What is the Bible ?

The Bible, the holy book of Christians, is divided into 2 sections, the Old and the New Testaments. The former, which was written between approximately 1200 BC and 200 BC, begins with the creation of the world, and though it contains prophecies of a Messiah who is yet to come, it ends before the birth of Jesus. The latter, dating from 40 AD to 160 AD, covers the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus, and ends (in most versions) with a glimpse of the end of the world and the final judgement. It is estimated that 6 billion copies of the Bible have been sold in the last two hundred years alone.

 Who Wrote It ?

Christians would argue that ultimately God ‘wrote’ the Bible and that it is a God breathed narrative physically written out by man. In this article though we confine ourselves to the more prosaic question of which person and when.

The Bible doesn’t have 1 single author and is in fact divided into 73 books in the Catholic Bible or 66 books of the Protestant canon, each being written over various periods of time. Each book was written by a different person or persons. This fact along with the synergy across the books (as well as some inevitable discrepancies of course) arguably lends more authenticity than say a work entirely written by just 1 or 2 authors.

 How Was the Christian Bible Put Together ?

  • The Council of Jamnia. A Jewish council at which the canon of the Hebrew Bible is believed to have been finalised.

  • The ‘Muratorian Canon’ – included all of the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, and 3 John.

  • The Council of Laodicea – stated that only the Old Testament (along with one book of the Apocrypha) & 26 books of the New Testament (everything but Revelation) were canonical.

  • The Council of Hippo & the Council of Carthage (AD 397) affirmed the same 27 books as authoritative.

So, given that there are many diverse Books, when, how and who brought it all together into 1 canon of scripture?

The bringing together of all the various circulating books of the Bible begins in about 90AD with “The Council of Jamnia”. This was a Jewish council at which the canon of the Hebrew Bible was formerly believed to have been finalised and which may also have been the occasion when the Jewish authorities decided to exclude believers in Jesus as the Messiah from synagogue attendance.

If canonicity was decided at this Council, the decisions were not communicated to the Christians, as they remained somewhat uncertain as to which books really belonged in the Old Testament.

As far as the New Testament is concerned the first “canon” was the Muratorian Canon, which was compiled in AD 170. The Muratorian Canon included all of the New Testament books except Hebrews, James, and 3 John.

In AD 363, the Council of Laodicea stated that only the Old Testament (along with one book of the Apocrypha) and 26 books of the New Testament (everything but Revelation) were canonical and to be read in the churches. The Council of Hippo (AD 393) and the Council of Carthage (AD 397) also affirmed the same 27 books as authoritative.

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