The Bible is the sacred book of Christianity, including both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The bible is a collection of 66 books. Within these 66 books is the story of the development of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Thorough examination of these 66 books suggests how the literature was produced and how it reached its final form. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the process of canonization, the categories included/excluded from the Jewish or Christian Bible, and the process of transmission of the Bible through the centuries.
The canon of the Bible consists of the works that have been measured by the respective religious communities and been found to meet the criteria by which they were evaluated. The process of canonization began as the literature was formed. It is suspected that the formation of the literature began very early in the national history of Judaism, beginning at least with the discovery of the scroll of the Law in the Temple in 621 B.C.E. A heretic, The Gnostic Marcion, can really be credited with moving New Testament literature to the status of scripture. He included in his collection many of the letters of Paul and a blending of the Gospels. Many Christians were relying on the literature of early Christianity as having the authorship of scripture. The church fathers realizing this began to publish lists of literature, commenting on the reliability of the various works. Those lists became the foundation for the official New Testament.
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Not all works that had been used as scripture by all portions of the Christian community were included in the final canon. The limits of the Jewish canon were established by a council of Pharisaic Jews meeting at Jamnia in 90 C.E. The events of history had barred them from their Holy City and Temple. The Council of Jamnia was convened for the sole purpose of determining how to understand and control how Judaism would survive as a religion without accessibility to its Holy City or its destroyed Temple.
The canon established at Jamnia excluded a number of works that were used like scripture by a portion of Judaism for at least a period of history. These works are classified as the Pseudepigrapha. Included in the pseudepigrapha works produced in Palestine are: Testament of the Twelve Prophets, Psalms of Solomon, Lives of the Prophets, Jubilees, Testament of Job, Enoch, Martyrdom of Isaiah, Paralipomena of Jeremiah, Life of Adam and Eve, Assumption of Moses, and Apocalypse of Baruch. Included in the works of Diaspora Judaism are: Aristeas, Sibylline Oracles, 3 and 4 Maccabees, Slavonic Book of Enoch, and Greek Apocalypse of Baruch.
The portion of Jewish scripture that was found in the Septuagint but not included in the Jewish canon adopted at Jamnia in 90 C.E. is known as the Apocrypha. Its works were used by the early Christian community as scripture, but have not generally carried the status of scripture among most Protestants. The most important of the apocryphal gospels are: the Protoevangelism of James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Gospel of the Nazoreans, the Gospel of the Ebionites, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Mary.
The transmission of the Bible through the centuries has many people intrigued. There are no original autographs of any biblical work available to us. The oldest documents from the Hebrew Bible come from manuscripts found at Qumran. These documents were preserved and passed on by the religious communities. It was also, translated from one language to another to make accessible to whomever regarded it as sacred. Generation after generation passed on those scriptures by piously copying the manuscripts for others. The nearer we get to the modern world, the more manuscripts are available.
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The above topics are just an introduction to the Bible. Through these topics we have learned a deeper understanding of Judaism and Christianity, and the communities that produced and passed it on to us. It introduced us to the people who lived thousands of years ago, and it shares their struggles, their victories and defeats; but most of all it shares their religious insights.