I still have a copy of one of my first Bibles.  It was given to me when I was a child.  It has a bright cover with a picture of Jesus on the front.  The inside contains numerous illustrations.  I still remember being mesmerized by the pictures as a kid.  Back then, I had little understanding into the contents of the book.  I certainly didn’t understand the elaborate process that went into the assimilation of God’s Word.  I was ignorant of the years of copying and translating required to produce the modern Bible.  Sadly, many Christians nowadays have a similar ignorance.  It is important for us to understand how we got the Bible.  If we don’t know how God sovereignly worked to make it available to us, we will have less of an appreciation for it.  On top of this, our naivety will make us less credible as we witness to non-Christian friends.  To learn what was involved with the making of the Good Book, we should first be familiar with a process known as “canonization.”


is a word we don’t use on a regular basis.  While it may not be familiar to us, it represents something we should understand.  It represents the way in which men of old recognized what books should be in the Bible.  It comes from the word “canon,” a designation for something that serves as a rule or standard.  When it comes to the Bible, canonization, is “the process by which biblical books became recognized as authoritative in the Christian church and are eventually drawn together into a collection of books.”  Before time began, God established a way through which the church would recognize what writings are Scripture.

There Is Biblical Witness of Canonization. 

In the pages of Scripture, we see examples of God’s people esteeming certain writings as being from God.  Peter held Paul’s writings as being at an equal level with the Hebrew Scriptures. He said, “Our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him…The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 1:15-16). During Peter’s day, people had started to regard Paul’s words as Scripture.  The gears of canonization were turning.  The books of the Bible weren’t set by greedy, power hungry clerics hundreds of years after Christ, as some would assume.  The early church started establishing Scripture while the apostles were still alive.

Certain historical events figure into the process of Canonization. 

After the culmination of the church age, the canon was once-for-all formally established by church leaders.  This occurred through two different means.  First, certain books were regarded as Scripture by the writings of early church leaders.  One has noted “During this period all the New Testament books were cited in other writings, and the church Fathers recognized as canonical all twenty-seven books.”  Secondly, a church council in 397 A.D., the Council of Carthage, officially recognized the books of the New Testament as being Scripture.  Now we hold a book in our hand that is the result of God’s supernatural intervention into human affairs.  May we cherish the Good Book and live lives that honor its precepts!

Dr. Patrick Latham

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