International Standard Bible EncyclopediaCANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
I. TWO PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS
1. Early Christians Had the Old Testament
2. No Intention of Writing the New Testament
II. THREE STAGES OF THE PROCESS
1. From the Apostles to 170 A.D.
(1) Clement of Rome; Ignatius; Polycarp
(2) Forces Increasing Value of Writings
(a) Apologists, Justin Martyr
(b) Gnostics, Marcion
2. From 170 A.D. to 220 A.D.
(2) Muratorian Fragment
3. 3rd and 4th Centuries
(6) Council of Carthage; Jerome; Augustine
I. Two Preliminary Considerations.
The canon is the collection of 27 books which the church (generally) receives as its New Testament Scriptures. The history of the canon is the history of the process by which these books were brought together and their value as sacred Scriptures officially recognized. That process was gradual, furthered by definite needs, and, though unquestionably continuous, is in its earlier stages difficult to trace. It is always well in turning to the study of it to have in mind two considerations which bear upon the earliest phases of the whole movement. These are:
1. Early Christians Had the Old Testament:
The early Christians had in their hands what was a Bible to them, namely, the Old Testament Scriptures. These were used to a surprising extent in Christian instruction. For a whole century after the death of Jesus this was the case. These Scriptures were read in the churches, and there could be at first no idea of placing beside them new books which could for a moment rank with them in honor and authority. It has been once and again discussed whether Christianity from the first was a "book-religion." The decision of the matter depends upon what is referred to by the word "book." Christianity certainly did have from the very beginning a book which it reverenced-the Old Testament-but years passed before it had even the beginnings of a book of its own. What has been called "the wealth of living canonical material," namely, prophets and teachers, made written words of subordinate value. In this very teaching, however, with its oral traditions lay the beginnings of that movement which was ultimately to issue in a canon of writings.
2. No Intention of Writing the New Testament:
When the actual work of writing began no one who sent forth an epistle or framed a gospel had before him the definite purpose of contributing toward the formation of what we call "the Bible." All the New Testament writers looked for "the end" as near. Their words, therefore, were to meet definite needs in the lives of those with whom they were associated. They had no thought of creating a new sacred literature. And yet these incidental occasional writings have come to be our choicest Scripture. The circumstances and influences which brought about this result are here briefly set forth.
II. Three Stages of the Process.
For convenience of arrangement and definiteness of impression the whole process may be marked off in three stages:
(1) that from the time of the apostles until about 170 A.D.;
(2) that of the closing years of the 2nd century and the opening of the 3rd (170-220 A.D.);
(3) that of the 3rd and 4th centuries. In the first we seek for the evidences of the growth in appreciation of the peculiar value of the New Testament writings; in the second we discover the clear, full recognition of a large part of these writings as sacred and authoritative; in the third the acceptance of the complete canon in the East and in the West.
1. From the Apostles to 170 A.D.:
(1) Clement of Rome; Ignarius; Polycarp:
The first period extending to 170 A.D.-It does not lie within the scope of this article to recount the origin of the several books of the New Testament. This belongs properly to New Testament Introduction (which see). By the end of the 1st century all of the books of the New Testament were in existence. They were, as treasures of given churches, widely separated and honored as containing the word of Jesus or the teaching of the apostles. From the very first the authority of Jesus had full recognition in all the Christian world. The whole work of the apostles was in interpreting Him to the growing church. His sayings and His life were in part for the illumination of the Old Testament; wholly for the understanding of life and its issues. In every assembly of Christians from the earliest days He was taught as well as the Old Testament. In each church to which an epistle was written that epistle was likewise read. Paul asked that his letters be read in this way (1 Thessalonians 5:27 Colossians 4:16). In this attentive listening to the exposition of some event in the life of Jesus or to the reading of the epistle of an apostle began the "authorization" of the traditions concerning Jesus and the apostolic writings. The widening of the area of the church and the departure of the apostles from earth emphasized increasingly the value of that which the writers of the New Testament left behind them. Quite early the desire to have the benefit of all possible instruction led to the interchange of Christian writings. Polycarp (110 A.D. ?) writes to the Philippians, "I have received letters from you and from Ignatius. You recommend me to send on yours to Syria; I shall do so either personally or by some other means. In return I send you the letter of Ignatius as well as others which I have in my hands and for which you made request. I add them to the present one; they will serve to edify your faith and perseverance" (Epistle to Phil, XIII). This is an illustration of what must have happened toward furthering a knowledge of the writings of the apostles. Just when and to what extent "collections" of our New Testament books began to be made it is impossible to say, but it is fair to infer that a collection of the Pauline epistles existed at the time Polycarp wrote to the Philippians and when Ignatius wrote his seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor, i.e. about 115 A.D. There is good reason to think also that the four Gospels were brought together in some places as early as this. A clear distinction, however, is to be kept in mind between "collections" and such recognition as we imply in the word "canonical." The gathering of books was one of the steps preliminary to this. Examination of the testimony to the New Testament in this early time indicates also that it is given with no intention of framing the canonicity of New Testament books. In numerous instances only "echoes" of the thought of the epistles appear; again quotations are incomplete; both showing that Scripture words are used as the natural expression of Christian thought. In the same way the Apostolic Fathers refer to the teachings and deeds of Jesus. They witness "to the substance and not to the authenticity of the Gospels." That this all may be more evident let us note in more detail the witness of the subapostolic age.
Clement of Rome, in 95 A.D., wrote a letter in the name of the Christians of Rome to those in Corinth. In this letter he uses material found in Matthew, Luke, giving it a free rendering (see chapters 46 and 13); he has been much influenced by the Epistle to the Hebrews (see chapters 9, 10, 17, 19, 36). He knows Romans, Corinthians, and there are found echoes of 1 Timothy, Titus, 1 Peter and Ephesians.
The Epistles of Ignatius (115 A.D.) have correspondences with our gospels in several places (Ephesians 5 Romans 6; Romans 7) and incorporate language from nearly all of the Pauline epistles. The Epistle to Polycarp makes large use of Phil, and besides this cites nine of the other Pauline epistles. Ignatius quotes from Matthew, apparently from memory; also from 1 Peter and 1 John. In regard to all these three writers-Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius-it is not enough to say that they bring us reminiscences or quotations from this or that book. Their thought is tinctured all through with New Testament truth. As we move a little farther down the years we come to "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" (circa 120 A.D. in its present form; see DIDACHE); the Epistle of Barnabas (circa 130 A.D.) and the Shepherd of Hermas (circa 130 A.D.). These exhibit the same phenomena as appear in the writings of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp as far as references to the New Testament are concerned. Some books are quoted, and the thought of the three writings echoes again and again the teachings of the New Testament. They bear distinct witness to the value of "the gospel" and the doctrine of the apostles, so much so as to place these clearly above their own words. It is in the Epistle of Barnabas that we first come upon the phrase "it is written," referring to a New Testament book (Matthew) (see Epis., iv.14). In this deepening sense of value was enfolded the feeling of authoritativeness, which slowly was to find expression. It is well to add that what we have so far discovered was true in widely separated parts of the Christian world as e.g. Rome and Asia Minor.
(2) Forces Increasing Value of Writings:
(a) Apologists, Justin Martyr:
The literature of the period we are examining was not, however, wholly of the kind of which we have been speaking. Two forces were calling out other expressions of the singular value of the writings of the apostles, whether gospels or epistles. These were
(a) the attention of the civil government in view of the rapid growth of the Christian church and
The first brought to the defense or commendation of Christianity the Apologists, among whom were Justin Martyr, Aristides, Melito of Sardis and Theophilus of Antioch. By far the most important of these was Justin Martyr, and his work may be taken as representative. He was born about 100 A.D. at Shechem, and died as a martyr at Rome in 165 A.D. His two Apologies and the Dialogue with Trypho are the sources for the study of his testimony. He speaks of the "Memoirs of the Apostles called Gospels" (Ap., i.66) which were read on Sunday interchangeably with the prophets (i.67). Here emerges that equivalence in value of these "Gospels" with the Old Testament Scriptures which may really mark the beginning of canonization. That these Gospels were our four Gospels as we now have them is yet a disputed question; but the evidence is weighty that they were. (SeePurves, Testimony of Justin Martyr to Early Christianity, Lect V.) The fact that Tatian, his pupil, made a harmony of the Gospels, i.e. of our four Gospels, also bears upon our interpretation of Justin's "Memoirs." (SeeHemphill, The Diatessaron of Tatian.) The only other New Testament book which Justin mentions is the Apocalypse; but he appears to have known the Acts, six epistles of Paul, Hebrew and 1 John, and echoes of still other epistles are perceptible. When he speaks of the apostles it is after this fashion: "By the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the Word of God" (Ap., i.39). It is debatable, however, whether this refers to more than the actual preaching of the apostles. The beginning of the formation of the canon is in the position and authority given to the Gospels.
(b) Gnostics, Marcion:
While the Apologists were busy commending or defending Christianity, heresy in the form of Gnosticism was also compelling attention to the matter of the writings of the apostles. From the beginning Gnostic teachers claimed that Jesus had favored chosen ones of His apostles with a body of esoteric truth which had been handed down by secret tradition. This the church denied, and in the controversy that went on through years the question of what were authoritative writings became more and more pronounced. Basilides e.g., who taught in Alexandria during the reign of Hadrian (AD 117-38), had for his secret authority the secret tradition of the apostle Matthias and of Glaucias, an alleged interpreter of Peter, but he bears witness to Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians in the effort to recommend his doctrines, and, what is more, gives them the value of Scripture in order to support more securely his teachings. (SeePhilosophoumena of Hippolytus, VII, 17). Valentinus, tracing his authority through Theodas to Paul, makes the same general use of New Testament books, and Tertullian tells us that he appeared to use the whole New Testament as then known.
The most noted of the Gnostics was Marcion, a native of Pontus. He went to Rome (circa 140 A.D.), there broke with the church and became a dangerous heretic. In support of his peculiar views, he formed a canon of his own which consisted of Luke's Gospel and ten of the Pauline epistles. He rejected the Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, Matthew, Mark, John, the Acts, the Catholic epistles and the Apocalypse, and made a recension of both the gospel of Luke and the Pauline epistles which he accepted. His importance, for us, however, is in the fact that he gives us the first clear evidence of the canonization of the Pauline epistles. Such use of the Scriptures inevitably called forth both criticism and a clearer marking off of those books which were to be used in the churches opposed to heresy, and so "in the struggle with Gnosticism the canon was made." We are thus brought to the end of the first period in which we have marked the collection of New Testament books in greater or smaller compass, the increasing valuation of them as depositions of the truth of Jesus and His apostles, and finally the movement toward the claim of their authoritativeness as over against perverted teaching. No sharp line as to a given year can be drawn between the first stage of the process and the second. Forces working in the first go on into the second, but results are accomplished in the second which give it its right to separate consideration.
2. From 170 A.D. to 220 A.D.:
The period from 170 A.D. to 220 A.D.-This is the age of a voluminous theological literature busy with the great issues of church canon and creed. It is the period of the great names of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, representing respectively Asia Minor, Egypt and North Africa. In passing into it we come into the clear light of Christian history. There is no longer any question as to a New Testament canon; the only difference of judgment is as to its extent. What has been slowly but surely shaping itself in the consciousness of the church now comes to clear expression.
That expression we may study in Irenaeus as representative of the period. He was born in Asia Minor, lived and taught in Rome and became afterward bishop of Lyons. He had, therefore, a wide acquaintance with the churches, and was peculiarly competent to speak concerning the general judgment of the Christian world. As a pupil of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, he is connected with the apostles themselves. An earnest defender of the truth, he makes the New Testament in great part his authority, and often appeals to it. The four Gospels, the Acts, the epistles of Paul, several of the Catholic epistles and the Apocalypse are to him Scripture in the fullest sense. They are genuine and authoritative, as much so as the Old Testament ever was. He dwells upon the fact that there are four gospels, the very number being prefigured in the four winds and the four quarters of the earth. Every attempt to increase or diminish the number is heresy. Tertullian takes virtually the same position (Adv. Marc., iv. 2), while Clement of Alexandria quotes all four gospels as "Scripture." By the end of the 2nd century the canon of the gospels was settled. The same is true also of the Pauline epistles. Irenaeus makes more than two hundred citations from Paul, and looks upon his epistles as Scripture (Adv. Haer., iii.12, 12). Indeed, at this time it may be said that the new canon was known under the designation "The Gospel and the Apostles" in contradistinction to the old as "the Law and the Prophets." The title "New Testament" appears to have been first used by an unknown writer against Montanism (circa 193 A.D.). It occurs frequently after this in Origen and later writers. In considering all this testimony two facts should have emphasis:
(1) its wide extent: Clement and Irenaeus represent parts of Christendom which are widely separated;
(2) the relation of these men to those who have gone before them. Their lives together with those before them spanned nearly the whole time from the apostles.
They but voiced the judgment which silently, gradually had been selecting the "Scripture" which they freely and fully acknowledged and to which they made appeal.
(2) The Muratorian Fragment.
Just here we come upon the Muratorian Fragment, so called because discovered in 1740 by the librarian of Milan, Muratori. It dates from some time near the end of the 2nd century, is of vital interest in the study of the history of the canon, since it gives us a list of New Testament books and is concerned with the question of the canon itself. The document comes from Rome, and Lightfoot assigns it to Hippolytus. Its list contains the Gospels (the first line of the fragment is incomplete, beginning with Mark, but Matthew is clearly implied), the Acts, the Pauline epistles, the Apocalypse, 1 and 2 John (perhaps by implication the third) and Jude. It does not mention Hebrew, 1 and 2 Peter, James. In this list we have virtually the real position of the canon at the close of the 2nd century. Complete unanimity had not been attained in reference to all the books which are now between the covers of our New Testament. Seven books had not yet found a secure place beside the gospel and Paul in all parts of the church. The Palestinian and Syrian churches for a long time rejected the Apocalypse, while some of the Catholic epistles were in Egypt considered doubtful. The history of the final acceptance of these belongs to the third period.
3. 3rd and 4th Centuries:
The period included by the 3rd and 4th centuries-It has been said that "the question of the canon did not make much progress in the course of the 3rd century" (Reuss, History of the Canon of Holy Scripture, 125). We have the testimony of a few notable teachers mostly from one center, Alexandria. Their consideration of the question of the disputed book serves just here one purpose. By far the most distinguished name of the 3rd century is Origen. He was born in Alexandria about 185 A.D., and before he was seventeen became an instructor in the school for catechumens. In 203 he was appointed bishop, experienced various fortunes, and died in 254. His fame rests upon his ability as an exegete, though he worked laboriously and successfully in other fields. His testimony is of high value, not simply because of his own studies, but also because of his wide knowledge of what was thought in other Christian centers in the world of his time. Space permits us only to give in summary form his conclusions, especially in regard to the books still in doubt. The Gospels, the Pauline epistles, the Acts, he accepts without question. He discusses at some length the authorship of He, believes that "God alone knows who wrote it," and accepts it as Scripture. His testimony to the Apocalypse is given in the sentence, "Therefore John the son of Zebedee says in the Revelation." He also gives sure witness to Jude, but wavers in regard to James, 2 Peter, 2 John, and 3 John.
Another noted name of this century is Dionysius of Alexandria, a pupil of Origen (died 265). His most interesting discussion is regarding the Apocalypse, which he attributes to an unknown John, but he does not dispute its inspiration. It is a singular fact that the western church accepted this book from the first, while its position in the East was variable. Conversely the Epistle to the He was more insecure in the West than in the East. In regard to the Catholic epistles Dionysius supports James, 2 John, and 3 John, but not 2 Peter or Jude.
In the West the name of Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (248-58 A.D.), was most influential. He was much engaged in controversy, but a man of great personal force. The Apocalypse he highly honored, but he was silent about the Epistle to the Hebrews. He refers to only two of the Catholic epistles, 1 Peter and 1 John.
These testimonies confirm what was said above, namely, that the end of the 3rd century leaves the question of the full canon about where it was at the beginning. 1 Peter and 1 John seem to have been everywhere known and accepted. In the West the five Catholic epistles gained recognition more slowly than in the East.
In the early part of the 4th century Eusebius (270-340 A.D.), bishop of Caesarea before 315, sets before us in his Church History (III, chapters iii-xxv) his estimate of the canon in his time. He does not of course use the word canon, but he "conducts an historical inquiry into the belief and practice of earlier generations." He lived through the last great persecution in the early part of the 4th century, when not only places of worship were razed to the ground, but also the sacred Scriptures were in the public market-places consigned to the flames (Historia Ecclesiastica, VIII, 2). It was, therefore, no idle question what book a loyal Christian must stand for as his Scripture. The question of the canon had an earnest, practical significance. Despite some obscurity and apparent contradictions, his classification of the New Testament books was as follows:
(1) The acknowledged books. His criteria for each of these was authenticity and apostolicity and he placed in this list the Gospels, Acts, and Paul's epistles, including He.
(2) The disputed books, i.e. those which had obtained only partial recognition, to which he assigned Jas, Jude, 2Pe and 2 Jn. About the Apocalypse also he was not sure. In this testimony there is not much advance over that of the 3rd century. It is virtually the canon of Origen.
All this makes evident the fact that as yet no official decision nor uniformity of usage in the church gave a completed canon. The time, however, was drawing on when various forces at work were to bring much nearer this unanimity and enlarge the list of acknowledged books. In the second half of the 4th century repeated efforts were made to put an end to uncertainty.
Athanasius in one of his pastoral letters in connection with the publishing of the ecclesiastical calendar gives a list of the books comprising Scripture, and in the New Testament portion are included all the 27 books which we now recognize. "These are the wells of salvation," he writes, "so that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the sayings in these. Let no one add to these. Let nothing be taken away." Gregory of Nazianzen (died 390 A.D.) also published a list omitting Revelation, as did Cyril of Jerusalem (died 386), and quite at the end of the century (4th) Isidore of Pelusium speaks of the "canon of truth, the Divine Scriptures." For a considerable time the Apocalypse was not accepted in the Palestinian or Syrian churches. Athanasius helped toward its acceptance in the church of Alexandria. Some differences of opinion, however, continued. The Syrian church did not accept all of the Catholic epistles until much later.
(6) Council of Carthage, Jerome; Augustine:
The Council of Carthage in 397, in connection with its decree "that aside from the canonical Scriptures nothing is to be read in church under the name of Divine Scriptures," gives a list of the books of the New Testament. After this fashion there was an endeavor to secure unanimity, while at the same time differences of judgment and practice continued. The books which had varied treatment through these early centuries were He, the Apocalypse and the five minor Catholic epistles. The advance of Christianity under Constantine had much to do with the reception of the whole group of books in the East. The task which the emperor gave to Eusebius to prepare "fifty copies of the Divine Scriptures" established a standard which in time gave recognition to all doubtful books. In the West, Jerome and Augustine were the controlling factors in its settlement of the canon. The publication of the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) virtually determined the matter.
In conclusion let it be noted how much the human element was involved in the whole process of forming our New Testament. No one would wish to dispute a providential overruling of it all. Also it is well to bear in mind that all the books have not the same clear title to their places in the canon as far as the history of their attestation is concerned. Clear and full and unanimous, however, has been the judgment from the beginning upon the Gospels, the Acts, the Pauline epistles, 1 Peter and 1 John.
LITERATURE. Reuss, History of the Canon of Holy Scriptures; E. C. Moore, The New Testament in the Christian Church; Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament; Introductions to New Testament of Julicher, Weiss, Reuss; Zahn, Geschichte des Neutest. Kanons; Harnack, Das New Testament um das Jahr 200; Chronologie der altchristlichen Literatur; Westcott, The Canon of the New Testament; Zahn, Forschungen zur Gesch. des neutest. Kanons.
J. S. Riggs
CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. The Christian Term "Canon"
2. The Corresponding Hebrew Expression
3. The "Hidden Books" of the Jews
4. The Determining Principle in the Formation of the Canon
5. The Tripartite Division of the Old Testament
6. How Account for the Tripartite Division?
II. EXAMINATION OF THE WITNESSES
1. The Old Testament's Witness to Itself (circa 1450-444 B.C.)
2. The Samaritan Pentateuch (circa 432 B.C.)
3. The Septuagint Version (circa 250-150 B.C.)
4. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (circa 170 B.C.)
5. The Prologue to Ecclesiasticus (circa 132 B.C.)
6. 1 and 2 Maccabees (between 125 and 70 B.C.)
7. Philo (circa 20 B.C.-50 A.D.)
8. The New Testament as a Witness (circa 50-100 A.D.)
9. 4 Esdras (circa 81-96 A.D.)
10. Josephus' "Contra Apionem" (circa 100 A.D.)
11. The Councils of Jamnia (90 and 118 A.D.)
12. The Talmud (200-500 A.D.)
13. Jewish Doubts in the 2nd Century A.D.
14. Summary and Conclusion
III. THE CANON IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
1. In the Eastern or Oriental Church
2. In the Western Church
The problem of how we came by 39 books known as Old Testament "Scripture" is a purely historical investigation. The question involved is, not who wrote the several books, but who made them into a collection, not their origin or contents, but their history; not God's part, but man's. Our present aim, accordingly, must be to trace the process by which the various writings became "Scripture."
1. The Christian Term "Canon":
The word "canon" is of Christian origin, from the Greek word kanon, which in turn is probably borrowed from the Hebrew word, qaneh, meaning a reed or measuring rod, hence, norm or rule. Later it came to mean a rule of faith, and eventually a catalogue or list. In present usage it signifies a collection of religious writings Divinely inspired and hence, authoritative, normative, sacred and binding. The term occurs in Galatians 6:16 2 Corinthians 10:13-16; but it is first employed of the books of Scripture in the technical sense of a standard collection or body of sacred writings, by the church Fathers of the 4th century; e.g. in the 59th canon of the Council of Laodicea (363 A.D.); in the Festal Epistle of Athanasius (365 A.D.); and by Amphilochius, archbishop of Iconium (395 A.D.).
2. The Corresponding Hebrew Expression:
How the ancient Hebrews expressed the conception of canonicity is not known; but it is safe to say that the idea, as an idea, existed long before there was any special phrase invented to express it. In the New Testament the word "Scriptures" conveys unquestionably the notion of sacredness (Matthew 21:42 John 5:39 Acts 18:24). From the 1st century A.D. and following, however, according to the Talmud, the Jews employed the phrase "defile the hands." Writings which were suitable to be read in the synagogue were designated as books which "defile the hands." What this very peculiar oriental expression may have originally signified no one definitely knows. Probably Leviticus 16:24 gives a hint of the true interpretation. According to this passage the high priest on the great Day of Atonement washed not only when he put on the holy garments of his office, but also when he put them off. Quite possibly, therefore, the expression "defile the hands" signified that the hands which had touched the sacred writings must first be washed before touching aught else. The idea expressed, accordingly, was one akin to that of taboo. That is to say, just as certain garments worn by worshippers in encircling the sacred Kaaba at Mecca are taboo to the Mohammedans of today, i.e. cannot be worn outside the mosque, but must be left at the door as the worshippers quit the sanctuary, so the Hebrew writings which were fit to be read in the synagogue rendered the hands of those who touched them taboo, defiling their hands, as they were wont to say, so that they must first be washed before engaging in any secular business. This seems to be the best explanation of this enigmatical phrase. Various other and somewhat fanciful explanations of it, however, have been given: for example, to prevent profane uses of worn-out synagogue rolls (Buhl); or to prevent placing consecrated grain alongside of the sacred rolls in the synagogues that it might become holy, as the grain would attract the mice and the mice would gnaw the rolls (Strack, Wildeboer and others); or to prevent the sacred, worn-out parchments from being used as coverings for animals (Graetz); or to "declare the hands to be unclean unless previously washed" (Furst, Green). But no one of these explanations satisfies. The idea of taboo is more likely imbedded in the phrase.
3. The "Hidden Books" of the Jews:
The rabbins invented a special phrase to designate rolls that were worn-out or disputed. These they called genuzim, meaning "hidden away." Cemeteries filled with Hebrew manuscripts which have long been buried are frequently found today in Egypt in connection with Jewish synagogues. Such rolls might first be placed in the genizah or rubbish chamber of the sanctuary. They were not, however, apocryphal or uncanonical in the sense of being extraneous or outside the regular collection. For such the Jews had a special term cepharim chitsonim, "books that are outside." These could not be read in the synagogues. "Hidden books" were rather worn-out parchments, or canonical rolls which might by some be temporarily disputed.
4. The Determining Principle in the Formation of the Canon:
Who had the right to declare a writing canonical? To this question widely divergent answers have been given. According to a certain class of theologians the several books of the Old Testament were composed by authors who were conscious not only of their inspiration but also that their writings were destined to be handed down to the church of future generations as sacred. In other words each writer canonized, as it were, his own writings. For example, Dr. W. H. Green (Canon, 35, 106, 110) says: "No formal declaration of their canonicity was needed to give them sanction. They were from the first not only eagerly read by the devout but believed to be Divinely obligatory. Each individual book of an acknowledged prophet of Yahweh, or of anyone accredited as inspired by Him to make known His will, was accepted as the word of God immediately upon its appearance.. Those books and those only were accepted as the Divine standards of their faith and regulative of their conduct which were written for this definite purpose by those whom they believed to be inspired of God. It was this which made them canonical. The spiritual profit found in them corresponded with and confirmed the belief in their heavenly origin. And the public official action which further attested, though it did not initiate, their canonicity, followed in the wake of the popular recognition of their Divine authority.. The writings of the prophets, delivered to the people as a declaration of the Divine will, possessed canonical authority from the moment of their appearance.. The canon does not derive its authority from the church, whether Jewish or Christian; the office of the church is merely that of a custodian and a witness." So likewise Dr. J. D. Davis (Pres. and Ref. Review, April, 1902, 182).
On the contrary, Dillmann (Jahrb. fur deutsche Theol., III, 420) more scientifically claims that "history knows nothing of the individual books having been designed to be sacred from their origin.. These books bore indeed in themselves from the first those characteristics on account of which they were subsequently admitted into the sacred collection, but yet always had first to pass through a shorter or longer period of verification, and make trial of the Divine power resident within them upon the hearts of the church before they were outwardly and formally acknowledged by it as Divine books." As a matter of fact, the books of the Old Testament are still on trial, and ever will be. So far as is known, the great majority of the writers of Holy Scripture did not arbitrarily hand over their productions to the church and expect them to be regarded as canon Scripture. Two parties are involved in the making of canonical Scripture-the original authors and the church-both of whom were inspired by the same Spirit. The authors wrote inspired by the Divine Spirit, and the church ever since-Jewish and Christian alike-has been inspired to recognize the authoritative character of their writings. And so it will be to the end of time. "We cannot be certain that anything comes from God unless it bring us personally something evidently Divine" (Briggs, The Study of Holy Scripture, 162).
5. The Tripartite Division of the Old Testament:
The Jews early divided the Old Testament writings into three classes:
(1) the Torah, or Law; (2) the Nebhi'im, or Prophets; and
(3) the Kethubhim, or Writings, called in Greek the Hagiographa.
The Torah included the 5 books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), which were called "the Five-fifths of the Law." The Nebhi'im embraced
(a) the four so-called Former Prophets, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, counted as one book, 1 and 2 Kings, also counted as one book; and
(b) the four so-called Latter Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets, counted as one book; a total of 8 books.
The Kethubhim, or Writings, were 11 in all, including Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, the five Meghilloth or Rolls (Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther), Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, counted as one book, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, also counted as one book; in all 24 books, exactly the same as those of the Protestant canon. This was the original count of the Jews as far as we can trace it back. Later certain Jewish authorities appended Ruth to Judges, and Lamentations to Jeremiah, and thereby obtained the number 22, which corresponded to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet; but this manner of counting was secondary and fanciful. Still later others divided Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah and Jeremiah-Lamentations into two books each respectively and thereby obtained 27, which they fancifully regarded as equivalent to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet plus 5, the number of letters having a peculiar final form when standing at the end of a word. Jerome states that 22 is the correct reckoning, but he adds, "Some count both Ruth and Lamentations among the Hagiographa, and so get 24." 4 Esdras, which is the oldest (85-96 A.D.) witness to the number of books in the Old Testament, gives 24.
6. How Account for the Tripartite Division?:
The answer to the question of how to account for the tripartite division involves the most careful investigation of the whole process by which the canon actually took shape. If the entire canon of the Old Testament were formed, as some allege, by one man, or by one set of men, in a single age, then it is obvious that the books must have been separated into three groups on the basis of some material differences in their contents. If, on the other hand; the process of canonization was gradual and extended over several generations, then the various books were separated from one another probably because one section of the canon was closed before certain other books of similar character were written. At any rate it is difficult to see why Kings and Chronicles are not included in the same division, and especially strange that Daniel does not stand among the prophets. To explain this mystery, medieval Jews were wont to say that "the Prophets were inspired by the spirit of prophecy, whereas the Writings by the Holy Spirit," implying different degrees of inspiration. But this is a distinction without a difference, the Holy Spirit and the spirit of prophecy are one and the same. Modern Protestants distinguish between the donum propheticum and the munus propheticum, i.e. between the gift and the office of prophecy. They allow that Daniel possessed the gift of prophecy, but they deny that he was Divinely appointed to the office of prophet. But compare Matthew 24:15, which speaks of "Daniel the prophet," and on the other hand, Amos 7:14, in which Amos resents being considered a prophet. Oehler modifies this explanation, claiming that the threefold division of the canon corresponds to the three stages of development in the religion of Israel, namely, Mosaism, Prophetism, and Hebraism. According to Oehler, the Law was the foundation of the entire canon. From it there were two lines of development, one objective, the Prophets, the other subjective, the Writings. But Oehler's theory does not satisfactorily account for Ezra and Nehemiah and Chronicles, being in the third division; for in what sense can they be said to be more subjective than Judges, Samuel, and Kings? The Septuagint version (250-150 B.C.) takes no notice of the tripartite division. The true solution probably is that the process was gradual. When all the witnesses have been examined, we shall probably discover that the Law was canonized first, the Prophets considerably later, and the Writings last of all. And it may further become evident that the two last divisions were collected synchronously, and hence, that the tripartite divisions of the canon are due to material differences in their contents as well as to chronology.
II. Examination of the Witnesses.
1. The Old Testament's Witness to Itself (circa 1450-444 B.C.):
Though the Old Testament does not tell us anything about the processes of its own canonization, it does furnish valuable hints as to how the ancient Hebrews preserved their writings. Thus in Exodus 40:20 it is stated that the "testimony," by which is meant the two tables of the Law containing the Ten Commandments, was put into the Ark of the Covenant for safe-keeping. In Deuteronomy 31:9, 24-26, the laws of Deuteronomy are said to have been delivered to the sons of Levi, and by them deposited "by the side of the ark. that it may be there for a witness against thee." Such language indicates that the new lawbook is regarded "as a standard of faith and action" (Driver, Deuteronomy, 343). According to 1 Kings 8:9, when Solomon brought the Ark up from the city of David to the Temple, the two tables were still its only contents, which continued to be carefully preserved. According to 2 Kings 11:12, when Joash was crowned king, Jehoiada the high priest is said to have given (literally "put upon") him "the testimony," which doubtless contained "the substance of the fundamental laws of the covenant," and was regarded as "the fundamental charter of the constitution" (compare H. E. Ryle, Canon of the Old Testament 45). Likewise in Proverbs 25:1, it is stated that a large number of proverbs were copied out by Hezekiah's men. Now all these, and still other passages which might be summoned, witness to the preservation of certain portions of the Old Testament. But preservation is not synonymous with canonization. A writing might easily be preserved without being made a standard of faith and conduct. Nevertheless the two ideas are closely related; for, when religious writings are sedulously preserved it is but natural to infer that their intrinsic value was regarded as correspondingly precious.
Two other passages of paramount importance remain to be considered. The first is 2 Kings 22:8, describing the finding of the "Book of the Law," and how Josiah the king on the basis of it instituted a religious reformation and bound the people to obey it precepts. Here is an instance in which the Law, or some portion of it (how much no one can say), is regarded as of normative and authoritative character. The king and his coadjutators recognize at once that it is ancient and that it contains the words of Yahweh (2 Kings 22:13, 18, 19). Its authority is undisputed. Yet nothing is said of its "canonicity," or that it would "defile the hands"; consequently there is no real ground for speaking of it as "the beginnings of the canon," for in the same historic sense the beginnings of the canon are to be found in Exodus 24:7. The other passage of paramount importance is Nehemiah 8:8, according to which Ezra is said to have "read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly." Not only did Ezra read the Law; he accompanied it with an interpretation. This seems to imply, almost beyond question, that in Ezra's time (444 B.C.) the Law, i.e. the Pentateuch, was regarded as canonical Scripture. This is practically all that the Old Testament says about itself, though other passages, such as Zechariah 7:12 and Daniel 9:2 might be brought forward to show the deep regard which the later prophets had for the writings of their predecessors. The former of these is the locus classicus in the Old Testament, teaching the inspiration of the Prophets; it is the Old Testament parallel to 2 Timothy 3:16.
2. The Samaritan Pentateuch (circa 432 B.C.):
Chronologically the Old Testament is of course our most ancient witness. It brings us down to 444 B.C. The next in order is the Samaritan Pentateuch, the history of which is as follows: About 432 B.C., as we know from Nehemiah 13:28 and Josephus (Ant., XI, vii, 2 through viii, 4), Nehemiah expelled from the Jewish colony in Jerusalem Manasseh, the polygamous grandson of Eliashib the high priest and son-in-law of Sanballat. Manasseh founded the schismatic community of the Samaritans, and instituted on Mt. Gerizim a rival temple worship to that at Jerusalem. Of the Samaritans there still survive today some 170 souls; they reside in Shechem and are known as "the smallest religious sect in the world." It is true that Josephus, speaking of this event, confuses chronology somewhat, making Nehemiah and Alexander the Great contemporaries, whereas a century separated them, but the time element is of little moment. The bearing of the whole matter upon the history of the formation of the canon is this: the Samaritans possess the Pentateuch only; hence, it is inferred that at the time of Manasseh's expulsion the Jewish canon included the Pentateuch and the Pentateuch only. Budde (Encyclopaedia Biblica col. 659) says: "If alongside of the Law there had been other sacred writings, it would be inexplicable why these last also did not pass into currency with the Samaritans." Such a conclusion, however, is not fully warranted. It is an argument from silence. There are patent reasons on the other hand why the Samaritans should have rejected the Prophets, even though the y were already canonized. For the Samaritans would hardly adopt into their canon books that glorified the temple at Jerusalem. It cannot, accordingly, be inferred with certainty from the fact that the Samaritans accept the Pentateuch only, that therefore the Pentateuch at the time of Manasseh's expulsion was alone canonical, though it may be considered a reasonable presumption.
3. The Septuagint Version (circa 250-150 B.C.):
The Septuagint version in Greek is the first translation of the Old Testament ever made; indeed the Old Testament is the first book of any note in all literature to receive the honor of being translated into another tongue. This fact in itself is indicative of the esteem in which it was held at the time. The work of translation was inaugurated by Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) and probably continued for well-nigh a century (circa 250-150 B.C.). Aristeas, a distinguished officer of Ptolemy, records how it came about. It appears that Ptolemy was exceedingly fond of books, and set his heart on adding to his famous collection in Alexandria a translation of the Hebrew Pentateuch In order to obtain it, so the story goes, the king set free 198,000 Jewish slaves, and sent them with presents to Jerusalem to ask Eleazar the high priest for their Law and Jewish scholars capable of translating it. Six learned rabbis from each tribe (6 X 12 = 72) were sent. They were royally feasted; 70 questions were asked them to test their wisdom, and after 72 days of cooperation and conference they gave the world the Old Testament in the Greek language, which is known as the Septuagint version. To this fabulous story, Christian tradition adds that the rabbis did the work of translating in 72 (some say 36) separate cells on the island of Pharos, all working independently of each other, and that it was found at the expiration of their seclusion that each had produced a translation exactly word for word alike, hence, supernaturally inspired. Justin Martyr of the 2nd century A.D. says that he was actually shown by his Alexandrian guide the ruins of these Septuagint cells. The story is obviously a fable. The kernel of real truth at the bottom of it is probably that Ptolemy Philadelphus about the middle of the 3rd century B.C. succeeded in obtaining a translation of the Law. The other books were translated subsequently, perhaps for private use. The lack of unity of plan in the books outside the Law indicates that probably many different hands at different times were engaged upon them. There is a subscription, moreover, at the close of the translation of Esther which states that Lysimachus, the son of Ptolemy in Jerusalem, translated it. But the whole was apparently completed before Jesus ben Sirach the younger wrote his Prologue to Ecclesiasticus (circa 132 B.C.).
Now the Septuagint version, which was the Bible of our Lord and His apostles, is supposed to have included originally many of the Apocryphal books. Furthermore, in our present Septuagint, the canonical and Apocryphal books stand intermingled and in an order which shows that the translators knew nothing of the tripartite division of later Judaism, or if they did they quite ignored it. The order of the books in our English Old Testament is of course derived from the Septuagint through the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) of Jerome. The books in the Septuagint are arranged as follows: Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Esdras, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch, Lamentations, Epistle of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, 1, 2 and 3 Maccabees. On the basis of the Septuagint, Catholics advocate what is known as the "larger" canon of the Jews in Alexandria; Protestants, on the other hand, deny the existence of an independent canon in Alexandria in view of the "smaller" canon of the Jews in Palestine The actual difference between the Catholic and Protestant Old Testaments is a matter of 7 complete books and portions of two others: namely, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, together with certain additions to Esther (Esther 10:4-16:24) and to Daniel (Da 3:24-90; The So of the Three Holy Children (Azariah); Susanna verse 13 and Bel and the Dragon verse 14). These Protestants reject as apocryphal because there is no sufficient evidence that they were ever reckoned as canonical by the Jews anywhere. The fact that the present Septuagint includes them is far from conclusive that the original Septuagint did, for the following reasons:
(1) The design of the Septuagint was purely literary; Ptolemy and the Alexandrians were interested in building up a library.
(2) All the extant manuscripts of the Septuagint are of Christian not Jewish origin. Between the actual translation of the Septuagint (circa 250-150 B.C.) and the oldest manuscripts of the Septuagint extant (circa 350 A.D.) there is a chasm of fully 500 years, during which it is highly possible that the so-called Apocryphal books crept in.
(3) In the various extant manuscripts of the Septuagint, the Apocryphal books vary in number and name. For example, the great Vatican MS, which is probably "the truest representative which remains of the Alexandrian Bible," and which comes down to us from the 4th century A.D., contains no Book of Maccabees whatever, but does include 1 Esdras, which Jerome and Catholics generally treat as apocryphal. On the other hand, the Alexandrian MS, another of the great manuscripts of the Septuagint, dating from the 5th century A.D., contains not only the extra-canonical book of 1 Esdras, but 3 and 4 Maccabees, and in the New Testament the 1st and 2nd Epistles of Clement, none of which, however, is considered canonical by Rome. Likewise the great Sinaiticus MS, hardly less important than the Vatican as a witness to the Septuagint and like it dating from the 4th century A.D., omits Baruch (which Catholics consider canonical), but includes 4 Maccabees, and in the New Testament the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas; all of which are excluded from the canon by Catholics. In other manuscripts, 3 Maccabees, 3 Esdras and The Prayer of Manasseh are occasionally included. The problem as to how many books the original Septuagint version actually included is a very complicated one. The probability is that it included no one of these variants.
(4) Still another reason for thinking that there never existed in Egypt a separate or "larger" canon is the fact that during the 2nd century A.D., the Alexandrian Jews adopted Aquila's Greek version of the Old Testament in lieu of their own, and it is known that Aquila's text excluded all Apocryphal books. Add to all this the fact that Philo, who lived in Alexandria from circa 20 B.C. till 50 A.D., never quotes from One of these Apocryphal books though he often does from the canonical, and that Origen, who also resided in Alexandria (circa 200 A.D.), never set his imprimatur upon them, and it becomes reasonably convincing that there was no "larger" canon in Alexandria. The value of the evidence derived from the Septuagint, accordingly, is largely negative. It only indicates that when the translation of the Old Testament into Greek was made in Alexandria, the process of canonization was still incomplete. For had it been actually complete, it is reasonable to suppose that the work of translation would have proceeded according to some well-defined plan, and would have been executed with greater accuracy. As it is, the translators seem to have taken all sorts of liberties with the text, adding to the books of Esther and Daniel and omitting fully one-eighth of the text of Jeremiah. Such work also indicates that they were not executing a public or ecclesiastical trust, but rather a private enterprise. Our necessary conclusion, therefore, is that the work of canonization was probably going on in Palestine while the work of translation was proceeding in Alexandria.
4. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (circa 170 B.C.):
Our next witness is Jesus ben Sirach who (circa 170 B.C.) wrote a formidable work entitled Ecclesiasticus, otherwise known as Sir. The author lived in Jerusalem and wrote in Hebrew. His book is a book of Wisdom resembling Proverbs; some of his precepts approach the high level of the Gospel. In many respects Ecclesiasticus is the most important of all the Apocryphal books; theologically it is the chief monument of primitive Sadduceeism. In chapters 44-50, the author sings a "hymn to the Fathers," eulogizing the mighty heroes of Israel from Enoch to Nehemiah, in fact from Adam to Simon, including the most famous men described in the Old Testament, and making explicit mention of the Twelve Prophets. These facts would indicate that the whole or, at least, the most of the Old Testament was known to him, and that already in his day (180 B.C.) the so-called Minor Prophets were regarded as a special group of writings by themselves. What the value of Ecclesiasticus is as a witness, however, depends upon the interpretation one places on 24:33, which reads: "I will yet pour out doctrine as prophecy and leave it unto generations of ages." From this it is inferred by some that he feels himself inspired and capable of adding to the canon already in existence, and that, though he knew the full prophetic canon, he did not draw any very definite line of demarcation between his own work and the inspired writings of the prophets. For example, he passes over from the patriarchs and prophets of Israel to Simon the son of Onias, who was probably the high priest in his own time, making no distinction between them. But this may have been partly due to personal conceit; compare 39:12, "Yet more will I utter, which I have thought upon; and I am filled as the moon at the full." Yet, perhaps, in his day still only the Law and the Prophets were actually canonized, but alongside of these a body of literature was being gathered and gradually augmented of a nature not foreign to his own writings, and therefore not clearly marked off from literary compositions like his own. Yet to Sirach the Law is everything. He identifies it with the highest Wisdom; indeed, all wisdom in his judgment is derived from a study of the Law (compare Sirach 19:20-24; 15:1-18; 24:23:00; 2:16; 39:1).
5. The Prologue to Ecclesiasticus (circa 132 B.C.):
The Prologue or Preface to Ecclesiasticus is our next witness to the formation of the canon. It was written by the grandson of Jesus ben Sirach, who bore his grandfather's name (circa 132 B.C.). Jesus ben Sirach the younger translated in Egypt his grandfather's proverbs into Greek, and in doing so added a Preface or Prologue of his own. In this Prologue, he thrice refers to the tripartite division of the Old Testament. In fact the Prologue to Ecclesiasticus is the oldest witness we have to the threefold division of the Old Testament books. He says: "Whereas many and great things have been delivered unto us by the Law and the Prophets, and by others,. my grandfather, Jesus, when he had given himself to the reading of the Law, and the Prophets, and other books of our Fathers, and had gotten therein good judgment (the Revised Version (British and American) "having gained great familiarity therein"), was drawn on also himself to write something pertaining to learning and wisdom.. For the same things uttered in Hebrew and translated into another tongue, have not the same force in them; and not only these things, but the Law itself, and the Prophets, and the rest of the books, have no small difference, when they are spoken in their own language." These are explicit and definite allusions to the threefold division of the Old Testament writings, yet only the titles of the first and second divisions are the technical names usually employed; the third is especially vague because of his use of the terms, "the other books of the Fathers," and "the rest of the books." However, he evidently refers to writings with religious contents; and, by "the other books of the Fathers," he can hardly be supposed to have meant an indefinite number, though he has not told us which they were or what was their number.
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NEW TESTAMENT CANON
See CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
OLD TESTAMENT CANON
See CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
TESTAMENT, NEW, CANON OF THE
See CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
TESTAMENT, OLD, CANON OF THE
See CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
Greek2583. kanon -- a rule, standard ...
From kane (a straight reed, ie Rod); a rule ("canon
"), ie (figuratively) a standard
(of faith and practice); by implication, a boundary, ie (figuratively) a ... //strongsnumbers.com/greek2/2583.htm - 7k
The Canon of the Bible
The Canon of the Bible. <. The Canon of the Bible Samuel Davidson. Table of
Contents. Title Page. PREFACE. CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY. CHAPTER II. ...
//christianbookshelf.org/davidson/the canon of the bible/
The Paschal Canon of Anatolius of Alexandria
The Paschal Canon of Anatolius of Alexandria. <. The Paschal Canon
of Anatolius of Alexandria Anatolius. Translated by the Rev. ...
/...//christianbookshelf.org/anatolius/the paschal canon of anatolius of alexandria/
Canon for Apocreos.
... CANON FOR APOCREOS. ... The Canon that follows is unfortunate in provoking a
comparison with the unapproachable majesty of the Dies Irae. ...
/.../christianbookshelf.org/neale/hymns of the eastern church/canon for apocreos.htm
From the Canon of the Dead
... Hymns of the Holy Eastern Church FROM THE CANON OF THE DEAD. Ode VIII statheros
tous agonas epideixamenoi Euchologion, p.412. tr., John Brownlie. 188.8.131.52.8.8. I ...
/.../brownlie/hymns of the holy eastern church/from the canon of the.htm
Excursus on the Use of the Word "Canon. "
... Excursus on the Use of the Word "Canon.". (Bright: Notes on the Canons, pp.2 and
3.) ... See Westcott's account of it, On the New Testament Canon, p.498 ff. ...
/.../schaff/the seven ecumenical councils/excursus on the use of.htm
It is Right, According to the Ecclesiastical Canon, that the ...
... Canon I. It is right, according to the ecclesiastical Canon, that the Communion
should by indulgence be� ... Notes. Ancient Epitome of Canon I. ...
/.../schaff/the seven ecumenical councils/canon i it is right.htm
Canon for Easter Day,
... CANON FOR EASTER DAY,. CALLED THE "GOLDEN CANON," OR, THE "QUEEN OF CANONS."
The circumstances under which the Canon is sung are ...
/.../neale/hymns of the eastern church/canon for easter day.htm
Canon for Christmas Day.
... CANON FOR CHRISTMAS DAY. This is perhaps the finest, on the whole, of the
Canons of Cosmas; and may fairly be preferred to the rival ...
/.../neale/hymns of the eastern church/canon for christmas day.htm
Canon for Ascension Day.
... CANON FOR ASCENSION DAY. This is the crowning glory of the poet Joseph;
he has here with a happy boldness entered into the lists ...
/.../neale/hymns of the eastern church/canon for ascension day.htm
The Canon from Semler to the Present Time, with Reflections on Its ...
The Canon of the Bible. <. ... CHAPTER XI. THE CANON FROM SEMLER TO
THE PRESENT TIME, WITH REFLECTIONS ON ITS READJUSTMENT. ...
/.../davidson/the canon of the bible/chapter xi the canon from.htm
ATS Bible DictionaryCanon
The Greek word denotes, primarily, a straight rod; hence a rule or standard, by a reference to which the rectitude of opinions or actions may be decided. In the latter sense it is used in Galatians 6:16 Philippians 3:16. In the same sense it was used by the Greek fathers. As the standard to which they sought to appeal on all questions was the will of God contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, they came naturally to apply this term to the collective body of those writings, and to speak of them as the canon or rule. Canon is also equivalent to a list of catalogue, in which are inserted those books which contain the inspired rule of faith.
In order to establish the canon of Scripture, it must be shown that all the books are of divine authority; that they are entire and incorrupt; that it is complete without addition from any foreign source; and that the whole of the books for which divine authority can be proved are included. See BIBLE.
Easton's Bible Dictionary
This word is derived from a Hebrew and Greek word denoting a reed or cane. Hence it means something straight, or something to keep straight; and hence also a rule, or something ruled or measured. It came to be applied to the Scriptures, to denote that they contained the authoritative rule of faith and practice, the standard of doctrine and duty. A book is said to be of canonical authority when it has a right to take a place with the other books which contain a revelation of the Divine will. Such a right does not arise from any ecclesiastical authority, but from the evidence of the inspired authorship of the book. The canonical (i.e., the inspired) books of the Old and New Testaments, are a complete rule, and the only rule, of faith and practice. They contain the whole supernatural revelation of God to men. The New Testament Canon was formed gradually under divine guidance. The different books as they were written came into the possession of the Christian associations which began to be formed soon after the day of Pentecost; and thus slowly the canon increased till all the books were gathered together into one collection containing the whole of the twenty-seven New Testament inspired books. Historical evidence shows that from about the middle of the second century this New Testament collection was substantially such as we now possess. Each book contained in it is proved to have, on its own ground, a right to its place; and thus the whole is of divine authority.
The Old Testament Canon is witnessed to by the New Testament writers. Their evidence is conclusive. The quotations in the New from the Old are very numerous, and the references are much more numerous. These quotations and references by our Lord and the apostles most clearly imply the existence at that time of a well-known and publicly acknowledged collection of Hebrew writings under the designation of "The Scriptures;" "The Law and the Prophets and the Psalms;" "Moses and the Prophets," etc. The appeals to these books, moreover, show that they were regarded as of divine authority, finally deciding all questions of which they treat; and that the whole collection so recognized consisted only of the thirty-nine books which we now posses. Thus they endorse as genuine and authentic the canon of the Jewish Scriptures. The Septuagint Version (q.v.) also contained every book we now have in the Old Testament Scriptures. As to the time at which the Old Testament canon was closed, there are many considerations which point to that of Ezra and Nehemiah, immediately after the return from Babylonian exile. (see BIBLE, EZRA, QUOTATIONS.)
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
) A collection or rules, laws or books established by a council.
2. (n.) A law, or rule of doctrine or discipline, enacted by a council and confirmed by the pope or the sovereign; a decision, regulation, code, or constitution made by ecclesiastical authority.
3. (n.) The collection of books received as genuine Holy Scriptures, called the sacred canon, or general rule of moral and religious duty, given by inspiration; the Bible; also, any one of the canonical Scriptures. See Canonical.
4. (n.) In monasteries, a book containing the rules of a religious order.
5. (n.) A catalogue of saints acknowledged and canonized in the Roman Catholic Church.
6. (n.) A member of a cathedral chapter; a person who possesses a prebend in a cathedral or collegiate church.
7. (n.) A musical composition in which the voices begin one after another, at regular intervals, successively taking up the same subject. It either winds up with a coda (tailpiece), or, as each voice finishes, commences anew, thus forming a perpetual fugue or round. It is the strictest form of imitation. See Imitation.
8. (n.) The largest size of type having a specific name; -- so called from having been used for printing the canons of the church.
9. (n.) The part of a bell by which it is suspended; -- called also ear and shank.
10. (n.) See Carom.
The New Testament Canon
was formed gradually under divine guidance. ...
is witnessed to by the New Testament writers. .../c/canon.htm - 68k
... Noah Webster's Dictionary (a.) Pertaining to a second canon, or ecclesiastical writing
of inferior authority; -- said of the Apocrypha, certain Epistles, etc. ...
/d/deuterocanonical.htm - 14k
... Webster says the term pertains to "a second Canon or ecclesiastical writing of inferior
authority," and the history of these books shows that they were all at ...
/d/deutero-canonical.htm - 14k
... of being the oldest book in the Apocrypha, being indeed older than at least two
books (Daniel, Esther) which have found a place in the Canon alike of the ...
/s/sirach.htm - 34k
Judges (117 Occurrences)
... juj'-iz,: 1. Title 2. Place in the Canon 3. Contents (1) Introductory, Judges
1-2:5 (2) Central and Main Portion, Judges 2:6-16 (3) An Appendix, Judges 17-21 ...
/j/judges.htm - 81k
Malachi (2 Occurrences)
... Messenger or angel, the last of the minor prophets, and the writer of the last book
of the Old Testament canon (Malachi 4:4, 5, 6). Nothing is known of him ...
/m/malachi.htm - 21k
Kings (350 Occurrences)
... SCOPE III. CHARACTER OF BOOKS AND POSITION IN THE HEBREW CANON 1. Purpose 2. Character
of Data IV. ... Character of Books and Position in Hebrew Canon. ...
/k/kings.htm - 61k
... (j) Pre-exilic Bible (2) Critical Views (a) The Pentateuch (b) Histories (c) Psalms
and Prophets (3) Formation of Canon (a) Critical Theory (b) More Positive ...
/i/i-iii.htm - 31k
Introduction (3 Occurrences)
... (j) Pre-exilic Bible (2) Critical Views (a) The Pentateuch (b) Histories (c) Psalms
and Prophets (3) Formation of Canon (a) Critical Theory (b) More Positive ...
/i/introduction.htm - 33k
Job (60 Occurrences)
... all times. John Franklin Genung. JOB, BOOK OF. " I. INTRODUCTORY 1. Place
in the Canon 2. Rank and Readers II. THE LITERARY FRAMEWORK ...
/j/job.htm - 62k
Canon of the New Testament
Canon of the Old Testament
Judges (117 Occurrences)
Malachi (2 Occurrences)
Kings (350 Occurrences)
Introduction (3 Occurrences)
Job (60 Occurrences)
Daniel (74 Occurrences)
Psalms (44 Occurrences)
Ruth (19 Occurrences)
Jeremy (2 Occurrences)
Ezra (28 Occurrences)
Proverbs (11 Occurrences)
Scripture (51 Occurrences)
Susanna (1 Occurrence)
Lamentations (6 Occurrences)
Matthew (5 Occurrences)
Apostles (79 Occurrences)
Measure (269 Occurrences)
New (1850 Occurrences)
Joel (22 Occurrences)
Hebrews (24 Occurrences)
Ezekiel (4 Occurrences)
Syriac (2 Occurrences)
Laodiceans (2 Occurrences)
Synagogue (52 Occurrences)
Great (10383 Occurrences)
Jude (4 Occurrences)
Authority (326 Occurrences)
Old (3966 Occurrences)
Malefactor (2 Occurrences)
Esther (48 Occurrences)
Songs (100 Occurrences)
Levites (267 Occurrences)
Priests (451 Occurrences)
Dragon (20 Occurrences)
Preacher (27 Occurrences)
Bel (3 Occurrences)
Song (207 Occurrences)
Simon (75 Occurrences)
General (9 Occurrences)
Acts (271 Occurrences)
Chronicles (45 Occurrences)
Obadiah (21 Occurrences)
Judith (1 Occurrence)
Leviticus (1 Occurrence)
Infinite (8 Occurrences)
Imitation (3 Occurrences)
Title (6 Occurrences)
Round (664 Occurrences)
Rescript (1 Occurrence)
Messiah (9 Occurrences)
Prophecy (37 Occurrences)
Prophet (315 Occurrences)
Catch (46 Occurrences)
Canneh (1 Occurrence)
Abednego (14 Occurrences)
Amos (12 Occurrences)
Abed-nego (14 Occurrences)
Apparition (3 Occurrences)
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