Bible Q&A: The Bible – an ongoing library?

Our Bible Q&A series explores the questions you’ve asked us about the Bible.

This article represents the author’s personal view. It accords with Bible Society’s values, but is not intended to express our position as an organisation.

Question:

Given that the Bible is, by definition, a library of books about God and his people, why does it stop at the Book of Revelation? Surely that story is a continuing one which in the present canon of Scripture already goes beyond Jesus’ time? 

Answer:

In a sense it's quite true that the story goes on. But in the first centuries of the Church, it was decided that what we call the New Testament should be closed. The decision was made on the basis of which books were believed to have been written by the Apostles, and what was actually being used and regarded as authoritative in Christian churches – and there was a large amount of agreement about that. The 27 books of the New Testament were first listed by St Athanasius in AD 367, and officially confirmed in Church councils in 393 and 397.  

The word 'canon' is important here. It comes from a Greek word meaning 'measuring stick'. The idea is that the Bible provides a yardstick against which theological ideas could be tested. If they don't agree with the Bible, the Church should not accept them.  

 Different Churches use the Bible in different ways. However, all agree that it has authority over doctrine. If we were to keep adding to it over the centuries, it's hard to see how it would have that authority as we could drift further and further away from our faith's foundations.


Have you got a question about the Bible? Let us know and we’ll do our best to answer it!

This article was written Mark Woods, who is Bible Society's Editor.​

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