Editors are the unappreciated heroes of culture. While some of their work amounts to playing aimlessly with commas, they also make crucial decisions that affect the shape of the future. You can bet on it.
In other hand, editors influence how we will understand texts in the future as significant and fundamental or passé. They make arrangements on material, bringing some ideas to the front and tucking others to the rear. They put contradictory passages side by side to recall the reader that there are other points of view.
Let’s move to the case of Bible. Any how you feel about it, whether you consider it a sacred book or not, you have to admit that it’s been a most influential collection of writings. Therefore its not bad if we should ask, Who decided what we have in the Bible to start with? How did this booklet get organized into the familiar package we call the Bible today?
Actually, this is a canon question. The word “bible” is derived from the Greek word bar or rod. The early church fathers used the term to describe the norm of revealed truth. Several fathers signified to a canon of beliefs to which Christians ascribed, but they didn’t put the term to a collection of sacred writings. The collections of texts were endorsed by Origen and others, though none of them claimed to be definitive until when Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, added his opinion at the start of the fourth century.
Bishop Eusebius was in love with lists. He was the person that offered the earliest known listing of what we call today New Testament writings. But Eusebius simply called it a catalogue.
Athanasius, in 367 supplied a canon of “divine” books, along with another group used by “heretics” that he named “apocryphal.”
The list of 27 canonical texts given by Athanasius was only slightly amended from that of Eusebius. And It becomes the New Testament as we know it.
So, how did we come to acquire our Old Testament? Though, its a longer story. Both Athanasius and Jerome had an agreement that 22 books from the writings of Hebrew should be included in the Christian Bible. Twenty-two sounds so small compared to the 46 Old Testament books in our current Catholic Bible. But the count is actually much closer.
All 12 of the minor prophets listed in the same scroll were taken as a single book, and the presently numbered double books like (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Jeremiah-Lamentations) were all counted as five, not 10. The Book of Ruth was in the same way attached to Judges. Therefore, 39 of the 46 books appeared on the fourth-century lists of Athanasius and Jerome.
In the 16th century Pope Sixtus shared the Old Testament into protocanonical and deuterocanonical works, proto meaning that those works came before the canon and deutero meaning there that are secondary to the canon. Pope Sixtus simply intended to distinguish between the works that all believers, including the Jewish community, accepted as canonical.
The pope went further to acknowledge that the remaining seven texts which are Tobit, Judith, 1-2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch, plus Esther and Daniel were still disputed.
The Council of Trent in 1546 declared the 73 books of the Catholic Bible to be “sacred and canonical” and inspired by the Holy Spirit in each part. After three hundred years, the First Vatican Council would have nothing to do but to confirm the biblical list canonized at Trent. In the 20th century, Vatican II explained in soaring language how “Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age” recognized the 73 biblical books as written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit with “God as their author.”
A canon is a fixed list and a closed category. The historical impact of claiming 73 particular books as canonical and sacred is not disputable at all. And it has been proclaimed through the centuries in the assemblies. They’ve also informed church teaching, supported church law, and are responsible in great degree for the Christianity we express. There’s no going back from the legacy that have been inherited from these texts.
Necessarily, we would not want to imagine Genesis without apocalypse, or Moses without the kings. Or, to consider an Old Testament with historical books but no prophecy. Or imagine a church with gospels from Matthew, Mark, and Luke but without the magnificent cosmic perspective of John. Or four gospels without Paul’s gritty real-time exploration of what claiming Jesus personally means.
It was recommended that we recognize that canonicity and inspiration indicates different realities. As canonicity means a closed collection. Inspiration in order way, acknowledges the divine movement in its composition. The two realities pursue each other’s tails in that the canon, once formed, was pronounced inspired.