Resources for Learning How the Biblical Canon has been Determined and Maintained


H2O‘s series of discussions on the “Tough Issues” that get in the way of Kent State students seriously considering Christianity is now in its final week. Audio from the messages delivered at our worship gatherings can be found at What’s been especially interesting to me, though, are some of the off-line, private, individual or small group conversations that have been happening through the first four weeks of the semester.

As we explored the question of “Can the Bible be Trusted?” (Week 2 in our four-week series), some conversation with a handful of our small group leaders opened up a topic that was not really addressed in any of our other avenues of communication: namely, How exactly was the Bible molded into its present form? Specifically: How were decisions made to include some writings and exclude others — and by whom were these decisions made? Very valid questions, to be sure! But since I didn’t have the resources immediately at my disposal, I promised to follow up later. And since was going to the trouble anyway, I thought it might be useful to post the material here in this space.

So, in case you’re interested in learning more about the mechanics of the development of our Christian Canon (collection or list of sacred books accepted as genuine), here are some leads for you:

If you want something of an entry-level primer on this subject, I would recommend you start with watching a program called “Who chose the books of the Bible?” (DVD 2, Episode 1) in the “What’s in the Bible?” series from VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. It’s definitely marketed as a children’s series, but I really believe it does an excellent job at clearly distilling the essence of questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how the Bible came to be what it is today. A digital download of the episode can be purchased at Or I suppose you could just come over to my house sometime and watch the DVD with me and my family. 🙂

If you want a medium-sized, medium-depth explanation of how the Biblican Canon has been determined and maintained, I would recommend you go to this article by theologian Wayne Grudem: Wayne Grudem is a theologian whom I’ve found to be fairly conservative, trustworthy, and accessible (at least as far as theologians go). And in this article, I think he does a good job of laying out the basic principles on this subject in an effective way.

Finally, if you want a more exhaustive set of resources that could be used to study this issue in-depth, I might recommend something like this section of a website calling itself “The Interactive Bible:” Be warned, the graphical elements of the site look pretty horrible — and I haven’t actually read most of the content — but the scholarship seems pretty legitimate, and it’s indisputably extensive. Its accessibility in an on-line format makes it most useful, but further resources for further study (i.e. in books) are also listed on the site, and I’m sure it could keep you busy for quite awhile.

Hopefully, these resources are helpful. I genuinely believe that the Bible is the most remarkable book that’s ever been written — and it’s well worth your while to research its background, study its content, and apply its teachings to your life!

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