possibly the last one to be accepted.  Hebrews was a problem because the author was not clearly identified.  The ten books of the Apocrypha were also a problem.  They were in the Septuagint, and therefore part of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate
Bible.  The Apocrypha then became an issue in the Protestant Reformation centuries later.  It was omitted in Protestant Bibles.  But my point here is not to write a history of canonicity, but to focus on one more issue that the early Church Fathers had to deal with.

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