Deciding what is or isn’t accepted as sacred text isn’t a problem limited to Christianity. Ask any Muslim and they’ll tell you that one of the greatest debates of the Islamic world revolves around the Hadith, the apocryphal sayings of Mohammed. Which teachings are accurate? Which one’s aren’t? How are they tested? And who, ultimately, gets to decide which ones remain a part of the accepted religious tradition and which ones don’t?
These are questions faced by many faiths, so it’s not at all surprising that they should be asked in reference to Christianity as well. There are more than a few ancient texts which refer to the struggles of the Jewish people and the work and teachings of Christ – so who decided which books were sacred and which weren’t and how did they decide?
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at why the Christian Bible stands as it does today – why some writings were accepted universally and others only by certain groups – and why so many of us are convinced that these 66 books stand out from the rest!
We’ll start by taking a look at the key tests applied to any text which makes a claim to Divine authority:
- The Test of a Prophet – What role does prophesy play in defining the Christian Scriptures… and how do we know that a prophet really is from God?
- The Test of Uniqueness – What role does logic play in defining what is or isn’t prophesy and how does it influence what believers will or won’t accept as genuine?
- The Test of Detail – Is detail an important element of authentic prophesy and how might it help us determine whether a text does or doesn’t belong in the Bible?
- The Test of Value – How do accuracy and applicability help Christians to determine whether a text (prophetic or not) deserves a place within the Holy Writ?
- The Test of Authenticity – Why when a text was written and who wrote it can make the difference between the acceptance or rejection of an ancient composition.
We’ll examine the philosophies and events which surrounded the establishment of the Canon (a fancy, Latin word meaning “rule” or “measure” which is used in reference to those books without which a group of writings – in this case, the Bible – would not be complete), answer some frequently asked questions, and consider the implications of our findings. Whether you agree with me that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, Word of God or not – you’re sure to find the journey an enlightening one.