ESV - 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
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Since God inspired all the writers of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), any given book of Scripture belonged in the canon from the moment of its writing. It was therefore a matter of God then guiding His human followers (through the working of God the Holy Spirit) as to which books should be included. Compared to the New Testament, there was much less controversy over the canon of the Old Testament. Hebrew believers recognized God’s messengers and accepted their writings as inspired of God. By A.D. 250 there was nearly universal agreement on the canon of Hebrew Scripture. The only issue that remained was the Apocrypha, with some debate and discussion continuing even to the present day. The vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered the Apocrypha to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the Hebrew Scriptures. For the New Testament, the process of the recognition and collection began in the first centuries of the Christian church. Very early on, some of the New Testament books were being recognized. Paul considered Luke’s writings to be as authoritative as the Old Testament (1 Timothy 5:18; see also Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7). Peter recognized Paul’s writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Some of the books of the New Testament were being circulated among the churches (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27). Clement of Rome mentioned at least eight New Testament books (A.D. 95). Ignatius of Antioch acknowledged about seven books (A.D. 115). Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, acknowledged 15 books (A.D. 108). Later, Irenaeus mentioned 21 books (A.D. 185). Hippolytus recognized 22 books (A.D. 170-235). The New Testament books that were the most controversial were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John. The first official “canon” was compiled in AD 170. It included all of the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, and 3 John. In AD 363, the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament (along with one book of the Apocrypha) and 26 books of the New Testament (everything but Revelation) were canonical and to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Council of Carthage (AD 397) later affirmed 27 New Testament books (including Revelation) as authoritative -- a ruling which is still recognized today. In their deliberations, the councils used questions such as the following to decide whether a New Testament book was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit: 1) Was the author either an apostle or closely connected with an apostle? 2) Was the book being accepted by the body of Christ at large? 3) Did the book contain consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching? 4) Did the book bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit? As noted above, in the final analysis, it was God, and God alone, who determined which books belonged in the Bible. It was then a matter of God’s imparting to His followers what He had already decided. The human process of collecting the books of the Bible was flawed, but God, in His sovereignty, and despite our ignorance and stubbornness, brought the early church to the recognition of the books that He had inspired.
There are too many people challenging the Word of God in our time. It’s so important that we start living out the Word and stop trying to find ways around it. I remember growing up and believing: If God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. I understand that the Catholics have 4 extra books in this bible; however they also believe that you can’t pray directly to God. Other religions have different bibles and religious practices that I studied when I was getting my BS in Theology. I recently ran into a man that claimed to be a pastor; however when I was talking with him he was so far off the mark that he didn’t believe in the Virgin birth or even that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman. I just had to stop him and walk away. He was like a carnival barker just trying to get attention. How can we look around ourselves and see what God has made and and question the validity of God’s word he put the Bible in order so that we could see his mighty hand at work in all of us? He chose the books wisely and placed them in a specific order so that we could understand his love and walk in his compassion, and we should do so to all those around us by sharing his love his word and his direction.
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