The Canon of Scripture

by Mike Matthews on April 1, 2011

Although the original documents have been lost, we can be sure that the original words have been preserved in the copies we possess today. But can we be sure that those original documents infallibly captured God’s words at the very beginning?

The word canon is now used to refer to the complete list of the Bible’s God-inspired books. From the time each original book was penned, it was recognized as God’s Word. So its place in the canon was sure from the time it was written. The writers of Scripture did not pick and choose what was God’s Word, but they received it directly from its true Author—God.

As the apostle Peter explained, “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

Old Testament Canon

There are 39 books in the Old Testament, written mostly in the Hebrew language (and some in Aramaic). The Hebrew people were the custodians of the Old Testament canon, carefully copying each word from one generation to the next.

Jesus Christ believed the entire Old Testament came from God’s own mouth: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

New Testament Canon

There are 27 books in the New Testament, all written in the Greek language. Followers of Jesus Christ carefully copied each word from one generation to the next.

Jesus Christ said that the Holy Spirit of God would inspire the authors of the New Testament: “The Spirit of truth . . . will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12–13). He told His apostles that their words would have the same authority as His: “He that hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16).

We can confidently trust that we have God’s very words in our hands.

Many apologetics books, such as Brian Edwards’ Nothing but the Truth, provide much more detail on this interesting topic.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.