The Old Testament Canon

The word "canon" means "rule". When it is used to refer to the set or collection of books of the Bible which were identified as authoritative from God, it indicates those books which were chosen according to certain rules. The decision as to which books of the Bible are canonical, that is, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is made according to a set of rules, or criteria, described below.

God has several reasons for supplying an Old Testament Canon of revealed Scripture to the people living before the time of Christ:

* That people might have a complete revelation from God in their own time. It was important that people be given Gospel information before the time of the Cross and that they understand Grace and the Plan of God.

* That people might have the written word of God to live by.

* That manuscripts of the inspired writing might be preserved from corruption and destruction. Therefore, a canon must be defined so that non-canonical writings may be rejected as far as divine authorship is concerned. The non-canonical writings include the Antilogoumena, the Apocryphal writings, etc.

* That the people might know the limits of the inspired writings and thus define which writings are spurious.

There are three kinds of prophets who wrote the OT; (1) those who had the gift of prophecy, (2) those who had the office of prophet, and (3) those who had both the gift and the office.

Moses is a unique prophet in that he had both the gift of prophecy and the office. He wrote the Torah (meaning "doctrine" or "law), the Pentateuch.

The prophets who had the gift of Prophecy were known as the nabiim. Among these were Joshua, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and those who were known as the "minor" prophets. These men were preachers, communicators; they could marry and bury legally.

Some were called the "former prophets": Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings -- The gospel is found in all of these writings.

The "latter prophets" were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets. You will find the gospel message in each of these books.

Those who had the gift of prophecy are called the kethubim - "the writings". Of these we have :

The Poetical writers : Solomon, David, and Job

The Five Scrolls : Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther. These were read at feasts (see below).

The Historical Books : Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles.


* Every extant book of an acknowledged messenger of God, who was commissioned by God to make His will known, was immediately accepted as the Word of God.

* The internal evidence of the books themselves bore witness to the genuineness of the books. See Deut. 31:24-26; Josh. 1:8; Judges 3:4; Neh. 8:1-8; Dan. 9:2,5,6; Zech. 7:12; Jer. 36.

* The law of cause and effect. The books are not called canonical because Israel recognized them as such, but because all evidence showed them to be from God. II Kings 22: 23:1,2.

The completion of the canon of the Old Testament took place after the Babylonian captivity. The writings were collected after the people moved back into the land under Ezra and Nehemiah, because the Scriptures were needed. By 425 B.C., all the books of the Old Testament were written and collected.


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