The Canon of Holy Scripture

The Protestant Bible contains 66 books -- 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The Catholic Bible contains the same 66 books, plus the Apocrypha.

The 39 Old Testament books are the same books that were included in the Jewish Palestinian canon. These books were considered canonical by the Jewish community, and were often quoted as authoritative by Jesus and the New Testament writers: "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalm" (Luke 24:44). The Apocrypha is never quoted as authoritative by Christ or any New Testament writer.

Jesus promised that his words would be remembered. He promised that the Holy Spirit would not only bring his words to mind, but would provide instruction as well: "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:25-26). The New Testament is a fulfillment of that promise.

The first record of the completed New Testament canon, as we recognize it today, is found in the writings of Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D. 367). That is not to imply, however, that prior to A.D. 367 there was confusion as to which books were considered authoritative. The majority of books contained in the New Testament canon were considered authoritative from the time they were written. Of the 10 additional books seriously considered as possible additions to the canon, three were rejected because they did not meet the stringent criteria. The criteria used to determine canonicity are as follows: (a) apostolic authorship or endorsement; (b) accepted as authoritative by the early church; (c) written by a confirmed prophet of God; and (d) harmonization with uncontested books.

The legitimate Bible translations we use today are completely reliable. While many cults mistranslate God's word to fit their own theology, there is ample manuscript evidence to affirm that most modern translations of the Bible are extremely accurate. Those that deny this do so for personal reasons, and not because of manuscript evidences. Clearly, the books included in our canon can be considered the inspired word of God.

Return