The Determination of the Canon


So throughout the second and third centuries there was quite a lot of fighting about which ones are in and which ones not. I think there was general agreement quite early Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Letters of Paul were safely in, but there was fighting about books like Jude and Second Peter. Certainly the book of Revelation was fought about a lot

are the early Christians just choosing the scriptures, about which ones are in and which ones not?


The early Christians - yes. The early Church - no.

As far as individuals are concerned, “just choosing the Scriptures” is all they could do. They weren’t provided with a list of what was Scripture and what wasn’t. They may have tried to make their choices based on good reasons, but ultimately they were merely human choices. That’s why the idea of Sola Scriptura makes no sense: nobody can even know what is actually Scripture.

The early Church, on the other hand, was operating under the special protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit. When the Church set down what constituted Scripture, it wasn’t just a human decision, but it was God revealing the truth through His Holy Spirit guiding the Church. Now because the Christians living at the time believed that the Church was a Divine institution created by Jesus Christ, they fell in line with what the Church had to say. They knew that the Church was God’s instrument for providing certainty on matters of faith, and so they accepted the Church’s ruling.

The canon of Scripture was revealed to the people of God by God through His Church.


The early Christians - yes. The early Church - no.

**But the early Christians ARE the early Church–and vice versa.

It’s folly to speak of them as two different bodies.**


Actually, The Holy Scripture of the New Testament was declared by and as a result of the Decree of Pope St. Damasus 1 at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D.

The Decree of Pope St. Damasus I, Council of Rome. 382 A.D…

***It is likewise decreed: Now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun. ***
***The list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus one to Philemon, one to the Hebrews. Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book. Likewise, the canonical Epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, one Epistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament. ***
Likewise it is decreed: After the announcement of all of these prophetic and evangelic or as well as apostolic writings which we have listed above as Scriptures, on which, by the grace of God, the Catholic Church is founded, we have considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of other Churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

The Council of Hippo in 393 reaffirmed the canon put forth by Pope Damasus I…

AD 393: Council of Hippo. “It has been decided that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture.” (canon 36 A.D. 393).

The Third Council of Carthage reaffirmed anew, the Canon put forth by Pope Damasus I…

AD 397: Council of Carthage III. "It has been decided that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical " (canon 47 A.D. 397).

There was only one Church at the time. That is the Church that Jesus Christ founded which is The Catholic Church.



Hi Darakku,

are the early Christians just choosing the scriptures, about which ones are in and which ones not

There may have been discussions among all classes of Christians, but the final canon was chosen by church authorities on the basis of the apostolic origin of each book. The Church did not “approve” the scriptures, but “received them” from apostolic sources. The Church is a “witness” to the inspiration of scripture.



What I mean by this is that the early Christians, as individuals, did just choose whichever Scriptures they thought belonged. By “the early Church,” I mean all the bishops in union, who were guided in a special way by the Holy Spirit.


Im asking this because muslims are using this article to prove that the bible is corrupt, because early Christians is just choosing the scriptures, about which ones are in and which ones not…


I understand, but how can we prove that they were guided by the Holy Spirit?


Well that’s a much more involved question.

First of all, keep in mind that we really can’t “prove” anything when it comes to this sort of conversation.

To prove something means to show that it is impossible that something else is true. So for example, we can prove mathematical formulas. We can prove logical syllogisms. We can prove God exists, using logic.

Proving things in the tangible, non-abstract world is quite a bit harder. The great philosopher Peter Kreeft once told an audience ‘proving I exist would be quite a bit harder than you might imagine.’

What we can do is show that things are very likely, or show that things are consistent with the evidence.

In the case of the Scriptures, one way to do it is to go back to Christ. Christ has a great deal of authority because He rose from the dead. We can show this with great certainty by various historical means. If you’d like to see this done about as well as you’ll see anyone do anything, go to this website, scroll down, and listen to any of the William Lane Craig debates about Christ, the Resurrection, or Christianity.

Now when a fellow rises from the dead, the things he says have a certain level of authority. In other words, it’s pretty hard to doubt a dude who can defeat death.

Historically speaking, we know that the people who learned from this man Who rose from the dead believed that the Holy Spirit would guide the bishops in matters like this correctly. They took what He’d taught them about this and handed it on to those who were their own students. This is all historically supported by all sorts of ancient documents, many of which (but not all) having been written by those we call the Fathers of the Church.

That’s the argument in a nutshell, and in terms of “proving” things, its a pretty good one. It shows that it is highly probable - as probably as we can call many historical facts we take for granted - that what we believe about the Holy Spirit and the canon is true.

Consequently, another way to deal with this is to critique the Muslim position. Wheras the Catholic position rests on the testimony of a great many followers of a man who rose from the dead as well as the thousands and thousands involved in the entire history of the Jewish Bible, the Muslim position rests on the testimony of one ancient warlord who claims to have received a book from God. In other words, it’s got about as much weight as Joseph Smith’s contention that he was granted the Book of Mormon by God.

On top of this are the many very obvious problems with the Qu’ran. If you’d like more information on critiques of Islam, or some more information on defending Christian beliefs, I suggest you go to

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