The Christian biblical canons are the books Christians regard as divinely inspired and which constitute a Christian Bible. Which books constituted the Christian biblical canons of both the Old and New Testament was generally established by the 5th century, despite some scholarly disagreements, for the ancient undivided Church (the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, before the East–West Schism).
In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic canon was reaffirmed by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent (1546), which provided "the first infallible and effectually promulgated pronouncement on the Canon" by the Roman Catholic Church. The canons of the Church of England and English Presbyterians were decided definitively by the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), respectively. The Synod of Jerusalem (1672) established additional canons that are widely accepted throughout the Orthodox Church.
The Old and New Testament canons did not develop independently of each other and most primary sources for the canon specify both Old and New Testament books. For the biblical scripture for both Testaments, canonically accepted in major traditions of Christendom, see Biblical canon § Canons of various Christian traditions.
The Old Testament includes the books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) or protocanon, and in various Christian denominations also includes deuterocanonical books. Orthodox Christians, Catholics and Protestants use different canons, which differ with respect to the texts that are included in the Old Testament.
Martin Luther, holding to Jewish and other ancient precedent, excluded the deuterocanonical books from the Old Testament of his translation of the Bible, placing them in a section he labeled "Apocrypha" ("hidden"). To counter Luther's "heresy", the fourth session of the Catholic Council of Trent in 1546 confirmed that the deuterocanonical books were equally authoritative as the protocanonical in the Canon of Trent in the year Luther died, reconfirming the inclusion of the deuterocanonical books made almost a century earlier at the Council of Florence. Following Jerome's Veritas Hebraica (truth of the Hebrew) principle, the Protestant Old Testament consists of the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but the order and division of the books are different. Protestants number the Old Testament books at 39, while the Hebrew Bible numbers the same books as 24. The Hebrew Bible counts Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as one book each, and the 12 minor prophets are one book, and also Ezra and Nehemiah form a single book.
The differences between the Hebrew Bible and other versions of the Old Testament such as the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac Peshitta, the Latin Vulgate, the Greek Septuagint, the Ethiopian Bible and other canons, are more substantial. Many of these canons include books and sections of books that the others do not. For a more comprehensive discussion of these differences, see Books of the Bible.
|The Pentateuch or Torah|
|Common to Judaism and Christianity but excluded by Samaritans|
|Included by Catholics, Orthodox, but excluded by Jews and most Protestants|
|Included by Orthodox (Synod of Jerusalem):|
|Included by Russian and Ethiopian Orthodox:|
|Included by Ethiopian Orthodox:|
|Included by Syriac Peshitta Bible:|
Irenaeus (died c. 202) quotes and cites 21 books that would end up as part of the New Testament, but does not use Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 3 John and Jude. By the early 3rd century Origen of Alexandria may have been using the same 27 books as in the modern New Testament, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation (see also Antilegomena). Likewise by 200 the Muratorian fragment shows that there existed a set of Christian writings somewhat similar to what is now the New Testament, which included four gospels and argued against objections to them. Thus, while there was plenty of discussion in the Early Church over the New Testament canon, the "major" writings were accepted by almost all Christian authorities by the middle of the second century.
The next two hundred years followed a similar process of continual discussion throughout the entire Church, and localized refinements of acceptance. This process was not yet complete at the time of the First Council of Nicaea in 325, though substantial progress had been made by then. Though a list was clearly necessary to fulfill Constantine's commission in 331 of fifty copies of the Bible for the Church at Constantinople, no concrete evidence exists to indicate that it was considered to be a formal canon. In the absence of a canonical list, the resolution of questions would normally have been directed through the see of Constantinople, in consultation with Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (who was given the commission), and perhaps other bishops who were available locally.
In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books that would formally become the New Testament canon, and he used the word "canonized" (kanonizomena) in regard to them. The first council that accepted the present Catholic canon (the Canon of Trent) was the Council of Rome, held by Pope Damasus I (382). A second council was held at the Council of Hippo (393) reaffirming the previous council list. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Carthage (419). These councils took place under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed. Pope Damasus I's Council of Rome in 382, if the Decretum Gelasianum is correctly associated with it, issued a biblical canon identical to that mentioned above, or if not the list is at least a 6th-century compilation claiming a 4th-century imprimatur. Likewise, Damasus's commissioning of the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, c. 383, was instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West. In 405, Pope Innocent I sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse. When these bishops and councils spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new, but instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the church." Thus, from the 5th century onward, the Western Church was unanimous concerning the New Testament canon.
The last book to be accepted universally was the Book of Revelation, though with time all the Eastern Church also agreed. Thus, by the 5th century, both the Western and Eastern churches had come into agreement on the matter of the New Testament canon. The Council of Trent of 1546 reaffirmed that finalization for Catholicism in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. The Thirty-Nine Articles of 1563 for the Church of England and the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1647 for English presbyterians established the official finalizations for those new branches of Christianity in light of the Reformed faith. The Synod of Jerusalem of 1672 made no changes to the New Testament canon for any Orthodox, but resolved some questions about some of the minor Old Testament books for the Greek Orthodox and most other Orthodox jurisdictions (who chose to accept it).
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Antilegomena, a direct transliteration of the Greek ἀντιλεγόμενα, refers to written texts whose authenticity or value is disputed.Eusebius in his Church History (c. 325) used the term for those Christian scriptures that were "disputed", literally "spoken against", in Early Christianity before the closure of the New Testament canon. It is a matter of categorical discussion whether Eusebius divides his books into three groups of homologoumena ("accepted"), antilegomena, and 'heretical'; or four, by adding a notha ("spurious") group. The antilegomena or "disputed writings" were widely read in the Early Church and included the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the Book of Revelation, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas and the Didache. The term "disputed" should therefore not be misunderstood to mean "false" or "heretical". There was disagreement in the Early Church on whether or not the respective texts deserved canonical status.Biblical apocrypha
The biblical apocrypha (from the Ancient Greek: ἀπόκρυφος, romanized: apókruphos, lit. 'hidden') denotes the collection of apocryphal ancient books found in some editions of Christian Bibles in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments or as an appendix after the New Testament. Some Christian Churches include some or all of the same texts within the body of their version of the Old Testament.
Although the term apocryphal had been in use since the 5th century, it was in Luther's Bible of 1534 that the Apocrypha was first published as a separate intertestamental section. To this date, the Apocrypha is "included in the lectionaries of Anglican and Lutheran Churches." Moreover, the Revised Common Lectionary, in use by most mainline Protestants including Methodists and Moravians, lists readings from the Apocrypha in the liturgical kalendar, although alternate Old Testament scripture lessons are provided.The preface to the Apocrypha in the Geneva Bible explained that while these books "were not received by a common consent to be read and expounded publicly in the Church," and did not serve "to prove any point of Christian religion save in so much as they had the consent of the other scriptures called canonical to confirm the same," nonetheless, "as books proceeding from godly men they were received to be read for the advancement and furtherance of the knowledge of history and for the instruction of godly manners." Later, during the English Civil War, the Westminster Confession of 1647 excluded the Apocrypha from the canon and made no recommendation of the Apocrypha above "other human writings", and this attitude towards the Apocrypha is represented by the decision of the British and Foreign Bible Society in the early 19th century not to print it (see below). Today, "English Bibles with the Apocrypha are becoming more popular again" and they are often printed as intertestamental books.The seven books which comprise the Protestant Apocrypha, first published as such in Luther's Bible (1534) are considered canonical Old Testament books by the Catholic Church, affirmed by the Council of Rome (AD 382) and later reaffirmed by the Council of Trent; they are also considered canonical by the Eastern Orthodox Church and are referred to as anagignoskomena per the Synod of Jerusalem. The Anglican Communion accepts "the Apocrypha for instruction in life and manners, but not for the establishment of doctrine (Article VI in the Thirty-Nine Articles)", and many "lectionary readings in The Book of Common Prayer are taken from the Apocrypha", with these lessons being "read in the same ways as those from the Old Testament". The first Methodist liturgical book, The Sunday Service of the Methodists, employs verses from the Apocrypha, such as in the Eucharistic liturgy. The Protestant Apocrypha contains three books (3 Esdras, 4 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh) that are accepted by many Eastern Orthodox Churches and Oriental Orthodox Churches as canonical, but are regarded as non-canonical by the Catholic Church and are therefore not included in modern Catholic Bibles.Canon of Trent
The Canon of Trent is the list of books officially considered canonical at the Council of Trent. A decree, the De Canonicis Scripturis, from the Council's fourth session (of 4 April 1546), issued an anathema on dissenters of the books affirmed in Trent. The Council confirmed an identical list already locally approved in 1442 by the Council of Florence (Session 11, 4 February 1442), which had existed in the earliest canonical lists from the synods of Carthage and Rome in the fourth century.
The list confirmed that the deuterocanonical books were on a par with the other books of the canon (while Luther placed these books in the Apocrypha of his canon) and ended debate on the Antilegomena and coordinated church tradition with the Scriptures as a rule of faith. It also affirmed Jerome's Latin translation, the Vulgate, to be authoritative for the text of Scripture, contrary to Protestant views that the Greek and Hebrew texts were more authoritative. Later, on 3 September 1943, Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Divino afflante Spiritu, which allowed Catholic translations to be based on texts other than the Latin Vulgate.Catholic Bible
Within Catholicism, the Bible comprises the whole 73-book canon recognized by the Catholic Church, including the deuterocanonical books. It is sometimes referred to as the Catholic Bible.Christian biblical canons
A Christian biblical canon is the set of books that a particular Christian denomination or denominational family regards as being divinely inspired and thus constituting an authorised Christian Bible. Such bibles are always divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Early Church primarily used the Greek Septuagint (or LXX) as its source for the Old Testament. Among Aramaic speakers, the Targum was also widely used. The apostles did not leave a defined set of scriptures; instead the canon of both the Old Testament and the New Testament developed over time.
The Catholic Encyclopedia article on the New Testament describes the process of assembling the histories and letters circulated within the early Church until the canon was approved by a series of councils seeking to ensure legitimacy as inspired scripture:
The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council.Christianity in the 2nd century
Christianity in the 2nd century was largely the time of the development of variant Christian teachings, and the Apostolic Fathers who are regarded as defenders of the developing proto-orthodoxy. Major figures who were later declared by the developing proto-orthodoxy to be heretics were Marcion, Valentinius, and Montanus.
While the Jewish Christian church was centered in Jerusalem in the 1st century, Gentile Christianity became decentralized in the 2nd century.Although the use of the term Christian is attested in the Acts of the Apostles (80–90 AD), the earliest recorded use of the term Christianity (Greek: Χριστιανισμός) is by Ignatius of Antioch about 107 AD, who is also associated with modification of the sabbath, promotion of the bishop, and critique of the Judaizers.Council of Laodicea
The Council of Laodicea was a regional synod of approximately thirty clerics from Asia Minor that assembled about 363–364 AD in Laodicea, Phrygia Pacatiana.Council of Rome
The Council of Rome was a meeting of Catholic Church officials and theologians which took place in 382 under the authority of Pope Damasus I, the current bishop of Rome. It was one of the fourth century councils that "gave a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament."The previous year, the Emperor Theodosius I had appointed the "dark horse" candidate Nectarius as Archbishop of Constantinople. The bishops of the West opposed the election result and asked for a common synod of East and West to settle the succession of the see of Constantinople, and so the Emperor Theodosius, soon after the close of the First Council of Constantinople in 381, summoned the Imperial bishops to a fresh synod at Constantinople; nearly all of the same bishops who had attended the earlier second
re assembled again in early summer of 382. On arrival they received a letter from the synod of Milan, inviting them to a great general council at Rome; they indicated that they must remain where they were, because they had not made any preparations for such long a journey; however, they sent three—Syriacus, Eusebius, and Priscian—with a joint synodal letter to Pope Damasus, Ambrose, archbishop of Milan, and the other bishops assembled in the council at Rome.Decretum Gelasianum
The Decretum Gelasianum or the Gelasian Decree is so named because it was traditionally thought to be a Decretal of the prolific Pope Gelasius I, bishop of Rome 492–496. The work reached its final form in a five-chapter text written by an anonymous scholar between 519 and 553, the second chapter of which is a list of books of Scripture presented as having been made Canonical by a Council of Rome under Pope Damasus I, bishop of Rome 366–383. This list, known as the Damasine List, represents the same canon as shown in the Council of Carthage Canon 24, 419 AD.Easter letter
The Festal Letters or Easter Letters are a series of annual letters by which the Bishops of Alexandria, in conformity with a decision of the First Council of Nicaea, announced the date on which Easter was to be celebrated. The council chose Alexandria because of its famous school of astronomy, and the date of Easter depends on the spring equinox and the phases of the moon.
The most famous of those letters are those authored by Athanasius, a collection of which was rediscovered in a Syriac translation in 1842. Festal Letters of other Bishops of Alexandria, including Cyril have also been preserved.Luther's canon
Luther's canon is the biblical canon attributed to Martin Luther, which has influenced Protestants since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. While the Lutheran Confessions, specifically did not define a canon, it is widely regarded as the canon of the Lutheran Church. It differs from the 1546 Roman Catholic canon of the Council of Trent in that it rejects the Deuterocanonical books and questions the seven New Testament books, called "Luther's Antilegomena", four of which are still ordered last in German-language Luther Bibles to this day.Melito's canon
Melito's canon is the name of the biblical canon attributed to Melito of Sardis, one of the early Church Fathers of the 2nd century.Muratorian fragment
The Muratorian fragment, also known as the Muratorian Canon or Canon Muratori, is a copy of perhaps the oldest known list of most of the books of the New Testament. The fragment, consisting of 85 lines, is a 7th-century Latin manuscript bound in a 7th or 8th century codex from the library of Columbanus's monastery at Bobbio Abbey; it contains features suggesting it is a translation from a Greek original written about 170 or as late as the 4th century. Both the degraded condition of the manuscript and the poor Latin in which it was written have made it difficult to translate. The beginning of the fragment is missing, and it ends abruptly. The fragment consists of all that remains of a section of a list of all the works that were accepted as canonical by the churches known to its original compiler. It was discovered in the Ambrosian Library in Milan by Father Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672–1750), the most famous Italian historian of his generation, and published in 1740.The definitive formation of the New Testament canon did not occur until 367, when bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in his annual Easter letter composed the list that is still recognised today as the canon of 27 books. However, it would take several more centuries of debates until agreement on Athanasius' canon had been reached within all of Christendom.Orthodox Tewahedo biblical canon
The Orthodox Tewahedo churches within the Oriental Orthodox Church currently have the largest and most diverse biblical canon in traditional Christendom. Western scholars have classified the books of the Orthodox Tewahedo biblical canon into two categories — the narrower canon, which consists mostly of books familiar to the west, and the broader canon. While the main purpose of this article is to discuss and highlight the books that are exclusive to the broader canon, it is impossible to do this without at least some discussion of the narrower canon. The Orthodox Tewahedo broader canon in its fullest form includes the narrower canon in its entirety, as well as nine additional books. It is not known to exist at this time as one published compilation. Some books, though considered canonical, are nonetheless difficult to locate and are not even widely available in the churches' home countries of Ethiopia and Eritrea.Peshitta
The Peshitta (Classical Syriac: ܦܫܝܛܬܐ pšîṭtâ) is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac tradition.
The consensus within biblical scholarship, though not universal, is that the Old Testament of the Peshitta was translated into Syriac from Hebrew, probably in the 2nd century AD, and that the New Testament of the Peshitta was translated from the Greek. This New Testament, originally excluding certain disputed books (2 Peter, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation), had become a standard by the early 5th century. The five excluded books were added in the Harklean Version (616 AD) of Thomas of Harqel. However, the 1905 United Bible Society Peshitta used new editions prepared by the Irish Syriacist John Gwynn for the missing books.Prophetic books
The prophetic books are a division in the Christian Old Testament, corresponding to the Latter Prophets of the Hebrew Nevi'im, with the addition of Lamentions and Daniel in the Major Prophets, which in the Tanakh are found in the Five Megillot and ungrouped books of Ketuvim.The Major Prophets in Christianity are:
DanielThe Minor Prophets are as in Judaism:
A Protestant Bible is a Christian Bible whose translation or revision was produced by Protestants. Such Bibles comprise 39 books of the Old Testament (according to the Jewish Hebrew Bible canon, known especially to non-Protestants as the protocanonical books) and the 27 books of the New Testament for a total of 66 books; many Protestant Bibles also include 14 additional books in a section known as the Apocrypha (though these are not considered canonical) bringing the total to 80 books. This is often contrasted with the 73 books of the Catholic Bible, which includes seven deuterocanonical books as a part of the Old Testament. The division between protocanonical and deuterocanonical books is not accepted by all Protestants who simply view books as being canonical or not and therefore classify the seven Catholic deuterocanonical books as part of the Apocrypha.
It was in Luther's Bible of 1534 that the Apocrypha was first published as a separate intertestamental section. To this date, the Apocrypha is "included in the lectionaries of Anglican and Lutheran Churches." The practice of including only the Old and New Testament books within printed bibles was standardized among many English-speaking Nonconformists following a 1825 decision by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Today, "English Bibles with the Apocrypha are becoming more popular again" and they may be printed as intertestamental books. In contrast, Evangelicals vary among themselves in their attitude to and interest in the Apocrypha but agree in the view that it is non-canonical.Reception of Enoch in antiquity
The Book of Enoch is an ancient Jewish religious work, ascribed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. Enoch holds material unique to it, such as the origins of supernatural demons and giants, why some angels fell fom heaven, details explaining why the Great Flood was morally necessary, and an introduction of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah. The unique material makes it possible to identify which ancient literary works adopt Enoch as a primary source. Well known in antiquity, the book was received by various authors with respect, who treated it as any other scriptural book, or explicitly identified it as divinely inspired.Synod of Hippo
The Synod of Hippo refers to the synod of 393 which was hosted in Hippo Regius in northern Africa during the early Christian Church. Additional synods were held in 394, 397, 401 and 426. Some were attended by Augustine of Hippo.
The synod of 393 is best known for two distinct acts. First, for the first time a council of bishops listed and approved a Christian Biblical canon that corresponds to the modern Catholic canon while falling short of the Orthodox canon (including the books classed by Catholics as deuterocanonical books and by Protestants as Apocrypha). The canon was later approved at the Council of Carthage (397) pending ratification by the "Church across the sea", that is, the See of Rome. Previous councils had approved similar, but slightly different, canons.
The council also reaffirmed the apostolic origin of the requirement of clerical continence and reasserted it as a requirement for all the ordained, in addition requiring that all members of a person's household must be Christian before that person can be ordained. Rules regarding clerical succession were also clarified at the Synod, as well as certain liturgical considerations.
Part of a series on the biblical canon
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