A question many unbelievers ask and one you might be wondering yourself is how did we get the Bible. It’s assumed by unbelievers that the Bible is nothing more than old, outdated books written by dead men. As we evangelize and defend our faith we should also be aware how the Bible came to be.
Here I will explain how the Bible came to be what it is today.
This word comes from the word ‘reed’ and was understood to mean ‘standard’. It was the “rule of faith” described by early church father, Origen. Later the word was used to mean a list of approved books accepted by the church. In order for a book to be approved it went through tests for inclusion. These tests helped leaders to discern how each book should be qualified or disqualified. It’s important to point out that the church did not impose this standard, they simply applied the standard (God’s word from previously accepted Old Testament text) against the writings.
Early Church Challenges
Another reason that canonicity was imperative was that there were many issues in the early church that had to be addressed. The canon helped Christians to know what teachings were true. One of the issues during this time was heretics and we see the earliest evidence of this in A.D. 140 with Marcion. He compiled his own canon and began to teach it. Christians wanted to know what approved teachings were. The canon allowed them to apply a standard to the issue at hand. Another issue that had to be confronted during this time were the Gnostic Gospels. They have a resemblance to early Christianity but they were not Christian texts. These Gnostic texts spoke in opposition to Christianity and tried to paint Jesus and the disciples in a different light. Thankfully, Gnosticism was widely rejected by Christians along with their texts.
The rejected writings that did not make the canon cut were rejected because they were written late or conflicted with previously approved canon. Sometimes they were rejected because of clear historical inaccuracies or because the writing style didn’t follow a prophetic or poetic style. Authorship was also an important factor in the rejecting process.
Although many people have been led to believe that the Council of Nicaea was responsible for canonicity, but it was actually The Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393. F.F. Bruce states that “when at last a church council—The Synod of Hippo in A.D. 393–listed the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, it did not confer upon them any authority which they did not already possess, but simply recorded their previously established canonicity.” Further, in regards to the Hebrew canon, evidence concludes that it was accepted in the 1st century and certainly no later than 150 B.C.
Scribes had an important job in the ancient world. They were tasked with copying the word of God and they took this job seriously. Scribes were aware of the importance of doing the job correctly. If they got the text wrong they knew there were serious problems that would arise if they were to record or copy something incorrectly. Further, today we have ample amount of evidence that proves the Bible’s accuracy.
-5,000+ Greek Manuscripts
-8,000+ Latin Manuscripts
-9,000+ Manuscripts from various languages
Additionally, with the writings of the early church fathers, we can reconstruct the entire New Testament. No other document of antiquity can compete with the Bible. Coming in second is Homer’s Iliad with 643 manuscripts. These numbers don’t even take into account the non-biblical writings that affirm the Bible.
I hope this helps to understand how the Bible was formed so that you are further equipped to defend your Christian faith.