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Pastor Sojan Mathew,
Malayalam Christian Church,
Floatshall Road ,
Baguley Manchester,
M23 1JB
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How did the books of the Bible come to be recognized as Holy Scripture? 

How did the books of the Bible receive its authority? 

What is this Canon?

Does any Church Authority or a Bible Society declare these books as Holy Scripture? 

An enthusiastic Bible student is often very keen to know these facts. We give below a brief study on this interesting subject. 

To simplify the understanding of this canonicity, let us distinguish it in this way:- 

The canonicity of a book was determined by God and it was discovered by man! God gave the books of the Bible its spiritual authority immediately when it was written; Man recognized its authority gradually in the course of time!! 

The word Canon is derived from the Greek word “Kanon” which means, a ruler, a rod or a measuring unit.  

 In Christian context, we might define the word Canon, as the list of books acknowledged by the Church as the documents of the divine revelation. The term Canon, in reference to the books of scripture, was first used by Athanasius in AD 367.  

Factors contributing to the determination of the canonicity of the books 

       1. Tradition: The well-established tradition that many of the books came from Moses or one of the other acknowledged prophets 

       2. Spiritual authority of the books themselves: As they were used in public or private reading and in exposition. 

       3. Recognition in the Temple/Church as sacred books 

       4.Conviction of leaders and people: The opinions of religious leaders and common convictions of the people about the books were considered. 

       5.Jesus and the Apostles: For Christians, there was the additional consideration that Jesus himself and his apostles, in the pages of the New Testament, often refer to the Jewish scriptures in general, and to many of the individual books as having the authority of God 

Old Testament Canonisation 

 The Old Testament Canonical period was from BC 1445 to 430 BC when the last book of Malachi was written. 

 God asked Moses to write His instructions in a book and recite it to Joshua (Exodus 17:14 & 34:27)

 What Moses had written was known as Books of the Covenant (Exodus 24:7)

 God’s endorsement was upon these books when God asked Joshua to mediate it (Joshua 1:8)

 Joshua made copy of these Covenants on the stones upon the Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:32) 

Copies of these books were made to Kings for reading and the Chronicles of Kings proves they have accepted it as the word of God (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) 

Moreover the Kings and prophets were used to keep a chronicle of the events and Gods revelations and there were officials in the palaces and temples to do this job (2 Chronicles 26:22; 35:26, Esther 2:23, 6:1 etc.) 

 The Prophets accepted it as the word of God (Daniel 9:11, Malachi 4:4) 

This written Word of God was thus bequeathed from generation to generation. Traditionally since more than 3500 years, these writings were recognized as sacred and God inspired Before the time of Jesus, the Old Testament books were thus gradually canonized and accepted as God inspired. 

The Septuagint translation (BC 294-289) of the Old Testament was made about 300 years before Christ and when this translation was through, it was taken into granted that the canonisation of the Old Testament was completed. 

Jesus Christ himself acknowledged the canonicity of the Old Testament books which comprises of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Book of Psalm (Luke 24:24) 

Good evidence exists in New Testament, quoting from the Old Testament books throughout as God inspired books 

The Council of Jamnia (AD 90), had reaffirmed those Old Testament books as God inspired 

New Testament Canonisation 

The time period of New Testament Canonicity was shorter than Old Testament period, which were written between AD 45 - AD 95. The Term New Testament, as the Christian Scripture, was first used by Tertullian, the Christian Writer in AD190. 

Early church had collected the writings of the apostles and prophets which were considered valuable and worthy of preservation. 

None of the authors of the New Testament books were mentioned that they were adding anything to the existing Old Testament books. So whatever they have written were accepted as new revelations and instructions from God. 

Evidences from the New Testament writings that these were God inspired 

     1. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

     2. “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thess.5:27). In 2:13 Paul also states that the Thessalonians accepted his message “not as the word of men” but as “the word of God.”

     3. “. . . the things I write to you are the Lord’s commandment” (1 Cor.14:37) 

     4. Paul’s letter to the Colossians was to be read in other churches (Col. 4:16) 

     5. Blessings are promised to all who read and heed the words of the prophecy given to the apostle John (Rev. 1:3) 

     6. The Book of Revelation was also to be spread throughout the “seven churches” (Rev. 1:11) 

     7. Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:18, quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 as “Scripture.” Thus, Paul saw Luke’s Gospel as Scripture and saw this New Testament Gospel on equal par with the Old Testament Pentateuch 

     8. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter refers to Paul’s letters as part of the “the Scriptures.” Since Peter’s letter is a general one it implies that widespread knowledge of Paul’s letters was known before AD 70 

The Process of Canonization 

During the period of AD 96 to AD 150, the oral tradition of the church and the then Church fathers, namely Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius etc. accepted the writings of the Apostles as God inspired. The Church fathers made clear distinction between their own writings and the inspired apostolic writings. 

During the period of AD150 to AD 190, most of the books were accepted as God inspired. 20 books out of 27 were immediately accepted by the church fathers as God inspired. 

 However, questions were raised on remaining 7 books concerning the following: 

Hebrew: Author’s name was not mentioned 

2 Peter: The language was slightly different than 1 Peter 

James & Jude: Authors did not say they were Apostles but they introduced themselves as Servant of God. 

2nd & 3rd John: The author introduced himself as an Elder and not as an Apostle. 

Revelation: Questioned because of its special apocalyptic nature of content. 

By the beginning of the 4th century, these 7 books were further scrutinized by the church fathers and added to the other 20 and thus the 27 books were unanimously and universally accepted as God inspired. 

The Bishop of Alexandria Athanasius (AD296-373) gave the first full and final declaration on the extent of both Old and New Testament canons. The twenty-seven books he listed as New Testament Canon are the same twenty-seven books in our Bibles today. He also said, “Let no one add to these; let nothing be taken away.” 

The First Christian Council of Nice convened by Constantine in AD 325, the Council of Hippo in AD 393 and finally the Carthage Council in AD 397 had reaffirmed the canonization of New Testament books as God Inspired and the New Testament Canon was closed. 

 It is worth noticing that there were many other books and writings produced during the silent period (400 years between Old Testament & New Testament) and thereafter, but those books did not merit the God inspiration and were not included in the canonization process. This clearly shows that the Holy Spirit was in control of this process of canonization of the Word of God. 


The word Bible is not mentioned in the Bible, but it is derived from the Greek word biblia which means books (plural) 

    1. Bible is a collection of 66 books written by approximately 40 authors during a time span of 1600 years 

 2. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament)

    3. Septuagint Bible:This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament Bible made in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC to meet the needs of Greek-speaking Jews outside Palestine mainly in Alexandra (Egypt). Translation was done by 70 (Septugint-Latin) Hebrew scholars. This version was in use at the time of Jesus 

    4. Codes Vaticanus: This is most valuable manuscript in the possession of the Vatican Library and is generally believed to be from the 4th century and is thought to be the oldest nearly complete Greek Bible in existence 

     5. The Vulgate: This is the Latin translation of the Holy Bible done in the early 5th century, largely the work of Jerome. The Vulgate Bible contains 76 books including Apocrypha

     6. The Largest Bible: It is believed that a King James version Bible, printed in home made rubber stamp press by Mr.Louis Wayani, exhibited in Abilene Christian University, Texas.(1956) is the Largest full Bible, weighing 1094 pounds. When laid open, it measures 43.5 inches tall, 98 inches wide, 8048 pages. 

     7. Dr. William Carey (1761-1834) had translated the bible into about 19 Indian languages completely and partially into about 34 Indian languages

      8. The father of modern printing system is known to be Johann Gutenberg. The first book printed by him was the Bible in 1454. One of those Bibles is kept in the Library of Congress – Washington

     9. The first book known to have printed in Kerala in Malayalam language was the Bible 

     10. Malayalam Bible: The first effort of translation of Malayalam Bible was done in 1811 by the CMS Missionary & Serampur Vice Principal, Rev. Clodius Bukhanan. The 1st five books of the New Testament were translated and printed at Currier Press in Bombay. However, due to major inclusion of Tamil words in this work, the translation hadn’t got circulation.

The 1st version of Malayalam Bible was done by Rev. Benjamin Bailey (English). New Testament was translated in 1829 and the complete bible was translated in 1842. Printed at Kottayam. 

The 2nd Version of Malayalam bible was done by Dr. Herman Guntert (German). New testament was translated in 1854 and the complete bible was translated in 1859. Printed at Thalasheri.

Later on, both versions were combined and revised by Bible Society of India, Madras Auxiliary. New Testament was printed in 1880. Complete bible was printed in 1910. This version of complete Malayalam Bible is currently in use.

      11. English Bible: There were efforts made to translate the Bible books into Saxon (Old English) since 700 AD. However, the first complete Bible was translated from Vulgate (Latin) into English by John Wycliffe in 1380. Thereafter the William Tyndale’s Bible (1530), Geneva Bible (1560), Bishops Bible (1568) etc. editions were printed.  

The current English Authorised King James Version of the Bible was printed in 1611 which is considered the most widely printed and distributed authentic version of English Bible today. This version was translated by 54 translators in 6 panels of 9 translators each, by the order of King James 1 of England. The translation was done based on the Old Testament Masoretic Text and New Testament Textus Receptus & earlier English translations of Bishops Bible and Tyndale’s Bible.

There are many other English versions available today, such as, Good News Bible, New King James Version, New International Version, New American Standard Bible, New Living Translation etc.

     12. The system of chapters was introduced in AD 1238 by Cardinal Hugo de S.Caro.

     13.  The verse notations were added in 1551 by Robertus Stephanus after the advent of printing technology.

      14. It is estimated that the whole Bible can be read aloud in 70 hours time.

Bible Statistics:

Old Testament:

Number of books : 39
Chapters  : 929
Versus : 23,114
Middle book  : Proverbs
Middle chapter : Job 20
Middle verse : 2 Chronicles 20:17-18
Smallest book  : Obadiah
Shortest verse : 1 Chronicles 1:25
Longest Chapter : Psalms 119
Largest book  : Psalms
Longest verse  : Esther 8:9

New Testament:

Number of books  : 27
Number of Chapters : 260
Verses  : 7957
Middle book  : 2 Thessalonians
Middle Chapters  : Romans 8/9
Middle Verse  : Acts 27:17
Smallest book  : 3 John  
Shortest verse  : John 11:35
Longest verse  : Revelation 20:4
Largest book  : Luke
Shortest book  : 3 John

Holy Bible (Old & New): 

Total books  : 66
Total chapters  : 1189
Number of promises : 1260
Commands  : 6468
Number of times the word “God” appears : 3358
Number of times the word “Lord” appears: 7736

     16. The divisions of Bible:

Old Testament: 

  •  The Pentateuch: The first 5 books of Moses, i.e. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers &           Deuteronomy 
  •   Historical books: (12 books) - Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicle Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther 
  • Poetic books: (5 books) - Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs 
  • Prophetic books (large): (5 books) - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentation, Ezekiel & Daniel 
  • Prophetic books (small): (12 books) - Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi 

New Testament:

  •  Gospel: (4 books) - Mathew, Mark, Luke and John
  •  Historical Books: (1book) - Acts of Apostles
  •  Epistle of Paul: (14 books) - Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrew
  •  General Epistle: (7 books) - James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Judah
  •  Prophetic: (1 book) - Revelation

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