The authority of the Bible’s canon...

I believe that all Christians, regardless of denomination, would agree that the authority of the Bible’s canon is only as reliable as the authority that officially defined it, as we know it today (keeping in mind that we all agree that Jesus is the author of course via divine inspiration). If you agree, then please give me your opinion as to who (you believe) officially defined the Bible’s canon (as we know it today) and when?

I, of course believe the following: during the first few centuries eventually and gradually confusion developed regarding a few writings in terms of their authenticity, and in response the bishops of the Catholic Church finally convoked at the end of the 4th century to officially determine the canon. If I am wrong please expound? Please be specific, if you don’t mind…I enjoy viewing history from different perspectives…:slight_smile:

Thanks in advance, Joe…

Council of Trent ( mid 16th cent. ) :thumbsup:

In a final way that is very true…:thumbsup: of course the CC defined it prior to the 16th century…:slight_smile: I see your point though…

Well in the 4th century they defined A canon. In the 16th century they defined THE canon. The Orthodox did it around the same time, and it was really Martin Luther who instigated the closed canon. Both Catholics and Orthodox had to defend their canons from Protestantism.

Did not a pope in the year 380 make a list of what books are to be put in the bible and other councils only reaffirmed that list ? I could be wrong.

Timeline of the New Testament Canon

45 A.D – 200 A.D
The inspired books and letters of the New Testament were penned. Many other writings considered to be inspired by some individuals and groups within the early Church are also authored during this time. The period of discernment began.

200-300 A.D.
22 of our 27 New Testament books are universally agreed upon. Some communities used more of the New Testament than others, while others used books not found in our New Testament. Some churches even viewed 1 Clement, the Didache, and the Shepherd of Hermas as inspired writings.

367 A.D.
All 27 New Testament books listed for the first time in the 39th Festal Letter of Athanasius.

382 A.D.
The first time every book found in the Protestant canon was used is 382 at the Council of Rome. However, that council included the deuterocanonicals found in the Catholic canon. The Bible from that time on was identical to the Catholic Bible of today.

393 A.D.
The Council of Hippo ratifies the decision of the Council of Rome.

397 A.D.
Third Council of Carthage ratifies the decision of the Council of Rome.

ca. 400 A.D.
At the dawn of the fifth century, after Jerome finished his translation, Bishop Exuperous of Toulouse wrote a letter to Pope Innocent I, asking which books were considered Sacred Scripture. The Pope responded with a list identical to the Catholic Bible of today

787 A.D.
The Second Council of Nicaea echoes the decision of the Council of Rome.

1441 A.D.
The Council of Florence infallibly declares the canon as established at the Council of Rome.

1556 A.D.
The Council of Trent infallibly declared the extent of the canon in response to the Protestant Reformation.

Agreed. :thumbsup: I wish I had met you long ago, as a former protestant. :thumbsup:

See post 6…:slight_smile:

This site provides a good overview of the development of the canon from the OT till the modern day

It uses Flash so can’t be seen on IPAD,s

How did Martin Luther do this? He exercised is Catholic privilege to question the dueterocanonical books of the OT and the antilegomena of the NT in a way consistent within the history of the Church. He even translated and included 74 books.


I believe that was the other way around. The Council of Carthage asked Rome to confirm its Canon.

787 A.D.
The Second Council of Nicaea echoes the decision of the Council of Rome.

Yes and no. The 7th Ecum accepted all the local Canons established by orthodox authorities (local synods and bishops). These Canonical lists were not all identical.

1556 A.D.
The Council of Trent infallibly declared the extent of the canon in response to the Protestant Reformation.

If by “extent” you mean they established the ONLY books that could be regarded as inspired by the Catholic Church – not exactly. The proscription runs thus: “If anyone does not accept these books as sacred and canonical in their entirety…let him be anathema.

Every apostolic Church accepts the books listed by Trent by default, even though they may have additional books as part of their Canon. If and when reunion occurs, the Canon will not be an issue among the Churches - same as it ever was.



Canon 24. (Greek xxvii.)

That nothing be read in church besides the Canonical Scripture

Item, that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture.

But the Canonical Scriptures are as follows:

Joshua the Son of Nun.
The Judges.
The Kings, iv. books.
The Chronicles, ij. books.
The Psalter.
The Five books of Solomon.
The Twelve Books of the Prophets.
Ezra, ij. books.
Macchabees, ij. books.
The New Testament.
The Gospels, iv. books.
The Acts of the Apostles, j. book.
The Epistles of Paul, xiv.
The Epistles of Peter, the Apostle, ij.
The Epistles of John the Apostle, iij.
The Epistles of James the Apostle, j.
The Epistle of Jude the Apostle, j.
The Revelation of John, j. book.

Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church.

More on Carthage:



True. He had the privilege to question until the Council of Trent infallibly decided upon the question. Then there is no longer the privilege to question. That is a purpose a council, to decide upon questions that come up. Luther brought up the question of the canon, and Trent answered.

The problem with that is that there is no universally defined canon.

So, we agree that the authority of the Bible’s canon is only as reliable as the authority that officially defined it. However,if you are right, then there is no universally defined canon and therefore no universal authority? I suppose in a world with so many autonomous churches it would be pretty difficult to disagree…

I think most Christians agree that the authority of the NT is only as reliable as the authority that officially defined it - right? We know that none of the PCs existed until the 16th century, at best, so where does that leave us, in terms of an authoritatively defined NT?

But his 74 books were placed in a way that seemed to downgrade certain books by putting them in another section. Does Luthur’s translation comment on whether these separated books are of a different status than the rest of the Bible?

I’ve never been an LCMS Lutheran but am curious if they still, as Pieper in his Christian Dogmatics says, “leave it to the individual to form his own views regarding any of the antilegomena.” (Which consists of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Second Epistle of Peter, the Second and Third Epistles of John, the Epistle of James, the Epistle of Jude, and the Apocalypse)

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