Introduction to the History of Biblical Canonization

This article contains two brief versions of the story of how the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible were canonized throughout history. The first version is based on the popularly accepted timeline of history, while the second version is based on Fomenko’s New Chronology’s timeline of history. In this article, a canon is considered a collection of authoritative books and canonization is considered the process of selecting and accepting authoritative books.

This article was sponsored by the Ctruth Patron S. B. Alger.
Thank you S. B. Alger for your support and for choosing this topic. I enjoyed writing this article and I look forward to any future requests you have. The complete list of Ctruth Patron sponsored content.

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The Canonization of the Bible through the Lens of Popular History

“The Old Testament”

The Old Testament is the Christian version of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is split into 3 main parts; Torah/Pentateuch (the Law), Nevi’im (the Prophets), and Ketuvim (the Writings). The common belief is that the first of these three parts to be considered authoritative was the Torah [1]. 

The Torah was supposedly written by Moses in the 13th century BC [2]. It may be that these books were always considered an authoritative canon as soon as God delivered them to Moses or as soon as Moses wrote them down, but there are other ideas as well. A common idea through the 19th and 20th centuries was that the Torah was canonized in the 7th c. BC under Josiah, or in the 5th c. BC under Nehemiah.

The Nevi’im’s alleged canonization datings vary greatly. Some argue that the Nevi’im developed alongside the Torah, while others argue that it was not officially canonized until the beginning of the 2nd c. BC. Claims have been made that the first two parts of the OT were canonized in the 6th-5th cc. BC and the book of Daniel was added in the 2nd c. BC.

The Ketuvim is believed by the older critical consensus to have been canonized at the Council of Jebnah/Jamnia in the 1st c. AD. Others argue that the OT was still open to being changed at that time. The author of [1] concludes that it is “rather likely” that the OT canon was “firmly established” before the 1st c. AD.

“The New Testament”

The opinions about in which years the New Testament texts were written vary. Some claim that all of the books were written prior to 70 AD, while others claim that they were not written until around the middle of the 2nd c. AD. Opinions about when these texts were canonized also vary.

Throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and into the 4th century, the NT canon varied. According to [1], it was with Bishop Athenasius of Alexandria’s Thirty-Ninth Festal Epistle of 367 AD that a popular NT canon was created which later went on to be “accepted by the synods of Rome, Hippo Regius, and Carthage” by the end of the 4th c. AD. I have seen it often stated, as well as stated in [3], that it was during the 363 AD Council of Laodicea that this canon was decided.

Reportedly; the Syrian church’s canon was closed by the mid-5th c. AD, and most Greek churches accepted Revelation as canonical by the 6th c. AD. Clearly, the general opinions of what constituted the canon of the NT was still up for debate in some areas as late as the 6th c. AD.

Summary;

The OT was officially canonized sometime between the 13th c. BC and 1st c. AD. The NT was officially canonized sometime between the 1st and 6th cc. AD. The canons themselves vary throughout time, with certain books being accepted or rejected by different groups of people.

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The Canonization of the Bible through the Lens of Fomenko’s New Chronology

When were the books of the bible written? [4]

As can be seen in the reference mentioned above, the books accepted into the popular biblical canon today were written between what is considered to be the 11th-16th cc. AD. The official canonization of these books took place in the mid-16th century, shortly after the final events had finished being recorded. According to [3], this occurred at the Trident Council from 1545-1563.

Looking at the list in [2], we can see that on the popular timeline of events, there are only two Bible with the 80 books of the combined OT, NT, and Apocrypha that are dated prior to the invention of the printing press, and one of those two is a translation of the first. On the popular timeline, the surviving texts for the books themselves don’t start to appear until the second half of the 15th c. AD, around the same time that the very first Bibles are being produced by the printing press. You can find that the most popular Bibles that are being used today were originally composed after the 16th century.

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Conclusion

While an “official” canonization either took place in the traditional timeline at the Council of Laodicea or in the New Chronology timeline at the Council of Trent, it seems to me that even to this day, no ultimate consensus has been reached amongst ‘sola scriptura’ followers of Biblical texts about what the proper Biblical canon is. Some denominations argue there are only 27 books in the true canon, some argue there are only 66, some argue that there are only 80, and others argue that there are many many more beyond all of those.

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References:

1 – https://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/canon_schnabel.pdf

2 – https://chronologytruth.wordpress.com/2019/02/28/bible-publication-dates/

3 – http://chronologia.org/en/seven/1N01-EN-031-048.pdf

4 – https://chronologytruth.wordpress.com/2019/01/23/when-was-the-bible-written/

5 – https://chronologytruth.wordpress.com/2019/01/31/biblical-manuscripts-origins/

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