Case-Making 101: How were the books of the Bible decided?

by Teri Dugan

Last week we looked at evidence for transmission of ancient documents and historical information, in particular the transmission of the Bible as the Word of God. Coming at this investigation as a skeptic I found that there is enough evidence to believe that transmission of God’s Word from ancient times is reasonably possible. The next question I had was “how do we know that the sixty-six books in the Bible today are the right books?” This seemed to be an impossible questions to answer, but with some careful investigation I found that the answer was easier than I thought!

Understanding that the Bible is made up of 66 separate books carrying a central theme and that they corroborate and reference each other should be enough. But, I wanted to know more so I broke my investigation down into three questions: 1) How were the books of the Old Testament decided? 2) How were the books of the New Testament decided? 3) Were there any books left out?

The Old Testament:

The books of the Christian Old Testament are the same as the Hebrew Bible, the order and combination of the books differ but not the writings. These books are the same ones used and accepted by the Jews as Scripture ongoing from the time of Moses and the Torah, through the history of the Nation of Israel, to the time of Jesus. We also find Jesus and the New Testament authors quoting from these books. The Septuagint was the first translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (ca. 300-200 BC) and this would have been the Scriptures Jesus read from in the first century AD.

The Old Testament in Christian Bibles today have been translated mainly from the Massoretic text family (ca. 900 AD), but that was oftened questioned by skeptics who would say that the writings had to have been changed over time since they are nearly one thousand years removed from the earliest known manuscripts . However, upon the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 now known to be dated 250 BC to 100 AD, this thousand year gap was closed, quieting the skeptics. The DSS match the Massoretic texts and contain all of the Old Testament (with the exception of Esther). This also helps confirm that prophecies in the Old Testament fulfilled by Jesus were not added or altered after the time of Christ but in fact were there centuries before his birth…


Case-Making 101: How were the books of the Bible decided? – Truth, Faith and Reason