This post is in essence a theological question rather than an academic one and so I have locked it so as to avoid off-topic discussion. Posts of this sort are usually removed, but I am leaving it on the sub as a resource since queries of this sort are not unusual (even if they are inappropriate for this forum).


Well, r/AcademicBiblical is not a confessional subreddit, so it's not the place to discuss which religious traditions & canons are right or wrong, or any theological/confessional/God-related questions (see rules 1 and 2 for details). But don't hesitate to use the open discussion threads to discuss from a more personal and confessional perspective (without denigrating religious traditions other than your own). [EDIT: Could you remove the second part of your post —beginning at "I sometimes question"— in order to remain within the confines of the subreddit, and prevent off-topic contributions in the thread?] ________________ The first council of Nicaea was not concerned with canonisation of the now-biblical texts, but focused on issues of doctrine & Christology —most notably the "Arian controversy"– ([quick reference](https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20120112144310940)). ____________ ____________ Concerning the formation of biblical canons: ____________ **Lectures/Audio:** * [lecture of W. Propp on the Jewish (rabbinic) canon](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNH8kPh3V5Y&t=901s) * discussions between H. Attridge and J.J. Collins on the [Old Testament](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsU-RkF5c24) and the [New Testament](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnvfaRmRUSU) canons * [relatively informal but nice interview of Ian Mills](https://youtu.be/DxZtkz5UMPg?list=PLAp5qvJ1xGSz--csS91iDP6fMp2x9HiZi&t=266) ([this fellow](https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=mf9HdJ4AAAAJ)) on the formation of the New Testament canon. The discussion [here](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEB9kL80sGA) is more specific but also relevant to the topic, so I'll add it as a bonus. ___________________ **Articles/Books chapters:** The "Collections, Canons and Communities" chapter of *The Cambridge Companion to the Hebrew Bible/OT* provides a serviceable introduction for the Hebrew Bible / Deuterocanons (preview [here](https://www.reddit.com/r/AcademicBiblical/comments/vjg2g9/who_decided_what_is_in_the_bible/). You can [see on Worldcat](https://www.worldcat.org/title/cambridge-companion-to-the-hebrew-bibleold-testament/oclc/1225071455&referer=brief_results) if it's available in libraries near your location. *The New Oxford Annotated Bible* has a series of articles in the essays section (subsection "the canons of the Bible"). Most of it is available in preview [here](https://books.google.fr/books?id=TnpVDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false) —just use [the menu](https://ibb.co/kG5wct0) to navigate in the essays section and scroll down to access it. Pages 2238 and 2240 are missing, so I'll copy them below: 2238: >[...] versus expansive types, as with the text of Jeremiah; see the Introduction to Jeremiah, p. 1069), and may contain blocks of material not found in the MT (e.g., the Greek versions of Esther and Daniel). The types of rabbinic exposition that paid a great deal of attention to the exact spelling of the individual word would eventually bring about textual stability, though here too this was a gradual process, and the means by which it was accomplished— through which “alternative” versions were suppressed— are largely unknown. >Canonization is fundamentally a process of selection, but we cannot reconstruct why particular texts were canonized while others were not. The Hebrew Bible itself mentions more than twenty books that are no longer extant, such as The Book of the Wars of the Lord and the Book of Jashar; many others, not mentioned in the Bible, certainly existed as well. Perhaps some excluded texts were seen as too heterodox, while others were seen as too recently composed. Many more texts were excluded than included; some of the former were translated in the Septuagint and were therefore canonized in the Christian community (see “Canons of the Bible,” on the Greek Bible, p. 1840); others were lost, or survived as pseudepigrapha (writings falsely attributed to major biblical figures), or were preserved (typically in fragmentary form) in the Dead Sea Scrolls. >Whether a book or group of books is canonized is often discussed in terms of the community’s views on their centrality, authority, sacredness, and inspiration. These terms are not identical, and each is murky. Sometimes these characteristics became connected. The Song of Solomon, for instance, was originally an erotic love poem; by the early rabbinic period, it came to be interpreted allegorically as a love poem between God and Israel. It was also seen as the inspired composition of Solomon himself. Was it canonized before it was seen as a holy, allegorical text? In that case, its canonization might reflect a central role that it held in culture or ritual. Or was it canonized only after it was viewed as allegorical and as a composition of Solomon? In that case its significance, whether of authorship or of ideas, could have played a more important part. It is impossible to judge between these two paths to canonization that more broadly reflect the problems in dealing with issues of canonization in general. >Despite such major uncertainties in our understanding of the process of canonization, however, several points seem likely. The destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce played an important role in Jews becoming the people of the Book. Second, it is unlikely that canonization represents a purely top-down process, through which a small group of leaders (rabbis) determined the canon; instead, the formation of the Hebrew Bible was more likely the official recognition of the works that a large or influential segment of the community had already held to be central, holy, or authoritative. Finally, the act of canonization was remarkably inclusive, creating a body of works richly textured by a wide variety of genres, ideologies, and theologies. This is, fundamentally, a typical ancient Near Eastern process: Instead of creating a small, highly consistent text, as we perhaps might now do, those responsible for the process included many of the viewpoints in ancient Israel, incorporating differing and even contradictory traditions into this single, and singular, book—the Hebrew Bible. >*Marc Z. Brettler* _______ >THE GREEK BIBLE the greek bible When Christian writings began to circulate, during the second half of the first century ce, the Bible that the early Christians used for reading and quotation was a Greek translation and expansion of the Hebrew Bible produced in Alexandria and other Diaspora communities for the use of Greek-speaking Jews. This Greek version is commonly referred to as “the Septuagint” (“seventy”; LXX) after the seventy-two translators sent to Alexandria from Jerusalem to provide its famous library with an authentic version of the Jewish Torah in Greek. According to legend all seventy agreed, providing divine confirmation of their work (Letter of Aristeas). Greek translations of other writings in the Hebrew scriptures followed. Probably as a result of the as yet unsettled matter of which works were canonical for the Jewish community, the Septuagint included further works: historical books (1 and 2 Maccabees, 1 Esdras); wisdom writings (The Wisdom of Solomon, The Wisdom of Jesus Ben Sirach); short works of fiction, or novellas (Tobit, Judith); an apocalypse (2 Esdras); historical legend (3 Maccabees); philosophical diatribe (4 Maccabees); an addendum to Jeremiah (Baruch [...] *see page 2239 on the preview for the rest* (for the New Testament section, see below)


>THE NEW TESTAMENT (pp 2240-41) >The early Christian community soon began to produce writings dealing with its own history, beliefs, and traditions. By the end of the first century ce and the beginning of the second, various gospels, narratives, letters, didactic discourses, and apocalyptic writings circulated among regional Christian communities. The practice of reading from these works, along with selections from the Greek version of the Jewish scriptures, soon arose in Christian worship. Use in this public setting initiated the process of attributing to these Christian writings an authority analogous to that of the Jewish scriptures. When disputes broke out, as they inevitably would, about beliefs or traditions, the canonical or noncanonical status of the various Christian writings became important. >The authority of smaller collections, the four Gospels and a ten-letter compilation of Pauline letters, was accepted by the second century ce. Other writings, Acts, Hebrews, Revelation, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and 2 Peter are not as widely attested in the early period. Still other Christian writings also appear as authorities in the second and third centuries. Official lists appear only in the fourth century ce as a consequence of theological debates (see Athanasius, Festal Letter 39; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.3.5; 3.25.3–4). Christian canon lists remained fluid through the sixth century with such inclusions as the Shepherd of Hermas or the spurious Epistle to the Laodiceans among the Pauline letters. The Muratorian canon, whose date and provenance are disputed (second-century Rome to fourth-century East), includes Wisdom of Solomon in the New Testament. Other collections omit Hebrews. (See the chart [p 2237] for a comparison of three New Testament canon lists) >Arguments over apostolic authorship emerge as a consequence of second-century ce challenges to general Christian practice. Valentinus and other Gnostics—who taught an esoteric form of Christianity—asserted that the Jewish God was ignorant of the highest divine realms, and that therefore both the Jewish scriptures and Christian writings, based on them, mislead naïve believers. >Such teachers claimed to possess esoteric wisdom that Jesus had given to a few disciples including Peter, Thomas, James the brother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. In the second and third centuries, Gnostics produced several works said to contain that secret apostolic teaching. Another second-century teacher, Marcion, established a church that excluded the Old Testament claiming that its God was not the father of Jesus. He proposed a “New Testament” comprised of the Gospel of Luke and ten Pauline epistles that opened with Galatians, evidence for the difference between the Law and the gospel. Marcion’s texts of the gospel and epistles were edited to eliminate passages contrary to his theological perspective. Against both Gnostics and Marcionites, Irenaeus argued that the Spirit poured out on the Church enabled her to write scripture (Adv. Haer. 3.21.3–4) and affirmed the unity of the Old Testament and New Testament (Adv. Haer. 4.28.1–2). Tertullian refers to reading the “books of God” in Christian worship with no differentiation between Jewish and Christian writings (Apology 39.3). >Besides disputes, in which different contents of authoritative writings clearly reflected underlying theological differences, the physical character of Christian texts contributed to the emergence of canon. From the beginning Christians used the codex (pl. codices) format— a bound volume of pages, similar to a present-day book—rather than the more traditional scroll for their writings. In antiquity codices were the medium of early drafts, assembled notes, and the like. Finished literary works and sacred texts like the Torah were copied onto scrolls. Scholars disagree over whether early Christian use of codices reflects the moderate socioeconomic status of most Christians, or makes a statement about their contents. Perhaps the first- and second-century Christians thought that their writings had a different authority from that of the Torah and the prophets. Use of the codex made possible the smaller groupings that were combined in the larger canon of twenty-seven writings at the end of the fourth century ce. Early collections of Paul’s letters were initially seen as specifically directed to individual churches. Gospel collections were viewed as representative of the oral teaching of the apostles, not as formal literary compositions. The codex would have been an appropriate form for such writings. Use of readings from the Gospels along with the prophets in Christian worship indicates that the Gospels came to enjoy equal authority with the Torah and the prophets by the mid-second century (see Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 67.3–5). >Scrolls were made of papyrus or leather pieces glued or sewn together, and lengthy ones became inconvenient to handle: The average length is about 20–26 ft (6–8 m), though longer scrolls are known. The codex can accommodate much more text, so that several writings could be bound into one volume. Codices containing the Old Testament and later the entire Christian scripture were produced from the fourth century ce on. There was not a uniform number of books or a uniform order of presentation in the earliest codices, however. Individual Christian congregations may not have possessed copies of all writings included in canon lists. It would have been difficult to distinguish these official texts from other early Christian writings also found in codices. Some Christians turned over apocryphal writings to imperial officials charged with destroying “sacred books” during the Diocletian persecution (303 ce). Confusion over unofficial and authorized writings in Christian worship persisted into the mid-fourth century ce. Canon 59 of the Synod of Laodicea (360 ce) decreed, “Private psalms should not be read in church, neither uncanonized books, but only the canonical ones of the new and old covenant.” >Origen’s advice to those privately reading scripture presumes that the educated Christian elite had copies of deuterocanonical writings, Gospels, epistles, psalms, and the Torah. He proposes an order of reading designed to overcome the difficulty of approaching biblical literature. First, he suggests, Esther, Judith, Tobit, or Wisdom. Then, the Gospels, epistles, and Psalms. Finally, the reader can tackle books that are difficult or seemingly without reward, such as Leviticus or Numbers (Homilies on Numbers 27.1). The biblical codices of the fourth and fifth centuries ce include different selections of Jewish apocrypha. In Codex Sinaiticus one finds Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, 1 and 4 Maccabees; in Codex Vaticanus, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit; in Codex Alexandrinus, Psalms of Solomon, 3 and 4 Maccabees. Athanasius’s Festal Letter 39 omits the deuterocanonical writings from the Old Testament but accepts them for private reading. Though Athanasius includes all twenty-seven New Testament writings, the issue was not settled everywhere. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389) omits Revelation from his catalogue as do the lectionaries of the Eastern church. Didymus of Alexandria omits 2 and 3 John but cites the apostolic fathers as authoritative. Such evidence indicates that despite consensus on the four Gospels and Pauline epistles, regional variations about the rest persisted. >By the end of the fourth century, however, there was widespread agreement about which books had scriptural status. Among the large number of early Christian writings in a diversity of genres, including gospels, letters, acts, apocalypses, and didactic treatises, a smaller number had come to be widely accepted. The criteria that were implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, operative were apostolic authority—that a work was written by or attributed to one of the first generation of Christian leaders, especially Paul and the twelve apostles—and consistency with their teaching, especially as determined by ecclesiastical authorities in major centers like Rome, Alexandria, Ephesus, and Byzantium. As a result, some of the writings that had come to be considered noncanonical were lost and rediscovered only in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. >*Pheme Perkins* ​ _____ I hope the "disjointed" format created by the mixing of previews and copy/pasting won't be too uncomfortable to read, and that you'll find the articles useful, even if the theological issues you are concerned with fall outside the scope of a regular thread (but, again, can be discussed in the open discussion ones). EDIT: see also this [accessible & brief overview](https://www.bibleodyssey.org/tools/bible-basics/why-does-the-bible-look-the-way-it-does) about Jewish & Christian canons.


The long version is a two hour lecture. Dr. Tim Mackie gave one such lecture a few years back. You can watch that here: https://youtu.be/eaqKzYJ151Y Except two hours isn't long enough. There's a fair bit he's left out. So I'll give you a much shorter version. There was not one person or one council that decided what's in the Bible. At the time of the Council of Nicea, there were actually discussions going on about whether Second Peter, Revelation, and Jude really counted. There's still an active debate between Protestants and Catholics whether to include the deuterocanonical/apocryphal Old Testament texts. The early church (through the first two centuries or so) were pretty loose on what they called scripture. There was a general consensus that the things that the Apostles wrote was authoritative, but it wasn't clear how far this extended. For the Old Testament, the sets of the Torah and the Prophets seem to have been set at some point in the first or second century BC, but the writings still had some books like Ruth and Esther were still ambiguous until the middle of the first or second century AD. Athanasius seems to have been the first one with a New Testament Canon exactly like what we have now, and he wrote in the mid 300's. The Syriac church didn't embrace Revelation, Second Peter, Jude, and Second and Third John until the late 300's, though. So it's not like one guy said it and then everyone fell in line. There are a number of articles linked here that cover some of this: http://www.bible-researcher.com/canon.html The Bible was those books that kept being used over and over. It's the things that raise to the top. We see a similar thing in lots of other fields as well. For example, in the field of mathematics, Euclid's Elements has been used as a standard textbook for 3000 years. http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/elements/elements.html In contrast to this, Newton's Principia was mined for what was valuable and then more-or-less discarded. Even though Newton invented calculus, we don't do it the way Newton did any longer, and had moved away from his method before even a few generations had passed. https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/10/is-newtons-principia-still-relevant.html So if the Pythagoreans were still around, and they were building their mathematical Bible by the same methods as the early church, they'd probably include Elements and not include Principia. (The Pythagoreans were an ancient Greek cult that worshipped math, if you didn't know that.) Depending on your upbringing, this can be comforting or disturbing. As Dr. Mackie discussed in his lecture, there are some traditions that have a mystical vision of the Bible, and learning that the history is not that mystical can be a shock to the system for some people. For others, a few bad experiences with mystical experiences and it becomes rather comforting to learn that the same kind of process that discovered that math works also picked out the books of the Bible: diliberating and testing over hundreds of years by the people putting it into action. Which you are is between you and your upbringing.