The following study was a reply to a question I received about when the books in the Bible became recognized as canon, or authoritative. I thought others might also be interested!
The Old Testament
As to the question about the canon: It is fairly certain that the Old Testament canon was almost completely settled (though some will argue concerning a few books) by the time of the New Testament, certainly no later than the Council of Jamnia in 90 A.D. Archer argues that the Qumran evidence calls for a much earlier canon. He suggests 100 B.C. And Greenberg proposes that much of the OT canon was in the process of being recognized in the Third Centry B.C. It seems that a majority of the NT quotations of the OT scripture were from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT made in the 2nd and 3rd Century B.C.) although not all.
The Old Testament writings are referred to in the New Testament as scripture and are often quoted as authoritative. For example:
2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
2 Peter 1:21, "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
Paul's writings called "scripture" by Peter
What is truly interesting is 2 Peter 3:15-16 where Peter is talking about Paul's writings and compares them to scripture: "and account that the lonsuffering of our Lord is salvationas also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own distruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."
We are Encouraged to Study the Scriptures
Believers were encouraged to search the scriptures:
John 5:39, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
Acts 17:10-11, "Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrive, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
The New Testament
As for the New Testament canon, it wa certainly confirmed no later than 393 A.D. at the Synod of Hippo. However, Irenaeus in 180 A.D. mentions most of the present NT books, and Polycarp and Clement (about 100 A.D.) refer to New Testament books as "scripture." So the canon may have been in common use for centuries before the Synod of Hippo.
This study on Scripture © 1998 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved