When speaking of the Bible in Hollywood movies and popular fictional books, there’s a recurring theme that there are certain books which are not in the Bible, but they should be, if it wasn’t for the Vatican hiding them all way in the Pope’s underground lairs! Or in more legitimate reports, there are other Gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Judas. Should they be held up as the Word of God? Did the church keep these books out of the Bible? If the church kept these picks out, then doesn’t that mean the Bible is just a book put together and edited by men?
What’s the Standard for a Book to be in the Bible?
The word “canon” is often used when speaking of the books that are in the Bible. “Canon” means “a standard or rule.” For a book to be canonical it must have been written by an apostle or prophet, have been recognized by the early church, and has been in continuous use within the church for study and worship. Certain lists for a book to be canonical vary, but they are all very similar. Some of these variances are that the book must have been written in Greek or Hebrew (again this is connected to the book having been written by an apostle), the content of the book, and that the book had divine authority (again this is connected to the book having been written by an apostle or prophet), and that the texts were in use by the apostolic church (the church at the time the apostles were alive on earth).
It’s important to note that these standards were not imposed standards. The church did not decide upon these criteria. Instead the church merely recognized that these standards applied to the writings which authenticated themselves amongst the church. In other words, the Scriptures were written and composed and gathered and accepted within the church as they were written, and later the church recognized the accepted books.