On what bases were the NT books chosen?

Hi, it's me again.

How are you all, I hope you are doing fine.

I got a question that puzzled me for a while. On what bases were the NT books chosen? I know church came before Bible. Faith - or Faiths honestly - was not based on God's word, God's word was chosen to confirm the winning faith then?

I wish I were wrong, I asked historians and made my research; but I can't help but to see this. 

So I wish if anyone can tell me what happened then? Why also Gospels writers are anonymous historically? Why also some of Paul's epistles might not be attributed to him? Weren't church fathers interested in authorship of these books?

Sorry for my bad English. 
Also can anyone recommend an Abouna in Cairo - Shubra preferably - so that I can ask him?

Thanks! 
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Comments

  • Hi,

    It's nice to actually here from you again. 

    Before I start listing details, it's important to know that the Gospel (the New Testament) was used in the Church and all it's See established by Christ's Apostles long before what was declared to be canonical. And those who have brought those books or epistles to the church, have confirmed their authorship which set the Tradition that we now know, despite new evidence that says otherwise. The Word of God can only be true through the Church and understood and shine upon those within the Church that are enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

    Quick points:
    - The NT Canon have books that were written between 45-100 AD, the earliest is St. Mark's Gospel, the latest was Revelation. 
    - All those books were written in Greek
    - All writers of the NT referenced all the books of the OT except 8
    - Earliest translations into Latin, Coptic, and Syriac were between 200-300 AD
    - These are the writers of the NT:
    • Saint Matthew & Saint Mark: Each wrote a Gospel
    • Saint Luke: Gospel and Acts of the Apostles
    • Saint John: Gospel, 3 Epistles, Revelation
    • Saint Paul: 14 Epistles
    • Saint James (Brother of the Lord) & Saint Jude: Each wrote 1 Epistle
    • Saint Peter: 2 Epistles

  • Hi, 
    I'm happy to hear from you, and thanks for the warm welcome.

    So the church knew which books were inspired before making them canonical? Why then did they wait so long? I guess some books were always disputed and it was settled afterwards like the book of revelations for example. If they confirmed their authorship why are they termed anonymous writings? If it indeed happen why does the evidence say otherwise per your saying? 

    As for the Pauline epistles mentioned in your quick points summary, there are about 6 of them that can't be even attributed to Paul, why? 

    Did the earliest translations include all the books we have today? There are even translation of "apocryphal" NT books, like the Coptic Gospel of Thomas.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.  
  • At the time that some books where written like the Gospel of St. Thomas there where many ghostic writers whom weren't of the same faith.
    Saint Athanasius condemned their writings in his Festal letter in 367 as non-canonI called.
  • And what was before this condemnation?

    What books were used by the early church? 
  • @RaafatAbualazm

    To answer your comments:

    - The Church didn't canonize any books simply because she didn't need to. The Scripture were known through the Church and the faith was taught through the Church. Only during the Nicean council where the Church began to deal with heresies, did she need to set the record straight and set a canon. This goes to a lot of Christian doctrines too. The faith was taught through the Church and by the Fathers and they only needed to clarify things when others strayed from the faith. 

    - The book of Revelation was disputed, not because its authenticity was in question, as it is attributed to St. John the Beloved...but some fathers really didn't want the book in the Canon because of how visual and apocalyptic it was. There were two other epistles of Church Fathers writings, don't remember which, were intended to be in the Canon but they were left out because of they didn't fit a specific criteria.


    - The gnostic gospels, which are sometimes called "apocryphal" do not fit the criteria of the books in the Canon. Like, they were written in Coptic, not Greek. Also, the earliest of them was written after 200 AD. Also, the content differs much from the actual 4 Gospels, which are very harmonic. In the book Case for Christ (or the Father...sorry, can't remember), the writer has a chapter about these books and he does an interview with the guy who first translated those books from Coptic to English, he admits that they are that far from the current books in the Canon. 

    - You keep saying that the books were 'anonymous' but that was not the case within the Church and the scholars at the time. Meaning that the studies that you are talking about and referencing were prob done recently and almost all use writing style to try to authenticate authors. But, those methods don't have to be taken as facts. 


  •  - So you say that those books were used in Church from the beginning, and canonisation is just a matter of declaration that's it. 

    - What's the problem with being apocalyptic, if it's scripture then it is scripture, why shouldn't the church canonise it? Also, why epistles of Church fathers should be put as scripture? Well, for me, if they're not apostolic then that breaks it.

    - Do these gnostic gospels harmonise within themselves? Yes, they're late but do the current Canon fair better in this area? The earliest manuscripts are dated around this time too.

    - They're anonymous because they were not signed, they vary within themselves, they show signs of redactions too. Yepp, current studies use writing style to give hints about the claim of authorship, how can one's writing style vary during one book in one theme? 


    Thanks for being patient with me. 

  • The gnostic books were not accepted mainly, and without considering the text, because:
    - They were not declared or used in the Church, in this case, the Church of Alexandria, the Coptic Church
    - They were written only in Coptic
    - They were not written by an apostles or a disciple (wit the exception of St. Paul which we do call an apostle)
    - They were written almost a 100 years after the last book was written

    The Church Fathers epistles weren't included because they also didn't fit that same criteria for the Canon. That didn't mean that those writings were not beneficial...but they were just not considered part of God's Word that's needed for salvation.

    I am not sure about the content of the gnostic gospels. They attracted a lot of attention a couple of years ago with Dan Brown books since he considers some of those books and says that Christ married Mary Magdalene and brought a child and a bloodline was then to be guarded...But it didn't really change much to a lot of believers. 

    To answer your last comment, I will repeat myself:
    Before I start listing details, it's important to know that the Gospel (the New Testament) was used in the Church and all it's See established by Christ's Apostles long before what was declared to be canonical. And those who have brought those books or epistles to the church, have confirmed their authorship which set the Tradition that we now know, despite new evidence that says otherwise. The Word of God can only be true through the Church and understood and shine upon those within the Church that are enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

    So it doesn't matter what hypothetical studies say. The Holy Spirit that works within the Church and it's believers is more honest and authentic than anything else out there.
  • Start listing details please.
  • @RaafatAbualazm...details about what? the gnostic gospels?
  • In the previous posts you said "Before I start listing details" so I'm waiting for them. 

    Also something that is not quite making sense to me you always say that the holy ghost is working in the church, how can one be so sure of this? 
    How can one be so sure that the holy ghost is the one who assembled the canon?
  • - That was a reference to what i wrote in the first comment in this discussion.

    - As for the 'holy ghost'...that is the Holy Spirit (ghost is just an older english word that was used....but spirit is accepted now by almost all. In arabic its "الروح القدس"...the third hypostasis of the Trinity, the one God Christians believe in. Without getting into the understanding of the Trinity (that's a whole separate topic), we believe that we have the Bible because of the divine Inspiration. The closest arabic word to that is "الوحي"...But it is not understood in the same way as in Islam. The Inspiration is:

    • The supernatural action work of the Holy Spirit to affect the minds of the authors of the holy books of the Bible, so that what they write in, not their personal memoirs, but the word of God.
    • Perfect from God’s perspective with authority, and perfect from mankind perspective so we can understand it
    And the Bible itself says that:
    • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
    • “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”  (2 Peter 1:20-21)
  • I know what the Holy Spirit is. I'm talking about how one can be so sure that he/she/it inspired these men. 
  • The Holy Spirit who inspires the author, is the same Holy Spirit that illuminates the reader to understand. That's why the true word of God, the Bible, can only be found and interpreted through the Church because that's where that Holy Spirit is. St. Paul says, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17-18).

    To know the true word of God, you need to find the Church that Christ spoke about and established first.

  • Which church then? 
    How can I find a church whereas I'm so Agnostic? 
    Pray for me! 
  • Well, to me and most of the members here, that Church is the Orthodox Church. Do your research....learn of the history of most of the churches out there just to confirm which is the one what Christ established and still is the same in faith and doctrine. Being Agnostic has nothing to do with it. Your eagerness to find the Truth should always be above what you may "think" you believe. If some part of you thinks that Christianity is the Truth, then search Christianity and find that Church. 
  • Well there is "part" of me that says give them a shot but then there are things that just don't make sense to me. 

    I mentioned Agnostic because there's no church that will allow me to attend services and have discussions with me in Egypt. 

    Which Orthodox Church? Evangelical, Eastern, Oriental? I know I'm on a Coptic site, I hope you get the point of my rhetorical question.
  • I'd like to make a small comment and that is that the Holy Spirit does what is good and for Christianity it is for our salvation.
    We are lead to Jesus Christ as our Saviour and in combination with the Father we seek to inherit eternal life.
    Jesus started the church and showed the Apostles the symbolic meanings of what they were going to do, however, it wasn't until pentacost that the Holy Spirit gave them guidance that they could proceed with the mission of salvation through Christ Jesus.
    The gospels are a means of salvation and in them the church has understood those means.
    The most significant account for Christianity is the resurrection without which there would only be just wisdom on how to live life.
    As for the writers of the gospels. Authorship can be either the person wrote it directly or a person dictated it or a person had a ghost writer all are attributed to the writer. It may also ex plain changes if there are any to writing style. What is most important is the message.
    God wants us to return to Him which He had chosen to do for us and that we have been led astray by whatever means.
    There is joy and freedom in salvation and I pray you seek it earnestly Raafat.
    God bless you.
  • There isn't an "Evangelical" Orthodox Church...only Oriental and Easter. The Coptic church is one of the Oriental. 
  • [quote]
    I'd like to make a small comment and that is that the Holy Spirit does what is good and for Christianity it is for our salvation.
    We are lead to Jesus Christ as our Saviour and in combination with the Father we seek to inherit eternal life.
    Jesus started the church and showed the Apostles the symbolic meanings of what they were going to do, however, it wasn't until pentacost that the Holy Spirit gave them guidance that they could proceed with the mission of salvation through Christ Jesus.
    The gospels are a means of salvation and in them the church has understood those means.
    [/quote]
    Fair enough faith wise.
    [quote]
    The most significant account for Christianity is the resurrection without which there would only be just wisdom on how to live life.
    As for the writers of the gospels. Authorship can be either the person wrote it directly or a person dictated it or a person had a ghost writer all are attributed to the writer. It may also ex plain changes if there are any to writing style. What is most important is the message.[/quote]
    Yes I get that this is written in the Gospels, however why should I trust them? 
    What do you mean by a ghost writer all are attributed to writer?
    The message is quite grand to be fair, although there some things which raise a few questions.
    [quote]
    God wants us to return to Him which He had chosen to do for us and that we have been led astray by whatever means.
    There is joy and freedom in salvation and I pray you seek it earnestly Raafat.
    God bless you.
    [/quote]
    Well thanks for your kind words.
    But before i begin to believe I want to see for myself and get convinced. I'm more like Thomas.


  • @RaadatAbualazm. Thanks for that...I didn't really hear about them before. It looks like they began with being part of the Antiochian Church (the Greek Church, so on the Eastern side). But I am not sure of their affiliation now. If wikipedia is rite, they are part of the Eastern Orthodox side. 
  • @minatasgeel

    No they're not part of Eastern Rite Orthodoxy. They're as I understand the Orthodox equivalent of Anglicanism. 

    Returning to theoriginal goal of the post:

    Why one should trust that the NT has all the right books in it? Isn't there any posiibility that a book is added here or thrown there? 

    They weren't so sure of many writing like 3 of Paul's letters, 2 Peter, Revelations and Epistle of John I guess. 

    Why would they include Hebrews if they didn't know who the writer was? It is not us now doubting the writer, it is the church from the beginning didn't know who the writer was.

    Also what constitutes an Apostle anyway? Why Luke and Mark are not just disciples of the apostles but rather full-fledged apostles?
  • You should trust it because they all testified at the end that this is the New Testament Canon. We are not ignoring the fact that some didn't accept some books. The important thing is at the end, they all agreed on those books. The Church Fathers were not dictators. The ecumenical councils were not just a place to judge heretics, but it was a place for declaring the faith that has been practiced by each Church.   

    Now that I think about it, this undermines the Protestants doctrine of Sola scriptura because this scripture that they accept was accepted to be divinely inspired by the Church and the Fathers whom they later decide to abandon their interpretations of those books.

    When an apostle is basically one of the Seventy (72 actually) and the Twelve. Another title for the twelve are the Disciples. Some say that the 70 are Disciples, but in the Orthodox Church we make that distinction. Sts. Matthew and John were of the Twelve, Sts. Mark and Luke were of the Seventy
  • So from what I understand is that inspired in the Christian sense is rather dynamic thing. It is not as in Islam some rigid thing? Where the human intervention and Error is readily admitted? 

    So, hypothetically speaking, if an epistle is found and is traced back to an Apostle or Disciple, what would happen then? Will the Canon get bigger? 

    The interpretations of any one book should be Dynamic and seen through the lens of our time, of course the problem with Protestantism is not the interpretation only. 

    But if scripture defined orthodoxy and orthodoxy defined scripture doesn't this lead to some kind of loop? With a great margin of error? 
  • edited January 25
    Dear @RaafatAbualazm

    Something very important about the Church that you need to understand is that we do not divorce ourselves from history.  Because we believe the Church is the body of Christ, this includes every generation after the Apostles to which they left us records, lives, prayers, and liturgies for us to expand upon and use.  The witness of the Church lives today in the members of the Church.

    With that said, "inspired" Scripture in Christianity is not the same as "inspired" Scripture in Islam.  Islam (at least Sunni Islam) tends to see the Scriptures as a written document of the uncreated Word of God that can no nothing wrong on any human subject.  Scripture in Christianity is understood historically as the Holy Spirit guiding ancient writers through inner meditation and prayer and leading them into writing the spiritual Truth of Christ in a manner that is understandable to their time period's culture and knowledge.

    This means that in order to trust in the sources of what is inspired, it depends on the members of the Church living together in a spiritual manner, identifying Scripture through proper ways in which the writers themselves also identified the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Part of it also has to do with historical connection with the Apostles and with Christ as well, as the first witnesses of Christ in the flesh.  The historical record attests to the fact that the Church fathers have been consistent for the most part which writings they felt were inspired and which were not.  So history does not end with the New Testament.  You need to also read the writings of those who came after and used those same writings as a standard to their own spirituality in their Church communities generation after generation.


    As an agnostic, what makes you want to investigate Christianity?  What is it about Christianity among other religions that leads you to desire to know more?  What is it about religion that makes it important for you to investigate a true religion?  What are you looking for in the true religion?
  • @minasoliman

    So from that definition of scripture, if somehow an epistle or any document that is attributed to an apostle discovered nowadays will surely be included in the canon? 

    So to put my trust in the sources I've to become a member of the Christian faith? I can't trust them before I subscribe to any particular faith? 
    Yes the Church Fathers were consistent "most of the time" on "most of the Canon" but It makes me wonder why not "all the time" and "all of the Canon". It makes me wonder how much of it is purely human intervention, in identifying and accepting which scripture that is.

    As why I'm investigating Christianity, I come from a religious background and in a religious community so it feels weird not to have any. And there's something telling me that I should give them a shot, it might be that I'm friends with so many Coptic Christians and in Egypt any religion other than Islam, Christianity and Judaism is not even a religion in the true sense. 

    May be there's an inner calling which is not dependent on any of those factors that tells me to do it. But that's rather weird and unlikely. And in accordance with the inner call, whatever its origin was, I'm investigating Christianity.

    I'm not so sure why.
  • Hi Raafat
    If you were with a group of people and you were all asked to talk about an experience you all shared. What you experienced in your veiw might be slightly different from the others. A ghost writer could write down your experience the way you recalled faithfully (without dictated it word for word) and you would say to them yes that's exactly the way I recalled it.
    We have to remember back at that time there was a very strong oral tradition especially with the Jews as you werent allowed to bear false witness.

    I'm not sure what scripture is inconsistent or canon. We can debate them.

    Funny thing is that when I first started reading your post and I thought you were like Thomas.

    Another coincidence was when I was thinking about explaining to you that we imitate Christ and I was thinking what to say when I opened a Coptic app called Kenonia to read it's message for the day when it had exactly what I wanted to say to you explaining the truth because it is in your heart.
    When I first came to the church this type of thing happened too many times to mention. I knew the Holy Spirit was guiding me and I wish to thank you Raafat for reconnecting me again with God at that time. Like you I also searched for the truth. I found it in Christ because He is a living God, one that does work on the hearts of men; one that He shows the way; and one that continually gives me self-reflection to be humble, of which I'm struggling with at the moment but I've been there and want to return to that state. I'm not even happy with the way I talk here even because it should not be about me but for the Glory of God which is to put Him first in everything.

    I again pray God grants you brotherhood with us one day that you find His love and compassion. It is simple and complex at the same time. Even if you acknowledge what the church says even if you don't agree I'm sure it will come back to you for the wisdom comes from love for us His creation. God bless.
  • yes, keep looking, don't give up.

    it is good to ask questions

    :)

  • About the writing of the NT (and really, the entire Bible)- think of it as divinely inspired, but humanly expressed. Each writer, Old and New Testament, wrote with their own style. For example, David wrote poetically (the Psalms) because he was a musician, and Luke was detailed in his gospel because he was a doctor. The message is all coming from 1 source- God- but through different outlets- the writers.

    The entire reason we are called Orthodox is because we follow the traditions handed down from the apostles, who were given it by Jesus Christ. The apostles (and disciples) we're quoting each other before there was an agreement as to what the New Testament was- that wasn't until St. Athanasius. St Peter was saying that St Paul's words were scripture before the rest of the NT was even finished.
    Another big part of this is the oral tradition, as was already mentioned. Not even John the Beloved, the final writer of the NT, had a copy of any book of the NT not written by him. But how then did the account of Christ spread if it wasn't written? The same way literature like Homer's Iliad was spread and recorded- it was spread orally until they decided to write it down.

    Finally, about adding books to the Bible- it probably won't happen. We have no holes in our faith, no theological or historical gaps, that require a book to fill them. Now what if, for example, we found more writings regarding the ministry of Jesus? We know that there are things He did that aren't written down- John the Beloved says that "not all the books in the world" could contain Jesus' works if they were written down. All they would do is reinforce the accounts we already have. And if we find a 'credible' record of something that blatantly contradicts what we already have, we have numerous sources agreeing with each other versus one that doesn't.
  • Hi Joshua,

    Yes if I remember something and someone wrote on my behalf with me dictating it or not, then yes I'd approve of it. The thing is, who is this writer and how can he be so sure that he is not an impostor? What makes us so sure than an Apostle or a Disciple approved of it? 

    The oral tradition was very strong their, but it is faulty. We're then left to the individual honesty and sure there will be someone who will lie for whatever reason there is. 

    The inconsistencies in the scripture is for another thread not here, so we are all focused.

    Some friend of mine called me Thomas, he's the one who pointed it to me. 

    The truth is in my heart? My heart is really garbled and I'm not sure of anything, unless of course Agnosticism is the truth
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