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Introduction

Just when did what we call the Bible come to be and how did that happened? The Bible as we know it gradually took its shape over the course of 44 generations. It was written by many different writers inspired by the Holy Spirit to communicate a message from God to us, a message about God’s love and mercy for God’s creation, a message about God’s dealing with humanity, a message about God’s revelations of his will and a message about God’s plan for the salvation of all people of all times. The biblical writers wrote using narrative, poetry, songs and many other writing forms and they wrote according to the customs and styles of their own times. The Bible was written in the Middle East as well as in Greece and Egypt. As you will eventually see, it took many centuries and much effort on the part of many to finally take shape. Now, in our day and age, we have hundreds of different Bibles in hundreds of different languages being used by people of faith all over the world. But it didn’t start out that way.

What is the Bible?

When we ask the question “What is the Bible?” we must take into account questions of both content and function. As to content, the Bible can be most basically defined by the Greek word from which it comes βιβλίov [ biblion ] which means book. There is a certain diminutive sense there of the little book although that doesn’t get played so hard in Greek. βίβλoς [ biblos ] would be the other name for book. ta βιβλία ta biblia on the other hand is the plural form and means the books or the little scrolls. These scrolls refer to the separate rolls of papyrus or leather on which the sacred writings were originally written. A scroll could physically be only so long which meant that numerous scrolls were needed for the writings that came to form our Bible. Some documents were so long that they had to be divided into two scrolls which is why we have 1 & 2 Sam and 1 & 2 Ki. Luke’s two books, Lk-Ac, also fall into this category.

As early as the second century Christians started to replace scrolls with codices (plural), ie, very thin leather sheets that were bound together like our modern books into a codex (singular). Once they began to use the codex format, it made it possible to put all of the sacred writings into one large manuscript but the name ta βιβλία still stuck.

So the Bible is not just one book but a collection of books, a collection which records the mighty acts of the living God as well as the relationship between this God, known to the Hebrews as Yahweh, and God’s creation in general and the relationship between this God and human beings in particular.

As to function the Bible is the authoritative religious document of both Christians and Jews. It is fairly accurate to say that the scriptures used by Jewish communities consist basically of the books we Christians call the OT. Christians also include in its Bible the books of the NT and some Christians even include the books of the Apocrypha.

So the Bible, the book of life, is the inspired Word of God, the authoritative source of teaching and preaching, and the principal means by which we are called to faith and helped to live according to God’s will. Further, the Bible testifies that God is the source of all life, including the “new life” which comes through Baptism and the “eternal life” offered freely to all who believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible is also the book of the people of God. Its words have lived in their history, and their history lives in its words. The Bible tells this story and like a compass needle points to God, the one who holds past, present, and future together with creative and gracious hands.

Finally, the Bible is a document of faith written by faithful and inspired authors. This makes the Bible more than a historic book of facts; it is a rich confession of faith in God who is the source of truth. This kind of truth is expressed in facts and statistics, to be sure, but the Bible also uses the language of story, parable, poetry, hymns, songs, visions, laws, and sermons to convey this truth.

The Bible’s Authors and Language

Surely none of the Bible’s authors dreamed that their work would someday be part of a single great work called the Bible nor were they concerned about receiving credit for their efforts. Most biblical writings are anonymous, written by people about whose identities we can never be completely certain. Evidence suggests that some books were written by someone other than the person by whose name the book is titled. Ancient writers were not as concerned about this as we are today, and, in fact, using the name of a wellknown person was thought to give the work more authority. Additionally, the final form of certain books, especially those in the OT, were edited and shaped by authors of varying periods and theological concerns.

The Bible was written in primarily three languages: Hebrew, Greek and some Aramaic. Refer to my Languages of the NT Period handout. The OT (Jewish Scriptures) was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic by Hebrew writers. The books of the OT were probably written between about 1100 and 100 BCE. Before being written down, the stories and laws of the Hebrew people were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth. The NT was originally written in Greek by authors out of both the Jewish community and the Greekspeaking Gentile world.

So how did the Bible come to be the Bible and Canon?

The books that make up the present biblical canon (a term meaning “rule” or “norm”) were chosen through a process that took place over a period of about 1300 years. There is considerable agreement that the books known as the Law or Torah (the first five books of the Bible) were the first books to be regarded as Scripture and authoritative. That probably happened about 400 BCE. The other two groups of books in the OT, the Prophets and the Writings, came to be regarded as Scripture later, between 400 BCE and 100 CE. Between the third and first centuries BCE, the Jewish Scriptures were translated into Greek for the benefit of Jewish colonists who lived in Greekspeaking areas. This translation was known as the Septuagint. The Christian OT canon was formed from it.

In 98 CE a council of Jewish scholars at Jamnia established criteria for determining how a book may be considered sacred. Seven books, known as the Apocrypha, were rejected by this council. The Protestant Christian churches follow this list of Jewish books as their Old Testament. They did not accept the Apocryphal books as canonical, or authoritative. The Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox churches retain these seven Apocryphal books in their Old Testament for a total of 46 books.

The first Christians, as well as Jesus, used the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) as their Bible. Later, between about CE 50 and 125, they composed their own documents, known as the New Testament. It took nearly three more centuries and many disputes before the present list of 27 New Testament books was adopted as authoritative by the Western church. This list of 27 books was first listed in CE 367 in the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius, a bishop of the church.

So when does the Bible begin to be called ‘Bible?’
Josephus of Israel and Philo in Alexandria, Hellenistic Jewish authors who were contemporaries of Paul, fairly regularly refer to the Hebrew Bible as αί ερα βίβλoι [ hai hierai bibloi ] ‘ the holy books.’ People tend to think that this is perhaps the beginning of the process of simply calling the Bible, the ‘Bible,’ again meaning ‘book.’

More specifically some scholars contend that calling the entire Bible “Bible” goes back to the fact that Greek-speaking Jews in the first century and then in later centuries were calling the Torah, simply ‘the Book,’ either βίβλoς [ h biblos ] or τ βιβλίov [ to biblion ] where both terms mean ‘book’ as applied to the Torah.

Up through the first four centuries there were numerous disputes over which writings were truly sacred and which were not. The best I can find is that it was around the year 400 CE when Christians began applying this term to the entirety of the scriptures they had accumulated after all that controversy. So it was – that what was to become the Bible slowly took shape over a few centuries but it was only after that process that it was finally and permanently called “the Bible” as we know it today. As you will see as this course unfolds, the Bible is not exactly the name of a book, although we call it that. So “Bible” is really the name we apply to a collection of numerous sacred writings. The Bible is the name of that small library contained within its covers.

Characteristics of the OT

Although we’ll discuss what follows in greater detail as the course unfolds, there are some general characteristics of the Bible to keep in mind as we move along.

The OT, as accepted by protestant churches, is a collection of 39 books that are, more or less, divided in three sections: the law; the prophets and the writings.

1. The law (Torah) contains rules for conduct, worship and guiding one’s life in accordance to God’s will and tells of the beginnings of Israel as a nation.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy
The term Law, as applied to the first five books of the Bible, is a translation of the Hebrew word Torah. Torah has a much broader meaning, though, and may be related to the Hebrew word yarah, meaning “instruction.” There are many laws and regulations mentioned in the first five books of the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, but there is other important information also. The accounts of creation, the stories about Abraham, Sarah, and their early descendants, the exodus from Egypt, the wilderness wanderings, and the Sinai covenant are some of the significant stories and events described in the Law.

2. The prophets tell of the history of the uniting of the 12 tribes and of God’s prophecies, encouraging Israel back to God’s path.
Joshua, Obadiah, Judges, Jonah, 1 & 2 Samuel, Micah, 1 & 2 Kings, Nahum, Isaiah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Hosea, Zechariah, Joel, Malachi, and Amos
This second major group of books contains the three major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) and 12 minor prophets.
In addition, it includes six books (Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings) that we would not generally consider prophetic books.
We are more likely to call these books history.

3. The writings contain histories, maxims, poetry, songs, philosophy and wisdom for living.
Ruth, Psalms, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Proverbs, Ezra, Ecclesiastes, Nehemiah, Song of Solomon, Esther, Lamentations, Job, and Daniel
This third major group of books contains a wide variety of books such as poetry, songs, hymns, wisdom instruction, and stories.
More history books are also included in this group, such as Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 & 2 Chronicles.
This final grouping includes many of what may be considered the “latest works” written in the Old Testament.

These Jewish scriptures are the story of God’s covenant with Abraham as well as a history of Abraham’s descendants’ struggles to form a nation of faithful worshipers. These were written and collected over a period of about 1300 years starting around 1100 BCE when, after centuries of being passed orally from generation to generation, the traditions of the tribes of Israel were written down for the first time. Over time some of writings became recognized as sacred, as the Word of God being expressed through the words of particular individuals but speaking to people of every time and place.

It’s not until about 400 BCE that the three sections mentioned above – the law, the prophets and the writings – were standardized. The sacred authority of some of the writings was disputed such as that of Ecclesiastes, Esther and Song of Songs.

From the third to the first century BCE these Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek. (See the Septuagint handout for further information about this translation.) It’s from this Greek translation called the Septuagint that our Christian OT scriptures were formed. Around 90 CE at Jamnia, near present day Tel Aviv, Pharisaic rabbis established criteria for determining whether a book was sacred:
1. antiquity
It must be dated as having been written before 400 BCE
2. It must be written in Hebrew.
3. Its contents must be of satisfactory moral character.
At Jamnia 7 books of the Septuagint, later called the Apocrypha, were rejected. See Apocrypha handout.

OT Text and Versions

The difficulty of tracing the history of the OT text is due to the scarcity of manuscripts that go back beyond the ninth and tenth century CE. One reason for this scarcity is the practice by Jewish scribes of burying old manuscripts in a storehouse called a genizah and then destroying these manuscripts. The text from that period is called the Masoretic Text because it derives from the work of a group of Hebrew scribes known as Masoretes, whose work spans the time from 500 to 1000 CE. The manuscripts used most frequently in editing the OT today are of this variety.
Textual scholars use several tools to trace the text behind the Masoretic Text, one of which is the Samaritan Pentateuch. The Samaritan Pentateuch refers to the text of the first five books of the OT as it was preserved among the Samaritans after their separation from Judah about 400 BCE until the present. This text is preserved in Israel today by a few hundred Samaritans who still live at Nablus (near Mt. Gerazim where their ancient temple stood, Jn 4 20) and just south of Tel Aviv. The importance of this text is that it was preserved independently of the Masoretic text even though the oldest copies in existence were not made until the eleventh century. Only in a few instances do scholars think that the Samaritan Pentateuch preserves readings superior to the Masoretic text.
Another tool to trace the history behind the Masoretic text is the Aramaic paraphrases of the OT known as the Targums. Targums originated because the Jews in the synagogues in the Middle East could not understand the Hebrew Scriptures. Someone stood alongside the reader of the text (read in Hebrew) and recited Aramaic paraphrases, which in time became stereotyped. The earliest of these to be written down came before the time of Christ (a fragment of a Targum on Job was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls in the eleventh cave from Qumran). Most of the manuscripts of the Targums originated 500 to 1000 CE. Because they are paraphrases and not strict translations, the Targums are more of interest for determining Jewish doctrine in the time of their origin than for determining the early stages of the text of the OT.
A much more important source for textual history is the Septuagint. This is a Greek translation of the OT made from about 285 to 100 BCE or shortly thereafter. It was made in Alexandria, Egypt, to meet the needs of Jews and others who wanted to read the OT but lacked the facility to read Hebrew. The Septuagint represents an official translation which likely replaced a variety of earlier unofficial translations.
Basic problems in using a translation to seek to study the earlier wording of the Hebrew text are: the difficulty of determining the exact readings of the Hebrew text(s) used by the original translators because of the innate differences in all languages; the difficulties in establishing the original readings of the Greek translation by studying the many manuscripts of it; and uncertainty concerning the quality of the translation itself. Nevertheless, the Septuagint does preserve some readings (especially in Exodus, Samuel, and Jeremiah) that appear to be superior to the Masoretic text. Some of them are supported by copies of the Hebrew texts found at Qumran. There are other Greek translations of the Old Testament made by Jews to replace the Septuagint. The two most famous were made in the second century CE by Aquila and Theodotion.
The most important source for textual information beyond the Masoretic Text is the Dead Sea Scrolls. Most of these were discovered in the caves by the wadi Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea beginning in 1947. Others were found further south in the wilderness of Judea and at Masada. The oldest copies of OT Scriptures found in these discoveries are manuscripts written in the second century before Christ. They are over a thousand years older than the basic manuscripts of the Masoretic texts. They represent the remains of a library of a group of separatist Jews who lived in the caves in the area and worked in a type of monastery. Along with OT manuscripts, the caves preserved documents written by the participants in the community and their founders. Biblical manuscripts have been found containing fragments or complete copies from every book of the Old Testament except Esther. The scrolls from Qumran do differ from the Masoretic text in some places (1375 places in Isaiah), but most are insignificant.
Other versions of the OT such as the Syriac, Old Latin, the Latin Vulgate, etc. can be used, but none of these yield many significant variants from the Masoretic texts. The copies of the Hebrew Bible available today are the work of very careful Hebrew scribes. Though there are variations, the text of the Hebrew Bible is essentially as it existed in the time before Christ.
The early Christians had access to either the Hebrew text or to the Septuagint. When the Septuagint was no longer used by the Jews (about 90 CE), it was preserved by the Christians and used by them. About half of the OT quotes in Paul are from the Septuagint as are almost all of the quotes in 1 Peter, James, and Hebrews. The famous Latin Vulgate of Jerome contained the books in the Septuagint not found in the Hebrew Bible plus 2 Esdras. These are called the Apocrypha. They were relegated to an appendix by Martin Luther and most Protestants today.

Characteristics of the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books

These books are now included in many Bibles between the Old and New Testaments although they are accepted as scriptural only by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox Church, having been rejected by Jewish rabbis at Jamnia.

The term ‘Apocrypha’, a Greek word meaning ‘hidden (things)’, was early on used in different senses. It was applied to writings which were regarded as so important and precious that they must be hidden from the general public and reserved for the initiates, the inner circle of believers. It came to be applied to writings which were hidden not because they were too good, but because they were not good enough, because, that is, they were secondary or questionable or heretical.

The 15 Books of the Apocrypha form no part of the Hebrew Scriptures, although the original language of some of them was Hebrew. With the exception of the 2nd Book of Esdras, they are all in the Greek version of the Old Testament made for the Greekspeaking Jews in Egypt. As such they were accepted as biblical by the early Church and were quoted as Scripture by many early Christian writers. Around 1520 Martin Luther began the practice of collecting them into a separate unit.

The following is the traditional list and sequence of the apocryphal books circulated by the LXX (Septuagint) (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, begun about 285 BCE): Note: This list is still a little “iffy” because the sources themselves vary!
1. Ezra (Esdras; the third Book of Ezra)
1 Esdras is a reworded version of parts of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah
2 Esdras is a partly Christian work from the first century CE
2. Tobit (Tobias)
3. Judith
4. Additions to the Book of Esther (contained in the Greek version of Esther)
The additions to Es are fragmentary and so make no continuous sense when removed from the book itself as can be seen by looking at a copy of the Apocrypha.
5. The Wisdom of Solomon
6. The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach (Ben Sirach), or Ecclesiasticus
7. Baruch (Ba’-ruch)
8. The Epistle of Jeremiah (It forms the sixth chapter of Baruch)
9. The Song of the Three Holy Children (??? additions to Dn) (???The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews)
10. The History of Susanna(h)
11. The Destruction of Bel and the Dragon
12 to 14. The three Books of the Maccabees
15. The Prayer of Manasses (a penitential text)

Characteristics of the NT

The New Testament is a collection of 27 books that focus on the continuing love and mercy of God as revealed in the incarnation the coming of Jesus, the Christ, in the flesh. The word covenant may be an even more appropriate term than testament to describe the content of this collection of books. A covenant is an agreement that establishes a relationship between two parties. The OT tells of the covenant God established with all the world through the chosen people of Israel. The NT tells of a new covenant established through Jesus Christ, the longawaited Messiah, prophesied in the OT. Because Jesus is seen as the fulfillment of the OT, the Christian church Jesus’ followers is a continuation of Israel’s history.

The first Christians’ only written word was that of the Jewish scriptures, what we now call the OT. In the decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Christian message was passed along orally, just as the message of the Jewish scriptures had been passed along for centuries.

The first extant Christian scriptures we have are the letters of Paul which date from around 50 CE. These letters were used in public worship and read before congregations as sermons. Paul’s letters were collected in the mid 90’s CE and became a standard part of public worship along with the gospels and Ac.

Ultimately, as the other “books” of the NT were written and accepted, these came together as the Christian scriptures and contained the basis of the Christian faith, the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the story of Jesus’ ministry, and stories about the missionary activities of the early church.

The gospels that we have date from around 65 CE for Mk, sometime in the mid 80’s for Mt & Lk, and sometime in the mid to late 90’s for Jn. The gospels are the written oral tradition of Jesus’ life and death told by 4 different evangelists who each have a message they want to convey to their audience using stories about Jesus and his ministry.

Other letters written by James, Peter, John and Jude were written and added to Paul’s letters as a collection in the first part of the second century. Some time during the middle of the second century the gospels were gathered together and things became a little more standardized. In the later part of the second century the gospels and the letters were combined into one collection to form a statement of Christian belief.

In reality the NT completes the OT. These NT “books” were written to address the needs of the emerging Christian community, to answer questions that new converts had about Christ and his teachings and to fight against false teachings (heresies). These “books” also provided guidelines for the organization of the church.

Unlike the books of the OT which came into being over a period of many centuries, the books of the NT were written within a period of somewhat less than a hundred years.

The NT books fall basically into four different literary forms: gospel, history, letter, apocalypse.

1. The gospels contain the 4 stories of Jesus and his teachings.
They tell of the good news of Jesus Christ by relating the events of his life, ie, his birth, baptism, his ministry of teaching and healing, and of death and resurrection.
gospel is a word derived from the Anglo-Saxon gd-spell which means good tidings or good news.
Scholars feel that Mark is the first of the gospels to be written and that it was one of the sources available to the writers of Matthew and Luke. Both Mt & Lk follow Mark’s sequence of events rather closely but add material from other sources (such as a document of Jesus’ sayings called Q as well as from their own personal sources) to create their own versions of Jesus’ life.
Because Mk, Mt & Lk have much in common, they are called the Synoptic Gospels (from the word synopsis, meaning “see together”).
The Gospel of John does not follow the same sequence of events as the other three Gospels and contains much material not found in the others.

2. the early church’s history is contained in Luke’s second “volume” called the Book of Acts or The Acts of the Apostles.

It’s an account of the spread of the Christian faith in the first 30 or so years after the death and resurrection of Jesus until Paul’s journey to Rome.
Ac is the story of the early Christian church and how it fulfilled Jesus’ Great Commission to spread Christianity throughout the known world.

3. Twenty-one of the NT books are letters (epistles), although some are actually sermons, written to various people and churches.
These letters are divided into those written by Paul, or a follower of Paul, and those written by others.
Most of the letters were either written by Paul (7 of them for sure) or were Pauline in nature.
These letters address personal issues, questions and controversies, and develop arguments which explain and expand our understanding of the Christian faith.

4. The last book of the NT, The Revelation of John, is a unique literary form called an apocalypse, meaning revelation (Greek apokalypsis) or disclosure of God’s will for the future.
The Revelation of John uses symbolism language in a seemingly far-out vision of John and tells of the struggle between the church and the devil.
Re is concerned with the future of God’s kingdom on earth and in heaven.
Re tells of the final victory of Jesus and the kingdom of God over against evil.

NT Text and Versions

From near the middle of the second century on most Christians equated many Christian writings with the Scriptures of the Jews. The term “Old Testament,” implying a “New Testament,” was first used by Christians in 187 CE.

These writings were preserved at first mostly on papyrus, a form of paper made from the papyrus plant which grew in the Nile Delta. Papyrus was, of course, perishable, and very few copies have survived. In 1976, only 88 separate fragments of papyrus NT manuscripts were known. Few of them contain in their present state more than a part of a single page of text. The original papyrus manuscripts contained only portions of the NT, such as the Gospels and Acts or Paul’s letters or the Revelation or some or all of the General Epistles. The earliest of these date from the second and third centuries. During that period the NT did not circulate as a single volume. Apparently all NT manuscripts so far discovered were made in the leaf form of books, not on rolls.

The NT circulated as a single volume in the time of the great parchment manuscripts. Parchment was made from the skins of animals. The earliest of these to contain the NT also contain the OT (in the form of the Septuagint with the outside books) and other Christian writings such as 1 and 2 Clement or The Shepherd of Hermas and the Letter of Barnabas. The earliest of these were written in the middle of the fourth century.

In addition to manuscripts written in Greek, the language of the New Testament, we also have other Christian writings which quote from the Greek NT – writings which furnish evidence for the text of the NT. However, some of the Christian “fathers” were very loose in their quotes or quoted from faulty memories. Another factor is that not all the writings were preserved carefully.

Another major source of information about the text of the NT is the versions. From the very beginning of the Christian story, translation has been an essential part of the process. We have less than a dozen words of Jesus preserved in Aramaic, the language which Jesus spoke. Hence, almost all that he said was translated into Greek before it was written down. The accusation written over the cross was written in the three languages used in Palestine: Latin, Hebrew (probably Aramaic), and Greek.

When the Christians, fleeing from the persecution in which Stephen died, arrived in Antioch, they needed to use Syriac to evangelize the surrounding areas. By the middle of the second century, extensive efforts had been made to translate all the Scriptures into the Old Latin and Syriac. From the third century on followed translations into the various dialects of the Egyptian languages, the languages of Armenia, Georgia, Ethiopia, Arabia, Nubia, and the areas of Europe.

In the West, Latin became the major language of the church. The Latin Vulgate, produced about 400 CE by Jerome, became the Bible of the Latin Church.

Among the Eastern Orthodox, Greek has remained the official language of the Scriptures. Thus during the long period from 400 to 1500, most NT Greek manuscripts used the official text of the Orthodox Church. Hence, today most Greek New Testament manuscripts are of the type designated as Byzantine, Ecclesiastical, Koine, Standard, or Eastern. The earlier and (for most scholars) the most reliable ones are of the Alexandrian (also called Neutral, Egyptian, and African) type. When the printers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries looked for manuscripts from which to edit the earliest printed Greek New Testaments, all that they could find were those of the Byzantine type. Since then, the process of discovery and editing of manuscripts has brought to light over 5,300 handwritten copies of all or part of the NT. The process of editing and utilizing all of this material in producing the earliest possible text for readers today is the task of textual criticism (see Lecture NT JW file for definition). It is a painstaking job done mostly by scholars in the universities, colleges, seminaries, and Bible societies. As always, a major impetus for this work is missionary. Without textual criticism no modern Bibles in any language would be possible.

Canonization

Many, many so-called Christian writings existed in the first and second centuries. Some of these were clearly God-inspired and some were clearly not. In between these writings were those whose inspiration was questionable. By 100 CE there were many gospels in wide circulation.

Some wrote heretical tracts. One of these was the influential Christian teacher, Marcion, who rejected all Jewish scriptures as having nothing to do with Christianity. See biograph.y\marcion file. These heretic writings helped Christian leaders realize the need for a church-authorized list of acceptable Christian writings.

During the second century the church leaders gradually recognized the inspiration of the OT writings by virtue of their acceptance in apostolic times and their continued used in Christian services. These Jewish scriptures were seen to relate to Jesus and his mission, and they also fostered prayer life and provided a necessary rule of life.

About 180 CE the Muratorian Canon was published. It contained a tentative list of inspired writings which included the gospels, Paul’s letters, Ac, Ju, Jn & Re.

Throughout the second century and into the third century, Gnosticism, a heresy, threatened Christian beliefs. In an attempt to fight off the effects of Gnosticism the church decided to call sacred only those writings that were written by apostles or those close to them and only those writings that were used in public worship.

The church distinguished the apocryphal writings as being separate from the writings of the Jewish scriptures although they continued to use both of them in worship. Around this same time Origen further defined the issue for the church when he listed writings as falling into one of three categories:
acknowledged, that is, universally used and accepted;
disputed, that is finally accepted; and
rejected, that is, declared ordinary (not special).
(Among some of the disputed writings were those of Baruch, Tobit, Sirach, 1, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2, 3 John and Revelation.)

During the period of the fourth century through the Middle Ages local councils decided early on to include all 72 books including the Apocrypha and the OT in the canon. Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, resolved all arguments with his list of the books we have in our Bibles today. Interestingly, about the same time, the church leader Jerome argued against the sacred nature of the apocryphal writings but traditional acceptance of them continued up to the Reformation when Luther relegated them to a different status.

Versions

See handout.