Who Chooses the Books in the Bible?
You’ve probably wondered, “Who chose the books in the bible?” The answer to that question is not always simple. Several factors were considered when early church leaders decided which texts to include in the canon. Among those were authorship and antiquity. Older texts were often given priority. Lastly, orthodoxy was taken into account, or how well a text conformed to current Christian teaching.
Constantine was the power-broker
Despite the controversy over the books in the Bible, the Roman Emperor Constantine had the final say. He chose four Gospels, out of about 80 contenders. He also ordered 50 new copies of the Greek canon, replacing the Scriptures that had been destroyed during the anti-Christian purge. Most of the rejected writings were not Christian, and did not fit the genre of the four books Constantine chose.
Church synods decided which books to include in the canon
In the early Christian era, Church synods decided which books should be included in the canon. These decisions were often controversial, and not every book was unanimously accepted. In the end, 19 out of 27 books were unanimously accepted. Today, these books are referred to as the Canonical Scriptures.
The early church leaders selected books based on three criteria: authorship, antiquity, and orthodoxy. Ancient texts were given precedence. Orthodoxy referred to whether the text conformed to the current teaching of Christians. Canonical books are considered sacred works by many Christian denominations.
Church synods voted to accept a set of books that they deemed to be of divine authority. In most cases, these texts were accepted, and their authorship was acknowledged. However, many outlying books were disputed, and the canon was amended until the sixteenth century. During this period, Luther published his German translation of the Bible. However, he disagreed with some of the texts in the canon. For instance, Luther thought the book of James, which stressed the importance of “works” alongside faith, was a false teaching. Therefore, he stuck it in the back of the Bible, along with Hebrews and Jude.
The Bible is the foundation of Christian belief. Early Christians inherited the Hebrew scriptures from the Jewish community before the ascension of Christ. As a result, the early Christian communities accepted the four gospels and most of the epistles as scripture. The Muratorian Canon, a list of books considered sacred during this time, describes the four gospels and a majority of the epistles.
In the second century, several heretical movements emerged in Christianity. Marcion broke with the church around A.D. 140 and compiled a list of Christian books. He claimed that the Gospel of Luke and the ten Pauline epistles were inspired. In addition, an increasing number of Christian writings claimed to describe unknown details about Christ. These were known as Gnostics.
Although these are the main books of the Bible, some other books are also included in the canon. The Gospel of John is often included in the canon.
It was a matter of practicality
The books of the Bible are a compilation of many writings that were composed at different times in history. Some were rejected, while others were accepted because they were useful to early faith communities. The early faith communities accepted the texts because they understood that God was the ultimate author of them. Not all texts were worthy of acceptance, and a process of practicality and censorship took place before the texts were chosen.
It was a matter of theology
The choice of books for the Bible has long been an issue of debate. The earliest Christian councils debated which books should be included, using clear measurements of canonicity. Ultimately, the winners of this theological battle determined which books would remain in the Bible. The result is that not all Christian denominations consider the same books to be canon. For example, the Protestant Bible contains 66 books, including 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Bible contains seven books of the Apocrypha. And the Ethiopian Orthodox Church includes 81 total books in its Bible.
The early church leaders made their decision on which books should be included in the Bible using three criteria. These criteria included authorship, antiquity, and orthodoxy, which refers to how well the book fits with current Christian teaching. In some cases, the early church included books that were not included in the Bible, like 2 Peter and 2 John.