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October 22, 2013 / BTM

Who Got to Pick What Went in to the Bible?

stack of booksHave you ever wondered about this?  There is a lot of speculation today about how the books in the Bible were ‘chosen’.  Did the early church supress material that they did not like?  Did they route out and destroy material that didn’t go along with their thinking?  Did they have good reasons for choosing the books that ‘made it’ into the Bible?

Concept being taught:

The early church had specific and very sensible tests that they used to determine which books were included into the Bible.

Activity: Who could best write a book about your life?

We pretended that a publisher had sent us several books about our sons’ lives that had been written by various authors.  I had created pretend book covers that included the authors’ names on them.

We laid out the book covers and asked:   Which of these authors could write the best book about your life?  They had a variety to choose from, including Mom and Dad, Great Grandma, their younger cousin, an older student at their school, and a name that they didn’t recognize.

It was pretty easy to guess who could write the best book about their life: Mom and Dad.  When asked why, the answer was: because out of all these authors, they know me best.

Connection to the Bible:

We told them that the early followers of Jesus had to make a similar decision.  Jesus did not write down anything about what He did and said while He was on earth.  Other people had to write the book about His life.  A lot of people wanted to write about Him, and tell others what they needed to do to follow Jesus.  How do you think the early church leaders decided which books to include in the New Testament ?

Answer:  The people who knew Jesus best, and were in the best position to know and write down the truth, were the apostles.  (The apostles were the leaders in the early church, and included the 12 disciples, and others such as James (Jesus’ brother),  Paul and Barnabas).

The biggest test to decide which books should be considered part of the New Testament scripture was that they were written or approved by the apostles.  The church was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20).  Jesus promised to guide these apostles into all truth through the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).  The church was devoted to the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42).  The books that became the New Testament were recognized by the early church as being either written or approved by the apostles.

Bonus: other questions used to determine scripture for the Old and New Testaments:

  1. Was the book written by a prophet of God?
  2. Was the writer confirmed by God through the performance of miracles?
  3. Was the book’s message in keeping with other revelations of God in the Bible?
  4. Does the book come with the power of God and have the ability to transform lives?
  5. Was it accepted by the people of God?


Leave a Comment
  1. pspruett / Jan 28 2014 3:34 pm

    I’d suggest one more: Do we have confidence that the book was written by whom it was claimed to be written. For example, some of the N.T. books’ authorship were in question, but the attestation of the Church Fathers gives us grounds for confidence.

    • BTM / Jan 28 2014 4:43 pm

      Thank you for the suggestion – great idea.

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