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Canon of Scripture The

Canon of Scripture, The, may be generally described as the “collection of books which form the original and authoritative written rule of the faith and practice of the Christian Church,” i.e., the Old and New Testaments. The word canon, in classical Greek, is properly a straight rod, “a rule” in the widest sense, and especially in the phrases “the rule of the Church,” “the rule of faith,” “the rule of truth.” The first direct application of the term canon to the Scriptures seems to be in the verses of Amphilochius (cir. 380 a.d.), where the word indicates the rule by which the contents of the Bible must be determined, and thus secondarily an index of the constituent books. The uncanonical books were described simply as “those without” or “those uncanonized.” The canonical books were also called “books of the testament,” and Jerome styled the whole collection by the striking name of “the holy library,” which happily expresses the unity and variety of the Bible. After the Maccabean persecution the history of the formation of the Canon is merged in the history of its contents. The Old Testament appears from that time as a whole. The complete Canon of the New Testament, as commonly received at present, was ratified at the third Council of Carthage (a.d. 397), and from that time was accepted throughout the Latin Church. Respecting the books of which the Canon is composed, see the article Bible. (The books of Scripture were not made canonical by act of any council, but the council gave its sanction to the results of long and careful investigations as to what books were really of divine authority and expressed the universally-accepted decisions of the church. The Old Testament Canon is ratified by the fact that the present Old Testament books were those accepted in the time of Christ and endorsed by him, and that of the 275 quotations of the Old Testament in the New, no book out of the Canon is quoted from except perhaps the words of Enoch in Jude.—Ed.)