We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

The Exclusive Canon

There is one further element that needs to be present before we can speak strictly of the biblical canon as fixed and complete. This is that the books in the list are seen as exclusive, in the sense that these and only these books form the Bible. It is theoretically possible to have an official list of all the books that have so far been recognized as authoritative. Perhaps this is what Josephus, for example, is doing in the passage quoted above from Against Apion: listing the books that Jews do in fact recognize, and saying that they could only recognize others if they were equally ancient. But when Athanasius lays down the limits of the New Testament canon, he is saying these books are for all time the Bible that Christians must accept.

The idea that some books are to be excluded from the Bible is much older than the fourth century CE. As we saw, Jewish authorities had already decided that the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) did not qualify for the status of Holy Scripture. Tertullian (c. 160–c. 225) tells us that the Church of his day had a list of books that Christians were not supposed to read, the remote ancestor of the Vatican's Index of Prohibited Books, which persisted down into our own time. But it seems to have been in roughly the fourth century that Christians started to abandon a rough-and-ready system in which some books were definitely in and others definitely out, but in which there was a grey area of books whose status was rather unclear. Instead they tried to formulate a definitive and exclusive list of canonical works. The creation of such a list does not mean the works on it were of doubtful authority until then. The great majority of books in the New Testament, like the great majority in the Old, did not become “scriptural” because some authority decided they should be, but established themselves over time in people's minds. All that someone like Athanasius did was to endorse the books that everyone accepted already, and to give a ruling on a few doubtful cases. No-one created the biblical canon: it grew.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2018. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice