Serving Jesus through discipleship

Can We Hear the Voice of God (Part 5)

What Is the Canon of Scripture?

The canon of Scripture is the collection of books that the church has recognized as having divine authority in matters of faith and doctrine. The term comes from the Greek word ‘kanon’ and the Hebrew work ‘qaneh’, both of which mean “a rule” or “measuring rod”. The canon is an authority to which other truth claims are compared and by which they are measured.

In his book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, F. F. Bruce states, “One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament Books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in the 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.”

Time after time Jesus and His apostles quoted from a distinctive body of authoritative writings. They designated them as “the Scripture”. They often introduced their quotations with “It is written”. We call these authoritative writings The Old Testament. Jewish people call them the Tanakh. It is important to note that the Tanakh includes the same material as the Protestant Old Testament though the books are arranged differently.

The early church used three criteria to establish the canonicity of the writings:

  1. Conformity to “the rule of faith.” Did the book conform to orthodoxy, Christian truth recognized as normative in the churches?
  2. Apostolicity: Was the writer of the book an apostle or did the writer have immediate contact with the apostles? All but a few of the New Testament writers were eyewitnesses to the events they recorded. Though not eyewitnesses, Luke received his information Paul and numerous eyewitnesses, while Mark received his information from Peter, who was an eyewitness. James and Jude were closely associated with the apostles in Jerusalem and were probably Jesus’ brothers, which would have also made them eyewitnesses.
  3. Catholicity. Did the book have widespread and continuous acceptance and usages by churches everywhere?

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5 thoughts on “Can We Hear the Voice of God (Part 5)

  1. Paul Haber on said:

    The inference I draw from your column today is that not all of the books of the Old Testament were considered divinely inspired. Is this true- or am I reading something incorrectly? If only some- which are NOT?

    • I don’t see where I made that inference. It is, however a good question!
      As I mentioned, the Old Testament is that same as the Jewish Tanakh, To be quite honest, I have no idea the criteria the ancient Jews used to determine if a writing was to be included in the sacred writings. What I do know is that the books that we call the Old Testament today ahave the same content as the Tanakh.
      There are however some books, written during the intertestamental period that were not included in the canon of scripture either by the JEws or be mainstream Christianity. You may read about them at

  2. “Tanakh includes the same material as the Protestant Old Testament though the books are arranged differently.” This is rather interesting. I wonder why those whom made up the order arranged them differently. So I wonder what is the order of the Hebrew Scriptures?

    Also on another note – about the book of Hebrews… we know not whom the author of this book is. There has been much debate over this and I am not wanting to enter into that debate but rather as you said above “The early church used three criteria” Rule # “2. Apostolicity:” It is rather odd that Hebrews was included in the Canon with having a clear reference to whom wrote it. I am not looking for any comment – I just wanted to make this observation.

  3. Kathleen Calfior on said:

    Just a wee note to clarify that the James that is Jesus’ brother is not the brother of John: the sons of Zebedee….Just in case anyone read your sentence too quickly!

  4. Pingback: Can We hear the Voice of God? (Part 8) « mcdministries

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