Athanasius (c293 to 373) first used the term ‘Canon of Scripture’
Although our Bibles appear today as one book they are a total of 66 separate books that have been brought together under Gods guidance in what is called the Canon of Scripture. Athanasius coined the term “Canon of Scripture” because canon is a Greek word meaning rule, so he was creating a collection of biblical books that would be regarded as the “rules of God”.
The Old Testament Canon:
Many of the early writings were preserved and highly valued by the Jewish community. Writings were in various forms. For example the original Ten Commandments given to Moses by God were written on tablets of stone and were for centuries retained in the Ark of the Covenant.
First there were the Books of the Law written by Moses and Joshua; then the judges; the prophets, and the Psalms.
Eventually, as the Jewish society developed, the complete Old Testament became established and accepted as holy writings.
The Canon was not determined by any specific organisation but by long and approved usage of the books. The canon was in its present form at the time of the council of Jamnia in c.100 AD.
The New Testament Canon
Jesus made extensive reference to the Old Testament Scriptures, confirming them as the written word of God.
Some authors had first-hand experience of Jesus ministry and the formation of the early church; the Gospel writers Matthew (the tax collector Matt 9:9) and John (brother of James) were disciples of Jesus. They had direct contact with Jesus and heard his message and teaching. As did Peter, together with James and Jude the Lord’s brothers. Mark was the cousin of Barnabas, a companion of the Apostle Paul, as was the physician Luke.
This direct link was important to qualify their writings for inclusion in the canon of the New Testament and many second century gospels were excluded on this basis.
A number of attempts were made during the 2nd and 3rd centuries to agree a canon of scripture.
For example Marcion sought to simplify Christian teaching around the writings of Paul, but finally in about 367 Athanasius removed spurious writings considered to be heretical, and put forward a list of 27 New Testament books that corresponds to the present New Testament. At the synods of Hippo Regius (393) and Carthage (397 and 419) the present New Testament canon was accepted.
Vast numbers of books were outlawed collected and burnt, as were many who continued to openly use them.
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