When we talk about ‘The Canon of Scripture,’ we mean the books that are accepted as genuinely part of the Bible.
When it comes to the Old Testament, the main debate is about the Apocrypha, those extra books placed between the Old and New Testaments in some Bibles. Generally, these are seen as separate from the ‘main’ body of scripture, and the fact that none are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls shows they were not universally accepted, even at the time.
There has often been debate (mainly by critics) as to what should be in the New Testament. We often hear of ‘other’ Gospels and the reasons as to why they should be excluded and the four we have, included. Here is what one author, C. W. Hooper, wrote about the issue.
“The fact that the second century writers quoted largely from these documents; the records of the life and sayings of Jesus, the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles; and from these documents alone in support of their arguments and exhortations, is evidence that these had obtained general circulation and recognition. Iraeneus (AD178) makes 767 quotations from all the books of the New Testament except Philemon, 2 Peter, John’s 3rd Epistle and Jude. Clement of Alexandrea (AD194), 389 quotations from all but Philemon, James, 2 Peter, John’s 2nd and 3rd Epistles and Jude. Tertullian (AD200), 1,802 from all but Philemon 2 Peter, John 2 and Jude. While Origen (AD230) has no less than 5,765 quotations from all but John’s 2nd and 3rd Epistles.
The opponents of Christianity add their testimony to the fact of the existence and general recognition of the apostolic writings, by quoting from them in their attacks on Christianity. Cerenthus, (contemporary with the Apostle John), Celsus and Porphyry, all quote freely from these writings and never attempt to question their genuineness or authenticity.
These facts prove beyond doubt that the accounts and letters which the Christians had then, are the same as we have now, and that the ‘Canon’ of the New Testament writings was recognised from the days of the apostle John.”
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