It is time to ask the question of how the Bible came to be. My previous studies about what the Bible says about itself and a brief look the various theories of inspiration left some questions still unanswered and so I am hoping to find some more data on which to come to some better conclusions. I have eliminated some of the theories of inspiration but I am working n confirming or denying others. My hope with this study is to find some sort of understanding of how each book of the Bible became seen as holy writings, What was the process of how each book of the Bible got there? Why was each book considered to be inspired by the people who made this decision? These are the major questions and what I will be looking at.
In the process of Biblical studies this is actually what some consider to be the first discussion. I mean you can’t talk about Biblical interpretation without first determining what you think is the Holy Scriptures to interpret. Most people have a lot of problems with this because they think the process involves some angels coming down with a copy of the Bible in their hands and handing it to the authors. The thing is that humans are very involved in the process of Canonization. They are the ones that write the books, preserve the books, re-copy the books and ultimately process the books n such a way as to say – “This is the Bible.”
This is why I have rejected most of the theories of inspiration that take humans out of the picture, because at every step of the way where there has been decisions to make about the Bible, human being have been involved. The theories of inspiration that try to take humans of the equation in inspiration either by plainly stating so or by practical implication are simply not living in the real world of the Bible. For whatever reason, the Bible has been placed in human hands. It was written by human hands, copied over the centuries by human hands, translated to different languages by human hands and at points in history – canonized for various reasons. The two main reasons are very well known.
1) The Need for Consolidation and Delimitation – In large part this was the rational behind Jewish leaders when they canonized the Old Testament. Oral Tradition was breaking down and there were so many writing that were revered and upheld by the Jewish people it was hard to get a consensus about what truly from God and what was not. It should be noted that this process for the Jews was never really finished until about 250 AD but part of the Jewish canon were formally identified centuries before that. Even in Jesus’ time there was some debate with the Pharisees accepting most of what we know as the Old Testament, but the Sadducees only accepting the Torah. There was simply a need for a common set of Scriptures as well as eliminating some of the stuff that was questionable in its origins.
2) Protection from Heretical Movements – The New Testament Canon was largely formalized because of the danger of heresy. There was just so much out there being said about Christ and his apostles that within four centuries it was a real mess. There was a need to find the gospels (there were many who claimed this title) that could be authenticated as having the historical account of Jesus’ life and a need to get the instruction about the Christian message down to the central core. The lead to a process and various Councils of the church that made things formalized with the New Testament.
Now there are a lot of other things that could be said that were good reasons for canonization of Scripture, but this brings up a question almost immediately. The fact is this process was not conducted by angels, it did not involve God coming down and saying “This is my word, and this is not”, but it involved people making decisions pretty much exclusively. This of course leads to the question – How much then is this about genuine faith and how much of this was about religious people solidifying their position?
I am hoping to answer these and other questions as we go along. First though we need to look at how people got along before the Bible was even an issue.