When was the Bible reduced to 66 books?

Author: BibleAsk Team


Automatic Transcript Generated:

Speaker 1

So Trevor is asking, when was the Bible reduced to 66 books? Thank you from Trevor in New Zealand. I love the question, Trevor and I definitely spent quite a bit of time digging in the histories to try to figure that out. And the answer, of course, is going to be nobody knows for sure. And it’s really a, is really convoluted because there’s so many different Christian churches throughout long period of time, so much split on this issue that it’s going to be like, what place, what people? And then from there we would discern, okay, what time. And that’s also going to be difficult because we are so far know by centuries. And then also now in terms like for us, we’re in America, a lot of these things would have happened in Europe, maybe Asia, that we’re really far removed from the history and the people and when did things get figured out? But I’ll give you some high level history of what we have recorded and what people out there say, and some scholars say, and I’ll flag uncertainty for sure when I’ve seen it. It’s first important to keep in mind we have the Old Testament and the New Testament, and each one has its own history and process when people figured out what is the biblical canon.

Speaker 1

And let’s start with the Hebrew. So for the Jews, we’ll talk about there’s various times, but they more or less figured out, okay, we have 24 books for them, and they call this the Tanak 24 books. And they like that number, right, because that’s two times twelve. So it’s very significant to them. They’re locked into it. It has the five books of the Torah. There’s the Nevim, or Nevim, which is like, for example, includes Samuel, Kings and the minor prophets. But by the way, Samuel is one book. The Book of Kings is counted as one book. There’s not first and second Kings. And then the twelve minor prophets are all smooshed into one book. So a lot of the contents we have in our Bible are there, but they’re counting them differently. So that adds to the further confusion of, okay, well, how many books are in the Bible? Well, how do you count a book? What’s a book? So that’s also changed throughout time. There’s also then the Katuvim, which has eleven books in it, including like the Book of Chronicles is in there. Again, it’s counted as one book. And Ezra and Nehemiah, they are counted as one single book.

Speaker 1

So you combine these. This is 24 books. And when did they settle on the Tanakh? When did the Hebrews figure that out? So some people say it was all the way back to, like, second century AD. Maybe it took them that long. So around between 102 hundred AD. And then there’s also some people say it was at the Council of Jamnia around 90 AD. According to the Talmud, there was a great assembly around 450 BC, and that settled it. And then we also have some theories, and people say it was Ezra himself that put together the Old Testament canon. And I could think that would make a lot of sense, that Ezra was one who did it, because given his background, interestingly, then Josephus, Philo and a lot of historians and other people talk about how there was one single copy of the Tanakh that was kept at the Temple of Jerusalem that was sort of held as this is the standard, all copies, everything needs to be compared and measured to this one copy. And, of course, that copy now has probably long been destroyed with the destruction of the Temple or just the passage of time.

Speaker 1

Nobody has that book. But throughout the centuries, we end up having remnants of old books, the oldest going back to the 7th to the 10th centuries. The most complete book, actually, is from the 11th century AD. And then we have some that go back to 7th and 10th centuries. So these are the oldest Old Testament manuscripts, longer manuscripts that we’re really dealing with, and they’re from the Masoretic period, so they’re called the Mesoretic Texts. And, of course, with the Dead Sea Scrolls, we’re getting a lot more fragments that take us further back in time to, like, around the time of Jesus and further back that we could then now compare to the Masoretic text to see how much has changEd. And people tend to be really shocked at how accurate even the Masoretic text traditions that have been passed down have kept the Bible intact and stayed true to probably what was the original writings. So we have 24 books there. We then have Jerome getting commissioned in 382 to put together the Latin Vulgate for the Catholic Church. And he throws in a whole bunch of books. We have 72 books in there, including Tobit, Judith, the rest of Esther, the Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Song of the Three children, Story of Susanna, the Idol Bell and the Dragon, and first and second Maccabees.

Speaker 1

These end up being included in the Vulgate. And it wasn’t just Jerome who was writing it. Other people contributed to. And we’ll talk about the Vulgate later when we talk about the New Testament. That one’s also significant. We come to the late 14 hundreds now, and the printing press has arrived, and people, the Jews are printing the Hebrew Bible, and it’s becoming more accessible, because what happened around the time of Jerome time, people sort of lost the ability to really read Hebrew. They’re more focusing on the Greek and the Latin. But late 14 hundreds now, there’s new interest in Hebrew. And we have the University of Wittenberg that gets founded in 15 two. And one of their early professors starting off there is Martin Luther, and he joins them in 15 eight, and he starts getting exposed to Latin. He’s hanging out with Latin, sorry, to Hebrew. He’s learning Hebrew. And then in 1524 or 15 24 25, we have Jacob ben Hayeen ibn AdoNaija, who publishes the second Bomberg edition of the Bible, which that edition actually ends up being used by the King James Version. And we talk about how the King James Version is based on the Masoretic text.

Speaker 1

That was really big deal for the King James Version. Say, we’re going to go back to the Hebrew, because, again, before that, the Latin text and a lot of other Bible translations were being based on Greek translations of the Hebrew. So there’s some question of, well, how accurate is accurate is it? And this is actually marking a departure from the Septuagint, which was what the Jews did to translate the Bible from Hebrew to Greek. So now we’re going back all the way back. The Protestants are going all the way back to what they’re hoping is the original Hebrew. And there’s a whole interesting topic about that, whether we should ditch the Septuagint or not, because Jesus and the apostles actually quote the Septuagint a whole lot more than they do the Hebrew texts themselves. So there’s interesting nuances. So, 1534, we come to Luther. Sorry, 1532, we come to Luther, and he publishes the Old Testament, and he includes with it some extra non canon books that were in Greek, but he could find it in the Greek, but they weren’t in original Hebrew texts. And this would be like Baruch MacCabees, all those I mentioned.

Speaker 1

So he includes them in his Old Testament, but he does not list them in the table of contents. And Luther himself also didn’t bother translating with them. He let other people do it. He really distinguished those books, saw them as different. Then in 1534, Luther does a new edition of his Bible, and he puts those extra books into a separate section, and he calls them apocrypha. And he says, these books are not held equal to Scripture, but are useful and good to read. And this is kind of one of the defining moments of the emergence of the apocrypha, thinking of them as, okay, these might be interesting books, but they’re not the same as Scripture. So Luther gets a lot of credit for that. And then we have from know, a lot of the people, like William Tyndale and the authors of KJV are very much influenced by Luther. And then some King Jane versions might have some apocrypha, but again, they’re treated differently. So for the most part, we have, starting around the 50 hundreds, Protestants really embrace India. Okay, there’s 39 books of the Old Testament. And when we say 39 books, they’re basically the same books as formed the 24 book Hebrew Tanak, which then goes way back.

Speaker 1

So what about the new TeStament? Where does that come from? So we have 27 books today, and obviously, some of them aren’t technically books. There might be, like, letters and things like that. So these ritual manuscripts are floating around. We have little letters. We have all these different things. It was a big issue for the Christian Church for centuries as to, okay, what’s canon, what’s scripture? What should we respect versus what’s just interesting or what’s just totally fraudulent? We come to the third century, so we’re talking about, like, the. There’s evidence that the Church overall was frequently quoting about 21 books. And the ones that were more skipped were, like, Philemon, Hebrews, James, second Peter, third John, and Jude. And we have. Some people think that origin of Alexandria may have used actually all 27 books that we have today. And then there is a muritarian fragment that might date to around 200 AD. And that one has no first and second Peter or James, but it has pretty much everything else that we use today for our New Testament. Then we come to 331 AD, and we have Constantine, Emperor Constantine, who commissions 50 copies of the Bible.

Speaker 1

But still, at this time, there’s no official canon. So that really puts pressure on people to say, okay, we got to make copies of the Bible. We got to copy Scripture. But what is scripture for the New Testament? And then the first half of the fourth century? So this is before 350 AD. We believe that the Codex Vaticanus may have been created, and then it was changed throughout time, too. So it’s a complicated document, but it’s missing first and second Timothy and Titus, Philemon, Revelation. And some people dispute whether it had some of what we call now the Apocrypha in it or not. We come to 367 AD. Athanasia, the Bishop of Alexandria. This is big. So he’s the bishop of Alexandria, just like the Pope is the bishop of Rome. He’s the Bishop of Alexandria, one of the main patriarchs, and this was before the great Schism. So this is when the bishop of Rome and all the other bishops will come together, and they’re all supposedly equals, though the pope was kind of like more equal than the others. There’s a big authoritarian leader in the Church of Christianity. 367 80. He issues his 39th festival letter.

Speaker 1

So, like every Easter, he issues some sort of proclamation. And in his letter, he identified the 27 books of the New Testament that we have today, and he’s really credited for establishing the canon. And flash forward just less than 20 years. You come to Pope Damascus I, the Bishop of Rome, who circulated a list of books that contain an identical New Testament canon that we have with the 27 books. And then the same Pope commissions Jerome. We talked about the Vulgate. He commissions Jerome to draft the Latin Vulgate. And that book, the Latin Vulgate, ends up with the 27 books of the New Testament. And then flash forward now to the one five hundreds. And we have Erasmus, who’s putting together his translation of the New Testament. He’s trying to find New Testament Greek manuscripts and trying to come up with what he considers the definitive Greek manuscript. And he’s also drawing a lot from the Latin Vulgate, too, at times. So he creates a Novum instructum omni, or new teachings. And he publishes the first edition in 1512, and then he publishes later, like a second edition, third edition, keeps tweaking things, correcting errors.

Speaker 1

But big deal is, he had the 27 books of the New Testament that we have today. And why do we care about Erasmus? Because his books was one of the main books that was used for the New King James Version. And also William Tyndale is looking at these things. Luther, this is all around the same time period, and they’re all now relying on these new original, know the Hebrew, the Greek, and it’s like a renaissance on trying to find out and figure out what was the original Bible, what is the original wording? And let’s try be as faithful as we can when we’re trying to translate it now into German, if it’s Luther, or English if it’s Tyndale and the others. And something that should not be forgotten is Tyndale. His Bible often at times, is just copied directly into the James Version. So much of the beautiful texts we love actually were coined and developed by Tyndale. He came up with the English term Passover. Even so, this idea that is really dominated, controlled by Masons, again, is just really undercut when we really look at the full context of the history going on and how there were many people that led to the NKGV being influenced.

Speaker 1

And many times, again, they’re just copying pasting from earlier people like Tyndale. And interestingly, the Catholic Church in 1545 or between 1545 and 1563 during the Council of Trent, declares that the Vulgate is officially the touchstone for determining the biblical canon. And because the Vulgate has 27 books for the New Testament, the Catholic Church is sort of locking in. Okay, Rick, greed, 27 books for the New Testament. So fascinating history. Hope that’s helpful. So we see that when it comes to the New Testament, 27 is really attributed to Athenasius, Bishop of Alexander, 367 AD. And then it really gets. The Catholic Church reinforces that with the Vulgate during the fourth century AD. And then the Protestants also really seem to agree with that, also going with like, Erasmus, Luther, and these people. So not really much conflict at all when it comes to what should be in the book. The New Testament Christianity really has, a lot of it has centered on the 27 books. Now, if we go to the Orthodox traditions, there’s going to be some more variants in there. That’s where some people might say, oh, there’s this book or that book.

Speaker 1

But Western Christianity is very much united when it comes to the 27 books. Anything else? And then, yeah, Hebrews are pretty, or the Jews are pretty locked down with the 24 book that they have.

Speaker 2

No, I thought that was good. I think that’s really beautiful, bringing in the reformers who they gave their lives for the word of God. And these people laid down their lives, put their lives on the line to preserve God’s word and put it into the common language so that people could read it for themselves and not have it just spoon fed to them. Whatever leadership was saying, the Bible is saying, but rather saying, no, this is what the Bible says for itself. And I think that’s really what the enemy has not wanted was the enemy doesn’t want people having knowledge and having power in that way, knowing what God’s word says for itself. And so, yeah, is there going to be attacks on the Bible? Yes. But were there faithful men of God like Tyndale and know, and like, you’re saying all these amazing reformers know, did everything they could to give us God’s word and preserve it? Yes. So I appreciate that you bringing that into light as well.

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