One of the questions which remains unanswered among Christians concerns how the Bible came into being. How were the writings collected and organized into what is presently used as the holy Christian Book? Who exactly collected the writings composed in the New Testament? These and other questions address the entire process of the canonization of the Bible. This essay mainly focuses on how the New Testament canon came into existence and how this information affects our way of reading the text.
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According to historic Christian belief, the Holy Spirit played a major role in the canonization of the New Testament (Bacon 117). It is this Spirit that controlled the writing, selection, and collection of individual books. This is considered to be a fulfillment of the promise of the Lord to reveal and guide His disciple in holistic truth. Although this understanding requires spiritual discerning, we need to explore how the church recognized and accepted the twenty-seven books of the New Testament and not others.
What is important to underline is the fact that canonical books of the New Testament are well understood through the Holy Scriptures which received authority from the early church. Acceptance of books also varied with some books getting recognition in some parts with ease as compared to others (Kistemaker 7).
Even though some epistles like Peter, James and the book of Revelation took longer to be recognized, others which are not considered under the New Testament received canonical authority. They included epistle of Barnabas, Shepherd of Hermas, and Epistles of Clement (Bacon 116). Their inclusion alongside the Bible denoted the degree of recognition they received.
Early books of the Bible were drawn by the heretic Marcion at Rome in about 140, distinguishing God the creator manifested in the Old Testament from God and Father revealed in the scriptures of the New Testament. However, the current collection does not represent Marcion’s list but an intentional deviation (Bacon 118). Another list was published in Italy 1740 by Cardinal Muratori, and it was named the Muratorian Fragment. Although it had mutilated introduction, it recognized the Gospel of Mathew, Luke Mark, and John.
It also mentioned the Epistles and Acts of Apostles, which form the basis of the New Testament. Initial writings of the New Testament had “The Gospel,” which was a fourfold collection of the current “Gospels.” The Gospel was considered to be the pillar of the earth. Although it was later separated, the books remained connected, i.e., Luke 24: 51 connects with Acts 1:2 (International Bible Society 1). Nevertheless, noted disconnections had been noticed due to these adjustments.
It is clear that the canonization of the New Testament came into existence centuries ago backed up with God’s inspiration through the Holy Spirit (Kistemaker 7). This understanding has a far-reaching impact in the manner in which Christians read the Bible in their day to day spiritual nourishment. By knowing the authority which the books commanded during their canonization, it is easy for Christians to believe and share the Good News with others confidently and authoritatively.
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Bacon, Benjamin. “The Canon of the New Testament” The Biblical World, Vol. 21, (2) (1903): pp. 115-119. Web.
International Bible Society. NIV Bible. London: Hodder, 2008. Print.
Kistemaker, Simon. “The Canon of the New Testament” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, (1977): p. 1-14. Web.