The Process of the Canon

canonCanon = the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired, and officially accepted as Holy Scripture.

By R.E. Olsen

The Bible was compiled from individual books and letters that were written from time to time over the years.

The first books, those before the birth of Jesus, were in circulation for centuries. They were vetted by a people personally chosen and cared for by God. These scribes were dedicated, serious people.

The books and letters written after the birth of Jesus were in circulation among the people shortly after He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven.

During the earliest times, with all the persecution of Christians, it was easy to know who belonged to Jesus. They were being tortured and murdered. No one except a true Christian would claim to be a Christian, or write about Him.

As time went on, more people were drawn to Jesus and at some point it became the fashionable thing to be. Now people had more than one reason to claim to be a Christian. The enemy switched tactics. Some of these non-Christian “Christians” wrote books and letters. Some of these guys got a following of people.

Pastors started to get suspicious. They said things like, “Hey, this gospel according to Thomas, where did it come from? It was not around for the past 300 years. Ever since my great grandaddy’s day we’ve been reading these four Gospels. We have a long history of transcribed sermons of pastors quoting these four books. In all that time no one ever quoted this gospel of Thomas. The four books themselves claim to be written by Apostles of Jesus or by a companion of an apostle of Him. The gospel of Thomas has ideas that go against the four Gospels. I don’t get it. Could the Gospel of Thomas be a fake?”

Around the year 350 AD, a group of concerned pastors got together and went through the thousands of letters and books in circulation. They wanted to separate the gold from the garbage. They had a few rules about which writings belonged in the canon such as:

  • Was it authored by someone authorized by Jesus to represent Him (or a close companion of such a man)?
  • Has it been in circulation since the lifetime of these men?
  • Do they agree with each other (nothing off the wall, contradictory, etc.)?

This simple set of tests dumped the gospel of Thomas and thousands of other junk writings from the official canon.

If the Apostles were available to talk with us today and we taught them to read English, they would say, “Wow, the Church has done a great job keeping the ideas we had in printed form; it is exactly right. Well, of course God was there to help each step of the way. So this is not a coincidence that you have His words. Oh, and by the way, you guys did good giving the so-called gospel of Thomas the boot. We are proud of you.”

About the Author: A homeschool dad of three young men, R.E. Olsen takes his role of spiritual head of the household seriously. He also seeks to impart God’s truth to anyone who will listen.

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