Biblical Canon

The New Testament

The New Testament was written in Greek on papyrus, which is a thick paper-like material made from a reed-like plant. The Greek word biblos, which refers to the inner bark of the papyrus plant is where we get the English words for bibliography and Bible. It was written from around 49 A.D. to 99 A.D.

The first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were self-written by Jesus’ disciples who followed Jesus everywhere. They are known collectively as “The Gospels.” Luke also wrote the book of Acts. John also wrote 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, and Revelation. Paul wrote Acts, Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st Thessalonians, 2nd Thessalonians, 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and probably Hebrews. James, the half brother of Jesus wrote James. Peter wrote 1st and 2nd Peter. Jude, another half brother of Jesus, wrote Jude.

There are over 5,600 manuscripts to prove that the New Testament is valid, all written on the original papyrus. The oldest ones date around 125 A.D. which is only 35 years after the originals. This is more copies of any ancient book that we have. We have 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, 49 copies of Aristotle’s writings, 10 from Julius Caesar, and only 7 from Plato. It is strange that people take some of these ancient philosophers more seriously than the Bible, when the Bible has so much more physical evidence to back it up. Here are some of the major groups of manuscripts:

- Bodmer Papyri – contains Luke and John, discovered in Egypt in 1952

- Chester Beatty Papyri – contains Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews, discovered in the 1930s

- Codex Alexandrius – contains most of the New Testament, currently in the British Museum Library

- Codex Sinaticus – contains the entire Old and New Testaments in Greek, was discovered in 1856 by Tisendorf at Mt. Sinai, currently in the British Museum Library

- Codex Vaticanus – contains almost the complete New Testament, currently in the Vatican Library

Pictures for many of these manuscripts can be found on The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts website here: Manuscripts.

Jewish Canon

Also around this time, a group of people did not believe that the New Testament should was authoritative. They did not believe that Jesus Christ was God, and hence began the religion of Judaism. So, they split off from Christianity and had their own Bible called the Tanakh, which only contains the Old Testament. In the Tanakh, the books are counted differently, and are in different order. This occurred sometime between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D.

The Dark Ages

In the second century, there were early translations of the Bible into Latin, Syriac, and Coptic. By 500 A.D. the Bible had been translated into 500 languages! However around 600 A.D., a law was passed that only allowed Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. Possession of any other translation would result in execution. This was done by the Roman Catholic Church to give them power. During this time, only the high priests could read Latin, so no common person could question the Church. So all of the Church’s “Biblical teachings” were to be accepted as fact. This lead to a period known as the dark ages, because people’s knowledge about the Bible was limited for the next 900 years.

During the dark ages, many Christian concepts were twisted in favor of the Catholic Church gaining power. The first major twist was the translation of Jerome’s Latin Vulgate itself. Although it was translated from the original Greek and Hebrew, Jerome did not do a good job in his translation. As I mentioned in other articles, he translated the words aion and olam which both mean “a period of time” into either speculum or aeternum in Latin. These words both have double meanings: “unending time” and “a period of time.” This is why many English translations say “for ever” or “everlasting” instead of an “age.” See my article on For Ever – A Mistranslation. This was then reinforced by the Church leader St. Augustine as well as Leo I, leading to the false concept of an “eternal hell.”

Another twisted concept was the sacrament of penance. This was a practice to extort money from the people. The Church offered forgiveness of sins for a small about of money. For a little more, you would be allowed to “indulge” in sins, such as keeping a mistress. For a large sum, you could save a loved one from Purgatory. Purgatory is an invention and has no Biblical basis. For more on the Catholic Church, see Catholicism.

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