The canonicity of NT became necessary after the death of the apostles and the infiltration of heretical teachings into the doctrine of the apostles.
It took almost four centuries after the death of Christ before the canonicity of NT was completed. As in the case of the OT, there was an attempt to infiltrate a number of previously rejected writings into the canon of the NT. These included the Acts of Paul and Thekla, the Epistle of Barnabas, the gospel of Thomas, the Acts of Andrew, the gospel of Peter, revelation of Peter, the shepherded of Hermas etc. Therefore, some criteria had to be set up to specify once and for all which books were to be excluded and which were to be included in the NT.
There was an initial objection to the inclusion of some books in the canon of the NT. For instance, the style of 2Peter was seen to differ from that of 1Peter, so some scholars thought the writers might not be the same person. Also, the writers of James and Jude called themselves servants not Apostles. The writer of 2John and 3John called himself Elder. Questions were also raised about the style of revelation. Only twenty of the present twenty seven books were readily accepted.
CRITERIA FOR NT CANONICITY
- Apostolicity –Books written by an Apostle or someone closely associated with any of the Apostles were taken to be authentic. Mark was associated with Peter and Luke was associated with Paul.
- Reception by the churches – The book must have been universally received by the local churches as authentic at the time of their writing.
- Consistency –The book must be consistent with the doctrine that the church already possessed and with the OT and Apostolic teaching.
- Inspiration-Each book must give evidence, internally and externally, of being divinely inspired (compare I Cor.12: 10.)
- Internal -To be canonical, each book must contain exhortation to public exegesis of the word (compare Col. 4:16 I Thes 5:27; I Tim 4:13; Rev. 1:3:7; 3:6.).
In 336AD, the churches decided to meet together to finalize the NT canon based on the above criteria. The first council meeting rejected only the book of Revelation as being canonical but subsequent church council accepted Revelation and other books of our Canon. The first council met in Laodecia (336AD); Second council in Damascus (382 AD); Third council in Carthage (397 AD); Fourth council in Hippo (419AD) Thus concluded the canonicity of the NT as we have it today.
– gabriel ajibade
The term canon of scripture means the complete collection of books which are regarded as of Divine authority. The word canon in Greek means a straight rod, rule or measure. As applied to the Bible it means the rules by which certain books were declared as inspired and accepted as such. It should be noted that before the books of the Bible as we have it today were compiled, many books in circulation were purportedly divine and inspired. The Fathers of faith therefore found it necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff; hence, very stringent rules were employed to ascertain the books that were divine. The books of the Bible we have today was the result of their work.
Why does the believer need a canon of scripture? Why were the various portion of the divinely inspired word of God collected and bound into a Book called “The Holy Bible”? There are four main reasons why there was a need for the canon.
- So that believers in every generation might have the complete revelation from God.
- So that believers might have God’s word in writing. If the contents of the Scriptures were still being transmitted orally, a lot of distortions would have come into it.
- There was a need for the preservation and circulation of the sacred writings.
- That the people might know which writings have the authority of God.
FORMATION OF OT CANON
The generally accepted date for the completion of the OT canon was the year 425 or 424 BC. The Septuagint (LXX), was the first translation of the OT carried out by Ptolemy Philadephus (285 -247 BC) in Egypt. By that time there were many Jews living in Egypt who could no longer read or write Hebrew having been influenced by Greek culture and adopted the Hellenistic Greek of Egypt as their language. This translation was done by a group of seventy scholars hence the name Septuagint and Roman numeral LXX.
Josephus Flavius, a famous Jewish historian of the 1st Century A.D stated in one of his treatise that the canon of his time consisted of 22 books, namely the Pentateuch, thirteen books of the prophets and four of hymns and practical precepts. Although Josephus did not give a concise list, scholars believes that the book of the prophets included Joshua, Judges, Ruth; Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah- Lamentation, Ezekiel, Daniel, The Twelve Minor Prophets and possibly Job (or Canticles). The hymns and precepts would be made up of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Canticles (or Job).
CRITERIA FOR A CANONICITY (Four Criteria were applied)
Inspiration:- Was the author an acknowledged messenger of God, commissioned by God to make known His will” 2 Pet 1:21 . Books by such people were accepted.
The Principle of internal evidence:- Deut 31: 24 -26; Judges 3:4. The books which were read in other places in the Bible were accepted since those who read such passages must have accepted them as canonical. Daniel must have read Jer. 25: 11-12 and 29: 10.
Documentation by quotation:- Books from which Jesus Christ or other apostles quoted from were accepted Mt. 22:29, John 10:35
The law of Public Official action:- This is an historical law which required that public action be taken to solemnly declare a portion of the scripture to be the word of God ; Neh. 8:5 .
Jesus Christ’s Endorsement:- Mat 23:35; Luke11:51 this statement by the Lord is believed to be an endorsement of the OT from Gen 4 to 2 Chro 24: 20-21. In fact, He endorsed the whole OT here because Chronicles was the last book in the Hebrew OT Canon.
– gabriel ajibade
The great majority of the NT books were penned between A.D. 50 and 100. The writers were apostles and associates and were men specially fitted and commissioned to convey to mankind the Word of God as revealed in the acts and teachings of the Lord Jesus.
We have a NT of 27 books in which we find 5 narrative books, 21 letters and a single book of quite a different character, aptly called the Apocalypse or Revelation; and in them we acknowledge the supreme and complete guide for Christian doctrine and faith.
FORMATION OF THE NT
A. Synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.
- Historical Book – Acts of Apostles
- Pauline Epistles – 13
- General Epistles – 8
- Revelation of Apocalypse’ – 1
Number of Books – 27
Verses – 7957
Middle book – II Thessalonians
Middle Verse – Acts 27;17
Longest Verse – Rev. 20:4
Longest Book – Luke
Chapter – 260
Words – 180,552
Middle Chapter – Romans 8 & 9
Smallest Book – 3 John
Longest Book – Luke 1
20 CONTRASTS OF THE OT & NT
OLD TESTAMENT —- NEW TESTAMENT
First Covenant – 2 Cor. 3:14 —- Second Covenant – 2 Cor3:6
Came by Moses – John 1:17 —- Came by Christ – Heb 8:6; 9: 15
Law of the Flesh – Rom 7:5-6 —- Law of the Spirit – Rom 8:2
A Shadow – Co12:14 -17 —- The Reality – Heb 10: 1-8
Powerless to Save – Heb 9:9 —– Saves to uttermost – Heb 7:25
Yearly atonement – Heb 10 : 3 —- Eternal Atonement – Heb 7:25
Animal Sacrifices’ – Heb 9 :12 —- Human Sacrifice – Heb 9:14 – 28
Sinful Mediator – Gal 3 :19 —- Sinless Mediator – I Tim 2:15
Abolishment predicted – Hos. 2:11 —- Establishment predicted – Heb 9:14-28
Daily Programme – Heb7:27 —— Finished Programme – Heb 10: 10-18
Exposes Sin – Gal 3: 19 —- Covered sin – 4:1-8
Many Priests – Heb7:23 —- One Priest – Heb 7:24 -28
No Personal access to God -Heb 9:7 —- Personal access to God – Heb 4 :14-16
Fault – Heb 8 :7 —- Perfect – James l :25
Remembers sins – Heb 10:3 —- Forget Sins – Heb 8 :12;10:17
Could not redeem – Heb 10:4 —- Redeems – Gal. 3:13
No Salvation – Heb 10:28 —- Complete Salvation – Heb8:12
Made at Sinai – Gal 4:24 —- Made at Calvary – Mat. 26:28
No Mercy – Heb 10:28 —- Complete Mercy – Heb 8: 12
For Israel only – Dt.4:7-8; Dt 5:3 —- For all Man -Mat 26:28; Jn3:16.
The provisions of OT are’ not enough for our salvation. Therefore God gave us His Son to open the way for us.
Under the NT, God’s law is inside us, no longer external set of rules and obligations. ‘Holy Spirit reminds us Christ’s Word, activates our conscience, influences our motives and desires and makes us, want to obey God.
The word BIBLE does not appear in the scriptures at all. It comes from the Greek work “Biblos” and “Biblion” which means “the Book”. It is not called the Book because there are sixty-six books, but because of its pre-eminence over all other books.
The word “Testament” means covenant, and by this term God designated the relation that existed between Himself and His people. The Old Testament or Covenant was given at Mount Sinai and concerns the Jewish race. The New Testament was made in the upper room and concerns believers. This was sealed by the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ; Heb. 9: 150.
Our aim in this study is not to undertake detailed exegetical analysis of each book of the Old Testament but a general overview. More than anything else, a survey reveals the unity of the Scriptures which is not only structural but doctrinal and organic.
The Bible was put together according to a definite and divine plan of God who was the Architect as well as the Builder. There are no inconsistencies in the Bible. Throughout man’s natural relationship to God as creator and the possibility of spiritual relationship on the grounds of redemption are kept in view.
THE FORMATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books are also called The Pentateuch or Books of the Law: Authorship ascribed to Moses; confirmed by Jesus Christ John 5:46-47).
- Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, I Kings, 1& II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. These are called the Books of History because they contain the history ofIsrael as a people in the Promised Land
- Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, canticles; these are called The Books of Poetry
- Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel. These are the Major Prophets
- Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. (Minor Prophets)
The terms Major and Minor Prophets have got nothing to do with the character of the prophets or with the quality of their message, it merely designated the longer books from the shorter ones.
It is important to know that the books of the Bible are not arranged according to dates of writing. If this was so, the book of Job would come before Genesis. Also, the books of the prophets (Major and Minor) are not arranged according to the dates each of them carried out his ministry. They carried out their ministries in three distinct era of Jewish history, viz; before the exile, during the exile and after the exile. Their order of ministry is as follows:-
- Prophets of Northern Kingdom (Israel) – Jonah, Amos, Hosea.
- Prophets of Southern Kingdom (Judah)- Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum,Habakkuk,Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Lamentations.
- Prophets after the exile – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
OLD TESTAMENT STATISTICS
- Number of books – 39
- Total Chapters – 929
- Total Verses – 23, 144
- Words – 602, 585
- Middle Book – Proverbs
- Middle Chapter – Job 20
- Middle Verses – 2 Chro 20: 17 -18
- Smallest Book – Obadiah
- Shortest Verse – I Chro. 1:25
- Longest Chapter – Psalm 119
- Longest Verse – Esther 8:9 (89 words; 425 letters)
- Largest Book – Psalms.
Some verses of the Old Testament contain all the letters of the alphabet except one e.g. (in King James Version).
- Ezra 7 :21 contain all except j
- Joshua T: 24;1 Kings 1:9; I Chro 12:40; IIChro 36:10, Eze 28:13; Dan 4:37; Haggai 1:1 contains all except q
- 2 Kings 16:15; 1Chr4:10 contains all except z
- Esther and Canticles (Song of Solomon) do not have the name of God in them.
To be continued …
– gabriel ajibade
INTRODUCTION:- The first Psalm describes a person who has strength of character, who delights in the Lord and who walks with God as being “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which yields its fruits in due season.”(Ps.1 vs 3). What is it that gives a tree stability? Where is its major source of nourishment? In its roots; those deep tough tentacles which clutch the ground.
Christians who stand firm, who resist the childish tendency of being swept off their feet by the winds of false teachings are those who have strong doctrinal roots. They know what they believe, why they believe and whom they believe. They refuse to be uprooted. So great can be its impact that Jesus Christ compared an understanding of its truths to being set free from slavery (John 8:31-32). Doctrinal ignorance is the breeding ground for fear, prejudice, superstition, failure and spiritual defeat. Paul’s advice to Timothy – II Time 215
SIX BENEFITS OF BEING SPIRITUALLY INFORMED
- Knowledge give substance to faith:- Faith is trust; before we place our trust in something we need to have good reason to believe that it is trustworthy. Nobody will sit on a chair that will collapse. Rom 1017
- Knowledge stabilizes us during times of testing: Feelings fluctuate, moods change, opinions vary but Biblical truth stands forever. Mat. 7:24-25. many times we face situations that only the knowledge of God can give us insight and wisdom to know what to do. Without sound biblical knowledge, we are at a disadvantage in such situations.
- Knowledge Enable us to handle the Biblical accurately:- A sound understanding of Christian doctrine will help us to interpret and apply God’s word intelligently, correctly and wisely, without a good foundation in theological knowledge, we run the risk of being like children Eph. 4:14.
- Knowledge equips us to detect and confront errors: The best way to detect counterfeit money is to learn what real money looks like. If you have never seen the American dollar bill, you cannot detect a fake bill. Knowledge equips us with the ability to identify false teaching because we know what the truth is.
- Knowledge makes us confident in our daily walk with God: the more we sit at God’s table and partake of His food, the stronger we will become in our spiritual lives. Knowledge helps us understand how God relates with us and our eternal position in Him and this helps to build our confidence in Him even in times of trouble.
- Knowledge provides a grid that filters our fears and superstitions: Ignorance is the workshop from which fear, doubt and heresy are manufactured. An understanding of Biblical theology helps us to filter away the flow of false teachings that may threaten to drive us away from divine truth.
DANGERS TO AVOID
- Knowledge can be dangerous when it lacks intelligent Biblical support: Unless we sift all our knowledge through the grid of the scriptures, we run a high risk of mixing error with truth, wrong with right.
- Our knowledge must be a means to Godliness. Knowledge alone tends to puff up our egos but scriptural knowledge helps us become humble, transparent and compassionate. Knowledge is not designed to give us any factor of superiority over others.
- Our knowledge must be balanced with love and grace. Knowledge alone without the fruit of love and grace will make us intolerance, divisive and arrogant.
- Our knowledge must not keep us from becoming preys to false teachers. We need to consistently apply it to our lives if we are to experience genuine spiritual growth and strength.
Conclusion: The Bible commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and with ALL OUR MIND (Mat. 22:37-38). If we really love the Lord, we will commit ourselves to serving Him. not only with our heart and soul, but with our intellect as well. And that involves discovering, studying and applying sound Christian doctrine. Not only will this help us to grow in our faith, but it will possible for us to aid those who are weaker in the faith to stand firm against the torrents of false teachings and the bombardments of false teachers.
Christ Lifeline is going to provide you with sound doctrinal teaching following the syllabus of renowned theological school. It will be in layman’s language to make you a theologian with small “t” not capital “T”.
The materials you will access include topics like Soteriology, Pneumatology, Anthropology, Christian Ethics etc. We shall begin a survey of the Old Testament in the next study.
Adapted from Growing Deep in the Christian Life by Charles Swindoll
– Gabriel Ajibade