Week 5: Where did the Bible Come From? (The Canon)

by Jim on 22 February 2011

This was a week of pulling things together – I hope.  I’m trying, in these last three weeks, to fit everything we’ve learned together in a way that’s useful.

So I reviewed a bit – how the Old Testament was written, accepted as Scripture, and copied over the centuries.  Then back to what is really the cornerstone of everything – Jesus and His resurrection.  What did Jesus say about the Bible?  We talked about how Jesus sent out the apostles, how they were eyewitnesses of His life.

Then how those books and letters quickly spread around the Roman Empire.  How they were copied and recopied, read and studied, very early on.

I threw in a bunch of things I wanted to share last week about textual criticism.  We talked specifically about six passages in the New Testament that are different in different manuscripts.  What do we know about these?  Why is it important?  Why is it not important?

I also showed them some study tools that we use to talk about these things – we looked at footnotes in various Bibles that people had, that discuss manuscripts and things like that.

El Canon Bíblico

Anyway, today’s topic actually was the Biblical Canon.  So, why do we know that these books belong in the Bible, and not others?  Who "decided" which books would be on the "list"?  And why?

Well, of course, we have very good reasons to accept the canon of Scripture as it generally appears in our Bibles.  So we talked about that from a few angles.  (Maybe I shouldn’t say "of course", because a lot of people don’t know what those good reasons are!  Hence, the study.) ;)

And we briefly mentioned the common myth that goes around that Emperor Constantine pressured the folks at the Council of Nicea to put certain books in the Canon (a myth recently popularized in the novel The Da Vinci Code).  No, once again, there’s no record that the Canon was even discussed in that council.  How do these weird rumours get started?

Finally, we ended with some quotations from Hebrews 1-4.  Hebrews really brings together a lot of what we discussed tonight about where the Bible comes from – and then what that means for us right now.  In other words – now we have the Word of God – what are we going to do with it?

I thought you might like to read this selection from Hebrews.  We read it as a family recently, and as I said we read it in the study tonight.  Think about what it says about the Bible, and about what is does, and what we ought to do with it…

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?  It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will…

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Selections from Hebrews 1-4, emphasis mine)

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