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Sunday April 18th 2021

Bible Insight

The Formation of the Bible (Canonization) Part 1

Introduction

So long as the living voice of prophets or apostles was to be heard, there was no pressing need of having God’s words in writing.  Jews had a formula to pass on God’s words in an oral form with a way it won’t be forgotten or mistaken.  But as soon as these men were dead or the country was under threat, it became necessary to gather their writings together.

Before we look at the formation of the Bible, we must clearly make the statement theologically.  We believe that all scriptures were God-breathed, never had its origin in the will of man.  Only the process of gathering different books as canon involved quite a long time and human authorities.  Canonical books are all God-given and people of faith feel compelled to obey them.

The Old Testament (Tanakh)

Let’s look at the formation by two groups, the Old Testament and the New Testament.  (Actually Jews have no concept about OT and NT.  Their Bible has the OT part and it is the only Bible they have.  Jews call the Bible as Tanakh).  The formation of the OT canon was gradual, and was composed of writings which spread over many centuries.

The OT consists of 39 books.  They are separated into three segments –

(1)   Torah – The Law (i.e the first 5 books)

(2)   Nevi’im – The Prophets

(3)   Kethuvim – The Writings

(1)  Torah – The Law

According to Deuteronomy 31:9, Moses wrote down the law and commanded that the books of the law be placed in the ark.  Therefore, we believe the books (at least part of it) of the law were already formed during Moses’ time.  The Torah is very important to Jews.  They are called the canon of the canons.

2.  Nevi’im – The Prophets

Based on the following scriptures, we believe some books (maybe most books) of prophets existed in the time of our Lord Jesus.

Daniel 9:2 Daniel understood from the scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet about the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years.

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

3.  Kethuvim – The Writings

Luke 24:27 Psalm was mentioned by Jesus.  Actually many books were already written before Jesus’ time as there were many evidences found.

Canonization of the Old Testament

When the pressure from Romans against the Judaism was getting big, and when Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, Jews started to really press on for the canonization.  Most people believe it was completely formed in the second century.

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