08 October 2010

Question of the Week:
Who Compiled the Bible?

by Anne Lang Bundy

"When you have read the Bible, you will know it is the word of God, because you have found it the key to your own heart, your own happiness and your own duty."
~ Woodrow Wilson

Who decided which books would be in the Bible? I understand others were considered, but not added.
~ Andrew Garber, Port Orange, Florida

The Bible boldly declares itself to be the Word of God, that Jesus is the Word of God personified, and that Jesus is God—squarely placing the Bible as equivalent to God in authority.

The wise person is willing to question why any authority should be recognized as such.

The Bible requires reliable testimony be established by two or three witnesses. (Two witnesses are sufficient, but if doubt remains let there be a third witness.) Who are the witnesses to determine the difference between a simple writing (Greek gramma) and Scripture (graphē)?

When the Lord gave the Ten Commandments, He took the extraordinary step of speaking directly to the Israelites (Exodus 18:19-22), giving miraculous signs as a second testimony. There was no question of the commandments being God's Word. Because Moses was God's spokesman, likewise performing miraculous signs as confirming testimony, the first five books of the Bible (Torah) were accepted as Scripture without question (about 1450–1400 BC).

The remainder of the Old Testament (OT) was written by various prophets, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Torah instructed that a prophet of the Lord would be confirmed by accurately foretelling what would come to pass. The Jews preserved the writings of these men as Scripture. In the third century BC, when the Greeks sought to establish a common language throughout their empire, the OT was translated into Greek as the Septuagint. Additional historical and philosophical writings of the time were included, and are contained in some Bibles to this day. But those additional writings were not recognized as Scripture by the Jews of the time, and are therefore referred to as apocryphal writings to distinguish them from the writings unquestionable as Scripture.

And that is the same standard used by compilers of the New Testament (NT). Early church leaders determined which writings to include as the authoritative Word of God by consensus. This was not a matter of voting, with majority rule. Only those writings judged as above reproach to be God’s Word were copied and handed down as Scripture. (See the "Criteria for Canonicity" below for further specifics.)

The most prominent criteria was if writings which recorded the Word of God came from Jesus' apostles—men with authority confirmed by miraculous signs and power of God. While they wrote many letters (or epistles), only some of those writings were held up as as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16.)

In our days, we still have witnesses to confirm the Word of God's authority. Church teachers who speak audibly are known as reliable by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-17)—by consistently displaying the fruit of the Spirit in revering Jesus Christ as Lord and God.

And when we seek God in truth, the Holy Spirit testifies truth to our heart.

Related post, from February: Who Wrote the Bible?

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Criteria for Canonicity * [inclusion in the canon of Scripture]:
• Apostolic Origin — attributed to and based upon the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their close companions).
• Universal Acceptance — acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the ancient world (by the end of the fourth century) as well as accepted canon by Jewish authorities (for the Old Testament).
• Liturgical Use — read publicly when early Christian communities gathered for the Lord's Supper (their weekly worship services).
• Consistent Message — containing a theological outlook similar to or complementary to other accepted Christian writings.

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below. Anonymous questions are welcome.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy.
Image source unavailable.
* Source, "Criteria for Canonicity": justasiamchristian.com (original author unknown)


  1. I like the post. I think it's a good idea to dig into some of this to discover why we believe what we believe.

    I'd add a small distinction, though, in that we acknowledged the Scripture rather than discovered it. Just a difference in wording, but for me, it helps highlight the fact that the Bible is what it is regardless of whether or not we point it out and say it's holy.

    Overall, good post.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  2. I took a class in college about this. Could have just read this blog post. ;)

    Have a great weekend, folks.
    ~ Wendy

  3. while looking for a verse i came across this one today. it reminded me of your post here that i'd read earlier.

    John 21:25

    25 And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.

  4. witnesses - miraculous signs as confirming testimony. God is brilliant. Great post Anne!

  5. Marshall ~

    I agree wholeheartedly that the Bible is God's Word revealed and given to us. I didn't use the word "discover" here, and probably wouldn't—though I've often spoken of the day I "met" the Word of God and immediately fell in love with Him.

  6. Wendy ~

    I've had this question sitting in my file for some time. I wanted to make sure that I answered it accurately, from fresh research rather than memory. Good thing, too, because I learned some interesting things not included in this post. I'm glad that you found this concise summary sufficient. :D

  7. Bud ~

    We'll have all eternity to read such books, with delight.

  8. T ~

    Thanks. I had in mind John 10:37-38 and John 5:36.

    And I LOVE how "brilliant" God is, LOL.