Canon of Scripture

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I thought it might be good to spend a little time thinking about how a particular writing came to be included in what we now know as the Bible.  In order to understand that, you first need to understand the word “canon” because in theological writings you will often read the term “canon of scripture”. 

Canon when used like this, comes from the root word “reed”. 

 In biblical times, the reed was used as a measuring rod, and came to mean “standard”.  Therefore in order for a book to be included in the “canon of scripture” it had to meet several criteria.

There were different ones used for the Old and New Testaments and over the next two postings we will look at each of these.  First, the Old Testament.

For a writing to be considered for inclusion in the Old Testament Canon of Scriptures the following questions were asked about that writing:
  1. Was it written by a prophet of God?  If it was written by a spokesperson of God then it was the Word of God.
  2. Was the writer confirmed by the acts of God?  Frequently miracles separated the false prophets from the real ones.
  3. Did the message tell the truth about God?  God cannot contradict himself, nor can he utter that which is false.  Therefore, did a particular writing agree with other, already established writings?
  4. Does it come with the power of God?  The early church fathers who established the canon of scriptures believed that the Word of God was “living and active” and consequently ought to have transformative powers in the lives of those who encountered it.
  5. Was it accepted by the people of God?  Did those who knew the prophet, accept that the book had been penned by him and did the message convey what his life had conveyed?

In the next posting we will look at the standards used to include or exclude books from the New Testament.  For now let’s examine some more of the book of Mark.

Notice Mark 2:1-12

1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Whose faith did Jesus respond to in the healing of the paralytic man? (Mark 2:5)
  2. What did Jesus say to the paralytic man? (Mark 2:5)
  3. Why did Jesus’ statement to the paralytic man upset the teachers of the law? (Mark 2:6)
  4. What did healing the paralytic man prove? (Mark 2:10)
  5. If only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:6) but Jesus also has the power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10) what do these verses tell us about Jesus?

Remember to post any questions you have and we will start a discussion.

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