How our Bible Came to Be
The Protestant Bible, as we know it today, stands as a significant religious text for millions of believers. However, the journey towards the formation of this Bible was neither straightforward nor uniform across all Christian sects. Within the realm of Protestantism, the canonization process involved careful considerations, debates, and decisions regarding which books would be included and excluded. Furthermore, the existence of other gospels outside the Protestant canon offers valuable insight into the richness and diversity of early Christian literature. This blog aims to explore how most Protestants have come to possess the Bible in its current form by discussing the selection of books, exclusions, and the existence of other gospels that were not chosen.
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The process of determining the books to be included in the Protestant Bible can be traced back to the early centuries of Christianity. The primary criterion for inclusion was apostolic authorship or direct association with the apostles. As such, the writings of the apostles and other recognized disciples gained significant legitimacy among church leaders seeking to discern the inspired Word of God. Accordingly, the New Testament canon eventually comprised the four Gospels, the letters of Paul and other apostles, and the Revelation of John.
In the Old Testament, we see accounts of God’s interaction with individuals and the nation of Israel. He manifests His presence through signs, wonders, and miracles, demonstrating His authority over nature and human affairs. His involvement is often depicted in terms of covenant relationships, where obedience and faithfulness are expected from His people in return for His protection and provision.
While the Protestant Bible comprises 66 books, other early Christian writings were excluded from this canon. Some of these excluded texts, known as the Deuterocanonical or Apocryphal books, are present in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles. The reasons for exclusion vary, but they often involve questions of authorship, historical accuracy, doctrinal consistency, and acceptance by the early church. The Protestant Reformers, during the 16th century, removed these books due to concerns about their authority and conformity to their theological beliefs.
Apart from the canonical books included in the Protestant Bible, other gospel texts were discovered and studied over the centuries. These include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, among others. These “non-canonical” gospels were composed by various early Christian communities, each with its own theological perspectives and interpretations of Jesus’ life and teachings. The existence of these texts highlights the diversity of early Christian thought and provides valuable historical insights into the development of Christianity.
The formation of the Protestant Bible, rooted in the selection of books, exclusions, and the existence of other gospels, underscores the complex and dynamic nature of early Christianity. The canonization process witnessed deliberations among church leaders, who sought to determine which texts should be considered inspired and authoritative. The exclusions and inclusion decisions were based on a combination of factors, including apostolic authorship, doctrinal consistency, and historical accuracy. However, the existence of other gospels outside the Protestant canon should remind us that early Christian belief and practice were much more diverse than what would be eventually enshrined in the Bible. As believers and scholars, it is essential to study and appreciate both the canonical and non-canonical texts to gain a comprehensive understanding of the early Christian tradition.