The Canonization of the Bible

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The Canonization of the Bible

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When one wholeheartedly begins to seek God and desires to obey His Word, the question that frequently comes to mind is, “Does the Bible contain all of God’s revelation to man or are there other books?” Some Bibles have 66 books and others have 7 additional books, so how does a person know exactly which books make up God’s Word? This study guide will help you investigate and answer such questions which have to do with the canonization of the Bible.

Old Testament

Romans 3:1-4 Romans 3:1-4 [1] What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? [2] Much every way: chiefly, because that to them were committed the oracles of God. [3] For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? [4] God forbid: yes, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That you might be justified in your sayings, and might overcome when you are judged.
American King James Version×
“What advantage then has the Jew…”

1. What are the “oracles of God”?

2. Who was to keep and maintain them?

3. Has God promised that those oracles would be faithfully preserved?

4. What have the Jews done to carefully transcribe the scriptures?

5. Did Jesus assert that the words of the law had still been faithfully preserved in His lifetime? Read Matthew 5:18 Matthew 5:18For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
American King James Version×

2 Timothy 3:15-17 2 Timothy 3:15-17 [15] And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. [16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×
…from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures….

6. What was considered scripture when Paul wrote to Timothy?

7. Why were the books of the Bible preserved? Could man learn this knowledge on his own?

2 Peter 1:21 2 Peter 1:21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
“…for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

8. Who authored the scriptures? Could any man claim inspiration?

New Testament

Acts 2:42 Acts 2:42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
American King James Version×
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine ….

1. Jesus’ disciples wrote most New Testament books. Why would at least some of their writings be canonized?

2. Luke was not a disciple. Why would his gospel and Acts be accepted as scripture? Did he accompany an apostle?

3. Did James and Jude know Jesus well, and, therefore be able to write authoritatively?

2 Peter 3:15-16 2 Peter 3:15-16 [15] And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; [16] As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.
American King James Version×
“[Paul] has written to you …some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.”

4. Were Paul’s writings considered Scripture while Peter was still alive?

1 Timothy 5:18 1 Timothy 5:18For the scripture said, You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. And, The laborer is worthy of his reward.
American King James Version×
For the Scripture says… “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

5. What is the source for Paul’s quote?

6. Were the words of Jesus to be preserved? Read Matthew 24:35 Matthew 24:35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
American King James Version×

2 Peter 1:12 2 Peter 1:12Why I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and be established in the present truth.
American King James Version×
,15 Therefore I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things [regarding entering Christ’s Kingdom], though you know them, and are established in the present truth. (15) Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.

7. How could Peter ensure that we would “always have a reminder of these things” after his death?

8. Was Revelation to be the last book? Read Revelation 22:18-19 Revelation 22:18-19 [18] For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add to these things, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book: [19] And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
American King James Version×
and comment.

“Lost Books” and Other Books

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 [1] Now we beseech you, brothers, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together to him, [2] That you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
American King James Version×
Now, brethren… we ask you, (2) not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by letter, as if from us…

1. Did Paul predict there would be false writings?

2. Why would Paul deem it necessary to often call readers to note his handwriting?

(1 Corinthians 16:21 1 Corinthians 16:21The salutation of me Paul with my own hand.
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, Galatians 6:11 Galatians 6:11You see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand.
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, Colossians 4:18 Colossians 4:18 The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.
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, 2 Thessalonians 3:17 2 Thessalonians 3:17The salutation of Paul with my own hand, which is the token in every letter: so I write.
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3. Other books are mentioned in scripture (Numbers 21:14 Numbers 21:14Why it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon,
American King James Version×
, 2 Samuel 1:18 2 Samuel 1:18(Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.)
American King James Version×
, 1 Kings 11:41 1 Kings 11:41And the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?
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, 1 Chronicles 29:29 1 Chronicles 29:29Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer, and in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the book of Gad the seer,
American King James Version×
, 2 Chronicles 9:29 2 Chronicles 9:29Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat?
American King James Version×
). Why would these works not be preserved? Consider the purpose of Scripture when answering.

4. The “lost books of the Bible,” or “Pseudepigrapha,” claim authorship by well-known Bible characters. Why were these writings not canonized? Was their authorship credible? Do they teach heresy? Why would they not be universally accepted?


1. What does God say about the canonization of the Bible? Has He promised to preserve His Word through the ages? Is God, in the final analysis, the One who determines what works are canonized?

2. What are some of the beliefs in the world concerning which books are inspired?

3. Do you believe the Bible contains exactly the right books? List the criteria you think should be used to determine inspiration.

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