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What Does the Bible Say About..The Canon of the New Testament?

I've been studying theology in great depth at my Jesuit university. In class, the professor (PhD) had started giving us examples that made many seem to question their faith. The Bible is basically just a composition of many different written artifacts, none of which we have the original copy to. Earliest copies of the Bible are still about the hundredth copy of it. It has been translated from language to language, some scribes ADDED things in. In some earlier copies of the Bible, the last entire passage in Matthew (Or Mark, I don't have my notebook) is non-existent. In some much newer translation it is found.

Another thing that bothers me is that one person basically created the list of the 27 books for the canon which would become the New Testament. He was the one who had the say in deeming a book or letter heretical. What is in the New Testament has basically been filtered by those in power, had many things added and lost by scribes/translators.

Another thing that bothers me is that there is a gospel that was not included. The Gospel of Thomas. It is said that the living Jesus spoke to Didymos Judas Thomas while he recorded. We still have, remarkably, pieces of this gospel which have been proven to be dated around 200CE and written in Greek. Some of the teachings in it are:

Jesus explained, Those who truly seek will seek until they find. They will know they have found what they seek because it will upset them. Once upset they will be amazed at what can make them so aware they guide others on the path.'

Here's something interesting you might find of interest. Pay attention to the "intoxication" portion. This is all verifiably part of the gospel. http://www.deadseanaghammadiresearch.com/Gospel-of-Thomas-Com.htm

Anyway, just tell me what you think of some of the stuff I presented.


Questioning one’s faith is a good thing, if it results in increasing faith. If the professor causes some to question their faith and fall away from the truth presented in the Bible, then he is not doing his job as a teacher of the Bible.

There have always been those who questioned the transmission of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, because of the time span involved. It is interesting that the Dead Sea Scrolls contained a scroll of Isaiah essentially identical to the earliest ones we had prior to that time, which were dated a few hundred years later. Any Jewish scribe who added to the text, or deleted from it, would not last long as a scribe. As I understand it, each new scroll is diligently compared to the old. Each line is compared, and if the lines are of different lengths or the spaces that are sometimes included in some lines are not present, then the scroll is destroyed. Apparently unlike your professor, the Jews consider the text to be holy and authoritative. Any change in the text would not be accepted. Of course, there is the possibility of certain characters being misdrawn, thus causing extremely minor variations. On the whole, though, the Old Testament would be transmitted with very little change over hundreds of years. Translations, on the other hand, may be prone to error. The fewer people involved in the translation, the greater the possibility that opinion replaces translation. There are some, usually minor, differences in extant texts of the Christian writings. Perhaps the largest single difference is the passage in Mark that you mention. It is unclear to many scholars whether the passage was intentionally left out of a copy or whether it is a later addition. Most scholars seem to accept it as authoritative, particularly since it teaches little that is not also taught in the writings of John, Luke, or especially Matthew. When you compare later texts to copies of the “Church Fathers” that quote extensively from the canonical works, the similarities are amazing.

You claim that “one person basically created the list of the 27 books for the canon which would become the New Testament.” I don’t know where you got that piece of misinformation. There were several people who compiled such lists. Some included books we no longer consider canonical, others left out some we do. Generally, the list of the 27 New Testament books/letters came about over a period of time, with no one person making a single list. Those that appeared on most or all of the lists of people who would be likely to affirm the authenticity of the books became the canon we know as the New Testament. These various men were not all in agreement about certain doctrines, and not all were men “in power,” but all basically agreed on certain books.

You bring up the Gospel of Thomas. Of those that made lists of the canon, only two (Origen and Eusebius) even mention the Gospel of Thomas, and both of them consider it to be heresy. What I read of the Gospel of Thomas on the link you gave me was not favorable. At least, the commentary on it made it contradict much of the New Testament. At least as commented on, it is very Gnostic or Mysterious in origin. Paul taught against the mystery religions in Ephesians and Colossians especially. All of John’s writings appear to contradict Gnostic or pre-Gnostic doctrines. The lack of early support for (or even recognition of) the Gospel of Thomas and the ideas it presents argue against it as belonging in the canon.

Personal note: If the professor was teaching the development of the canon, surely he should have included this information. Failure to do so calls into question either his scholarship or his motives.