An Investigation: Who Decided What to Include in the Bible?

by Sheri Bell

Did God or Man Chose the Bible’s Contents?

In our last two blog posts in this series we talked about 1) aspects of the Bible that make it unique among world literature, and 2) the physical materials used by ancient scribes to produce copies of Scripture. Now let’s dive into a question that many people ask: Who got to decide which scriptures were included in the Bible?

It’s a great question for you to ask, as it shows that you’re truly interested in having a solid understanding of church history.

To answer this question, we have to look at the biblical canon. The word canon comes from the root word reed, which was used as a measuring rod and came to mean “standard.” As applied to Scripture, canon means “an officially accepted list of books.” But what has made each book “acceptable” — and others not?

As I mentioned in last week’s post, some mistakenly think the Roman emperor Constantine simply made the decision of what to include when he commissioned 50 copies of the Bible for churches in his capitol city, Constantinople. But Constantine played no role in the Bible’s formation, despite what Dan Brown asserts as historical “fact” in his novel, The DaVinci Code. The 39 books of the Old Testament form the Bible of Judaism; the Christian Bible adds the additional 27 books of the New Testament. This complete list of books was found “acceptable” because the church deemed them to be divinely inspired books. They possess, simply, the stamp of God’s authority.

The canon wasn’t a quick decision by one man, then, but the product of centuries of reflection.

Sean McDowell succinctly explains this…


An Investigation: Who Decided What to Include in the Bible? |