Who decided which books to include in the Bible?
In his best-selling book, ” The Da Vinci Code,” Dan Brown wrote that the Bible was compiled in the famous Council of Nicea in 325 C.E.
when Emperor Constantine and church officials had reportedly banned any books that did not conform to the secret plans of their leaders.
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But that’s not the way it went. ” The Da Vinci Code” was fiction. However, Brown was not the only one to believe that the Council of Nicea decided what books should be included within the Bible. During the 18th century, Voltaire reiterated the long-standing myth that claimed the Bible was made a saint in Nicea by putting all the books that were known to be on a table, reciting an oath, and then observing the books that were not legitimate were thrown to the ground.
In reality, no one Church authority nor council met to stamp the bible canon (official list of the books of the Bible) and not in Nicea or elsewhere in antiquity. Jason Combs is an assistant professor at Brigham Young University specializing in the history of Christianity.
“Dan Brown has done us our entire community a disservice,” claims Combs. “We do not have any evidence to suggest that anyone from a group of Christians came together and decided, ‘Let’s discuss this.’ the issue one-for-all.'” (The Council of Nicea was held to decide on the issue of religion not related to the books that comprise the Bible.)
The evidence available to scholars as theological works, theological letters, and the church history that has been around through the centuries points to a more extensive method of canonization. From the beginning to the fourth century and onwards, various theologians and church leaders made arguments regarding which books belong to the Canon, frequently accusing their opponents of being heretics.
The books of the Bible were written by different people over more than a thousand years, from 1200 B.C.E. and the 1st century C.E. The Bible contains many literary genres, such as poetry, music, historical tales, letters, and prophetic texts. They were initially written on parchment scrolls and not included in “books” like we see these today. (Remember that printing on the printing press was not invented until 1440.)
Ancient and rare Bible manuscripts are displayed at the “Book of Books” exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. They are all written on scrolls.
In time, the works considered authentic and reliable by the people who employed them were incorporated into the Canon, while others were removed. While most of that editing was completed around the end of the century, the debate about which books were legitimate theologically was ongoing until at least the 16th century, when the reformer of the church Martin Luther, published his German translation of the Bible.
Incredibly disputed, spurious, and even Insane
Luther was unhappy with the text of James, which stressed the importance of “works” in conjunction with faith. Therefore, Luther tucked James and Hebrews within the rear of the Bible along with Jude and Revelation and Revelation, which he believed were untrue. Combs states that in Luther’s first Bible, the four books do not even appear on the content list.
Eusebius was a Christian historian who wrote during the first 300 years of his life. He published the earliest lists of what books were deemed legitimate and considered borderline fake.
Eusebius divided his list into recognized, disputed, and theological categories. The various “recognized” are the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Acts, and Paul’s epistles. The epistles were “disputed,” Eusebius included James and Jude — which are the same books that Luther disliked and several others recognized as Canon such as 2 Peter 2, John as well as 3 John.
When Eusebius shifts towards his “spurious” as well as the “heretical” categories in his writings, we can get a glimpse of how many other texts were available during the third and second centuries C.E. Have you heard of The Apocalypse of Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas or the Gospel of Thomas? Combs states that there were many similar texts to the ones found within the New Testament and Old Testament but didn’t make the Canon.
Making the Cut
What is the reason why some books were cut while others did not? Combs provides three criteria that the early church leaders used. The first was authorship. Whether the work was believed to be composed by apostle Paul or someone else close to their position. Mark is an example, and he was not an apostle but an interpreter of Peter. Another criterion was antiquity. Older texts have precedence over the newer ones. The third was orthodoxy, which is how closely the text complied with current Christian theology.
“That is the reason why it’s so intriguing, obviously because the “current Christian doctrine’ has changed over the course of hundreds of years,” says Combs.
Although it’s impossible to claim that one church council decided on what books should be included within the Canon, it’s reasonable to say that during an initial couple of centuries of theological discussion, the winners had to choose what books were to remain and which ones were to be removed.
It is important to note that not every Christian religion views the same books as Canon. The majority of Protestant Bibles contain 66 books and 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. In the New Testament, however, The Roman Catholic Bible has 73 books, including the seven books known as the Apocrypha. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church includes the totality of 81 books in the Bible, including Pseudepigrapha such as the 1 Enoch and Jubilees.
What are Apocrypha as well as Pseudepigrapha?
The term “Apocrypha” is derived from the Greek meaning “hidden,” also known as “secret.” It’s a little confusing since the term Apocrypha can be utilized in several different ways to refer to books that don’t belong to the biblical canon standard.
There’s the first class in the category of “New Testament Apocrypha,” which comprises a long list of noncanonical texts written typically during the 2nd century C.E. and beyond that relate to Jesus or his followers. And beyond that, as Combs states that there were many of these documents and beyond, and we do not have written records for all of them.
There’s also a section comprising Old Testament books that are included in the Roman Catholic Bible. These seven books, comprising Tobit, Judith, and 1 2 Maccabees and 1 2 Maccabees, are published between the Old and New Testaments of the Catholic Bible and called “the Apocrypha” or, more often, the “Deuterocanon” which translates to “second canon.”
There’s also a third class called “pseudepigrapha,” which is Greek, meaning “false creator.” The list contains more than fifty documents composed in the period between 200 B.C.E. between 200 C.E. and 200 C.E. Jewish between 200 C.E. and Christian writers who expanded on characters and stories in 200 C.E. by both Christian and Jewish writers, expanding on characters from the Old Testament. Some notable Old Testament pseudepigrapha includes 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and the Treatise of Shem.
Things You Never Learned in Sunday School
A large portion of the New Testament texts familiar to Christians are already being utilized with authority in the second century. However, various congregations favored certain texts over others, and they also added certain texts that aren’t in the New Testament. Here are some examples:
The Gospel of Peter: A small portion of the text was found in 1886 Egypt. It does contain the sole account in the narrative of the resurrection of Jesus getting out of his grave. According to Peter’s account, two angels descended into the tomb and then led Jesus, revived Jesus out, and he was then suddenly huge. However, the most exciting thing is it was that three angels were pursued by an ethereal cross, which could speak.
“And they were able to hear a voice from heaven, telling them”Thou hast preached to those who sleep.’ A response was then heard from the cross “Yea.'”
The Gospel of Mary: Combs says that some texts from the Apocrypha reflected theological and doctrinal disputes that were taking place in the church of early times, for example, the importance of women’s roles. According to the Gospel of Mary (discovered in the latter part of the nineteenth century), Mary Magdalene is not just identified in the Gospel as one of Jesus’s followers and perhaps even his favorite one. After Jesus is raised from the dead, the sage relays esoteric lessons to Mary and then tells all the disciples. Peter questions why they should pay attention to a woman. To the other disciple Levi [Matthew] replies:
“If the Savior declared her worthy of being saved, then who are you on your own to throw her out? The Savior certainly knows all about her.
This is why he been more devoted to her than we have.”
1. Enoch The text is believed to have been written by the prophet Enoch prior to when he was a prophet of Noah. The text was well-known by early Christians like Tertullian, a theologian of the third century, and was used as the standard for text. The text is well-known for its account of the “Watchers,” fallen angels that are mentioned briefly throughout the Old Testament book of Genesis. The angels wanted human women, and they came down to Earth to join their offspring, resulting in massive offspring. In 1 Enoch, they also bring darkness into our world through magic, weapons, and sexy makeup.