Canonicity: Definition – There are numerous definitions in print on this subject; and while the actual combination of words for each may differ, most have developed their definition from the root word kavwv (Greek) meaning rod, ruler, standard for measure. Theologically, the word is applied as a rule, standard or norm. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a criterion or standard of judgment.”
What then were the “standards for measure” or “standards of judgment” which determined what writings were considered canonical scripture? There were five such standards:
  • Was it written by a man of God? A prophet? An apostle? An associate of an apostle?  (Heb. 1:1; 2 Peter 1:20-21)
    • With the possible exception of Hebrews, all books included in the Bible were written by either a man of God (David, for example), prophet, apostle, or an associate of one of these.
  • Is the writing authoritative? Does it claim to be of God and/or were the writers confirmed by an act of God? (John 3:2; Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3)
  • Is the writing authentic? Does it tell the truth about God? (Deut. 18:22; Gal. 1:8)
    • Does it contradict previous truth?  If so, it was not accepted.
  • Is the writing dynamic? Does it have the Power of God? (Heb. 4:12)
  • Was the book received? Was it accepted by the people of God?  (Dan. 9:2; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Pet. 3:15)
    • Was it circulated and utilized by the followers of God?
From the definition and application of these standards, a good definition of Canonical Scripture can be developed:

a document or corpus of documents containing a permanent authoritative record of divine revelation.

  • Our next article looks at the Progessive Development of the OT Canon.
  • Return to our Introduction Post to see a list of all articles in this series.
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