Topical Studies                                                                                                          Power Point Show

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 119:169-176

Part 2


Development of the Canon

(What Books Should be in the Bible?)



1.     We have established the Bible’s claims for itself:  (1) Originated with God, (2) Complete (plenary), verbal inspiration, (3) Meets man’s greatest needs, (4) Relevant & effective.

2.     We must respect its authority and accuracy.

3.     Illus.  Go to book store to purchase a Bible…one has “the Apocrypha” included (RSV, NEB, Jerusalem Bible, etc.; 1st edition of KJV in 1611 did, too).  Why don’t we accept those books as binding?  Which Bible should you buy & use? 

4.     We now need to know which books to respect as inspired by God - which books should be received as having authoritative status.

5.     We must know the standard in order to conform our lives to it (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:17).

6.     Therefore, this issue is relevant to you and me today!



    A.    Canon - “a reed or measuring rod;” it came to mean “the norm or rule,” and eventually came to mean a “catalog or list.”  [Greek - KANON; Hebrew - GANEH].

        1.     It signifies a collection of writings which are God-breathed (inspired) & therefore, are authoritative & binding on men.

        2.     Important to recognize the difference between “inspiration” & “canonization.”



    A.    Those Books Virtually All Agree Belong in the Canon (Homologoumena, “confessed by all”).

    B.        Those Books Most All Agree Belong in the Canon, Though Some Dispute (“Antilegomena”).

    C.    Those Books Most Scholars Agree Do Not Belong in the Canon, Though Some Accept (“Apocrypha”).

    D.    Those Books Virtually All Agree Do Not Belong in the Canon (“Pseudepigrapha”).



    A.    Its Inspiration 2 Tim. 3:16.

        -Ultimately, a book’s inspiration is the test for canonicity (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

        1.     Because inspiration determines canonicity, no man, Church or Council made the books of the Bible authoritative (Authority comes before canonicity!)

            a.     F. F. Bruce, had this to say regarding authority and canonicity:

One thing must be emphatically stated.  The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect.  The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canon­ical books were both held in North Africa -- at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 -- but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities. (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, Bruce, F.F., p. 27)

            b.     Neil Lightfoot:

“There is a difference between the canonicity of a book and the authority of that book.  A book’s canonicity depends upon its authority.  When Paul, for example, writes to the Corinthians, he letter is to be acknowledged as possessing divine authority (1 Cor. 14:37).  This letter had authority from the moment he wrote it, yet it could not be referred to as canonical until it was received in a list of accepted writings formed sometime later.  At a later time it was accepted as canonical because of its inherent authority.  A book first has divine authority based on its inspiration, and then attains canonicity due to its general acceptance as a divine product.  No church council by its decrees can make the books of the Bible authoritative.  The books of the Bible possess their own authority and indeed had this authority long before there were any councils of the church.”  (How We Got The Bible, Lightfoot, 81-82; emp. mine)

        2.     2 Ths. 2:15 - The words of their epistles carried the authority for conduct.  cf. Eph. 3:3-5

    B.    Tests for Canonicity Include:

        1.     Apostolicity - Written by an apostle or someone who was with one of these eyewitnesses.

            a.     1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Ths. 3:17sign – “distinguished from others and is known.”  (Jno. 13:20)

            b.     1 Tim. 3:15 – Necessary instruction on behavior.

            c.     2 Pet. 3:15-16; 1 Tim. 5:18 (Lk. 10:7) – Writings of the apostles & prophets regarded as Scripture.


*Important to make sure only apostolic / prophetic writings (inspired) were received as binding upon men!!  (Gal. 1:8-9; cf. 2 Ths. 3:17)


        2.     Character of its contents – Spiritual nature & consistent (in harmony) with other books.


*Important to make sure profane, purely human writings (mind & will of men) were not received as binding upon men!!  (cf. 2 Ths. 2:1-2; Matt. 24:4)


        3.     Universality - Not always as clear (1 Ths. 5:27; Col. 4:16). 


*Important that all mankind accept every book as authoritative which is inspired by God!!  (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16 – “all” & “rest of Scripture” to be respected & obeyed).


            a.     Matthew-John & the epistles of Paul were widely accepted from the start.

            b.     General epistles, Hebrews and Revelation were disputed by some, generally acknowledged & gradually accepted.

            c.     Origen referred to two classes of writings:

                -Homologoumena - “Confessed by all;” Universally recognized.

                -Amphiballomena (Antilegomena) - “Things thrown both ways”; Those more or less opposed.

                -[Were also the apocrypha & pseudepigrapha to assess (rejected as inspired by God).]

            d.    Took 2-3 centuries for this winnowing process to occur.  (By the 3rd century, all NT books listed.)



    A.    A Canon Was Needed in Order to Identify the Accepted Standard.

        1.   To combat false teachers by identifying the accepted, authoritative writings (standard).

        2.   2 Pet. 2:1-2; 3:1-3, 16 – The destructive doctrines of false teachers can only be overcome with the power of divine truth – need to know what writings are from God!  cf. 1 Jno. 4:1, 6

    B.    To Identify the Counterfeits (2 Ths. 2:1-2).

        1.     Many Eastern churches were using spurious (counterfeit) books as sacred writings.



1.     We are confident the books in our Bible are inspired of God.  There are none missing that ought to be there, or some there that ought to be taken out.

2.     Will you take the Bible you have & use it to be saved?!  (2 Tim. 2:15)