How Was the Bible Chosen?
Q. How were the books in the Bible chosen? I've heard about other books that didn't make it in. Aren't those also the Word of God? Why aren't they considered Scripture, too?
A. Lots of people are asking these questions today. In the last decade, the popularity of The DaVinci Code drew attention to the issue, and the existence of books like The Gnostic Gospels and The Gospel of Judas have many people wondering.
But these questions are not new. They were being asked in the first hundred years after Jesus's death and resurrection. Lots of books about Jesus and the way to salvation were written then and early Christian leaders had to determine which books were true, trustworthy and inspired by God. How? They examined all these writings for two things: 1) which books were actually considered as the Word of God in the churches, and 2) which books were actually written by the first apostles or people with a direct connection to Jesus.
Many books were forgeries. Many contained "false teachings" (Christ-followers are warned about this issue in , , , and John's three letters). Written by people known as Gnostics, these "gnostic gospels" were considered false teaching because they rejected the Old Testament and taught that "spiritual" beings couldn't become human. Gnostics believed that anything "flesh" was corrupt and evil. Christians said these books couldn't be true because God had clearly spoken through the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ was "God in flesh."
If you do read these Gnostic writings, keep in mind that there are good reasons they're not considered God's inspired words—reasons that were carefully thought out by early Christians. These writings contain a lot of ideas that don't fit with what the Bible says. They contradict and undermine the Old Testament or Jesus himself. Some people argue that the falsehoods are in the Bible, not these other books. But the people who knew these writings best—Christ-followers who were alive when they were written—recognized that they were not the inspired words of God.
Marshall, a former pastor, is editor of Leadership, a magazine for pastors.