The Bible is not a single book, but is comprised of 66 different books. Why is that? Why are there not 67 or 65? After all, there were many other books such as the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Shepherd of Hermas, that did not make it into the Bible. Who decided which books were included? Ultimately, the answer is God. We believe that God not only inspired human authors to write down what He wanted them to write, but that he also preserved those writings for us today. Therefore, when a christian holds the bible in their hands they can say, with confidence, “I am holding God’s very words”.
when a christian holds the bible in their hands they can say, with confidence, “I am holding God’s very words”.
As centuries past, many epistles were written and it became necessary to determine which ones were inspired and which ones weren’t. Some letters and books were filled with false teachings about Jesus. Others were beneficial and provided accurate historic information, but were not considered to be inspired. So, how did the Bible come together to form the 66 books we know today?
The Old Testament
Let’s start with the 39 books of the Old Testament. Moses commanded that the books of the Law be placed in the Ark of the Covenant. This included Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. As time went by, the historical and prophetic books from Joshua to David’s time were placed in the Temple. After the days of Solomon, the books of Jonah, Amos, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, and Habakkuk were added to the sacred collection. About fifty years later, after the rebuilding of the temple, the writings of Nehemiah, Malachi, and Ezra were added. The final collection of books were added and the canon of the old testament was sealed by Ezra, Nehemiah, and 120 other scribes at the “Great Synagogue” about 200 years before the birth of Christ. Therefore, there is little doubt among scholars that the Old Testament is valid and authentic.
The New Testament
What about the New Testament? After the resurrection, and the church began to grow, the need arose to have a written account of the teachings of Jesus and his redemptive work. Therefore, some of the apostles, along with Mark and Luke, wrote down the events that they had seen unfold. These are known as The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In addition to this, the apostles began to write letters to the young churches they had established to further instruct them and deal with issues that had arisen within the churches. These epistles were then circulated among all the churches. There is evidence that the early church accepted the 27 books we now acknowledge as the New Testament as early as 200 A.D.
Jesus and the apostles accepted the 39 books of the Old Testament as being inspired. And, by 200 A.D., the early church had accepted the 27 books of the New Testament to be the inspired Word of God. Therefore, it is important to note that the council of Carthage in 387A.D. did not decide which books should be included in the Canon of scripture, but rather simply affirmed, once and for all, the books that the early church had already recognized as inspired, nearly 200 years earlier.
For more information on the Canon of scripture, visit the following links.