In: Religion Topics
The Foundation of Orthodoxy and Formation of Canon
September 11, 2012
The Foundation of Orthodoxy and the Canon
If we consider that what we know as Christianity is not what it began as, then we will see the need for a standard. That fact that Christianity as a religion and a worldview was revolutionary as is was also evolutionary. It was revolutionary in that it stood against the norm of Judaism and paganism. It was evolutionary in that what it was then is not what it is today. Therefore, the need of orthodoxy and for cannon is presented.
Orthodoxy is the “correct, conventional or currently accepted beliefs, especially in religion.”The consolidation of power under Constantine and the stretch of the empire caused a need for orthodoxy of Christianity’s belief system. It also demanded a standard of doctrine. This leads to the canonicity of the Holy Scriptures. Canon is derived from the Greek word kanon. Elwell says of the word canon, “in Christianity [canon] refers to a group of books acknowledged by the early church as a rule of faith and practice” The word carries the idea of the measuring rod or standard against which the sacred text are weighed for inclusion. It should be noted that different faith systems have different canonical books. The Jewish canon is different from the Protestant as is the Catholic.
If we bear in mind that the Bible we know today did not start out as a book at all, and then the logical progression must be to ask, how did it come about? An important note bears to be inserted. In Judaism as well as its son Christianity, if we consider Abraham the father of the faithful. The belief is not in a book rather in the God of the book. Judaism and the belief in the God of Abraham existed many years without a book. Moses is believed to be the writer of the first five books of what is commonly called the Pentateuch. Yet, bear in mind this was not multiple copies, it was one. Most Scripture was shared in the oral tradition and kept by memorization.
The four-fold grouping of the Christian Bible that is seen in the Old and New Testaments are not found in the construction of the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh as it is called. The three – fold divisions are the Law or Torah. The Prophets of which you have the Former and Latter which is also called the Nebhiim.Lastly; you have the Writings or Kethubhim. This is broken into the poetical books, the Meggilloth or Five rolls which refer to their being read at the respective feasts and the historical books. In the Tanakh the Christian Bible call the Minor Prophets a grouped in the latter prophets as the Twelve. Also 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings as well as 1st and 2nd Chronicles are each considered one book.
The compilation of the canonical order of the Scripture for the adherent was in the mind of God and at work as the text was being written. When we consider canon, what we are actually addressing is the acceptance of the compilation of the agreed upon books by the church. For the Old Testament many agree that Ezra in the fifth century B.C completed the work of collecting the canonical work. H.Thiessen writes, “Because of the canonicity of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon was not settled until the Council Jamnia (A.D.90), some maintain the canon of the Old Testament was not closed until that time.” The timeline and number are further evidenced by the writings of Josephus (A.D. 95) which, “indicate the extent of the Old Testament canon as the thirty-nine books we know”
In considering the New Testament we must not make the mistake of allowing our minds to be misguided by the term New Testament. The books that comprise this work are all considered to have been written prior to the close of the first century. We must also allow that the world was mostly illiterate and we did not have printing presses, electronic media nor did we have mass transit. The oral tradition and communal