How Did the Early Church Recognize the Canonicity of a Book?

by Bill Pratt

new-testamentThere is a misconception, popularized by books like The Da Vinci Code, that the way the books of the Bible were chosen consisted of politically infused church councils voting on the books they liked, and voting out the books they didn’t like.  However, a careful reading of church history totally disproves this misconception.

As noted in a previous post, the church understood its role as recognizing what books God, himself, had inspired.  This job of recognition was something the early church took very seriously, but how did they go about doing it?  What were the criteria they used?

We know that propheticity was a necessary condition for canonicity, but sometimes church fathers who were trying to assess propheticity of a book were removed by decades, or even centuries, from the original composition of the books.  So what did they do?

Norman Geisler and William Nix, in their book, A General Introduction to the Bible, describe the criteria that were actually employed by the early church in this process…


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