The collection of the Books that were believed by the early church to be inspired by God. Inspired in the first century is not something that resides upon the writer but resides on the writing.
The early church had much literature to comb through, some that was good and some that was worthless, They didn’t just gather the stuff they had to make the New Testament.
Number and types of manuscripts that we have available today. (We have no originals)
Papyri – Writings of Scripture by using the paper of the day that was made from the papyrus plant. These are some of the earliest scriptures, we have approximately 86 of these and some of them are as old as the second half of the first century. .
Uncials – About 274 of these and they are written on leather written in capital letters only. Later copied and in better shape since they are on leather.
Minuscules – A Host of these (2795) written in cursive longhand
Lectionaries – Worship Guides that have scriptures scattered among them. We have 2209 of these
Codexes – An early form of a book and mostly complete.
Sinaiticus (a) – The first found at Mt. Sinai and is a fourth century document that is virtually complete.
Vaticanus (B) – Also found in the fourth century found in the Vatican Library and is missing some pages from the end.
Alexandrinus (A) – Found in the City of Alexandra from the 5th century.
We have to admit that there were lost of letters written that were lost or that we just don’t have copies of. For example there were other letters written by Paul that we do not have in our Bibles. We know there is a letter written to the Christians in Laodicea from the instruction to the church in Colossae to send their letter to the church in Laodicea, and likewise obtain a copy of the letter "from Laodicea”. Colossians 4:16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
There is at least one more if not two more letters to the church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 Paul refers to a "previous letter" and in 2 Corinthians 2:3-4,9 and 7:8, 12 he refers to a letter written out of great anguish and with many tears which many people call the "sorrowful letter". We do not have a copy of the “previous letter”, and it is possible that the "sorrowful letter" is what we have as 1 Corinthians. I believe that Paul wrote at least 4 letters to the Churches in Corinth we have letter 2 and 4 in our Bibles.
Disputed books – A Host of These
When the 27 books of the New Testament were put together there were some that were almost a shoe in, with very little debate, and that included any book that Paul took credit for, the Gospels, and the book of Acts.
However some books had more of a problem. Hebrews since we don’t know who wrote it, James since there was a struggle with the content (Some believe that James contradicted Paul Saved by faith or works), 2 Peter because of Content, 2-3 John because of who wrote it and to whom was it written, Jude because of who wrote it, and Revelation because of it’s content.
Those eventually excluded from the canon – Shepherd of Hermes (140), Epistle of Barnabas (130) eventually felt that it was not written by Barnabas who traveled with Paul, Didache (120) The teaching of the 12 Apostles, Gospel of the Hebrews, Revelation of Peter, and The Acts of Peter. All of these give much consideration but in the third century it was agreed that they should not be included.
Pseudipigrapha – a book written in a biblical style and ascribed to an author who did not write it or a work whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past. Some of these books are the Gospel of Thomas, Acts of John, Paul, Peter, Andrew, and the Acts of Thomas, The Epistles of the Apostles.
Apocryphal Books - These are ancient books found in some editions of Catholic Bibles in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments or as an appendix after the New Testament. There were several reasons that the Apocryphal books did not make it into the Cannon. The most glaring reason is that they teach doctrines and practices that are contrary to what the Scripture teaches: A Person Is Saved By Works. (Tobit 12:9). The Doctrine Of Purgatory. (Second Maccabees 12:41-45). God Hears The Prayers Of The Dead. (Baruch 3:4). Along with many historical, chronological and geographical errors.
The Old Testament Process
There is a bit of difference between the Christian and Jewish version of the Old Testament. The Jewish Old Testament has 24 books in the Tanakh while the Christian version has 39. The Christian split some of the larger books into 2 (1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles). They also divided up the minor prophets into separate books, when originally they were all written on a single scroll as one book. The Hebrew Bible is made of the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible, the teaching), the Nevi’im (the prophets) and the Kethuvim (the writings).
According to the Talmud much of the contents the Tanakh were compiled by the Men of the Great Assembly (a group of leaders in Judea that are claimed to have succeeded Ezra), in 450 Before Christ, and have remained unchanged since that date. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, written around 200 Before Christ and includes all 24 books. Jesus acknowledged the existing canon (Luke 24:44 cf. John 10:25) and freely quoted from many of the Old Testament books.
There were 5 books that were often debated about their inclusion to the Old Testament Cannon:
Esther - because of the vindictive nature of some of the action in the book and, more particularly, the absence of any mention of God.
Proverbs - The fact that you don’t need to “fear the Lord” in order to benefit from Proverb’s wisdom caused the early church to debate its value for religious instruction.
Ecclesiastes - is filled with pessimistic and hedonistic overtones
Song Of Solomon - First, the theme, the topic, and the frank language of the Song have confused, shocked, and embarrassed Jewish readers to the point that Jewish Rabbis suggested a man must be 30 before he could read the book. Second, the nature and structure of love poetry does not lend itself to easy analysis.
Ezekiel - There seem to be discrepancies between the prophet’s understanding of temple ritual and the prescriptions of Mosaic law (e.g., a disagreement in the number and the kinds of animals sacrificed at the New Moon festival—Num. 28:11 and Ezek. 46:6)
The New Testament Process
From Apostles to 140 – After John’s Death in AD 90 all of the 27 books of the New Testament had been written but no one had even considered putting together a New Testament. Under persecution the emperors wanted to burn the inspired writings, but no one knew if their scriptures were inspired or not. Every scripture was hand copied so it was valuable but would you be willing to give your life for the Shepherd of Hermes if it wasn’t inspired?
Ignatius was bishop of Antioch in Syria during this time. He wrote 7 letters and to our understanding, the first one to use the phrase New Testament.
140–220 – Marcion, the son of the bishop of Sinope began to teach that The Old and New Testaments could not reconciled to each other. The code of conduct advocated by Moses was 'an eye for an eye', but Christ set this precept aside. Elisha had had children eaten by bears; Christ said, 'Let the little children come to me'. Joshua had stopped the sun in its path in order to continue the slaughter of his enemies; Paul quoted Christ as commanding, 'Let not the sun go down on your wrath'. In the Old Testament divorce was permitted and so was polygamy; but in the New Testament neither is allowed. Moses enforced the Jewish Sabbath and Law; Christ has freed believers from both.
Even within the Old Testament, Marcion found contradictions. God commanded that no work should be done on the Sabbath, yet he told the Israelites to carry the ark around Jericho 7 times on the Sabbath. No graven image was to be made, yet Moses was directed to fashion a bronze serpent. The deity revealed in the Old Testament could not have been omniscient, otherwise he would not have asked, 'Adam where are you?' (Genesis 3:9).
So Marcion suggested that the Christians should reject the Old Testament and instead he suggested that the only books that needed to be preserved were Luke, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians (which Marcion called Laodiceans), Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians.
In an effort to refute the dangerous teachings of Marcian, the Church fathers set out to establish a list of inspired books that should be used as the New Testament Cannon.
220–340 – Origen was theologian and a prolific Biblical scholar. He determined that the New Testament should contain 23 books, but he excluded James, Jude, 2 Peter and 2 John.
340–400 – The church decided that something official must be done. Athanasius presented a list containing 27 books. Constantine the Emperor and Eusiabus the Church Historian gave their approval of the list. Jerome in the East and Agustin in the West agreed to the 27. Counsels began to meet and all agreed to the 27. The final decision was made at the Counsel of Cartridge on 397. The whole process took several hundred years. Our bible is not from a first century decision but a several century decision.
There were seven books that were heavily disputed, sometimes to blood, about their place in the New Testament Cannon:
Hebrews - it is technically anonymous.
James - its complex discussion of the relationship between faith and works.
2 Peter - the differences in style between 1 Peter and 2 Peter led to debates over whether or not it was legitimate.
2 and 3 John - do not identify their authors as clearly as other New Testament texts. In particular, they use the term elder rather than apostle, which led to some doubt concerning authorship. Also they do not contribute much to the life of faith.
Jude - questioned for making explicit references to non-inspired works (The Assumption of Moses and the Book of Enoch.)
Revelation - its symbolism was open to such wide interpretation.
Other writings that were removed from the New Testament Cannon:
I Clement (c. 96) – Almost contemporary with the Gospel of John and the book of revelation. Clement is the pastor of the Church of Rome and it is a letter to the Church in Corinth. A short letter in which Clement tells the church that they are still struggling with the same things that Paul has written to them about. The Roman Church believes that Clement is the 4th Pope. He mentions that Peter and Paul are dead, but he gives no specifics. And he never appeals that because of his position that he has any authority over any other church.
Epistles of Ignatius (110) Numerous Letters. Bishop of Antioch who died as a martyr in 117. He has 7 epistles in one version and there is a longer of 13, but many believe that the latter are not written by Ignatius. He talks about Schism (Eastern and Roman Church Split) in the church and how to handle that struggle. His view of the Bishop begin to extend beyond the Local Church.
Didache (120) the Teaching of the 12 Apostles. In 1875 this Document was discovered in Constantinople. It talks about how they baptized and how they observed the Lord’s Supper.
Epistle of Barnabas (130) Seems to have Gnostic tendencies. Found in the Codex Sinaiticus
Shepherd of Hermes (140) – A Collection of Visions and the Shepherd was a divine teacher that gives Hermes lessons through Parables, Figurative language, and Allegory. It is a type of Fairy Tail Book. This is also found in the Codex Sinaiticus