Hebrew Bible canon

Hebrew Canon of the Bible . The word canon comes from a root that means “reed” (in Hebrew it is ganeh and in Greek it is kanon ). The reed was used to measure and eventually came to have the meaning of “norm”. Originally the word canon was used to express what is called “the rule of faith”, “the standard by which it is to be measured and evaluated”, later it came to mean a list or an index. This word applied to the Bible means an officially accepted list of books. The church recognized the books that were inspired from the beginning (these were inspired by God to be written).


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  • 1 Tests to determine the canonicity of a book
  • 2 Old Testament Canon
    • 1 Need for the Old Testament canon (Factors)
    • 2 Hebrew Canon
      • 2.1 The Law (Torah)
      • 2.2 The Prophets (Nebhiim)
      • 2.3 The Scriptures (Ketubim or Hagiography (GK))
    • 3 Christ’s Evidence of the Old Testament Canon
    • 4 Books that were not canonized by the Hebrews
  • 3 The New Testament canon
    • 1 Canonical New Testament Books
      • 1.1 Reasons for the canonicity of the New Testament
    • 2 Non-canonical books of the New Testament
  • 4 Sources

Tests to determine the canonicity of a book

In antiquity there were basically five guiding principles that were used to determine whether or not a book was canonical, or from Scripture.

  1. The book had to be authoritative. (It was valued that the book came with a divine).
  2. The book had to have been written by a man of God (Prophetic).
  3. It had to be authentic. The church fathers were supporters of the policy: “If in doubt, throw it out.” This enhanced the validity of his discernment from the canonical books.
  4. It had to be dynamic. It was to reflect the power of God to transform the lives of men.
  5. It was to be received, read, and used. The book was to be accepted by the people of God.

Peter recognized Paul’s works as scripture on the same level as Old Testament Scripture (2 Pet. 3.16).

Old Testament Canon

Need for the Old Testament Canon (Factors)

  1. The Jewish sacrificial system ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in the year 70 BC The Jews were scattered and found it necessary to determine which books constituted the authorized word of God, due to the existence of many extra-Scriptural writings and decentralization. The Jews became a people of a Book that held them together.
  2. The Christianity began to flourish and began to circulate many writings of the cristrianos. The Jews urgently needed to expose them and exclude them from their writings and from their use in the synagogues.

Hebrew Canon

The division of the canon of the Judaic Old Testament follows.

The Law (Torah)

  1. Genesis .
  2. Exodus .
  3. Leviticus .
  4. Numbers .
  5. Deuteronomy .

The Prophets (Nebhiim)

  • Previous prophets:
  1. Joshua .
  2. Judges .
  • Later prophets:
  1. Isaiah
  2. Jeremiah
  3. Ezequiel
  4. The Twelve

The Scriptures (Ketubim or Hagiography (GK))

  • Prophetic books:
  1. Psalms
  2. Proverbs
  3. Job
  • Five rolls:
  1. Song of songs
  2. Ruth
  3. Wailing
  4. Ester
  5. Ecclesiastes
  • Historical books:
  1. Daniel
  2. Ezra-Nehemiah
  • Even though the Christians have the same canon of the Old Testament, the number of books differ, some of them divide: Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, among others, in two books each; the Jews also consider the minor prophets as a single book. The order of the books also differs. The Protestant Old Testament follows a topical order rather than an official order.

Christ’s Evidence of the Old Testament Canon

  1. Luke 24:44. In the upper room Jesus said to his disciples, “It was necessary that all that is written about me be fulfilled in the law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms” He indicated the three sections into which the Hebrew Bible was divided -the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (here called “Psalms” probably because the book of Psalms is the first and longest in this third section).
  2. John 10: 31-36; Luke 24:44. Jesus did not agree with the oral traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7; Matthew 15) but the same did not happen with his concept of the Hebrew canon. There is no evidence of disputes between Him and the Jews regarding the canonicity of any of these books.
  3. Luke 11:51 (also Matthew 23:35) “… from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” Jesus confirms here his testimony regarding every canon of the Old Testament. Abel was the first martyr in the Bible (Genesis 4: 8). Zacharias is the last one mentioned (according to the Old Testament order), having been stoned while preaching to the people “in the courtyard of Jehovah’s house” (2 Chronicles 24:21). Genesis was the first book of the Hebrew canon and Chronicles was the last. Jesus basically said “from Genesis to Chronicles”, or, according to the Old Testament of the Protestants “from Genesis to Malachi”.

Books that were not canonized by the Hebrews

These books are also known as the Old Testament Apocrypha .

  • to Ezra (around 150 BC)
  • to Ezra (100 BC)
  • Tobias (beginning of the second century BC)
  • Judit (approximately mid-second century)
  • Additions to Esther (around 100 BC)
  • Solomon’s wisdom (around 40 dne)
  • Church or wisdom of Sirac (about 180 BC
  • Baruch (around 100 dne)
  • Daniel
  • The Song of the Three Young Hebrews
  • Prayer of Manasseh (2nd century BC)
  • First of Maccabees (1st century BC)
  • Second of Maccabees (from the same time).

The New Testament canon

These books were subjected to the same tests as the canonical books of the Old Testament. The basic factor in determining the canonicity of these books was the inspiration of God and its main proof of its apostolic quality. In New Testament terminology, the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20) whom Christ had promised to guide into all truth (John 16:33) through the Holy Spirit. The Jerusalem church is said to have continued in the “doctrine of the apostles and of fellowship” (Acts 2:42). The term ” apostolic“as used as the proof for its canonicity does not necessarily mean that it has an” apostle as its author “, or” that it was prepared under the direction of the apostles “but that it is apostolic authority, or apostolic approval, that main proof of canonicity since it will never be separated from the authority of God although it does not merely mean that it had an apostle as author.

Canonical books of the New Testament

Reasons for the canonicity of the New Testament

  1. Marcion (140 AD) who was a heretic, developed his own canon and began to propagate it. The church needed to nullify its influence by determining what the true canon of the New Testament was.
  2. Many eastern churches were using books that were grossly spurious. This required a decision concerning the canon.
  3. Dioclesian’s edict (AD 303) declaring the construction of the Holy Books of Christians. Who wanted to die for what was a simple religious book? It was necessary to know!
  • Atanacio de Alejandría (367 dc) gives us the oldest list of these books that fits perfectly with the current New Testament.

Non-canonical books of the New Testament

These books are also more commonly known as the Apocrypha of the New Testament.

  • Epistle of the Pseudo Bernavé (70-79 BC)
  • Epistle to the Corinthians (96 AD)
  • Ancient homily, or the so-called ancient Epistle of Clement (120-140 AD)
  • Pastor Hermas (115-140 AD)
  • Didaché, teaching of the Twelve (AD 100-120)
  • Apocalypse of Peter (150 AD)
  • The Acts of Paul and Thecla. (170 AD)
  • Epistle to the Laodicences (4th century)
  • The gospel according to the Hebrews (65-100 AD)
  • Polycarp Epistle to the Philippians (AD 108)
  • The Seven Epistles of Ignatius (100 AD).


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