The Bible: A Firm Foundation (Part 4)

In the last post, we looked at how the Bible was written. Now we are going to look at how the Bible was put together.

Chapters in OT
-The first division was made prior to Babylonian Captivity (Pentateuch [Genesis – Deuteronomy] was divided into 154 groupings)
-During the captivity in 536 B.C., the Pentateuch was divided into 54 sections with 669 subdivisions
-Around 165 B.C., the Prophets were sectioned/divided
-The complete division into the chapters we have did not occur until 1330 (the Hebrew Bible did not contain these divisions until after the Reformation)

Chapters in NT
-The Greeks made the first division prior to the Council of Nicea (AD 325)(these sections were much smaller than ours [i.e., Matthew had 170])
-The divisions we have now were made by Stephen Langton in 1227 (he was a professor at the University of Paris and the Archbishop of Canterbury)

Verses in OT
-It was not until AD 900 that OT verses were divided the same everywhere
-The first “verse” indicators were just spaces between words

Verses in NT
-The verse markings we have in our Bible did not appear until the 1500’s.
-The verses were marked by Robert Stephanus in 1551
-They went into the Latin Vulgate and continue to this day

So we know that God wrote the Bible, using men. We know how they wrote, what they wrote with, what they wrote on, and how what they wrote was divided up.
The question now is how did we end up with the writings that are in our Bible.

This leads us to the third question that we need to ask: the question of canonicity. The 66 books that we have make up what we call the canon. So how did we get them without any others included.

When we talk about the biblical canon, we are referring to the collection of biblical books that Christians accept as uniquely authoritative.

Old Testament:
The Old Testament books were all most likely recognized as uniquely authoritative by 200 B.C., even though some were recognized as such much earlier (i.e., Genesis-Deuteronomy). This can be seen in their appearance in the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Qumran Community (i.e., 200 B.C. forward) and their appearance in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which was translated in 198 B.C. This shows that what took place at Jamnia (i.e., Jamnia Theory) was more likely discussions that dealt with challenges to and questions about books that were already established as canonical.
Why the challenges and questions? Between 200 B.C. and AD 100, there were other Jewish theological works that were written. We have come to refer to these as the Apocrypha. While many of them were read, circulated, and highly respected in the Jewish synagogues, they were never accepted as equal to the books of the canon. Some of these works were also translated in Greek or perhaps even written in Greek and later included in the Septuagint. The Jewish leaders did their best to make it clear that these books were helpful but not authoritative or canonical, but there were still those who thought that since they were included with the Septuagint, then they were part of inspired Scripture as well.

How does this affect us today? Well when Jerome produced his Latin translation of the Bible, he included the Vulgate. When the reformation happened, the Protestant translators realized that the Apocrypha was not included in the Hebrew Bible, so they did not include it in their translations. In response, at the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church, declared that the Latin Vulgate was the official Bible of the true church and that the apocryphal books within the Vulgate were therefore canonical and equally authoritative, something that Protestants do not agree with. Protestants view these books as Jewish religious writings that are useful in understanding the history and theological thinking of the intertestamental period but not authoritative, canonical books.

New Testament:
While the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament were written in the first century AD, they were not endorsed as a whole until AD 367 by Athanasius and then the Councils of Hippo in AD 393 and Carthage in AD 397. Even before the list: Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Ignatius made reference to some or all of these 27 as Scripture. The question of canonicity arose when Marcion promoted a canon that included Gnostic writings. Also, the rise of persecution got Christians asking which books should they be willing to die for when told to burn their holy books. There was also the Muratorian Canon, which referred to the Wisdom of Solomon and mentioned the Apocalypse of Peter. At the beginning of the third century, Origen refers to all twenty-seven but he notes that six of them are disputed (i.e., Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude).

Why these six? Hebrews—There were questions over who was the author. James—There were questions regarding reconciling his view of faith and works with Paul’s. 2 Peter—There were questions of authorship due to style and content differences from 1 Peter. 2 and 3 John—Some said they were too personal to be universally relevant. Jude—He quoted an intertestamental Jewish apocalypse known as the Book of Enoch and apparently alluded to an apocryphal work known as the Assumption of Moses. Even Revelation came under fire. Yet they were all included in the canon as the authoritative Word of God.

There were a lot of other books and letters written during this time. Why were they not included? Two reasons: First, they were not thought by the author to be authoritative, and second, they did not meet the criteria for canonization.

We will look at the criteria for canonization in the next post! Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

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